As much as I adore bikepacking, I have to admit it rarely feels like “vacation.” And vacation, in the traditional sense, lacks the satisfaction I feel while bikepacking. So I was pleasantly surprised when our recent ride of the Cape Loop on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula felt like the perfect blend of great bikepacking with plain old “type 1” fun.
The Cape Loop is the southernmost segment of the much longer Baja Divide, a rugged desert bikepacking route down the entire Baja Peninsula. Of course I’ve dreamed of riding the whole thing, but after a number of multi-month bikepacking trips in the last few years I was looking for something shorter. The Cape Loop offers simple logistics and scenery that rivals the best of the full Divide (so I’ve heard) in an accessible 250ish mile loop.
If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that back when I first caught the bikepacking bug, I mainly rode solo. In recent years my husband has graciously allowed me to drag him into my obsession, but he has his own take on it. He prefers to “do things” while traveling instead of just riding bikes nonstop for weeks on end (weird right?) 🙂
Since we started bikepacking together we’ve been on a mission to find routes that appeal to both of us. He loves zoomy, balancey sports like surfing, skiing, etc, and we had success in Morocco last year incorporating kiteboarding lessons into our bikepacking journey. Since then I’ve been on the lookout for another route offering both bikepacking and watersports.
We found it in Baja! If you like water and wind sports or have a bikepacking partner who does, the Cape Loop is a must-do. We were so impressed by the easy access to surfing, kiting, winging, and snorkeling / diving. Sometimes structured activities are hard to work into a bike trip (need advance booking, a car, etc) but every single one of our activities worked out really well.
The Cape Loop is also a fantastic bikepacking route in its own right. If you’re not into water sports you can simply enjoy camping, and maybe swimming (though the water is fairly cold during riding season) at the beautiful beaches while you focus on putting in the miles and absorbing the local culture.
Either way, I hope this trip writeup helps you plan your own Cape Loop adventure. I’ve bikepacked and toured in 17 countries and Baja is high on my list of most pleasant, relaxing, and fun experiences to date. That’s not to say the riding is easy — it’s not — but that the whole experience is nicely balanced.
Why Bikepack the Cape Loop?
Among all the places I’ve bikepacked and toured, Baja and the Cape Loop stand out for their mix of tough off-pavement riding and easy everything else. Here’s a summary of the pros and cons as I see them.
What’s great about the Cape Loop:
- At its best in Jan and Feb when most US routes are cold or snowy
- Frequent resupply and good food
- Easy access to water and wind sports (surfing, kiting, diving and snorkeling)
- Good singletrack riding in La Ventana, Cabo Pulmo
- Relaxed vibes, no hassle
- Amazing desert landscapes (so many giant cacti!) and beautiful beaches
- Moderate temperatures, nights are chilly but never too cold
- Riding is challenging but not too brutal
- Mostly very low-traffic dirt roads, drivers are generally respectful
- Options for shortening ride by taking paved roads or busses
Drawbacks and challenges:
- Popular vacation area for Americans, so may lack a feeling of authentic connection to local culture unless you have extroverted tendencies and good Spanish
- Fairly expensive lodging and restaurants (cheaper than the US but not by as much as we expected)
- Days can be very hot, and water in some areas is limited
- Sandy roads = wider tires recommended (2.4” is probably the absolute minimum, many people run 2.8 or 3”)
- Spikey desert foliage = tubeless tires strongly recommended
If you’re getting ready to ride the Cape Loop and you only read one section of this trip report, make it this one! Here are my top tips:
Pack light: If you’re looking for a route to experiment with ultralight packing, the Cape Loop is a good one. Warm weather and frequent resupply mean you don’t have to carry much extra bulk. You could go stoveless and consider minimal rain shelter (we had zero rain, but it does happen). You will need room for water (5 or 6 liters max).
Bring beach clothes (I brought a swimsuit, running shorts, and a light tank top). The beaches in Baja aren’t always warm this time of year though, so you’ll also want a rain / wind jacket and perhaps a midlayer.
Try some beach activities! If you like (or want to try) surfing, kiteboarding, wingfoiling, snorkeling, or SCUBA diving, see Beach Activities below.
