A Beach Destination to the South
Puerto Peñasco (nicknamed Rocky Point) is a growing seaside village and beach destination that is an easy four-hour drive from Chandler. Once you cross the border, you will travel less than an hour on the Mexican highway, which is clearly marked along the way as a “hassle-free zone.” Almost every car you see will have an Arizona or California license plate.
Entering the town of Puerto Peñasco, you will see the downturn of the economy in 2009 took its toll on this resort community but there are also signs that new development is back in the forefront. At the end of Sandy Beach, a cruise dock and terminal is being built that will have the ability to handle large cruise ships. Expected completion is 2019. Phoenix is the closest major city where the ships will be getting their supplies so employment and development opportunities look bright.
Most resorts and rental communities are gated but there really seems to be no need. Locals are welcoming and crime against Americans is not particularly noteworthy. The town is full of tourists and you see more Americans than natives.
There are two main sections for rental opportunities. Los Conchas has hundreds of homes, some on the water and some near the water, so be sure you know what you are renting. If you are interested in swimming, be sure to ask if the property is on a sandy part of the beach or if it is rocky. The rocks make it very difficult to get into the water.
Sandy Beach is the section where you will find the majority of resorts, which are on a beautiful sandy stretch of land with wonderful swimming and water sports opportunities. The waters of the Sea of Cortez is warm and inviting.
Rocky Point has a couple of grocery stores and a Sam’s Club, but keep in mind that you are in another country. The cheese is different, the snacks are different, the milk is different. If you are not a fan of trying new things or the unexpected, you may want to bring your own groceries from home.
There are vendors on the beach offering massages, drinks, treats and almost every kind of souvenir and bauble you can imagine. Beach vendors only take cash, so be prepared if you plan to shop. Bartering is expected.
Plan on at least one trip into “town” for some great bars, restaurants and shops. Buy fresh fish that just came off the boat that same day from the many fish markets. Vendors will even provide a cooler for you to take your seafood back across the border!
For a quick trip or a longer stay, Rocky Point is an affordable option for a great vacation!
Rocky Point 101
Going to a foreign country can be intimidating when you don’t know the culture or laws. The following information is provided so you can enjoy your trip by planning ahead.
Car Insurance – Everyone driving to Mexico is required by law to purchase Mexican vehicle insurance with liability coverage. There are several places to get insurance right before you cross the border.
Checkpoints – When driving to and from Rocky Point, travelers must stop at each and every checkpoint.
Currency – The resorts, most restaurants and stores use U.S. currency, but it would be wise to have pesos for cabs, tips and street vendors. Using credit cards internationally are subject to additional fees. There are also fees on cash withdrawals from foreign bank ATMs.
Firearms, Ammunition and Illegal Drugs – Do not bring these across the border as you will be arrested if they are found on you or your passengers or in your vehicle.
Mexican Customs – When you drive across the border, you may need to declare what you are bringing into Mexico. Personal items like clothing, cameras, sports equipment and laptops are allowed. You also are allowed to bring additional items with a value up to $400. If you are over the allotted amount and do not declare those items, your vehicle can be confiscated. If items are found that weren’t declared, you will have to pay hefty fines.
Pets – You are allowed to bring up to three pets into Mexico without a permit but you must bring a health certificate from your vet showing your pets have been vaccinated. Do not bring your pet bird, turtle, fish or other exotic animals into Mexico as they will be subject to quarantine at your own expense.
Required Documents – Adults and children 16 and over need a passport or passport card. Children under 16 years old only need their birth certificate. The driver must also have a current driver’s license. Be sure to make photocopies of these documents and keep them separate from the originals.
Vehicle Titles – All vehicles crossing the border must have a vehicle title. This includes cars, trucks, boats, jet skis, water bikes, ATV’s, dune buggies, etc. If you are leasing your vehicle, the leasing contract must be in the name of the person driving the car. If your vehicle is a company car and you are allowed to drive it out of the country, you will need to show a document verifying your employment with that company and authorization to drive the vehicle in Mexico.
Smart Travel Enrollment Program (STEP) – Consider enrolling in this free program that is provided by the U.S. government for U.S. citizens who are traveling to, or living in, a foreign country. This program allows you to enter information about your trip so the U.S. Department of State can assist you in case of an emergency. The website to enroll is www.Travel.State.Gov.
Speed Limits and Traffic Signs – The speed limit signs in Mexico are in kilometers. When driving through Rocky Point, the speed limit is 40 km, or 25 mph, unless otherwise noted. If you are caught breaking the traffic laws, fines will be assessed and you will be asked to follow the Officer to the police station, where fines must be paid immediately.
Theft – When traveling to any foreign country, it is imperative to exercise precautions. Never walk alone in areas off the main streets. Do not wear expensive jewelry or carry designer handbags that may draw attention to you.
Tipping – The standard rate for tipping at restaurants, bars and taxis is 15 percent. For parking attendants, laundry service and room service a 10 percent peso tip is customary.
Water/Alcohol Safety – It’s important that you do not drink tap water or drink beverages with ice cubes that are made from tap water. Most resorts and restaurants serve bottled or purified water and ice cubes. The nightclubs, bars and restaurants are monitored by the local government to insure safe beverages are being served or they are subject to losing their license.
