We recently spent almost three weeks dry camping on Santispac Beach, Bahia Concepcion, Baja California Sur, Mexico. It was quite an experience! In this post I explain what to expect on Santispac Beach, including how to get groceries, how to deal with power, how to do laundry, how to get water, how to get propane, how to get your rig and vehicle washed, and what kind of activities you can do on Santispac Beach and the surrounding areas, including restaurant recommendations.
We were on Santispac Beach, camped in our 30-foot Denali fifth wheel, in January and February, that is, winter. While it was a whole lot warmer than our home town up north, it certainly was not as hot as we expected. Everyone agreed that it was unusually cold. The temperature was not hot enough to heat the water of the natural bay to a swimmable temperature, so that was a disappointment. However, when we did finally have a few very hot days, we decided we were glad it had not been that hot all the time. Because obviously, we cannot run our air conditioner while dry camping. Well, not unless we run our generator continuously, which we do not want to do.
Apart from that, some things exceeded expectations, and others did not. The map below shows where Santispac Beach is. You can switch this map from Map view to Satellite view, and also zoom in and out.
Getting to Santispac Beach, Bahia Concepcion, Baja California Sur, Mexico
We arrived at Santispac Beach in a caravan led by Baja Winters Travel Club. I have written about that adventurous odyssey in a series of posts, starting here. It was 630 miles from Tecate to Santispac Beach, and only about 100 miles of that was excellent roads. There were endless mountain passes, narrow roads, and countless potholes. You can see more of that in my videos about the trip, starting here.
Our route to Santispac was down Highway 3 (for a short distance) from the Tecate border, and then a long distance on Highway 1. Along the way we stopped at the Rancho Sordo Mudo RV Park in the Guadalupe Valley, the El Pabellon RV Park, and the Rice and Beans RV Park in San Ignacio. You can read more about those four RV parks in my posts about the trip. We eventually reached the Sea of Cortez and then headed south on a mountainous road along the coast, passing through Santa Rosalia along the way (where unfortunately the highway was torn up for repairs).
When we reached Santispac Beach, 12 miles south of Mulege, we found that the access road to the beach is horribly bumpy, but at least it is very short.
The office at the entrance to Santispac Beach is boarded up. You simply drive onto the beach and choose your spot. You pay for your camping at Armando’s Restaurant; if you don’t, someone from the restaurant will come to your rig and request payment. The daily fee is 200 pesos, which is a great deal. Sure, there are no services. However, you are parked in a truly beautiful spot.
The sign says that you are paying for your spot, for the cleaning of toilets, for security, and for palapas. Well, there are only a few palapas, so most people don’t get one. There was some palapa construction going on while we were there. Security is non-existent, but the large number of friendly fellow campers keeps you and your possessions safe. The public toilet most certainly is not kept clean, and is in fact so disgusting as to be unusable. (I used it once and very nearly threw up, twice.) However, there is a clean toilet at Armando’s Restaurant on the beach.
It was fun to arrive at Santispac Beach in a big party of new friends (we had been traveling together over 630 miles of mainly bad roads for five days to reach this destination). We parked our nine rigs on the beach. You park on hard-packed soil, wherever you like. There is a rope to stop you from going onto the softer beach sand.
The only rule is that you must park at a 90-degree angle to the beach, so that you don’t take up too much space. However, the whole time we were there, there were many empty spaces all along the beach. And of course we constantly had a clear view of the beautiful bay.
We were parked near the entrance, close to Armando’s restaurant.
Armando’s Restaurant on Santispac Beach
When you first drive onto the beach, you can turn left and head off to a more isolated spot, but we chose to stay near the entrance. This put us very near Armando’s Restaurant, which is right on the beach. This restaurant is very good as Mexican beach restaurants go. And it’s very informal too – as in, you can take your dogs right inside, off-leash. One man even danced on the small dance floor with his dog!
Armando’s Restaurant has frequent events, such as Valentine’s Day dinner and live music. The live music is pretty good, and fortunately usually stops around 9:00 p.m. On other nights, they have a DJ. Most nights, it is quiet, giving us a chance to peacefully enjoy the beautiful starry sky.
