Hasta Luego California; Hola Baja, Mexico!

The U.S. Department of State has been issuing traveler alerts since 2008, with wording that becomes stronger with each renewal for crossing into Mexico. So I’m sure you could understand my hesitation to travel, while pregnant, into this unfamiliar territory. Our plan was to head south from Laguna Hills, cross into Tijuana, a necessary evil, and reach our home exchange in Rosarito. Our initial anxiety ran high as we entered the highly talked about and feared Tijuana; although the streets were littered with sketchy people selling bizarre products including both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical drugs, we never felt threatened. Even most of the prevalent graffiti was basically inoffensive. Crime was not an issue as we made our way to Rosarito or during our three day stay. Not only did I feel comfortable enough to leave our car parked in the street while we enjoyed shopping and exploring, we actually drove the unpaid highways and ventured as far south as La Bufadora. More than 26 million tourists cross this busy border each year to wine, wager, and soak up the sun as well as local culture. Sure, some tourists and locals are going to experience crime, but it is no more than you’d find in LA or any other major city. Go! Enjoy! And experience for yourself how beautiful Baja, Mexico truly is.

To get to Rosarito from Tijuana, we drove south along the toll road for 25km. We chose to avoid the free road for fear of traffic driving at excessive speeds and unfamiliar conditions, but it turned out to be equally safe if you want to avoid the $4.40 in tolls; although, $4.40 is worth the damage that can be done to your vehicle if you are not careful.

Along the street behind the beach in Rosarito is a row of restaurants, cafés and bars, and markets. Party-goers flock to Papas and Beer and nearby Iggy’s, where beach volleyball and knocking back as much Corona as possible are the order of the day, but we settled for food vendors along the beach since drinking wasn’t a possibility and the only thing that I’ve been kicking back was my slightly swollen feet.

Shopping along Rosarito’s main street can be intimidating as aggressive shopkeepers try to sell you their products. As we strolled though the Mercado for arts and crafts, leathers, pottery, and rugs and blankets, we quickly learned to firmly say “No, gracias” and keep walking. However, I love the art of haggling and searching for the perfect deal so when something caught my attention, I worked my charm and sometimes my developing belly to see eye to eye on a price. Sometimes that meant walking away and finding it somewhere else and sometimes that meant leaving without what I thought I so desperately wanted, but that was the price to pay for a good bargain. My final merchandise count consisted of a blanket, a pair of blue earrings, and two dresses for a total of $35.

The beach was as spectacular as Newport, California but it had fewer people and more parking.  With the extremely high tides and strong currents along the entire Pacific coast, we chose not to chance body boarding or surfing, but really didn’t feel at much of a loss because we have similar beaches in southern California. The beach itself houses plenty of activities for tourists and locals including water sports, paragliding, horseback riding, and sand sports such as volleyball. For $10, we rode horses along the sand and through the water at easy paces, although the option to run the horse was available, and took in the sights of Rosarito. It was well worth the cheap $10 price, and it was one of the best parts of my trip.


When we settled in for the evening, it was at a private, 24/7 gated community with 180 degree ocean views. The main living quarters are 3600 sq ft. with another 2000 sq ft of patio space on two levels. It was like a dream to relax on the patio with our new Mexican blanket covering our legs while listening to the waves crash below us. As a special surprise, there were four dolphins playing in the waves just off the coastline. I felt like I was in a movie.

Day one of our Mexican vacation was perfect! The border crossing was simple and consumed very little time, the beaches were full of activities and adventures for all ages and pregnancy levels, the shopping was well within reason, and the surroundings were superb. We’ll continue travelling to Mexico during and after the pregnancy. Please don’t allow the sensationalized headlines and biased reporting to frighten you! Baja California, Mexico is a wonderful, affordable, and safe vacation locale.

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50 thoughts on “Hasta Luego California; Hola Baja, Mexico!

  1. I used to go with my ex for the 50 mile ride (I trailed in a car after 3 hour spa sessions), ha, ha, ha. We always stayed at the Rosarito Beach resort with the adjacent spa and ate the best food there when we got to Ensenada, what memories, fun stuff!! Looks like you did it the right way! I always wanted to try the horseback riding on the beach :0)

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  2. 15 years ago as a single mom, I flew to Laredo with my 8 yr old son and no plan. Traveled to cabo then sailed across to the mainland to little coastal towns north of P. Vallarta. Nervous at the start, I felt completely welcomed and safe by the end with an unforgettable month my son and I will always cherish.

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  3. Loved this entry! Not only because of your beautiful writing and pictures, but also due to your daring personality. I really admire you. 🙂 Are you ever going to visit Ethiopia, or perhaps you might have already? I would love to read your reflections. It is the kind of place you will certainly enjoy since you enjoy challenges. 🙂 Like Mexico, Ethiopia is not the kind of place for people who heavily rely on misinformation, rumor, prejudice based on few anecdotes, or media bias.

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  4. Very interesting! I’ve been to Mexico a few times and always experienced the same wonderful, warm feelings of the people. I never felt threatened. The part I loved the most about your story was riding the horses! I love riding horses! Thanks for sharing!