Spanish isn’t necessary, thanks to Google Translate and the English skills of many locals working in tourism. However, Spanish is a relatively accessible language for English speakers and some basic Spanish is helpful, not to mention a polite way to show the locals you’re trying.
Convenience stores sell cold “Electrolit” drinks that are pretty tasty and great for replenishing fluids lost while sweating under the intense Baja sun.
It does get chilly at night despite the hot daytime temps. I wouldn’t suggest forgoing any of the usual layers or sleeping bag, though light versions of everything are fine.
Wide (ideally 2.6” – 3”) tubeless tires are highly recommended for the sand and prickly desert foliage. Bring plenty of chain lube for the sandy dust.
Two locked gates block the road between Todos Santos and the split to La Paz. The first (heading clockwise) can be bypassed underneath, which is apparently ok with the locals (only motorized vehicles are prohibited). The second, a few miles further, is locked but has a key hanging nearby or hidden under a rock.
Our Cape Loop Itinerary
We started in Los Cabos and rode clockwise, following the most recent version of the route from the Baja Divide Facebook Group with these modifications:
- Skipped the infamously sandy (and now possibly closed?) powerline road at the very beginning, just rode the highway north from Los Cabos until it was time to turn left.
- Skipped the out-and-back to La Paz (have heard some people like it and others don’t find it worth the highway riding) and cut over a bit sooner toward Los Planes via El Triunfo.
- Went off-route about 48 miles from Los Cabos, shortly before Todos Santos, to Los Cerritos for surfing.
- Added an out-and-back into La Ventana for wind sports.
For us this came to about 250 miles, including the out-and-back to La Ventana (20 miles round trip the way we went). Our pace was fairly leisurely with lots of time for beach activities along the way. We spent 14 full days in Baja, not including one travel day on either end. We had 8 riding days, 5 beach / water sport days, and one day at the beginning to build our bikes and get situated.
- Day 0: Fly to Los Cabos
- Day 1: Build bikes, explore Los Cabos
- Days 2-3: Ride from Los Cabos to Los Cerritos just south of Todos Santos (56 miles)
- Days 4-5: Surfing in Los Cerritos
- Days 6-7: Ride from Los Cerritos to La Ventana (75 miles)
- Days 8-9: Wind sports in La Ventana
- Days 10-11: Ride from La Ventana to just north of Cabo Pulmo (72 miles)
- Day 12: Short ride to Cabo Pulmo, rest day (6 miles)
- Day 13: Snorkeling in Cabo Pulmo in morning, ride into mountains in afternoon (13 miles)
- Day 14: Ride back to Los Cabos by mid-afternoon (31 miles), pack bikes
- Day 15: Fly home
In hindsight the only thing I would change about our itinerary was the section from Todos Santos to La Ventana, which I would allow an extra half day for. This section had some slow riding, and we rushed through the nice towns of El Rosario and El Triunfo instead of enjoying their cactus sanctuary and mining ruins, respectively. Having 2.5 days for this section would have allowed for more stops along the way.
Here’s the RideWithGPS route of our exact ride:
Here’s a picture showing how our route differed from the official route:
Pace Planning Tip: Be sure to factor in the shorter daylight hours of winter. For us in mid-January the sun rose around 7am and it was dark by about 6:15pm. If you’re used to long leisurely summer days this may limit your daily progress.
Route Resources and Alternates
Baja Divide Facebook Group: Great place to connect with current and past riders, look for recent updates on water or road closures, and much more. In the Files section you can find up-to-date GPX files and resupply tables.
Baja Divide website: Not the most up to date, but has section by section route descriptions and downloadable resupply charts and maps
Bikepacking.com’s guide to the full Baja Divide route
RideWithGPS files we found helpful (including some variations):
- Official route v1.3 as of 2023
- Cape Loop “Family Version” from Rob Knoth with helpful waypoints, skips some rougher and sandier sections
- More Beaches: good waypoints, takes a northern route into La Paz, follows coast in the southeast
There are a few alternates to make the route easier if you’re short on time or underbiked. We didn’t take most of these and were happy with that decision, but for completeness here are the ones I’ve heard about (in order clockwise from Los Cabos. These are also shown on the map picture of our route above.
