San Felipe is located in Baja Norte, on the northwestern shores of the Sea of Cortez just 124 miles south of the Mexicali/Calexico border crossing. San Felipe has long been a favorite destination for visitors from the southwestern United States, unlike its counterparts on the Pacific coast (Rosarito Beach and Ensenada) this charming fishing village has somehow managed to retain most of its original charming allure. After all, the great fishing and proximity to the border alone, make this a natural for a weekend getaway. The relaxed environment and friendly locals will keep this area popular well into the future.
Fishing is what put San Felipe on the map and fishing remains one of the area’s most popular attractions. Fishing is done mostly out of the traditional Mexican panga, available at the north end of the Malecón, along restaurant row. There are also a few larger sportfishing boats available for day trips and a couple of long range boats that charter for three days, or more, and head south for the better fishing that is available near San Luis Gonzaga and the Midriff Islands in the Sea of Cortez.
Other attractions lean toward getting dirty, as in dune buggies, motorcycles and ATV’s. With sand dunes and the wide open desert so accessible here, there are literally countless places to ride. ATV’s and other types of off road vehicles are available to rent at numerous locations in San Felipe.
San Felipe is a great place to relax and just pass time at a slower pace than most of us are used to. Eat great, really fresh, seafood along the Malecón (try a different restaurant each day during your stay), stroll leisurely through town, taking in the shops or maybe just go beachcombing.
The fish tacos everywhere in San Felipe are made with freshly caught fish. Don’t hesitate to try one or two (or ten) at any of the numerous small stands that seem to be everywhere you look. I have a friend (an expert on the subject) who swears that they serve the very best fish tacos on the whole peninsula in San Felipe. He always has a difficult time remembering which establishment serves up the best, as he usually has to stop at five or six different places for testing purposes.
San Felipe is just now really starting to grow a bit more sophisticated (real crowded), with several new U.S. style condo developments, gated communities, high end resorts, a real marina (soon?) and even a golf course development on the shores of the Sea of Cortez, just a few minutes north of town. Another golf course and high end housing development is under construction just south of town, near the marina.
To the south of San Felipe, on a newly paved stretch of asphalt, you will find a lot of very basic fish camps, clusters of vacation homes and some of the tallest cactus in the world. Roughly 50 miles south of San Felipe lies Puertecitos a small settlement built around a beautiful, shallow cove. The beauty of the cove is almost ruined by the complete lack of any planning. When originally developed, there were absolutely no plans. This whole settlement and many of the mismatched houses and trailers are in dire need of repair and this whole area needs a lot of general cleanup. Hot water bubbles out of the rocks in a few places within the cove.
The true diehard fisherman would surely love it here. You can rent rooms, sometimes get gas (brand new gas station, but open sporadically) and maybe even a simple meal, but you need to really search for the right person to find any of these. A couple of small stores sell the basics. There is usually a pretty good mechanic around somewhere (he has got to be really disappointed with the new pavement, so he may leave).
The next step of the road, to Bahia San Luis Gonzaga, is also in the process of being paved. This road was, for a very long time, known as one of the worst in all of Baja. The first 25 miles (approx.) are already finished and work further south is in progress. Some part of the adventure of the drive may be going away, but the journey to the pleasant little fishing village of Bahia San Luis Gonzaga will always remain a trip into the “REAL” Baja.