By Carla King | Updated 11/11/2018
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. Here, the 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 roll by in lazy arcs in the dark blue-green sea.
Jump to the beaches
- Playa Santispac
- Posada Concepción
- Playa Escondida
- Playa Los Cocos
- Playa El Burro
- Playa El Coyote
- Playa Buenaventura
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.
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.
Orientation: Mulegé is 20 minutes north of Bahía Concepción and Loreto is about an hour and fifteen minutes south, and it’s one of the most beautiful mountainous coastal drives you’ll ever make. (Mulegé tourism Facebook page.)
Playa Santispac | km 114
Playa Santispac is the first beach you see from Highway 1 south of Mulegé. 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 right here. 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 good, sheltered 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 in one of the houses at the far end of the beach.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, who hails 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. You are welcome to join, but please be prepared. Wear long pants, good shoes, a hat, and bring water and snacks. The hike usually ends at a local eatery.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Many who stop here never make it further south and are perfectly happy with that decision. The camping and kayak rentals, boat tours, restaurants, and the store make it very convenient.
When you turn into El Burro, follow the signs to find Eduardo, a Baja gringo longtimer who can rent you a palapa and a kayak plus take you out on the boat for fishing, snorkeling, and diving tours. No contact info. Just show up.
Restaurant: Pepe’s (formerly Bertha’s)
Pepe’s(Facebook), which used to be Bertha’s, 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.
Restaurant: JC’s Restaurant
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.
Tours: El Burro Baja Tours
Juan Carlos (Facebook) of JC’s and Felipe are also El Burro Baja Tours (Facebook). They can take you to see the dolpins and whale sharks, fishing and for a picnic on an island, cooking fish, scallops, and clams.
Restaurant: 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.
Store: 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
I created this custom Google map of Bahía Concepción beaches and restaurants. Click and enjoy planning 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 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.