My girlfriend and I were heading to Cabo San Lucas for a wedding and decided to venture down a few days early, rent a car, camp and explore the Mexican Baja! We had an incredible 10 days sight-seeing Mexico and experiencing resort life for the first time!
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My girlfriend, Emma and I were headed to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico for a wedding. It was Emma’s first time to Mexico and both of our first times experiencing resort life! We are backpackers at heart and neither of us had ever stayed at a resort. Of course being backpackers we went down a week before the wedding to camp and explore the Mexican Baja before going to the resort.
Landing in Mexico
We arrived at the Los Cabos International Airport late in the afternoon. A few weeks before I rented a car online through Expedia with Thrifty Rental. I read that if you did not pay for the extra Mexican insurance you will not be able to pick up your car, I purchased extra insurance online and when we arrived to pick up our car they still tried to charge us for extra fake insurance. On top of that the company was trying to charge us an extra rate for the daily rental, stating that what we paid Expedia only held the car for us, nothing else. I argued for longer than necessary because they had us. We had no place booked to stay, our plan was to camp a couple hours away and it was now too late to catch a bus from the airport to anywhere. It was full dark and we did not have traditional backpacking backpacks because we knew we had a car to store all of our gear in.
I finally told them no. I figured I could try and get money back from Expedia if we did not pick up the rental at all. We left the Thrifty Rental office and went next door to a local car company called U-Save. Manny, the only guy working, was a breathe of fresh air. Not only did we get the car for a day longer than planned, we got the proper insurance and everything for a lot lower rate than what Thrifty was going to charge us. Of course for us to get the cheap rental rate we had to give him $20 USD under the table for beer money, his words. So if you plan on renting a vehicle near the airport make sure you have the correct knowledge on what you actually need to legally drive in Mexico and make sure to haggle for the price. There is no need to book in advance there were a lot of car rental companies, our flight arrived super late, being delayed, Thrifty Rental was open waiting for us and U-Save was open hoping to catch any extra bookings every other rental company was closed for the night.
By the time we got on the road we were exhausted. Needless to say it was a relief to start driving. We took the 1D, a new 4 lane toll road, heading west toward Todo Santos. The toll road costed 70 Pesos to use it all the way but was a lot easier than using the old road which would have gone through San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.
That first night we planned to camp on Cerritos beach next to El Pescadero, but with us loosing time with our delayed flight, going through customs, getting our bags and dealing with the rental fiasco our options were pretty limited. Do we try and find the random dirt road to the beach and hopefully find the correct area to free camp on? Do we just drive for awhile and sleep in the car? Or should we try and find the camp site which we only wrote the name and kilometer number down?
We decided on the latter and drove until we found the correct kilometer, took a quick right and luckily drove directly up to the building we were looking for, the Pescadero Surf Camp a massive compound with a pool, bungalows and multiple spots for camper vans and tents to set up. The owner’s sister was still up and happy to show us a level spot for our tent where we set up by the light of our headlamps. El Pescadero is a very small town with not much open late at night but luckily we got some snacks from a nearby stand and a hand made pizza for our late dinner. For the long day and all things considered it turned out to be a great first day on the road.
Since we only had a handful of days before the wedding, early that next morning we packed up and left Pescadero Surf Camp bound for La Paz. We made a quick stop at Cerritos beach, which is located across the highway and down a dirt road from the Surf Camp. Cerritos beach is seemingly endless and it has consistent surf breaking along the length of it. I really wished we could have just hung out here for a week and surfed but we settled for just a short swim. We enjoyed our first taste of the ocean and sand before heading to Toto Santos for some photos and a snack before continuing to our final destination of La Paz.
Getting to La Paz is relatively easy you just follow Highway 19 which seamlessly converts into Highway 1. What I was not ready for was the size of La Paz, I knew it was a decent sized city, it says 200,000 people online but realistically it is around 400,000 people. This and not being online since before we left the USA made navigating through the city interesting.
Having not been on the internet since leaving home the only directions we had were some random roads jotted down in a notebook. I knew where the coast was and what way we needed to go to get to our next camping beach but beyond that we no clue. We randomly cruised around La Paz and found the boardwalk where we spent some time wandering around before eventually finding a grocery store and petrol station. Now fully stocked with food and drinks we headed towards our destination of Playa El Tecolote!
