The Baja Peninsula is an unforgiving, yet beautiful, landscape where one wrong move can leave you stranded. The sun bakes the red dirt, so parched only the saguaro cacti thrive. To many, including me, driving down the Baja Peninsula is a rite of passage with the party towns of Los Cabos awaiting you as a reward.
As you embark on your journey down Baja, these are the ten commandments that you must obey.
I. You shall follow the mantra, “drive slow and arrive on time.”
Leave your ego at the border. If you drive like you’re a contender in the Baja 1000, you’ll be stranded on the side of the side of Highway 1 with only a cactus as company. Though the road often looks flat and straight, it’s pocked with vados and crests.
II. You shall pack all provisions.
Pack plenty of food, water, and camping gear – especially if you will be venturing off Highway 1 and camping along the water. Uber Eats and Dominos won’t be there to relieve your hunger pangs.
III. Honor the guarded checkpoints.
There are military checkpoints all throughout the Baja Peninsula manned by soldiers on the look-out for drug trafficking – a very real and prevalent issue in Mexico that is not simple sensationalism. Know how to answer, “where are you going?” and “where did you come from?” in Spanish.
IV. You shall not traffic drugs.
Even marijuana is illegal in Mexico, so leave your Cali kush on the north side of the border. Your vehicle will get checked for drugs at some point of the journey. Call me judgmental, but Perceptive Travel readers don’t tend to be the type of people who thrive in prison.
Li’l Bubba has been waiting a long time for someone like you to arrive – he’s been awful lonely.
V. You shall not hog the music playlist.
Banish anything by Oasis, Rick Astley, and Backstreet Boys. Brad Paisley gets only one round of playtime.
If you’re going to play Queen, anything goes except for Bohemian Rhapsody. While it’s a great song, it’s destined to be the only thing that plays in your trip mates’ heads for the entire journey.
VI. You shall not reveal secret surfing or camping spots to the masses.
What’s more adventurous than driving down an unmarked road to some of the best beaches you’ve ever seen? The Baja Peninsula has an unspoken rule (until now) that you must never reveal the exact details to the best camp and surf spots. Rather, the clues on how to get to these spots are passed from individual to individual, protected from the prying minds on Google.
VII. You must pay homage to Coco at Coco’s Corner.
Coco lives in the middle of the peninsula, far away from paved road and far away from civilization. Coco’s Corner is his home, a building made of wood and sheet metal, decorated with stickers, rusty car parts, and beer cans.
Coco, a man without legs, is a comforting figure in Baja. He offers respite in a land of harsh terrain, and will add your name to his big notebook of visitors. Unlike Saint Peter, Coco holds no judgment against those who walk through his door. Your name will be recorded no matter if you’re a sinner or a saint.
VIII. You shall leave no trace.
The Baja gods are known to punish those who treat Baja like their personal pigpen. Their favorite method of smiting involves impalement and a cactus.
Pack out your trash, use a shovel, burn your toilet paper, and pick up anything that doesn’t belong.
IX. You shall not drive without insurance.
Between getting hit, hitting someone, breaking down, or getting lost, there are many things that can go wrong on your Baja Peninsula road trip. Driving without insurance is not only unwise, it’s also illegal.
X. You shall respect the margaritas.
You can have one. You can have two. But if you have three, you won’t remember margaritas one and two.