Sonora/Baja Road Trip. Day Ten: The drive back to Tijuana


This is the final of a series of blog posts about a ten-day trip I recently took south of the border through the Mexican state of Sonora and then back up north (after a ferry trip across the Gulf of California) through the Baja Peninsula.

Actual travel date: Jan 3, 2010. Baja California North.

The border road trip was winding to a close. Over the past nine days we had seen and done a lot: Exploring the state of Sonora, crossing the Gulf of California in a ferry – and visiting islands and cave art sites along the Baja peninsula. It was Sunday, and time to head back to the Tijuana border. This would be an all-day drive along the Transpeninsular highway, but fortunately the Baja peninsula landscape is never boring.

We left Guerrero Negro at 8 a.m., which was actually 7 a.m. Tijuana time (the time zone switches once you cross into or out of Guerrero Negro). It was foggy, but eventually the shroud parted to reveal a flat stretch of desert with cactus bent in odd angles. Our second road-kill episode during the trip (after the previous night’s coyote hit) took place when a small bird impaled itself on the car antenna.

By 9:30, we had reached Catavina. We had foolishly forgotten to fill up on gasoline at Guerrero Negro or other places nearby, so this was our only hope for fuel. There isn’t a PEMEX gas station here, but there are other options like this guy on the side of the road who probably earns a pretty decent living from travelers like us.

Catavina is a good place to stretch your legs. It’s a speck along the road with a smattering of hotels and food place. It would be nicer if there weren’t so much graffiti on the rocks, but if you pull off the main road you can immerse yourself in a more authentic desert experience.

We left Catavinia around 10 a.m. and then pushed on to El Rosario, which is about an hour away. We reached the agricultural community of  San Quintin at noon and kept driving along the main road cuts through town, lost in indecision over where to go for lunch. After eating some unmemorable fish tacos, we continued north.
I lost track of the number of military checkpoints we went through during this one day. I think it must have been around eight.


Three hours later, we arrived in  Ensenada from San Quintin. For some reason, I was seized by a sudden urge for donuts. By the time we left Ensenada the sky was starting to darken.

It had been a long day on the road but we made good time. We reached Tijuana at 5 p.m. –  about nine hours after we left Guerrero Negro – and I was back in the LA area a few hours after that. When I look at this map below, I’m somewhat amazed at the ground that we managed to cover in just ten days. Sure, it would have been great to have just gone to one place or region and get to know it really well. A road trip can be somewhat superficial and cursory, especially when you have a limited time frame. But on the other hand, it is also a chance to get the bigger picture of things and to realize how much more there is to get to know.

Dotted lines on map represent north-bound part of trip.

Jennifer Aniston goes to Baja; helping a Tijuana orphanage

Jennifer Aniston was recently in Cabo San Lucas where she spent her birthday and did an interview with Access Hollywood. She apparently helps out a group called Friends of El Faro that does charity work south of the border. One of their projects is with a Tijuana orphanage and school called Casa Hogar Sion.

Aniston, who stayed at the Palmilla resort , helped launch the $95 Farita doll – presumably named so on behalf of the Faro group – to raise money for the orphanage (though I can’t seem to find a picture of the doll anywhere).

Aniston gave a plug for the orphanage: “They have been given a lot of love and they’re getting educated, which is the most important thing for them,” she told Access Hollywood.

And for Mexican tourism: “Mexico is really hurting right now because of the swine flu and the drug trafficking and all this sort kind of stuff – but it’s not all of Mexico. These people survive on us coming down and spending money and coming here to these beautiful places,” she told Access Hollywood.

Joining Jennifer in Baja, according to the UPI, were Courtney Cox, Jason Bateman, Sheryl Crow, Kathy Najimy and Gerard Butler. And it looks like the Mexican military did their part to keep away the paparazzi boats.

Photo of Cabo San Lucas bay  by Stan Shebs, via Creative Commons License.

