A San Felipe Road Trip

A lot of Californians are terrified of Baja California. Street tacos! Terrifying (Or delicious?) Cartels! (Not prevalent in the Baja Norte area most of the time) You can’t put Mexican petrol in your vehicle! (Yeah, you can, it’s the same 87 octane you get in the U.S.) Being terrified of a little Baja road trip is the trendy thing to do in southern California! When we planned this Baja road trip our southern California friends were shocked! “Your going to drive your brand new Jeep to Mexico?!”

“Yes! And I’m going to drive it on the beach!” I shrieked, full sunroof open and the wind rippling my hair to beach-blown perfection. I may have been the only vehicle on the beach that didn’t have paddle tires for the wet sand but we survived the Baja beaches without getting stuck and having to call a Grúa, or tow truck.

Our days in Baja were beyond relaxing. The Baja beaches are so beautiful and not crowded like California beaches. The puppy played with seaside street dogs every morning! We have the photos and videos to prove it! The sand mode in my new Jeep Trailhawk performed awesome and we had a great time trying it out along the Sea of Cortez in Percebu. Then we inhaled some beachside street food tacos to celebrate! Then I had one too many margaritas and fell down a flight of stairs! Yes, of course, this only happens to me! It was pouring rain when I decided to fly down the staircase, landing on my butt and my wrist at the same time, but I survived for more San Felipe fun the next day. Thank God, part of our San Felipe adventure was not visiting a Mexico ER. Note to self, do not wear sandals in the rain ever again.

Take a plane, take a train, take a car

But before I could embarrass myself at the Crocodile in San Felipe, we began our Baja road trip where the turf meets the surf in Del Mar California. Because really if you are heading to Baja where you can’t bet on the ponies from your phone (Legally at least) for a week, you really must detour to Bing Crosby’s old stomping grounds. November is the time of the year to visit the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club. Yes, the weather may be so much cooler than those humid summer months but you can purchase box seats at the finish line at Del Mar at such a reduced price! And obviously, you have to enjoy a sunset dinner at Jake’s on the beach after you hit that late pick-five at Del Mar. They have the best coastal California menu. (The ahi with sushi rice is very tasty)

Is your wanderlust leading you to Del Mar this autumn? Can you sing better than Billie Eilish? You have to try out for Sing Like Bing! If you have the vocal cords and the balls to belt out a few lines of that old Bing Crosby favorite, you can try out to serenade the surfside crowd of ten thousand horse racing fans each day at this seaside track. Contact the Del Mar marketing department to audition. After our little forlay to play the ponies and take a few selfies with jockeys it was adios Del Mar and Bienvenidos Baja! Or so we thought. 

Baja road trip traffic tips

Are you planning a Baja road trip? There is so much to know when planning a road trip. Especially if you are passing over an international border. More so if you are driving through a country such as Mexico. Number one, put down the Xanax, no need to have a panic attack. Baja is a safe place to travel as long as you are polite and don’t do stupid things. You may drive through a lot of military checkpoints with federales with firearms on their shoulders but they are serving for your protection. Say hola with a smile, answer any questions politely and enjoy some lovely Baja beaches with your favorite furry friend.

I have driven to Baja probably close to thirty times since I turned eighteen many, many years ago. I have never been stuck in traffic driving south into Tijuana until last week! We waited almost two hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic to cross into Baja at San Ysidro. It was a Friday during rush hour at this point, so maybe that’s just how it goes these days. Traffic driving through San Diego is just atrocious and getting worse by the day so maybe this is just life in southern California here in 2023.

  • Buy Mexican insurance before you cross the border. It’s so much easier these days to get Mexican insurance than it used to be. Your insurance company might even be able to hook you up with it. (Geico had a partner they worked with and it was simple to sign up)
  • Don’t be scared to drive in Baja! As we drove through Ojos Negros Valley, the wine and cheese route between Rosarito and San Felipe, we were shocked at how polite Baja drivers are! When it’s safe to pass a slow vehicle on a Baja highway, the slow vehicle will signal left for you to pass them and slow
    With these ocean views, the pup and I don’t want to get out of bed!

    down. That is literally the opposite of how drivers act in California.

