Riding in Baja

Carla King

This month I want to share some blogs and forum posts from other riders that will give you a good idea about what to expect when you ride independently in Baja. I’ve included reports from bloggers who ride different kinds of bikes. I can’t stress enough that you can bring any bike–whether it’s a 250 dual-sport or your big road cruiser and anything in between. Speeds are slower here, and so is life. You can hurry up again when you get home. That would be mañana, or maybe the day after.

Baja border crossings map - motorcycleBorders

Before we start, let’s talk about border crossings. There are three crossings in the San Diego area. Which to choose?

San Ysidro: If you’re planning a ride down Hwy 1, it’s easy and fairly quick to cross from the US into Baja at San Ysidro, but please don’t come back this way as there are long lines and no room between cars to get between them to the front. Aim to re-enter the US at Otay or, for an even more relaxing re-entry, head to Tecate.

Otay: Otay is the better choice if you’re headed east (and for re-entering the US). When you’re clear, turn left onto Blvd de las Bellas Artes and then left again onto Blvd Industrial to hook up with Hwy 2D south of Mexicali. From there you’ll see the turnoffs for Hwy 3 to the Guadalupe Valley and Hwy 1, or continue east to Hwy 5 and San Felipe. Come home this way and pass all the cars to head to the front of the line.

Tecate: My favorite crossing is Tecate. Ride  beautiful Hwy 94 from San Diego through rolling hills and forests to the crossing. Then ride through Tecate to Mex Hwy 3 to the Guadalupe Valley wine country. When you re-enter the US, ride to the head of the line. The guard will move the orange cone for you and wave you in ahead of the line of cars. I love that.

Don’t forget to obtain your Mexican motorcycle insurance and FMM tourist permits from Discover Baja in advance of your trip. You can do this online. But if you haven’t obtained the tourist permits before you leave, turn into the border parking lot BEFORE the crossings to buy them. You really need them, even if you’re just going to Ensenada. If you are headed to the mainland and don’t have them you’ll have to fly back to get them. All of you. Really.

Baja motorcycle david-creech

Riding Hwy 1 north of Loreto with the Sierra de la Giganta in the background. Photo courtesy David Creech


Now, on to the rides.

Todo Bien
J Brandon

On a lack of cash, pannier tortillas and an existential crisis about gasoline.

My friend J. Brandon and his buddy Dave rode down the peninsula last year on their two Kawasaki KLR650s, the “Swiss Army Knife of Motorcycles.” I love this post because it captures the spirit of Baja in both the outer and inner journey. Plus, I ride a KLR, too. Todo bien. Enjoy the post.


Getting Technical
HadesOmega on BARF (Bay Area Riders Forum)

On the state of the bike, the road and the riders

The DR650 is a great bike for a Baja adventure and any rugged rides anywhere in the world. You can modify it endlessly… or not. I like this post because the riders seek to ride as much dirt track as they can on their 950 mile journey crisscrossing the peninsula between the border and Loreto. The author includes photos of his bike prep, including tire recommendations, maps, videos with commentary, and a post-mortem. This post focuses on dirt riding. Marvin rides his DR, dubbed the “Cactus Puncher,” and some of the bikes his friends ride include a KTM 690, XR400s, XR650s, a Beta, a KLX, and a big GS adventure bike. They fall down, get up, get flats, get fixed, and keep going. He documents it all in this two-page post and a few videos on YouTube. Yep. This is as close as I’ve seen to what it’s like in the Baja outback. Read the story.

baja motorcycle HadesOmega


baja motorcycle HadesOmega

Photos by HadesOmega on BayAreaRidersForum.org

Baja motorcycle csc-bikes-video

Fill ‘er up! Photo and video by Joe Berk


A Chinese Adventure Import Goes South
Joe Berk

From East to West: Then South to North

My buddy Joe Berk imports adventure motorcycles from China called CSC RX3s. He took a bunch of new owners on a trip to Baja. I randomly met them in El Rosario, having dinner at Mama Espinoza’s, and they were having a great time. He posted all five days of the short trip, but this post is on the search for a countershaft sprocket nut. It’s a funny and typical account of the adventures, friendships, and memorable moments that occur when things go wrong, as well as a valuable lesson about obstacles and persistence. Enjoy the post and click the image to run the video.

