Blood, Drugs & Sangria – How To Vacation In A War Zone. Part five of a five part series..
In our previous posts, we talked about the dangers of traveling in Baja, Mexico. We also talked about how beautiful the country is and how it should not be overlooked just because of the current media hype. Baja is a budget travelers wonderland with a variety of activities to partake in that are all easy on the wallet.
This is the fifth and final post in our series and focuses on different places to visit in Baja.
Here are some places you might want to visit in Tijuana:
Avenida Revolution – This is the main tourist area and there are a lot of restaurants, bars & shops here. This is an easy area to reach by foot if you are crossing over without a car. The large Tijuana Arch built on this road should guide you easily.
Red Light District – Just a short walk off Revolution this is also an interesting area but a bit more seedy as the name might imply. There are some cool places to hang out here without as many tourists.
Tijuana Brewery – This looks like a cool place! I haven’t been here yet but it is on our list for the next visit
down. Visit the site you can get their address and any other info you might need.
Tijuana also has a bustling arts movement and they have great museums, dance troupes, art shows and live music. We went there once for a dance performance and it was really cool. We finished the night up with a lot of dancing at a local club. Planning a visit to see the more artistic side of this city will definitely change your opinion of the place.
Alternately you can wine taste, visit an orphanage, have a day of luxury at a spa or even go south for dental & medical care. I have quite a few friends here in San Diego that will only go to Tijuana for their dental care because it is so much cheaper and also because the dentists are very good.
Insider Tip: Check out the San Diego Reader online for things happening in Tijuana. You can also visit the Tijuana Visitors Bureau for more information.
These spots are all within driving distance from the border and are a lot of fun!
Rosarito – This is without a doubt the biggest party spot south of T.J. Just a short cab right from the border makes this a happening spot for spring breakers. There is a huge beach here and lots of bars and shops to distract yourself with. To be honest I do not love Rosarito the way a lot of other people do, I prefer the smaller beach side towns. However a lot of people like it here and one thing I do love is their market. It’s kind of hidden, it’s basically tucked away behind a lot of restaruants and shops. While walking around the main drag, peek your head into the alleys. One of the them will most likely bring you right into the market. It’s really cool discovering it because it is so hidden from view. You can also go horseback riding on the beach here.
Calafia – This is a really beautiful spot along the coast. In actuality there isn’t much here but a small, quaint hotel and it’s adjoining restaurant but it has a claim to fame. Rumor has it that part of the Titanic movie was filmed here and inside the restaurant you’ll find memorabilia from the movie and the actual original ship. The restaurant is gorgeous. A lot of people get married here because it is right on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific. You can dine inside or outside on their large balcony over the water. This place is highly recommended for food, drinks and relaxation. The grounds aren’t large but they are just amazing. When the bougenvilla is in bloom this place is a photographer’s dream come true.Visit the Calafia website to see what I am talking about. This place is pretty romantic and is only about 30 mins from the border. The Fox Baja Studios are right down the street and I know for a fact that Titanic and Master & Commander were filmed there. You can also take tours.
Puerto Nuevo – Located right on the water, this is a great little spot known for lobster and fresh seafood. This is a must stop on your way toEnsenada . Plan to spend a couple hours eating, drinking, shopping and buying some candied nuts. They have a great market here and tons ofresturants . I really like this little spot a lot and it’s easy to get to. You’ll see signs right off the highway and you can park wherever there is a spot or in a lot for a couple bucks.
Insider’s Tip: Take the local (not the toll) road between Calafia and Puerto Nuevo. This is where you will find the streets lined with tons of vendors. When you leave Calafia take the local Rt 1 to Puerto Nuevo and pull off when you see shops that catch your eye. Make sure to bargain, you can get some awesome deals on handmade items.
La Salina – Another tiny hole in the wall, this area is growing with the development that is being built at the harbor. However things seem to have stalled there with the recent housing decline in the U.S. There is a bar here with a small hotel on top (about 5 rooms). However the bar is located right on a huge, beautiful, vacant beach. There are a lot of expats that hang out in the bar and a lot of little expat homes right near by. Occasionally there are huge karoake parties here as well. You can also camp on the beach if you want. The light is absolutely beautiful in this place around 4pm. This is also where the header picture for the first post was taken (in front of the wall that says Viva Mexico). The guys that work here are really nice and if you become a regular like we did they will treat you very well. Once they even floated us the money to stay overnight when we ran out. They told us just to pay them the next time we were down which was just really, really nice & very trusting of them. Even though this is a big ex-pat place, I truly love La Salina and you can forge a lot of great friendships here with the local owner and bar workers. They are really great guys. There isn’t much to do here but drink some cervezas, order food, watch the waves, play pool or read a book from their collection. If it’s hot bring your bathing suit and jump in you will most likely have the enormous entire beach to yourself. It’s $40 – $60 if you are considering a stay. Tell Gustavo Beth & Randy said hi!