  • If you stop at a Mexican stop sign ( Alto) you will be the only one. Everyone may roll through the stop signs but other drivers constantly wave, flash the peace sign and are very cheery and polite as you stop at all those stop signs near Popotla.

After we finally made it through the insane Friday night traffic in Tijuana, we rolled into our awesome beachside Airbnb just before eight p.m. Are you planning a Baja road trip with your pup? We absolutely adored our stay at the Calafia Condos. Our tower room was overlooking the ocean on the eighth floor with an amazing wrap-around balcony. There was so much room for our pup to run around the condo. After sitting in all that border traffic we were so ready for a cocktail relaxing eight stories above the ocean and listening to the waves crashing.

$35 extra large lobsters for lunch at Angel Del Mar.

When we booked,we had no idea there was a dog park on-site at Calafia either! Seriously, if you are planning a Baja road trip with your four-legged friend, check out Paul’s place on Airbnb.

Calafia is a great location to stay near Rosarito Beach. It’s a few minute’s drive from downtown Rosarito Beach and great seaside restaurants like Splash. You have to try their house-made lobster Bisque! Calafia is also just a few minute’s drive to Puerto Nuevo and our favorite lobster restaurant, Angel Del Mar. Seriously the Baja caught lobsters here are some of the best I have ever had, and were probably caught just this a.m. out of the nearby Pacific Ocean. Angel Del Mar has such a scenic outdoor seaside location on a sunny day as well. And you just have to try their house-made Diablo Sauce if you are a fan of spicy food.

But maybe you just want to purchase your own fresh seafood to barbeque back at your Airbnb. When on a Baja road trip you can hit up some fantastic fish markets like the seafood market in Ensenada. We always stop in Ensenada and purchase a few fresh lobsters to barbeque back at the Airbnb. The little taco shack outside

Angel Del Mar has the best margaritas

the Ensenada fish market has phenomenal tasty tacos that can’t be missed. Or you can check out Collective Surf near Las Gaviatos if you are craving sushi. Sushi in Baja? What? Yes, Collective Surf has a limited menu but all their fish, the yellowtail and yellowfin was just caught off the Baja coast this morning. They have a very farm-to-table (Sea to table?) menu and the sushi and especially nigiri is so damn fresh. It was some of the best nigiri I have ever had.

We did look at doing a little deep-sea fishing in Rosarito Beach but I couldn’t find a fishing company to reply to my very important questions. Like if the panga boat seats three people, does my dog count as one of those souls? We also thought of inviting our liberal buddy to be the third person on the panga boat but I’m afraid if he started lamenting about his love for Joe Biden while at sea I might just chuck him overboard. And that is how the puppy became invited to our deep-sea adventure.

Valle De Guadalupe

Valle De Guadalupe is one place we have always wanted to visit in Baja but never got around to it. One tip; Go hungry! The restaurant prices are U.S. prices but beautiful outdoor venues like El Cielo serve up Baja Yucatan delights al fresco. These were some of the best food choices in all of Baja we found.

Rosarito Beach Hotel jalapeno margaritas

There are just so many restaurant options if you are taking a weekend road trip out to the Valle De Guadalupe. The biggest thing you must know about a weekend morning at the Valle De Guadalupe is every single restaurant serves breakfast until one p.m. on a weekend. We really were in the mood for some lunch so we checked out the area, took photos, lamented how we were just not in the mood for more machaca or chilaquiles and then drove back to Puerto Nuevo for lobster. But next time we will try Casa FRIDA. I’ve heard their seafood choices are just fantastic.

Are you ready to road trip it to San Felipe yet? The evening before you head towards the Ojos Negros Valley make sure you stop at the bar at the Rosarito Beach Hotel for the best jalapeno margarita you will ever have in your life!

No one ever talks about how lovely the drive is from Rosarito Beach to San Felipe! The Sierra Juarez to the north and east delighted us the entire four-hour drive as we cruised through Baja Norte.  Three days in San Felipe led to some shenanigans for our family for sure! But it wouldn’t be a Baja vacation without some hijinks south of the border.

