Surfing in Southern Baja

BY: RICK CASTAGNER

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Deciding the best surfing beach in the Southern Baja area isn't an easy task. I have tried and always come to the same conclusion … there are simply too many good spots to choose just one. Some are more picturesque than others, some offer safe swimming and exceptional snorkelling; some have solitude, some have a party atmosphere while others just have great surf breaks.

Cabo / San Jose Corridor

Monuments Beach Km 6

A great beach and a mecca for Baja-bound surfers, thanks to a challenging left-hand point break. This is a strong break and is best left to the expert surfer. Scenic views of El Arco and the other granitic rock formations that stretch to Land's End in Cabo San Lucas are incredible. The sunset views have led to many developments here, most recently The Cape: A Thompson Hotel, a hip new luxury resort featuring retro decor and surfer chic. The beach is also next to a classic restaurant called Sunset de la Mona Lisa. The beach is open to the public, by law, and there is easy parking available. Take a right at the Misiones gate then drive toward the beach.

Playa El Tule Km 16

You will find this spot in the middle of the Cabo Tourist Corridor adjacent to Chileno Bay. This is a strong break that goes both ways with speed and is best left to the expert surfer. A secluded sandy stretch of beach used mainly by locals. There are scattered boulders in the surf and driftwood can be found up on the beach. Access is at the Los Tules Bridge. Be careful, a four-wheel drive vehicle is needed to get across the sometimes soft sand of the arroyo, stay on the packed roads. Local surfers and running enthusiasts flock to this beach, a rather secluded beach that faces the Sea of Cortés and boasts fun if not challenging surfing conditions.

San Jose Del Cabo

Punta Palmilla Km 29

Punta Palmilla is a right reef break. When the right swells hit, Punta Palmilla can get really big, sometimes triple overhead. Punta Palmilla is easy to get to and is located in front of the One&Only Palmilla Resort.

Old Man’s Beach Km 28

Just west of Playa Costa Azul is a little stretch of beach called Playa Acapulquito, known as Old Man’s Beach. It looks like the local surf spot has migrated to this area. A surf school and restaurant make this small beach popular with the local surf crowd. Swimming is possible, but watch out for surfers. The beach is great for sun and surfer watching. This is a right breaking swell that offers good surfing for beginners as well as advanced surfers.

Blue Coast Beach (Costa Azul Beach) Km 29

One of the signature beaches in the San Jose del Cabo area, Playa Costa Azul offers sun, sand and surf, plus plenty of great food and drink at Zipper's Bar and Grill.

World famous Zippers is the closest break to San Jose del Cabo. Located just west of the town, it offers up a fun, fast right break and is the site of numerous surf competitions. Unfortunately, with fame comes crowds, and if you are hoping to find a wide-open ocean, chances are you won’t. If you can handle fighting for a position you will be rewarded with a nice long ride as the reef structure creates a long break when the size is there. The best surf breaks are found at Zippers and the Rock, with the beginner-friendly Middle Break frequently used for lessons. Zippers surf break is the site of the annual WSL sponsored Los Cabos Open of Surf, and gets crowded during the summer months. Despite the fact this is a good place for snorkelling and swimming, it's a good idea to be alert, otherwise, you could be run down by a rogue longboarder. Located through the arroyo at Costa Azul Bridge.

The Rivermouth (La Bocano)

An Oasis of surf inside San Jose del Cabo, this beach is a jewel among other surf spots in Baja California due to its beautiful surroundings. Hidden in the insides of San Jose, the River Mouth is a beach break that gets sand from the estuary lagoon and therefore creates an appropriate sandy bottom for some good waves.

Shipwrecks Beach

Off the beaten path on the coast road out of San Jose and best accessed by 4 wheel drive vehicles, it is about a 40-minute drive from San José del Cabo. Shipwrecks is one of the more famous breaks that is usually un-crowded. The drive into this area boasts some of the most amazing coastal scenery you’re likely to ever see. Not well marked, you’ll need to keep a sharp eye out for a small development named Rancho Rocas del Mar, the first break is just south. Shipwrecks is most productive during a strong southerly swell.

East Cape

Most of these breaks in the Sea of Cortez are extremely inconsistent and sometimes they resemble a lake. It will take a huge South Swell or a strong storm in the Sea of Cortez to make these waves break.

West Cape / Todo Santos / Pescadero 

Migrino Km 97

Migrino is a consistent right point that accepts winter swells and summer pulses along the numerous beach peaks. Only a short distance from town so it gets pretty crowded when there are no waves in Cabo.