Insider Tip: If you present them a receipt from the last tooth booth within 60 minutes of it being stamped you get a free drink! Also this is a big 4-wheel area which can be a lot of fun. However if an older American man (I think he must be pushing 80) offers you a ride on his 4 wheel stay FAR, FAR away. Just trust me on that one.
Ensenada – This is usually the destination for most people driving into Baja and for good reason. It’s fun, easy to navigate and cleaner than most parts of Tijuana. The main streets are very walkable and cute. There are a ton of hotels, bars & interesting places to check out. I like Ensenada a lot, although this is where my license plates were stolen. We’ve had a lot of fun here and there is a famous cantina here that shouldn’t be missed. Hussongs Cantina is over 100 years old and hasn’t changed much. It also claims to be the place where the margarita was invented. And their margaritas are yummy! You also get the pleasure of constant Mariachi bands as you are encouraged to throw your peanut shells all over the floor. There is also a cool fish market by the Ensenada harbor on Sunday mornings where you can get your fix of fresh cerviche & fish tacos.
Insider Tip: Make a day out of it! Start your trip in TJ and then drive through the above mentioned hot spots, drinking and eating along the way. Spend that night getting crazy in Ensenada then head home the next morning. This is a popular route I have done many times and honestly it never gets old. It’s always an adventure in Mexico!
Beyond the Tijuana/Ensenada Corridor:
San Felipe – This town has a motto – “No Bad Days”. Can a town with a motto like this be anything but fun? Located on the beautiful, blue Sea of Cortez, this seaside fishing town is about a 4 hour ride from the border crossing at Mexicali. It’s a great place, has a really fun vibe with tons of food and restaurants. It also has a huge beach and a large ex-pat community.
Tecate – Tecate is an easily accessible border town that makes for a great day trip. The perks are that it is smaller & cleaner than Tijuana and is a lot more relaxed. It has a cute city square where locals sell their handmade goods at great prices. It is also the home to the Tecate Brewery which should not be missed. You get a free drink and a great tour through their entire facilities. They have tour guides in Spanish and English. It’s easy to spot – just look for the large, white building in town or follow the signs to the beer garden.
La Bufadora – This is awell publicized blow hole about 15 mins. south of Ensenada. I’ve been a couple times and the blow hole is really not that exciting. It’s also not a true blow hole but is created instead by water splashing high above the seashore. In any case it’s kind of a fun stop because of all the vendors that line the streets. There are also tons of bars and restaurants to entertain yourself with. In fact after a few margaritas the blow hole may seem a whole lot more interesting.
San Ignacio – If you are considering a road trip into Mexico this is the place to go. Go, Go, Go! Just make sure you go between January & March so you can see the baby whales in the San Ignacio Lagoon. For the first three months of every year the California Grey whales head to San Ignacio to have their babies. For $10 you can camp at the Kuyima Ecological Reserve (complete with solar powered showers) which is right on the water. For $40 you can take a small boat out to the whales with a group of other people. The boat is so small it will out do any other whale watching you have ever done in your life. Here you can actually pet the whales when they come up to the boats. If you get lucky like Randy did you might get to actually kiss one! San Ignacio is a 14 hour ride from San Diego but worth every minute. It is an experience that you will never forget. We will have a post coming up soon with more info about this excursion.
Cabo San Lucas – Land’s End or so it’s called. You will never be disappointed with a trip to Cabo. Breathtakingly beautiful and full of adventure this is Baja at it’s finest. It is the epitome of Baja and a huge destination for travelers and . cruise ships alike. The trip will take you at least 24 hours by car through some of Mexico’s most scenic landscapes. Alternately you can fly – there are plenty of flights out of San Diego, L.A. or Tijuana.
There are plenty of other places to visit as well so grab a map, get your car insurance and head off on your very own Baja adventure!
To read the rest of the series click below:
Blood, Drugs & Sangria – How To Vacation In A War Zone.