Sonora/Baja Road Trip. Day Nine: Hiking through Trinidad Canyon, near Mulege


This is part nine of a series of blog posts about a ten-day trip I recently took south of the border through the Mexican state of Sonora and then back up north (after a ferry trip across the Gulf of California) through the Baja Peninsula.

Actual travel date: Jan 2, 2010, Mulege. Baja California (south).

By Saturday, most of the New Year’s revelers in Mulege had shaken off their hangovers and the village  returned to its normal routine. We left our car at an auto shop (a result of  the previous day’s mountain excursion) and then met up with Salvador Castro, a local guide who would take us to the Trinidad Canyon – a rocky outcrop that is decorated with smatterings of pre-Columbian painted art.

Our travel companions included a German family, and a mother and daughter from Mexico City. We first went to a government office where we obtained permits to hike into the protected area. Then we scrambled into Salvador’s white van. It all was very deja vu. I had done this trip three years go with Salvador as a guide but I don’t think he remembered me.

Along the way, Salvador took us to a citrus orchard where we willingly bought some juicy oranges. Back in the van, the Germans got photo-happy about seeing some vultures spreading their wings on the tips of cactus. Salvador made a stop along the way to talk about the medicinal qualities of certain desert plants.:

After more than an hour we arrived at a house that would be our jumping-off point for the hike. I knew that we would be crossing a pool of water on our way to the caves. I remembered it as being about waist- or chest-high, and that I had used a rope to balance myself as I crossed the slippery rocks.

So I was a little surprised to encounter  – not a manageable pool – but a lake.  We would have to swim. 

After much heming and hawing, we all made it across. It took about 12 seconds to get to the other side, but the water was so cold that I felt like I was hyperventilating when I finally forced myself into the water after much delay. Not far from the water, we encountered the first markings of cave art:

We did more hiking, including wading through some more manageable water patches:

Then we reached another section of cave art:

By then the kids of our group were getting hungry so we scrambled back down to the hiking path. This time, I plunged right into the lake water to hurry things up. Salvador had brought a cooler with food and drinks so we had lunch on a rock slab before heading back to the house where the van was parked at.

Back in Mulege, we picked up our own car and grabbed some dinner around 5 p.m. before heading across the peninsula to Guerrero Negro. The drive took us four hours. It was uneventful except for a couple of stops at military checkpoints and an unfortunate  hit-and-run with a coyote that left a scrape on the car’s front.

TRAVEL TIPS: 

To  make arrangements for the hike, we just went to the Hotel Las Casitas in Mulege and asked how to reach a guide. They dialed up Salvador and put him on the line for us. The trip cost about $180 for the four of us. You leave around 9 a.m. and return by 4 p.m. During the rainy season, ask about the height of the water you will be crossing to visit the caves. It’s a good idea to wear swimming clothes underneath your hiking clothes. Salvador provided a waterproof bag to protect clothes and camera equipment. Salvador’s web site: http://www.mulegetours.com/

Trip from Mulege to Guerrero Negro (see the blue dotted lines on the map below) is roughly four hours.

Dotted lines on this map represent north-bound travels:


Sonora/Baja Road Trip. Day Eight: Mission San Francisco Javier, outside of Loreto

This is part of a series of blog posts about a ten-day trip I recently took south of the border through the Mexican state of Sonora and then back up north (after a ferry trip across the Gulf of California) through the Baja Peninsula.

Actual travel date: Jan. 1, 2010. Mission San Francisco de Javier, to the west of Loreto (Baja California – south).

The last time I visited Mission San Francisco de Javier, which is located to the west of Loreto, the road to the mission was being rebuilt and we spent a lot of time driving around in circles trying to find the alternative road.  It was a frustrating, bumpy ride. This time I am happy to report that a good chunk of the mountainous road to the mission is now smooth asphalt.

