Driving though those dirt road towns that felt like the wild west, I would always be transported to a mythical time—at the very least I would be able to surf some sick waves without tons of OC kooks in the line-up (no offense to you if you live in the OC, that's where I grew up). Here is the deal, Northern Baja gets all those step angled swells that just race right by us in Ventura—but down in Baja this creates an entirely different kind of magic. Look at this chart of a 305 degree swell, Baja is getting lit up like a Christmas tree.

“It is better to travel well than to arrive.” ~ Buddha

Baja Mexico K38
Jesus Protects You As You Surf K-38 in Baja—On Big Swells, You’ll Be Glad He Is There.

This surf guide is updates every few months with new and exciting information on surfing northern Baja, Mexico. Our latest update was made after our last trip south: August 2017:

A few new additions this winter to our new surf guide for all you venturing surfers tending toward a Baja experience. I am writing this at the border crossing while we wait to show our gringo faces to our borders patrol brethren.

Looking to bring you the latest and greatest surf experience possible, I’ve got some great new updates and additions to our new edition.

El Janqui restaurant for authentic tacos and quesadillas in Rosarito and for the best breakfast in town got to the Banana Republic for insane pancakes and traditional Mexican breakfast options. See more below.

The rain this winter has turned the dust bowl that we all know and love into a wonderland of rolling green hills and fantastic views. The river at K38 broke in early February and the sandbars are setting up nicely. Construction continues on the hillsides of Northern Baja and new houses litter the footsteps of the stature above K38.

Baja Introduction

I have been a big fan of surfing northern Baja all my life. I started going to Baja when I was 5 years old. In fact, my great grandmother’s sister immigrated from Norway and moved with 5 kids to the mountains of Baja.

Great Grandmother Aagot
Great Grandmother Aagot Early Meling

My uncle Ron, the family expert on such matters, says that they exported marble from Baja to the USA. Soren Meling (1855-1917) was my great grandfather.

In case you have been in those mountains above San Telmo on the way to the Observatorio Astronomico Nacionale, their place was called Meling Ranch. Baja is in my blood and has been for a few generations. That pic up top was taken early days Meling Ranch and is a shot of my Great Grandmother.

When I started surfing, I stopped going to the ranch. I keep going to Baja though, likely for the same reason my ancestors went there, to try and find some solace in my life—always imagining that once I crossed the border something magical would take place.

And it usually did—and still does.

Driving around the backroads of Baja feels like the Wild West. As you cross the border from the USA into Mexico you are transported into a new reality. A different reality. It’s poorer, dirtier and less developed that most parts of America. Nonetheless, there is a charm that transcends everything logical.

Here is the deal, Northern Baja gets all those step angled swells that just race right by us in Ventura—but down in Baja this creates an entirely different kind of magic. Look at this chart of a 305 degree swell, Baja is getting lit up like a Christmas tree.

Surfing Northern Baja

Baja Basics

Be safe. Be smart. Don’t take drugs or guns across the border. Always remember, you are guilty until proven innocent in Mexico.

Before Crossing The Mexican Mexican Border

You’ll need to get yourself a passport if you want to go surfing northern Baja, that’s the law these days and don’t think you’ll be able to say you forgot it because the borders are not like Disneyland.

Immigration & Customs take crossing the border seriously and they don’t give a rat’s ass about your long winded tequila-breath story of how your wife lost your passport when you guys took that all-you-can-eat cruise to Jamaica.

However, if you did actually lose your passport report it officially and if you have a driver’s license then you’ll be able to pass back home without too much problem.

USA Passport Requirement For Baja Mexico

You’ll need a few weeks to get all the information needed for your new passport and you’ll also have to wait for the Feds to process your application. Processing time is 4-5 weeks or you can pay extra to have it done in 2-3 weeks.

Got extra cash that you love to throw away? You can get it done in a few days with an expedited agency. Here are the step-by-step instructions below:

1. Fill Out Form DS-11: Application For A U.S. Passport
2. Submit Completed Form DS-11 In Person
3. Submit Evidence of U.S. Citizenship
4. Present Identification
5. Submit a Photocopy of the Identification Document(s) Presented
6. Pay the Applicable Fee
7. Provide One Passport Photo

[wp-svg-icons icon=”airplane” wrap=”i”] Here are the complete directions for passports-are-us: travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/passports/first-time.html

If you have kids under 16 and want to take them along, you’ll need the original, or a certified copy, of their birth certificate. A photocopy of the original won’t work unless it’s certified.

You can get one of those at the County Clerk’s office—the county your little rebel rousers were born in bro. Or do what I did and just leave them down in Mex to watch the trailer and surfboards between surf trips.

Car Insurance Required Before Surfing Northern Baja

[wp-svg-icons icon=”warning” wrap=”i”]  You MUST get Mexico car insurance. If you get in an accident in Mexico without insurance you will likely go to jail. It will cost you $40 for the weekend or about $300 for the year if you make multiple trips.

