Saturday June 10 2023

Posted by BajaInsider on April 16, 2016
  • The beaches of the Sea of Cortez attract sun worshipers from all over the world
    The beaches of the Sea of Cortez attract sun worshipers from all over the world
  • The beaches of El Sargento and La Ventana remain much as they were for decades
    The beaches of El Sargento and La Ventana remain much as they were for decades
  • Snorkeling and sight-seeing charters are a great way to explore the wonders of the Sea
    Snorkeling and sight-seeing charters are a great way to explore the wonders of the Sea
  • Beach Palapa
    Beach Palapa
  • Mushroom Rock in Balandra at sunset today, restored to its position after the 2005 fall
    Mushroom Rock in Balandra at sunset today, restored to its position after the 2005 fall
  • The beaches of Isla San Francisco are accessible only by private boat.
    The beaches of Isla San Francisco are accessible only by private boat.
  • Anchorages are virtually empty in the Sea of Cortez during late summer.
    Anchorages are virtually empty in the Sea of Cortez during late summer.
  • Beach camping still exists in a few places along the Sea of Cortez
    Beach camping still exists in a few places along the Sea of Cortez
  • Camping on the beach along the Sea of Cortez
    Camping on the beach along the Sea of Cortez

Baja California Sur has a great number of outstanding beaches with a variety of reasons to make a list of the best beaches in Mexico or even the world. A recent poll in USA Today had local experts nominate their favorite beaches in Mexico and readers voted on these selections. With all the great ways of how the sand meets the Sea in the southern state it is not surprising that 6 of the 10 best beaches were here in Baja California Sur. 

There are more Baja beaches than the poll could possibly put in their offerings, each with their individual appeal. I've been to all of them in the top 10 list in my years here on the peninsula and will provide first-hand information here. In this article, we'll take a look at some of the beaches that made the list and some that didn't too.

Rules for the Beaches of Baja and Mexico

First, let's start by looking at beach rules. By a 1975 presidential edict, there are no private beaches anywhere in Mexico. Unfortunately, some resorts and private properties have tried to chase off members of the public  and there have been lobbying efforts to rescind this presidential order. Today any and everyone has access to the ZMFT. (Zona Federal Maritimo Terrestre) which is defined as 20 meters from the high tide line. Camping, discarding trash, building fires or motorized vehicles among other things are prohibited from this zone.  

Private concessions are granted in certain areas above the ZFMT zone for restaurants, beach palapas, and camping. Concessionaires do have the right to ask you to leave from those areas. Beach front property owners are required to provide access to the public areas of the beach, although many developers seek to make this just as difficult as possible.

Taking shells, coral, sand dollars and other marine souvenirs from the beaches of Mexico is prohibited. Very few beaches in Baja California Sur have significant improvements enough to have life-saving, so you are swimming at your own risk.

Technically, there are no nude beaches in Mexico, as public nudity is prohibited. Today, with increased population and development it has become increasingly difficult to find a beach to shed it all and erase those tan lines. 

Beach Safety

With only one or two exceptions the beaches in this article do not offer lifeguard monitoring, so swim at your own risk. I've tried to make note of surf and undertow where I have found it. Sharks, by habitat, can be found at just about any of these beaches, but I don't know if I've ever heard of a shark attack in my 16 years at these beaches. Stingrays are common in the shallows, particularly in the eastern Sea side beaches and most prevalent in the spring and early summer months when the shallows provide their earliest food source. Doing the Sting Ray Shuffle can almost always avoid a painful interaction. Jellyfish and Portuguese Man of war can be found anywhere mostly in the summer months, but again, a little alertness can avoid what isn't much more painful than a bee sting. I've seen white Jellyfish the size of your head off Cabo beaches, a spectacular Blue Jelly on the beach near La Paz the size of a garbage can lid and Portuguese Man of War the size of your fist in the Sea. Just keep your eyes open (but not underwater) 

Beaches in the Sea of Cortez
(Also see Best Beaches in Baja California Sur - The Pacific Side)

Cabo Pulmo Beach made the list at #5, and although an undisputed lovely place I might have placed it further down the list myself. Los Frailes and Cabo Pulmo are the first beaches I would really qualify as being Sea of Cortez beaches and face to the east or SSE. The water gets progressively warmer from this point on in this article and the surf gets smaller. Still affected some by summer storms these are summer beaches where the waters can reach the mid 80's in August. Although there are some resorts and many homes along this region stretching north to Los Barriles there are places here where you will have no problem finding a quiet place to call your own. Cabo Pulmo Beach gets extra points for being closest to the Cabo Pulmo Reef, a protected area and very popular dive site. The reef is located in 30 to 60 feet of water but snorkeling closer to land can still be rewarding. Dolphins sometimes can sometimes be seen quite close to shore here.  Fine beaches continue up the coast into the Sea and to the pueblo of Los Barriles. Punta Arena (Sand Point) is remote and has some development taking place but fishing and access to the Cerralvo Channel is the main interest on this beach where a fleet of sport fishing pangas call home about 2/3's of the year. 

Well, north into the Sea of Cortez are the beaches of Los Planes, La Ventana, and El Sargento. These beaches are famous for their winter activity. Because of the winter north winds this region is most popular with the windsurfing crowd, but they are also decent clean beaches, framed by limited residential development and make for a nice rustic beach day. They are clean and the waters of the Sea are warm enough for anyone to swim from mid-April through late November. 