Alternate 1: From Todos Santos, head 35km north on highway before turning right into mountains to rejoin route just after El Valle Perdido. Skips a somewhat sandy and slow section with some rocky hike-a-bike, an advantage for folks who might be underbiked. Highway has good shoulder but isn’t that pleasant.
Alternate 2: From El Triunfo you can find a shorter way down to the eastern coast if you’re skipping La Paz. Leave the route at the junction to El Triunfo (a few miles off route) and ride through town, stopping for good ice cream and old mining ruins. Take the “Old El Triunfo to San Antonio Road” (dirt, a bit rough, shown on Trailforks app) to San Antonio, then the big paved descent (low traffic) to Los Planos just south of the turn off to La Ventana.
Alternate 3: From Cabo Frailes continue along the coast instead of heading up into the mountains. This skips a few tedious miles of sandy climbing. You can still cut over to Palo Escopeta via a road that leaves the coast about halfway from Cabo Frailes to El Cardon (we didn’t do this but kinda wish we had, seems like best of both worlds.) You can also just follow the coast all the way to the south end of San Jose del Cabo, but then you have miles of busy roads to get back north to the airport / Cactus Inn.
I’ve also heard of people taking a bus between Los Cabos and Todos Santos or La Paz, then riding the rest. Personally I would not have wanted to skip riding those sections, but if you’re short on time it’s an option.
Start and Finish Logistics
You can fly into either San Jose del Cabo (south side of the loop) or La Paz (north end of the out-and-back section). Since we planned to skip La Paz it was a no-brainer to fly into San Jose del Cabo, sometimes also called Los Cabos or just Cabo.
If you fly into Los Cabos, stay at the Cactus Inn! They’ve become popular with bikepackers thanks to their free airport transportation, convenient location (near the airport and the start of the Cape Loop) and willingness to store bike boxes. They’ll make your logistics incredibly easy, and you’ll probably meet some other bikepackers while you’re there. I initially thought they were somewhat expensive, but Cabo isn’t a cheap place to stay and their prices are reasonable.
At the airport, simply exit the terminal and look for the “Cactus Rental Car” shuttle waiting in the parking lot. They will take you to the hotel for free. There are a few mini-marts in the area, in particular a few blocks north, or you can Uber to the big supermarket a few miles south to stock up for the ride.
Terrain and Difficulty
The Cape Loop follows mostly unpaved roads ranging from well-graded hardpack to chunky 4×4 tracks. Somewhat unique to this route and region are the sandy washes-turned-roads that will have you pushing your bike or using way too much energy to pedal the flats.
How hard is the Cape Loop? Of course this is all relative to what you’re expecting and what you’ve ridden before. I thought the riding was challenging enough to be interesting (some steep punchy little climbs, long gradual sandy slogs, chunky descents) but not overwhelming. There were a few short sections of hike-a-bike or steep climbs we chose to walk, but it was mostly rideable. We comfortably managed about 35 miles per day with leisurely mornings and short daylight hours.
That said, two things can make this route much harder if you’re not prepared for them: heat and sand. The Baja sun can be brutal even in winter, so carry plenty of fluid and take breaks as needed. As for underbiking, if your tires are too narrow for the sand or the chunky mountain roads you’ll be walking more than you’d like.
Camping and Lodging
Except for the Cactus Inn in Los Cabos and a private room with shared bathroom in La Ventana, we spent every night in our tent. Wild camping is easy and accepted in Baja, just don’t pitch right next to someone’s home (there are some ranchos along the mountain roads). In the mountains we kept an eye out for flat areas and snuck off the road on cow paths. Along the beaches there are plenty of informal campsites, some more secluded and others filled with RVs and campervans.
In towns we looked for a hostel or glamping spot where we could pitch our own tent. The going rate was around 250 pesos per person per night (so not cheap) but generally came with bathrooms, hot showers, wifi, communal kitchen, and a safe place to leave the bikes during our rest days.