On that first night we had dinner with our group, and discovered that the food was good, and that the margaritas pack a punch – no watered-down drinks here! Also, the tortilla chips and guacamole are delicious. The prices are very good by North American standards. Expect to pay less than $40 for dinner for two and about two drinks each. It is important to have Mexican pesos with you to pay for this – American dollars and credit cards are seldom seen or used. The staff are friendly, and the service is quite good – except that when a large crowd arrives, expect to wait a while for your food. There are very few staff at this family-run business.
There is another restaurant a little further down Santispac beach, Ana’s Restaurant. However, we heard nothing good about it, and almost no one seems to go there. Apparently, it was good once, but then it was taken over by new owners, and has since declined sharply. One of our group went to take a look at it, and was treated rudely for her curiosity, so none of us ever went there.
Daily Life on Santispac Beach: Getting Essential Supplies
On Santispac Beach there are no shops, but you are just 12 miles south of a small, charming village called Mulege. You can drive through the winding mountain passes to Mulege to shop, or you can take your chances with vendors on the beach.
How to Get Water on Santispac Beach
Every day except Sunday, one or two pickup trucks drive along the beach, selling water. You can just flag them down, and have them put water into your fresh water tank. If you have a filter, you can hook that up as well. They are never in a hurry, so in our case, we have plenty of time to get out our Honda generator, and hook that up to power our ultra-violet water filter. We paid 180 pesos to fill up our 65-gallon water tank. The exchange rate was 18 pesos to the US dollar, so that was really cheap for water delivered right to our tank.
Many people drink the water they buy on the beach (assuming they have a filter), and report no ill effects. However, we only used it for showers, dishes, and well-boiled tea water. Other than that, we used purchased pure water for drinking and cooking. Purified water is cheap in Baja, and can be purchased at nearly every store.
Note that Baja’s water is good, coming from deep water wells. However, it gets a bit messed up by the dated infrastructure of holding tanks and pipes, which can cause contamination.
How to Get Food on Santispac Beach
One option is to drive twelve miles to shop at one of three different grocery shops in Mulege. See section below on shopping in Mulege.
You can also shop right on Santispac Beach. Most days Lula, a very well-spoken woman, drives through selling a variety of fish from her pickup truck – huge shrimp, sea bass, grouper, snapper, halibut, yellowtail, etc. Our favorite were the shrimp and the seas bass. The prices are very reasonable – from 200 to 300 pesos for an amount of fish that lasted us two to three meals.
Occasionally two young women drive along Santispac Beach, selling excellent fresh vegetables and fruit from their pickup at very good prices. Unlike the other vendors, these two do not seem to be targeting the campers – instead, they are selling to the restaurants. This is actually a disadvantage – there were so many times we wanted to buy fruit and vegetables, but we missed them because they did not approach us. It might have just been because we did not get up early enough! If you can catch them, their produce is better than any you will find in the stores.
Other Things You can Buy on Santispac Beach
Every day, very cheerful vendors attempt to sell t-shirts, blankets, and other touristy trinkets. Typically, they will walk past singing out “How many? What color? Almost free!” They take rejection very well, and do not pester you at all. We finally bought a cheerful blanket to brighten up our living room, for 600 pesos.
Most days, people arrived to sell baked goods from their trucks, such as banana bread, cinnamon rolls, baguettes, and other pastries. I was sorry that I am gluten intolerant and could not eat any of it, but Maggie found all of the baked goods she tried to be fresh and delicious.
Once, some vendors arrived with strawberries. We were very sorry that we did not buy any, as our neighbors did, and they were absolutely delicious.
With all these vendors, a door standing open is taken as a sign that you won’t mind them coming to your door to call out “Hola!” and offer their wares. However, closed doors are respected as a sign that you do not want to be disturbed.
How to Deal with Your Grey and Black Water Tanks on Santispac Beach
We found this the toughest part of daily life on Santispac Beach. We are glad to have had this experience, but we agree that we will not plan to ever spend several months on this beach. We just need life to be a little more civilized, and we need to spend less time dealing with our own sewage!
