Bahia de los Angeles
Bahia de los Angeles Baja California
(This was written in 1998 and prices and things have changed. It is still a charming town on a fishing bay.)
By Dorothy Bell
Photographs are By Bill Bell
Bahia de Los Angeles is a place to kick back and relax. Located on the Sea of Cortes along the coast of Baja California this community is a great place to relax, fish, kayak or hike.
If Baja is one of North America’s unspoilt jewels, then L.A. Bay is Baja’s crown jewel. Spectacular mountains at your back and dozens of islands wait to be explored. This is a getaway not easy to reach but worth the journey, especially for those who value unspoiled nature more than a mint on the pillow.
Bahia de los Angeles It gives me goose bumps every time. The first glimpse of the Sea of Cortez from the road heading into Bahia de los Angeles is one of the best vistas on the Baja. The rugged mountain desert with scrubby desert and tall cirros and cardon cacti, contrast with the deep turquoise blues of the bays water and the reddish rust color of the islands and lands near the waters edge. Goosebumps because it is so beautiful and so rugged yet fragile.
The town of Bahia de los Angeles is a small town approximately 10 hours drive from the border through Tijuana down Highway One. The highway snakes through small pueblos, towns and cities as well as fields of tomatoes and other produce; and desolate deserts areas. The number one makes a sharp eastward turn approximately ½ way through a 200 mile desert towards a large bay on the Sea of Cortez.
Bahia is small. It doesn’t have a grocery store larger than a 7-11 back home. Electricity is turned on and off at infrequently intervals – depending how the municipal generator is working. Municipal water is horded by families and commercial enterprises as the municipal water is only turned on once, maybe twice a week. Telephone is via a satellite as is the local internet café.
Yet even without those basic services as we know them, Bahia’s charm for visitors is the portal to the Sea of Cortez and all the activities that come with frequently calm waters with abundant fish. Kayaking is popular in Bahia, every motel or RV park seems to rent them out at reasonable daily rates of $15 a day or so depending on your bargaining skills. Fishing trips can easily be arranged too – best to arrange your own group of 4 fishers and get a boat for $150 to 180 per day.
If you bring your own boat there are a few places to launch your craft – apparently a rarity in the Baja. However be warned. Winds in this area can be torturous and can whip up the waters quickly. Northerly winds as well as a strong Westerly can suddenly make the glass-like surface of the Bay turn ugly. RV’s seek cover behind buildings or other structures to avoid the uneven gusts thumping at the sides of their rigs.
A town square has a large bandstand in the center and like many Mexican zocalos, faces the municipal hall. A good clean clinic is beside this zocalo with a 24 hour physician available at a nominal charge. No it doesn’t have all the latest equipment, but the Doctors are on “duty years” to pay back Mexican society for their education and are fresh out of Medical school and residency. On our last visit, the doctor was raised and educated until grade 12 in San Diego. Of course he spoke perfect English and was very helpful with any questions we had – either medical or of the area.
The local museum is a must both inside and out. The garden is of regional design and names all those cacti and plants you were curious about on your drive in. The museum itself is alive with local history and is a testament to the proud founding families that built this community.
There are no nightclubs in Bahia. This is not Mazatlan, Cabo or Cancun. It is a fishing village where the lights all go out at 11pm. Occasionally there will be a municipal dance or party held at the tennis court behind “Isla” a local neighborhood corner store and satellite internet café. There seems to be more people outside the event – unwilling to pay the cover charge to enter the event. There are a few low-key restaurants and bars.
The two hotel anchors in the area, Villa Vita and Guillermo’s, both offer restaurants, bars, rooms and RV spaces in town. The camping is basic. Often the services don’t work and in the case of Guillermo’s, the view is obstructed by permanent RV cabanas that dominate the waters edge. Dry camping is available in front of the motel rooms – and provides a view and access to water and the restaurant. Camping favorites though are out of town to either the north or the south along dirt/sand roads in various states of repair.
To the North is an old government site with only the sewer holes intact. It is associated with the turtle study/rescue effort and camping is by donation – $2 per night. Can’t beat the price for a spot right on the water. Daggett’s is the most popular spot in the area with 6 large shade palapas at each camping site on the Bay for $4 per person. There is no water or electricity but a dump station is available. A decent restaurant is open in the “season” from late October to March. There are rooms from $15 with hot showers and good beds. Kayak rentals are available.
There are a few corner stores where you can purchase supplies including frozen meats and fish but best to bring what you need down with you as the electricity at the best of times can be uncertain. Fresh fish can be purchased from fishermen coming back in the afternoons. This can be at different times due to tides which even with the boat launches can make it difficult to pull the boats out of the water.
Bottled water is sold everywhere and many places now have water purifiers in their stores where you fill up your own container. Bahia de los Angeles is the place for tranquil days and authentic traditional village life. It isn’t glamorous or flashy and holds a particular charm that is mixed with healthy doses of substance and resilience.