The Magic of Rosarito Beach
By Ann Nelson



A forty-five minute drive south of downtown San Diego will transport you into a totally different world. You  will enter a  world of true peace and tranquility once you get out of the city. When I need a quick “refresher”, or “tune up”,  this is where I go. It’s one of my husband’s favorites too. At first, I was a little leery of driving in Mexico, but it’s pretty easy when you follow the signs to Ensenada, or the toll road.

I recommend taking the toll road for a few miles just to avoid the congestion of the city of Rosarito. There are three exits. The second or third exit  may be a good place to start driving the “scenic highway”, and believe me, a scenic highway it is! The other option is to take the “Free Highway”, but it will take a long time due to lots of traffic.

Both roads offer 60 miles of breathtaking scenery. The drive in itself equals any of the most beautiful drives in the world I have ever taken. Most of the time is spent driving on a cliff just above the ocean. The road  is filled with twists and turns, and the scenery is filled with magic. All of my tension falls away when I drive on this road. O.K., enough about the road!

The beach at Rosarito is actually one of the widest and longest on the Pacific coast of Baja. There are at least a quarter of a million Americans living in this region of Mexico. There are days when my husband and I fantasize about moving here too.

I must confess, we’re used to our old favorites when we come down here, and really should branch out a bit and try new places, but so far we haven’t. So for now I will focus on our old favorite haunts.

The La Fonda Hotel and Restaurant is one of my favorite places to stay and certainly one of my favorite places for lunch or dinner. Actually having lunch or dinner may not be the most appropriate way to describe how I spend my time there. Sometimes I feel as though I am literally glued to the chair, swiping a margarita and simply engulfed with smells, the mood and the sounds of the ocean below me. I am drawn to this place with its old funky patio and rooms that are anything but cookie-cutter.  And I am drawn to the old rocky staircase that winds down to the beach. I always come back here.

The Rosarito Beach Hotel is another great place to stay. Built in 1926, the hotel was quite elegant, and a place where silent-movie stars went to hide from the outside world. The newly remodeled Mediterranean-style hotel is now turned into a resort complex with several dining rooms, luxury suites and two heated swimming pools. Staying here is truly a bargain, especially when a dinner coupon is included.

Another favorite of ours is the Hotel Festival Plaza. The last time we were here, two massages were included in our package. After our massages, we felt like we were floating on air. Truly the best massage I have ever had. My husband agreed. The husband and wife team were professional, educated and definitely knew what they were doing. The hotel features a tequila museum/bar/café, two restaurants, two dance clubs and a heated pool. The hotel even has a ferris wheel in the courtyard.

All the hotels I mentioned here charge less than $100.00 a night.

If you have a free afternoon, you may want to take a short drive south to Ensenada and see the huge sea geyser at La Bufadora. The geyser is located at a rocky point across the bay from the city and is a sight to behold. A waterspout is created by the entrance to a long, narrow cavern just above sea level, and steep cliffs that narrow into a V- shape. When a wave rolls in and the surf subsides, the air trapped in the cave blasts the water back out with amazing force. Try to go during high tide when it is the most spectacular.

Summer months can be busy with both Mexican and foreign tourists. Spring break (parts of March and April), may be a time to avoid unless you like crowds. The rest of the year is splendid.

If you have more than a few days to spend in the Rosarito area, you may want to investigate volunteer opportunities. If you are interested in saving animals, the Baja Animal Sanctuary is a good place to check out. Rosarito residents have dropped off more than 1,200 dogs and cats, and 80% of these animals have been placed in new homes. PETS MART charity, LUV-A-PET Adoption Center, has been a huge help with this effort. The in-house clinic at the sanctuary sees to it that all animals are neutered prior to adoption and neuters already-owned pets at a low cost, or free for impoverished Rosarito residents.

Sunny Benedict, a dog and cat lover is an angel and the founder of this organization. She has lived in Rosarito since 1992 and totally depends on volunteers from this side of the border. The entire operation runs on donations.

This is one memorable quote that I read about her. “I remember one nasty winter day when there was no food, and no money in the bank. It was cold. I sat down in the dirt and 20 dogs circled me, licking me. I looked up to the sky and cried out, ‘God, where’s the food?!’ Suddenly, a bright red jeep with Arizona plates drove up. They had heard about me, and wanted to help. They arrived with a vehicle filled with dog food.” 

If you want to help, visit Sunny at, or e-mail her at . Her phone number is 01-52-661-613-1119. Mail donations to Baja Dog Sanctuary, PMB 66, P.O. Box 439060, San Diego, CA 92143.

Another idea may be to help out in an orphanage. There are actually about 50 orphanages in Baja. The Corazon de Vida (Heart of Life) Foundation helps raise contributions in the form of food, money, materials and volunteer work to benefit all of the fifty orphanages. CDV currently makes regular monthly one-day visitation trips that leave from Orange County and San Diego. Call Dawn Sonntag at (949) 476-1144, ext. 311, or e-mail . The website address is

Whatever your reason for visiting the Rosarito area or any other place in Baja, I am sure your trip will be filled with wonderful memories.



Rosarito Beach Resort 
(800) 343-8582

Hotel Festival Plaza
(888) 295-9669

La Fonda Hotel & Restaurant 011-5-646-155-038

Rosarito Tourist Information
(800) 962-2252


Ann Nelson is a freelance writer, presently residing in San Diego, CA

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