The Magical Beach at Playa Santispac, Baja Mexico

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playa santispac snorkeling baja mexico

Anyone who's pulled off a long term camping road trip with the family understands that it's not always high on stoke and low on tantrums. Thankfully, the most thrilling parts of a trip actually come decidedly as the answer to a problem.

Believing we had more choices and time than possible, last summer in Baja we tinkered around far too long one day before looking for a beach to camp on. That's kind of typical in the Stephens Family, which is probably why our friends get headaches when we invite them on a trip with us. A few days before, a pair of surfers grabbed us by the shoulders and peered square into our eyes and declared "You like fish tacos, bra? Let me tell you where the best fish tacos in Baja are . . ." So we had to give their recommendation a whirl. That set us back a bit.

We were also traveling with my brother and his daughter, who were driving in a midnight blue Toyota Tacoma. That means making decisions by committee gets increasingly more painful. And there's not a single pair of bladders among us five that are synched up. Oh, and someone wanted to stop to hit a laundromat. Another claimed we were out of beer. Another wanted to make guacamole before dinner and needed an onion. Oh and by the way my kid's needed to go pee for the last 45 minutes. And I need gas, do you?

Stop. Stop. Stop. We'll meet you down at the corner in 15 minutes.

We weren't even close to finding our place to hang out for the next few days, and all we knew is that we wanted a killer beach, a couple of kayaks, some open space, and that's it. And the sun was almost set, which was a bad thing. In our minds.

At the gas station, I asked about the nearest beaches for camping. 20 minutes south, the attendant told me, "Playas bonitas," he said and kissed his fingers in the air and dropped a hand over his heart. This was seriously good news. We'd already been blocked by private developments north of Mulejé, and now, now, a gas station dude was pining for lost love 20 minutes south of town.

The following day, we woke up late to the waves lapping a few feet away and we had no plan other than to dig in the sand, swim in the water, and read a book. But it didn't take long for the locals to spot us. A thick, muscular Mexican man stopped by and I rallied up my energy to tell him no to whatever he was peddling. I listened to him for a moment. And that was my mistake. He hit some home runs right away.

He had a boat. He had snorkeling gear. He knew where to find fresh clams on an island out in Bahía Concepcíon. He'd show us a sunken boat that was turning into a reef. He was kind and cool. So I agreed and didn't even tell my family until after he left. "Hey guys, we're going on a boat ride this afternoon.  This dude, Chicho, will come back later and take us on a ride. I have a feeling it's going to be awesome."

If I must say it, Chicho's boat ride at Playa Santispac was a highlight of my 2010 summer. Here are the photographs:


Lindsey Wilson
+3 / 0
# Lindsey Wilson 2011-07-29 12:09
It's painful how much I miss that place! And you just had to mention the fish tacos... drooling.
+2 / 0
# Mark 2011-07-29 13:08
So cool that you've been there before. Sorry about the drool...
+4 / 0
# Jed 2011-07-29 13:41
Reading this has made my evening sat at home in London feel really dull....

Great picture 8)

0 / 0
# Mark 2011-08-02 11:17
I just have to say how neat it is to know there are dudes in the UK reading this website. Thanks for checking it out, Jed.
+4 / 0
# Brianna 2013-02-09 09:19
Loved this post and the way you were able to capture what it feels like to stay at (and get to) Santispak. We stopped over for only a night last week, and I stumbled upon your site as I was preparing to write about the incredible time we spent there on our own blog. We do not yet have children, but whether intended or not, your content also supports those of us who wonder if it will ever be possible. :)
Mark Stephens
0 / 0
# Mark Stephens 2013-06-03 11:17
Thanks, Brianna. Glad you stopped by. Yes, even my wife and I had the same thoughts before we had kids. We're not necessarily aiming to imply or say, "You can travel with children!" as much we're just telling the stories. The travels and adventures definitely have their ups and downs. We focus on the ups. :-)
Weta Berger
+1 / 0
# Weta Berger 2013-06-02 20:57
We have stayed months at Santispac, so it was fun reading your comments and pictures. You used to be able to get buckets of steamer clams, chocolates and the bay scallops within a few feet from shore. That was in the early 1990s. It was sad to return there and to find that the sea life was wiped out.. It is still a beautiful place and close to Mulege to get water and supplies.
Mark Stephens
0 / 0
# Mark Stephens 2013-06-03 11:07
My first trip down Baja was in 1995, so maybe we shared a road at one point. It is true, too, that the Sea of Cortez is terribly burdened with declining marine life. Overfishing, bycatch victims, and pollution. It's heartbreaking.
Weta Berger
0 / 0
# Weta Berger 2013-06-03 13:16
Does anyone know why Malarimmos RV Park and Restaurant changed ownership? We always would spend a night or tow there when we were heading south to Santispac. THE owner. Enrique Achoy, would come to our RV when we would leave to tell us "goodbye" One time he gave us two bottles of his wine. Even if Bay Scallops would not be on the restaurant menu, he would fix us some and serve them in a large "lions paw" shell

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