A Gringo in Mexico’s 10 Travel Warnings for Baja California
Thinking of visiting Baja California? Check out our advisories before you go.
BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO – I’m often asked by stateside friends about our family’s experiences traveling in and around Baja California. We drive just south of the border from San Diego 2-3 times a month for weekend stays on the beaches of Rosarito Beach and Ensenada, great food and wine in the Valle de Guadalupe, art and culture in Tijuana and to check out other Baja California destinations and bring the story back to you, our readers. We enjoy sharing tales of our adventures and of course always encourage our amigos and amigas to visit for themselves or join us on a tour.
However, travel is never without its detours and potentially life-changing experiences. To make sure you get the most out of your trip, here are El Gringo’s 10 travel warnings to keep in mind when visiting Baja California…
1. You will be exposed to new and interesting cultures.
From the indigenous Kumiai to migrant families from all over Mexico, visiting Baja California may expose you to new and interesting people, food and cultures.
2. You may develop a decreased tolerance for boring wines.
The Valle de Guadalupe supplies 90% of the vino consumed in Mexico. It’s also home to a burgeoning artisanal wine scene that is producing some imaginative and delicious blends.
3. Street food.
El Gringo knows that street food in Baja California can be scary – scary good! From adobada (marinated pork) tacos and carne asada tortas in Tijuana to ceviche tostadas in Ensenada, there are many delicious and inexpensive options.
4. Tijuana has a graffiti problem.
Not really, but the city does boast a lot of thoughtfully rendered street art. Check out Pasaje Rodriguez, Avenida Revolución, Playas Tijuana and the parking lot/street art gallery at restaurant Verde y Crema for just a taste.
5. Friendliness is contagious.
Baja Californians are notoriously friendly and typically easy-going. Locals welcome visitors with warmth and are always ready to help you with recommendations and directions to their favorite restaurant or cantina.
6. You will develop an aversion to frozen seafood.
Baja California has an abundance of fresh seafood. Fish and shellfish from the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez are found everywhere from vendors on the beach to several of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants in Baja California.
7. You may notice an Increased tendency to relax.
The sound of rolling waves through an open window at night. A glass of wine in a vineyard on a warm summer afternoon. Baja California has a reputation for relaxation. If not alert, you may experience a siesta. In a hammock.
8. You may be bitten by the Foodie Bug.
Tijuana, Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe have become culinary hotspots on an international scale. You may not be able to resist taking a shot of that perfectly plated dish and posting it to Instagram before devouring it.
9. You will experience spontaneous occurrences of fun.
Baja California provides its tranquillo moments, but the peninsula knows how to have fun too. FACT: There are more festivals than days of the year in Baja California – from the Rosarito Art Fair to the Baja California Culinary Fest.
10. You will develop an urge to return.
El Gringo’s señora is fond of saying that a single day in Baja California feels like three. Living in Southern California makes it easy for us to visit south of the border often. And we suggest that you do the same. Just heed these 10 travel warnings and it’s sure to be a great experience.
Your Gringo in Mexico,
Perfectly stated and I agree whole-heartedly!! <3
Even though the Plascencia’s have s monopoly on most restaurant reviews, great up and coming places like Mi Casa Supper Club go unmentioned.
Thanks for your comment Juan! Agree that a lot of places are overlooked. But not Mi Casa Supper Club. You can read El Gringo’s post of this gem in Rosarito Beach here: http://agringoinmexico.com/2014/09/15/mi-casa-supper-club-a-touch-of-class-in-rosarito-beach
Also – you can participate in helping to evaluate the restaurants you visit in Rosarito area with the ongoing Rosarito Restaurant Survey at http://www.GetBaja.com
This data will be utilized by the turism authority, restaurants association and Yo Amo Rosarito for a special series of awards and upcoming Baja restaurant event. SHare your opinion on any of the 200+ Rosarito area restaurants.
Thank you Scott for those ¨Scary Warnings¨
I always tell people that Mexico is full of warmth and there is a large probability that you fall in love with the country.
Nice! I may just have to borrow this idea for Belize. Really good post 🙂
Thanks for your comment Belize Blog! Borrow away…I borrowed the format from other posts I’ve seen on Mexico 🙂 Love Belize, BTW. I was fortunate enough to spend a week enjoying the country in Placencia in 2008.
