I first fell in love with Mexico many years ago when my sister’s roommate invited me to his wedding at a place called Hotel Calafia.
Calafia is a small town just south of Rosarito which in turn, is just about 30 minutes south of Tijuana. The Hotel Calafia has a replica of ” La Misione San Diego de Acala”. La Misione San Diego de Acala was founded in 1769 first by the Jesuits and then later taken over by the Franciscans. You can see how the original mission actually looked.
Calafia according to an old legend was the queen of a mythical island. Apparently when Cortes arrived in the Baja in 1533 he was carrying a pulp novel that had been written 12 years earlier by an author named Garci Rodriguez de Montalvo. The book was called Las Sergas de Esplandian (The Sagas of this knight named Esplandian).
According to the novel there was this island west of the Indies, extremely rocky, with many cliffs. The Island was inhabited by a tribe of black
Amazonian type women. They were fierce warriors and hunters. The fiercest and most beautiful (of course!!!) was their Queen. Her name was Calafia and the name of her island was..... California.
In fact all maps depicted California as an island up until the 1800’s!!!
Today the Hotel Calafia is a very unique place. It includes the hotel with its panoramic view of the ocean, many terraces cut into the cliffs, bars, discos, five restaurants and four banquet halls. Let’s begin with the restaurants (I’m always hungry). First we’re going to go to La Cava. La Cava is a cozy and romantic wine cellar. If you know what you’ll be having, (I’ll be having the lobster of course, because that is what the northern Baja is famous for. Lobster! Lobster! and Oh yes, Lobster!) So, as I
was saying, if you know what you’ll be having, (did I mention I’ll be having the lobster?) the sommelier will pick the perfect wine to accompany your meal. The wine comes from the Valle de Guadalupe which is just a few miles down the road. Two thirds of all the wine that is produced in Mexico comes from the the Valle de Guadalupe. It is considered the Napa of Mexico.
Las Gaviotas is an outside restaurant perched over the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. As you can imagine, it has wonderful views, superb cuisine and you will feel like you're worlds away in just 30 min. from the San Diego/Tijuana border. You can watch the seagulls glide by and if you focus on the ocean, you can see the dolphins smoothly sufing the waves.
Once Jorge and I saw two Killer Whales! That was the highlight of our trip. The feel here is very casual. The price is more than reasonable and I can guarantee you’ll be back for more!!
Now a better woman than I would feel that dessert was an indulgence they could pass up...... maybe next time. I want to show you the Titanic restaurant. This sounds like a very ominous name but don’t worry it won’t sink. Actually, the Titanic Room gets its name from one of Cinemas greatest love stories. It's inspired and decorated with authentic furniture, props and memorabilia from the actual set of the Titanic. Fox Studio Baja is about a quarter of a mile north of the Hotel Calafia where Titanic was filmed. The menu in the Titanic room has many international as well as Mexican dishes. Oh by the way .... I ended up having the flan!!! What else in Mexico?
Calafia is an important landmark for both Californias as it is used to mark the division between
Old and New California during the mission era. If you walk down to the bottom of the cliffs there is a bay called the Bahia del Descanso. Here you can explore a full size replica of a spanish galleon called the Corona Aurea. When I first visited Hotel Calafia this ship was used as a disco. Now I believe it’s used for theatrical productions and music video’s. As I mentioned in the beginning my first trip to Mexico was to the Hotel Calafia for a friend's wedding. I felt this was one of the most romantic places I’d ever been to. Weddings are the bread and butter for this hotel.
If you go there you’ll see what I’m talking about. Above the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean there is a gazebo where wedding ceremonies are performed. Your guest can stay for a very reasonable price overnight in the hotel. Many of the rooms are overlooking the ocean and the others are in a beautiful garden. Also the price here would be much, much cheaper than in the US. You should definitely check this amazing hotel out. On the week-ends this is quite the hot spot.
One of the many things I love about Mexico is they seem to be able to incorporate the new without throwing away the old. You can see it everywhere. I think the Hotel Calafia is a great example of this. Also, historical buffs will find it fascinating as this is one of the original missions on the Camino Real Rd. and there are many interesting artifacts, statues, and maps.
