San Carlos (Nuevo Guaymas)

After leaving Santa Ana and getting back the road, we once again headed south.

With the exception of navigating the busy Sonoran capital of Hermosillo, the 4.5-hour drive was a pleasant and straightforward one. The wind was manageable and the sun was shining. It feels good to be back in Mexico.

We rolled into San Carlos just before 3pm. Despite having lived in Nayarit for two years, everything from the border to Mazatlan along the mainland Pacific coast is new to us, so we weren’t sure what we’d find in San Carlos.

What is clear is that, after Baja, San Carlos has been mentioned more among RVers from the U.S. and Canada than any other place we’re thinking of going.

We’ve heard San Carlos described as everything from a Gringolandia spoiled by Canadian and American transplants, to a real, authentic Mexican beach town that is still off the tourist radar (fairly opposing points of view).

Obviously, by choosing to stay in an RV park only a few hours south of the border, we are setting ourselves up for a certain type of experience. Regardless, we’re excited to hopefully find a quiet corner of town to slow the pace down and get into a daily rhythm for a while. We’ve been on the road for nearly two weeks and are looking forward to a break.

The wide boulevard leading into town makes it seem as if someone had big plans at one time that have yet to materialize.

Moments later, we pulled into the RV park. Welcome to Snowbird Central in Mexico!

Once upon a time, San Carlos had a number of RV park options to choose from. These days, there’s this place. We understand that there’s a new RV park about a mile inland, but thought we’d start with the one just across the street from the beach.

Here in late March, I thought the seasonal RVers might have cleared out by now. By the look of it, seems we have a couple more weeks to go. The weather is still surprisingly pleasant, dropping down the mid-50s at night. When that changes, we’ll probably see a mass exodus north.

We pulled in, parked, and took a walk around to find our spot. It was clear that most of the people staying here knew each other. It was also clear that we might just be the youngest gringos in the whole place. It’s a three-day weekend here in Mexico, so there are a number of families staying in the bungalows that border the lot. But I’m sure they’ll all vanish by Tuesday.

We managed to find what we thought was a quiet corner away from the hubbub, did a quick set up and left to go find some dinner.

It’s Saturday, so we thought we’d get lucky finding a place. We were hoping for a taco stand near the RV park, but no such luck. The town of San Carlos is long and skinny, only a few blocks wide and stretching for about two-miles. With the exception of some fancier, overpriced seafood options clustered around the RV park, most of the restaurants are along the main highway almost a mile down the road.

It’s nice to see the Sea of Cortez again, and crazy to think we spent the previous 18 months living in Mexico on the opposite side.

Our first impressions of San Carlos is that it reminds us a lot of San Felipe in Baja California, which makes sense. Both towns are the first major beach town gringos run into after crossing the border in California (San Felipe) and Arizona (San Carlos).

Thankfully, San Carlos isn’t nearly as hot as San Felipe was when we drove through in July and August last year.

One of the best aspects of San Carlos so far is its topography. The entire town is set on a dramatic coastline ringed with red cliffs.

20 minutes later, we found a reasonable place to eat. We knew that there were taquerias a bit farther down the road, but it’s always a toss up whether they’ll be open at 5pm. In Mexico, taco stands are either open from until about 5pm or don’t open until 6pm.

5pm is my favorite time to eat at a restaurant in Mexico. 5pm is smack in the middle of meals in Mexico, so the restaurants that are open are usually mostly empty and happy to serve us. In Mexico, the big meal of the day happens around 2pm, usually followed by a lighter meal around 8pm.

Noe was excited that we ordered his favorite: Coconut shrimp. We hadn’t had any since we left Baja.

When we returned to the RV Park, we heard live music coming from next door. It started early in the evening and was easy listening Ranchera music. We had heard that there is an event venue next to the park and weekends can be very loud, so I was hopeful this was the main act of the night.

But once the klieg lights powered up, I knew we were in for a long night.

Our first night in San Carlos was a night from hell. At around 9pm, an announcement from an obscenely loud PA system next to the Ranchera venue introduced the bride and groom, the DJ fired up the dance music, and everything within a mile radius suddenly found itself in a dance club, whether they liked it or not.

Fortunately, the heat pump fan in our RV masked a lot of the sound…until the power suddenly cut around 2am, waking us up immediately (but fortunately not the boys). I checked the EMS (electricity management system) at the pedestal and it had thrown a code: high voltage.

Apparently, this is a common issue in Mexico at RV Parks, where they crank up the voltage across the park so that it can cope with the load of all of a couple dozen Canadians running their RV A/C units. Once night falls, all those units are switched off and the voltage goes up. Our EMS is designed to shut power off at 5% over and under 120 volts to keep it from damaging the appliances and electronics.

I could plug directly into the socket, but without even a surge protector between our cord and the pedestal, I didn’t want to chance it. So, we ran on battery power and propane for the rest of the night, which meant a whole lot of music and bass until sunrise.

On top of that, I was awakened multiple times by drunk locals driving back and forth trying to park in front of their bungalows at all hours. We weren’t yet hooked up to sewage, but if we had been, one of them certainly would have driven right over our hose.