Having parents that live in Rosarito beach im one of the luck ones to visit often. Riding horses on the beach or being able to park close enough on beach to soak up the sun and relax is the best. Puerto Nuevo is a must for awesome sea food. Always worth the trip.
Dont forget about san felipe! My family travels there every year during memorial weekend.
Hi Christina, and thanks for your comment! I love San Felipe as well. Here’s a trip report from the last time I was there in 2012. I need to return muy pronto!
I just got back from a drive down to Pescadero and from there to El Triunfo to hang with a buddy of mine, then back to La Paz. The highways have been improved recently and there are some nice bypasses if you want to take advantage of them. Sweet!
And you may develope a need to stay, live here and never venture foot N.O.B. again.
I live in Mexicali B.C. and its great to read about your expiriences in my home state its truly a magical and wonderful place thank u for visiting its awesome to know that people notice my Baja Californian brothers and sisters as friendly generous .
Saludos from B.C.
Thanks for your comment, Emilio! I hope to be visiting Mexicali soon for an exclusive story, not often told. Stay tuned for more!
Great article! Positive way to approach the negativity 🙂
Thanks for your comment, Marty! You see what I did there 😉
Having lived in Rosarito and Playas de Tijuana for almost three years I can only concur with you. Am still down there 2-3 times a month with my SENTRI pass.
#4 is a mural by Glow AND El Norteño
Hi JXL Studio, and thanks for your comment! Sorry about the oversight. I have added Glow to the photo credit on #4 🙂
Hi Scott, Fun article! I do appreciate food in a much richer way after visiting the Valle de Guadalupe.
Hey Gringo! Come visit us in Puerto Penasco!
You make Baja sound like paradise – and it is! Bien hecho!
Thank you Scott: I have lived in Tecate, Baja California for 27 years and love it. Tecate is now a “Pueblo Magico” – only one in Baja California. Come visit and enjoy the Tecate Community Museum while here. By your first “warning”, I can see you have visited the museum.
Thanks for your comment, Zella! I love Tecate and visited most recently in 2013 after they received the Pueblo Magico designation for a story on this blog (check it out!). I am overdue for a visit and need to return muy pronto!
Gringo, well done, thanks on behalf all those who have worked to show you this and other greater things in baja …
Thanks for your comment, Jorge! Yes, I have been privileged to have some serious Baja experts to guide me through many of our adventures and experiences and have made many new amigos y amigas over the past two years who live in and love BC.
Headed to Loreto in a couple of weeks. First time there, but visited Rancho Buena Vista a few times years ago. I’m taking your list with me so I can make sure I enjoy every warning while there…..especially #6.
Thanks for your comment, Sandy, and have a great time! Check out our stories on Loreto here before you go as well.
Love the article. I’ve lived in Baja for a long time and have never read an article so true as this one. Thank you so much for potraying the positive side of the region. It’s is about time that people get a different perspective of what goes on in it and how wonderful it is to visit. Tnak you once again.
You missed out Los Cabos. The golfing paradise where the Pacific meets the Sea of Cortez. Your 10 warnings are equally true here and I guarantee you will be coming back for more
Thanks for your comment, Tari! I like Los Cabos quite a bit, as well as Loreto, La Paz and Todos Santos. However, this story was on the state of Baja California, the northern part of the peninsula. Perhaps I will do a list for Baja California Sur (the southern part of the peninsula) next time!
Great article celebrating the many moods and wonders of Mexico. Love it! You seem to be the social media ambassador on Mexico and its charms. Best wishes!
Thanks for your comment Adri! Social media ambassador on Mexico? Sure, I’ll take it! We love our trips to Baja California and other points in Mexico, so look for more soon!
Been there many times. How safe is it now?
Thanks for your comment, B. Duck! Much safer now than between 2005-2010 when the former Mexican president stirred up the cartels. Some key arrests, police force corruption reviews and a New Mexican president who toes a softer narco line have helped immensely. I’ve spent thousands of hours in Baja without a single problemo, not that something couldn’t happen, as anywhere.
I love your presentation of Baja it’s a beautiful place but I strongly disagree with your comment about the security “Much safer now than between 2005-2010 when the former Mexican president stirred up the cartels”. We owned a property and business, retired now, in Baja from 1988 till 2012, saying that is clear that we were not weekend travelers, sometimes staying longer there than at home in San Diego. I don’t think that been softer with the cartels makes the place safer provably the association with them and the corruption gives a false sensation security because we don’t see the headlines associated to the wars to the cartels. I believe people has to worry more about the corruption of the police giving tickets for any reason in way to get some cash, something that came back with the softer president. Believe or not security is never greater with crime tolerance.