And no, your USA car insurance will not cover your ass in Baja. I like getting mine online before I go while sipping a beer in front of my computer Homer Simpson style.

[wp-svg-icons icon=”accessibility” wrap=”i”] Here is the one I alway use, it’s called Mexico Insurance Online.

If you forget to purchase it before you go, then you need to grab it on the way to Baja. Exit the 805/5 at San Ysidro. There are a ton of drive-though insurance companies that will issue you insurance anytime of the day or night.

Crossing The Mexican Border

surfing northern baja
Crossing Mexico Border

The border crossing has become more ‘advanced’ over the past few years than it ever was before, if you get the red light or the wave-over you need to go to Mexican secondary.

My theory is that the Mexican border officers want to give to US Citizens a dose of their own medicine by doing random searches and giving us Gringos the classic ‘secondary’ experience.

Don’t get me wrong, we probably deserve it, but it sucks to be bent over—both coming and going.

We got secondary on our last two trips (June and September 2016). They wave you over to a search area where you have to exit your car and stand about 100 yards away as they examine and x-ray the entire vehicle. It could take up to an hour.

Back in the day with my father we used to bring guns in under the hood, as we were avid hunters and liked to bring our own shotguns to the Ranch. When I got older I traded the guns for surfboards and on occasion. A decade ago we used to bring herb across with us—I am telling you now, those days are long gone.

[wp-svg-icons icon=”connection” wrap=”b”]  Need some inspiration about surfing this region—and you like to read—see this epic novel Tijuana Straits by Kem Nunn.

I don’t care who wrote your prescription for that Triple Purple Humboldt Gold, leave that shit at home or you might end up in a Mexican jail. Just in case you didn’t follow directions and you are now reading your phone while sitting in a Mexican jail here is a list of Baja lawyers called ‘abogados‘ in Spanish. Call one.

I’ve been in the Rosarito jail, and you don’t even want to get anywhere near a Mexican prison. Here is the main difference between Mexico and the US, in Mexico you are guilty until proven innocent—not the other way around. Here is an article about Mexico’s Federal Civil Code if you are bored and are feeling brave or lucky.

If you learn nothing else from this article but this one thing, it could change your life, leave the pot at home—drink tequila for the weekend.

Mexican Secondary Inspection

If you get Mexican secondary, be kind, patient and gracious. If you have nothing to hide then you’ll be out of there after they search your vehicle.

As a side note, they don’t normally search your person or make you walk through the x-ray machine. I am just saying, in case you forgot to trash that joint before crossing, throw it in your pocket and hope the drug dogs aren’t kicking it by the x-ray machine.

[wp-svg-icons icon=”lightning” wrap=”i”]  See this link for prohibited items if you are confused.

If you don’t get stopped by Mexican border guards, keep driving and stay to your right and head for the Tijuana beaches off-ramp. Stay all the way to the right.

You’ll hug the border fence and traverse through downtown TJ and climb a large hill before dropping into the Tijuana Beaches. Keep driving the toll road.

It’s about $2 per toll and there are three between the border and Ensenada. You can pay with dollars and at every toll there is a bathroom—usually a little past the toll booths.

Surfing Northern Baja—Where To Surf?

Ok, let’s take a moment and check the actual swell in the area, this is real time surf check for surfing northern Baja:

I am not going to cover all the surf breaks in northern Baja, but I am going to talk about the ones that I like best after spending a few decades surfing this region. I usually stay away from surfing Tijuana beaches, unless you want Hep C or feel like taking on the sewage contaminated runoff around this region that flows from the Tijuana river.

I’d highly recommend staying away from these breaks. San Diego Coastkeepers measures the water quality and posts updates on these beaches, they even have a free swim guide which is a great resource for clear water surfing.

If there is very little swell, you got two options. Your first small swell option is going to be one of the waves you come across right along the main road called Baja Malibu.

Baja Malibu Surfing

Baja Malibu Surfing Northern Baja
Baja Malibu

You will come across this huge arch, and right between that arch you are likely to see some excellent waves at Baja Malibu just five miles south of the border.

This wave is a thick barrel and breaks along scattered beach break and catches swell from any direction.

This is one of the best waves in Northern Baja and a great option if everything else is flat. This wave is a surfboard-breaker.

Take the Baja Malibu exit and park in the lot next to the sign of the same name.

Baja Malibu Rentals

If you want to stay in this area there is a 3 bedroom with ocean views for $100 a night. See the dog friendly listing here. You can also try the resort to the south if you want something a bit more luxury, but I never see anyone go into the place.

Rosarito Beach – A Party Thing

If you are into the party thing, or just want to be part of the crowd, and be in a dirty beach metropolis, then Rosarito is for you. Get the full experience, ride the bull at Papas & Beer and drink bad tequila to your heart’s content with the tourists at any of the numerous bars or restaurants scattered along downtown.

