Imagine needing only water and wind to unlock the sensation of flying. Although kiteboarding is still in its infancy, it’s the fastest-growing watersport in the world. With the indescribable sensation of freedom it gives you, it’s not hard to see why ever more people around the world are attaching themselves to large kites and whizzing across the water.
When winter hits in North America, thousands of snowbirds flock to Baja California to chase the sun and the wind. With over 2,000 miles of coastline, it’s no surprise that Baja offers some incredible destinations for kiteboarding. The hard part becomes narrowing down your search to where you will find consistent wind. Thankfully, a handful of places have developed a reputation as excellent wind-sport destinations. Whether you’re a beginner wanting to learn this revolutionary sport or an experienced kiter planning your next adventure, you will find your perfect playground in Baja California.
1. La Ventana
Baja California’s most popular kiteboarding destination is La Ventana, which translates to “the window.” Thanks to a consistent thermal effect that pulls cool air off the Sea of Cortez to replace the hot air rising above the desert, La Ventana enjoys hair-dryer-smooth wind all winter long. There isn’t much in the way of waves here, but with wind that’s this consistent, you won’t even care. On any given day, it will turn on by 10:00 or 11:00 AM and turn off late in the afternoon, like someone flicking a light switch. The calm turquoise bay, golden sand, and beautiful mountains jutting up from the island off the coast create a scene that is hard to compete with.
Just 45 minutes south of La Paz, La Ventana is rapidly becoming a glamorous resort area, with more multi-million-dollar estates being constructed on the beach every year. But there’s still a quaint charm to be found in this small town with just one main street running through it, small taquerias, and grocery stores. Sign up for lessons with Evolution Kiteboarding and find comfortable accommodations at La Ventana Hostel. On rare days without wind, you might try stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling with whale sharks, and mountain biking the extensive trails through the mountains and saguaro forests. Or grab a piña colada and post up under a palm tree to enjoy a heavenly day of rest.
2. Los Barriles
If you’re looking to kite in some bigger swell and are willing to sacrifice a day here and there when the thermal doesn’t kick on, Los Barriles is your place. With no island off the coast to break up the swell, it’s common for barrels to come rolling through six feet tall and higher, not to mention some of those breaking at certain points along the coast. It’s a bit more challenging for beginners than La Ventana, but it’s still manageable to learn with a skilled instructor from Exotikite.
Just a few hours north of Cabo San Lucas, Los Barriles is easy to reach by car. The town is a decent size and offers plenty of accommodations, restaurants, and any other amenity you could hope for. Whether you opt for an RV park, hotel, or resort, you’ll find plenty of other North Americans keeping their feet wet and their skin tanned for the winter. This town tends to draw an older crowd than La Ventana, so if you’ve left your party years behind, you will feel right at home in Los Barriles.
3. Bahia Santa Maria
One of the lesser-known kiteboarding destinations in Baja California, Bahia Santa Maria is a west-facing bay located just south of San Quentin. My friend and I discovered it by chance while cruising around looking for surf spots. Here, the incessant wind lifts in the afternoon and is strong enough to sweep sand all across the vast beach, which is somehow littered with intact sand dollars. Your only obstacle to kiting this calm bay is getting past a substantial shore break, which is not too difficult if you time it right. There are no kite schools here, so you may get lucky and have the whole bay to yourself — every kiter’s dream.
Perhaps because of its desolate location, or the quirky cantina/resort Cielito Lindo, this spot seems to embody something of a truly Baja experience. You can go the whole day without seeing a soul, then convene at the cantina for happy hour at 4:00 PM to share stories with a bunch of retired Canadians over the most amazing margaritas of your entire life. Okay, maybe your experience will be different, but there’s only one way to know.
4. San Juanico (Scorpion Bay)
On the subject of desolate surf destinations, San Juanico is about as good as they get. Long known by surfers on the west coast for its incredible point breaks that can last well over a minute, San Juanico is also incredible for kiteboarding under the right conditions. While the wind is nowhere near as consistent as La Ventana or Los Barriles, an afternoon thermal may allow an epic session on the same point breaks surfers spend their whole lives dreaming about. Unfortunately, this prize comes with a high risk as the wind that gets you there blows offshore. For experienced kiters, this may be well worth the risk, but beginners may opt to stay near the sandy beach where the launch is and kite in the sideshore wind instead.
This fishing village is very small, but you are guaranteed to be in good company with other surfers. In the mornings, while you wait for wind, you can rent a surfboard for very little and enjoy a long, peeling right off one of the six points. The locals know surfing works up an appetite, and you might just get lucky and stumble upon some fresh tamalés for sale after a session. You can also hire a fishing boat for a full- or half-day excursion for some other activity during the day. For accommodations, you will find options like the Scorpion Bay Surf Hotel, as well as the Scorpion Bay Campground on the bluff for a very reasonable price. As it faces out towards the Pacific, you can expect some epic sunsets here.
5. Punta Abreojos
If you’re looking for a kite spot with a mix of everything, Punta Abreojos is your best choice. With a lagoon for flat water, beautiful breaks, including barrels when there’s enough swell, and the possibility of a 10-mile downwinder with the right conditions, this quaint fishing village on the Pacific will elate kiters. Steady sideshore winds generally start around noon, and the waves line up around the point for a nice side-offshore effect perfect for carving waves. Just beware of sketchy offshore conditions and stingrays buried in the sand.
In town, you’ll find plenty of restaurants and accommodation options like the Black Bass Lodge, plus options to camp near the point if you’re on a budget. Get your fill of tacos after a session and wash them down with a cold beer or two with some friendly locals. If there’s no wind but good swell, best to grab a surfboard for some fun. After crossing desert and highways to chase these waves, you can finally rest easy at the edge of the world. By now, it’s likely you’ve left your worries far behind.