Here’s where we stayed when we weren’t wild camping:
- Los Cabos: Cactus Inn (highly recommend)
- Los Cerritos: Libra Glamping and Hostel, tent campsite (highly recommend)
- La Ventana: Susu’z Village Hostel, private room with shared bath (recommend)
- Cabo Pulmo: Pepe and Lorena’s Glamping: tent campsite (a bit pricey for what you get, but friendly and convenient)
The full Baja Divide route is notorious for very long water carries, but the Cape Loop section is more moderate. We each had capacity for about 5 liters but in hindsight it should have been 6 liters each. We only needed that much once, for the mountain section between Los Frailes and Palo Escopeta (the little town right before Los Cabos) where we found no natural sources. If you’re not sure how to carry that much water on your bike, see 9 Ways to Carry Water While Bikepacking.
Along the eastern coast you’ll find small towns at least once a day where you can fill up or buy water at stores. The mountains between Los Cabos and Todos Santos were flowing with numerous streams, but I can’t promise they’ll be there every year (the region had unusually late rain this year). I believe there’s at least one reliable river crossing on that section.
Whatever you do, don’t rely on maps to identify natural water sources. Many of the blue “rivers” you’ll see on maps are actually just sandy washes. The Baja Divide Facebook Group is a good source for recent water reports.
We carried our usual water filter system: a Sawyer Squeeze filter with 3 liter CNOC dirty bag. We used this for natural sources and to filter tap water. I didn’t get the sense that waterborne viruses are an issue in this part of Mexico so we didn’t worry about purification (see Water Treatment for Bikepacking).
If the weather is hot, look for “Electrolit” drink in the convenience stores. It’s surprisingly tasty (I much prefer it to Gatorade) and really helps replenish what you’re sweating out.
We ate pretty well on this trip compared to many past bikepacking adventures. Our longest stretch without resupply was only two days between Los Cabos and Los Cerritos, otherwise we found shops and/or restaurants at least once a day.
Unsurprisingly, there is some amazing Mexican food in Baja. Fish tacos were a consistent hit for us, though honestly any kind of tacos usually hit the spot. We usually ate one restaurant meal per day when in town as a compromise between enjoying the amazing food and keeping costs down, then prepared our own food from grocery stores the rest of the time.
For groceries and resupply we found small convenience stores in most towns. The larger ones usually had some fresh produce, good diary, and other healthier items.
We brought a simple wood-burning stove (see below), which we used a few times for hot coffee and ramen, but I would say it’s easy to go without a stove on the Cape Loop if you want to save some weight.
Our favorite lunch or no-cook dinner was refried beans on a tortilla heaped with avocado, tomato, Fritos chips, and a spritz of lime juice. Refried bean pouches are available everywhere and the fresh tortillas are completely different (way better!) than the ones we buy at the grocery store at home.
Breakfasts were often granola and milk powder, or sometimes tortillas with Nutella and peanut butter. Both of the latter were easy to find in small plastic jars perfect for carrying on the road. Instant coffee was also easy to find.
And of course you’ll want to enjoy a cold cerveza (beer) or two if you’re so inclined. It really does hit the spot on those hot afternoons.
We both rode rigid mountain bikes with carbon forks and would definitely do it this way again. There’s no need for suspension on this route except perhaps for some extra comfort on rough ground. Light and simple is the way to go in my opinion, though of course suspension works too if that’s what you’ve got.
My bike: Stella (Chumba Stella Ti) with carbon fork and flat bars. Maxxis Rekon 29 x 2.6” tubeless tires.
E’s bike: Solace OM-2P (Pinion) with carbon fork and Jones Loop bars. Maxxis Rekon 29 x 2.8” tubeless tires.
Tires are a big topic for the Cape Loop and Baja Divide in general. Sand is the main issue. There are also some rocky, chunky 4×4 roads and a fair amount of washboard. Because of all this, but especially the sand, most people recommend 2.8” – 3” tires.
My rims are a bit narrow for 3” tires and I’m on the light side at 120 lbs, so I chose 2.6” tires. This worked for me but might not work for heavier riders. E ran 2.8” tires but weighs 1.5 times what I do, and he seemed to struggle a bit more in the sand. In general both of us could ride most of what we needed to ride, though some pushing was inevitable on the sandier uphill sections.
Tubeless tires strongly recommended! We had zero leaks or punctures despite dozens of thorns embedded in our tires. It’s impossible to avoid spikey things on this route. I suppose a tried and tested system of tire liners and other tricks (sealant inside tubes?) might be worth a shot, but try at your own risk.