USA Today's List of top 10 Beaches in Mexico

1 Balandra Beach
2 Somewhere else
3 Who cares?
4 Honeymoon Cove
5 Cabo Pulmo Beach
6 Lover's Beach
Somewhere else
8 Medano Beach
9 Too far away from here
10 Tecolote Beach

The city of La Paz itself has a lovely waterfront but as to beaches, tourists without transportation will find these near town beaches small and the water offers less circulation so the downtown area makes for a better postcard than a day at the beach. Within walking distance from the north end of La Paz\, El Coromuel is a civic development, created from donations from local developers and API (The port authority) with a pier the young people enjoy diving from and a pair of water slides that the city rarely operates. This is a popular beach with the local youth and still makes for a good way to cool off on a hot afternoon. But a short drive out of town are two very nice beaches and the number 10 and number 1 beaches in all of Mexico are well worth the drive.

Coming in at #10 is Playa Tecolote about 20km north of the city. Facing out on the Sea of Cortez toward the protected island of Espiritu Santos Tecolote is the activities beach for La Paz. Panga rides, jet skis and a number of rustic beach restaurants and palapa rentals make this beach popular. Not as developed as the beaches of Cabo this north facing beach is really only active in the summer time. In the winter near beach RV camping is popular and during Semana Santa, you may have to carve out your space early and expect someone to camp yet in front of you. Winter exposure to the north brings some good waves, but not of the surfing kind. In summer there is often less than 1' of wave and the water will warm to the mid and upper 80's The pangas from this beach also offer trips to the Islands and a beach which I also think makes honorable mention there.

Playa Bonanza is on the southeast corner of Isla Espiritu Santos and only accessible by boat ride. This mile long stretch of beach remains in its near savage state, with just a dilapidated fishing hut or two. This beach made the list of one of the prettiest beaches in the world a few years ago but apparently was overlooked in the recent survey. Isla Espiritu Santos offers a number of other beaches but one of the longest on the west protected side of the island is now a core zone and visits are only available by accessing Playa Bonanza and making a short hike overland. Anchorages in Coleta Partida and Ensenada Grande are accessible through charter and camping concessions. The swimming and snorkeling are fantastic but the beaches are beautifully wild, but not really much to write home about.

Back on the mainland, about 14 miles north of La Paz and just a couple miles closer than Tecolote is the #1 beach in Mexico according to the survey and without a doubt one of the most beautiful places I've ever had the pleasure to visit, along with being a World Heritage Site, Playa Balandra. This beach is for your quiet reflective time, although the buzz of jet skis can disturb the tranquility on busy days. Located on a pristine bay the water reaches the low 90's in the summer and the lack of surf and extended shallows make it enticing to folks that can't even swim. The beach closest to the parking area is only a few hundred yards long, is home to a bus that rents kayaks and SUP's and despite being 'nice' is the least attractive area of the bay. Work your way around the point to the west and find about a mile of white sand beach and a few scattered shade palapas.  At the end of the middle beach is Mushroom Rock, which for many years was the unofficial beach symbol of the city of La Paz. The bold can work their way around this rocky area to find another large section of beach, even more, secluded and savage. At low tide or good swimmers can take the trek across the bay to two more beaches on the south side of the bay which are popular destinations for boaters and panga charters from downtown. The bay is also a popular anchorage for yachts. If you make it to the city of La Paz you are remiss if you don't visit this unique location. 

Isla San Francisco is a unique anchorage and at this time still only accessible by private yacht. The islands offer a spectacular cove and a hike up to the summit is not to be missed if you make it to this remote location about 42 miles north of La Paz.

Much further up the coast, about 75 miles to be exact is Agua Verde, and the small remote community there. This area is a very popular anchorage for private yachts and remains a challenging location to access by 4x4, about 28 bumpy miles from Hwy 1. Great for snorkeling, diving and beach walking this protected bay is one of my favorite spots to hang out in early summer but can get oppressively warm and still in late summer. I'm not going to mention a whole lot more about it, as I rather it remains a local secret.

Liqui and Tripui are small beaches that have long been popular with the North American explorers of the peninsula dating back to the completion of Hwy 1 in the early 70's. Here you can still drive your camper down near the beach and enjoy for a little while longer what Baja exploration was like decades ago. But hurry, this area south of Loreto is moving into the future quickly. Most popular in the winter months with North Americans these beaches only rate a 'nice' in comparison to some of our other beaches. 

The beaches of the Loreto region also fall into this category, of 'nice'. They offer long stretches of darker granite sand for the most part and are much narrower than southern beaches. The water is still lovely in the summer time and the views out toward Isla Carmen and Isla Danzante are lovely. There are a couple of resort in this region that have developed a bad habit of trying to chase non-residents of their resort from the beach with threats of arrest. Please feel free to apply what ever nasty words you know in Espanol to these security people. You have every right to walk these beaches 20 meters up from the high tide line. 

A 20-minute panga ride from the coast is Isla Danzante and the #4 best beach in Mexico according to the USA Today poll, Honeymoon Cove. Accessible only by boat this is an idyllic and beautiful location, but I'm not sure as a beach I would have put this one that far up the list. There are no services available and a few camping concessions were granted for the beach in 2016. It is without a doubt picturesque and wild, but I don't see it in the same category as any of the other beaches on the top 10 list. It is, however, one of the nicest beaches in this region. 

The Baja peninsula has more than 2500 miles of beaches, and it is hard to go wrong with any of them, each offering its own charm and beauty. With so many lovely locations I'm certain I have overlooked someone's favorite, but I'm already up to page 6 on this article, so that is just the way it goes sometimes

When you visit our beaches we encourage you to respect the natural beauty and take home every lick of trash you brought with you and police after your pets. Although many of the beaches offer trash bins, these collection resources are often under-serviced, particularly during heavy traffic periods. Come enjoy our beaches and refresh your soul.

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