From the exit point just south of Loreto (at 9 a.m.), we were sailing along pretty nicely for a good 20 minutes. I was starting to think that we would be getting to the mission in under an hour. But then we started to notice crumbling chunks of the asphalt along the side of the cliffs. Some of these sections were marked with cones, and other were simply demarcated by large stones. This was not encouraging, but at least it gave us advance warning of what we would be facing when we drove back down the mountain road.

After 2o minutes, the road changes abruptly to gravel. But that’s ok because it keeps you going at a slower pace to take in the landscape.

Within an hour you get your first glimpse of the ocean to the east, and the faraway sea flirted with us as we pushed upward. You can also get an idea of the region’s pre-Columbian cave art at this pit stop:

So much of this excursion is about the scenery, so after several stops we got to the mission in about an hour-and-a-half (1o:20 a.m.). The mission was complete in 1758 and its considered to be one of Baja California’s best-preserved mission churches, according to The Lonely Planet guidebook. If you get here December 3, you can observe pilgrims coming here to honor or celebrate the saint.

Some things looked the same: We visited the mission, with its old tombstones.

Other things were new. Across from the mission are a surprisingly large number of public bathroom stalls (with toilet paper) for the number of visitors we saw at the mission this day. 

The last time I came here there was just one restaurant, which we ate at again: Restaurant Palapa San Javier. But now there are two places. Out of habit, we went back to the Palapa (where I had Mexican-style eggs). We explored the area for about an hour-and-a-half, and then started back down the mountain.

After a while, we started to hear a clattering sound. Some part of the car’s underbelly had come loose and was dragging on the ground. We used a cord to hold it in place until we reached Loreto.

Trying to find a mechanic on the day after New Year’s is a huge challenge. Pretty much everything is closed, but some taxi drivers referred us to a place where some temporary adjustments were made. We would still need to get the car repaired at a mechanic that had the necessary parts, but at least this would get us to the next leg of our route: Back north to Mulege. We  arrived there two hours later from Loreto, and checked into the Hotel Vieja Hacienda.

We had already made  reservations to take a hike the following day – Saturday – to the pre-Columbian rock art sites in La Trinidad Canyon. It was too late to search for a mechanic in Mulege. The entire town seemed to be continuing their New Year’s celebration in the streets and a few local bars. We grabbed some pizza for dinner: 

Then we considered our options. Our (hopeful)  plan for the next day – Saturday –  was to get the car to a mechanic in the early morning. If all went well, they would be able to fix the car while we were hiking.  Then we could pick it up later that afternoon and start heading north back to Tijuana. You can stress over these things, or just accept it as part of the adventure: What’s a road trip without a wrench thrown in to keep us all on our toes, right?

TRAVEL TIPS: From Loreto, head south a few minutes until you see a sign to your right leading you to the mission. Give yourself about an-hour-and-a half to get to the mission. The first 20 minutes will be on asphalt, and afterwards the road becomes dirt and gravel. Be careful driving so that you don’t puncture a tire – or damage your car – and take advantage of the trip to make plenty of photo stops and to visit the cave paintings. Best time to leave is in the morning, so that you can have lunch at the mission. This gives you time to explore the village and the mission grounds.

Map of the road trip that started in Tijuana: Dotted lines indicate north bound leg.

Anyone have a good recipe for Caldo Tlalpeno?

A reader recently posted a question underneath a blog item I wrote last year about Mexican soups. I had proclaimed myself a fan of Caldo Tlalpeno, and he wants to know if anyone has any good recipes. All I know is that the Caldo Tlalpeno includes chicken or turkey, chick peas, avocado, rice, one or two chiles – and other good stuff, but I don’t have any personal recipes since I typically buy the soup already-made in Tijuana restaurants.

If anyone has a favorite recipe can you share it with us? C’mon Food Bloggers – I bet you have some ideas. I will prominently feature your link if you share…

Here are a few I pulled from the Internet:

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Caldo-Tlalpeno-13156

http://mexicofoodandmore.com/soups/tlalpeno-soup-recipe-caldo-tlalpeno.html

http://find.myrecipes.com/recipes/recipefinder.dyn?action=displayRecipe&recipe_id=550045

Anyone have contacts in Guatemala?

