This peaceful bay south of Loreto is home to calm, turquoise waters, tranquil beaches, and lots of pelicans!
Camping at Agua Verde, a beautiful slice of shoreline nestled in an aquamarine bay about 30 miles south of Loreto, has been high on our list of must-see spots for some time now. We had heard stories of Agua Verde’s crystal clear waters and jaw-dropping views, so when friends recently suggested a camping trip, we were excited to go along and check it out for ourselves.
Situated on the Sea of Cortez side of the Baja peninsula, Agua Verde is about a 5 hour drive northeast of our home in La Paz. We planned to leave early on a Sunday morning and stay for 2-3 nights to kayak, snorkel and camp under the stars. A remote area with no cell phone service, we knew Agua Verde would be a perfect spot to go off grid and get away from…well, heck, we live in Baja, so there’s not much we really need to get away from! The truth is that we simply wanted to experience this magical place.
Our first challenge was to find a set of dates that worked for all six of us. One of our party managed, through several back and forth email exchanges, to herd the rest of us cats, and we finally agreed on dates in early May. On a Sunday morning we set off from El Centenario, just outside of La Paz, at 8:00 a.m. to ensure we’d have plenty of time to arrive at the camp site and set up our tents before sunset. The first part of the drive was easy, north up the Transpeninsular Highway 1 from La Paz, through Constitución to the smaller town of Insurgentes, where we took the right turn toward Loreto. Well, most of us took the right turn. One of us (ok, it was me) wasn’t paying attention, missed the turn and we had to backtrack!
Once we were back on course, we followed the highway for another 40 km and then turned off onto a steep and winding dirt road, proceeding cautiously around some hairpin, and hair-raising, turns through the mountains that line the coast. We were glad to be in four-wheel drive vehicles, for although it is a dirt road the whole way and very passable (outside of storm season), it narrowed to a single lane in many spots, making it a slow, bumpy and somewhat tricky drive.
As we proceeded down turn after turn, we were soon rewarded with some of the reasons why this spot is so acclaimed by Baja travelers. Stunning views unfolded before us: a dreamy, brilliant blue ocean studded here and there with rocky islands and mountain outcroppings that tumbled below us down into the sea. We could see the narrow ribbon of road dropping away down to the valley floor below us, then winding its way back up around the huge fingers of rock. Each turn thereafter revealed view after amazing view, and I hung out the passenger side window, braving the steep dropoff to snap pictures while trying hard not to look straight down. A large bird swooped along the cliffs ahead and just below us, as if showing us the way.
After slowly making our way down one mountain and up the next, we finally arrived down at Agua Verde, where we passed through a tiny village, home to a few local families and a small tienda (store) where you can buy necessities – not including ice, so be sure to bring your own. Just a bit further on, we arrived at the beach, where we were pleased to find a seaside restaurant serving up cold beers and all manner of seafood dishes. Maria, the proprietor, welcomed us graciously to her establishment and, hungry and thirsty from our dusty drive, we devoured delicious fresh fish tacos washed down with Modelo beer.
Near the entrance to the beach and next door to the restaurant stood two large shade palapas, each hung with a sign indicating they were available for rent through the restaurant. We immediately reserved one for just $200 pesos a night (about $10 US), to use as an easy (and much better!) alternative to the popup shade tents we’d brought with us.
The beach was quiet and secluded, and mostly empty, with plenty of space to pitch our camp. When we arrived, there was only one other truck camper in sight, a couple from Washington, DC, who had been traveling throughout Mexico and, like so many of us, had fallen in love with Baja. Just offshore, however, it was a different story – we soon realized a pelican party was in full swing! Scores of pelicans and other seabirds flew, diving and floating back and forth in the shallows, where the water boiled with thousands of bait fish swimming in just a few inches of water literally steps from the sand. As the sun began its descent, the pelicans were busy getting their fill.
We set up our tents next to the palapa we’d rented, and set about unpacking our stuff. Our friends are experienced campers and we had all brought plenty of gear, including a few folding tables, two small propane stoves, a grate for grilling over the campfire, camp chairs and several coolers well stocked with food and drinks. Had we known the restaurant was just next door, we’d have probably brought less food, but at least no one was going to go hungry on this trip!