Camping is free on Playa El Tecolote and it is only an hour or so east of La Paz. Arriving to El Tecolote we found out that there are 5 beach side restaurants and a public bathroom, which makes camping here even better. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon to a man parking next to us drinking road beers and to a fully packed beach. The dozen or so cars and heaps of people worried us a little bit if we could find a place for our tent and if it was truly free to camp here? No need to worry camping is totally fine at the southeastern side of the beach and most of the crowd headed home once the sun set.
Being on the Gulf of California, Tecolote’s water is warmer and calmer than the Pacific side. The beach here massive and it has a great view of isles Espirito Santo. Once we got out of the car we stretched and wandered down the beach with a nice cold beer in hand. Eventually we found a less trafficked area on the southern side and close to two RV’s so we set up camp behind a small sand dune. That night we swam, watched the sunset, drank a bit and ate most of our snacks.
The following morning we decided to stay an extra night so we could enjoy a full day relaxing and to my surprise when I got out of the tent the beach was completely empty besides us and the two RV’s. As it turns out Tecolote fills up on the weekends for day trippers and during the week it is deserted.
I met Jim our neighboring RV’er and helped him unload his boat into the ocean. His fishing partner did not show up and asked if Emma and I wanted to come with instead so we joined him for a few hours fishing. The fishing turned out to be no good but the beers were cold and the sun was shining. We spent the afternoon relaxing on the beach and checked out one of the restaurants for dinner. Playa El Tecolote was such a peaceful place and I can see why Jim decides to spend his winter months camping here.
On our second morning we woke up early and regretfully packed. Today’s destination was Cabo Plumo in the national park. We said our goodbyes to Jim and drove back toward La Paz bound for Los Barriles.
Los Barriles is a small expat and tourist city, with good reason, the beaches, sand and water are absolutely beautiful. We stopped in just to take a quick look and ended up staying on the beach for most of the afternoon. We probably should have stayed here overnight but this was our last night to camp and I wanted to explore the national park. We had heard bad things about the road through Cabo Plumo National Park but decided to try our luck anyways, which was not a good idea. We drove on, almost, non existent roads for over an hour before deciding that this was horrible and we were indeed too tired to unpack the tent, camp and pack up again in the morning. So we made an impulse decision to turn around and head 4 hours to Cabo San Lucas.
The drive was long, we had been in the car most of the day starting past La Paz and backtracking from the park so needless to say the excitement of driving in a foreign country had faded. All I wanted was to just be done driving. Once we arrived in Cabo San Lucas we went straight to the resort we were booked in for my friend’s wedding and luckily we were able to check in a day early, so we grabbed our bags and surprised everyone.
Cabo San Lucas
Resort life was a lot different than I am used to with my backpacking style but it was a blast! The wedding was at the Hotel Riu Santa Fe, which like most resorts is a massive complex. There are buildings, restaurants, pools and activities everywhere. Being on the resort was a perfect contrast from our previous nights spent camping. Somehow we were always busy and the handful of days we were there flew by. The resort had no clocks and time was non-existent, I could have easily stayed for 2 weeks and not known. Being on the resort felt like I was on a spaceship, everything I could need was right there.
Emma and I did wander into town one day to return our rental car where we did a boat trip to Lovers Beach and walked the streets back to the resort. The wedding went off smoothly (everyone said I DO), it was perfect location right on the beach next to the ocean. We had such a great time in Mexico and I was glad to be apart of my buddy’s wedding.
This short trip was a lot of firsts for me. It was my first time driving a car in a foreign country, first time staying at an all-inclusive resort and my first time taking a serious girlfriend to a wedding! I had a blast everyday so don’t let the news scare you off from visiting this area, we experienced nothing but friendliness when driving and camping around the peninsula. And congratulations to the lovely couple for getting married in such an epic destination!
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Sheridan is a full-time adventure seeker, professional photographer, and creator of Outsidevibes. Having a serious case of wanderlust Sheridan has traveled extensively around the world. He has overcome multiple, serious injuries from traveling but he is determined to continue experiencing life to the fullest.