Policia Federal border escorts, amazing tropical sunsets and falling down kind of fun. Also, there is sand and off-roading. Did I mention off-roading? Did I mention how the Jeep now has sand everywhere?

On this Baja road trip from Rosarito Beach east to San Felipe, we had no idea that the Baja 1,000 was happening at the very same time. We ran into some unexpected traffic troubles where at every security stop there were also support vehicles being searched. The traffic delays were annoying but we were in a lovely place to be delayed!

If San Felipe is known for one thing, it’s sand toys. San Felipe is basically Ensenada meets Glamis. All of my friends here in southern California just love visiting Glamis, California in their side-by-side and ATVs. We did go to Glamis with a group, once upon a time and we had a great time but there is nothing to do in Glamis unless you like sand, lots of sand and I mean sand everywhere. One thing about San Felipe, wow are their sunsets absolutely phenomenal! And there is just so much more to do in San Felipe than in Glamis. Yes, there are sand and dunes but you also have that Sea of Cortez and those sunsets.

Senor Chenowich judges you in this San Felipe bathroom.

If you are looking to travel to San Felipe to go on an off-road desert tour you will have so much fun. I highly, highly recommend booking a tour through Desert Adventure Tours. These guys know their stuff, they are so fun to hang out with for an afternoon too! Let them show you the best of their desert home and introduce you to the Valley of the Giant Sahuaro Cactus.

We hung out with them for a day of Jeep and off-road adventures where we ended up at the Chenowich Lodge. What a beautiful resort. I mean besides Senor Chenowich watching you pee.

We had such a fantastic time on this our maiden voyage to San Felipe. San Felipe tends to be about ten degrees warmer in the winter than Rosarito Beach or San Diego! It’s tempting to want to go back all winter. This is especially true this year as we now have our Global Entry cards and can use the Sentri, or fast track lane at the border.

But there is one thing about San Felipe that is holding us back. The food in San Felipe is just so gringo. Yes, the shrimp is fresh and delicious and just caught in that bay over there but San Felipe chefs have no creativity besides deep-frying shrimp. By our third day out hitting up the best restaurants in San Felipe, we were missing the fresh Baja lobsters from the Pacific Ocean and just spicier Mexican food in general. Like this machaca and eggs breakfast feast we enjoyed at Bajamar Golf Course and Resort near Ensenada. Besides being a world-class eighteen-hole course overlooking the Pacific Ocean, we have been partaking in Bajamar’s breakfast for years.

Saying that almost every restaurant in San Felipe was dog-friendly. No one cares if you bring your pup anywhere in San Felipe which was a chill vibe! We really did enjoy bringing our pup with us absolutely everywhere we went.

San Felipe also has cooler souvenir options for sure compared to the rest of Baja Norte. I literally wanted to buy every colorful woven blanket! However, the vendors in San Felipe just will not barter whatsoever. So don’t waste your time!

So which beach is better, San Felipe or Rosarito Beach? That could come down to your particular taste. If you are looking for a more puppy-friendly vacation San Felipe hands down is the place to get away. Warmer beachy weather, less aggressive ocean waves for your pup to swim. And you can take man’s best friend everywhere with you! The Chenowich Legacy Lodge is a beautiful to explore while out and about exploring San Felipe and they welcome dogs too even at the bar.

Are you a big time foodie? Then ignore San Felipe and head down south to Rosarito Beach and Ensenada. The food, especially fresh lobster can not be beat down here!

Ready to say hosta la vista to Baja Norte? Map out the Sentri lanes in advance if you are looking for the fast track way to enter back to the United States with your global entry privilege’s. If you don’t have global entry and Sentri lane privileges the best time to head back over the border at Mexicali is a Tuesday or Wednesday around lunchtime.

See ya next time Baja Norte!


  1. Esme Slabbert

    Amazing, now I am drooling for those awesome lobsters and what a steal of a price.
    Thank you so much for visiting and sharing your links with us at SSPS #291. See you again on Monday. January 8th, 2024

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