Off-Roading in Mexico: Mexico’s Top 6 Tried-and-True Off-Roading Trail Areas & Towns
Looking for an epic adventure off the beaten path?
Mexico off-roading won’t disappoint.
Are you an off-road pro?
Mexico confidently replies, “Challenge accepted.”
Are you an aspiring off-road adventurer?
Mexico beckons, “Bienvenidos, amigo! Rent a vehicle; let me show you my beautiful, but gentler, off-roading terrain.”
The bottom line: Mexico has the perfect off-road trek for all experience levels.
The landscape alone easily qualifies Mexico as an off-roading mecca, but couple that with the amazing local cuisine and beach views… well, then, you have an off-roader’s heaven on earth.
Here you will find:
- The best towns for off-roading in Baja California & in the Yucatan Peninsula
- The landscape and tourist vibe in each off-roading region
- Handy trip prep tips
- Important safety notes for your off-road adventure
- The Baja 500 & Baja 1000— The details on these world-class off-road events
Here’s our best intel on the hottest off-road towns, tips, and trails in Mexico.
Off-Roading in Mexico: The Baja California Peninsula
This entire peninsula is often referred to as simply “Baja,” but you should know it actually contains two Mexican states— its namesake, Baja California, and Baja California Sur.
If you want to sound like a pro, though, simply call the whole region “Baja.”
Here’s what you will find in Baja:
- Extraordinary natural scenery
- The land stretches south of the United States border for almost 800 miles
- 2,038 miles (3,280 km) of coastline—the Pacific Ocean borders it to the west and the Sea of Cortez to the east.
- Dusty trails in the desert’s back-country
- Gorgeous coastal dunes with the unparalleled backdrop of the sea
- World-famous off-road racing—The Baja 500, The Baja 1000, & The Rosarito 200
- 5 hot spots for off-roading – Ensenada, San Felipe, Rosarito, Mexicali, La Paz, Los Cabos
TOP OFF-ROADING TOWNS IN BAJA:
Ensenada’s vibe: The waters off Ensenada offer boast spectacular sport fishing, sailing, surfing, scuba, and much more. The city has some of the most elegant spas, resorts, and hotels in Mexico. Restaurants and shopping venues are throughout the city and its clubs present exciting nightlife. Ensenada is also home to Valle de Guadalupe—the best vineyards in North America.
№2 San Felipe
San Felipe’s vibe: Located on the beautiful Sea of Cortez, San Felipe is known for its stunning beaches. San Felipe also boasts fabulous sport fishing and water sport opportunities. Its enchanting atmosphere makes it the perfect holiday get-away. Internationally renowned, San Felipe is a favorite destination of northern Mexico.
Insurance Information & Laws you need to know before you make the trip:
- When your street legal towed unit comes off the trailer in Mexico it needs its own Mexico Insurance policy
- Mexico Insurance covers the vehicles while on conventional roads intended to be driven on. Off-road activity, racing, etc. are specific exclusions to the Terms and Conditions of the policy.
- Off-road vehicles, street legal, can be covered as long as they are registered legally, while they are on roads intended to be driven by passenger vehicles and are considered vehicle type “motorcycle”.
- Be aware that not all roads that are driven by passenger vehicles are paved; the general rule is that if the road is on a generic, road map, it is NOT off-road.
- Insurance for motorcycle-type vehicles does not include Medical Payments.
- Get insurance BEFORE you go. It’s fast, easy, and cheaper than stopping at the border. Get a quick quote by clicking here.
- Print your Mexican motorcycle insurance before you leave.
Off-Roading in Mexico: Ensenada and San Felipe
The Baja 500 & The Baja 1000
No mention of off-roading in Mexico would be complete without mentioning SCORE’s (Southern California Off-road Enthusiasts) famous race series that includes the Baja 500 and Baja 1000. Many travelers make a point to visit one of Baja California’s tourist towns during one of these races to catch a glimpse of the pros and to enjoy the non-stop parties and celebrations.
The Baja 500
A 500-mile loop that starts and ends in Ensenada and loops around San Felipe. This Baja 500 is typically the second of four annual off-road races in Baja that SCORE organizes. It usually schedules in late Spring (the first week of June). More information on Baja 500 is here.
The Baja 1000
Draws in visitors from around the globe. Because of its close proximity to the United States border, many people from the U.S.A. venture down to attend every year. The race is always held in November. The Baja 1000 comes in many forms: point-to-point races (such as the one from Ensenada to La Paz), and loop races that both start and finish in Ensenada.
There are a variety of racing classes. These classes are first broken down by type of vehicle (car, truck, motorcycle, ATV). And then broken down further by engine size, wheelbase, operator’s age and experience, and a variety of other factors. Because of its extreme length, world-class participants often take longer than 20 hours to finish!
