Lounging in Baja's San Felipe

Discover this chilled-out beach town 5 hours south of San Diego.

Fishing boat on a crowd-free San Felipe beach.
  • Fishing boat on a crowd-free San Felipe beach.

Strung like a hammock along the Eastern Baja coast, San Felipe lounges along the sandy beaches of the Sea of Cortez. The town's vibe is as laid back as the lapping of its Caribbean blue–like ocean waves.

San Felipe marina.

San Felipe marina.

Most know San Felipe for the fishing, off-road riding and fish tacos. It's all of that and a lot more.

Take a stroll along the malecón and watch the fisherman unload their catch of the day. Visit the shops or sit down at one of the many restaurants to enjoy a good meal and drink. One of my favorites is the Taco Factory. Even though fish tacos are common, the area is most famous for its shrimp. Margaritas in every variety imaginable are available, and each bar has a specialty.

Valle de los Gigantes.

Valle de los Gigantes.

Just south of town lies the Valle de los Gigantes, home to cardón cacti, which can live up to 300 years and grow in excess of 60 feet high. The sheer number of cardóns in this valley (often mistaken for the saguaro cactus, which they closely resemble) is nothing short of amazing. The area is accessible by foot, horse or ATVs.

Any concerns about visiting this Mexican town are unwarranted. It’s not just safe, it’s no-need-to-lock-your-doors safe (UPDATE: some residents have reported a recent uptick in burglaries, below). Locals’ demeanors are as sunny as the skies above. The pace is slow and the prices are low; it’s the closest thing to Old Mexico that I've discovered.

But that is changing.

Boarding the 9-passenger SeaPort Airlines plane.

Boarding the 9-passenger SeaPort Airlines plane.

Late in 2014 commercial flights from San Diego began on SeaPort Airlines. The normal five-hour drive from America’s Finest City is cut down to around eighty minutes – and needless to say, there's no worry of border delays on the return trip. With a capacity of nine passengers, the small planes are part of the adventure.

Beach at the San Felipe Marina Resort.

Beach at the San Felipe Marina Resort.

Development is also happening, mainly in the form of ex-pat living. The El Dorado is a planned community well on its way to completing 8,000 homes; their 18-hole golf course is open and active daily. Closer to town and abutting the ocean is the San Felipe Marina Resort. With its own private beach, it's long been a preferred place for visitors. Future plans include a Jack Nicklaus–designed golf course – although construction's been on hold the last few years – and an updated marina.

Dancers at a San Felipe festival

Weekend activities are becoming more common than not. Two of the biggest attractions are the SCORE San Felipe 250 Off Road Race in January and the November Shrimp Festival. On these occasions the town is streaming with tourists, but still manages to stay true to its soul.

With over 350 days of sunshine, beautiful beaches and friendly people, San Felipe should not be missed. Whether you fly or drive, set your compass to a southerly position and enjoy yourself in this warm, welcoming part of Baja.

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You can no longer "Take a stroll along the malecón and watch the fisherman unload their catch of the day." The Mexican government has banned all commercial fishing in the upper Sea of Cortez.


You are correct a two year ban on gill net fishing has been put into place. It’s a worthy attempt by the Mexican government to save the endangered Vaquita porpoise and the Totoaba. My sources state that permits are still available to fish for clams, crabs and perch. In addition San Felipe city fathers are looking into the possibility of increasing sport fishing in the area.

Buying in San Felipe and El Dorado Ranch is not always a safe bet. Many buyers lost money and didn't get what they paid for. There appears to be NO recourse. Buyer Beware! Extreme due diligence may not even be enough to protect you.

I was surprised to find this author is a Reader staff journalist. I had assumed the piece was a paid plug written by someone from the tourist industry. It reads like an advertisement, not a news article. Hey Reader, did an editor read this? What is the angle?

Thanks for all the feedback! This is the Reader's travel section, for news we'd suggest you check out http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/baja/ (ALL Baja-related articles, including news articles).

Crime: comments are noted in the article, and here's some more info (although a little old) on safety in San Felipe for visitors: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g150775-i528-k4328594-Is_San_Felipe_safe-San_Felipe_Baja_California.html.

Baja Diamante golf course (source: http://www.allaboutbaja.com/bajagolf.html): "The Baja Diamante project is located adjacent to the big enclosed marina. This was going to be home to northern Baja's first Nicklaus designed golf course, a 'links-style', 18-hole championship golf course. This project has been in a holding pattern for the last three years due to the economy. Who knows if this will ever really get off the ground. Call their sales center at (866) 341-0167 (U.S. toll free) for the latest update on the project. It would be nice to see this project completed, as the master plan is seriously nice."

San Felipe may be a good vacation spot, although I wasn't impressed with it on the one occasion I was there. Speaking of that one trip, in Mexicali, almost in the shadow of the state capitol complex, I was the victim of a shakedown by a traffic cop who claimed I'd run through not one, but two, STOP signs. Neither existed, or if they did, were invisible, which meant the same thing. Keep in mind that the BC state government was busy promoting tourism and encouraging folks to drive to San Felipe. And yet the local cops were preying on those very tourists, right at that traffic circle by the capitol. Makes no sense, but that's Mexico fer ya'. If you want to drive in Mexico, be prepared tor crazy driving and getting pulled over for imaginary offenses. Oh, by the way, when you're across the border any expectations of police restraint and fairness are out the window. Instead you're totally at their mercy. Come to think of it, I'll pass on driving in BC and pass on San Felipe.

I traveled to San Felipe every year for 20 years, sometimes 3 times a year. I always took my wife and 3 children, we camped at the beach in one of the many camps, Los Amigos was our favorite. There were absolutely no commodities there other then showers and restroom. It was our favorite camp because there was never anyone there, we had the whole beach to ourselves. I never once had any trouble, we always felt safe even though we were alone, I never got stopped by the cops, even once. It was incredible at night with the full moon or other times with a million stars and the Milky Way, just laying on the sand watching the stars, it was so clear on moonless nights that you could follow the satellites from horizon to horizon. I can't travel there anymore since I lost a leg but my memories make me smile.


by Javier

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