Written by Ishtar on 17 Feb, 2002
Ensenada is about 30 miles from Las Rocas , which was our point of reference, as we looked at it every morning. The drive is magnificent, and as we approached town, people were coming over to the car and giving us brochures…Read More
Ensenada is about 30 miles from Las Rocas , which was our point of reference, as we looked at it every morning. The drive is magnificent, and as we approached town, people were coming over to the car and giving us brochures of hotels with rates and amenities. We parked right by the waterfront, where a cruise ship was at anchor, and I saw the Plaza Civica with 3 enormous bronze heads. Later found out that they were Mexican heroes Benito Juarez , Miguel Hidalgo and "Venustiano Carranza . This is where you could also get a thirty minute horse drawn carriage ride for $10.
It was hard to decide where to start as there was so much hustle and bustle on the streets, this was the most life we had seen since passing through Rosarito.
Avenida Lopez Mateos is the main dining and shopping artery here. We went into a souvenir shop, one of hundreds, I picked up a refrigerator magnet. Pottery, my downfall, is ubiquitous; the ceramics come from different regions of Mexico, such that Puebla is renown for its Talavera, and so is Guanajuato . One shop was displaying the very latest in Talavera and its prized piece was a complete ceramic toilet for $400.00!! Mexico is also the land of Amatl, which is the bark of a tree used as a substrate for paintings. We found these indigenous paintings almost everywhere and Amatl sculptures (these do not replace the paper maché sculptures that are also extremely popular) Porcelain fruit hangers are fast replacing the paper maché ones, and prices vary. A group of large fruit could sell for between $12-15, and about half for the small ones. The colors are simply brilliant.
The Mexicans are a deeply religious people, and this is evidenced in their art: Milagros boxes, crosses, paintings of the Virgin, the Magi, Day of the Dead cards are just part of items available for sale.
We must have gone into dozens of clothing shops, mostly geared for women and children. I was able to find a hand knitted dress for a newborn baby girl for $20. Baby stuff is big business in Mexico and the patterns are very tastefully made. Blown glass has become very popular; most of it is made in Guadalajara, and blue seems to be the color of preference. When in Baja, we found some yellows and oranges that were very attractive. A set of 6 glasses and a pitcher goes for about $27.00 in these parts. We did return to one shop which had fabulous candle holders made of narrow wooden trunks and wrought iron candle receptacles attached. We bought both pieces, (no two are alike) for $20. We were also introduced to glorious artwork made with layers of yarn.
If you are going to Mexico by car, you simply can't avoid the border crossing; it can be fairly rapid, or agonizingly slow, depending on the day, and the time of day. From the United States, we crossed at about 4:00 pm on a Thursday,…Read More
If you are going to Mexico by car, you simply can't avoid the border crossing; it can be fairly rapid, or agonizingly slow, depending on the day, and the time of day. From the United States, we crossed at about 4:00 pm on a Thursday, and it was quick and somewhat painless. There are some things you need to do however, before you get into Baja. Also keep in mind that the crossing has become "militarized" since 9/11, so cooperate with authorities.
You are crossing at San Ysidro and need to stop at Dairy Farms to buy car insurance. If you plan ahead, you can avoid this and buy your insurance online here . The process is fairly quick, the hard part is finding a place to park. You will also begin to notice a great change in the landscape and the condition of housing as you head further south. Area code changes have been implemented; for Ensenada, it is 646 , for Rosarito 661 , and for Tijuana, it is 664 . If you're going to call the States from Baja, it's going to cost you approximately $0.22/minute. To dial into the country, you must first enter the country code which is 55 .
Unfortunately for us, both of our cell phones were dead as doornails, as there were absolutely no sites to be had where we were. A blessing in disguise.