baja motorcycle hotel california

Livin’ it up at the Hotel California, Todos Santos – Photo by Angela Murray


Slabbin’ it on American Steel

Big American Bikes Cruising Baja

A Canadian group led by Ride Stop ‘n Go that flies to Vegas for a 1,100-mile ride to Cabo says it all about big American bikes cruising Baja. They prep for the trip with some trepidation, and ride happily on “roads that are in better shape than in Alberta,” in the words of one rider. Enjoy the prep post and then watch the post-trip videos interviewing the riders on the state of the roads, the gas station experience, and more. Here’s the post.


baja motorcycle carla-king-gs-klr

Carla King on the 24km dirt stretch between Hwy 1 and 5 with two great Baja bikes, the KLR650 and the R100GS. Photo by Jonathan Ehly

What’s Your Story?

Proving once again that even if we travel the same roads, we never get the same trip twice. Got a Baja bike blog post? Send me yours (click to email) or post it in the comments section on the web version of this newsletter. See you on the road! 

Carla King is an adventure travel journalist, author, and publisher specializing in motorcycle misadventures. She lives in San Diego and Baja, on the Sea of Cortez near Mulegé. Read more of her writing at CarlaKing.com.








10 thoughts on “Riding in Baja

  1. Jim Crawford says:

    Was wondering if your club organizes rides out of San Diego or even Las Vegas to Cabo?
    If not, are you aware of or have info. on clubs/groups like that?
    I’m flexible on dates. Possibly as early as late this Summer or early Fall. I ride a Harley so I’d like to stay on paved roads as much as possible!

    Thank you,

    1. Discover Baja says:

      Hi Jim, this is an older article, but should give you an idea of companies who organize rides: http://www.discoverbaja.com/2016/02/09/motorcycle-tour-season-has-arrived/

  2. Paul says:

    Hey. I am down in Baja right now. My xr 400 has frozen up twice and I think mechanically NOT going to make it home to California from Loreto. Anyone transporting motorcycles from Loreto to the Central Coast (or LA, or anywhere that’s not 1100 miles from home?

    1. Carla King says:

      Hi Paul,
      So sorry about your breakdown! Do you want to sell it or transport it? You might try to contact Daniel Bukovich in Mulege. He’s very good with engines and if you can get it towed there can probably fix it if he has the parts.
      Message him on Facebook. A good place to stay while repairs happen would be Las Casitas in Mulege. Sharon Faith in Posada may also be able to help you out.
      Good luck!

  3. Ronald de Vlam says:

    Hi Carla,
    Would you recommend riding (and crossing) Baja/California alone? Are there groups where one can tag-along?
    Thanks in advance for any comments you may have,

    1. Carla King says:

      Hi Ronald,

      So safe and fun. I take solo trips between California and Baja all the time. Because there are really only two roads (MEX 1 and MEX 5), you’ll meet up with many of the same travelers along the way, so it’s actually difficult to travel alone.

      My friends Sara and Jim just arrived with new friends they “picked up” along the route. It’s a very common thing for people to clump together, meeting randomly at the same places or making plans to meet up at the end of the day or to ride together.

      See my other posts about tour companies and common adventure stops at http://discoverbaja.com/author/carlaking/.

      Have a blast!


  4. Chris Struna says:

    Hi Carla!

    We met at HUMM Mariposa last year. You were so informative about Baja and appreciate all your inside information.

    I was wondering if we can get all the proper paperwork done at the Tecate border crossing (we plan to ferry to Mainland Mexico and continue from there)?

    Thank you for your further assistance,
    Chris Struna

    1. Discover Baja says:

      Hi Chris, you can definitely get your FMM tourist permit and vehicle temporary import permit (TIP) processed at the Tecate border crossing. The most important thing is to get your FMM tourist permit at the border. It’s possible to get the TIP at the offices in La Paz before boarding the ferry (although if you’re stopping at Tecate to get your FMM, it’s easiest just to get the TIP processed then as well), but the FMM tourist permit MUST be handled at the border when entering Mexico. We’ve had members who were not allowed to take the ferry across to mainland because they forgot to get their FMMs at the border when coming into Baja.

  5. Baja Rider says:

    Hello from some keen and experienced Baja riders! Thank you for the helpful information which you’ve shared in your article. Here’s a story about a ride to the famous Mike’s Sky Rancho – a legendary icon in off the road and Baja as a whole. Hope you enjoy it

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