With two weeks of Northern Baja under our belts, we were finally ready to move on and start heading south. The Pacific coastline, with its amazing surf and surreal sunsets, was a great way to wet our feet in Baja, giving Noah the thrills of boogie boarding, lessons in tide pool exploration and hours of creating sculptures in the sand. But the Eastern side of the peninsula with its tranquil beaches and easy way of life were calling us.
However, when traveling in La Tortuga, we’ve learned to be patient in our journey and planned a few additional stops before reaching the Sea of Cortez.
We took the Mex 1 south out of Ensenada, heading for San Quintin, a suggestion from one of the locals, but veered off path to check out La Bufadora, the world’s second-largest marine geyser. Now, reviews about La Bufadora are a little confusing and basically tell you two things:
First, Go! It’s a must-see!
Then, Don’t go! It’s overcrowded, filled with annoying vendors and nothing more than a burst of water.
Well, first off, vendors are everywhere in Mexico, so if you can’t handle this part, I’d recommend not going to Mexico and that would be your loss. These are locals trying to make a living off all the tourists flooding into their towns, and its part of the overall experience. And as far as the crowds go, guess what?! These are tourists, just like you. Did you really think you’d be the only one to discover such a place?
Luckily, we arrived at the site right as they opened on a Tuesday morning and found we had the place completely to ourselves. Most of the vendors hadn’t even opened yet. We also learned that there were no cruise ships in Ensenada that day which made a huge difference. So, my advice? Get the cruise ship schedule and base your visit around that.
Our review of La Bufadora?
Amazing! Yes, the blowhole itself was cool, but the entire area surrounding it was like a scene out of a movie. Breathtaking! And one of the highlights? Talking to some of the vendors, practicing our Spanish and getting some great tips on other places to visit.
After spending just one night at the La Jolla campo down the road from La Bufadora, we headed to San Quintin, known as the world’s largest producer of tomatoes. This wasn’t our reason for going and I’m sad to say we didn’t even purchase one tomato while we were there. We made the stop mostly to re-supply on water and propane and knock out a few days of school for Noah.
We camped at Don Eddie’s Landing, an old fishing camp with an interesting past. Tony, the owner, took it over when his dad past away and has been restoring it back to what it once was. Check out the story of Don Eddies here. Tony was a most gracious host, even giving us his card to call him if we had any troubles along the road.
If we had a smaller vehicle, we would have traveled the rocky roads to the Sea Lion Sanctuary outside of town, recommended by other travelers, but the thought of bouncing down a long road while all our belongings tried to free themselves from the cupboards didn’t seem worth it. The fact is, there are just going to be some places La Tortuga can’t make it to and we just have to realize we can’t see it all. There’s always another trip!
Cataviña was merely a quick overnight stop due to the high winds threatening to blow us off the road, or worse yet, into one of the many semi-trucks trying to share the narrow strip of highway with us. But the town is well known for their cave paintings, thought to be somewhere around 2,000 years old, and the mind-blowing fields of bus-sized boulders and cactus that surround the town.
When we approached the town I felt as though Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble would cruise by at any moment on their way to work at the rock quarry. But instead, it was an 86-year-old American guy on a quad who showed up to chat and offer help if we should need it.
A few other travelers have raved about this town but we must have missed the “turn here to experience something really cool” sign, and instead turned into the historic Santa Inez Campo, located immediately outside of town. It was nothing more than a big dirt lot with a collection of trees spread out for campers to park under, and a few rooms for rent, but the ladies at the office/cafe/fly hangout were super friendly and made us up some tasty burritos for lunch.
All in all, Cataviña was a spectacular sight for the eyes, resulting in several amazing photos of the cactus, boulders and stars, compliments of Gregg, who disappeared for hours, gone well after dark, leaving me to wonder if I should accept the offer from my 86 year-old friend on the quad. Lastly, and maybe most importantly of all, Cataviña is so remote that it provided not a lick of cell or WIFI service. So, if you’re looking for a place to fall off the face of the earth, you could do it in Cataviña.
