Tecate is a Baja border town that doesn’t quite feel like a border town. The name Tecate came from the early Indian settlers, not the famous brewery that is located there. Many Baja travelers do not even know about Tecate as it lies off the main tourist routes. A number of visitors from Southern California, who are on their way to San Felipe, cross the border here rather than bother going through a usually crowded Tijuana border crossing.
Tecate is a city with a population of just over 100,000 but the town has a pleasant, much smaller, feel to it. The area is a somewhat important farming center that sits at an elevation of about 1700 ft. The higher elevation keeps the climate mild and spring-like for much of the year.
The social life of Tecate is centered around Parque Hidalgo, the shady main plaza, with its colonial gazebo. Taco stands, ice cream parlors and street vendors surround the plaza and this is a good place to sit and watch this pleasant town go about its daily business. The feel of this plaza can easily make you feel that you are deep into México in some colonial city, not less than half a mile from the U.S. border. You can get information about the activities available locally at the tourist office that faces the park.
The Tecate brewery is the centerpiece of the town and it stands out more than any other landmark in the city. They have been making beer here since 1943 and they make a lot of it, forty million liters a month, none of it for export to the U.S. The Tecate that is exported to the U.S. is made in Monterrey. There are scheduled tours of the brewery and the pleasant beer garden which is a nice place to take a break.
There is some industry sneaking into Tecate, with several multinational electronic companies and a few maquiladoras located in a small industrial park just east of town.
Rancho La Puerta, a world famous health and fitness spa, lies at the western end of town. This expensive hacienda style spa has been in existence since the early 1940’s and is still serving the rich and famous in a majestic (real expensive) manner.
The surrounding mountains and valleys are home to several water parks, an off road race track and more that a few farms and ranches. There are a few of the ranches where you can rent horses and ride the trails that seem to be right out of a western movie. These same environs are scattered with other ranches that specialize in playing host to the ATV and motorcycle crowd. The terrain in this whole area is nothing short of spectacular for horseback riding and off-road enthusiasts. Numerous trails into the hills lead to some spectacular riding areas.
The crops produced in the area include wheat, olives and grapes. Tecate is the western gateway to the wine country of the Guadalupe Valley and it seems that the vineyards are now moving into the outskirts of Tecate. This will bring more tourism, and prosperity to this quiet town.
The border crossing at Tecate is open from 5 AM to 11 PM and can get a little jammed up on weekend afternoons, as hordes of cars drive the extra distance to avoid the horrendous traffic found at the Tijuana and Otay Mesa crossings. Historians note – Tecate is the oldest border town in Baja, first settled in 1831.