6 Reasons To Explore Baja On A Motorcycle

Ride on the beach just south of California.

Baja California
Baja California is a place best explored on a motorcycle.Justin W. Coffey

I’ve been exploring Baja on a motorcycle for years. Each trip home, I wonder how quickly I can arrange a return, and where that next dirt road will take me. All with the taste of real street tacos still lingering.

Wandering about Baja on a motorbike is unlike any other adventure. It’s like stepping into Southern California’s past, when small towns and fishing shacks dotted the coastline at a time when rules could be bent. It’s where the Wild Wild still exists, and the best way to see it is on a motorcycle. Here are six reasons why you too should travel to Baja California, Mexico, on a motorcycle:

1. Border Crossings Are Easy

Crossing the border between the United States and Mexico in an automobile can be a painfully long process—in my experience, as long as five hours. And on a motorcycle? As little as 10 minutes. Split lanes to the border guard station, give a friendly wave to the cars behind you, present the appropriate documentation (your motorcycle’s registration and a valid passport or passport card), and, boom, you’re in Baja. Sometimes you may not even have to do that. Often motorcyclists get a friendly wave past any sort of document checks.

Baja beach
Getting across the border is quick and painless as long as you have your documents ready for inspection. Then it’s no time until you can find yourself on a beach.Justin W. Coffey

Additionally, when traveling south through the state of Baja California, you’ll encounter various military checkpoints. Again, in an automobile the process is much lengthier than on a motorcycle. Documentation is often requested, and you’ll likely have to lift your tailgate, open the back doors of your van or pop your trunk. On a motorcycle, however, the military personnel will ask where you’re coming from, where you’re going, and occasionally poke your saddlebags with the barrel of their AR-15. A much easier and efficient process, albeit alarming if you’re unfamiliar with military checkpoints.

2. Fun Ways To Tiny Towns

Riding Baja is about taking the back roads. Sure, you can get to spots like Ejido Eréndira, a small fishing village about two hours south of Ensenada, by means of Highway 1 and paved roads, but where’s the adventure in that?

Baja coastline
Dirt roads follow the coastline (on both coasts) of Baja; there is no shortage of views. A similar stretch of beach in California would be littered with mansions, private beaches, and “No Stopping” signs.Justin W. Coffey

Baja is home to a network of two-track, unmarked roads that work their way down the coast. As the winding dirt roads undulate south along the coastline you get to experience small fishing encampments, and scope out legendary hangout spots like Coyote Cal’s while waving to groups of surfers and overland vehicles. It’s a land best seen with a cloud of dust coming off your rear wheel and fish tacos in your stomach.

3. No-Cost Camping

Campgrounds are scattered across the Baja Peninsula, but most offer only meager accommodations or accoutrements. Instead, make camp anywhere you can off the beaten path. Dip off down a dirt road, climb over a sand dune, or pull into a small cove along the coast and make camp. Avoid building big fires, setting off fireworks, and making noise, and you’ll likely be left alone. This is roughing it, Baja style.

Camping in Baja
Like a spot and feel like spending the night? In Baja, that is usually not a problem.Justin W. Coffey

Still wanting the convenience of a campground and outhouse? There are plenty and most will charge a little more than $5 per night.

4. Taco Stops, Obviously…

I suppose this is the most generic of suggestions, but if you haven’t had tacos from a cart on the streets of Ensenada, you haven’t lived. Sure, you can get to these little plywood shacks of joy in your automobile, but there’s something truly satisfying about stopping for birria at Taquería El Trailero, or deep-fried shrimp at Tacos Fénix on your motorcycle. It signifies either the start or end of an adventure in Baja. And you’ll have the smell of onions and avocado on your fingers for the next few days. Oh, the joy!

Tacos
Any great Baja motorcycle adventure is bookended with a plate of tacos.Justin W. Coffey

5. Ride On The Beach

Remember that scene in Dust to Glory (Dana Brown’s epic documentary highlighting the infamous Baja 1000 off-road race) where Andy Grider on the Honda B Team is trying to hold onto his lead ahead of former HRC teammate and 11-time Baja 1000 winner, Johnny Campbell? Grider is out front after a quick pit stop for fuel, and Campbell is hot on his heels. Getting creative, Johnny jumps onto the beach and pins it, dashing along the coastline at 110 mph. It’s an epic moment, and for anyone who travels to Baja, it’s a must-do. You won’t be racing Johnny Campbell in the 1000 (you’d lose), but riding your bike down the beach is something you’ll never regret.

Motorcycle on the beach
There are not many places in the world where you can ride your motorcycle on the beach with complete freedom. In Baja, there are plenty.Justin W. Coffey

Find a secluded section of sandy beach, point your front wheel toward the water, and don’t let off the throttle until there’s salt water splashing at your feet. It’s one of the best feelings you can have on a bike, and in Baja no one will tell you no.

6. Meet New Friends

Traveling on a motorcycle is a special thing. You’re entirely reliant on your equipment to carry not only you, but all of your belongings from point A to point B, often with camping equipment, food, and other sundries strapped to the tail and stuffed into saddlebags. It isn’t easy, and when you meet another motorcyclist doing the same thing, there’s a connection between the two of you instantly. And in Baja, you’ll meet quite a few like-minded motorcyclists. Whether they’re riding the length of the peninsula, from Tijuana to Cabo and back, or just exploring the back roads and single-track on their dirt bike, you’ll have something to talk about when the day is done and you’re knocking back a few cold Tecates.

Baja and bikes
Making friends is easy in Baja, especially when you run into other travelers on motorcycles.Justin W. Coffey

The same could be said for riding in the US, I suppose, but there’s something special about pulling into a small town in Baja and seeing a few dusty, dirty motorcycles parked outside a taco shop. You know you have a friend in town, and you’ll likely gravitate toward one another, if only to see what they’re riding and where they’ve been.