There are two outdoor toilets behind Armando’s Restaurant, and they are quite honestly the most disgusting toilets I have ever seen in my life. They have seats, but you really, really don’t ever want to see what is inside them.
During the hours that Armando’s is open, you can use their immaculately clean toilet (don’t forget that you cannot flush toilet paper in Mexico – use the bin provided for paper). However, if you are not actually using the restaurant at the time, I kind of got the sense that they did not particularly appreciate me strolling up the beach to use their toilet, when they are well aware that I have my own. It was hard to be sure, because no one in that restaurant would ever dream of being rude.
So, we mainly used our own toilet. But as of course we had no sewer hookup, that meant we had to frequently dispose of our waste products (from our toilet, and also from our showers and dishwashing). To do this, you absolutely have to have a blue boy – a portable honey tank to empty out grey and black tanks. We were immensely glad that we had bought one, right at the last minute before we left the USA, from Amazon. This is the rough and tough Rhino Blue Boy we bought.
I don’t know how we would have managed without this blue boy. It’s only 15 gallons, so we had to empty it almost every other day. We could have got a bigger blue boy, but we needed something that was not too heavy for me to handle. There is a dump site right on the beach, and I dragged it there myself often. Other times, one of our kind friends, Joe, towed it for me.
To do list: get a ball socket on our tow hitch so that we can tow our own blue boy in future!
Don’t assume you can drive your rig over to the dump station, as you would usually do in most RV parks. The access to it is extremely rough. You could do it in a camper van, but there is no way you would want to drive a fifth wheel up there. Besides, who wants to hitch and unhitch all the time?
How to Get Your Laundry Done on Santispac Beach
Of course, there is no laundromat on the beach! We were told that someone picks up laundry on Monday, and returns it on Wednesday. So on our first Monday morning, we put three bags of laundry prominently outside our RV. Sure enough, within an hour, at about 10:20, a man pulled up in a pickup, offering to get our laundry done. He asked me to write my name on a piece of paper, which he put with our laundry. On Wednesday at about the same time, he returned our laundry, all washed and folded. The price was about the same that we would have paid if we took our clothes to a laundromat in the USA and did it ourselves.
That worked well, and was a lifesaver for us. However, the following Monday we tried to get more laundry done, and no one showed up. So, don’t count on it as a certainty!
But don’t worry, there is an alternative. You can drive 12 miles north to Mulege, where there is a very good laundromat, full of gringos doing their laundry. Also in the laundromat is a notice board, containing personal adverts and communications from other tourists in the area, such as property for sale.
Power on Santispac Beach
There are absolutely no hookups of any kind on Santispac Beach, so you have to be self-sufficient. It seemed that everyone on the beach had some kind of solar power. I think most had generators as well, but thanks to the fairly strong sunshine, I very seldom heard any of these running.
We have a Go Power Extreme Complete Solar and Invertor System, and we found this to be plenty to run our lights, watch about two hours of TV per night, charge our many, many electronics, and even run our toaster occasionally. I only found out later that it is unusual to run a toaster on solar. However, our system is very good, with an industrial pure sine wave 3,000 Watt inverter. This Go Power system was not cheap, but on Santispac Beach, we were very, very happy we had it. The system runs itself. I can keep an eye on what it is doing with the control panels. For example, on sunny days I could see it was drawing about 24 Watts.
We used our small solar-powered lights for most of our lighting needs, charging them every day on the bumper of our RV. You can watch a video and read details about our solar lights in our post comparing three solar lights here.
We never used our microwave or our air conditioning while we were on Santispac Beach. There were two days when there was no sun at all. On those days, we charged up our four 6-volt RV batteries by running our Honda generator for about two hours.
Washing RVs and Vehicles on Santispac Beach
It turned out that two of the men selling water on Santispac Beach were also keen to wash RVs and vehicles. When I say keen … they had run out of water the day I asked them to wash our rig, but said they could bring more water tomorrow. I said it would have to be 7:00 a.m. because we were leaving the next day. They were there at 7:00 a.m. on the dot!
