San Carlos

San Carlos, another small coastal town located in the municipality of Comondú, offers a similar experience as Puerto Adolfo Lopez Mateos to the north. The drive to San Carlos is around the same 45 minutes (40 miles/65 km) from Ciudad Constitucion on a paved road in mostly good condition. 

The town itself is not much, though the murals you can find scattered around relate how important marine life is to the village. Nestled along the shores of Magdalena Bay, San Carlos offers stunning waterfront views and a serene environment that attracts campers primarily seeking whale watching or fishing tours in the broader parts of Magdalena Bay. 

The town’s economy is primarily based on fishing, with local fishermen harvesting a variety of seafood, including shrimp, scallops, and various fish species. This bountiful marine life not only sustains the local economy but also supplies fresh seafood to markets and restaurants throughout the region.

The community of San Carlos is closely knit and the town features a modest but charming collection of amenities, including shops, eateries, and lodging options. The surrounding landscape, characterized by sandy beaches, mangrove forests, and calm waters, provides a backdrop for numerous outdoor activities. 

Things to do in San Carlos

The two primary attractions to San Carlos include whale watching and fishing trips. We’ll cover these below so you know what to expect in arranging each experience. 

Whale Watching: Magdalena Bay, adjacent to the town, is a renowned sanctuary for gray whales that migrate here annually from January to April. During this period, tourists and nature enthusiasts flock to San Carlos to witness these magnificent creatures up close. 

Guided boat tours offer an unforgettable experience as visitors observe gray whales mating, calving, and nurturing their young in the bay’s sheltered waters. Even if you have seen gray whales in other places, Magdalena Bay offers its own flavor of whale interactions that make this trip worthwhile, especially if you have a whale-themed camping experience. 

Although you can book whale watching tours in advance by doing a little online research, the best and simplest way to arrange your trip is to arrive into town earlier in the day and to seek out local captains, many of whom advertise their services with signs and on the side of the road as you arrive in town. There are numerous travel companies in town that offer more formal tours as well if you feel more comfortable arranging your excursion this way. 

Fishing: In addition to whale watching, San Carlos is a prime destination for sport fishing, attracting anglers from around the world. The bay’s rich marine biodiversity ensures a rewarding fishing experience, with species such as marlin, dorado, and yellowtail providing exciting challenges for both amateur and experienced fishermen. 

Typically the fishing season does not overlap with the whale season as captains switch roles when the whales enter Magdalena Bay. So it is best to plan to do your fishing from May through December. 

Once again, do some basic online research and lean heavily into social media to see which captains are frequently posting the kind of fish you are after. You typically get what you pay for. So do due diligence and you’ll have a productive time on the water!

Campgrounds in San Carlos

There are no formal campgrounds in San Carlos. Your best bet, and the one we must advise, is to return to Ciudad Constitucion to camp at one of the campgrounds there. If you have a towed vehicle or tow a trailer, the easiest thing to do is to set up camp in Ciudad Constitucion and then make the 45-minute drive or so to San Carlos. 
Informally, if you take a tour or pop into the reception at Mar Y Arena Hotel (GPS: 24.79662, -112.11597) you can dry camp on the water for a small and reasonable fee. You’ll have access to flush toilets and 15A electricity if you need it. There is not shower access, but WiFi is also available. The on-site restaurant serves delicious, locally-caught seafood specialties. Do be mindful that this is not a formal campground and there have been issues with theft in the past.