Before we move on to Fox Studios which is right next door to the Hotel Calafia. Let me explain how to get here. As I mentioned earlier Rosarito and Calafia are about 30min. south of the Tijuana/San Diego border. This is about a 2-3 hr. drive from Los Angeles where I live and I’ve made this trip many times. I take the I-5 all the way to San Ysidro (the border crossing below San Diego). Oh, before I forget you are going to need Mexican Insurance. I usually go to my local Triple AAA and buy it there. It’s about $30-$40 for a few days. That will depend on the kind of car you drive, do you want collision or just liability? That sort of thing. You will notice many “Buy Mexican Ins. signs as you get closer to the Mexican Border. especially between San Diego and San Ysidro (the border). I’ve bought my Insurance at these places also and I’ve never had a problem.
As you cross the border into Mexico you’ll notice they use this traffic light system.
The light will either turn red or green as you cross. I’ve never seen the light turn red but I imagine it does sometimes and then you pull over. But as I’ve said, that hardly ever happens. So after you get the green light you just drive on through and try and stay pretty much in the center lane and go straight for about 50 yds. Stay with the signs that say Ensenada. The road will start going up so now you want to be in the right lane and that lane will take you in a full circle. Stay in that right hand lane and follow the sign that says Ensenada. Your going to end up on the scenic toll road. This is a great drive. You’ll eventually come to a toll station. The cost is about $2.50US. Now the really great thing about the toll road is not only is it beautiful and a great drive but that toll provides auto insurance to all drivers traveling on this road. Make sure you keep your toll receipt.
Rosarito is about 8 miles down the road. There are four exits into Rosarito. Take the last exit. The signs will
say La Paloma, Potpotla, Calafia, Las Rocas. This exit will take us to The Rosarito Beach Hotel (which is also my other hotel pick. This is were we are going to stay, so stay tuned, we’ll get there in a minute). Exit here and drive south. You will pass Foxploration (that’s Fox Studio’s). Start looking for the Calafia entrance on your right.
Another way I could go is by Amtrak and even though I’ve never taken this route, friends that have tell me it’s the best way to go. This is what they do. They travel from Los Angeles to San Diego. The ticket is about $29. I suppose you could take Amtrak from many places and the ticket price
of course would vary. Anyways, the beauty of this trip is you're not dealing with traffic. Read a book, Take a nap, catch up on some work..... you get the picture. When you reach San diego you can rent a car. You can rent a car in San Diego that will let you take it over the border. Dollar, Fox and Enterprise car rentals allow this as long as your not traveling below Ensenada. You will buy your Mexican car insurance through them.
Now there are other methods like taking the trolley over the border or renting a shuttle from the San Diego Amtrak station. Volaris shuttle offers frequent daily service from the Amtrak Station in San Diego to the Tijuana Airport. You could actually rent a car there also. You do need a car in Rosarito and the drive is beautiful. There are no direct flights to Tijuana from Los Angeles. You end up flying to Phoenix first or some other equally distant place so this is impractical for me. But depending on where you live, AeroMexico and Mexicana both have flights to and from Tijuana.
Also for our International readers, other airlines from all over the world fly directly into the Tijuana Airport (TIJ).
One more thing concerning The Hotel Calafia. They only take Master, Visa and Discover cards. They are at Km. 35.5 Tijuana-Ensenada free road. Baja Mexico.
Their website is hotel-calafia.com and their phone is (011) 526616121580.
Next we’re going to visit Foxploration at Fox Studios Baja. Located on the old (free) road, just south of Rosarito or just a little north of the Hotel Calafia.
Fox Studios Baja was originally built for the Twentieth Century Fox epic Titanic. The Baja Studios is a self contained production facility. It has some of the worlds largest stages and filming tanks. It was built on 46 acres with 3000 ft. of Pacific ocean front. Many films have been made here. "Titanic", "Master and Commander", "Pearl Harbor", "Tomorrow Never Dies" and many, many more.
Xploration is a one of a kind movie park. A relatively new addition. We can learn some of the tricks of movie making and see the props, sets, and costumes from the actual movies they were in. There’s actually a new X-men exhibit that I want to go and see!! I think this actually makes a very fun afternoon. It’s not very expensive. $12 for adults and $9 for children and seniors. Foxploration is open Wednesdays through Sundays all year round. Wednesday through Friday 9am-4:30pm. Saturday and Sunday 10am-5:30pm. You can go to their website at xploration.com.