This was the first time we ever had our truck and fifth wheel washed. So of course, the next day, we drove through a massive downpour of rain (the first and only the whole time we were in Mexico), and the next day we drove through the flooded parts of the road caused by the downpour. With the result that the truck and fifth wheel ended up coated in four inches of mud. Murphy’s law!
Entertainment and Wi-Fi at Santispac Beach
As mentioned, there is frequent entertainment at Armando’s Restaurant, which is open every day from about 9:00 a.m., and stays open until everyone goes home at night. There, you can eat, hang out with friends, dance, party, or enjoy the music. We had many fun evenings there with our friends from our Baja Winters group. We probably enjoyed a few too many margaritas, but hey, it’s Mexico! Armando’s Restaurant takes every opportunity to have events. For example, they aired the Superbowl, and pretty much everyone went to watch!
My AT&T cell phone got no signal at all on Santispac. Most mornings we went to Armando’s for good, cheap coffee and to use the free Wi-Fi. Amazingly, the Wi-Fi was sometimes very good. On some days, we could even access it in our rig well enough to download podcasts. This makes it better than the Wi-Fi in most of the US parks we stayed in! So were able to get enough podcasts to entertain us. Some days we could even stream YouTube videos on our computers. However, there were also entire days when it was completely useless.
Apart from that, there is of course no TV signal in the air. I don’t know if anyone was able to get satellite TV there. My AT&T phone did not get any signal at all, and could not be used to make phone calls. However, it worked pretty well when we drove into Mulege, and started to pick up a signal about six miles from that town. That is, halfway there.
Note that we could not use Verizon in Mexico. Maggie has a prepaid Verizon account, and I have a prepaid AT&T account. When we opened these, we were led to believe we could use them in the USA, Canada, and Mexico. That’s true of AT&T. It’s also true of Verizon – but there’s a catch. To use prepaid Verizon in Mexico, you have to pay an extra $5 per day. As we were going to be in Mexico for 30 days, but probably close to cell towers only 5 of those days, it made no sense to pay that premium. In any event, from what we observed, AT&T was stronger than Verizon throughout Mexico.
We took along some movies on CDs, and also borrowed a few more from our very generous Baja Winters’ tail gunners, Jerry and Kathy, who have a house on a beach a mile away.
Activities at Santispac Beach
As mentioned, it was too cold to snorkel. One day I toughed it out, but sad to say, there is nothing to see off the beach, apart from an occasional small sting ray. The beach shows clear signs of overuse, and pretty much everything is dead. However, if you kayak to one of the many small islands in the lagoon, there is a lot more to see. We did not see anyone offering to take you out to scuba dive in a boat.
We did some kayaking, which was fun, especially if you head out to the right, towards Bird Island – a small island favored so much by birds that the rocks have been stained white! There are all kinds of birds living and nesting there, including pelicans.
Often, someone on Santispac Beach will get some kind of impromptu activity going. For example, one day our group ended up playing a very fun game of bocce ball, with a friendly Canadian couple joining in.
We were fortunate to do several boat trips, thanks to Baja Winters’ tail gunners, Jerry and Kathy, who would just show up and take us out to see the islands. This was never promised as part of the travel package we bought. Instead, it just happened because Jerry and Kathy are kind and generous people. We felt that they started off as providing a business service, and moved to becoming good friends.
On one occasion Jerry took us fishing. Apparently, one can often catch trigger fish off Bird Island. However, on that day, the fish were not biting. It might be because I took along some bananas for breakfast – apparently, Hawaiians believe bananas are bad luck for fishing. We learned this from Jerry, who spent many years in Hawaii.
If you can find someone to take you out in a large boat, there is said to be very good fishing in the Sea of Cortez.
For us, the most fun activity on Santispac Beach was simply relaxing and enjoying being on such a beautiful beach.
Dolphins at Santispac Beach
On one memorable day, Jerry took us out on his boat early because he had heard there were hundreds of dolphins in the bay. And sure enough, there were. It was an exciting expedition for all of us, being surrounded by what seemed to be at least dozens, possibly hundreds, of dolphins.