The History of the Baja 1000
An internationally famed race, the Baja 1000 was first run from Tijuana. It’s a course that changes from time to time but typically ends in La Paz, located at the very tip of the Baja Peninsula. The course has also started from Mexicali and Ensenada and is usually raced in a loop. Rosarito has become an ideal place to stay while attending the race.
The Baja 1000 was first raced in 1967. It is unique in that it allows various classes of vehicles to race on the same track. From motorcycles to dune buggies, this is a true pageant of off-roading marvels that draw crowds from around the world. Read more about the Baja 1000 here.
Rosarito’s vibe: Just south of Tijuana and only thirty-five minutes from the United States border, Rosarito is popular for both overnights and day trips. The city’s growing tourism industry is mainly situated on Benito Juarez Avenue. Sprawling high-rise hotels offer luxury accommodations, but many visitors to Rosarito rave about stays in rented villas or condos. There is also plenty of economical bed and breakfasts and travel lodges to find in the area.
A favorite activity for visitors when they aren’t enjoying Rosarito’s vibrant nightlife, water sports, or off-roading in the dunes, is visiting the renowned nearby lobster village for fresh lobster.
Off-Roading in Mexico: Rosarito
Rosarito is renowned for its 4×4 exhibitions as well as its ATV experience.
For spectators: The Rosarito 200 has recently become a popular race for the off-roading community that continuously flocks to the Rosarito area and many people love to stay in Rosarito to attend the Baja 1000 off-roading race.
For adrenaline junkies: you’ll understand just why this place has gained ground as an off-roading wonderland. The mountain trails offer a bumpy ride with terrain to match all skill levels.
For beachgoers: The Baja Dunes of Rosarito Beach have been said to resemble Sahara dunes and they provide off-roading fun for people who like to hang out closer to the beach.
For newcomers to the world of off-road: There are off-roading tours into the mountainous area that are ideal for newcomers to the sport or for people who just like to ride in groups.
Tips for Off-Roading in Rosarito
- It’s also always a good idea to go off-roading with at least one other person in case of an accident.
- Drive only in areas that are designated for off-roading and be sure not to drive close to campsites or areas that contain people or livestock.
- If you’re renting a vehicle or wish to take part in a tour, it’s always a good idea to make your reservation in advance.
- Because the Tijuana area is so busy, it’s a good idea to leave early so you can avoid traffic on your drive to Rosarito.
№4 Los Cabos
Los Cabos vibe: The beauty and fun of Baja culminate in the sheer splendor of the Los Cabos region. The municipality includes the towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. Find luxury all-inclusive resorts, romantic villas, eclectic health, and beauty spas. You can also find affordable rentals and travel lodges.
Los Cabos, at the tip of the Baja Peninsula in Baja California Sur, has the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Sea of Cortez on the east. Known for its world-class sportfishing and golf, vacationers come both to relax on the beaches or and be active. Try scuba diving, snorkeling, whale watching, sea kayaking, and so much more! Vibrant communities and delectable cuisine make Los Cabos an internationally renowned holiday destination.
Quad Off-Roading in Los Cabos
Looking for a famous place to take your 4×4? Try Los Cabos. There are lots of off-roading rental companies and tours based in the Los Cabos region.
- Get behind the wheel of a custom-built Baja 1000 racing vehicle, Wide Open Excursions offers single track or multiple-day tours.
- Other companies specialize in ATV or dune buggy rentals and tours.
- Ride to Half Moon Canyon or Tree Rock for an exhilarating and bumpy ride. From quads to military-grade Tomcats, there are rentals to keep your heart racing throughout your ride.
- The various treks of Los Cabos allow you to choose a course that suits your skill level.
- Find either smooth or bumpy tracks throughout this scenic region
- The mountainous treks offer spectacular off-roading fun. Bumps and twists and turns make for a dirty and dusty ride. But it will be one you’ll never forget!
- The dunes and coastal tracks offer incredible views of the ocean or sea. You will probably want to stop often for the great photo opportunities of the postcard setting all around you.
- The tropical desert landscape is an unforgettable sight to behold. Drive past waterfalls or discover the arid wilderness.
Tips for Off-Roading in Los Cabos:
- As a vacation wonderland, Los Cabos has plenty of rental companies for off-roading vehicles and gear. Don’t hesitate to use them, but first check online reviews of previous customers. This can help you decipher which company is best for you.
- Make reservations to secure a vehicle of choice or a spot on a tour before you leave for Mexico.
- Only drive in areas that are designated for off-roading.
