Puerto Peñasco was a Mexican seaside destination of which we were completely unaware, which is a shame since it’s a relatively short 5.5-hour drive from our home in San Diego. Puerto Peñasco has many names, including Rocky Point and Arizona’s beach, because of its close proximity to the Arizona border. Puerto Peñasco turned out to be the perfect Mexico beach resort vacation spot for us. While there are the typical clubs for drinking and dancing and off-color souvenirs being sold on the streets, there are also a lot of fun things to do in Puerto Peñasco for families and couples looking to have a fun or relaxing time.
Visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The turquoise waters of the Sea of Cortez may be the biggest draw of Puerto Peñasco, but another impressive site in Puerto Peñasco is El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, which was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013. The reserve has the highest concentration of maar volcanic craters in the world. It is also the largest active dune field in North America.
Visitors can follow a scenic loop drive around the park which will visit some of the main points of interest including El Elegante Crater and Cerro Colorado Crater. The biosphere also has diverse plants and wildlife. A visit to the park takes approximately three hours.
Walk the Malecon
The Malecon is the main street along the water that offers restaurants and shopping. This is also where you can find one of the Puerto Peñasco signs. There are some interesting sites just off the main street as well, like old architecture and graffiti art.
A popular mode of transportation in Puerto Peñasco is ATVs. People are driving them everywhere. Not only can they be driven on the streets, there are also some fun off-roading areas within town. We got ours from Javie’s ATV Rentals, C. Plutarco Elias Calles Etre 14 y 15, cell (638) 109-8555 or (638) 107-8086.
Enjoy Water Sports
|Photo courtesy Elaine Masters, Trip Wellgal|
With so much water around Puerto Peñasco, there are many opportunities for water sports, including snorkeling, kayaking, and paddleboarding. It’s possible to rent equipment right on the beach. We visited Puerto Peñasco on a particularly windy weekend, so we took advantage of the calmer water surrounding The Club at Laguna del Mar to kayak and paddleboard.
The Club at Laguna Del Mar is a newer golf course. Most of the holes are guarded by salt water lagoons or the Sea of Cortez. Wildlife is everywhere so it’s easy to get distracted. There were only nine holes available at the time Romeo played, but there will soon be 18. The Club at Laguna Del Mar is a Jack Nicklaus signature course, a title that isn’t easily earned. The fairways are in immaculate condition and the greens are lush and roll true.
Listen to Mexican Jazz
While in Puerto Peñasco I discovered a new enjoyable genre of music, Mexican Jazz. We first discovered the Puerto Peñasco band Agua de Coco at El Tapeo Wine Bar. We found them again at Las Palomas Beach & Golf Resort’s restaurant Citron for Jazz n’ Wine Romantic Fridays, except performing with a female lead singer under the name Avril y Los Vatos Jazz.
Puerto Peñasco is in the Mexican state of Sonora, which isn’t one of the five states that can legally call their agave alcohol tequila. So the Tequila Factory in Puerto Peñasco isn’t distilling tequila onsite, but there is plenty of tequila tasting. The Tequila Factory’s tequila is made in small batches with no chemicals and 100% blue agave. There are six different tequilas to taste, blanco, reposado, anejo, triple distilled, antiguo, and gold, plus a selection of flavored tequilas.
Take a Sunset Cruise
Puerto Peñasco is known for its sunsets, and those sunsets can be enjoyed from the sea aboard the Señorita Rita catamaran. A sunset cruise on the Sea of Cortez is even better while sipping on a margarita or a mai tai and, if you’re lucky, you may see some dolphins.
Eat Delicious Food and Drink Fancy Mexican Cocktails
Practically everybody loves Mexican food, don’t they? In Puerto Peñasco, with its location right on the Sea of Cortez, there is also a lot of incredible seafood. There were even a number of food trucks selling seafood on the side of the road.
Our first introduction to Puerto Peñasco’s restaurants was La Casa del Capitan, high on a hill overlooking the impossibly turquoise waters of the sea. Our favorite dish there was the salpicón de marisco, a ceviche-like dish with calamari, sea snail, cucumber, tomato, and celery. But the bacon-wrapped shrimp were pretty good too.
Such was not the case with El Oktopus. Our meal included items like tacos, firecracker shrimp, tuna tostadas, and my favorite, octopus and crab salad.