Social Life on Santispac Beach
Probably the most fun aspect of life on Santispac Beach is the social life. Everyone on the beach is friendly with everyone else. Of course, Armando’s Restaurant is a focal point for hanging out and having fun. Plus, we were especially lucky because our Tail Gunner and buddy, Jerry, has a house at Posado Conception, a retirement community one mile south of Santispac Beach. So we enjoyed a few social gatherings there, as well as a birthday party on the beach.
Also, we met fascinating people who are adventurous to a point we found very impressive. For example, George and Janet are a couple in their seventies. Janet is originally from Hermanus, South Africa, while George is originally from Hungary. Both are now Canadians, and reside in Yellow Knife, North West Territories, Canada – which is in the northern part of Canada, and very, very cold in the winter. So, George and Janet spend every winter living in a small boat off the coast of Mexico.
George and Janet used to have a sail boat, but now, as a concession to getting older, they have bought a small cabin cruiser with engines. All the same, a simple thing like getting propane involves anchoring offshore at a place like Santispac, coming ashore in a dinghy, and then finding a way to get to the town of Mulege. There, you can get propane tanks filled at a small store called Casa Yee.
When I first met the always-cheerful Janet, I leaned that she and George had hitchhiked into Mulege, which I found amazing. I told her that we could take her if they needed to go again. However, I later figured out that she probably meant they had got a ride with one of the other campers on our beach, rather than actually standing on the side of the very narrow highway and sticking out their thumbs!
That’s the way it works on Santispac Beach – everyone helps each other out. For example, just after we got there, Wagon Master John and Tail Gunner Jerry from Baja Winters Travel Club helped us out with problems we were having with our grey tanks.
Later on, fellow travelers Joe and Richard helped us with the grey tanks again. They also helped us with dumping our blue boy. In the Baja, there is no way to get professional help from mobile RV repair men, as one does in the USA. In fact, there is not a single RV repair shop in all of Baja California. So helping each other out is the only way to go, and every one does it.
Other Beaches and Attractions near Santispac Beach
Of course, there are endless beaches in the area. We did not visit many of them, as we enjoyed Santispac Beach so much. One beach we did visit a couple of times was at the little settlement called Posada Concepcion. This is a retirement community just south of Santispac Beach, where our friends Jerry and Kathy own a home right on the beach. It is one mile south of Santispac Beach. This is a beautiful beach; however, at low tide, it becomes very shallow.
A series of beaches are strung out along the edge of Bahia Concepcion. Some of them have restaurants and events such as Taco Tuesday.
Shopping in the Village of Mulege
Also near Santispac Beach (12 miles north) is the quite charming village of Mulege, where you can shop, eat at any one of at least three excellent restaurants (and get free Wi-Fi while you eat), use the laundromat, shop for food and alcohol (adequate but not excellent), and get your propane tanks filled (at Casa Yee). You can also shop for t-shirts, beach shoes, and other tourist trinkets, as well as basic clothing.
There is quite a wide selection of groceries in Mulege, although I have to say we did not have much success in buying good meat, chicken, or fish in the only store that sold those products (pictured below). It might just be a question of different tastes: for example, the chickens in Mexico are raised on corn, which seems to give chicken meat a slightly different taste.
The best grocery store in Mulege is the one shown below. It is behind the tiny fire station. At this grocery store you can buy a variety of goods, including fresh eggs (take your own carton if you have one), fresh meat and chicken, fruits and vegetables, canned goods, bottled water, and alcohol.
Getting Propane in Mulege
Don’t expect to be able to have your propane tanks filled on Santispac Beach! However, if you drive to Mulege you can find a little store called Casa Yee, where you can have propane tanks filled. This store is one block from the zocola. This will only work for removable tanks. It would be impossible to drive a big rig such as a Class A through Mulege, as the streets are way too narrow. At Casa Yee there is also a small selection of groceries and alcohol. We also found delicious fresh tortillas there. Apart from Casa Yee, I found one-pound propane canisters in a gift shop on a corner near the pharmacy, where they also had a few other camping products.