You will require proof of citizenship, and for US Nationals, your driver's license is sufficient, although you'll hear that they'll want a passport or a birth certificate. If you are traveling on business, you are required to fill a 30 day FM-N form . There are very strict rules about carriage of firearms, drugs and the like. We did see some small trucks being pulled over to the side for inspection. We had a trunk filled with some groceries, and apparently, this is OK. As soon as you spot the emblem of the eagle on a footbridge, you're on the other side!
You have to go through Tijuana which is a bit frightening and then onto the Free Highway which goes all the way to Los Cabos.
On the way back, crossing the border was a much more colorful and drawn out affair. It was Sunday, close to noon, and the border crossing was like a flea market. Vendors line the last mile or so of the highway with their kiosks and will come up to your car in an attempt to make a sale. Some braver souls walk between the cars with their blankets, dolls, statues, and alms boxes. We found Peruvians, among the locals, who come here as they see an increased opportunity of making some money; they do not limit their targets to the border. We found them in Ensenada as well, and in Puerto Nuevo to a lesser extent.
Naturally there are also those who cross the border to get their prescription medications at a fraction of the cost in the US, or in some cases, get common antibiotics, like Cipro, without a prescription. By the way, this is not exclusive to Mexico; many antibiotics are sold over the counter in Caracas as well, a city I have visited over half a dozen times.
. On our return, we were in one of 24 outbound lanes, crawling, and reading electronic bulletin boards which heeded new warnings every minute or so in both English and Spanish. If you have purchased over $300.00 worth of merchandise from Baja, you are supposed to "declare" it. As we approached the booth at crossing, my cell phone gave signs of life, and I was able to call my daughter. I also loved a particularly "a propos" sign which said: YOU ARE AQUI .
Once we were passed the check point, we literally flew into Santa Ana, where I was catching a flight back to New York an hour later.
Written by El Gallo on 30 Aug, 2000
La Paz is a great little town and a real haven for the carless. (Those with vehicles can access the miles of beautiful, isolated beaches out of town). Please see my La Paz journal for more details. (See how I'm using this to blatently…Read More
La Paz is a great little town and a real haven for the carless. (Those with vehicles can access the miles of beautiful, isolated beaches out of town). Please see my La Paz journal for more details. (See how I'm using this to blatently pimp out my other journals--at least it doesn't blink).
South of La Paz, the highway makes a loop around the tip of the Baja, called 'The Capes' (Spanish, 'Los Cabos') although a look at a map might suggest uncircumcised nicknames. What the bus companies call the 'long route' to Cabo runs down the Sea of Cortez side and is by far the most interesting, especially if you're in a camper. It goes through El Triunfo (a silver mining ghost town), canyons with waterfalls (not a common sight in the Baja, boy howdy), and through what they call the East Capes. Lodgings in this area tend to be expensive, given to sky ranches (where rich gringos fly in to stay) and resort/spas). Barriles is the closest thing to a town, with restaurants and bars but nowhere cheap to stay. (And by cheap, I mean like under a hundred bucks.)
But there are some heavy attractions here, buildings or no buildings. Frailes has, believe it or not, a coral reef and great diving. The entire area is one of the top international windsurfing sites. Habitants around here tend to be Americans or Canadians who have leased land and pulled in an RV or built some free-form extravaganza out of white cement (no zoning and no weather--you can build real creative).
The first city is San Jose del Cabo, a quiet little place where tourists tend to be full-time condo owners who stick to the golf course. Outside of having no real activities, it's a good place to stay, with budget lodging like the Hotel Diana or Ceci. Walk out to the highway and catch a bus into Cabo San Lucas for a dollar--or get off along the way for great beaches and diving at Chileno (excellent for snorkeling--and with a pop stand!) or Santa Maria cove (a beautiful half-moon with fish that swim right up to the beach--and a restaurant nearby at the Hotel). A lovely little plaza near the church has sidewalk cafes and restaurants of all price levels.
