Northern Baja California – Best 10 List

(Rosarito – Ensenada)img_3205f4e90a47-1.jpeg

Our recent post on the western Mexico/U.S. border crossing tips and more was specific to Tijuana, the vibrant and largest city in the state of Baja California. Now as much as there is to do and still discover there, just due south along the breathless beach coastlines to winding cliffs that tower over the ocean bring additional must-stops. Of course everything can’t be touched on so instead we’re going to put together a top 10 list of places to go and things to do from Rosarito, a touristy resort town 13 miles past Tijuana 52 miles south to Ensenada, a mid-sized beach town with over a half of a million residence.

Once again touching base on the recent Tijuana post, there are a few options or modes of transportation available.

  • You can drive your self, crossing through San Ysidro/Tijuana border being the most direct and cutting through Tijuana taking Mexico highway 1D south (which if you were to drive 22 hours would bring you to Cabo San Lucas). If purchasing Mexican car insurance go to and print out your paperwork.
  • Tourismo Express Bus by the border in San Ysidro is a great option for getting down to Ensenada and runs on the hour for $10 each way. The only thing is there aren’t bus stops in all areas on this list which could involve Uber’s or Taxis. There is also the ABC bus depot in Tijuana blocks from the border that run busses down for $10. If driving to the border, there are multiple parking lots that charge $8-$20 depending on the day of the week. If street parking, make sure to check signage as well as being such a trafficked area, street lit areas if in the evening.
  • Uber is an option if setting up from Tijuana, Rosarito or Ensenada but some in-between areas don’t always have Uber available so just to be aware. Direct, Uber will cost around $60 which can of course change with demand. (A reminder if Spanish isn’t proficient you can select an English speaking Uber at no additional charge)
  • If you do a little research there are car rentals from both sides of the border that won’t come with Mexican insurance with it being required. If you cross with a U.S. rental and any damage happens to the vehicle you are totally responsible. On the Mexican side you will may need to drop a deposit up to $500 depending on the rental agency

If in downtown San Diego and trying to make it to the border and aren’t driving, hop on the MTS trolley which for $5 for the day and 45 minutes, will bring you right to the crossing area of the San Ysidro/TJ border.

Back to the list! (Disclaimer this is a list we put together, once again there is so much more but this will give a start.)