Buying Medications in Mulege
In Mulege you can buy most medications you need from a small pharmacy near the zocola. The pharmacist had limited English, but I just showed him my empty medications bottle. He sold me a month’s supply of a prescription statin, even though I did not have a prescription with me. It was not particularly cheap, but I was relieved to be able to get it without a prescription.
If you wanted better shopping you could drive to Loreto, but that is a long drive (71 miles) along a mountainous, narrow highway. We drove there once, but then decided it was not worth it. It was worth it on the day we did it, because we drove to the tiny mountain village of San Javier, which is a tourist attraction. The map shows where Mulege, Santispac Beach, and Loreto are.
Restaurants Near Santispac Beach
As mentioned, Armando’s Restaurant right on Santispac Beach is a good restaurant, as beach restaurants go. For more diversity, you will need to drive 12 miles into the town of Mulege. There you will find a coffee shop, a good bakery, an ice cream shop, and several restaurants. We tried three of the restaurants, and were pleased with all of them.
Las Casitas Restaurant, Mulege (rated #3 in Mulege on TripAdvisor)
This restaurant has an outdoor patio and an indoor space as well. Both spaces are charming. The menu is excellent, more up-scale than the average Mexican restaurant. Also, it has free Wi-Fi that is excellent. And the mango margarita was enormous and delicious!
Los Equipales Restaurant (rated #1 in Mulege on TripAdvisor)
The Los Equipales restaurant is just down the road from the laundromat in Mulege. It’s up one flight of stairs, and our group enjoyed an outstanding meal there. Maggie and I shared an awesome T-bone steak, and everyone enjoyed their meals. The service was great, and included the manager coming out to sing Happy Birthday to Jerry!
El Candil (rated #2 in Mulege on TripAdvisor)
Baja Winters Travel Club took us to El Candil restaurant on our second day at Santispac. The food was great and the margaritas were excellent! You can sit indoors, or choose the lovely outdoor courtyard, which is full of bougainvillea and birds.
Maggie and I went to El Candil a few times, as it had pretty good free Wi-Fi. Here is Maggie in our restaurant office!
San Javier, 93 Miles from Santispac Beach
If you decide to go shopping in Loreto, consider going another 23 miles to the tiny but interesting mountain village of San Javier. It’s a good road, although challenging in that you are basically driving up a mountain. The village is home to an historic church called Misión San Javier, some tourist shops, and a couple of restaurants. We ate at one of them, La Palapa, and it was very good.
How Much Does it Cost to Stay at Santispac Beach?
When we stayed, the price was 200 pesos per day, which was roughly ten US dollars. A great deal at the price. However, we managed to spend quite a lot of money during the three weeks. We spent a lot on morning coffees and evening drinks at Armando’s Restaurant, plus several meals. While it is inexpensive by American standards, it is not exactly cheap. The goods sold by vendors on the beach were cheap: for example, 200 pesos for enough shrimp to last for two meals for two people. We also spent money at restaurants in Mulege (all excellent). Plus, gas is not cheap in Mexico, and we traveled 630 miles just to get to Santispac from the US border. Also, every time we had to shop, we had to drive 24 miles to get to Mulege and back. We also used a little gas on our generators, but it was insignificant, thanks to our solar panels.
Somehow, although it should theoretically have been a cheap vacation, we did manage to spend a lot of money in one month. However, if you tried very hard to be frugal and avoided restaurants, you could do this vacation very cheaply.
Bottom Line on Dry Camping on Santispac Beach
Dry camping on Santispac Beach was kind of awesome for us. It is a memory we will never forget. It is a beautiful place, and the experience of living so close to the Sea of Cortez was very special.
At the same time, we are not that young anymore, and we kind of like our creature comforts. So, dealing with our own sewage, getting water and groceries, and managing our power needs for an extended period was quite challenging for us. We don’t plan to ever do this again; however, many people do it very year, for months on end. It comes down to how you prioritize comforts vs. adventure. If you lean more towards adventure, you cannot really go wrong with dry camping on Santispac Beach! If you prefer hookups and relaxing, you might be better off in Palm Springs! We are going to compromise next winter by trying San Felipe, Baja California.
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