I occasionally scroll through a service called Help A Reporter Out (HARO). Recently, I came upon this query from a film producer called Jesse Zook Mann, who is looking for someone with contacts across the border – in Guatemala – for an upcoming project:

“Looking to document moving stories around Guatemala that make a difference. Mafia resistance, indigenous beauty, modern life, the hope and history of the nation. We want to make a short film including several Guatemalan stories for a short doc for Sundance and other fests. If you have a connection to people down there please be in touch.”

I am assuming he’s looking for someone to work as a ‘fixer’ to get people and places prepped for this kind of thing. I was in Guatemala more than ten years ago. That was back when I was trying to get my Spanish more conversational, and so I enrolled in a language school in Antigua for a very, very good price. In my time off, I got to see a lot of the country, including the famous ruins of Tikal.

But I don’t have any contacts there anymore so I’m posting his appeal here – just in case someone has some leads and is willing to reach out. He looks legit, but I haven’t talked to him myself – so do your own investigations (Update: See comments below for more info. from Jesse) . According to his web site, Zook Mann is “an Emmy Award winning producer and cinematographer from New York City.” Here is his web site: http://zookmann.com/blog and you can find his contact information there.

Sonora/Baja Road Trip. Day Seven: Coronado Island


This is part of a series of blog posts about a ten-day trip I recently took south of the border through the Mexican state of Sonora and then back up north (after a ferry trip across the Gulf of California) through the Baja Peninsula.

Actual travel date: Dec. 31, 2009. Loreto/Coronado Island in Baja Peninsula.

I visited the Isla Coronado several years ago (photo above), and  had a great time so I was hoping to recreate the experience this time around for the additional members in our travel party.  I envisioned us being provided with informative explanations of the sealife and the island eco-system, snorkeling along two different parts of the island  – and being provided with wet suits.

This time, however, we ended up doing some last-minute arrangements, and things didn’t turn out as planned. The eco-tour shop I had gone to before was closed so we instead made arrangements through some other shop. Our  “guide” turned out to be a  taciturn local fisherman. We left the boat dock around 9 a.m. and within 30 minutes we were motoring along the island’s edge.

The Isla Coronado is about three miles from the shore. The fisherman-guide made a complete trip around the island to take us to a small, isolated bay that was devoid of other tourists. This was not necessarily a bad thing. I’m up for getting to know new places, but then things started getting a little weird.

The shoreline appeared to be littered with hundreds of bottle caps, though it was unclear where they were coming from. There were so many of these that I decided to keep my sandals on. As the fisherman-guide wandered off, we discovered a large pile of conch shells. Things got even stranger as I spotted the head of a hammer-head shark. I looked more closely and I realized there were not just one, but two, and three, – no, DOZENS of these dried up heads.

Then I saw the corpse of a manta ray, several other assorted large fish, and what looked like a decent-sized shark.

We had stumbled upon some sort of fish cemetery, and it all seemed vaguely illicit and spooky. As we walked back to the boat we realized those bottle caps were actually spinal cord sections of the decimated sea life. Our fisherman-guide didn’t have much to say about this, but it apparently involved illegal fishing. We asked him to take us to the bay I had been to before, which looks like this (photo below) and where there are no fish corpses:

This was the paradise bay I was familiar with from my previous trip. We laid out our beach gear and started munching on the lunch the fisherman-guide had brought us, which included some tasty chicken empanadas, burritos, fruits and plenty of drinks. The water was clear, but chilly. I had gone in the water the last time I visited the island – in a wet suit. This time, there was no gear on our guide’s boat and I let others report back about the fish they saw.

Over time, about a dozen other tourists joined us along the bay. We stayed here for a few hours until the fisherman-guide warned us that the water was getting rough and that we needed to head back to shore. The water was indeed rough as we bucked our way across the waves. We got drenched, and I was glad I had my raincoat.

