Seven Features of San Felipe

The northernmost settlement of any size on Baja California's Cortés coast, San Felipe just might be the peninsula's most under-rated resort. Easily accessible via the border crossings at Tijuana, Tecate and Mexicali, this fishing village sitting at the end of the Mex 5 highway has up to now been relatively isolated, with access south restricted to those with a lot of patience and a high clearance vehicle. This situation is due to change, however, with the highway being extended south to eventually connect with the Mex 1 transpeninsular route, meaning San Felipe can more easily be integrated into a tour of the whole peninsula. What then does San Felipe have to offer its visitors?

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1. The drive down

Whether you're approaching from Ensenada on Mex 3 or from Mexicali on Mex 5 you're in for some spectacular scenery, though there's a key difference between the two roads. Mex 3 crosses the peninsula diagonally from the Pacific coast, through the mountains of the Sierra de Juárez, south of the Constitution of 1857 National Park. Mex 5, on the other hand, is almost entirely straight and flat, sandwiched between the Cortés coast and the edge of the mountains, though the views are no less spectacular.

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2. Where the desert meets the sea

When you arrive at San Felipe you'll feel as though you've come across a giant oasis, with the Sea of Cortés to the east providing respite from the parched desert landscape which surrounds the town on its three other sides. It is a beautiful turquoise aquatic playground for visitors, especially if fishing is your thing. Don't be dismayed if the sea has almost disappeared from view when you arrive, it'll be back - the tidal range is one of the largest in the world. It always reminds this Brit of Swansea or Weston-Super-Mare on either side of the Bristol Channel, albeit much warmer!

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3. The Malécon

Rather like La Paz hundreds of miles south, though on a much smaller scale, the hub of the town is its Malécon, a street running along the seafront with the beach on one side and bars and restaurants on the other. Benches line this beachside boulevard, and souvenir sellers and street musicians will come and offer their services. As well as the expected norteño musicians with double bass and accordion you might even get a lone rock guitarist who'll serenade you with his amplified rendition of 'Oye Como Va' (the Santana version, naturally!) or the guitar break from 'Another Brick In The Wall'.

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4. Food

The Malecón is the obvious place to head for food, with taquerias such as "La Morenita" and "El Guerito" (two names which could adequately describe my wife and myself!) and fish and seafood restaurants a-plenty. We really like Rice and Beans, which serves good quality Mexican food from breakfast to late evening (plus they show all the important sporting encounters). 

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5. Beaches

This part of the coast has wonderful sandy beaches. If you like crowds you can spend time on the beach opposite the Malécon, or if seclusion is your thing drive out a few miles out of town in either direction and find your own space and enjoy the peace and tranquility. Our preferred spot is just beyond the southern end of town, just before the road bends inland towards the town's small airport. Just before the bend is a rather garish and graffitied pink facade to a development which was never finished, nicknamed "El Castillo" (The Castle). There's enough space behind it for you to park, or if you have an all terrain vehicle you can easily drive most of the way down to the beach on an unfinished paved road.

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6. Valle de los Gigantes

Less than ten miles south of town is the Valle de los Gigantes (Valley of the Giants), home to the largest cactus on earth, the cardón. This place is so unusual and interesting it'll be the subject of my next post on this blog.

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7. Mex 5 to San Luis Gonzaga

As mentioned above, the federal government are extending Mex 5 southwards to connect with the main transpeninsular highway (at Chapala, south of Cataviña). Although this process will not be completed for another few years, the work already done has opened up more options for those who don't have access to a 4WD vehicle. At the time of writing (July 2013) the road has been extended from Puertecitos past Las Encantadas (the Enchanted Islands) almost as far as beautiful Bahía San Luis Gonzaga. Once again, this roadtrip deserves a blog post of its own, but here's some pics anyway.


For more information on San Felipe have a look at the town's official website here.