Where to Stop in Bahía Concepción

By Carla King

Bahía Concepción (Conception Bay) is a bay within a bay on the Sea of Cortez about halfway down the peninsula. Many travelers plan a grand tour of Baja but get kind of stuck here–and not in a bad way! La Paz, Cabo, and Todos Santos can wait for mañana. I agree! This rugged paradise is the real “old” Baja suitable for exploration by bicycle, motorcycle, 4×4, RV, car, and boat.

But Bahía Concepción isn’t for everybody. If you like glitter and glam, fancy clothes, staying up all night, and hotels with room service, keep on going down the road. Local restaurants provide entertainment with their rotating music and movie nights, but even they pretty much shut down at 9:00. We call it Baja midnight.

If you’re heading to Baja to slow down your life, you’ll be happy here. Bring your kayak, or hire one from a local to do a little island hopping. Dig your toes in the sand, sip a cerveza con lima and watch the dolphins pass roll by in lazy arcs in the dark blue-green sea.

Island hopping in Bahia Concepcion. Photo by Carla King.

Exploring a near island in Bahia Concepcion.

Jump to the beaches

Costs

You’ll generally pay $10/night or less for a camping/RV spot with a palapa and about half that for one without, depending on the exchange rate. Motels in Mulegé run from $30 to $90 a night. There’s a hostel at Posada for $20 a night.

Note: The one bank in Mulegé no longer has an ATM that works for foreign banks (at this writing) so pick up some pesos in Santa Rosalía or Loreto. In a pinch, the grocery stores take dollars and give you change in pesos. You can also send yourself some cash using Western Union.  Carry small bills and coins for the vendors; they don’t have much change. And no… hardly anybody takes credit cards, gas stations included.

Vendors

If you don’t want to be bothered by vendors at sun-up, you can make a sign that states No Necesito Nada, Gracias. It might work. And then again, maybe not. The locals really depend on the tourist economy. Don’t be afraid to bargain for trinkets (but not food). They expect it, and it’s part of the fun.

Lupe and her son come by with tamales - photo by Carla King

Lupe is one of my favorite vendors. She and her son come by my house with tamales, empanadas, and sometimes chicharrones (fresh peas). Look for her on the beaches, too! Watch out for the green olive in each tamale; it’s not pitted.

Okay. Here’s where to stay, where to eat, and what to do. I’ve provided a map at the end of this post. We’ll start at the north end, just 20 minutes south of Mulegé.

Playa Santispac | km 114

Playa Santispac is the first beach you see from Highway 1 south of Mulegé and the view never fails to stun me with its blue expanse dotted with islands and the mountains of the peninsula beyond, so close and yet so very far away. It’s no wonder most turn in and set up camp. There are lots of RVs parked for the season on the west end of the beach with quieter tent camping on the east end. It’s a nice swimming beach, and there’s a popular hike on the flat terrain around the peninsula. Locals will rent you kayaks and take you out on boats to fish, clam, and say hi to the dolphins and whale sharks.

There are two restaurants: Armando’s and Anna’s. If you’re tired of tortillas and are craving a salad, go to Armando’s and order the “Salad Darcy” (fresh greens with shrimp) or “Salad Rick” (fresh greens with shrimp wrapped in bacon), named for a gringo couple who live on the beach.

Biker at Armando's at Santispac - photo by Carla King

Everybody seems to stop at Armando’s. Here’s a biker with his classic Harley.

A mangrove estuary at the south end of the beach is fantastic for bird watching. Kayak in at high tide to find dozens of nesting Great Blue Herons and some Snowy Egrets stalking the small fish that are trapped there.

Posada Concepción | km 112

Posada Concepción is the private community where I live, just a few minutes south of Santispac. There, you’ll find a hostel and restaurant, tennis court, and some long-term home rentals. There are RV spots and hookups by the road. Community power is on between 10 am to 10 pm. Kayak rentals are available at the office. The community is private property; please don’t drive around. If you want to explore, park and walk.

Our little neighborhood.

Our little neighborhood.

The bulletin board

The bulletin board across from the Posada oficina (again, please don’t drive there–park and walk) is filled with notices about special events in all of the beach communities. Find out about movie nights, special dinners, music and dancing, flea markets, charity auctions, stuff for sale, and more.

The hostel and restaurant

The hostel is a nice break from camping and an easy, quick overnight stay. It’s very basic, with about 20 bunks in one room attached to the restaurant. The $20/night fee includes morning bread and coffee, and you can make reservations via email.

There are board games, books, and DVDs, comfortable tables, and Lucy offers very tasty home-cooked Mexican food morning to night with very generous portions. Baked goods include pizza, donuts, bread, or brownies, depending on the day. There’s small, self-serve bar with beer and hard liquor.

