Overview of surfing in Mexico (Baja)
The Classic Surf Trip
Baja California is often times overlooked as a surf trip in the modern world. Many looking at Mexico as an option are drawn to the more built up and established surf havens on the Southern Pacific coasts in areas like Oaxaca. Baja California definitely has some drawbacks such as cold water in the northern half and a lack of facilities and amenities for most of the coast, but this region offers the opportunity to score world class, empty surf while exploring a beautiful part of the world.
The peninsula begins just south of California and stretches for some 1000 miles. It is bordered on the West coast by the Pacific which is where most of the surf will be, and on the East side by the Sea of Cortez which will be flat for almost all of the length down. Throughout the peninsula there are gorgeous natural landscapes of mountains, deserts, and coastline where adventure awaits any surf traveler. Grab a car and a good map and get exploring!
Baja California is an incredibly rich coastline. It boasts many crannies and nooks that create a plethora of set ups for the swells of both winter and summer to sneak into. You can find every type of wave here: Beaches, reefs, and points. There will be something suitable for everyone regardless of skill level, and usually in closeish proximity to make it a fantastic group surf destination.
Can’t Miss Surf Spots
San Miguel is a very high quality right hand point break in Northern Baja. It can get crowded at times but offers high performance walls that just keep going! There is also the odd barrel section so keep your eyes open!
Scorpion Bay is a jewel of Southern Baja. This right hand point break works great on a South swell and offers ultra long easy going walls best suited for those on larger boards, although on low tides and big swells it can get performancey.
Nine Palms is found on the East Cape and is one of the longest waves you can ride in Baja. On a big South swell if offers up great performance walls as well as easygoing sections on the inside for beginners.
Todos Santos or “Killers” is the big wave spot in Baja. This break about doubles the size of swell compared to the peninsula. It is found about 10 km from Ensenada into sea, on the Northern tip of Todos Santos ( a small uninhabited island). Bring a big wave gun and get ready for an epic drop into long wall.
For the great majority of the coastline you will be looking at camping either in designated campgrounds or in the wilderness without support. There are small motels and hotels in most of the towns, but these are few and far between (as well as not being the safest in the North). Once you get down towards Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of the peninsula there is something for everyone The camping is good outside of town and in town there is every range of motel to all inclusive resort you could think of. The sky is the limit there.
Surf Regions in Baja California
The peninsula is divided by the Mexican government into two states. Baja California and Baja California Sur. This is actually a fantastic surf differentiation as well. The split happens at Guerrero Negro. South of here the water gets warm and the summer swells really start to hit well. We will add a region of Cabo San Lucas and the East Cape as the coastline turns East then North at the Southern tip.
Northern Baja picks up good swell in the winters and is known for cold water and great right hand points. The main highway rides along the coast for most of the stretch in Northern Baja making it a great ride to check the surf while you drive.
Baja California Sur is much more remote and the highway does not run right next to the coast. You’ll be making turn offs onto sketchy dirt roads and arriving at desolate but perfect surf set ups here. Make sure to be prepared with food and water and take care not to bite off more than your car can chew.
Cabo San Lucas is very built up and holds a few fun reefs with very warm water. As you head east it becomes more remote and the roads turn to dirt. The landscape opens up to reveal many right hand points and reefs that need a big South swell to start working as it needs to wrap into the Sea of Cortez.
Access to Baja and Surf
There are two main ways to get into Baja, car or plane. If you are flying you will be heading into Cabo San Jose (right next to Cabo San Lucas). From here you’ll need to rent a good car (not necessarily 4WD) for access to the surf spots.
Alternatively you can drive into the peninsula from Southern California and go as far south as you’d like. If you take this option and are ready to go off the grid camping at an empty set up you will need a 4WD. Baja eats cars up, so it is also best to make sure you have a little mechanical know how. Nowadays there are more boating options that will take you up and down the coast to hard to access spots, which could be a perfect option for those looking to avoid the dirt and mud.
Visa and Entry/Exit Info
You will need a passport coming into Baja California. If you are flying they make it very easy and straightforward to fill out the forms. If you are driving in make sure that you get a tourist card which is necessary for stays over 72 hours. If you are not staying for more than 180 days then you will not need a visa. Check out the state site for more information.
The 56 best Surf spots in Mexico (Baja)
Overview of surfing spots in Mexico (Baja)
Surf spot overview
Need to Know
The big aspect of Baja California is the diversity of surf spots. The water temperature ranges greatly from North to South, so pack accordingly. The waves will also change. Generally the Northern areas are heavier and more consistent while the South offers warmer water and generally softer surf. There are urchins everywhere, however, so take care when entering and exiting lineups. Generally pack at least one step up if you are heading to the North. You probably won’t need one if you are heading to the South but you might need a short fat fish for the smaller days.
