When there’s no surf in San Juanico there’s still plenty of fun to be had nearby. In the second of our ‘Day Trippin’ posts, we take a little tour to camp in Bahia Concepcion. If you have 4-wheel drive, high clearance and a taste for adventure, this beautiful destination is approximately 4 hours from San Juanico. Because it’s a bit of a drive, you’ll want to spend at least one night. But also, because camping in Bahia Concepcion is paradise.
We departed Scorpion Bay at 8:30am with plans to take the dirt road that runs from San Isidro to Mulege. This is the official Mexican Highway 1, and the route Google maps recommends to most people. However it’s unpaved and when conditions are poor, people frequently get stuck. Still, it’s a shorter route than sticking to the pavement which runs south through Insurgentes, east to Loreto, then north to the beaches. Another positive? Traveling dirt in Baja Sur is part of the adventure.
Before departure, we did our due diligence and asked several locals about the road conditions. This is a good practice when traveling anywhere in Southern Baja. All reports indicated this road had been recently graded, making it easily passable in any type of car. Our 2006 Toyota Tacoma, Blanquita, was certainly up for the task.
La Purisima & San Isidro
Within an hour, we arrived in La Purisima, a small pueblo just southeast of San Juanico. We’ve traveled through here before and found it nearly a ghost town. This time it was nice to see more life in the area. After a quick stop at the local Diconsa for some cold drinks and snacks, we were back on the road to San Isidro, a slightly larger town less than an hour away.
By 10:30 we were on the road to Mulege, which offers a fantastic view of La Purisima’s Pilon just as you’re leaving town. Two hours later, we found the one shade tree along the route, at about KM38, where we stopped for some water and snacks. Soon after that, 99 miles from San Juanico, we hit pavement and headed north toward the beaches of Bahia Concepcion.
The Beaches of Bahia Concepcion
My first experience driving past these beaches had been 6 months prior on our trip down to Scorpion Bay from the states. At the time, I had frantically taken notes while driving past, intending to remember which beaches seemed most worthy of returning to. Top on my list? Playa el Coyote and Playa el Requeson. From the road, these two looked to be just up my alley; quiet, fewer permanent structures, and lots of white sand.
Before our camping trip, we did some further research to narrow down our preferred choices in case we came upon crowds or other campers with dogs. (our beagle doesn’t get along well with everyone and can make us nightmare neighbors)
Here’s what we found out:
Playa el Requeson: Still at the top of our list, especially for the sandbar that connects this beach to a small island with hiking. This beach has no amenities other than pit toilets, the perfect Baja escape.
Playa Buenaventura: This beach is just 2 kilometers north of el Requeson and offers more amenities. There’s a popular restaurant, best known for Taco Tuesdays, and a small store if you’re in need of supplies, like drinking water.
Playa el Coyote: This was number two on our list. The secluded, white sand beach is a go-to for whale sharks when in season, and a great place for wildlife spotting.
Playa El Burro: Also home to several permanent structures, Playa el Burro has palapas for camping on the opposite end of the beach. You’ll find kayak rentals, boat rentals a restaurant and a small store here. There’s a lot going on here, which some campers like, some don’t.
Playa Escondida: This protected cove can be reached from the neighboring beach, Posada Concepcion, which is home to several permanent homes and a restaurant.
Playa Santispac: This beach is the furthest north, closest to Mulege. The popular swimming beach is surrounded by an equally popular hike. There’s more infrastructure here including two restaurants and local kayak rentals.
Playa la Perla
When we drove by in November of 2020, all these beaches were empty. An unusual effect of COVID-19 travel restrictions, perhaps. Most of the Canadians who normally winter on these beaches were prevented from driving their RV’s through the US to Mexico this year.
Now, a few days before Memorial Day Weekend, the number of cars we saw parked at el Requeson was a shock to the system. We like our camping quiet and far away from other people, so this was a no. Thankfully, we had read a blog before arriving with one helpful tip. When el Requeson is full, take the small road that heads off to the right for access to a few smaller, more remote beaches. If you’re set up to boondock, some of these beaches are free.
We hit the jackpot with the first beach we came upon, Playa la Perla.
This small beach sits in a north-facing cove which meant it was fairly well protected from the afternoon wind. There were approximately 6 palapas in varying states of repair, and 2 pit toilets nearby. When we arrived there were just two other palapas occupied by campers, so we had our pick from a few options.
