Sea of Cortez
The Baja Peninsula is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west side and The Gulf of California, also known as "The Sea of Cortez", on the east side. Adjacent to the Baja shore of the Sea of Cortez is
the more glitzy and better known ports of the Mexican Riviera....
Acapulco, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta. The Baja side is nothing
like these ports. Far more rustic and heartland. It's one of the most magnificent places in the world because it is so remote.
La Paz is the capital of the Baja and it has made its seafront or "malecon" more tourist friendly, but basically the city's appeal is its authentic Mexican feel. The same is true of Loreto, another seaside town that has Mission roots and is un-americanized (Is that even a word?). However,
the "pueblo" I chose is a small fishing village located on the northern shore of the Sea of Cortez named San Felipe.
San Felipe is about 190km south of the United States/Mexico border. This small town was historically dependent on fishing and shrimping but now also on tourism. Infact, this is the home of the "fish taco"....YES!!!
Nestled between Punta Macharro and Punta Estrella, surrounded by the Sierra San Felipe and the San Pedro Mortir mountain ranges, this is where the desert meets the ocean!!!
It's always sunny
It is almost always sunny in San Felipe and even though it is a desert, it draws it's water from an underground river located just a few miles south of the town. Originally called Santa Catalina, it was later changed to San Felipe de Jesus and then just San Felipe.
Luna, our amiga and resident of San Felipe is going to help us navigate our way through the little desert town by the sea. Often called "The Gateway to the Sea of Cortez" because of the two white arches at the entrance of the town. You can see them for miles before you enter and they can be seen from almost anywhere in town.
San Felipe has beautiful beaches. The waters are warm during the spring, summer, fall and temperate in the winter. The extreme tidal changes are often startling. The shore can fluctuate up to 1/4 of a
San Felipe is a great place to relax, bring a good book or just walk on the beach at sunset. You can enjoy the quiet beaches at "El Dorado Ranch
" and along the "campos" north of town or the more lively beaches along the Malecon and south of town, all of which have beautiful white sand and no riptides. Someone wrote, "a fishing village perched on the edge of history, time and change"..... nice!!
The Malecon is the street that runs along the waterfront in downtown San Felipe. In the day it is very tranquil and calm with little shops, great restaurants and street vendors. In the evening (especially the weekends) it becomes very vibrant and lively
Valley of the Giants
with mariachis, musicians, night clubs and numerous festivals. Speaking of festivals..... Are you ready.... There's the Tequila Festival, I'll be there for sure, the
annual Shrimp Festival, San Felipes's Blues and Art Festival, Hobie West Mid-winter's Regatta (catarmaran regatta), Many road racing events and of course Carnaval: which is the same as Mardi Gras in New Orleans. That's just to name a few. There are an amazing amount of things to do in this small and I guess not so sleepy little pueblo. Take a road trip south to the Valley Of The Giants . Here you'll find giant cactus as high as 70 ft. called "cordons". About 50 miles south of San Felipe is a small privately owned beach town called Puertocitos. It's a really nice inlet beach, great for you snorkelers, with lots of sea life to see. There are sulfer springs and a little restaurant that is opened "sometimes".
San Felipe has a unique "panga mothership" sport fishing industry. The "mothership" (totally air conditioned) takes 18 to 27 anglers south to fish at the famous Midriff Islands area.
Seals' "Siesta" at Midriff Islands
Yellow tail, leopard grouper, white sea bass even some dorado are abundant in these pristine waters.
Up to 250 miles of off road racing start and finish in San Felipe in the month of March. If you like this sort of activity make your reservations early!!! Apparently you're not alone.