Baja California is full of empty to very uncrowded lineups. Here etiquette is expected and it is easy to follow given the wave to surfer ratio. In the more crowded points in the north full of day trippers from San Diego it can get competitive, especially on weekends. Around Cabo San Lucas it can get crowded but generally locals are very chill. Show respect to get it but don’t be afraid to be in the right spot for the right wave.
Surf seasons and when to go
The best time of the year to surf in Mexico (Baja)
Baja California picks up swell year round. Northern Baja is best in the winter when NW swells light up the points all the way down. Southern Baja and Cabo area are best in the summers when long period south swells wrap and peel along the warm water set ups. Weather stays pretty consistent year round. Remember to pack a 4/3 at least for Northern Baja and a springsuit and boardshorts/bikini for the South. Even though most of Baja is desert it does get fog on the Western Coast at night and temperatures definitely drop, so bring at least one good sweatshirt.
Mexico (Baja) surf travel guide
Find trips that fit a flexible lifestyle
Activities other than Surf
While Baja California is undoubtedly a surfer’s paradise, the peninsula offers a wealth of other outdoor activities that make it a well-rounded travel destination. In the Sea of Cortez you can go diving in continental North America’s only coral reef, Cabo Pulmo as well as snorkel with whale sharks!
For those who love fishing, Baja is a world-class destination for sportfishing, offering the chance to catch marlin, tuna, and even dorado. Moving to land, the Baja desert is a vast playground for off-road enthusiasts, who can traverse its challenging terrains in dune buggies or ATVs. And for underwater explorers, the peninsula boasts crystal-clear waters ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving, teeming with vibrant marine life that includes colorful corals, schools of tropical fish, and even sea lions. Most of these activities are geared towards the outdoor enthusiast, but in Cabo San Lucas you can stay and relax in luxury at some of the top vacation resorts in the world.
The main language of Baja is Spanish. In most of the major towns you can get by easily with English, especially in the far North and far South. That being said it is well worth knowing a few phrases of basic Spanish to get by and to show respect to the locals. You already know more than you think, but here are some basic words and phrases you might find useful:
- Hola: Hello
- Buenos días: Good morning
- Buenas tardes: Good afternoon
- Buenas noches: Good evening / Good night
- Adiós: Goodbye
- Sí: Yes
- No: No
- Por favor: Please
- Gracias: Thank you
- De nada: You’re welcome
- Lo siento: I’m sorry
- Disculpa/Perdón: Excuse me
- ¿Dónde está…?: Where is…?
- Playa: Beach
- Hotel: Hotel
- Restaurante: Restaurant
- Baño: Bathroom
- Estación de autobuses: Bus station
- Aeropuerto: Airport
- Ayuda: Help
- Emergencia: Emergency
- Policía: Police
- Hospital: Hospital
- Médico: Doctor
- ¿Cuánto cuesta?: How much does it cost?
- Dinero: Money
- Tarjeta de crédito: Credit card
- Efectivo: Cash
- ¿Cómo estás?: How are you?
- Bien, gracias: Good, thank you
- No entiendo: I don’t understand
- ¿Hablas inglés?: Do you speak English?
Mexico uses the Peso as their currency. As of the writing of this article the exchange rate to USD to 16:1. A lot of places will take USD and cops prefer it if you need to give a bribe, but it is best to pay with pesos as you will most likely get a poor exchange rate using USD. A lot of places in major towns and cities take cards but again, best to use pesos when possible. ATM’s give good exchange rates as do large grocery stores: If you pay in USD get pesos as change. Mexico is one of the cheaper surf destinations and Baja is no exception. The only area with prices that are high for a remote surf location are Cabo San Jose and Cabo San Lucas. Other than that get ready for an epic trip that won’t break the bank.
Cell coverage is damn good in Northern Baja and throughout the Cabo to East Cape region. Southern Baja can be tricky. A satellite phone is your best bet if you are heading remote, but if you are planning on staying closer to civilization just make sure your plan has international capabilities or purchase a sim card locally. Where they have wifi it is generally reliable, although wifi is not available for much of the coastline. If you are staying somewhere in particular make sure to call ahead and confirm the wifi situation beforehand.
In sum, Baja California is much more than just a surfer’s haven; it’s a rich destination offering something for every kind of traveler. With its diverse range of surf conditions catering to all skill levels—from mellow, beginner-friendly waves to the adrenaline-pumping swells for the pros—it’s a surf trip that doesn’t disappoint. Yet, what truly sets Baja apart is its rich tapestry of experiences beyond the surf. Whether it’s the thrill of off-roading in the desert, the serenity of whale watching in the Sea of Cortez, or the simple joy of enjoying a freshly caught fish taco at a beachside shack with a cerveza in hand, Baja is a place where memories are made. Its close proximity to the United States and affordability also make it accessible for those on a budget or with limited time. And while the peninsula’s natural beauty is compelling enough, the warmth and hospitality of its people add the final touch to an already captivating destination. So pack your bags—and your board—and discover the wonder that is Baja California.