12 Must-See Destinations on a Baja Motorcycle Trip
There's no better place to find freedom and solitude on a bike than in Baja.
If you are looking to turn the switch to vacation time or you yearn for the sun during the cold and dark winter months and want to put some sand between your toes, then Baja California, Mexico is the best bang-for-your-buck I have ever found. It is easy to get to from the US (just ride there) and with open spaces, natural splendor and its slow tempo, it’s no wonder Baja is a favorite of many motorcycle travelers.
Here is a list of some of the best places to visit on a Baja motorcycle trip. The list ranges from destination hotels to isolated beaches and most probably includes, without hesitation, a state of mind. Baja has that effect on you… Ordered from North to South, here are 12 of Baja’s Must-See sites for Adventure Riders.
1. Cañón De Guadalupe Hot Springs
Guadalupe Canyon Hot Springs are just 50 miles south of the California border, nestled at the base of the rugged Sierra de Juárez mountains that tower above. Camping in the canyon is a surreal experience — the perfect place to find peace and tranquility. Campsites come with a private hot spring tub, fireplace and palapas to pitch your tent under. Tubs are formed from granite rockwork and palm tree groves line the area to give you the feeling of your own private oasis. The area can be reached from the north on an easy dirt road or from the south on a challenging sandy track that should only be attempted by experienced off-road riders.
2. Laguna Hanson
Also close to the border is the beautiful Laguna Hanson (aka Laguna Juarez) located in the Sierra de Juárez mountain range sitting at 5,500 feet elevation (1,675 meters). This alpine lake setting with pine forests and granite boulders isn’t the type of landscape you’d ever expect to find in Baja, and that’s one reason this unique ecosystem was turned into a national park (Parque Nacional de Constitucion 1857). A maze of dirt roads take you from Highway 2, up to the lake, then continue on all the way through to Highway 3 near Ojos Negros. Lakeside camping is available at Laguna Hanson or you can stay in one of the nearby rustic ranch style hotels. It’s definitely worth a stop, even for just a quick break from the trail.
3. Mike’s Sky Ranch
This is a must for anyone who wants to get off the grid (literally) and surround themselves with memorabilia of the Baja 1000 race. Mike’s Sky Ranch caters to motorized off-road travelers, from dirt bikes to buggys. You know when you are in the right place when, at the hotel check in, you are asked to push your bike through the narrow entry into the pool area, where there are usually dozens of other motorcycles parked. Each night, delicious steaks and cold beer are served, and many stories are told at the bar, until 10 PM when the generator shuts off and a cast of a thousand twinkling stars come out. The main dirt road in from Highway 3 can be a bit challenging if you are loaded down, so be ready for a sandy christening and a water crossing before you arrive.
4. San Pedro de Martir Observatory
Heading south of Ensenada on Highway 1, near the small town of Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz Baja, a paved road takes you west towards the mountains and the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir National Park. At the end of the road, at nearly 10,000 feet, is the National Astronomical Observatory. The observatory can also be reached by dirt road from Mike’s Sky Ranch (roughly 30 miles away) if you want to link up the two. There are pine forests here like Sierra de Juárez to the north, but with even more stunning views. And on a clear day, you will be able to see both the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean in one panorama. How cool is that?!
The town of Catavina is but a speed bump on Highway 1, smack dab in the middle of a rocky desert carpet. There is just one hotel in town Hotel Mision Cataviña and it’s a nice one, which is a surprise to find here in the middle of nowhere. But the surrounding area is the real attraction. If you like desert topography, solitude and unspoiled night skies, this is a good place to hang your hat for an evening or a few days. From here, you can take day trips to some of the beautiful beaches on either the Pacific Coast or Sea of Cortez. A set of well-preserved 1,000-year-old cave paintings are just a few miles up the road. You can also visit the nearby Mission Santa Maria de Los Angeles ruins and the Oasis of Santa Maria but getting there is a challenge on a steep rocky trail that should only be attempted by experienced off-road riders, preferably on smaller bikes.
6. Coco’s Corner
Coco’s Corner is a place that’s hard to describe. It’s not a restaurant or even an official store, but is known to many Baja travelers. Coco’s Corner is located about 22 miles south of Gonzaga Bay on the main gravel road that connects back to Highway 1. It’s the perfect place to stop and stretch, get a cold water and chat with other fellow travelers. The decorations at Coco’s Corner are definitely worth a look. Hundreds of pairs of female underwear hang from the ceiling and the walls are covered with stickers from countless Motorsport brands. Strange junk art can be found around the premises. But the main attraction is Coco himself, a double amputee (from diabetes) who gets around in a wheelchair, or sometimes his quad. He doesn’t speak much English and his Spanish is full of vulgarities, but his humor, warmth and hospitality are always present.