The same guy spent the next 20 minutes driving up onto the curb of the bungalow parking area, then backing up towards our RV. We ran out to talk to him, but he didn’t seem to think there was a problem. We told the security guard, but he just said, “Yeah, it’s the Puente. People get loco.”

After another several attempts at parking, the driver decided he was sufficiently parked and headed in for the night.

Bleary-eyed and not too impressed with our accommodation, we made the trek to the other RV park a mile up the road, determined it would be a suitable place to stay, and returned to Totonaka ready to move. After further consideration, we thought we’d give it one more night before we do, and were glad we did.

I’m happy to report that things did improve, and we never had another night like that at Totonaka. The Puente (three-day weekend) ended, things calmed, and it was pretty relaxed for the next several days. With Holy Week (Semana Santa) beginning next weekend, however, we already knew we weren’t going to want to be here for that.

While at Totonaka, we befriended a few retired Canadians, who would gift the boys little odds and ends. One guy saw Riley building something with some bricks and brought him some tools to work with. He said he reminded him of his grandson.

The boys were definitely novelties here. During the entire week we stayed here, we not once saw another family with kids pull in. In fact, the four of us were the youngest by about ten years. There was only one other couple we met who appeared to be in their 50s, and they were still on the young end of the spectrum.

It’s been great being able to watch the kids play outside with no agenda or place to be. Lori was finally able to catch up on work and get the boys started with their school. And I was happy to get a couple of things knocked off my list, though I’ve decided to wait until our next stop to really dive into the bigger projects.

One of the challenges of this place is that the wind kicks up every day between noon and 2pm, which is great from a breeze standpoint, but not so great for having the awning out during the hottest hours. This means we are constantly moving the picnic table around the entire RV with the sun. Not ideal, but it works.

Knowing that we might be cloistered up the hill next week, we also tried to take advantage of our beach access and some of the eateries in the area.

Laundry day. In addition to the onsite showers, there’s also a washer. Since we can’t bring the awning out (and there aren’t a whole lot of options for hanging lines outside), they’ve ended up inside.

Independent school time.

One of our neighbors saw the boys kicking around a rock and gave them an old tennis ball, which entertained them for a surprisingly long time.

Dinner time.

As the week wore on, we ventured farther in to town to try out some of the recommendations we’ve been getting. Most folks here have some sort of secondary transportation (either a tow vehicle or towing a vehicle), so we are definitely in the minority. We would love to get bikes, but know Mexico well enough to know it’s not the most practical (or safest) way for the boys to get around town with us. So we do a LOT of walking.

The boys’ favorite eatery is Jax Snax. It’s the one with the biggest play area, of course.

On our way back from breakfast one day, a package was waiting for us.

Yay! Internet!

I was curious to fire this puppy up, but Lori was definitely looking forward to this the most. We’ve found that wifi at RV parks is really hit or miss. Here, it’s certainly been a miss. This means Lori will be able to take her video calls right from the picnic table in the morning instead of having to venture to the club house at 5:30am.

But that also means I’ll need to set it up and find an unobstructed view of the northern sky in this place. Not the easiest thing.

The best part about getting Starlink in Mexico is that it’s half the price as in the U.S. (dish AND monthly subscription). It was certainly worth the wait for that.

The beach here isn’t the prettiest we’ve seen. Compared to Baja, it might’ve been downright disappointing if it hadn’t been so long since we’ve all been to the beach.

Right now, the water is still too cold to comfortably swim in (and pretty murky). But the boys have fun beach combing. There’s tons of interesting shells and rocks to find.

Another night falls on San Carlos.

Somebody earned their Saguaro National Park Junior Ranger badge!

By mid week, we had sunk into a rhythm and were a bit bummed we’d have to leave this place Friday. As expected, there was a mass exodus back to Canada, leaving only a handful of RVs behind. But the peace and quiet was short lived. The next day, a caravan of French Canadians rolled in for a few days on their way back north, taking up the first three rows.

We decided it was a good time to move to the back row for the last couple of nights.

Another day, another walk into town.

Yep, we were here for a while. Definitely worse places to spend some time in San Carlos.

On one of the final days in town, we took the public bus to check out the marina and a viewpoint. It’s always fun to see what kinds of boats are docked, but there wasn’t much else around that part of town.

The hike to the viewpoint ended up being a bust. It’s never fun to walk for 20 minutes only to encounter an iron gate a stone’s throw from the mirador. The only thing you can really count on in Mexico is if there’s a beautiful place accessible to the public, at some point it will be privatized and fenced off.

Back on the bus to the RV park!

One of the big perks of this place is that it has a pool. But the pool’s still a bit chilly for these guys.

All in all, Totonaka was not a bad place to spend a week, and an interesting introduction to RVing in Mexico. It was also a trial of sorts for the daily rhythm and routine that we hope to get into as we slowly make our way south. So far, no regrets.

Tomorrow, the whole of Mexico stops to party (and observe Easter in some parts, I hear) for the next two weeks. Since we’re sticking to the coast for the foreseeable future, it’s going to get harder to find RV parks with availability and also get some sleep. So, we’ve decided to hunker down in the place up the road for the next 10 days, before hopefully moving south again soon.

Leave a Comment