Mexicali’s vibe: Mexicali is the capital city of the state of Baja California and is a quick two-hour drive from San Diego. This border town (9 miles from Calexico, California) has one of the more secure economies in Mexico, solid modern infrastructure, and several universities. Although this is home to many and a frequent stop for businesspersons, it also has options for the Mexican tourist– golf courses, cultural venues such as Centro Estatal de las Artes, and, of course, off-road adventures.
Top Off-Roading Experiences in Mexicali
1 Las Dunas is the picturesque sand dunes where ATVs, dune buggies, and motorbikes delight in the rugged terrain.
2 The beautiful Mexicali Valley is a great place to race and many off-roading events are held here.
3 Off-roading over the desert trails around the town or the nearby Hardy River is popular as well.
4 San Felipe, the nearest beach, is also a great trek with plenty of great areas for off-roading excursions, too.
Tips for Off-Roading in Mexicali
- Also, always plan to go off-roading with others. Off-roading on your own is dangerous in the event of an accident.
- Avoid driving your off-roading vehicle in camping areas or grounds where off-roading is not permitted.
- Driving into Mexico requires Mexican car insurance. Make arrangements to purchase your insurance before crossing the border; you can even purchase the needed insurance online before you leave.
- Plan your accommodations in advance for this popular destination.
MOTORCYCLING IN BAJA
Very few places in the world offer motorcyclists such gorgeous roadside views: the seemingly endless coastline, coves, and unnamed fishing villages like Baja.
Need a bike? If you don’t have your own motorcycle, there are several bike rentals and tour groups available in Baja. Renting a motorcycle for a week or two is a fun way to see the country from the seat.
Beginners If you’re a true beginner but like the idea of two-wheel fun, there are a number of motorcycle tour groups to choose from. Several of them even leave from the United States, particularly San Diego, so you don’t have to travel all the way to Mexico just to get set up with a group.
Short on time? Most people choose to just motorcycle down part of the peninsula instead of the whole thing. One of the most popular routes to take is to cross the border at San Diego and take the main road through Tijuana. You can head down as far south as you’d like, stopping whenever you please along the way. When you’re tired or your time runs out, you can simply turn around, take the main highway back up the coast, pass once again through Tijuana, and make your way across the border. It can be a very simple, relaxing, and entertaining trip.
Experts Riders that are looking for a full-fledged adventure, multi-week adventure might even choose to ride around the whole of the Baja Peninsula on their motorcycles.
Off-Roaders’ Oasis: The Yucatan Jungle and Ancient Mayan Civilization
On the east side of Mexico, surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, you’ll find the Yucatan peninsula. Known for its expansive jungle environment that is home to ancient Mayan ruins, the Yucatan also offers several off-roading options:
- Tours: Several companies in and around Cancun specialize in off-roading tours.
- Rentals: Off-road rentals are available if you don’t have an off-road vehicle or would rather not drive one all the way down from the border (It is over 2,000 miles from the U.S.A.’s southern border).
- Hummer tours: Swampy jungle treks are extremely popular
- World-famous Cenotes (pronounced say-no-tays): These unique sinkholes expose huge underground waterways and are a natural wonder not to be missed.
Cancun’s Vibe: Cancun is an adventurer’s paradise. Snorkeling, scuba, parasailing, and jet skiing are just a few of the water sports that are popular among vacationers in Cancun. Home to numerous world-class resorts, there are also many economical accommodations as well. Delectable cuisine, Mayan ruins, and vibrant nightlife are just a few more hallmarks of the Cancun experience. Because it’s such an international hotspot, be sure to make advance reservations for any activity during your Cancun stay.
Off-roading on the Yucatan Peninsula
A highlight of any off-road experience in a Hummer in Yucatan is a visit to the cenotes. The waters are crystal clear and breathtaking to see, especially after a dusty and rugged drive. ATVs, on the other hand, are the ideal way to adventure over the white sandy beaches of the Caribbean. Dune buggies are fun and allow you to soak up the sun while basking in an exciting ride. Cancun is one of the best locations to get off the beaten track.
Tips for Off-Roading in Cancun
- For jungle treks, it’s best to have a guide familiar with the area or to participate in a tour.
- If you head out on your own, always go with a buddy and stick to areas that allow off-roading.
- Experts warn drivers to cross streams only at designated crossings that are safe.
- Like anywhere else, it’s best to drive straight up or down hills for your own safety.
- In jungle terrain where it’s difficult to see around the bend, scope the road on foot to survey the area.
Eco-Friendly Off-Roading Cancun
The Yucatan is very nearly another world in Mexico—its various eco-systems enchant travelers from everywhere under the sun. You can help protect the region even as you rev over its trails.
- Do your part to conserve the beauty of the area by avoiding sensitive areas where animals are breeding or nesting.
- Respect signs so that you can also avoid disturbing areas that have historical or archeological importance.
- Refrain from leaving any litter behind you when you drive through the Yucatan’s wilds.