San Quintin, which is the world’s largest producer of tomatoes, lies 184 miles south of the U.S./México border. Driving time, to San Quintín, from the border is five to seven hours, depending on the time of day and the traffic encountered. The San Quintín “area” as referred to here includes the towns of Colonet, future home of a mega port, Camalú, Colonia Vicente Guerrero, San Quintín and Lázaro Cárdenas.
From Colonia Vicente Guerrero south, this area of Baja, all seems to blend together with the tomato fields, dominating the inland side of the highway. The not-so-distant Pacific Ocean, and more fields of various local crops, dominate the western side of the highway. Crops that are grown in this booming farming center include strawberries, chili peppers, cucumbers, green beans and tomatoes. Most of these crops are exported to the United States and even Europe.
There are numerous gas stations, supermarkets, hardware stores, auto and tire repair shops, tow trucks, welding shops and convenience markets, all haphazardly spread out for many miles. The tremendous growth that has come with the farming industry has made for a poorly laid out group of small towns and communities.
If you are going to break something on your car, this is a good place to have it happen. I once had a flat tire in San Quintín and needed a special tire for my car, as I had ruined my spare the day before. A very small tire shop (since closed) got the tire from Ensenada on the same day I had my problem and charged me almost nothing for mounting the new tire and going to Ensenada to pick it up.
There are many nice beaches to explore if you make your way over to the Pacific. Getting there can be tricky, as many of the roads that head west, turn out to be dead ends. The beaches are long and wide, and you will find clams, at low tide, most of the time.
San Quintín is also the first place on the Baja highway that we will wholeheartedly recommend as a safe stop for the night, as you travel south. Beware: There are usually farm trucks, farm personnel buses and farming equipment, going very slowly either on the road or on the shoulder, right next to the road, so be careful as you approach San Quintín.
The San Quintín area is not the most tourist-oriented spot in Baja, but it does provide a wide assortment of accommodations and eating options for Baja travelers. There are a variety of motels to meet any budget and some are actually very nice and good quality restaurants are plentiful as well. There is good (to great) fishing, clamming, diving (experienced divers only) and remote beach exploring options here for tourists. The better accommodations are toward the southern end of San Quintín on the highway, with more out toward the water a short dusty drive off of Highway 1.
Many Baja aficionados claim that the real secret to eating well in San Quintín are the street side taco stands and the many small seafood stands that dot both sides of the highway. Wherever you eat, the specialty will probably be seafood that is usually fresh from the sea. Consider a meal of fresh clams as they could easily be but a few hours out of the bay. They prepare clams here in a variety of different ways, and you should walk away from such a meal happily full and well satisfied. Fish tacos are another standout in this area and the fish should be extremely fresh. Crab, another local specialty, is almost always fresh out of the bay.
As anywhere in Baja, look for the street stands that are the most crowded and you will likely find the best of these small eateries. Also, if you take this advice about the small stands, try to watch your particular stand for a few minutes before ordering, to get an idea of their overall hygiene practices. Comparatively speaking, the local hygiene is probably not quite what (you think) you are used to at home, but your meal will most likely be incredibly delicious.
As we mentioned, the better accommodations are toward the south end of town, close to the water. That doesn’t mean that the numerous motels along the highway are not adequate, many are fine. Listed below are a few that come to mind (these are not necessarily recommendations). Keep a sharp eye out for advertising signs (they may be real dusty signs) that point toward the Pacific, as some of these are hotels not that easy to find, (you may need to ask for directions) as there are no regular street addresses in San Quintín.
Some of the roads out to these hotels can be very dusty and filled with hidden potholes, so be careful. Especially, after a recent rain when the dust turns to deep mud and the hidden potholes get even worse.
Hotel La Villa de San Quintín: New and clean. Right on the highway with plenty of secure parking. Restaurant, cable TV and wired in-room Internet.
Old Mill Hotel: Three miles off the highway, on the bay. Clean rooms that sleep up to 4 guests. Some of the original machinery from the old wheat mill, that was later turned into a fish cannery, is still present. Restaurant and bar, RV parking.
Don Eddie’s Landing: Newer hotel with nice clean rooms, bar and good seafood restaurant with the best bay views. Fishing and hunting arrangements can be made here.
Motel San Carlos: On the bay with plain rooms, some with a view, but usually well kept. A great restaurant, Muelle Viejo, is very close (clams, abalone and lobster specialties).
Hotel Misión: (Formally Desert Inn) 2 miles off the highway on paved road. Next to the beach, restaurant and bar, pool. The location is far south of town and is better than most when it comes to road noise.
Motel Cielito Linda: 4 miles off the highway on paved road (same road as Desert Inn). Plain nondescript rooms, but features a “Great Restaurant” (dinner only) and bar. The cracked crab and fresh clams which are the specialties of the house and more than make up for the lack of fancy rooms. Fishing packages are available. RV parking (any size) & secure camping sites are also available.
Also remember, if you started your trip early and are ready to keep going, El Rosario is 45 minutes further south (3 motels), Cataviña is 2.5 hrs south (1 decent motel) and Guerrero Negro is 3 to 3.5 hrs south (quite a few decent motels), all easily drivable from San Quintín.