Another fine Puerto Peñasco restaurant is El Tapeo Wine Bar. El Tapeo serves wine and tapas, but their specialty is seafood paella, which was Romeo’s favorite meal. El Tapeo has a large outdoor seating area and features live music.
Las Palomas Beach & Golf Resort has two restaurants, La Maria Bistro & Fine Cuisine and Citron Fine Cuisine. We ate breakfast each morning at La Maria Bistro, and we ate dinner one night at Citron. At Citron, we had some very good tortilla soup and a surprisingly amazing vegetarian lasagna.
Surprisingly, Puerto Peñasco is filled with ice cream. There seemed to be a Thrifty Ice Cream around every corner.
Another ice cream treat to indulge in is fried ice cream, which is sold just outside of the Tequila Factory.
I was first introduced to the michelada on a trip to Cabo. It’s such a simple cocktail, yet with complex flavors, and it comes in a number of variations. Previously, I’ve preferred it with just beer, lime juice, and a salt rim. The most common michelada recipe includes beer, lime juice, tomato juice, and a sauce, like Worcestershire sauce.
While in Puerto Peñasco I was introduced to a new version, the Michelada Cubana. This version is different because it excludes tomato juice and includes Maggi sauce, a rich sauce that makes the michelada more of a brown color. This Mexican cocktail was so delicious, we decided to try to find the best Michelada Cubana in Puerto Peñasco and decided the best was at La Casa del Capitan.
Another fun Mexican cocktail which was in abundance in Puerto Peñasco was Mexican sangria. Sangria is an alcoholic beverage of Spanish and Portuguese origin, made with wine, fruit, fruit juice, and sometimes brandy. The sangria we had in Puerto Peñasco was a little different because it was floated on a generous portion of lemon-lime soda.
Of course, the quintessential Mexican cocktail is the margarita, and those can be found all over Puerto Peñasco in many flavors.
Stay at One of the Rocky Point Mexico Hotels
During our stay in Puerto Peñasco, we visited a handful of Rocky Point hotels, but we stayed at Las Palomas Beach & Golf Resort, which was our very favorite hotel in Rocky Point. Las Palomas Beach & Golf Resort is actually a complex of over 800 privately owned and individually decorated condominiums, all with a view of the Sea of Cortez.
The rooms are large and comfortable, equipped with living room, kitchen, and laundry room, as well as large balconies looking over the pool and out to the sea. What we really appreciated was that it was a family and couples friendly hotel where people have a good time but don’t get too wild, loud, and crazy.
Las Palomas Beach & Golf Resort’s long list of amenities includes an 18-hole golf course, two full-service restaurants, an infinity-edge pool, a swim-up bar, a lazy river, a heated whirlpool, a boutique, a spa, a fitness center, and direct access to the beach.
For travelers arriving by car, Las Palomas Beach & Golf Resort provides protected parking. For those traveling without transportation, the hotel has their own taxi service.
Another Rocky Point hotel option is Peñasco del Sol Hotel and Conference Center. While also a nice hotel, it felt more like a place for younger travelers to party. Peñasco del Sol has a bar in the lobby with live music, restaurant, pool, sand volleyball court, and access to the beach. The beach by the hotel is also a place to shop as there are vendors selling food and trinkets.
For a boutique hotel experience, we discovered the Dream Weaver Inn just a couple blocks up from the Malecon. This privately owned hotel has seven rooms with lots of character and outdoor patio areas with views of the sea.
A Note about Rocky Point Mexico Safety
We live in San Diego, near the Mexican border and Tijuana, so safety in Mexico is a frequent topic of conversation. I remember many years back on a road-trip through Arizona we skipped going to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument because the guidebook said that area near the Mexican border wasn’t the safest. So while we drove past the cactus, crossed the border, and drove through the Mexican desert to get to Puerto Peñasco in our van with hired driver and group of travel writers, I kept asking myself if I would feel comfortable driving ourselves. The answer is, I would. If we drove ourselves, I would rather stay at a hotel with parking rather than in the middle of town, and we probably wouldn’t go wandering around the middle of town late at night, but there was no time during our visit to Puerto Peñasco that we felt unsafe. In fact, I would feel safer driving our own car there than over our border (there are some crazy drivers in Tijuana!).