The drive from San Filipe to our intended destination, Guerrero Negro, would have been possible in a day on a paved highway such as Highway 1. However, a few miles south of San Filipe the road turns to very rough gravel and many detours off the original highway. Most of the stretch of highway it is under construction, but I would not expect the work to be complete for at least a few years.
Trans-peninsular Highway 5, on google maps and other modern GPS maps, is the same color and category as Highway 1. This is definitely not the case! Paper maps in the region give a much better idea of the quality of a road, we learned the hard way. We also recommend using the satellite view if you have the data to support it, or to download ahead of time. This will give a much better idea of the road quality and mountain ranges. It is clear that the original Highway 5 was nothing close to the quality of Highway 1, though perhaps the new road will be.
We made our way slowly from San Filipe on Highway 5 back to Highway 1. The slow travel gave us a great opportunity for site seeing, along the coast and into the desert of central Baja. We passed a few odd establishments seemingly in the middle of nowhere, as well as some permanently retired road trip vans and busses. It seemed a pretty good middle of nowhere coastline.
We came to an interesting point close to where Highway 5 meets back with Highway 1. Absolutely nothing else around for maybe 50 kilometers, here’s a house labeled “Coco’s Corner – Cold Beer” with cans lining a fence leading to a small house. We were pushing against the sun already on its way down, so despite our curiosity didn’t stop.
Later we spoke with a few friends from Ensenada, and apparently it has a bit of a “cult classic” kind of reputation in Baja. They described it as a “must stop” for a quick cold beer and chat with the owner, who they described as a kind but crotchety old man. The home is eccentrically decorated with strange art and recycled metal and plastic, and the entire ceiling is covered in lady’s panties. It came highly recommend that we stop by if we are in the area again.
Finally we reconnected with Highway 1, but it was clear that Guerrero Negro was too far to go, and the sun was almost down. We checked our maps on GPS (we use both maps.me and google maps offline to be sure we can get maps even with no signal) and we found another highway leading back east to the coast, to a small city Bahia de los Angeles. We drove down Highway 1 to the turnoff to Bahia de los Angeles (also Highway 1, it simply splits but keeps the same name) to see if it was in fact nice and paved. The road was just as good as the main highway, so we took it to the coast into Bahia de los Angeles.
It was unfortunate to drive into the town in the dark, because the view coming over the final mountain into the bay is phenomenal. We made our way into the town, a very small beach front stretch with just a few open restaurants in the evening. One even had very slow wifi to tantalize the traveler, as there is no cell phone reception here.
We read an RV blog online that mentioned a few RV parks called “Archelon” and “Daggets” on the beaches north of town. We had just enough wifi to load some maps, and headed out of town on beach roads to the north. Unfortunately, the roads criss cross aimlessly that close to the beach, and are pretty difficult to navigate in the dark in a bus and questionable maps to lead you. We passed in front of and got near a few private residences and a few beach front hotel and RV camps, but ultimately turned back to the main road to keep looking.
We had also read of a beach further called “La Gringa”, so we followed the unnamed road north of town. The road connects to the main roundabout where Highway 1 comes into town from the north-west. The paved road gave way to gravel and slowed us down quite a bit. This was another section of very rough road that would have been much better to drive in the day. Please look at the map posted above (you can zoom in and pan) to see how to get to Playa Gringa.
We took it slow, kept going straight, and eventually came to a fenced in area with a “Bienvenidos a Playa La Gringa” sign, and another park services sign specifying that the area was a natural preserve. There are privately owned portions of Playa La Gringa on both sides of the natural preserve, so make sure you follow the road to the end and enter the fence where it says it is a “reserva natural.” If you are following a map, Playa Gringa is just after “Campo Jaurez.”
We were a quite a few kilometers from even the small town of Bahia de Los Angeles, and we were rewarded with a fantastic sky full of stars. We pulled to a ridge just above the bay’s tide line and stepped out to enjoy our night sky.