Weather – Tourism thrives from late March to the middle of November. It is less crowded in the months of July and August due to the high humidity. The water temperature is cold in the winter months from November to February.
Where To Cross – It’s best to travel the main roads during daylight hours and use the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora border crossing. The border is opened from 6 a.m. to midnight.
Things to Do in Rocky Point
El Malecon Boardwalk – A stroll down the Malecon in downtown Puerto Peñasco is a great way to take in the local flavor and the magnificent view of the Sea of Cortez. Along the boardwalk you’ll find shops, restaurants and fish markets. During the evening the breathtaking sunsets are not to be missed.
Fishing – Whether you’re an avid fisherman or a novice, Rocky Point is one of the best locations in Mexico for fishing because of the surrounding islands, reefs and estuaries. Fish species popular in the area include sierra mackerel, triggerfish, corvina, shrimp, grouper and spotted seabass.
Boat Rental and Charters – Head over to the Rocky Point Fishing Club for all things boats and lots of day trip charters.
Scuba Diving/Snorkeling – Rocky Point is known for the vast variety of underground sea life. Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez, “The world aquarium.”
San Jorge Island – Bird Island – Take a boat ride over to the island and swim and snorkel with sea lions, do some bird watching, see dolphins, snorkel, scuba dive or kayak. From October to April, you might see whales!
Sunset Cruise – Spectacular sunsets admired from a boat ride around the bay on either a party boat, catamaran or sailboat makes for a memorable evening.
El Pinacate – Challenge yourself with a hike to the peak of El Pinacate, the Santa Clara Volcano. It is a natural protected area, where lava flowed more than 2 million years ago. The mountain range is filled with rocks, sand and volcanic ashes that have formed spectacular colors and craters. El Pinacate is a well maintained national park about 45 minutes from Puerto Peñasco. Camping is allowed.
Golf – There are three golf courses available; two are Jack Nicklaus-designed courses with spectacular scenery.
Sand Dunes – The sand dunes offer activities to enjoy such as horseback riding, ATV and dune buggy riding, sand boarding and hiking.
Kite Surfing – The slight waves near the beach make kite surfing not only a great workout, but lots of fun so strap your feet to a wakeboard and hang on to a kite as you sail across the waves!
Oyster Farm – Located only seven miles from Rocky Point, you can watch oysters being caught, shucked and served.
Water Activities – There is just about everything you can think of—jet skiing, parasailing, banana boat rides, water bikes and horseback riding on the beach.
Rocky Point Zipline – This tour is over one mile of high-flying fun!
Ultralight Flights – These flying machines may seem a little bit intimidating but don’t worry, you will be riding with an experienced pilot who gives professional ultralight rides to tourists. These pilots have years of experience so you are definitely in good hands. Ultralight flights typically last about 10-15 minutes and can be purchased for $40-$50.
A Sky-High Gem
Penthouse Perfection in Rocky Point
By Joyce Selk
You know you are in for a treat when you are given the special code that allows the elevator to take you up to the penthouse at Bella Sirena. Walking inside the beautifully etched doorway of Penthouse C1301, you find yourself in the spacious yet comfortable living area with a large dining table for 12, leather couches, a large 70” flat-screen TV and a dream kitchen with granite countertops and high-end stainless steel appliances.
But what really beckons your attention is the view. Opening the large sliding glass doors, the view is incredible. The grounds below are meticulously maintained. Palm trees billow in the ocean breeze. The sun’s reflection sparkles off the waters of the many pools in the complex. Offering 360-degree views, the skyline of Los Suenos catches your eye to the left and the construction of the new cruise ship dock to the right. Straight ahead is nothing but a beautiful view of the Sea of Cortez and its sandy beach.
Exploring the 5,000-square-foot penthouse there are “Oh, look!” moments at every turn. The inside of the condo has literally been brought outdoors with the large sliding pocket doors opening the living area and master bedroom to the ocean view. From the walk-in wine cellar with two separate wine coolers; the media room with a great stereo system; the master en suite complete with fireplace and custom walk-in closet; three more large bedrooms, each with its own private bathroom; the oversized laundry room to the intricate tile work in the ceiling recesses, the attention to detail will not go unnoticed.
The kitchen is professionally equipped with anything and everything you could possibly need: Viking appliances, well-stocked cupboards and drawers, pass-through windows to the deck and, best of all, a separate ice-making unit to keep up with the many guests.
The palapas are very large—both of them! The furniture is heavy yet inviting and the outdoor gas grill is large enough to handle lots of cooking. The hot tub is a welcome respite after a full day of activities. A spiral staircase leads up to the second outdoor space, which is nicely appointed and complete with a fireplace.
The owners of this luxury property are local to Phoenix and bought their first Rocky Point property in 2008, and this one in 2015. They have not spared any expense or attention to detail for their guests. From the welcome note and bottle of champagne to the supply of amenities to the extremely comfortable beds, you only need to bring your clothes!
If you’re considering a relaxing and plush stay in Rocky Point, don’t miss this gem. The owners of the condo are incredibly accommodating and generous with their “home.” The only negative thing we could come up with was the thought of it not being available the next time we want to escape to Mexico! For your getaway with friends or family, contact John and Debbie Peterson at VRBO.com/788918.