I rode with my dropper post because I was too lazy to swap it out (this bike doubles as my hardtail with a quick fork swap). I used it occasionally for some steep downhills, since I had it, but didn’t really need it ever. (See Bikepacking With a Dropper Post)
We both have dynamo hubs but didn’t need them at all for this trip, since civilization came along at most every two days. We each carried a 10k mAh power bank. (See Are Dynamo Hubs Worth It?)
The Cape Loop is fairly simple to gear up for due to its moderate climate and frequent resupply. I carried most of my usual bikepacking gear list for short trips, with a few notable modifications.
I usually like to bikepack with a stove, but the Cape Loop’s combination of frequent towns and relatively warm weather make going stoveless less of a sacrifice. You could enjoy hearty dinners of tortillas, refried beans (available everywhere in lightweight pouches), and avocado and tomato. Breakfast could be granola and milk powder. Instant coffee works fine in cold water. If you want a very lightweight meal, cold-soak a ramen cup.
We did bring a stove, but not our usual. Isobutane canisters seem impossible to buy in Baja, and while I’m sure you can find fuel for a liquid stove it can be a hassle to track down the right stuff. We decided to try out this little wood-burning stove, which cost $35 and weighs only 7 ounces with no need to carry fuel.
How did it go? There’s a bit of a learning curve and patience is required; we gave up once on a windy beach and just cold-soaked our ramen. Dry fuel is easy to find, but the right tinder and kindling is crucial. We brought cotton balls soaked with Vaseline as a firestarter and this helped a lot.
Worth it? It was nice to have hot ramen and coffee, but I would say it was almost not worth the effort since we also enjoyed our stoveless meals of tortillas and refried beans.
This part of Baja can cook during the day, but nights can still be chilly. You certainly don’t need the kind of cold weather gear you would want on something like the Great Divide, but folks who go without any kind of warm stuff generally regret it. Expect temps down into the low 50’s at night in the mountains, and the beaches can be chilly due to wind. Depending on when you ride and what the weather patterns are, you might want to be prepared for an occasional night in the high 40’s.
Here’s what I brought to keep warm, which ended up being perfect:
- Lightweight down puffy (Ghost Whisperer)
- Lightweight rain jacket (OR Helium) – very useful for wind too
- Light merino base layer top for sleeping and going out in the evenings in town
- Tights for sleeping and going out in the evenings in town
- Sleeping quilt rated to around 30 degrees, which was plenty warm
Some warm things I often bring on bikepacking trips that I didn’t bring or need on this one: warm gloves, rain pants, warm hat.
Elkhorn Cargo Cage Rack
I was tempted to run a seat bag on this trip to keep the weight down, but I went with an OMM Elkhorn Rack and it ended up being a great choice for several reasons. The biggest is that I was able to still use my dropper seatpost, not strictly necessary for this ride but nice to have on some of the rougher descents.
It’s also a nice way to organize cargo. It’s a medium-capacity setup, more than a seat bag and less than my bikepacking panniers, which was perfect for this ride. The rack deck simplifies carrying extras like more water or food for certain stretches. It’s also probably the most organized I’ve ever been on a bikepacking trip, with two separate small dry bags instead of a single seat bag or big panniers.
If that sounds appealing, here’s my detailed review of the Elkhorn rack.
For cargo cage recommendations, see Salsa Anything vs. Blackburn Outpost.
Shelter and Sleep
We broke out our old Tarptent Double Rainbow for this trip and it was a great compromise, if a bit cozy. We do longer bikepacking trips with our 3-person Big Agnes Copper Spur (that extra space is crucial when on the road for awhile) but it seemed overkill for this route.
In hindsight we could have gotten away with our ultralight water-resistant bivvies, essentially just “cowboy camping” under clear skies. But it was nice to have private space at some of the campgrounds / hostels. Also, it does sometimes rain in Baja, though we didn’t experience any.
