By Dan and Lisa Goy on the January 2020 Edition
A tour of Baja (Baja California and Baja California Sur states in Mexico) would not be complete without an opportunity to shop for those special items “Hecho en México” (Made in Mexico). Many RVers tell us they rated shopping at local markets, shops and beach vendors as one of the most rewarding travel experiences they encounter.
Sometimes these are gifts for friends and family, creating a new Mexican theme at home, adding a new mat or blanket to the RV or perhaps just something tangible to remind visitors of their wonderful Baja experience. The benefit of traveling in an RV is you have a lot more room to store your purchases and our experience is that folks do exactly that!
Mexican vendors do love a good barter but, beware: if they feel you are trying to devalue their goods too much, they will be-come upset and may even refuse to trade with you. You also have to be aware that all shops are not created equal. In some stores, items are priced as the price you pay, although sometimes even this is not always true.
Generally speaking, you will find goods that don’t have a price tag, at markets or shops in tourist areas, are subject to negotiation. Almost always, beach vendors (we have never found one that doesn’t) will bargain.
Where you start and where you end up is totally in your control. Always keep in mind the incredible amount of effort and cost that goes into producing goods when considering how hard you want to bargain.
We shop at many stops and locations across Baja on our tours. These are our favourite five (5):
La Bufadora is a marine geyser or blowhole located on the Punta Banda Peninsula. We stay in an RV park in Punta Banda, about 10km (6 miles) away and have an excursion to this site. La Bufadora is one of the largest blowholes in North America, often shooting upwards more than 30 metres (100 ft) above sea level. The exhibit hall rooftop is approximately 24 metres (80 ft) above sea level and the blowhole frequently sprays above it. La Bufadora is a very popular tourist destination and regularly draws tourists visiting Ensenada, located roughly 30 kilometres (19 mi) to the north. On days when cruise ships visit Ensenada, several bus lines compete to bring tourists to the site. The last few miles of the drive are especially beautiful, with long vistas over the sea from cliff tops, but fog can sometimes obscure the views.
In addition to this unique geological water feature, there is what can only be described as a gauntlet of vendors, often selling regional arts and crafts, curios and food, that congregate in small shops crammed side-by-side along a narrow asphalted road to the blowhole.
Although this may be a little intimidating, there are great shop-ping opportunities here, including a good selection and terrific prices. Do not take your RV here unless it is a small one, really small.
As you approach the entrance, you will have several parking attendants attempting to flag you in. Just keep going slowly! You can park at a municipal lot a short walk before the actual attraction for 25 pesos, saving you time and money and shop-ping on your terms. The vendors here are assertive and very active, however they are also very respectful and lots of fun. Just enjoy the experience.
This bay is 23 miles long and the largest on Baja, located a short drive south of Mulegé and largely dominated by expats. The waters off most beaches are so warm, calm and shallow that even the most timid landlubbers enjoy frolicking in the waters of Bahía Concepción. The experience of camping on a beach in the Bay of Concepción so grows on RVers that many spend the entire winter. The “large island” that can be seen way across the bay from these beaches is actually a large barren peninsula. There are twelve (12) beaches used by many RVers, all dry camping (boondocking) and here solar power is king! Santispac, El Requesón, La Perla, Playa Los Cocos and El Coyote are the most popular with campers. All our groups now stay at Santispac.
Many Mexican families work the beaches collecting camping fees, selling baking, fruits, vegetables and fresh seafood. Mulegé vendors sell hats, hammocks, blankets, carvings, t-shirts, jewellery and much more. The regular vendors are Adolfo, Pileo and Armando. Both Adolfo and Armando have shops in the village of Mulegé. Adolfo is famous for his standard sales pitch “What colour? How many? Almost free!” These are our friends and we always look as forward to seeing them as they are to meet our new guests. This can be a short “no thank you”and they quickly move on or, if you are interested, they can empty their entire stock onto the beach and, an hour later, you are still bartering!