Thanks for your comments, Joe! I appreciate that you spent a lot of time in Baja California, while I am only a visitor and have not directly experienced any crime or corruption there to-date (fortunately). That being said, I have heard from readers of the occasional “mordida” from police and imagine that the likelihood increases as other revenue sources (i.e. cartel payoffs) dry up. No place is ever 100% secure, but I feel that the occasional police shakedown is preferable to a cartel-on-cartel or cartel-on-police gunfight in the streets of Tijuana or Rosarito Beach where lives are put at risk. Either situation though is not ideal.
I agree with you on “Either situation though is not ideal” but since in those many years I never witness any gun fight on the streets and sincerely felt that those “encajuelados o decapitados” have always something to do or were involved on, then regular citizens like me and most of Baja working people had a sense of security that corruption don’t offer. “Mordidas” are up due the corruption of the tops, bribes and pay offs are gone now? Maybe because they are all in the same business. Unfortunately we had to live with that and like you said no place is a 100% secure but I still prefer a government that try to fight the cartels than one that associates with them.
´CAN AGREE WITH YOU SCOTT….here always is to be a sore notein any report… I live in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands for the las 35 years and wouldn´t go bach to StateSide San Diago, Ca…. here too it´s peaceful w/o Poleece or terrorism intervening.. so don´t ask me why… American venturing here come by motor or sail yachts and do not advertise… I am the only visible Navajo with no fear for Mid Eastern violence.. You could check theprt of teh world out…. Robin Donald – deVallon…. aka Donah..//
After having lived in Ensenada for 18 years full time I can whole heartetly agree with all your comments.One of the best places to live!
Nice one. We had to link back to let our readership know about this one: http://www.gringofurniture.com/blog/74-warning-spending-time-in-mexico. We are big fans and especially interested in your writing about organic food in Mexico.
Thanks for your comment, Ken! And thanks for the link to the story and following El Gringo! Organic food in many Baja restaurants is a given, especially in the Valle de Guadalupe where many chefs keep their own organic gardens.
live baja! we are racing in the norra 1000 in april. we race from ensenada to cabo!! the people are so amazing. its a 4 day vintage rally race that we stay in bahia de la angels next race to loreto party! next day to la paz! bigger party! ending in san jose del cabo with awards party on the beach! life is rough!! one of my favorites is mark and olivias at playa buenaventura right out of mulege!! an absolute must for any baja enthusiasts!!!
baja is our favorite place to be! we race in the norra 1000 end of april!! ensenada to bahia de los angeles first night! party! next to loreto! big party! on to la paz! even bigger party!! ending at san jose del cabo!! best party ever!!!we race about 4 times a year!!the most amazing people have entered our lives in baja! a must for you to check out is mark and olivias at playa buenaVentura!! just south of mulege! they are so wonderful! you can check them out on Facebook!i dont mind the police or federales never had a bit of trouble! of course ee sre in very large groups also. Thank you so much for making me smile!!
We love to stop in San Quitin on the way to our beach house, in the Baja. The hotel and restaurant is El Gardines just south of town. Rooms are great and great prices. The hotel owners are great hostes and know how to treat travelers. The daughter owns the bar and restaurant and the sea food platter is to die for. Ask for Carmen
The carrots taste like ice cream, egg yolks really yellow, avocados nutty/creamy, the Baja Bug definitely gets under your skin. Just gotta return, or in my case, build a house and wallow in the delight.
Me gustaria visitar rosarito..porfavor como hacer una reservacion y telefonos para llamar a su hotel… muy interesada en ir a relajarme con ustedes en su hotel…
Ana, thanks for your comment! You can reach the Rosarito Beach Hotel on their website at: http://www.rosaritobeachhotel.com.
Glow Is da best!!!
So…..I’m here 5 + years after all these comments…….I’m going to Tijuana…..is this thread even active?
It is now! What are you looking for in Tijuana? You can find a number of restaurants and street food vendors if you visit my Facebook page @agringoinmexico and search for Tijuana. There’s also some content here on my blog. Provécho!
Tijuana is fun. Stay on the main strip.
Rosario is nice but you have to pay close attention to yr wallet, passport. Even in yr room showering. Stay alert.