The stretch between San Jose and Cabo San Lucas is called 'The Corridor' and is lined with lovely beaches and ghastly hotel complexes. Cabo San Lucas is...well, 'Cabo'. See my CSL Journal for a little detail--the place is just too nuts and contradictory to really describe.
The 'short route' by bus ('Via Corta') also ends up in Cabo, but by way of a new road down the Pacific side, a long, flat, straight slab of boredom whose ONLY point of interest is Todos Santos. 'Todos' is a very odd place: an isolated pueblo that turned out to have good surfing and beach camping (backpackers and busers flock here, seeking directions at The Coffee House), and turned into a sort of new age, artsy retirement type place. Gringos are buying up old places and renovating them, aiming for a sort of Taos South. The result has driven up prices, but has also brought several outstanding art galleries, one of the best English language bookstores in Baja, and of, course, the Coffee House itself. Not to mention photography studios, rolfers, aura therapists, and shamans. You could stay, by the way, in the rustic old Hotel California. This is supposedly THE Hotel from the Eagles song, but don't worry, you CAN leave.
Written by rubylu on 28 Mar, 2006
By the time I got up at 8am, Avy was back from a 5-mile round-trip walk down the beach to the south. I headed north. The sea was still, no waves, just lazy little ripples, and was crystal-clear. The shore is sand, but with lots…Read More
By the time I got up at 8am, Avy was back from a 5-mile round-trip walk down the beach to the south. I headed north. The sea was still, no waves, just lazy little ripples, and was crystal-clear. The shore is sand, but with lots of rocks. It wouldn’t be easy to go in swimming because of the rocks, though I’m sure there are good places for it. I was tempted to see about renting one of the kayaks at the hotel, it was that calm and nonthreatening (I am not at all strong or athletic).
As I walked, I picked up a few shells (nothing spectacular) and rocks. The variety of rocks was amazing, from quartz to granite to volcanic: black, green, red, white, and sparkly. I saw a few people in kayaks and motorboats, and one older guy went by me in an ATV, but mostly I had the beach to myself. I probably went 1½ miles down.I stopped to watch the birds: large pelicans, great blue herons and one smaller dark heron, egrets, seagulls, and all kinds of other seabirds. I sat on a rock close to a great blue heron—I’d sidled up slowly, trying to look like I wasn’t getting closer—and watched it for a while. I saw how an egret fished: a few steps, dip, up, look around, scramble a few more steps, flap wings a couple of times, repeat. I watched pelicans skim across the water, then dive in, beak first, and then sit on the surface. I saw fish, 6 to 10 inches long, jump out of the water and dive back in. I felt the warm sun on me. I felt… relaxed. Happy. In tune. Satisfied.We’d decided earlier to drive back to Rosario today. When I got back, we finished packing up and headed out about noon. Raquel drove back from town on an ATV as we were leaving, and we said goodbye. I could have easily stayed there for a few more days.We retraced our steps of yesterday—the same 200-mile drive. Almost halfway back, outside Catavina, we stopped at a domed museum we’d seen from the road the day before. See my review of Parque de Palmerito.We got into Rosario around 5:30pm and checked into Mama Espinoza’s hotel (see review). I bought a few things at a panaderia in a small unmarked blue building. Maybe bakeries are the only places left in Baja where you can get a bargain.
Written by ndburry on 15 Oct, 2004
When you’re driving down Baja’s route 1, you’ll eventually hit a little podunk town called El Rosario. It looks a lot bigger and more important on the map, but there’s nothing there except an overrated hotel/restaurant…Read More
When you’re driving down Baja’s route 1, you’ll eventually hit a little podunk town called El Rosario. It looks a lot bigger and more important on the map, but there’s nothing there except an overrated hotel/restaurant that is supposedly famous for lobster burritos, but they tasted more like thawed-out crawfish whipped up with some mayo and celery and slapped in a factory tortilla, and for $10 thank you very much. They’re the only game in town, though, and after that there’s a couple hundred miles of open desert with a few scattered truck stops, so you pretty much have to stay there. The idea is that you rest up and recharge in El Rosario before forsaking the Pacific and charging across the narrow peninsula for the Sea of Cortez. We didn’t do much resting though. We drank some beers, slept a few hours, and got up at around six. Instead of trying the breakfast special at the restaurant, we picked up a couple of cokes and some candy bars and shot ourselves full of simple sugars, and exited to get the balmy and clear waters of the Sea of Cortez.