Back in Loreto, we explored some options for New Year’s celebrations. Several of the hotels along the coast were hosting dinner parties that looked like fun. They ranged in price from about $30 to $75 per person.

The last time I came here around this time, I went to a town outdoor dance to cheer in the New Year with the locals. Instead, with two kids in tow, we ended up splurging on a tasty New Year’s meal at a restaurant called Mita Gourmet (across from the city hall) with fantastic ambiance that featured live music from the outside patio. To celebrate the New Year, I had fish cooked Veracruz style with some white wine.

TRAVEL FACTOIDS:

Boating excursion to Isla Coronado cost about $47 per person for this time of the year. The boats leave  between 8:30 and 9 a.m. in the morning, and the trip includes a prepared lunch. Try and book through an eco-tour group for the best experience, which includes wetsuits and a chance to go snorkeling on both sides of of the island. Several of these outfits are located on Loreto’s main strip, on Avenida Hidalgo.

Sonora/Baja Road trip. Day six: Mulege to Loreto

This is part of a series of blog posts about a ten-day trip I recently took south of the border through the Mexican state of Sonora and then back up north (after a ferry trip across the Gulf of California) through the Baja Peninsula.

Actual travel date: Dec. 30. Along the eastern Baja peninsula.

After the overnight trip by ferry across the Gulf of California, we slept a few hours at a hotel in Mulege before continuing our trip through this southern part of the Baja peninsula. We wanted to visit a few of the beaches between Mulege and Loreto that lie along a bay called Bahia Concepcion.

According to The Lonely Planet travel book on Baja California, the bay is made up of 5o miles of beaches with names such as Playa Santispac, Playa El Burro and Playa El Requeson (that one once made a list of Mexico’s “top ten” beaches in Conde Nast Traveler). You could spend a week – or longer – getting to know the different beach spots along this bay, which is shielded to the west  by a finger-like outcrop called the Sierra Los Gavilanes.

Here is a glimpse of the bay as the road shifts from its inland route towards the ocean south of Mulege (excuse the dirty windshield):

We pulled into Playa Santispac, one of the first beaches you arrive at as you drive south from Mulege. The beaches in Sonora had been a bit too cold at this time of year for breaking out the swimsuits, but this Baja bay was like a little oasis. The geography provided protection from the wind and the water’s ripples along the shore seemed to beckon us to step into this picture-perfect postcard scene. We set up the beach chairs and snacks and plunged into vacation bliss. 

Over the course of the afternoon, the water receded from the shore and exposed rooted clams and other sea life. I explored the shallow area by foot, catching sight of schools of fish and corals feathered with plant life.The placid water was perfect for floating, and so we rented a few kayaks from some local kids (if I recall correctly, they charged $10 per kayak for an hour, or $20 for all day) and spent an hour paddling long the shore.

Eventually we moved on to Playa el Burro where we ate lunch around 3 p.m. before heading to Loreto. The trip from Mulege to Loreto takes about two hours, so it was dark by the time we arrived in Loreto. We checked into the Hotel Junipero – which is a few blocks from the coast – and searched for a travel office to make reservations for the next day’s excursion: A boat trip to the Isla Coronado. Most of the tour places on the main street were closed, but we managed to find one shop on a side-street that helped us arrange reservations for the following day. We tried on some snorkeling gear and were told to meet our boat at the dock at 8:30 the next morning to spend the last day of 2009  at the island.

Sonora/Baja Road Trip. Day five: Taking the ferry across the Gulf of California

This is part of a series of blog posts about a ten-day trip I recently took south of the border through the Mexican state of Sonora and then back up north (after a ferry trip across the Gulf of California) through the Baja Peninsula.

Actual travel date: Dec. 29, 2009-Dec. 30, 2009

I have never been on a Carnival cruise, but I have traveled by reed boat along Peru’s Lake Titicaca, jetted in a motor panga through rivers in Nicaragua and once took a very long trip to the Corn Islands sitting on the the boat’s deck, squished between other people, animals and sacks of grains.

