Your first Mexico trip. How exciting. You know what they say, don’t drink the water.
P.S. Baja is a wonderful and unique piece of the globe. And Cerritos! How fun. I had one of the best surf days of my life there. However, I haven’t surfed many days, so I guess that isn’t saying much, but it’s an awesome spot! This time of year the water will be a little on the cold side compared to when I was there. A 3/2 or 4/3 full suit will be perfect. Finding the turn off for the road is nearly impossible the first time. You won’t see it until you’ve passed it. No worries. Turn around and get it coming the other direction. I want to say it’s just after kilometer marker 65. I’ll check on that and get back to you.
My advice is, starting to day, you need to eliminate rice, beans, tortillas, fried fish, and watery beer from your diet. OD’ing on Mexican food is easily done and it isn’t pretty. You’ll only be there for six days. Doesn’t seem like a long time, but it’s going to add up to a lot of tacos. In Mexico they eat tacos three meals a day. I’m not talking breakfast tacos for breakfast, a nice taco salad for lunch, and fancy fish tacos for dinner. I’m talking fresh(-ish) tortilla, mystery meat, slaw, and hot sauce. Every time.
I know you’re a picky eater. You know I’m a picky eater. From picky eater to picky eater, you are going to ingest a few things you wouldn’t dream of eating in the U.S. If not, you’ll get skinny real quick.
Types of meat
You are going to need to learn the Spanish words for many different types of meat and parts of a pig/cow/animal body. If you don’t want to eat it, you have to know exactly how to say it. “No carne por favor,” doesn’t translate to no meat please. You need to say no meat, no cow, no bacon, no chicken, no intestines, no eyeballs, no pigs, no carnitas… SOLAMENTE (then you tell the ingredients you want). They will scoff at you. Don’t worry about it.
Carne Asada: grilled beef
Carne: beef or meat in a general sense
Machaca: dried, powdery, not quite sure?
Al Pastor: pork cooked on a rotisserie. Potential for under- or over-cooked meat is high
Carnitas: other pork preparation
Now let’s talk fish tacos, tacos de pescado. If you are within a stones throw of the ocean you may be able to get fish tacos. If you can’t see the ocean you won’t be eating seafood. Right now you need to erase the picture you have in your head of the beautiful American fish tacos you eat in San Francisco. Now think tortilla (hopefully fresh), fried white fish, slaw, hot sauce, pico de gallo (hopefully fresh), and avocado. An option here is to order “a la plancha” which means grilled. It’s a gamble. They might ignore your request and give you fried fish anyway. They might give you a microscopic piece of grilled fish. Or you might get much fresher, healthier, more delicious taco.
Totopos: Spanish for tortilla chips. Love them!
Beer: Ballenas of Pacifico are really the only option, but it’s okay. Ballenas of Pacifico are sufficient. Ballena means whale. These 1 liter bottles of beer are appropriately named whales. The Ballenon (BIG whale), at approx. 1.2 liters is also on the shelf. Keep in mind, although slightly more economical, the Ballenon needs to be consumed faster before it gets warm. Kiteboarders don’t typically share ballenas, they each drink their own. Most serious Baja beer drinkers even have a custom ballena-sized coozie. Non-kiteboarder types will open a ballena, poor it into a few cups, and share. To each their own.
Ballena Deposito: Very important. The first ballenas you buy will cost approximately 27 pesos. After that, you bring the empty bottles back (called the depositos) and the beers are 18 pesos a piece. Recycling! In Mexico!
Open containers: Unless you’re dining at a really classy place (or the owner is a grump), you can bring your own beverage(s). No discretion needed.
Real Whales: It’s whale migration season and Todos Santos is whale viewing central! There is actually a beach there where the water gets deep right off shore and the whales come in super close. I can’t give exact directions how to find it, but ask around, it’s quite a sight. Keep your eyes open, you’ll see some whales for sure.
Art & Beer: A funky little restaurant on the outskirts of Todos Santos that is a rumored to be quite the unique experience. I’ve never been but apparently they are known for ridiculously large and ridiculously garnished Bloody Mary’s and other alcoholic beverages.
Road trip! If you want a change of scenery think about heading to the East Cape. Again, I’ve never been, but I’ve heard that it’s beautiful, the surf is good, and it’s quiet over there.
Cabo: Don’t. No. Stay away. Tourist Zone. No. Don’t. Don’t Go.
Lastly, here is a little article I put together for Edge Magazine with some additional info on the Baja surf scene.