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Rosarito Beach Travel Guide for Student Travelers and Spring Breakers

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Rosarito Beach Hotel Pier

Rosarito Beach Hotel Pier

© Kathleen Crislip

Rosarito Beach overview:

Rosarito Beach, once a suburb of Tijuana, is a fairly new city in the scheme of Mexico history. Hunters, sport fishermen and movie stars started boating or flying to this Northern Baja area south of Tijuana in the 1900's, usually staying at the cool Rosarito Beach Hotel, a stately 1920's private residence turned hunting lodge turned inn. Parts of this touristy town can exhibit the Mexico charm found inland, and parts are just good-time party central (think Daytona Beach, Florida). Keep reading below, or jump to:

Location:

Rosarito Beach is about twenty miles south of San Diego, California, in the northwest corner of the state of Baja in Mexico. Baja, which occupies a peninsula west of Mexico's west coast inhabited by scattered native tribes for centuries, is now divided into north Baja (Baja Norte) and south Baja (Baja Sur). Rosarito Beach and Tijuana are at the northern tip of Baja Norte and Cabo San Lucas is at the southern end of Baja Sur.

Getting there (and passport info):

You can drive, walk or take a shuttle into Baja from California without having to present a passport either going into or coming out of Mexico. You can also fly into Tijuana (will need a passport to get back to the US by air) and grab a cab at the airport.

You're in what's called the Tourist Zone in Mexico; you need a Mexico tourist card if you'll be in Baja more than 72 hours.

Where to stay:

The Rosarito Beach Hotel's downtown grounds encompass an ocean pier, decent rooms, a cool if quiet beautifully tiled bar, great splurge restaurant with original period furnishings, swimming pools, and spa. If partying is your central goal, choose the Festival Plaza Hotel in the center of the bar district (see more in the "Spring Break" section below).

  • See several Rosarito Beach hotels you'll like, with photos, descriptions and booking information for all

What to do outdoors:

This is desert scrub country -- most of the outside action is hot (as in sunny dust) or on a surfboard. Rent ATV's, or the modern dune buggy -- quads, or quad runners -- on the Rosarito Public Beach. I haven't been to 'em, but Aguiluchos does hang gliding and gets good recommendations. Ask at your hotel about surf lessons (especially the Rosarito Beach Hotel), or drop by the surf camp at kilometer 34. Check out the local surf guide, too.

Where to find the nightlife:

Rosarito Beach's nightlife is happening year 'round, though spring break is especially craaazy, and a reasonable drinking age in Mexico of 18 years old means accessible fun at every venue. Base your Baja night out in the Barbachano Zone, nightlife central between the main street and Corona Avenues downtown. The Festival Plaza Hotel offers concerts and a huge bar scene, too. Get the whole picture, including a nightlife calendar and club websites and phone numbers:

Shop and eat:

Rosarito Beach shopping may not interest you unless you're in a U-Haul -- handmade furniture factories and art are the thing here; wide-spot-in-the-road Popotla is an artsy-ish shopping district south of the turnoff to Fox Studios.

Get your sugar fix at juice stands or the marvelous Mexican candy store on the main drag; taco stands absolutely rule here. Good dinner with a great view at The Castle south of town, and for a splurge, try the Rosarito Beach Hotel's lovely Chabert's. Don't leave without having lobster in Puerto Neuvo.

Use pesos in Baja for better deals.

Side trips - what to see nearby:

Check out Fox Studios south of town, where Titanic and Master and Commander were filmed -- we had fun with a rockstar guide on our tour, but the truly interesting part was the attention paid to tiny detail on the Titanic set -- see the movie before you go. Farther south is the lobster village of Puerto Nuevo -- gotta do. Drive down to the town of Ensenada (get a tourist card for a night of more typical Mexico charm or a day of late winter whale watching. (Since you're wondering, Cabo is 1000 miles south -- you can catch a bus or get a flight on a budget Mexico airline from Tijuana, but it ain't a side trip.)

Spring break in Rosarito Beach:

During the rest of the year, a trip to Rosarito Beach offers a chance to understand a bit about driving in Mexico, learning to use pesos, and generally prepping you for more in-depth Mexico travel inland. During spring break, though, Rosarito Beach is just a giant playpen and 2009 will be even more so, as students without a passport descend en masse. Some hotels will be a real drag -- be prepared for expensive iffy digs; may want to try one of these hotels or the Festival Plaza's girls only Pink Zone, a bare bones room in the Rock and Roll Bungalows (no young kids, no tv) or a spring break package.

Mexico Student Travel Resources:

Resources for visiting and traveling in Mexico:

1/15/2008: Strange doings afoot in Baja this winter, like robberies and carjackings -- be careful if camping or driving at night. Read more:

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