Boat trips, to me, are about exploring new places and setting off on adventures – not so much about lounge chairs and martinis. The idea of crossing the Gulf of California by boat was alluring to me, in part because I didn’t know anyone else who had taken the 8-10 hour ferry trip between Guaymas, Sonora and the Baja peninsula.

Taking the ferry, it turned out,  also requires a zen state of mind. Technically, it leaves at 8 p.m. on four designated days a week from Guaymas. But  nature is what actually  dictates  the boat’s schedule. We had arrived here Sunday and by Tuesday morning we still weren’t exactly sure when it would leave – or if it would leave before the end of 2009.  

As we were lounging at the Guaymas hotel pool in travel limbo, we got a call from the ferry office asking us to hurry over and pay for our tickets because the ferry would be leaving…at 4 p.m.

There were still a few things I wanted to check out in Guaymas.  I had learned there was a some sort of a dolphin facility in Guaymas/San Carlos, and I had also seen signs for a pearl farm. Instead, we ended up stocking up a cooler with food and drinks for the trip and making a few other travel-related purchases before rushing to line up our car for  pre-boarding inspection by soldiers and a drug-sniffing dog. 

We joined about 80 other people waiting to board the ferry, including a platoon of gun-toting soldiers heading for an assignment in Baja. Other ferry travelers included some French guys, members of  a band traveling to Baja to perform over New Year’s and a chatty Chinese student called “Arnold” who had a visa problem and was waiting out his U.S. appointment in Mexico.

We left as the sun was setting over the horizon, so I was able to enjoy the view as we pulled away from Guaymas. The sunset stroked violet and orange colors on the horizon as we headed west out of the bay.

Soon the sorbet canvas above us was replaced by the sparkle of stars and the inky smudge of sky and sea.

Most of the people on board – except for the soldiers in first-class – had bought the ferry’s basic ticket. This got you a seat in a room that was set up like a very wide plane. Two large television sets provided nominal entertainment and a snack bar immediately in front of the passengers sold overpriced popcorn and other foods. It was hot here, and didn’t look very comfortable. As the evening wore on, the people in the front seats ended up curled on the ground.

I was glad we had gotten a cabin. This had cost an extra $75 for the four of us, but it gave us our own space with four bunk beds, a small sink and shelf –  and our own porthole. We kept the porthole slightly open to provide air circulation. We had  left most of our luggage in the car, but brought with us the cooler with drinks and snacks from Guaymas. 

There were a lot of doors inside the ferry and lots of curious – or lost  – people. At one point duirng the trip, all four of us  were sitting in the cabin when the door swung open and a disoriented soldier stared at us. “Ay, perdon…me equivoque.” (Oh, Sorry! I made a mistake).  This scenario kept on repeating itself in bad comedic style. We finally just  locked the cabin door.

I spent much of my time clambering up and down the ferry’s three levels or standing outside, chatting with the other ferry travelers and watching the waves churn below us. At one point, the ferry captain and his assistant let us visit the navigation room.

The sea was calm and the ride was smooth. I asked about the “worst ever” ferry trip and was told that there had been one particularly-rough trip that took 24 hours and that practically inspired mutiny except that the sick passengers were too busy heaving into bags. 

Around midnight I went into the cabin to doze a bit. At 3:30 a.m. I went outside where about a dozen passengers were hanging out in the darkness.  We could see the lights of Santa Rosalia sparkling off the Baja peninsula. It was almost 10 hours since we had left. The lights grew brighter and soon I could make out the forms of buildings and the dock.

We arrived around 4 a.m. and had to check in with Mexican authorities to give our names, show our identifications, and to have our photos taken. The car got another sniff-over by the crime-fighting dog and soldiers, and then we were back on the road.