We spent five whole off-bike days at beaches around the loop, and these were essential for enjoying that time:
- Athletic shorts and tank top
- Stuffable ultralight backpack
- Sports sandals
- Lots of sunscreen
- Sunglasses and sunglass retainer strap for water sports
This definitely isn’t required to enjoy the route and it does add significant expense, but we went all-in on beach activities during this ride. I don’t know if this is typical in high season, but we were successful with last-minute bookings. We reached out a couple days in advance for kiting and snorkeling, and the rest (surfing and wingfoiling) were arranged on the spot.
Surfing in Los Cerritos: According to our research this is the spot for surfing along the Cape Loop. It’s just south of Todos Santos and you can easily cut over from the route about 49 miles out of Los Cabos. CRT Surf School is right on the beach, you can’t miss them.
E is an intermediate surfer, so he just rented a board and had a good time. I’m a total beginner, I took a lesson and also had a great time. The lesson was totally worth it as the instructor stabilized my board and did all the hard work so I could actually stand up and catch some waves. Prices seem somewhat negotiable, but boards were around $20 per day and my lesson was about $75 for an hour (with use of a beach umbrella and chairs for the day). Conditions were best in the morning when we were there.
Kiteboarding and wingfoiling (and singletrack) in La Ventana: This is a bigger commitment than surfing and won’t be for everyone, but if you have an interest in wind sports La Ventana is fantastic. Beginners can take lessons or more experienced folks can rent gear. Prices are a bit cheaper than the US but not much, so we’re talking hundreds of dollars for a few hours of lessons.
If you don’t want to partake in wind sports, La Ventana is still a fun place to hang out for a rest day. It does take a few miles of riding off-route to get to, and it’s full of foreigners camped out for the season, but we liked the vibe nonetheless. There are multiple networks of really nice singletrack if you want to get more biking in. I highly recommend following the easy Cardon Connector trail (find it in the Trailforks app) on the way out.
E took a kiteboarding refresher lesson and rented gear for the afternoon. We both took beginner wingfoil lessons the next day. We took our lessons from Playa Central, but there are several other schools around (Baja Joe’s is also popular). Everything was well-run and good quality.
Snorkeling or diving in Cabo Pulmo: Cabo Pulmo, a few miles north of Los Frailes, is home to a protected marine park with a coral reef. We took a 2 hour snorkel boat trip with Cabo Pulmo Dive House and liked it, cost was about $70 per person, but there are many companies running similar tours. Highlights were jellyfish, sea lions, whales, turtles, and plenty of colorful fish. It’s also a great place for SCUBA diving trips.
Los Cabos: Since we started from the Cactus in at the north end of town and finished the loop on the mountain route, we never actually saw the beach in Cabo! But if you pass through the waterfront area there are options for surfing, snorkeling, and more beach activities.
Culture and Vibes
I’ll be honest, this trip was less about the local culture than many of my others. The region is popular with tourists and expats, especially Americans, and unless you speak good Spanish it can be hard to connect with locals. On the bright side this makes for a very comfortable and familiar-feeling trip, perhaps a good starting point for those without prior experience bikepacking abroad.
Among other foreigners we felt right at home with the overlanders, surfers, and backpackers. A bit less so with the snowbirds and expensive condo owners, but they were mostly concentrated in a relatively short stretch on the eastern side.
Locals were very kind to us, helpful and friendly but never pushy. No aggressive kids, no unwanted attention, no issues with my shoulders or knees being visible (a relief after several recent trips in conservative Muslim countries). We were chased by a few dogs, but where does that ever not happen?
What I did see of the local culture was nothing but positive. Out on the remote roads we always got friendly waves from passing ranchers. Playful Christmas decorations, traditionally left up until mid-January, told of festive celebrations. Countless roadside memorials hinted at spiritual and family connections. Someday I would love to dust off my Spanish, go back to Baja, and try to learn more.
Daily Notes and Pics
Day 0: We spent two nights at the Cactus Inn, giving us a full day to build our bikes and stock up on food. In hindsight we could have done it quicker, or we could have Ubered or bused down to the beach to check out the waterfront area of Cabo.
Day 1: 24 miles
From the Cactus Inn we headed north on a mix of highway and sandy frontage road to bypass the infamous powerline section, which I heard is now closed anyway, and turned left to rejoin the route after about 8 miles. The road here was gentle at first, very quiet, and good quality. We felt excited to be heading into the mountains away from the hustle and bustle of town.
