San Felipe, Baja California Mexico

by Douglas Means    < bajanomad@aol.com >

One-time small fishing community, now relies on the tourist traffic quite a bit. Slightly sleepy town, definitely laid-back, sometimes overrun with tourists, usually students on Spring Break. Major off-road races take place in the vicinity and can also put a squeeze on the motel-room situation (especially late-March). The main focus of town however, is the beautiful Sea of Cortez, and the waterfront malec�n is the centerpiece of San Felipe.

In June of 1993, the government established the Mexican Biosphere Reserve over 3700 square-miles of the uppermost Sea of Cortez, directly off the coast of San Felipe. There's a 636 square-mile core zone where no fishing or oil drilling are allowed at all, and the remainder is under regulations that eliminate shrimp trawling and limits the use of gill nets for catching sharks. This area is home to the endangered vaquita dolphin and the totuava, among other sea-life.

Where to Stay:

-- no name -- Delia Tirado (sp?) has 4, 3-bed units off the side of her house. They have 2 twins and 1 double each, with the bathroom dividing them apart into semi-private rooms. She also has 2, 1-bed units inside the house that have their own bath as well. Concrete floors, hot water. Good value for San Felipe. Located at Av. Mar Mediterraneo 218 (cross street: Av. Ensenada). Ultra-Budget to Budget

Motel El Pescador -- Not much to say about this place besides the price and the location, which is right in the heart of the malec�n. Budget

Motel Chapala -- A block off the malec�n. Upper floors overlook the Sea, lower ones inside the courtyard are quieter. Clean and basic. 657.71240. Budget

San Felipe Inn (formerly the Pelicanos Motel) -- Located about a block from the North end of the malec�n. New second floor was added in mid-1997 and it's been recently refurbished. The Mexican visitors seem to be more familiar with this than foreigners. 657.71608. Budget

El Capit�n -- Just south of the Chapala and the Costa Azul, it's pretty clean and basic, and a little quieter than the Chapala. 657.71303. Budget to Moderate

Costa Azul -- South end of the malec�n, right on the beach. Nice place -- nice, convenient location. 657.71548 Moderate to Deluxe

El Cortez -- Slightly south of town. Very large rooms. On the beach. Clean, reliable. 657.71055. Moderate

Vista Del Mar Hotel -- Two story facility with five rooms. Shared patio, pool, spa, bbq, fire pit, living room, and t.v. Palapa party floor on the roof. The owners also offer dune-buggy tours of the area. 657.71954 Budget

San Felipe Marina Resort (Colony Resorts) -- Located a couple of miles south of town (km 4.5), at the marina. Beautiful, spacious, contemporary facility on the beach. 800-777-1700, 619-558-0295, 657.71455, or 71568. Ultra-Deluxe

Where to Eat:

Grab a drink at Licores Riviera, and wander the malec�n for open-air taco/seafood stands. Used to be all you would find on the South side of the waterfront downtown, but no longer. On the south side is Plaza Maristaco (still under construction as of 3/98) with an assortment of vendors, and on the north side you'll still find one stand with "covered" seating and one small stand next to the Miramar Bar. Eating inexpensive fish tacos, swigging great inexpensive beer, all whilst taking in the million-dollar view over the Cortez has always been a key point for many San Felipe visitors over the years. Ultra-Budget

Red Lobster Inn -- Good menu/food, reasonably priced, nice patio seating. Budget

Canchanilla's -- Restaurant with nice atmosphere, food's fine, and prices aren't what you'd expect. Moderate

Tacos y Cockteles La Playa -- Open 24 hours right on the malec�n. Seafood here, as most places in town, is definitely the focus. Ultra-Budget to Budget

Oceano Chino -- A competent Chinese restaurant with nice atmosphere. Kind of a surprise find here. Budget to Moderate

Rice & Beans -- On the malec�n. Good basic menu. Budget

El Nido Steakhouse -- Standby destination for steak/seafood/etc. Competent food/menu. Nice atmosphere. Moderate

Chuy's -- Kind of off-the-beaten-path small seafood sit-down stand a block off the North end of the malec�n. Ultra-Budget to Budget

Christa's Beach House -- Interesting upstairs restaurant, notable because of the fare: a mix of German / Mexican. Budget

Note: The Bearded Clam Restaurant at the extreme north end of the malec�n burned completely to the ground in March, 1998.

What to Do:

Relax. Watching the extreme tides on the upper Cortez should help you accomplish this if you need focus. ;)

Hiking / Exploring -- The nearby Sierras offer plenty of exploring possibilities for the adventurous. Laguna Percebu offers shell beaches and Puertecitos has hot springs in the rocks at low-tide (last report was that the locals had fenced them off though....???).

Diving -- Little known Punta Pe�asco, a volcanic rock emerges from the sea about 20 miles offshore, offers playful sea lions, Cortez Angelfish, and the beauty of white rocks that reflect the underwater sunlight vividly.

Valley of the Saguaros -- Approximately 30 miles south of San Felipe, known for some of the largest cacti of this variety.

Rockodile -- When there's nightlife, this is where it's at. Sometimes it's unbelievable how many people are in here. Outdoor volleyball court is included in the "complex."

The Bar Miramar further north on the malec�n draws a consistent crowd, many are the "local" gringos.

Good areas for ATV and off-road motorcycle riding are in the vicinity.

The Sierras to the west offer great exploring, camping and hiking opportunities. Ca�on del Diablo and Ca�on Tajo offer great hiking venues, while near to Tajo is Ca�on Guadalupe, an absolute favorite of many campers, fond of the hot springs there. Guadalupe and Tajo are generally more reliably accessed from the Tecate-Mexicali highway, but during dry-season(s) they tend to also be accessible from the direction of San Felipe.

San Felipe 250 -- Late March. An off-road race from SCORE, the promoters of the Baja 1000 race (November, usually started in Ensenada).

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