It’s a pretty drive out in the mid-peninsula desert. I thought it was romantic, and I was happy to have my girl there with me. We were anxious to get to Santa Rosalia, so we powered through most of the driving, stopping only to use the bathroom or pick up tacos and more cokes. Then we finally came to a jagged, chalky ridge, dropped down into a terrifyingly steep grade, rounded a corner, and saw the cobalt blue sea. I rolled open a window and felt the rush of warm moist air, different from the dry dust behind us. A few minutes later, we were at sea level, and look, there’s Santa Rosalia, the old French copper-mining town!
It was late afternoon, so we wanted to go to the hotel and relax. We could check out the town tomorrow, we decided. We’d heard the Hotel El Morro was the best bet, but we weren’t prepared for a beautifully landscaped little gem sitting on a bluff over the water. We got a large room with an outdoor sitting area and a private bathroom for about $30. The pool was small, but clean and cool. I happily padded back and forth from my deck chair to the hotel bar for an ice-cold Pacifios and lime.
Written by lwoodie on 08 Oct, 2002
Cabo San Lucas was our second destination in Mexico. We were trying to compare the Gulf of Mexico side with the Pacific Ocean side to see which one we liked better. We found out that there was no swimming permitted in the Pacific…Read More
Cabo San Lucas was our second destination in Mexico. We were trying to compare the Gulf of Mexico side with the Pacific Ocean side to see which one we liked better. We found out that there was no swimming permitted in the Pacific Ocean almost as soon as we got to the country. That had not been expressed to us prior to booking and, since our hotel was on the Pacific Ocean, we were upset. As we drove the 45 minutes through Los Cabos and to Cabo San Lucas we realized that almost every hotel was on the Pacific Ocean and that no one had a real beach to go to right outside their door.
When we got to the resort to check in they told us to not even go out and stroll along the beach. They said that the current was so strong it could pull us out just by standing there. We couldn’t believe it! We decided to see what all the fuss was about anyway and strolled the beach, tempting the waves. Another couple was out there with us. A wave hit and looked like it was only going to pool around our shins – it came all the way up to my waist and when it started to drag back out to the sea, I had to dig my hands into the sand to prevent going out into the surf with it! It was incredibly strong!That was the most incredible feeling I have ever had as it pertains to the water. The woman in the couple actually did get knocked off her feet and almost sucked in – her husband rescued her.
We learned why the Pacific side was do dangerous in Mexico. If you were able to wade out 3 feet from shore the beach dropped to the depth of the Grand Canyon! Apparently, someone died at our resort 2 years prior doing just that. Someone also died in Cabo San Lucas only 3 weeks prior to our arrival.
The only place where people were allowed to swim was El Medano Beach. It overlooked the Sea of Cortez, a basin, really. That too was rough for several days due to a storm in Mazatlan, but we braved it.
I didn’t like town too much and, unfortunately, that’s where we had to go every day to eat or go to the beach. The road leading to El Medano Beach was not paved, had deep pot holes and a dead dog lay on the street for the entire week we were there - in plain view. The fact that no one cleaned the street bothered me and I hated having to walk past the dog every day to access the beach. But if you wanted to do anything at all in Cabo, you had to go to Medano Beach for it. All water sports were there, one of the two really good restaurants was there (The Office) – you couldn’t avoid it.
