Our first trip to Mexico with the 5th wheel was planned with insanity; induced from Covid restriction cabin fever. I went berserk with plotting and planning. It gave me focus and I hoped for a light at the end the tunnel. I was quite shocked when I started researching RV travel in Mexico. Firstly, it was a thing; people did this. I had never met anyone who had RV'd in Mexico so I was shocked at the amount of information available and how many campgrounds there are. Essentially all along the coasts of Mexico you will find a variety of different styles of campgrounds from community style long term spots to rustic spots that are available on a first come, first served basis.
Initially I searched the east coast of Mexico (as we would be leaving from PEI, Canada) but was not coming up with much on your average google search. It was upon reaching out on a FB page about the seeming lack of campgrounds on the east coast that I learned about one of my now "Ride or Die Apps; IOverlander. You see; it doesn't seem that campgrounds in Mexico advertise in the way we have come to expect; it is mostly through word of mouth, blogs, vlogs etc. So I started my search on IOverlander, read reviews and gathered the necessary data to convince my husband this was the adventure we needed .
After talking to the fearless captain of all my current adventures we decided to go to the Baja. He was driving; who am I to argue? It was good choice as we had spent a winter exploring it on our motorcycles and we had friends who lived there. Decision made, I found us a campsite 1.5 hours north of Los Cabos on the east of the peninsula called Baja Sunrise RV Park and communicated directly with the owner Gorge, who was very helpful. Plans were made, our site was booked, we were on our way!
We left PEI while the Canadian government was still making it's mind up about the travel restrictions. Our plan was to head west and keep hitting border crossings until we were allowed into the States or end up in BC and wait it out in the rain. So as luck would have it; we were allowed through the first border crossing we came to. Shout out to those great people working that day.
We started heading southwest south staying in parking lots, rest stops and the occasional campground enjoying the fall colors until my fearless captain started to get a bit too twitchy. We took a break in Tennessee for a few days and enjoyed a visit to Broadway Street. Let me tell you; after being in Canada with the restrictions for so long, it was a breath of fresh air to socialize and see smiling faces. After a couple of days we had recuperated and we began heading west to one of our favorite places; Lake Martinez in Yuma Arizona, to take another break and get supplies before we headed across the Mexican border.
The morning arrived. We had decided to cross at Mexicali East Border Crossing as our friends had recommended. I was a bundle of nerves, but as always my husband was the picture of "chill". We filled up at the gas station on the U.S side and made sure our jerry cans were full (we brought 4). We stayed to the right and and were waved over and parked behind some other RV's. We were thoroughly inspected and they wanted see all of our paperwork as we had brought two motorcycles and two dirt bikes. We didn't have registration for the dirtbikes and the guard let us go after giving us a hard time (we did get registration for the return trip). This is not a mistake I will make again.
The Baja and Sonora Mexico is considered the free zone of Mexico so no vehicle import permit is required but Mexican vehicle insurance is, which we had put in place prior to our arrival through BajaBound Insurance. And trust me if you are driving in Mexico you want insurance; I have heard horror stories of what happens to people who are in an accident with no coverage.
The guard pointed us to the building to get our FMM (Tourist Visa for Mexico) and we received the 180 day maximum that you are allowed to stay, but we did learn later that this timeline is not a guarantee and is completely up to the border agent, which could really cause some dents in your plans if they decide not to give you the time you want. Just one of those things that spice up an adventure in Mexico! Paperwork complete and in hand we hit the road again.
The road through Mexicali was very narrow, busy and chaotic; hence the blurb about insurance. Matt maneuvered the roads like an expert; taking his time and cutting people off as is the Mexican way. We stopped for peso's in a very busy part of town parking in the way only a 55 foot unit can; obnoxiously. It all went very smoothly despite my nerves and Matt only slightly redecorated the exterior of the camper a little bit with some street signs.
Once through Mexicali we hit the #5 highway to heaven (otherwise known as beachfront living in Baja California Sur). Our first stop was at Rancho Grande in Gonzaga Bay (www.gonzagabay.com). It is a very large campground in a beautiful bay. The area is an ecological reserve, so no power (other than solar and generators), no sewer and no water. Directly across the street is a very well stocked store where you also purchase your camping pass. Back at the gate is a security guard who checks your ticket and takes a tip (or cold cervesa) with a huge smile. Rancho Grande is a wide open space with plenty of spots directly on the beach. We could have fit into a spot on the beach with a palapa but they were quite close together and we would have stuck out into the roadway, so we chose a spot towards the back. After chatting with some other campers we learned that there was a small town just across the airstrip with a very good restaurant. We drove over and was allowed in by another friendly security guard. The charming town consisted of one street with some beach houses and the restaurant/hotel was surprisingly busy considering where we were; but we were served our delicious meal expediently and enjoyed the sunset.
We woke up early to hit the road for our longest stretch to San Ignacio and to see our friends Paul and Bonnie who own and operate Ignacio Springs bed and breakfast. Ignacio Springs (ignaciosprings.com) is an oasis in the center of Baja. It is settled quietly on a large fresh water spring and the accommodations are yurts that are nestled between palm trees. Meals and drinks are provided and in addition to being just a short walk to the quaint town of San Ignacio, excursions such as whale watching are available.
We stayed at a hotel/rv park called Rice and Beans (www.riceandbeansoasis.com) due to our size. They have full hook ups and a pool available to guests. The food was great and the drinks were cold. It was a perfect place to spend a few days visiting. We rode our bicycles, lounged around town and thoroughly enjoyed our stay.
After that much needed R&R we hit the road for a short drive to a place called Playa Santispac which is just south of Mulege. It is a rustic campground, with no hook ups and a couple of restaurants. But we don't go for that. We go to Playa Santispac for the view. Crystal clear turquoise water in a stunning bay dotted with sail boats. You cannot get a better view for 200 peso anywhere in the Baja. As we were there early we had time to get a panga (small boat with a shade covering) to a ship wreck right outside the bay and do some snorkeling. We had dinner and drinks at the restaurant and chatted with other travelers. It was essentially perfection as far as a boondocking spot goes.
The next day we were up bright and early for our last day of travel. My nerves were on edge as today was the day we were passing through the busy town of La Paz. La Paz is a jewel of a town; bustling with tourists, famous for it's beautiful beaches and the chance to go swimming with whale sharks. The traffic on the outskirts of town that follows the #5 is hectic and congested but a good opportunity to stop at big box stores such as Walmart or Costco.
At this point we emptied our four jerry cans of fuel into the truck as we did not need them anymore. We had made it the whole way without having to use them, but it is better to be prepared as gas stations can sometimes run out of fuel along the way. We got through La Paz with no issues and carried onto the last stretch of the #5 towards Los Barriles. It was slow going as the road twists and turns through the mountains but the views made it worth the slow pace.
We finally arrived at our destination. The owner Gorge greeted us and directed us to our beach front spot. White sand beach, crystal clear turquoise water and a gentle breeze made everything worth it. My nerves instantly settled and the realization that this was home for the winter washed over me like a gentle tide. We got set up and Gorge recommended a restaurant for supper and we took off for a cruise around the quaint town of Los Barriles.
At supper; margarita in hand I congratulated my fearless captain on another crazy, successful adventure. When we started out we did not know what would happen or where we would end up. Turns out we ended up exactly where we needed to be and most importantly; we enjoyed the ride.