  1. IMG_2392 2Navarro Rentals: to begin just past the city of Rosarito in an area called Las Gaviotas. To be a little more specific the the dunes area is called Las Arenales. Rolling sand dunes that cover a couple square miles lie just off of the ocean and are a serious good time. IMG_1233
    There is free parking, and rentals usually run around $30-$35 per person for a half an hour rental, just a little more to push it to an hour. I’ve rode an hour for $40, it depends on business levels and group sizes. Navarro Rental is the group that rents the quads and Chory (+52.661.130.9236) and Cruz (+52.661.111.5224) are who to ask for. As with use the dunes can become roughed up from heavy riding but as the wind blows it smooths out the treads and the feeling of riding on air ensues. There are steep bowls to ride up, down and around and have definitely been around modified vehicles racing the area too. My absolute favorite time to ride is right before sunset. From the peak height, maybe 100 ft above sea level you can see for miles and the sunsets are oh so spectacular. Afterwards just past the rentals be sure to check out Polos Asados, “The Chicken Man” for the best grilled chicken in the area. A serious must and great refueling after a ride.
  2. IMG_0341Las Rocas: Also just down the road and just next to the K-38 surf house this resort for under $100 will set you up for quite the experience. Across the street from a huge Jesus statue looking over the area for your best interests, this resort sits atop 50 ft cliffs with all rooms overlooking the ocean. Most packages include introduction Margaritas and a basic breakfast. Between the hotel and the cliffs are an outdoor bar, swimming pools with an infinity pool that gives the ultimate view. If looking to surf, next to the infinity pool is a stairway that leads directly to the ocean’s rocky shore. You’ll have to paddle out a little bit but depending on your location you can find clean fast left and right breaks.
  3. IMG_0078Taco Surf/The Baja Pig: Just next to Las Rocas resort is a great valued torta/taco stand “Taco surf,” with fresh tortas (a bread with your choice of protein) and just past this is the “The Baja Pig, a hip outdoor dining experience with Baja craft beers on tap and a similar outstanding view you get from Las Rocas. Weekends sometimes have live music which makes this area a complete package.
  4. Tacos El Yaqui: An outdoor taco stand with picnic tables, a large mesquite grill and fresh pressed tortillas will definitely make your trip here wonderful. There may be a line as the place is known for quality but so worth it. As you head towards the counter you’ll stand right along the chef grilling carne asada to perfection. At the front are roasted jalapeños, leeks, fresh limes and radishes. Yes another taco stand but hanging with the locals and tourists in this Rosarito won’t disappoint. Go here!
  5. IMG_1632Rosarito Horse-Back Riding: As far as I know besides going through tour-guides the way to catch up with a ranchero and his string of horses is just as easy as walking the tourist strip on the beach. Great for anytime riding but a definite recommendation is sunset riding. Saul is one guy we met while walking the beach. His number is +52.661.117.4728 and rents horses $10 for about a half an hour. He doesn’t speak English but was easy to work with and made sure we had a great time.
  6. Puerto Nuevo Gallery: A town just a few miles past Rosarito is a bit touristy but still offers quite a bit. Outdoor market stands line the streets and while the town/area is known for their spiny Pacific Lobsters at quite the deal, recommendation is to check out the local art gallery. It’s located just a few blocks from the ocean, stands as a two story house and the main entrance is off of Anzuelo road. Inside you’ll find many a medium, but plenty of canvas oil and acrylic. A revived medium popular in the early 20th century but dates back many centuries is popotillo art or straw dried, cut and sometimes died. Its set on a type of beeswax which holds each individual straw piece in a particular place. Small 8×10 pictures can take weeks to put together while others are on display that have taken many months. The art style was popular in China but still lives and is practiced here. While here make sure to grab a Mexican coffee. An espresso machine and an artist/barista will give a flaming performance before you’re able to enjoy one of these delicious drinks.
  7. Cuatro Cuatros:IMG_7612 Just before getting into Ensenada you have the option to take an off ramp towards Cuatro Cuatros a couple of miles inland. This luxurious multiple square mile property sits along the side of Pacific coastal mountains and has some of the best views the area has to offer. Constructed by Mexican architects and built with intent to bring beauty from all senses, this is a definite must stop. Vineyards run throughout the hills with a few varietals but mostly consisting of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Tasting rooms are scattered throughout the area as well leaving you to venture around the varying elevation. A recommended place to check out are the cabanas that sit at the highest point of the mountain side. Along the parking lot at the entry of Cuatro Cuatros is a bus pickup point. They are now charging $10 per person to ride the 15 minute bus up the bumpy mountain side. This does include a beverage in the waiting area. At the top you can barely recognize the ocean waves as you are so elevated. The area provides small bites as well a wonderful drink selection with covered hay stacks as seating areas and tables underneath the cabanas. A great place to sit back relax and enjoy Mexicos natural beauty. The bathroom view may be one of the best I’ve seen period.IMG_1748 copy
  8. La Bufadora: To see the largest blowhole (marine geyser) in North America and the second in the world you’ll have to head to south-west Ensenada where the thundering sounds of water being forced upwards shoots over 100ft above sea-level. Get splashed, take in the sites and just another site-seeing spot to hit in Ensenada.
  9. Las Cañadas: South of Ensenada by about 20 minutes is a campground with the largest waterpark in Baja as well as more ATV rentals but if you’re coming here you have to try the zip-lining. For around $30 you’ll get to work with a professional and bi-lingual team zipping over 5 different areas as well as walking across a number of suspended bridges while you walk on narrow planks over the canopy tops. Of course you’re strapped in a harness and attached to one of the cables but still a definite rush. The tour through this lasts about two hours but if you’re in the area, be sure to stop by.
  10. Valle de Guadalupe: Now to be quite honest, this one on the list is only going to be surfaced by myself within this next week. Otherwise it’s been on my radar since I’ve been living in the San Diego area and has been irritating me that I haven’t visited yet. With over 100 wineries and tasting rooms along northern Baja that make up for over 70% of Mexico’s produced wines, it’s been the less trafficked while still making a name for itself wine producing area in a Mediterranean micro-climate. With notable publishers touring and writing up on the vineyards as well as it becoming a destination for oenophiles all around.

Of course as said previously there is so much more to visit throughout the Northern Baja and with a little bit of curiosity, means to step outside of your bubble and of course maybe just a little Español as it is the idioma hablado oficial, get down into the Baja and take that step into your next adventure!IMG_1139