Eventually the climb steepened, but didn’t last too long. We filtered water from the river around mile 19 before the second climb, and also crossed many small streams later on. As it came time to camp we found ourselves near a number of rural ranchos, but eventually found a hidden spot out of the way to pitch our tent. We fell asleep and woke to the sound of cowbells.
The scenery in this section was really nice, probably my favorite of all the mountain sections on the Cape Loop. It was greener than I expected, maybe due to the later-than-usual rains this season.
Day 2: 32 miles to Los Cerritos
Today started with a long descent, rough and chunky in places, with many stream crossings (not sure how reliable they are).
After the tiny community of Aguacate we tackled a short but stout climb, then more rolling and sandy terrain (and no water sources that we noticed). Here the giant cacti started making their appearance in earnest, which I was really excited about. I loved the saguaro on the Arizona Trail and didn’t realize Baja would be so full of their cousins. Fun fact: the cacti in Baja are not Saguaro but Cardon / Elephant Cactus, a similar but faster-growing species that can grow up to a foot a year! No wonder they get so tall!
Around 48 miles since Cabo we turned left off the route and followed a good dirt road to the coast, cutting through Pescadero en route to the small town of Los Cerritos. We passed Libra Hostel on our way in and ended up staying there for three nights. It’s a lovely spot with tent campsites and a few glamping beds and beautiful outdoor kitchen area. It’s near a small grocery store, Shaka’s Restaurant (which tends to be open when others aren’t), and a 15 minute walk to the beach.
Days 3-4: Surfing in Los Cerritos. See Beach Activities above for details.
Day 5: 32 miles
From Los Cerritos we followed the highway for about 10 miles (good shoulder) into Todos Santos. It’s a nice town and popular place to explore, but since we’d already spent our rest days in Los Cerritos we continued through.
The next section heads into the mountains again on a gradual, sometimes sandy climb with very low traffic. We encountered two locked gates on this stretch. Thanks to the Baja Divide Facebook Group I knew what to expect. The first is apparently intended for motor vehicles only and can be bypassed; apparently locals have told cyclists this is ok in the past. The second is harder to bypass but there is a key hanging somewhere on the gate or fence, or hidden under a rock. It’s like a treasure hunt. 🙂
We passed through both of these gates without issue, though we did feel a little weird about it and tried to be extremely respectful (we definitely would not have camped on this section).
We found water at mile 88 (based on our RideWithGPS route above), then continued briefly onto a more rugged and rarely used road where we found a nice campsite. The best ones are a bit further in.
Day 6: 42 miles to La Ventana
The next few miles turned out to be a bit slow, with some chunky sections that had us hopping off the bikes here and there. The road grew smoother leading into El Rosario which looked like a nice little town, but we had a long day left so chose not to stop at the Cactus Sanctuary (we were already seeing a lot of gorgeous cacti!).
At the highway we deviated from the route and turned right to El Triunfo. We’d heard the mining ruins were cool, and we had lodging booked in La Ventana so needed a quick way down to the coast. A few miles of curvy highway led into town, where we enjoyed good ice cream and a quick look at the historic area (wish we could have spent more time exploring).
From El Triunfo we hopped on the “Old San Antonio El Triunfo Road” (see the Trailforks app) and followed dirt, sand, and rough cobblestones for about 7 miles to San Antonio.
From there a big paved descent with light traffic leads to Los Planos just south of La Ventana. The cactus groves on either side of this road are absolutely unreal!
Toward the bottom a headwind slowed us down, but it was still easy riding. We turned left at the highway and backtracked to the La Ventana turnoff, mostly riding sandy frontage tracks to avoid traffic.
In hindsight I wish we’d had an extra day for this section. We would have taken more time in El Rosario and El Triunfo, and perhaps backtracked to the original route from El Triunfo to enjoy more dirt and wild camping on the descent. We got into La Ventana close to dark after a fairly long day of riding.
Days 7-8: Kiteboarding and wingfoiling in La Ventana (see Off-Bike Activities for details)
Day 9: 32 miles
Leaving La Ventana we decided to cut out some road riding by taking the Cardon Connector singletrack trail. Beautiful! It links up with a dirt road to Los Planes, a bit less scenic and hard to follow in places, but still better than the highway. You can find these tracks in the Trailforks app.