The sun was going down, the light was turning soft, and the calm water lapped at the shore, beckoning. I decided to go for a swim, and found the water to be delightfully clear and warmed by the day’s sunshine. After a dip in the ocean, we decided to head out on the kayaks to explore more of the bay. We paddled out, heading left to the outcropping of rocks there to see if it might be good for tomorrow’s snorkeling. As with most kayaking, it took us longer to get over to the side of the bay than we’d thought, and after a brief tour of the rocks, we headed back toward our camp.
When we arrived back on the beach, two young, local boys cavorting in the water with their family came running over and asked if they could use the kayaks. We happily agreed and they immediately jumped in and took off paddling around the bay.
Each couple had signed up for a night to cook dinner, and our friends kicked off the trip with gorgeous steaks and potatoes O’Brien (cooked with peppers and onions, tossed in olive oil and wrapped in foil) grilled over the campfire. Served with a fine bottle of red wine from Baja’s own Guadalupe Valley, we declared ourselves full and happy.
Several local dogs, looking well fed, healthy and happy, gamboled about our camp, running into the water and chasing each other. They were perfectly well-mannered while we ate, waiting patiently behind our chairs “just in case” we felt like sharing! Of all the Baja dogs we’ve seen, fostered and rescued, these were clearly some of the happiest, and living a good dog’s life at the beach.
The sun went down and the stars came out. The other lone camper on the beach was quietly fishing, first from shore, and later from a paddleboard, a skill we definitely admired.
After more wine, a bit of tequila and good conversation, we wandered off to our tents to sleep. I looked up through the mesh ceiling of our tent to see the Big Dipper perfectly aligned overhead. A good sign, I thought, as I drifted happily off to sleep. The next morning, one of our party who got up in the middle of the night to heed nature’s call said he’d even spotted the Milky Way shining as brilliantly as he’d ever seen it over the desert mountains that stand watch over the sea.
The next day dawned bright and early, and as we arose from our tents we found local fisherman quietly coming and going in their pangas from the shore. They hardly made a sound, out of respect for us campers, we were told, and we enjoyed watching them set off to do their day’s work.
After much-needed French-press coffee and a light breakfast, we decided to paddle our kayaks over to the right side of the bay, where a few sailboats were anchored, and a large rock island promised some good snorkeling. Just a few minutes later we were exploring the shoreline and looking down into the crystal clear, turquoise water after which this bay is named. We couldn’t wait to get in, so pulled our kayaks up to one of the many small landing spots, and donned our snorkel masks and fins.
Under the surface, schools of angel fish darted along the rocky outcroppings near the edge of the bay and around the rock island. Several starfish of different colors including red, yellow, orange and purple clung to the sea floor, alongside spiny sea urchins. Lacy corals waved their fronds at us, and a few stingrays even swam by as we floated. The water this morning had yet to be warmed by the sun, and we were all a little chilly, so after an hour of snorkeling around the island and exclaiming over our finds, we headed back to our camp to warm up in the sun.
Our exploits had tired us out and we all decided a nap was in order, so we dozed the afternoon away in the shade of the trees and our palapa. Dinner that night was again cooked over the campfire, and a few more Baja travelers arrived at the beach. We welcomed them into our camp for food and conversation, and exchanged stories of adventuring in Baja well into the evening.
Finally, tired and bellies full, we crawled into our tents for another night of sleeping under the stars. The next morning, with other obligations calling, two of us had to leave, while the others in our party stayed on an extra night. Reluctantly, we drove back, passing by a few roaming horses making their way back to a nearby ranch on our way out.
Looking down at the spectacular views as we climbed back up through the mountains, we reluctantly left this jewel of a spot behind, vowing to return again. When? With so many amazing places in Baja to visit and explore, who knows? In the meantime, it’s time to start planning our next Baja adventure.
If you go:
- Where: From La Paz, take Highway 1 north to Ciudad Insurgentes, then take the right turn towards Loreto. Drive is about five hours from La Paz.
- When: We went in early May and the weather was perfect, warm days and cool nights.
- Tips: 4-wheel drive vehicle recommended. The dirt road into Agua Verde can be tricky, and you might get stuck in sand on the beach without one.
- Facilities: None to speak of and no cell service in range. A few (2 or 3) shade palapas area available for rent for $200 pesos/night. Bring your own camping gear and firewood. There is a small restaurant on the beach and a small store in the village, but plan on bringing your own food, ice, water, etc. Clean up after yourself and pack out your own garbage, etc.
- Activities: The bay is calm enough for kayaking, paddleboarding, snorkeling, swimming or just floating around. No vendors available to rent equipment, so bring your own.