Bahia de Los Angeles
Now, this is where things get exciting…
We woke early and braved more winds and narrow roads in order to make our way south. We veered off the Mex 1 next to an old guy selling petrol out of cans from the back of his truck and pulled into Bahia de Los Angeles around lunchtime.
Located on the Sea of Cortez in Baja Norte, Bahia de Los Angeles is a welcome oasis for weary travelers making their way south from the Pacific side of Baja. It’s a bit of a detour off the main highway but well worth the extra few miles. Leaving the Pacific with its surf and sunsets behind, the Sea of Cortez welcomes you to a whole new world, full of calm bays, beautiful sunrises, and plentiful sea life. In Bahia de Los Angeles, it’s all about adventures on the sea. Fishing trips, whale shark tours, beach and snorkeling excursions are plentiful down here.
After a quick trip to the ‘not-so-super’ Mercado, we found our way to Campo Daggots, right on the beach, a recommendation from our travel book as well as another traveler. We immediately paid for a week, ready to settle the entire contents of La Tortuga in for the first time. In other words, the paddleboards were removed from the roof, blown up and readied for their first Baja voyage.
La Tortuga Lesson #4: Never pay for a week until you scope out your surroundings for a better option!
Little did we know the hidden gem of Archelon was right down the beach. And by hidden, I mean there was a big sign at the entrance we just missed. But all mistakes offer great opportunities. At Daggots, we met Chris and Kelly and their dog Rocky, from BC, traveling in their big yellow school bus, Rosalita. We liked them so much we stole them from Daggots to camp with us at Archelon, where we stayed another 10 days. We also met some guys from Utah, returning from a fishing trip, who shared a sashimi feast with us and gifted us some yellowtail and shark for our freezer.
I’m hesitant to tell a soul about Archelon for fear too many people will come here and ruin its beauty. It is a true Baja beach experience with the amenities you’d expect from a nice American campground, less the water pressure and WIFI signal. Antonio and his mother Betty live on the property with their one-eyed Pug Elvis and welcome all visitors to their patio to use and charge their devices. They are in the midst of building a beautiful cafe on the property as well, which will be a welcome addition to all the coffee addicts traveling through. And they are the only place we’ve encountered in our travels that promote and offer recycling. Truly a unique place!
Turtles, Whale Sharks, and Dolphin
We’ve lived in and visited some pretty amazing places in our lives but found the sea life here to be out of this world. We were greeted each day by schools of dolphin, which were kind enough to let us accompany them on our paddleboards a few times. We also learned of a turtle nest at the far end of the beach and spent three days releasing Olive Ridley Sea Turtles with the amazing locals at Grupo Tortuguero.
Finding Friends on the Sea
While out paddling with the dolphin one morning, we saw a woman and her son paddling toward us, and within minutes a new friendship was formed on the sea. I mean, isn’t that always the best way to meet new people? Rebecca and her family (her son Olson 13, husband Rick and dog Jesper) live in British Columbia and own a casita behind Archelon, where they spend several months out of the year. Next thing we knew, we were invited along for a day of boating with them, which turned into an encounter with whale sharks that Rebecca and I snorkeled with, which turned into a full week of get-togethers, margaritas and fish fries.
We also did a boat excursion with our new friends Angel and Erika @ White Bay Tours, where we experienced a day of firsts for us all. We fished and caught enough grouper and sea bass to fill our freezer. Angel saw a whale breach and we, along with 200 dolphin and hundreds of pelicans took flight to catch a closer look. And lastly, Noah conquered his fear of snorkeling off a boat in the ocean and was joined by a dozen or so sea lions. All in all, not a bad day for the Jakobys!
New Friends and Fish Fries
The beaches and calm bays along the Sea of Cortez provided so many things to write home about, but it’s the people we will remember most about our days in Bahia de LA. Our seven-day plan quickly turned into seventeen after meeting so many new friends, inviting us to parties, fish fries, and even a night out with the local ladies for me. But, with so much left on the adventure ahead, and already 3 months in, it was time to move on…
Thank you for the memories Bay of LA!
Here we come Mulege!