There was no sense of culture in Cabo like there had been in Playa Del Carmen. The atmosphere was more geared towards partying rather than beaching, drinking rather than learning about the natives. Most of the time I felt like we were in California because you couldn’t find any Mexican music! I heard as much Ludacris and Eminem there as I would here! We got lucky one night when a roaming Mariachi band strolled into El Chivis and someone paid for a couple of songs. If you are a drinker there are plenty of bars to frequent in Cabo. That seemed to be the thing to do - authentic food wasn't the priority.
Written by spuguru on 12 Dec, 2000
You may have noticed that you can buy booze very cheaply in Mexico. Question is should you declare it at the US border? Let me relate a story that should help you decide. I was at a friend's house in college and saw a lone…Read More
You may have noticed that you can buy booze very cheaply in Mexico. Question is should you declare it at the US border? Let me relate a story that should help you decide. I was at a friend's house in college and saw a lone Corona on top of a shelf in his room, in a place of honor. I asked him why he had it there and he proclaimed "It's my $100 Corona!". I shook off my disbelief and asked how that was possible. He told me this story:
He and another friend had headed down to Tiajuana and ended up with a trunkful of tequila, beer, mezcal and more. They had spent all of their money and decided not to declare it at the border, not wanting to pay any tariff. Well, not surprisingly, they were caught and forced to stand by the side of the road in front of all the cars waiting in line to cross the border, pouring out their bottles under the supervision of the custom's agent. He generously allowed them to keep one bottle of Corona as a reminder. So please, be smart and declare all your purchases!
Ensenada is just 6 miles north of Estero Beach, and is the drop off point of many a cruise ship. You'll find Americans running arround all over town trying to consume as many tequila shots or margaritas as possible. If this is your cup of…Read More
Ensenada is just 6 miles north of Estero Beach, and is the drop off point of many a cruise ship. You'll find Americans running arround all over town trying to consume as many tequila shots or margaritas as possible. If this is your cup of tea, try out Papas and Beers. This annoying place is populated with waiters who can't wait to blow whistles while lifting you up in the air and pouring tequila down your gullet. The food is sub-par, but the dance floor is loud and fun. If you'd rather have a slightly more authentic experience, head across the street to nearby Hussong's to drink the beer with the same name and listen to a Mariachi band. When saner heads prevail, you'll find a smallish, local place (they are everywhere!) with great food and have a few peaceful drinks there. Although I've guzzled more than my share of booze here, I'd recommend avoiding Ensenada's garishness during the day, and come have an excellent meal with the locals at night. Also, the poverty evident here can be a bit depressing (by the time the 3rd or 4th indio child trys to sell you chicklets, you'll be out of the party mood).
One of the greatest features of restaurants in Ensenada (as elsewhere in Baja) are the travelling mariachi bands. A group of several like-dressed musicians will enter and play a song, attempting to entice a diner into paying to have the band stick around at their…Read More
One of the greatest features of restaurants in Ensenada (as elsewhere in Baja) are the travelling mariachi bands. A group of several like-dressed musicians will enter and play a song, attempting to entice a diner into paying to have the band stick around at their table. If no one seems interested, the band will leave and a new one will enter. We spent most of a divine meal listening to a man sing love songs to his wife on their anniversary accompanied by one of these travelling bands. Please take the time to look at and listen to each group as they come back - make a memory of your own! Close
Written by auntieanne on 04 Nov, 2000
Palmas de Cortez is mainly a vacation spot for serious fishermen. However, for those who are not as interested in fishing, or for those who want to take a break from fishing, the hotel offers other activities as well. There are workout facilities, a large…Read More
Palmas de Cortez is mainly a vacation spot for serious fishermen. However, for those who are not as interested in fishing, or for those who want to take a break from fishing, the hotel offers other activities as well. There are workout facilities, a large pool, jacuzzi, tennis and racquetball. The hotel can also arrange for scuba diving, windsurfing (in season), and horseback riding. There is a beach-side palapa bar where you can enjoy a potent Margarita while listening to Mexican musicians nearby. Close