Once back on the main road we soon found ourselves on dirt and climbing over some small mountains. This road was steep and rocky, mostly hike-a-bike for us, but we were kept entertained by a group of rock crawler 4x4s coming down from the other side. One stopped and generously gifted us cold beer and coconut water, which was amazing in the hot sun!
The next coastal stretch, south of Ensenada de Muertos, is absolutely gorgeous. The road is rough and undulating, and the views of desert meeting isolated beach are outstanding. This would be a nice place to camp (bring water) if we hadn’t just started our day.
Instead we continued through the next section, less scenic and further from the water, to El Cardonal where we stocked up on food and water. Just past town we snuck off the road toward the beach and found a perfect campsite amidst the cacti.
Day 10: 39 miles
Before Los Barriles we enjoyed another nice section of pretty beach riding with clear blue water. The actual town of Los Barriles was swarming with Americans in UTVs, presumably seasonal residents, and the grocery shop was well stocked. We stocked up, chugged some Electrolit, and headed out toward La Ribera.
In La Ribera we found a small grocery shop one block up from the main road. It was an odd area lined with expensive condos that seemed mostly empty. We kept on pedaling until the Punta Colorada hotel, where we turned right and returned to the main road to avoid more sand.
South of Punta Arena, right where the route draws closer to the water, we camped on the beach. We had several campervans and RVs as neighbors but plenty of space to ourselves. It was a lovely spot and we enjoyed it.
Day 11: 6 miles to Cabo Pulmo
After a leisurely morning at our beach campsite we pedaled 6 short miles to Cabo Pulmo. We were supposed to go snorkeling in the afternoon but our time was changed to the following morning, so instead we enjoyed a rest day. Cabo Pulmo is a small, relaxed town with a big focus on snorkeling and diving at the protected marine park.
Day 12: snorkel boat in morning, then 13 miles
Snorkeling was great! We saw lots of fish, jellies, turtles, sea lions, and even some whales from a distance. It was also kind of intense in the choppy water, and I got really cold despite my wetsuit. By the time we were put back together and ready to ride it was already early afternoon.
The ride from Los Frailes into the mountains was slow and very hot. The sand was just deep enough, and the grade just steep enough, that we had to push for miles. When the road finally turned out of the wash our progress was much faster despite the continued climbing. We camped after only 13 miles on a flat patch of ground hidden from the road, where we enjoyed a gorgeous, clear, still, starry night.
Note: Between Cabo Pulmo and Palo Escopeta (just 10 miles before Los Cabos) we found no water and the weather was hot. We each carried around five liters and ran through it all, and we didn’t even use any for cooking. Six liters would have been better.
Day 13: 31 miles to Cactus Inn, Los Cabos
Our last day! We had hoped to get further the day before, but the morning’s snorkel excursion and sandy riding took longer than expected. We woke early and tried to finish the remaining climb before the heat got too oppressive, but were only partly successful. E ran out of water on this stretch and I came close, so we were happy to find a small convenience store in Palo Escopeta (look to the left after the sports field).
The remaining ten miles into San Jose del Cabo were straightforward, and then it was time to make our way through busier streets back to the Cactus Inn. We picked up tacos and groceries on the way, and some tape for E’s bike box, so we could spend the rest of the afternoon packing up. The following morning we had a very easy ride to the airport courtesy of the Cactus Inn shuttle, and after a short direct flight we were home!
One funny detail is that the airport near where we live is in San Jose, California. And in Baja we flew into and out of the airport at San Jose del Cabo, Baja California Sur. So we sort of flew from San Jose, California to San Jose, California. 🙂 I guess it was meant to be!
As you can tell, this trip was a big success for us. Since returning home we’ve had nothing but rain, and I’m so thankful for our two mid-winter weeks of playing in Baja’s sun, surf, and sand. I think we’ll be back someday!
digital help with planning, riding, and problem solving
Bike resources in your inbox?
There’s more where this came from! Sign up here for occasional emails full of inspiration and information about bikepacking and bicycle touring.
Share the Adventure
If you found this article helpful, please consider sharing so more people can benefit from it: