We were deciding between a day hike or spending some time in a nearby city and by the looks of the timestamps on the group text, three minutes later we were going to Mexico.
Growing up on the West Coast, born in AZ and living in California for the majority of my life, I’ve been to Mexico a few times throughout my youth. Cabo with the family, Baja for missions, Yucatan and Quintana Roo for adventure, and last year I got to experience Mexico City on a whim and I think as close as Mexico is to the US, it’s severely underrated. Beaches, tropics, modern architecture, rich history, pre-Columbian ruins, a vibrant cinema culture and food cuisine? It’s a dream. I really loved learning about Latin American art, cinema, and literature in college, so getting the chance to explore it first hand (and practice my Spanish) is always a treat.
While taking into account and understanding the reality of the violence and crime Mexico is known for, remembering that there is violence and crime everywhere is crucial and you can’t let your paranoia get to you. Tourism has declined in Baja and just by first impressions, it’s obvious that so many people here are experiencing poverty. As short of a time we were there, it was great to be able to shop local, barter with street vendors, and bring home some goods that were made in country.
Just two hours south of home, in the state of Baja California, Mexico, lies Rosarito. A coastal tourist town where Americans come to surf and get their cheap thrills on. It was the perfect day-trip idea for so many other reasons. After this experience, I appreciate Baja even more and I know that I definitely want to go back again and again, more and more south, and see what more the coast has to offer. Maybe one day, the trek all the way to Cabo is something I can take on!
After crossing the border, driving through Tijuana, and arriving in central Rosarito, food and coffee were the first stops. We parked, scoped out the countless options, and made our way into a little plaza tucked away with small restaurants.
This restaurant didn’t have a menu or name. You just said what you wanted. They only offer seafood. Huevos rancheros, a quesadilla, and a michelada were consumed. I think they mentioned they wanted to name themselves “Algo Bueno” in the future.
You can’t not hit up Rosarito Beach Hotel when making a day trip here. What I love about it is how much it takes me to the 90s and not in a fabricated 90s-throwback way, but it feels like nothing has really changed about the hotel as time went on.
We walked on the beach and even with shoes, the hot sand was burning my feet. They have ATVs & horses. Bachelor in Paradise much? Also, horses. After taking a few photos, I seriously had to leave because I felt sad they were sitting out there in the heat. They looked like they were crying.
El Nido is Gringo Central, but they have a huge menu and great decor. They’re known for their steaks but we only ordered dessert this time around.
When shopping in the street, you just have to go for it. Walk in there knowing that you will be beckoned not by name, but about every physical characteristic about you.Once you get over that, bartering is doable and it’s fun. All the goods are actually very interesting and fairly priced. “Amiga, come buy something you don’t need” was the my top favorite tactic.
A local goods market called Baja Produce is where I bought this Mexican-made wine and tea. Post-trip, I did more research about local shops and restaurants and there is so much we missed. That’s what we get for only spending 8 hours there! Great reasons to go back.
Crossing the border is sad. The churros and fruit are to die for, but it really does make you think about what all these people go through to make a living. After having the time of my life buying some cheap food and goods, I get to go home to comfort and stability. Who knows? Maybe they actually make a ton of money from all the thousands of cars that drive by, but watching the kids beg in the street takes me back to Manila. Mexico is amazing. Great food that you can’t pass up, local goods, a vibrant culture, but there are people on the other side who are in need of hope and future just as much as us. Visit Mexico, be a tourist, contribute the economy, surf, make an effort to talk to people and smile, and do what you can to bring light and hope to the area.
Toll road $2
Parking $6 for six hours
Lavender latte $3
Huevos Ranchero $5
Bottled Water $1
3 margaritas, 1 mojito, 1 pina colada $14
Multi-color blanket $13
Serape blanket $8
Two wine bottles & rooibos tea $38