OK you might say "I'm sold!" (I know I am), so how do we get there? Yes, San Felipe does have an International airport! Unfortunately you have to bring your own plane :( There are no commercial flights so far. Most people get to San Felipe by road. Most northerners come in through Mexicali. Via Interstate 8 (San Diego/Yuma) to El Centro and then head south on California Route 111 to Calexico where you cross the border (Mexicali). A few may cross the San Diego/Tijuana border and take the scenic drive down to Ensenada. From Ensenada there is a well maintained two lane highway that runs across the Baja peninsula and joins up with the Mexicali-San Felipe road. Another way from San Diego is the border crossing at Tecate and you totally miss the traffic jam at Mexicali. Visitors from other parts of Mexico will almost always come through Mexicali and
then head south on Mexico route 5. Many car rentals in San Diego, Yuma and El Centro allow you to take their cars into Mexico. You will need Mexican car insurance
Accomodations: San Felipe has a wide variety of vacation choices for such a small pueblo. One thing that seems unique is the number of people who drive their RV's down.
Here's a webpage
that has a list of some of the RV Parks in San Felipe. Luna recommends Pete's Camp, 7 kilometers north of San Felipe. I would also recommend
Puertocitos, the little town about an hour south of San Felipe. It has hot springs and a very good camp ground called Laguna Percebu. Also there are camp grounds downtown and one is in the Ejido (communal land shared by people). Luna says there are a couple of bare bone Motels in the Ejido that are fairly new and inexpensive. They are Baja Palms, Hotel Diamante, and the Blue Star.
El Dorado Ranch
I like a little more luxury and suggest El Dorado Ranch
located just north of town and the La Ventana del Mar
which has a 18 hole golf course. Tripadvisor
(one of my favorite places) rates the The Playa del Paraiso
as the number one Hotel in San Felipe with a four star rating, Now you're talking my language. It's located right on the
south beach and all rooms have an ocean view. This hotel is not completed yet but I believe it's open for business.
Now we come to the most important part of our vacation and yours.... Did someone say food???? Where to eat? Luna has many suggestions for us:
" is located right on the beach of "The Sea of Cortez" at the "El Dorado Beach and Tennis Club",
Whether your having "The Sea of Cortez Fish of the Day" or "The Half a Rack of Lamb", it's a beautiful location making an ideal place to enjoy meals and drinks with other El Dorado
Room at Playa Paraiso
" at the Golf Course..... Champagne Poached Scallops topped with Shrimp? Oh Yes!! Or how does Ahi Tuna Sashimi with Sesame Soy Glaze or Tournedos Tartare appetizer sound?
"El Secreto" is located in the San Felipe Marina Resort
, it has a fine selection of Mexican and California wines. The food at "El Secreto"
The Pavilion Restaurant
is amazing with world class standards and a menu that reflects both Mexican and International cuisine.
If pizza while watching NFL football is your thing, then The Happy Jackass Lounge in "Los Arcos" restaurant sounds like the perfect place. They offer very reasonably priced cocktails and Ice Cold Mexican Beers. "Los Arcos" offers a menu of American and Italian favorites prepared daily. They make their pizza skins and breads in their own bakery. Speaking of Pizza , Luna says that in downtown San Felipe across the street from the Banco de Tierra right next door to the Drive in Pizza Restaurant (yes, that's what I said...."The Drive in Pizza Restaurant!!!!) is El Guero ; Luna says 'best Taco's I've ever had". Now that's saying a lot because she lives in Mexico.
"Juanito" is located at the north end of the Ejido. The owner and Chef, Juan Aguilar Rodriguez, is a life long resident of San Felipe. The food is unbelievable, from the shrimp and fish selection, to the Filet Mignon and everything in between. You won't believe the price and you won't be disappointed. I highly recommend Juanito's in the Ejido and so does Luna.
"El Minuto" has a truely Mexican menu and the prices are hard to beat. Locals eat here and the "Caldo de Res", a delicious beef soup, is the most popular dish. Be here early because the soup will be gone by 11:00 am.
San Felipe is a wonderful little pueblo, It's highly recommended on our "Road Less Traveled" page, but you better hurry, the buzz is growing ..... and before you know it......It's Cabo San Lucas
*Special thanks to Linie Luna Sherrod for being our guide to San Felipe. Join Luna's Facebook group "We Love San Felipe" for further insights to this beautiful pueblo.
For more San Felipe info:
Special thanks to Cody Duncan for the amazing banner photo. See more of Cody's work at CodyDuncan.com
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