While Northern Baja suffers from cold water and a reputation for violence, Baja Sur is essentially a series of safe, warm surf oases strung along the desert coastline. From party/surf destinations like Cabo San Lucas to the dusty, timeless perfection of Scorpion Bay, Baja Sur has something for everyone, and has been a favorite California escape since the ’60s.
The Surf: While there are a handful of beach breaks and a few reefs of note, Baja is the land of right hand points. Long and symmetrical, these points have been a hotbed of high-performance logging and stylish, trim-style sliding since long before most of us were born, and chances are good that they’ll continue to be so long after we are gone. In general, the waves of Baja Sur cater to beginners and intermediate surfers, but perfection has no bias, and any number of pros can be found along the coast every time a solid south swell rolls through.
Five Waves Worth Surfing:
- Scorpion Bay: The granddaddy of all epic right hand points, this wave (four separate waves, actually) has haunted the dreams of millions of surfers since it was first discovered back in the early ’70s.
- Zippers: This righthand point is one of Cabo’s best waves, and has the crowds to prove it. It can be a bit too busy for many people’s tastes, but when its on it’s a sight to behold.
- Isla Natividad: Hard to access and harder still to score, Island Natividad is one of the original fly-in destinations for intrepid surfer/pilots. It is also possible to hire a boat to take you out to this dusty island, where perfect sandbar barrels spin all day long thanks to offshore easterly exposure.
- Punta Conejo: A dusty left point break in the middle of nowhere, Conejo exemplifies the Baja experience—perfect, isolated, camping-only waves in the middle of a dusty desert.
- Shipwrecks (Punta Gorda): Another long righthand point break out of San Jose Del Cabo, Shipwrecks can get crowded, but is usually a bit less busy than nearby Zippers.
The Water: Clean, beautiful and warm, the sapphire blue water of Baja Sur paints a surreal contrast to the dusty brown shoreline. Surface temps in the middle of the state range from 64–80 F (18–26 C), with spots to the north somewhat colder and Cabo San Lucas holding bathtub temperatures year round.
The Season: Because Baja Sur faces west, it enjoys two seasons—picking up north swell between November and March and south swell from April through September. Different spots thrive under different swell conditions, but those classic point break moments of magic are typically the result of large south swells. Cabo and the East Cape also enjoy tropical hurricane swells between July and September.
The Vibe: Depending on how far off the beaten path you get, you can surf with anywhere from zero to 200 other surfers. Tensions can run high at the most crowded spots—especially around Cabo—but there are enough waves for everyone, so come with a positive attitude and you’ll find what you are looking for.
Things To Do: Surf. Fish. Breathe dust. Kill flies. Drink tequila.
Where To Stay: Cabo is set up for tourists, with an abundance of hotels and hostels. Otherwise, a few of the most popular spots up and down the coast may have the occasional bungalow for rent, but for the most part you’ll be living out of a tent.
What To Bring: A log, a fish and a shortboard. If at all possible, leave your leash at home—nothing feels better than trimming down the line sans leg rope at one of the world’s best righthand points. Bring wax, sunscreen, ding repair kits, and anything other surf accessory you anticipate needing—there’s nothing here but water and dust. A 4×4 rig is pretty much mandatory if you plan to do any exploring to get to out-of-the-way locations, and your vehicle should be fully stocked with food, water, camping gear, spare tires and auto repair tools.
Getting There: The classic route is overland, driving down from the San Diego/Tijuana border (roughly 12 hours to Guerrero Negro at the Baja Norte/Baja Sur border, and another 20 to Cabo). Many fly in for swells, however, both privately (to tiny fishing village airstrips) and commercially (to Loreto, La Paz, and Los Cabos). If driving, remember to get a tourist visa when you cross the border from San Diego, or risk getting turned around at Guerrero Negro. Otherwise, tourist visas are available upon arrival. Airport codes: SJD (Los Cabos), LAP (La Paz) and LTO (Loreto).