San Diego’s One Tank Trips: The Villages of Baja California Norte
Beyond the notorious avenues of Tijuana and the eternal spring-break atmosphere of Rosarito, lies a stretch of coastline devoid of Ralph’s, sprawling suburbs and rush hour traffic jams–imagine San Diego in the early 1900s. Baja California Norte’s long, sparse sections of undeveloped coastline are complimented by small, seaside villages, some no bigger than a cantina and a hotel. Part of Baja’s allure has always been that the dollar goes a bit further south of the border, and these three coastal villages are no exception.
For a village the size of a shopping center, La Fonda has a lot to offer for San Diegans who want a relaxing getaway. Just 40 miles from the San Yisdro border crossing, La Fonda’s seaside restaurants and bars provide an ideal backdrop for mid-day margaritas. The small costal village is a perfect spot for budget-conscious travelers and families who enjoy fine dining and oceanfront rooms, but don’t want to have to take out a second mortgage to do it. Ocean view rooms can be had for under $100 a night, and if you want to go even cheaper, La Fonda also has a campground (no hook ups), which costs between $15 and $23.
If Rosarito is Tijuana’s younger, dumber sister, then Puerto Nuevo is their chill aunt. Founded in the late 1950s by a few fishing families, Puerto Nuevo is the place to go for fresh, cheap lobster. Just 50 minutes from downtown San Diego, Puerto Nuevo’s main draw is its abundance of fresh lobster served up in traditional Puerto Nuevo style—pan-fried with a side of rice, beans and tortillas. There are more than 30 restaurants in Puerto Nuevo, including the village’s first eatery, Puerto Nuevo 1.
La Salina Beach
The best way to find La Salina is to follow the white highway markers to kilometer 71; keep your eyes sharp, though, because it is easy to pass right by this little slice of paradise. While developers have built up the nearby marina, the hallmark of La Salina Beach is still its lone cantina and hotel. Overlooking a huge sandy beach, the cantina offers good, but cheap, food and drinks as well as a deep jukebox and pool table. Above the cantina are a handful off rooms, ranging from $45-$65 (WiFi included). The rooms are spacious and each one has a balcony overlooking the beach.
Know Before You Go
1. Do not drive at night if you don’t have to. The likelihood of encountering bandits or hitting a roaming cow increases after sundown.
2. Each of the aforementioned villages gladly excepts U.S. Currency, so there is no need to exchange your money.
3. When driving in Mexico it is always a good idea to get Mexican Insurance. You are required by law to have Mexican insurance, and not complying can be costly and include jail time. It’s just not worth the risk. Coverage costs vary, but it tends to average around $20 a day for basic coverage. Insurance policies can be bought in San Ysidro or online.
Editors Note: After this article was published, Becky (one of our readers who lives in Baja and runs the website Costa Brava Baja) wrote to us to correct our information about Mexican Insurance. We are thankful that she corrected us as it is an important point. Please consider the information she shared below when planning your trip:
“As a Baja full-timer, I wanted to make one correction: Mexican auto insurance is required, not just advised. While on the toll road, your toll fee provides you with insurance but when you are on surface streets, you are required to have it. If you’re in an accident, even if you are not at fault, you can end up in jail if you violate Mexican law by not have Mexican insurance.”
Thank you Becky for clarifying an important point!
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*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website, Nariko’ s Nest Weddings & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first because I do love to share and I would be flattered. Thanks!