Home rentals

You can rent homes in Posada via the Posada site and Airbnb. If you’re shopping for a second or retirement home or RV lot, there is always something for sale as retired residents age out and move back to the States or Canada. The community also houses location independent people like me working via satellite internet, bouncing back occasionally to California or the Pacific Northwest. Lots of residents adventure out with motorcycles, 4x4s, and quads. The community is pretty quiet, shutting down at “Baja Midnight,” which is about 9 pm. This makes sense when you rise with the sun!

Many residents gather for happy hour every evening at 5 on the beach and are welcoming to visitors. Need advice on best places to camp, RV, take your quad? Bring a beer and join us! There is a hot spring under the palapa on the beach which is public. The spring on the north end is on private property and for resident’s use only.

The locals are friendly.

The locals are friendly.

Our beach is shallow–muddy at low tide with lots of stingrays, so we go to nearby beaches (Escondido, Santispac) to swim or walk out to the point where the water’s deeper. Find out more about Posada Concepción on the web and on Facebook.

Hiking

In the morning you may notice residents hiking up “Good Heart Trail” across the highway. It’s about a 90-minute round trip and offers a great view of Bahia Concepcion. Every Thursday, Franz, hailing from Portland via Austria, leads a group of avid hikers that meets in the parking lot at 8 am sharp. They may walk or drive to the hiking location. If you want to join them, wear long pants, good shoes, a hat, and bring water and snacks. The hike usually ends at a local eatery.

Hiking downhill above Playa El Burro - photo by Carla King

One of the more challenging hikes is above Playa El Burro.

Playa Escondida | km 112

Playa Escondida, or “hidden beach,” is a short walk from Posada and separated from neighboring Playa Los Cocos (see below) at high tide by a small, rocky promontory. There are about ten palapas on the beach, some of which are occupied by smaller RVs and truck campers for the season. There are no amenities, just outhouses, and the vendors come by daily with most everything you need.

This is probably the most peaceful beach in the area, and the water is great for swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking. There’s an island a very short distance away for snorkeling and fishing. And, of course, you can walk to the restaurant at Posada.

Playas Escondida and Cocos - photo by Carla King

Playa Escondida (far beach) and Playa Los Cocos (near the beach) and Highway 1. The mountains across the water are on the peninsula that creates this bay within a bay.

Playa Los Cocos | km 111

Playa Los Cocos is a small campground next to the road and occupied almost exclusively by RVs. Like Escondida, there are no amenities except outhouses and vendors, and it’s an easy walk to Posada.

Exploring the islands by paddleboard in Bahia Concepcion

Exploring the islands by paddleboard on the Sea of Cortez’s Bahia Concepcion. (This is my Sea Eagle inflatable SUP with kayak seat, just in case you want to pack it in your trunk. :-)

Playa El Burro | km 108

Playa El Burro is a private community on the north end of the beach with RVs and tents on the south end. It offers great swimming, kayak rentals, and boating, and the dolphins and whale sharks like to hang out there.

Eduardo’s

When you turn into El Burro, follow the signs to find Eduardo, a Baja longtimer who can rent you a palapa and a kayak plus fishing, boating, snorkeling, and diving tours.

Eduardo's at Playa El Burro, Bahia Concepcion, Photo by Carla King

Eduardo’s at Playa El Burro

Pepe’s (formerly Bertha’s)

Pepe’s, which used to be Bertha’s (Facebook), is on the beach at the north end of Burro, with indoor dining and a full bar. Along with several other restaurants in the area, they offer movie night, music, and special events.

Across the street, next to the estación de bomberos (fire station) is Juan Carlos’, aka JCs (Facebook), with outdoor seating, a full bar, movie night, music, and special events, not to mention outstanding oysters once a week and a once-monthly lamb curry concocted by a local Brit named Alex.

Estrella del Mar

Just a bit further south is Estrella del Mar (Facebook) with indoor dining, a full bar, and which shares the rounds of music, movie night, and other events, with the other restaurants.

Bertha’s store

Next door to Estrella del Mar by the Tecate sign is Bertha’s tienda, a little store with basics, food, and beer, with the actual Bertha presiding. Note that this is the only store between Mulegé and Loreto.

Why Burro?

Playa El Burro is a perfect place to chill out for motorcyclists, bicyclists, and other travelers who aren’t carrying a lot of stuff and want to stop and swim, kayak, see the whale sharks and just sit on the beach and chill. They get here and fall immediately in love with Bahía Concepción, hit with that “Geez, I am really here to relax into the Baja experience instead of frantically trying to see everything.”

Spinner dolphins frolic in the bay. Photo by Carla King

Spinner dolphins frolic in the bay.