4 a.m. was too early for breakfast, and too late to go to sleep. We ended up driving about an hour south to Mulege, but it was still too early to do anything and so we checked into a hotel just outside of Mulege to rest for a few hours before continuing our journey.

TRAVEL FACTOIDS:

As of this blog post, the ferry leaves from Guaymas to Santa Rosalia on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Its scheduled departure time is 8 p.m., but that may  not always be the case. Reservations are recommended, or check in person a day or two ahead of when you want to actually leave. One-way tickets for an adult cost between $55 and $65. Most cars cost about $250 for a one-way trip. A ship cabin cost us an additional $75, with sleeping space for four. For more information, visit here or here (for more detailed prices)

Sonora/Baja Road Trip. Day Four: Guaymas & San Carlos

Photo credit: Google maps

This is part of a series of blog posts about a ten-day trip I recently took south of the border through the Mexican state of Sonora and then back up north (after a ferry trip across the Gulf of California) through the Baja Peninsula.

Actual travel date: December 28, 2009. Guaymas, Sonora

After three days traveling through Sonora, we reached the port city of Guaymas. Our plan was to cross the Gulf of California by boat and then continue our trip through the Baja peninsula. From what I had read, the ferry could be fickle due to weather, and reservations in advance – which we didn’t have –  were highly recommended. So I wasn’t quite sure how things would turn out.

We went to the Guaymas ferry office Monday morning and were told that they didn’t know when the boat would leave that day, and to check again later.

So we went to get some breakfast near the hotel at a simple food place called either Fernanda or Cocina Economica, or some combination of the two. I ordered my usual Mexican breakfast favorite: Eggs cooked Mexican Style or Juevos a la Mexicana. The food was a little slow in its arrival, but the portions were generous and exquisitely cooked (at $18 for four, including drinks, it lived up to its name of being economical). I personally  rank this the Best Breakfast during the entire road trip.

Around noon we called the ferry ofice. We were told that there would  be no departure this day – and to call at 9 a.m. the next day, Tuesday.

Now that we knew we had the day and evening free, we drove a few minutes away to  San Carlos in search of the tourist beach areas of Algodones (a portion of which was the backdrop for the Catch 22 movie filmed here in the ’70s).

We found that many of the most obvious beach spots were inaccessible because they involved entering the front driveways of beachside hotels or condos. The beach area turned out to be chilly on this particular day, so we drove around some more and a condominium security guard guided us to a beach access point where the wind wasn’t as strong.

For a good two hours we walked around this quiet bay and scrambled on  nearby rocks in search of crabs, mollusks and other small sealife in tidepools.

Afterwards, we explored more of San Carlos while looking for an affordable beachside hotel. We visited a few, but a lack of inviting pools and the ever-present wind chill sent us scurrying back to our original place in Guaymas, the Armida. Along the way, we swung by a seaside hotel called the Hotel Playa de Cortes that reminded me of the older, historic section of the Rosarito Beach Hotel in Baja California.


Nestled at the end of a Guaymas road, the place was full of hand-carved wooden furniture, Spanish colonial architecture and old black-and-white photos (a more recent one had been signed by then-Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano who is now head of the Department of Homeland Security). Politics, aside, the vibe made me immediately want to sip a margarita in a lounge chair.

Back in central Guaymas, we ended up  having a very un-Mexican dinner of Papa John’s Pizza. Unlike most of the Papa John’s I’ve been to north of the border, which seem to cater more to the pick-up-and-eat-elsewhere crowd – this one was set up as a restaurant. As a slight drizzle dotted the windows outside, we figured the next leg of our trip would depend a lot on whether or not the ferry left tomorrow to make the planned itinerary worthwhile. If there was no ferry, we might have to come up with a Plan B.

TRAVEL FACTOIDS:

For a list of beaches in San Carlos, go here.

For a list of hotels in San Carlos, go here.

The seaside Hotel Playa de Cortes in Guaymas offers basic rooms ranging in price from about $65-$90, depending on the season. For more information, go here.