Senior Editor
San Juanico sign

If you see this sign, you know you’re in for a good time. Photo: Haro

The Inertia

I’ve been going to Baja for quite a few years now. The southern end — the East Cape and the area around Todos Santos in particular — is very close to my heart. We found our dog there. I proposed to my now-fiancée there, amid a swarm of biting bugs and the smoke from a garbage fire blowing at us in an offshore breeze. Some of the best times of my life have happened in Mexico, and there’s plenty left to explore, but one place that’s been at the top of my list for as long as I can remember is San Juanico. That, of course, is the town where Scorpion Bay is, and Scorpion Bay is one of the most famous waves on Earth. I can check it off my list now, since I just returned. And although I happened (of course) to spend my time there amid a lull in swells, I was completely and totally smitten with it. Just as I knew I would be.

San Juanico is a staggeringly beautiful place. Dry and dusty with a hard sun that tries to whitewash anything and everything it touches, the cerulean blue ocean hugs the edge of the town. Lines, even on small days, show just how perfect the set up is.

Chollas were flowering after the recent storms, dotting the landscape with bits of purple. It was far greener than usual for August, due to the recent rains, and the four-hour drive from Loreto through the middle of Baja was stunning. We stopped for lunch before we left — margaritas and tortilla soup, as one should always order when they’re on the menu — and looked at a map. While there is a road that heads north and ends up in San Juanico, it wasn’t passable. Before we left, I asked a friend who spends a lot of time there which road we should take. “There’s no debate,” he told me. “Just follow the signs to Ciudad Insurgentes and turn right.”

With that in mind (and a driver who agreed), we decided to take the southern route to Ciudad Insurgentes, then hang that right and point ourselves towards Scorpion Bay. It’s not an easy place to get to, though, which is part of its charm. About three quarters of the way to the southern tip of Baja, sitting on a bay on the west coast, it requires a lot of driving and at least a cursory knowledge of the roads in the area.

There’s almost nothing in between Loreto and San Juanico, save for Cuidad Insurgentes, so despite the fact that we were in a van with A/C working valiantly to cool us down, it felt like we’d stepped back in time. The La Giganta mountain range rushed by to the west, looking large and green from the recent rains. There were seven different colors in the mountains, depending on the distance, all varying hues of a greenish brown, rippling ever so slightly through the white-hot air. Juncalito, a postcard-perfect beach, sat to the east, tranquil with its azure waters dotted with rocky outcroppings poking out from a tiny bay in the Gulf of California.

Every now and then, trucks barged their way past us, forcing us over to the shoulder as they sped by. August is always a hot month in Mexico, but a storm spinning off the coast drove the humidity way up. The air was wet and hot blowing through the windows when we opened them. Cicadas screamed at each other in the boiling humidity, warning of the day’s coming heat.

Driving us was an exceedingly nice man name Victor. He was a deep well of knowledge, spouting facts about every kind of bird we spotted. He told us the history of the mountain ranges we sped by, the various uses for the various kinds of trees in the valleys that fell from the thin thread of pavement. He told us about the flowers and the insects in the air, the reason that the air was so incredibly hot, and just about everything else in a seemingly unending stream of interesting minutia.

For the most part, the road to San Juanico is fine. Better than many roads around Baja. A little narrow, a few washouts here and there, but nothing too bad. When you hit the sign for San Juanico, a quick left puts you on the last stretch. The bridge there is out — and as far as I can tell, judging from the flora growing happily from its rubble, has been out for years — but the tiny path over the river the bridge used to cross only requires a light gas pedal and a bit of rock dodging. And then, like the sun coming up over the horizon, we saw the ocean, flashing in the light like a beacon. After four hours of driving and years spent dreaming of Scorpion Bay, my excitement was impossible to contain. Sure, the surf forecast was pretty miserable, but we’d made it.

San Juanico bridge

Don’t hit this bridge at night, because it’s not a bridge. Photo: Haro

The wave there, as you likely know, is about as perfect as perfect can get. A variety of different points spread out along the edge of the dusty town that offer everything from barrels on big swells to easy little rollers for the novice on smaller days. As I mentioned, the forecast was pretty dismal for our short journey, but with the help of a borrowed 6’8″ and the knowledge of a local ripper named Diego Yatnael Romero Suarez and a man with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen named Noe Amado Trasviña Higuera — who Diego called the Big Kahuna of Scorpion Bay — we made out just fine with what was on offer. The water was exceedingly warm, hovering around 80 degrees, and the only other surfers were four people on soft tops who were exceedingly friendly.