Many who stop here never make it further south and are perfectly happy with that decision. Eduardo’s camping and kayak rentals, the restaurants, and the store make it very convenient.

Playa El Coyote | km 107

El Coyote Bay is, along with El Burro, a favorite place for dolphins and whale sharks to hang out. The north end of Playa El Coyote (Facebook) is a private community with locked gates and no public access from the road. But there’s camping on the south end for RVs, tents, and a spot under a tree that always seems to be populated with bicycle adventure travelers. Outhouses and vendors are the only amenities.

Snorkeling with Baby Whale Shark at El Coyote Bay - Photo by Jonathan Ehly

That’s me and a baby whale shark at El Coyote Bay. Yes… that’s just a little baby!

Estrella del Mar is the nearest restaurant (see above).

Playa Buenaventura | km 94

Playa Buenaventura is an isolated getaway halfway between Mulegé and Loreto with camping and houses for rent with a great restaurant and bar. It’s run by the ever-genial Mark and Olivia along with young Nathan pictured here at the bar. The beach is lovely, and its proximity to El Requesón beach makes it pretty irresistible, too. If you want to relax in an isolated and rustic setting but appreciate flush toilets, hot showers, a good restaurant and full bar, you’re going to be happy here.

Nathan serves up the fun at the bar at Playa Buena Aventura

Shoes and shirt optional. Nathan sets the tone at the bar at Playa Buenaventura.

Restaurant and Taco Tuesday

Playa Buenaventura is especially popular with Bahía Concepción beach community gringos on Taco Tuesday. On other days they offer great burgers and a variety of both Mexican and gringo food.

Camping, rooms, and a house for rent

Camping is 60 pesos per person. There are (gasp!) flush toilets and on-demand hot water showers for 2 dollars or 40 pesos and kayaks are available, too. They have a house and private rooms that you can book in advance. Browse the property on Airbnb and find them on Facebook, too.

El Requesón | km 92

Playa El Requeson, Baja

Playa El Requeson features a tidal sand spit that can leave you stranded!

Playa El Requesón is one of the most ruggedly spectacular beaches in Baja. Low tide reveals a stretch of sand that many people used to set up camp on until they realized that that high tide was going to sink them. Today, the caretakers won’t let you do that.

Camping is rustic with just outhouses and the usual vendors providing supplies, but just a few minutes away on the road or by kayak (or swimming) is Playa Buenaventura and their amenities.

Besides a couple of very rustic beach campgrounds a little further down the road, that’s it until you reach our “big town” of Loreto an hour south.

A map

I created this custom Google map of Bahía Concepción beaches and restaurants. Click and enjoy planning your trip!

Carla King's custom map of Bahia Concepcion

Click the map to help plan your trip.

Your experiences, tips?

In the comments section below, please let me know about your experience in any of these places. Let me know if I can help you choose the best one for you.

 Carla King, overland adventure writerMore posts by Carla King.

Carla King has been writing about her motorcycle adventure travels in North America, China, Europe, India, and Africa since 1994. Read about her and current adventures in Baja.

6 Responses to “Where to Stop in Bahía Concepción”

  1. Bob Cody

    I have stayed at Los Naranjos 6 months a year for the last 14 years. I recommend Los Naranjos to everyone I meet. We are 2 miles off the road, we don’t hear the highway noise. There are many Palapas for rent on the beachfront, right on the water. They are primitive, very clean, each palapa has 2 double beds with fresh linen, some have small kitchens. They rent for $400 pesos a day short term,if you stay longer he will reduce the price. We have no problems with crime as Armando ( the owner ) is very vigilant. There are only certain vendors allowed past the gate. His living quarters are next to the gate if someone arrives he is there immediately to check them out. Graham Makintosh stays here when he is in the area. I think Los Naranjos should be on your list. Thank you for your good work. Bob Cody alias Capt. Bob, my Baja nickname

    Reply
  2. Steve M

    Great article, have camped many times over the years along the bay. I was wondering when the water temps in the bay warm up to 75 or more and if the whale shark season is June thru October as other bays along the gulf coast. Thanks, Steve

    Reply
    • Carla King

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks much! I’m here on the bay right now and water temps are such that I don’t wear a wetsuit though I do wear skins so I don’t burn to a crisp!

      We were seeing whale sharks when here in Feb, March, and April and normally the warmer the water the more they like it but we haven’t seen any this last week. The last official count was 11 whale sharks in the bay.

      It’s always so random I hate to tell people, let’s go out and see some whale sharks because you just never know.

      I haven’t seen any dolphins, either, this time, but I’ve been sleeping in.

      The snorkeling, however, is a different story. Rocky shores and islands are teeming with them!

      Best,
      Carla

      Reply

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