Rosarito is mainly beach break, but it has a few other options if you want to hunt for them. The best surf seems to be near the pier, with the south side being better most years.

Most people stay at the Rosarito Beach Hotel in one of the 500 rooms, you can’t miss it—it’s the behemoth red and white building downtown in the middle of all the action. Here are ten other options for hotels in Rosarito if you decide that this is the experience you want.

Rosarito Hotel Options

Name:  Rosarito Beach Hotel

Name:  La Paloma

  • Telephone: +52 661 612 0280
  • Location Address: Carretera Libre Tijuana-Ensenada Km. 28.2, La Paloma, 22710 Rosarito, BC, Mexico
  • Website: http://www.bajase.com/en/

Name:  Las Rocas Hotel

  • Telephone: +52 661 614 9850
  • Location Address: Carretera Libre Tijuana-Ensenada Km. 38.5, Puente El Morro, 22710 Rosarito, BC, Mexico
  • Website: http://lasrocas.com/en/  

Name:  Festival Plaza

Name:  Puerto Nuevo Baja Hotel & Villas

  • Telephone: +52 661 614 1488
  • Location Address: Carretera Libre Tijuana-Ensenada Km. 44.5, Fracc. Puerto Nuevo, 22712 Puerto Nuevo, B.C., Mexico
  • Website: https://www.puertonuevohotelyvillas.com/
  • Email Ad: contacto@puertonuevohotelyvillas.com

Name:  Rosarito Beach Hotel

  • Telephone: +52 661 614 9850
  • Location Address: Carretera Libre Tijuana-Ensenada Km. 38.5, Puente El Morro, 22710 Rosarito, BC, Mexico
  • Website: http://lasrocas.com/en/  

Name:  Hotel Pueblito Inn

  • Telephone: +52 664 634 3100
  • Location Address: José María Velazco 1409, Zona Urbana Río Tijuana, Zona Urbana Rio Tijuana, 22320 Tijuana, BC, Mexico
  • Website: http://www.hotelpueblitoinn.com/
  • Email Ad: info@hotelpueblitoinn.com

Name:  Las Rocas Resort & Spa

  • Telephone: +52 661 614 9850
  • Location Address: Carretera Libre Tijuana-Ensenada Km. 38.5, Puente El Morro, 22710 Rosarito, BC, Mexico
  • Website: http://lasrocas.com/en/  

Name:  Castillos del Mar

  • Telephone: +52 661 612 1088
  • Location Address: Carretera Tijuana-Ensenada Km. 29.5, Castillos del Mar, 22711 Rosarito, B.C., Mexico
  • Website:  http://www.castillosdelmar.com/contactenos/   
  • Email Ad: reservations@castillosdelmar.com

Name:  Hotel Hacienda Don Luis

  • Telephone: +52 661 612 1166
  • Location Address: Blvd. Benito Juarez 272, Predios Urbanos, 22710 Rosarito, BC, Mexico

Rosarito Food

You might want to grab some food after surfing around K38 and this might be when you go into Rosarito. There are a few surf shops, plenty of bar and some good food options.

[wp-svg-icons icon=”podcast” wrap=”i”] Realize that if you take the free road from K38 to Rosarito you’ll have to pass a military inspection station. They might mess with you and if you dropped any roaches in your can and they find them you are in for a long day. I’d recommend hoping on the toll road and getting off in downtown Rosarito to by-pass the inspection post.

My two new favorite places to eat are Banana Republic and El Janqui Tacos.

Head to Tacos El Janqui restaurant for authentic tacos and quesadillas in Rosarito. The place is a little difficult to find as it’s off the main road at Mar del Norte #115 12, Zona Centro, 22700 Rosarito. There is no sign out front, but just look for the long line of people waiting for their grub in an open court style restaurant and that’s the place.

Tacos Janque
Tacos Janque

 For the best breakfast in town, go to the Banana Republic for insane pancakes and traditional Mexican breakfast options. This place is worth the drive south after your surf. Located at Blvd Benito Juarez 31, Zona Centro—right on the corner of the mall outside Rosarito Hotel.

There is paid secure parking at the Rosarito Hotel right next to the restaurant for eight dollars. If you go into the hotel cafe and buy a coffee they will validate your parking for free. There, I saved you $6, you can donate it to saving the ocean of buy me a beer when you roll through Ojai.

If you aren’t going to stay in Rosarito, but you want to chase chicks and drink all night, then I would highly recommend that you either sleep on the beach or stuff your pockets with cash for the bride you will have to pay when that cop pulls you over.

The Rosarito police are notorious for throwing shit-faced Gringos in jail and extorting money from them—you are better off pulling out your wife’s credit card and grabbing a sleazy hotel at 2am and dealing with the wrath of questioning that you will have to endure once you get home—mounting your car for that 10 minute ride back to your Baja castle down the road is a bad Gringo idea and could land you in jail.