Playa Los Cerritos (Cerritos Beach) Km 67

Rated one of the best breaks on the Pacific Side, it is also the most well known and most crowded. This is a right point break when the swell runs right or a good beach break the majority of the time.

Playa Los Cerritos is the most crowded spot on the west side of the Cape, due to the consistency of this wave. A fun right point reef break with some sand bottoms, a good wave to learn on except when a big swell hits.

Located about forty-five minutes north of Los Cabos, just before the artist colony of Todo Santos, Cerritos Beach is a beautiful, sweeping expanse of pristine beach, famed for its surfing and whale watching. The surfing is great here on a year-round basis for beginners and experts. During the winter months when the Sea of Cortez surf scene goes dormant, surfers head to Pacific Coast beaches like Los Cerritos. This beach has always been my favorite over the years in southern Baja, although changes are coming. A major resort is being planned for the beach.

El Pescadero Km 60

This is a very good reef break a few miles south of Todo Santos. Consistency on the reef is probably the best feature of this break but be especially careful paddling in and out as the reef is covered with sea urchins and nobody wants to spend the day pulling out spines! Here you can spend the day surfing and you have the convenience of a small restaurant for quick refueling or just plain relaxing.

San Pedrito Km 59

Located near El Pescadero, this makes it worth a stop, a dual break, lefts and rights.

La Pastora

Located about 5 miles north of Todo Santos, you'll find this break by starting in town at the Hotel California. Just east of the hotel look for a road that heads north and when you get to the bottom of the hill, hang a left and continue down a dirt road for several miles and keep your eyes out for a small sign for Pastora. There is a sandlot where you can park but avoid going in deep without a 4 wheel drive vehicle. Getting there is important, getting out is even more so! Once you arrive you’re in for a treat on fun breaks that go both directions and are usually un-crowded.

Driving down the Baja

If you are driving up or down the Baja, here are a few of the must-stop surfing spots.

Popotla Fishing Village area

One of northern Baja’s most famous surf spots is K38, recognized as much for the surf as for the giant statue of Jesus up on the hill with arms outstretched toward the ocean. There’s a right surf break here, but sometimes lefts can be found as well. The spot is best on a mid to low tide. Watch out for sea urchins, especially at the mouth of the river. There’s another break just south at Km 38.5.

La Fonda

Home to the famous K58 surf spot, the area along the ocean here is often referred to by tourists as “La Fonda” because of the namesake hotel/restaurant that has been here since the 1970s.

Ensenada

Ensenada is largely regarded as the birthplace of Mexican surfing, and everyone from big wave aficionados to beginners will find a place to catch a swell. Off the coast, the Isla Todo Santos is a challenging spot where waves can reach heights of up to 60 feet. There are five breaks on the island, and the Bog Wave Surf contest has taken place here for a number of years.

Along the coastline back on the peninsula, there are a series of point and beach breaks. Experienced surfers can also head to San Miguel, to the north of town, where they’ll find one of the most famous right point breaks in Baja.

Beaches like Playa Hermosa are perfect for beginners with the sandy bottom and gentle waves.

Bahía Concepcion

Bahía Concepción is one of the most beautiful spots on the peninsula with stunning clear waters casting beautiful turquoise colors and white sand beaches. Enjoy a beach day along the white sand beaches and crystal waters of Bahía Concepcion. Spend the morning kayaking or snorkelling at Playa Santispac, or just sunbathe and enjoy the beautiful setting. Grab a burger and a beer at Playa Buenaventura.

Bahía San Juanico, also called Scorpion Bay, is arguably the most popular spot for surfing on the entire Baja peninsula. This small, remote fishing village on the Pacific has become a classic Baja surfing spot. While the roads out to Bahía San Juanico can be treacherous, for serious surfers it’s worth the hassle to get to the series of right point breaks with seemingly endless waves. This is a destination for serious surfers.

Bahía Magdalena

Bahía Magdalena is home to some of the best windsurfing and kiteboarding on the Pacific coast of Baja. The barrier islands protect the bay from large swells and strong winds blow year-round.

There are three right-hand point breaks in Bahía Santa Maria (one of the bays within Bahía Magdalena): Cuevas, Campsites, and Betadines. For beginner surfers, the estuary mouth has a sand bottom beach break.

South of Bahia Magdalena, Punta El Conejo is a remote point that catches north and south swells. You can camp on the bluffs here, but you’ll need to bring all of your own provisions. With the danger of flash floods in the area, camping below on the sand is not advisable.

If you continue another 17 kilometers south on the coastal road, you’ll come to another break, Punta Marquez.

Life is short. Find that surfing spot of your dreams.