Located just on the outskirts of Cabo San Lucas at Km 4 on Mexico 1, Artesanos offers a wide variety of furniture, pottery, copper, pewter, ceramics and much more, mostly made in Mexico. They have over 40,000 square feet of space and probably have the best selection of these items in all of Los Cabos. Artesanos began as just one man selling his wares next to a vacant lot. Due to its popularity, the business slowly and persistently grew until it evolved into the huge business that now occupies the same area.
Artesanos is where homeowners and restauranteurs alike go, from throughout the area, to shop for Mexican furnishings, dishes, and glassware, along with colorful handicrafts and ornaments. We were first introduced to Artesanos years ago as it is only about 150 meters or yards past the Vagabundos Restaurant and Trailer Park (now closed). You should leave at least an hour to look through their vast variety and all prices are fixed, so no bargaining. The prices are excellent and they are open 9 am – 2 pm Monday through Friday.
Factory of Mexican Blankets
This shop is located at KM 69 on the west coast highway #19 between Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos, just south of Pescadero, owned and operated by Efrén and Viviana Parada. There are many shops in Pescadero, a real diverse collection of cultural delights, including the best handcrafted products of Mexico mixed in with the usual array of souvenirs. We always look forward to this stop, as do our guests.
There is lots of parking across the highway for everyone and it is easy to see any traffic coming both ways, which is important with RVs. We usually give Efrén a heads up as to when we will arrive and he often has fresh sweet buns baking in his outside beehive oven, a nice touch that is very much appreciated.
Although they have this large roadside shop, their primary business is supplying handcrafted blankets, spreads and rugs to the major hotels and tourists shops in Los Cabos. Most of the products are actually made by the family business in Tlaxcala (we visited the family there in 2016) and ship to El Pescadero. They do have a large loom on site and Efrén does make some rugs on site. Sometimes the shop is staffed by his mom, a great cook and hard bargainer, for sure. Bargain and barter is the modus operandi here. Be fair and we assure you the price will be right. The selection is really outstanding.
This is one of the best-kept shopping secrets in La Paz. This is a family run ceramic pottery business, founded in 1958 by Mr. Julio Ibarra and his wife Juanita. They had both attended the Art School of San Carlos located in Pachuca, Hildago. In 1987, they moved to the Ciudad de La Paz. Their ceramic pieces have achieved national and international prestige, since this pottery has reached all parts of the world. These exquisite ceramics come from a great family tradition known for their unique designs, by mixing lines, colors and strokes; these unrepeatable pieces are completely made by hand. Sadly, Julio passed away a couple of years ago.
This family owned pottery studio has a large selection of beautiful ceramic goods, from small items (decorative tiles, kitchen items, dishes) to large pots and household decorative furnishings. Designs go from traditional to contemporary and you can actually watch potters working on site shaping the clay and painting the items. Prices are fixed, with a small markup if you use a credit card. They will also make items to order with a week or two turnaround.
Located four blocks inland from the Malecón at 625 Guillermo Prieto between Torre Iglesias and República. Each piece is individually hand painted or glazed, then fired, is lead free and microwave safe. Open Monday to Saturday, from 9 am to 3 pm, please make sure you say hello to our friend Vicky who continues to operate the family business.
Of course, we stop at many more locations and shops than these and would be remiss if we did not mention the following:
✓ Luz Galván’s Art Gallery at Guillermo’s Place (Bahía de Los Ángeles)
✓ The Blown Glass Factory (Cabo San Lucas)
✓ Conchita’s Curios Arts and Crafts (Loreto)
✓ Gecko’s Curios, Gifts and Mexican Artesanías (Loreto)
✓ Art District (San José Del Cabo)
✓ Mercado Madero (Historic Centre La Paz)
Please remember that the people selling arts, crafts and artifacts are often artisans or vendors making a simple living and supporting a family. Some may also be the creators of the wares they are offering for sale, so any deep devaluation of their work might be taken personally. Be fair and reasonable and better discounts are always given when purchasing multiple items.
Enjoy the experience!
Dan and Lisa Goy, owners of Baja Amigos RV Caravan Tours, have been making Mexico their second home for more than 30 years and love to introduce Mexico to newcomers.