Everyone who arrives in Rosarito arrives by land. Just 15-25 minutes from the U.S. border, Rosarito Beach is close to the Tijuana and San Diego international airports. Located right between Ensenada and Tijuana, it offers a good jumping off base for many short excursions and adventures.
Itinerary 1: A Day on the Gold Coast
1. Start at the atmospheric El Nido restaurant for an authentic Mexican breakfast of chilaquiles and a steaming cup of coffee.
2. Just steps to the north of the restaurant is the Mercado, a hidden web of shops and stalls selling everything from sarapes to leather boots and purses: This is a true Mexico market, not to be missed.
3. A short (but colorful) walk to the south takes you past some of Rosarito’s famous taco bars and to the Rosarito Beach Hotel. This old building (flanked by a new hotel tower) exudes history, and just walking around its expansive rooms and hallways is intriguing. Step out to the area near the Olympic-sized swimming pool, and walk towards the ocean, into the bar that offers spectacular sunset vistas. Going outside, you can amble down to the lawn or beach areas, where waiters will happily bring you snacks or a cocktail.
4. Tacos anyone? Yaquis Tacos, off the main drag, or El Gerente in the same vicinity, offer a taste of Rosarito Beach that will leave you salivating for more. Then, hop a cab or into your car and head a few minutes further south.
5. Popotla is the hub of Rosaritos’ Art Route (Ruta del Arte). This district encompasses several miles of galleries, pottery stores, curios shops and furniture and iron showrooms that will all having you figuring out how to ship your goods back home. And many do ship! Also encompassed in this area is the former Fox Studios lot where several major Hollywood films were produced, included Titanic, Master and Commander and more recently Little Boy.
6. Further south is the Calafia Hotel (currently closed for renovation), which is a landmark for all who travel Highway 1 to visit Baja. This old beauty is perched on a rocky outcropping with amazing views southward, down the magnificent Baja Gold Coast, and features bars tucked into funny little niches and nooks carved into the rocks, where visitors can order margaritas, wines or simply munch on chips. There is also a faux masted ship that provides décor and entertainment to children who want to clamber its cement decks.
7. For a late lunch, head another 15 minutes down the coast to Primo Tapia, where you can get some of the coast’s best fish tacos and a beer for $5 US at Splash! restaurant, called that because it juts into the Pacific and has an unparalleled view of some of the coast’s biggest wave splashes.
8. Returning north on Highway 1, stop again in Popotla to visit Mercado del Mar (if you can spot it). It is on the east side of Benito Juarez Blvd., and from the outside looks like a simple and small snack store. Enter, fo to the far left corner, and enter a cavernous room that features hundres (maybe thousands) of bottles of tequila. Don Blas, the proprietor, will offer a degustacion (tasting) if he is available!
Itinerary 2 – Puerto Nuevo
Particularly if you are in town October-March, but at any time of the year, Puerto Nuevo (ask the Lobster Village) is a winning excursion. Why October through March? Because that is the lobster season, and in mid-October, the little pueblo celebrates it in style with a Lobster Festival. No, you won’t see the crustaceans scuttling up and down the streets! But, as you are lured into village by the savory fragrance of lobster and butter that scents the ocean breeze, you will see many a waiter standing curbs in front of their eateries, proudly presenting platters overflowing with half-lobster tails cooked in the so-called ‘Puerto Nuevo’ style. Gone are the days when you could purchase a fried lobster/beans/rice plate for $5…but nonetheless, a heaping pile of lobster tails and a nice cold beer are just as appetizing as they were back then! Puerto Nuevo is also a capital spot for shopping: Curios stores abound, and although you might find some higher-quality merchandise up in Rosarito, you can do some fun bargaining for whimsical souvenirs right here in Puerto Nuevo. There is also a small museum in the center of town – don’t expect the Louvre, but it is a fun little tour and children love the depictions of indigenous sea creatures.
A note: Puerto Nuevo has some wonderful hotels skirting its perimeter (the Grand Baja Hotel & Villas, for one), but the town, itself, is nothing but restaurants and shops. From the moment you drive in the big arched gate that denotes Puerto Nuevo, you will be surrounded by people trying to get you to park, to eat and to shop. Be in the spirit, and laugh. It is all about having a good time!