On big days, all the points can potentially connect given the right swell, offering ridiculously long rides. Even if they don’t, though, each individual wave can be longer than many other waves in the world. The outside points barrel, the inside points have race-track fast sections, and, for those who might not feel comfortable on bigger days, first and second points are mellow, long, and perfect for the learner. Even with a whisper of a south in the water, the waves at third and fourth point were working, so we spent our time bouncing back and forth. Third point generally works better on a hard south swell, but fourth point and beyond can handle a bit of west mixed in. The shape was reminiscent of Malibu on a really good day. Although it was just waist high, the juice in the wave was apparent. It’s a wave I absolutely need to surf when it’s bigger, and I will.

I knew that San Juanico was a very small town — tiny Mexican towns are some of my favorite places in the world — but I didn’t know much else about it except for the fact that it was home to a bunch of waves I’ve dreamed of surfing my entire life. I am very used to what I call “dirt trips,” where you basically live in the dirt, shit in a hole, and don’t shower for a month. And while I love that kind of trip, when we pulled up to where we were living, I was floored. Sitting off the dusty road with sprawling views of the vast expanse of cactuses and various desert plants, Casa de las Lucas is built with alternative architecture after the forms and textures of Baja.

It’s a beautiful place with a variety of private and comfortable compounds. Ours had a full living room and kitchen separated from the sleeping quarters, that had a king-size bed, two double bunks, and another king-size bed up a spiral staircase. It’s bougie for a tiny Mexican town, but still feels as though you’ve got your feet in the dust, as opposed to staying at a five-star resort that could be anywhere. From the upstairs room, the sunrises painted the cool concrete in vibrant oranges. The sunsets did the same, but from the other side. Fans blew the hot air around, since A/C isn’t an option in a town that runs on solar and generators, but I’ll take a fan over icy air any day. There’s something just perfect about lying in a bed with sun-dried sheets as a fan moves air over a new sunburn.

I brought my fiancée with me, and I was slightly worried that she might be hard-pressed for things to do, as she’s not someone who surfs too frequently. But even though the waves were flat, the town itself is bathed in a slow-moving, languid kind of calm. Everyone waves at everyone. Dogs lie panting in the heat, wagging their tails as you wander by. The fisherman’s beach, which, I think, is called Pongo Beach, is sheltered from the brunt of most of the ocean’s power. Sand-bottomed and stretching as far as the eye can see, it’s backed by empty hills. In the afternoons, we swam in the calm waters while drinking Tecates, chatting in my broken Spanish with a handful of fishermen who tidied their nets.

There’s also a wonderfully friendly woman there who runs a yoga class when someone wants to stretch their aching bodies. Sara-Mai Conway is a yoga and meditation instructor, who, interestingly, is a student of Tibetan Buddhism and Yogic philosophy. In the brief time I spoke with her, Sara exuded a warm, calming energy that is incredibly rare. She was going to run a class for us on the roof of a charming little restaurant called El Burro en Primavera, but I, being the worst planner on the planet, wasn’t able to make it.

If you’re anything like me (which, for your sake, I hope you’re not), you like a few things more than others. Margaritas, micheladas, dogs, and good waves. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t like those things, and El Burro en Primavera has three of the four. One dog in particular stole my heart: a giant, fat bulldog named Achilles and nicknamed Gordo.

San Juanico dog

Achilles, aka Gordo. He’s a good boy. Photo: Haro

Our time in San Juanico was, for the most part, spent exploring. We surfed in the morning, hoping the swell might bump up. But you know what? Despite going to a place with a perfect wave that I’ve dreamed about for years and going right in the middle of a flat-ish spell, I am now entirely in love with the town. The waves at Scorpion Bay are just the icing on one of the most incredible cakes that Mexico has to offer. I often think that surf trips aren’t made by the waves — although good waves certainly help — they’re made by the company you keep and the place where those waves might be. And San Juanico, my friends, has good company, good vibes, and some of the most perfect waves imaginable.

A big part of the town’s charm, I think, stems from the fact that it’s difficult to get to and, since there’s no electrical grid there just yet. It keeps it quiet. It keeps it serene. It’s a town far off the beaten track where surfing is life. For the traveling surfer, it’s a must-see place. It’s worth the trek, I promise. But it might not be the way it is for long, because if the rumors are true, it’ll be hooked up to electricity in the next few years. That’s good for the people who live there, who are far more important than any traveling surfer who might be upset that things will change when that happens, but as with anything changed by the ever-marching parade of progress, it will be a shame to see it grow. I’m glad I had the chance to see it now, and I plan on seeing it many more times in the future. And you should too, because it is an absolute paradise.


Only the best. We promise.


Join our community of contributors.