Updated: 1 day ago
So, you're thinking about hooking up your boat and heading South of the border? Well, get ready for a trip of a lifetime!
If you are like me and love the idea of a vacation with beautiful weather, fantastic food and drink, no crowds and the concept of traveling back in time and enjoying life as it was 50 years ago, then Baja California may be the place for you. Life is simple in Baja...simply unpredictable and beautiful at the same time. Having a boat in Baja opens another door to the most amazing water sports found in the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. The big question everyone asks? Is it safe and how do I do it?
Baja California is very safe and enjoyed every day by thousands of tourists traveling up and down the peninsula. People travel to Baja for many reasons; fishing, hiking, kayaking, snorkeling, golfing, mountain biking, sailing, kite boarding, shopping....and let's not forget...the best street tacos, authentic margaritas and ice-cold beer on the planet! The weather in Baja is fantastic too! Year round, Baja offers cool sunny days on the Pacific side of Baja California Norte and warm sunny days on the Sea of Cortez and throughout Baja California Sur (BCS).
Here are a few things you should know to make your trip successful and enjoyed by all, especially if you are towing a boat.
Baja will surprise you and it's not a matter of "if" it's a matter of "when". For this reason, driving Baja is an adventure in itself and may be why so many people enjoy it. If you take away the growth of the four big cities; Tijuana, Ensenada, La Paz and San Jose del Cabo, it has not changed much in the past 30 years. There are some new highways but still only one two-lane road on the peninsula that runs from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas called "Mexico 1" or the Transpeninsular Highway. Pretty much the same since it was finished in the early 1970's. Much of this highway is outside any city limits and lays on some of the most beautiful yet remote desert known to man. The highway meanders its way down Baja like old route 66, crossing the peninsula from the Pacific to the Sea of Cortez multiple times. Lanes are narrow (about 10' vs 12' in the USA) and shoulders to pull off the road in case of an emergency are scarce. Portions of this highway are always under construction so be careful of potholes and crews working on them as you round corners or drive over hilltops. Most of the roads do not have fencing so wildlife is common, especially at night. The most dangerous part of driving Baja is not the banditos or drunk drivers but the cattle and livestock roaming on the highway.
For this reason, try to avoid driving at night unless you have an emergency. If you do drive at night, drive slowly and a good set of LED off-road lights will help you a lot. You will notice even the big-rig trucks in Baja are equipped with large steel cattle guard bumpers and off-road lights and passing them can be intimidating "a white-knucklers they say" but do not let these things prevent you from making this trip.
Remember to bring a good spare tire for both your truck and trailer as well as plenty of drinking water and maybe some extra fuel. There are many gas stations along the way but there are a couple stretches about 250 miles long where fuel is hard to find. Because a flat tire could leave you stranded on the highway, I always bring a floor jack and blocks of wood to make a tire change as quick as possible. A portable air compressor, first aid kit, sleeping bag and pillow can come in handy too. Hopefully, you will not need any of these items but it will make your life more comfortable knowing you have them onboard.
Crossing the Border.
The best border crossing when towing a boat (for the first time) to Baja California is the Otay Mesa or the Calexico East station. These two locations have a Banjercito office just over the border to process your paperwork and provide you a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for your boat and trailer. This permit is good for 10 years of unlimited entries into Mexico with your boat. Remember, only one TIP will be issued per person so if you have another boat in Mexico or plan to bring another boat into Mexico, you will not be able to get a second permit.
Otay Mesa Border. Banjercito office is around the block from the border crossing.
Calexico East Border. There are two border crossing in Calexico. The main border is the easiest but you can't process your Temporary Import Permit documents there. Your initial visit should be at the East border crossing. Banjercito office is just to the right once you cross the border. The Mexican officials will direct you there if you are towing a boat or trailer.
Documents you will need to bring your boat into Mexico.
You will need to bring the following documents to the Banjercito office to obtain your Temporary Import Permit.
Passport or Passport Card
FMM, temporary resident or permanent resident visa
Boat registration or title
Motor serial number
If there is a lienholder on the boat, you will need to have a letter from the lienholder granting permission to take the vessel to Mexico
Boats registered under a family trust will not be accepted even if your name is on the trust. All vessels must be owned by a person or company only. If the vessel is registered under a company, you will need to present a letter of authorization on company letterhead granting permission to take the boat to Mexico. The fee for a TIP varies slightly from day to day but is around 1100 pesos (about $55.00 USD) and can be paid in pesos, dollars or by Visa or Mastercard. TIPs can only be extended one time, therefore the maximum amount of time that a boat can have a valid import permit for Mexico is 20 years
The best route.
Unless you plan to boat in Ensenada or San Quintin, the preferred route is through Mexicali on Mexico Highway 5. The section south of San Felipe from Gonzaga Bay to the Mexico 1 intersection was recently completed in 2020 and the road is in great condition. This route is about 35 miles longer than Highway 1 through Ensenada and San Quintin but will save you a lot of time and traffic.
Either route you take, there are many nice hotels along the way that can accommodate a boat and trailer. Here is a list of the hotels I often stay at while traveling down Baja.
Marina Coral, Ensenada
Hotel Jardines, San Quintin
Mision Santa Maria, San Quintin
Alfonsinas, Gonzaga Bay
Mision Santa Maria, Catavina
Hotel TerraSal, Guerrero Negro
Hotel Cowboy, Guerrero Negro
Hotel Desert Inn, San Ignacio
Hotel Serenidad, Mulege-
Desert Inn, Loreto
Enjoy your trip! It's like no other and one you will remember forever. A great opportunity to spend time with friends and family without the distractions of modern day life. I'm pretty sure you will have a sense of accomplishment upon your return.
If you have any questions about traveling in Baja or would like to contact me about Cortez Boats (the worlds nicest pangas!), please feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888-978-4939. Enjoy your adventure!
Cortez Boats / Pang-Life.com
For more information on a Temporary Import Permits (TIP's)
Here is a good read on the history of Baja's Transpeninsular Highway History of the Baja California Highway (ucr.edu)
More information on towing in Baja California Trailering Your Boat to Baja (mexfish.com)
#bajacalifornia #towinginbaja #bestboatforbaja #fishingbaja #bajacalifornia #temporaryimportpermit #banjercito #transpeninsularhighway #sanignacio #lapaz #cabosanlucas #loreto #bayoflosangeles #gonzagabay #baja1000 #oldmill #bajaroadtrip #crossingthemexicanborder #bajavacation #mexicanautoinsurance #baja #bajacaliforniasur #fuelinbaja #isbajasafe #ismexicosafe