[wp-svg-icons icon=”pushpin” wrap=”b”]  Click here for the Rosarito surf report.

South of Rosarito

The coast between Rosarito and La Fonda is my favorite part of this entire area. Points, reefs, and beach breaks abound—lots of beautiful coastline with waves in many no name locations on the right swell.


This is an ok wave in front of the RV park—too close to Rosarito in my book.

Popotla Baja
Popotla Fish Market


When a big northwest swings into the bay, this place can be really fun. It’s kind of hit and miss, but I have surfed it really good with nobody out several times.

You will have to figure out where to park and don’t leave any valuables in the car. You might be able to leave your car at a private trailer park on the south end of the cove, or at the north end of the Fox studio lot.

Grab some fresh fish on your way out, the locals will be stoked and so will you. We found this recent report on just where to go once you visit the local fish market:

“Start off with raw shellfish, ceviches, and cocktails, and for this you only need one stand: Los Compadres de Sinaloa. Walk past the boats, fish mongers, shellfish stands, and junk food vendors where you’ll find an attractive coctelera huddled behind a wall of the typical seafood hot sauces ready to serve you. El Compadre takes care of all the shucking and cracking of live shellfish to be served au natural, or he hands it off to Erika who’ll take care of any preparations.”

[wp-svg-icons icon=”pushpin” wrap=”i”]  Click here for the Popotla surf report.

Popotla Hotels

People seem to enjoy staying in the Popotla the area. Cathy, a recent visitor to the area said, “The beach is cleaned everyday, one of the cleanest I ever seen. It’s also very long, so you can walk about one hour one way.”

We found a few places to stay here and we liked this three bedroom, two bath 1200 square foot beachside home. The rentals run from $70 to $150 per night in the Popotla gated and guarded community.

[wp-svg-icons icon=”warning” wrap=”i”]  U.S. driver’s licenses are valid in Mexico and make sure you have yours with you and that it isn’t expired. Mexican law requires that the vehicles be driven by their owners or that the owner be inside the vehicle. So if you borrowed your bros car or decided to take your roommate’s car while he was in Portland at that granola eating contest, then the vehicle could be seized by Mexican customs and will not be returned until Star Wars 14 comes out.

The next few spots are some of my all time favorites—once you make a few trips and actually get these breaks firing you will wonder why you have been surfing all those OC breaks all those years when just a few hours away these breaks were going off and uncrowded.

Surfing Califia
Baja Magic


Calafia is one of those mysto breaks that rarely works well but if there is any south in the water there will be some waves.

It works best on a large south—it’s a rocky right point that can throw on the takeoff and then gets a bit softer on the inside.

On the right tide and swell, even the inside can stand up and offer some fun turns and slashes.

Park and eat at the Calafia restaurant or pay the parking lot dudes some cash to watch your vehicle (always pay someone).

This wave gets spiky at low tide so watch yourself, if there is enough swell and water moving around you could pull it off.

Calafia Hotels & Rentals

Like most places in Baja these days they are putting up condos along the cliffs around Calafia—which is good if you want to stay here, you can find some options here. People tend not to like the Hotel Calafia, so you might want to stay away from it unless you are feeling adventurous.

This one on airbnb has an ocean view and is in the newer complex called Playas de Rosarito and goes for $140 a night.

[wp-svg-icons icon=”home” wrap=”i”]  Got an extra 150k in the kitty, you might want to grab your own Baja villa—check out Baja Real Estate Group and then invite me for the holidays.

Calafia Food Paradise Cove Tiki Bar & Grill

Looks like there is some decent grub at Paradise Cove Tiki Bar at K36 owned by Beau. The reviews look good with a 4.5 star rating on Trip Advisor. I am going to check it out next week while I am searching for waves and a decent beer after I get out of the water.

Little of Hawaii in Baja, with live music and hot showers for surfers.

K-38 A Mexican Jewel

This might be my favorite waves in North America—I know that is a big statement, especially since I live 20 minutes from Rincon, but I got to tell you, when this wave is working it has a life of its own.

People talk about this wave being the most crowded wave around but on my last few trips to Baja we surfed it solo. The break faces due south but it will pick up anything—west, northwest, west northwest, you get the picture. I have surfed it on every swell direction imaginable and it has a hundred different faces.

K-38 likes a mid-to-low-tide and breaks over a cobble stone riverbed, with bigger rocks near the takeoff zone. The right is epic, but there are lefts to be had also. If you do go left, watch out for a few shallow sections on the inside.

There are a few main peaks and when it’s big it pushes our further and further. At 10-12 foot there is a lot of water moving around, so pay attention.

Speaking of paying attention, wear some booties if you bring them. It’s a sea urchin party out there and you are invited—they tend to congregate near the rivermouth mainly, but you might find a few staggerers anywhere.

Just south of the main break are a few more waves at K-38.5 in front of the exclusive Club Marena. I’ve caught some fun lefts between the two rock outcroppings at a higher tide when K-38 was either starting to shut down or was just too crowded for my taste. There is a fun little right just around the corner that breaks into a large open bay—bigger boards are better as it’s a soft sweeping shoulder.

K-38 Getting There

You can’t get to K-38 from the toll road, best thing to do is drive past it on the toll road (that way you can get a good look at it) and then make your exit another mile south at Puerto Nuevo. Drive back north along the free road and make a left after the break at the top of the hill just on the north side of the bridge.

Go down the dirt road to the first driveway and pull in to Robert’s and check the surf. If you end up staying there to surf  you’ll need to pay $5 to whoever is in the lot. Your car is safe here—you can also use the showers after you surf or go to the bathroom on the property.

K-38 Hotels & Rentals

K 38 Baja Hotel
View From Roberts K-38

Many new surf shacks have been built over the last decade, you got some great options right on the cliffs overlooking the main break.

If you want to stay on the main break, you can stay at the OG surf motel at Robert’s K-38. They only take walk-up reservations or by email: eservations@robertsk38.com.

People seem to really like it and you can’t get any closer to the main peak. There are some other places to stay scattered along the cliffs and also in the large white tower to the south (Club Marena)—depends on your budget.

I did some research on the casas overlooking K-38 and this is what I found, a little pricy but you are right on the main break and can watch it in your PJs while having breakfast.

Ocean Front K-38 for $250 with 5 bedrooms, 11 beds, ocean views, 6 hammocks and—get this— a private skate mini ramp on the beach property along with psychedelic painted walls and accommodates 15.

Club Marena 2 bedroom with views of ocean and all the amenities of your home back i Orange County. $190 per night with a two night minimum. 

K-38 with Hot Tub sits right on the beach (not on the cliff), accommodates 8 people and has 2 bedrooms. Looks sweet and has tons of 5 star reviews from Ron who lives (guess where?) the OC. Here is what Bree said, I am hoping she visits next time I go down.

K 38 Baja Rentals

[wp-svg-icons icon=”home” wrap=”i”]  A few more options can be found here on wavecation.

K-38 Places to Eat

Guys go crazy over Taco Surf just up the hill on the main road north of K-38. Someone on surfline also suggested Ana Mar for breakfast, but I have never seen it open.

Besides K-38 being my favorite surf spot in Mexico it is coupled with my favorite brick oven Pizza restaurant just down the road— Ollie’s Pizza, run by an ex-pat, named after the owner’s full size poodle Ollie (thanks for the update Beau). This place is absolutely awesome fine dining in Baja—who would have thought?

Any hungry surfers around?

The staff at Ollie’s Pizza is super cool and the wine list is excellent—they are only open Wednesday through Sunday from 4pm until 10pm. From the outside it looks like a hole, but once you walk through those doors you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

I always plan my trips so I have multiple opportunities to eat here and so should you. Ollie’s Pizza is located just north of the Las Gaviotas complex: Carretera Libre Rosarito Ensenada Km 40.5, 22740 Rosarito, Baja California, Mexico. Phone:+52 661 613 2046

Las Gaviotas – Salsipuedes

After leaving the K-38 area, going south, the next good wave is located in a gated gringo community called Las Gaviotas. This has been a favorite Baja refuge of mine for the last few years. It’s an easy trip from the border and there are a plentitude of rentals available from beachfront 2 bedrooms to mammoth 8 bedrooms homes for those that want to bring all their friends.

Las Gaviotas Surf Baja Mexico
Las Gaviotas

Prices are reasonable, maybe a tad high for Mexico, but staying at Gaviotas is well worth the money.

Not only do you have a private wave, but there is also a pool and jacuzzi for that post session soak—grab a beer and melt your Gringo worries away.

The waves is super fun on the right swell. Gaviotas is a reef/point break with both rights and lefts. The weekends tend to be much more crowded than weekdays and a during the winter you can often get it with just a few surfers out.

There are a handful of awesome waves just outside the iron gates, so don’t fret if all you OC bros show up, just hop in the car and drive to the next break.

You can’t miss this place, it’s one of the largest gated communities in northern Baja. Just down the road from K-38—look for the sign. To book a rental there are a few options, the official site is www.las-gaviotas.com (way old school) but I have rented homes off it over a dozen times without any issues. There are a few listed on airbnb here but they tend to be a bit more expensive.

[wp-svg-icons icon=”facebook-2″ wrap=”i”]   Las Gaviotas Facebook Page

Food Options Near Las Gaviotas

A few years ago a new restaurant opened in the area called Splash, if you are staying anywhere around K-38 it’s worth a visit.

The view is spectacular and it’s an awesome place to take your gal. I thought the food was mediocre and given the choice I’d just do another meal at Ollie’s Pizza.

Splash is Located at KM 52 on the Free Road between Rosarito and Ensenada. Heading south from K-38, they are just past the sand dunes, and just after Halfway House heading north.

The Halfway House is a good option for breakfast or a beer and a game of billiards (if they still got the table). They usually have a drum kit set-up and some instruments in case you want to have a quick relive-my-youth moment (which is mostly the reason we go to Mex anyway, right?).

Surfing Between Las Gaviotas & La Fonda

Rauls Baja California
D Surfing Rauls Baja California 12-2015

Just south of Gaviotas is a fun break called Raul’s—also one of my favorites. It is better on a bigger swell, but can be a good option if you want to escape the crowds of the better know places. It does best on a big south at medium to high tide.

Raul’s breaks over a shallow sloping flat rock reef and sits (for now) in front of a vacant lot. There is a church at the top of the road—that’s how you know where it is, just turn at the church and drive to the end of the road.

It’s a slower wave and better for a bigger board or Mini Simmons style, but tends to be uncrowded and super fun.

There is an off-ramp from the toll road here called Puerto Nuevo and is the best way to get off the toll road for either K-38 or Gaviotas—there is a military checkpoint just south of k-38 on the free road so you get to bypass all that drama.

Puerto Nuevo South

There are waves every few kilometers until you get to K-55. The wave at Puerto Nuevo is supposed to get good—though I have never surfed it. There is a right-breaking reef at the north end of the beach. If you like lobster, make sure to grab a meal here before you leave.

There are waves at K-44, Cantamar, the Dunes, Hotel Cafe America and the Halfway House. On the right day, with the right swell, all of these breaks can go off, but they are a little fickle—but hell, it’s Baja, so get out there and explore.

K-55 or Campo Lopez

Camp Lopex K 55
K 55 Beach & Point

Campo Lopez consists of about one hundred homes on rutty dirt roads that cascade toward the ocean from the Mexican highway going south to Ensenada.

You could drive right by it and not really notice it—unless you are surfer, because the camp sits on one of the best waves in Baja.

Lots of the homes are typical of classic Baja beach construction: trailers to which rooms have been attached by carpenters of widely varying talents.

Nothing about Campo Lopez is splashy. It is Baja funky—a world apart from the fancy tourist towers that spring up every year along the Baja coast.

I have had some insane days out at K-55 over the years, it seems to pick up any swell and is a righteous wave with sick barrels. There are a few reefs to chose from and a sandy beach at the north end of the beach. This place will hold on the biggest of swells. The bad news is that this is a private beach community.

[wp-svg-icons icon=”stats” wrap=”i”]  K-55 surf report on surfline.

However, in our new world of rent-anything-to-anyone, you can get into this little piece of paradise. This airbnb link has accommodation listings along this entire coast and the official Campo Lopez Facebook page is here.

I could find only one listing at K-55 for a rental called K55 Beach House at $250 a night. That’s a lot to pay for a night in Mex but it could be worth it if the swell is macking.

La Fonda or K-58

Surfing Northern Baja La Fonda
La Fonda Main Break

This will be our last break for this article, I don’t think I have taken a surf trip to Baja without surfing this wave at least once on the trip.

La Fonda is a magical place that pulls in any swell—last year we went to Baja in June and the forecast said that La Fonda was going to be flat. We pulled up to head high barrels and some of the best surf I had had in a long time.

Flat huh—you just never know at La Fonda. However, the opposite can happen too—this place can get huge and will make you cry for you pappy if you get slammed onto a sandbar by an outside set. Combo swells bring the best shape, if there is too much north in the swell it can get walled and too much south at it won’t hit the sandbars right.

You can get to La Fonda via the toll road or free road, if you are on the toll road exit at Alisitos—the next exit is several miles down the road, so don’t miss this one. You can pull in to the Alisitos camping area and check the surf, they are charging $10 to pull in there these days but it’s worth it to know you car is safe on the bluff and you can take an outdoor shower after your session in the Baja luxury ducha.

If you are into camping, you can just stay here for the night. There is a small convenience store with cold beer and fresh tortillas at the entrance to the campground. As a more upscale alternative, you can walk up to La Fonda Hotel or La Mission for a meal—both just a short walk.

[wp-svg-icons icon=”office” wrap=”i”]  Careful at low tide—we had to take my bro to the emergency room in Rosarito las year—read my article in The ledInertia titled Worst Case Scenario in Rosarito.

Famous La Fonda Hotel

The views overlooking the surf are fabulous and the food is ok. The banana pancakes make for an awesome meal after a long surf session in the cold water. You can also stay at the hotel, but it’s got a funky energy these days.

It seems that the previous owner was thrown out for violations of some kind and there is now a wall between the restaurant and the hotel. They used to be all one location.

[wp-svg-icons icon=”home-3″ wrap=”i”] There is a new restaurant on the south end of the property and the original owner, Joe Dmytri, manages the hotel. we had breakfast there in 2017 and the food was shit. I won’t go back to this place to eat. For a beer to watch the sunset is all I would recommend these days.

Here is the original story in Spanish. There was some kind of bruhaha a few years back that resulted in the division of the original restaurant and the the hotel. I wouldn’t stay there again, not unless you want to bedbugs with your pillow.


Poco Cielo is next door to La Fonda, seems like the views also compare and the food looks similar. Rooms are reasonably priced at $80-$130, all styled with different themes.

I am not a fan of any of the hotels in this area, but if you need to crash for the night then take a pick and roll the dice.

Salsipuedes K-87

There used to be a spectacular break south of La Fonda called Salsipuedes—perhaps the best surfing in northern Baja. Well, it’s still there, accessible by boat. Salsipuedes is a legendary right point that wraps around into a beautiful bay—it’s a heavy wave and only works on a big swell, so enter with caution.

Salsipuedes was bought and was being developed by Grupo Lagza, Surfrider’s San Diego Chapter shot down an attempt by company representatives for a “surfer friendly” endorsement of the Salsipuedes project—among their promises was the claim that surf access would not be restricted.

In December 2013 the highway collapsed above the Salsipuedes development, plunging a cement truck some 100 feet toward the ocean. The driver got out and was unhurt.

The campground and access to  Salsipuedes is closed—if you have a boat, you can get this famed wave all to yourself.

Your next stop is the wave at San Miguel, about 20 minutes south toward the Ensenada portion of Baja. We are going to do another article on surfing around Ensenada and south—but to end this one we want to throw in some information about visiting the wine country.

Valle De Guadalupe – A Visit To The Wine Country in Baja

Surfing Northern Baja Wine
Wave Tribe Enjoying Some Wine LA Ceta

Last year while chilling with some friends at Las Gaviotas we decided to make a trek to the wine area of Baja called Valle De Guadalupe.

I know many of you (especially Californians like me) are thinking to themselves, ‘Mexican wine, yea right.’

But hold on to your inner sommelier because you are about to get your socks knocked off.

Getting there is easy, just after the last toll at San Miguel you’ll see a sign that says Valle De Guadalupe. Ver right towards the hills and in about 20 minutes you’ll come across some non Baja-esque vineyards and rolling green hills—and the wine is exquisite.

Finca Altozano is all the rage and has an excellent selection of local wines and fabulous Mexican dinning. Call for a reservation early in the week, otherwise you won’t get seated. Here is a link their Facebook page.

Monte Xanic, one of the Valle’s oldest wineries is also worth a visit. The winery is located atop a hill and looks over a lake with clear water. By the water, you can enjoy wine tastings and relax.

Hotels in Valle De Guadalupe

La Villa del Valle is a modern Tuscan-style B&B with several rooms, a nicely appointed public sitting space and delicious Mexican breakfasts.

Encuentro Guadalupe Antiresort is an eco-hotel with 20 smartly designed, box-like rooms scattered across a hillside in the middle of the valley. Hotel Boutique, with 20 rooms, gardens and vineyard views, is a new entry to the valley’s burgeoning lodging scene, as is El Cielo, which seeks luxury status.

Valle De Guadalupe is a great place to visit and has much to offer but can get really hot, so plan accordingly and visit during the cooler hours of the day or in the Spring or Fall months.

Surfing Northern Baja More Resources

Valle De Guadalupe Wine Map


Departing Mexico

I just got back from an epic 7 day trip and I thought I would give an update on departing Baja. Follow the toll road back toward the border. After the last toll road, about one mile south, is a nice spot to stop and take a bathroom break before you get to the border crossing. It will take you from 2-3 hours to get through the USA-Mexico border crossing, so you should plan accordingly.

Don’t Forgot To Get Gas?

Remember, you need enough gas to sit in line for a few hours, and if it’s hot, you’ll want to run the air-conditioning while cueing to get back stateside.

The most convenient gas station before the border is up the hill toward downtown TJ just before you hook right toward the border crossing. You can fill up there and then double back and continue to the international traverse.

Fooled By the Sign to San Diego.

I finally got this down after doing it wrong a hand-full of times—it sucks if you do this wrong because you have to go through a TJ maze of traffic and craziness to get back to the border line—add another 30 minutes to hour and a ton of extra stress.

You will turn right at some point before going up the ramp to get to the main border area—the signs are very deceiving—but listen up, don’t follow the first lane (the one far right) follow the middle lane that goes up the ramp in a more slopped fashion.

[wp-svg-icons icon=”lightning” wrap=”i”] The far right lane will take you PAST the border and into TJ.

Driving Back To USA From Mexcio

If you take the first lane you will have to follow it to downtown and make your way back to the border crossing like a rat in a maze. Sometimes they block off the streets nearest the crossing, so you might need to maneuver a few roundabouts before making your way back. Worst case scenario (and I have done this) pay a taxi driver $5 and follow him back to the border.

Derek Dodds

Derek Dodds is founder of the world's first ecological surf company Wave Tribe, surfboard shaper, world traveler, author and Mini Simmons enthusiast.

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  • Hey Derek, this is such an awesome article—we are planning a trip for next month and the resources were awesome.

  • Hey Derek, Excellent read. Loved your descriptions and information. Didn’t reveal any spots other than the most know, thank you . Also thanks for stopping your list at Ensenada!

  • Great Article. I love Baja for so many reasons. Melling Ranch is killer. I’ve quail hunted there several times. Alfredo & staff are incredible people. As long as you don’t mind a little cactus, it’s some of the best quail hunting in the world.

    • Thanks bro—stoked you been to the ranch. I grew up hunting that place. Now I just hunt big juicy waves along the Baja coast.

  • Outstanding stuff! I have been surfing North Baja on and off since 1965 and love it every time!! Great info and advice on waves, drugs, alcohol, driving, food, lodging, etc. Do yourself a favor and listen to this man!!

  • Derek, such a great read. I’ve body surfed each one of those breaks believe it or not, the waves hold up great for it most times. Had a great Thanksgiving weekend at Meling, looking forward to a bodysurf trek in early Jan with the thick suit!

  • Nice article on Northern Baja.. But the main Cover Photo is on an island in Southern Baja. 🙂 Surfed out there well over a 160 days since the early 90s.Great wave when it is on.

  • Derek stoked on your site as a home owner on playas baja malibu and as a bar and grill owner just south of calafia k36 PARADISE COVE TIKI BAR AND GRILL a surfer focused environment . just wanted to thank you and update you that OLLIES is owned by a guy named Richard and his full size poodle is named ollie he is always present and super friendly. super stoked on the site keep the good vibes flowing and come see us sometime we offer hawaiian cuisine maybe we can offer a discount to your other followers we are always open to the surfing community!

  • Derek,
    interesting to hear that you’re one of the Meiling Ranch descendants. My old man worked a couple of summers there back in the ’50s. I spent many summers living near Ensenada during the 60’s thru the 80’s. Fished, hiked and backpacked in the Sierra Juarez and SP Martir…Arroyo San Rafael ring a bell? Saw a 7ft rattler draped over a cowboy’s saddle down there. I’ve also surfed many of the aforementioned spots as well as many others in between and South of Ensenada…Rode huge waves one time at the Pt off of La Mision… surfed Salsipuedes back when it earned it’s name…as they were doing construction of the toll road. Was at 3Ms one am in mid 70s with a guy who had a board with a lightning bolt emblem…JL. All those experiences are the reason I’ve been a Spanish prof 30+years. A true Baja bum. Enjoyed your article.


  • so close but seems so far away. if you have a 4 wheel drive so much easier. Its nice that its not over developed like many other surf spots. And great food at low cost. All you need is some people to back you up in case of the heavy locals

  • Incredible article and very informative for those that don’t have a clue about Baja. No one really cared about the Coyote Adventure tours, so best to keep the crowd informed so they have a safe trip and make good decisions. Good on ya Derek!



  • i dont know anything about BaJa i want to see face to face i am only 17 i dont have passport , i need some suggetion for great short tour .

  • Hi guys, thanks for the great information.
    I’m looking at travelling to the Baja around the middle of November this year. At this stage I’m travelling alone.
    I wanted to ask you is it possible to travel the north and central Baja by bus?
    Unfortunately I don’t have my drivers license with me so I don’t think I will be able to rent a car.
    Any information would be greatly appreciated.



  • Hey Derek, Thanks for the awesome info! Quick question, I just booked a condo at k-38 for mid January, just to get a little sun shine and warmth, things that can be lacking home in Santa Cruz.
    I’ve heard mixed reviews on k-38 as a Winter time spot. While I know the south are probably more lined up, how is k-38 in January? Thank you!

    • Hey David! I asked Derek to answer your question and here’s what he said.. “Those people are crazy—K-38 fires on any W, NW, or S. It’s one of the most consistent waves in Northern Baja. On the off chance that there is no swell (highly unlikely) head down to La Fonda (15 minutes) which has a huge trench in front of it and catches anything in the water. Have a great time!”

  • Hi- Were going to Rosarito for the first time at La Paloma since we have Worldmark in August. I’m beginner/intermediate surfer (i.,e., I can paddle out enough to get worked and not die-yet). I would love to have a guide for a day or two, know where to rent board, etc.. Any advice would be welcome.

    • Hi John! That’s awesome! You’ll love Rosarito. Everything you’ll want to know should be in the blog but if you have any questions please let me know! Have a great trip!

Meet Surfer Derek Dodds

Derek Dodds | Surfer, Shaper, Traveler
I'm Derek Dodds, the guy behind Srfer.com.com. I love surfing, shaping, adventure travel, IPAs, useful gear, and all things related to the sea.