A sweet old caretaker, Rosa, and her black lab soon came to collect the nightly fee, which was 150 pesos. She also informed us our neighbors were just day campers, which was just fine with us!
Camping in Bahia Concepcion
Late May was pretty damn hot which, according to Rosa, was a bit unusual for this time of year. The first two days of our stay must have been in the high 90’s. We assumed this was normal until the third day revealed some cooler temps. Shade quickly becomes the most important aspect of any campsite, so the palapa is necessary unless you have your own pull-out shade tent or a pop-up.
You’re on your own here when it comes to amenities, including fresh water, so plan accordingly. We suggest packing the following:
- Ample fresh water for drinking, bathing, rinsing wetsuits, or any other conceivable need
- Shade! It will be too hot in your tent, so consider a shade structure without four side walls
- Hammocks, chairs, or comfortable lounging supplies. You can’t be in the water all dayyy
- Toilet paper. Yes, there are pit toilets but you might rather bring your own…
- Snacks. Hardly anyone likes a full meal in the heat, but the fruit and summer sausage we brought was ideal
- Toys. Bring your own entertainment. This includes binoculars, snorkel gear, swim noodles or a kayak
- Firewood. There’s little to be collected from the surrounding area. We got by with just enough for a nightly fire, but if we were to do it again, we would’ve loaded up on the road from San Isidro.
Things to Do in Bahia Concepcion
Our little cove at Playa la Perla was pure heaven. There was a resident sea turtle who popped his head out morning and night as he swam around the cove. We never managed to see him while snorkeling, but I did see several rays, including one with at least a 5 foot wingspan and equally long tail. Not to worry, he was hanging out in the depths, far beyond where one might step on him.
Not too many fish in the cove, but enough out deep for a dolphin show each morning and night. A pod of at least 60 would circle for hours feeding and jumping. An excellent reason to bring binoculars.
Bijou the beagle was impressed with the smells on the beach while Sport dog was stoked to be living near the water for three days. He of course tried to ‘save’ everyone who was out there snorkeling, and spent his days alternating between cooling off in the water and rolling around in the sand. Us too, except for the rolling around in the sand part.
Nightfall wasn’t until 9pm, but we typically had the fire started well before then. Thankfully, we had no issues with bugs, and could have easily slept without the tent. A couple times during the night, the dogs jumped up and out to chase down a cat or to bark at Rosa’s dog. All totally normal when camping with dogs.
There’s nothing like sunrise over the Sea of Cortez, and I’m sure the stars would have been amazing too, had we not been there during the full moon. Sitting on the beach with a cup of coffee we watched hummingbirds and bees visit the neighboring mesquite tree, enjoyed the dolphin show, and did some turtle spotting.
Eventually, we were joined by one neighbor, a gringo named Dave who was there for a few nights before meeting with family in Loreto. He let us borrow his inflatable kayak which provided some entertainment and a fun close-up look at what might be swimming through the tall grasses at the edge of the cove. We love the friendliness of fellow adventure travelers.
If you bring the right supplies, here’s area just a few of the things to do:
- Take naps
- Read books
- Spot wildlife
- Swing in a hammock
- Beach yoga
- Sunrise and sunset watch
Our experience was so amazing that the minor drawbacks were largely overshadowed. We’re only talking about it here because fellow campers might be curious. We’re pretty outdoorsy, so the pit toilets didn’t bother us much, but they were in grave disrepair. The toilet was perched on a plywood plank over a hole in the ground, and it’s only a matter of time before that whole system gives way and some unlucky guy or gal just falls in. If you’re using toilet paper, best to pack it out, since it doesn’t appear anyone’s emptying or properly disposing of it here. Which brings us to the next point, pack out EVERYTHING.
There doesn’t seem to be any system for trash removal here. So while there are trash cans strategically placed behind the palapas, I think the best that happens with their contents is that they get dumped about 100 feet further back among the cactus.
There were huge junkyard piles of broken bottles, discarded refrigerators, old pop-up tent frames and all sorts of trash all within 50 yards of the ocean. Booties too are a good idea because it seems some campers discard their glass bottles by throwing them in the ocean too. In the least, the ocean floor near the shoreline is covered with the sharp remnants of shellfish.
Overall, we were over the moon with our first time camping in Bahia Concepcion and we’ll certainly be back to explore the other beaches. If you’re headed south to Loreto on the way out, grab a good breakfast and a cup of Joe at Las Palmas across from the San Nicholas turn off.