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  5. My husband who is from Michigan where we now reside (I’m originally from the Central Coast of California) drove us to La Bufadora five years ago with no problem, we rented a house from someone and stayed near La Bufadora in between the peninsula and it was breath taking, he still talks about this trip and we hope to return.

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  6. I have a Mexican Riviera cruised booked for my 30th birthday, and was also initially worried, but Mexico is too beautiful a place to avoid. After reading this and looking at those beautiful photos, I’m excited all over again!

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  7. Glad that you had such a positive experience, and also glad that you are writing about it, since this is a place that many people are afraid of traveling to, and staying there for a vacation.

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  8. Totally agree regarding the crime and warnings. I’ve been to Mexico several times to several different places since the warnings started. I’ve had nothing be the best experiences. I think people just need to be aware and then go for it and have fun.

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  9. Love this, Lesley!!!!! I’ve spent quite a bit of time in Baja and have so many fond memories. My husband and I met at Papa’s y Beer in Rosarito Beach and returned to Mexico for a rockin’ engagement party two years later. Thanks for brining it all back.

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  10. I prefer the toll. I don’t know if Americans know this but if there’s an accident, all cars are covered even uninsured cars.

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  11. Horses and dolphins – what more can you ask for! Thinking about a trip to Baja – have heard it to be a brilliant kayak destination. May have to have an extra day to ride the horses along the beach – sounds good to me!

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  12. Pingback: Versatile Blogger Award! | Rock Bottom T-Shirts Blog

  13. Wonderful of you to reassure us about visiting Baja California! Your photographs are beyond spectacular, as usual. I feel refreshed just from reading and view this post! Thank you!

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  14. Beautiful pictures! We live in Mexico City and have never once been or felt threatened. Thank you for shedding some good light on a beautiful country!

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  15. Hi Lesley,
    I am Mexican and is so great to read your incredible adventure to Baja; there is a war in mexico between the drug cartels and the government, but you had a nice experience and not so many people share the positive. Good for you and your future baby.

    MARIO

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  16. Awesome article! I have wanted to head into Mexico to visit another part other than where we always go in Cancun, but my husband has been hesitant. I saw you started in Laguna Hills…too funny..we live in Mission Viejo! 🙂

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  17. Thank you for checking out my blog, which gave me a reason to check out yours. I am new at this, so am enjoying the opportunity to gain the perspective of other writers. This post in particular stood out to me as I just finished a 3 year commute to Tijuana to be with my husband where he was posted. I am in the midst of a retrospective of my time spent there, and will touch on many aspects of this great place. Thank you for capturing Rosarita so beautifully!

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  18. Lesley,
    Thank you so much for posting your positive words! I have been living in Mexico (Zihuatanejo) for 18 years, loving every moment. It is always difficult for me to hear/read negative comments about Mexico – and I rejoice always when I see a positive post that reflects the truth of the beauty of the country and the people of Mexico. Muchas gracias! 🙂

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  19. I spent a year living in San Cristobal de las Casas, a small, high elevation town originally part of the same kingdom as Guatemala. The town is a safe and pleasant place. The word the locals use most often to describe it is “tranquilo”. Thanks for your blog, Lesley.

    Pat

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  20. Baja California is one of many beautiful states in Mexico, I grew up in TJ and Rosarito was our spot when we skipped classes in highschool (the beach area by Pappas & Beer) – Indeed, anyone could be a victim of violence (even locals) but is no different than any other city like L.A. or NY…. Next time you are in the Rosarito/Ensenada area… go to Valle de Guadalupe (vinyards)

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  21. I lived in TJ for 15 years, so I know the Baja pretty well. There are still so many unexploited and unexplored places where you feel that you are truly part of nature (specially if you travel to south Baja). I will be honest and say Tijuana, just as many other parts of Mexico, can be very dangerous, but if you are careful enough and don’t do silly things, you can have a really great time. Rosarito is also known for its surf spots, the sunsets at Valle de Guadalupe are breathtaking, Puerto Nuevo is famous for its delicious lobters, and Ensenada has the best fish tacos in the world (for reals!). So, I’m really glad you took your time to visit this part small part of the world that often gets a lot of bad rep and not enough recognition. May I add that local people are also very nice and helpful. Great post!

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  22. Nice blog. Like others, I have been into Mexico several times in the last couple of yers with no problems. TJ has always been a city you could get into trouble but Mexico is full of wonderful places with nice people. Be careful here as you would any other part of the world.

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    • I’ve been living in central mexico for 7 years and love it. Drive all over the country regularly. There are many places in the us that are more dangerous than most of Mexico.

      Plenty of very affordable and adequate health care available. Labor and delivery of a child at a major hospital will cost approximate $1000 used +|-. Now that’s a bargain! That’s what I used to pay per month for medical insurance.

      Mexico isn’t any more or less dangerous than anywhere else on earth. If your not involved in drugs, etc or just plain have bad luck then you’ll be just fine. Fly in and fly out is the safest travel option
      R

      Try that in

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  23. Pingback: STUDY ABROAD / INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE : MEXICO, Guadalajara | GlobalEd

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