So You Want To Live At The Beach

Good luck with that

The Sunio Beach Club in Rosarito Beach is a good example of a concession, (a lease), of land from the federal government. Private individuals can lease land in the federal zone, but can not buy it, because it belongs to everyone, as the national patrimonyThis month two members of the government swung by to fill in the membership of the USBC (United Society of Baja California), about laws governing the land known as the Federal Zone. Francisco Fonseca and Jorge Luis Castaneda through interpreter Carmen Valencia dispelled some of the myths regarding this popular area.

All beach land in Mexico is owned by the Mexican nation and cannot be sold to anyone. Each municipality in Mexico has an agreement with the federal government for the land commonly referred to as the Federal Zone, but it is in the jurisdiction of the feds. Beaches must be protected from encroachers and open to all.

The Federal Zone is defined as the strip of land 20 meters (66 feet), from the high tide line, inland.  The governing agency SEMARNAT (Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources) has official surveyor’s maps showing this area, but beaches are live beings, constantly changing, so many are out of date, making many maps inaccurate, so consider purchases anywhere near the federal zone with caution.

One may apply for one of three types of concessions, what we might more properly call a lease. These leases are granted for such things as to build a restaurant upon, or to store boats, or even, rarely, to build a private residence. Just remember, this is rental land which you will never own, so you might want to pitch a tent, instead. Concessions may be granted for up to 15 years, and renewable if no laws have been broken or someone else with more political clout doesn’t ace you out. And forget about obtaining a tidelands concession if you’re a foreigner, it’s very rare.

The gardens at the Rosarito Beach Hotel are a good example of the federal zone. The land is not owned by the hotel, the owners of the hotel hold a concession for that land.

 Concessions may be paid once a year, or quarterly, depending on which municipality the land is located in. The cost is absurdly cheap. A trifle. A pittance. A joke, even.

To verify if a concession is available one must contact SEMARNAT and if granted, before anything may be done on this land an environmental expert must be hired to generate an environmental impact report. This is a bit of a joke, however, as the “expert” is hired and paid for by the person seeking the concession.  It is also strongly suggested to hire a Notorio Publico (Notary Public) to verify photos that you take of the land being considered. Don’t want to spend the money for a notary? This is not an occasion to skimp on money. Mexicans take their beach land seriously, believing it is their national patrimony, and any misstep is sure to be capitalized on.

For more information visit these websites: SEMARNAT –; PROFEPA – Translations for these pages are available through Google, but good luck with that, automatic ttranslations are still pretty crappy. And don’t forget FRAO is here to help. That’s the Foreign Resident’s Attention Office – email:; phone: 661-614-9625 x1080; Francisco Fonseca email:; Jorge Castaneda: ,