By Carla White
“There is a nice way of both the American and Mexican way of life in San Felipe. It is quiet here and relaxing. There is lots of time to enjoy life and to make lots of friends.” — Francisco Subirats
San Felipe, called the “Jewel of the Sea,” is not the easiest place to get to–perhaps that’s the reason it has retained the charm and serenity of the small fishing village that it is. Yet those who make the journey to this isolated town at the edge of the warm, aquamarine-colored waters of the Sea of Cortez always want to come back.
Located on the northeastern coast of the Baja Peninsula, San Felipe is about 125 miles south of the international border between Calexico, California and Mexicali, Baja California. From the western coast of Baja, a scenic trip from Ensenada on Highway 3 and then cutting south on Mexico Highway 5 brings visitors to the town. Marking the way are the dramatic craggy peaks of Sierra San Pedro Martir, the tallest mountains in Baja.
San Felipe was founded in 1916 as a commercial port for shrimping and fishing. There is still a large fleet of small pangas, but the main industry is now retirement living and real estate. There are already approximately 20,000 fulltime expatriate residents in the area, but this increases dramatically as American and Canadian visitors, aka “snowbirds,” converge on the town, beginning in November. As Baja continues to be a magnet for those escaping the colder winter climates of Canada and the United States, quiet little San Felipe is slowly changing.
At one time, the area’s visitor accommodations were mainly camps, small motels and a scant few hotels, and very few expatriates remained full-time in the village. Today, San Felipe is evolving into a resort and retirement community, with its service industries – restaurants, hotels, golf and recreation opportunities – growing to meet consumer needs. Improved access by road and private plane (San Felipe’s International Airport has a 4850-foot runway) have helped motivate this gentle change. Another reason that the area is seeing a slow but steady increase in popularity is, quite simply, the stark beauty of the mountains and sea that surround this remote location. It is a place all about desert and water – white, shelly beaches, and off-road trails.
Said Francisco Subirats, ““There are many things to do. But people like it here mostly because it is peaceful.”
Have you traveled to or live in San Felipe? What makes it special to you? Let Baja.com know!