I would rather go to Puerto Penasco, aka Rocky Point, over San Diego or LA and San Diego is my favorite US city. Puerto Penasco is closer to Phoenix, more of a fun cultural experience and literally 5-10x more affordable. I have been a ton and kept being asked what to do in Rocky Point, so here we are!
As someone who travels a lot and sometimes takes incredible places for granted, I really enjoy little Puerto Penasco. Rocky Point is incredibly underrated and gets hated on way too much for being a poor man’s Mexico vacation. However, the value and proximity to Phoenix makes it the best value out there for a great little weekend trip.
If you live in Arizona, time and cost efficiency is what really sets it apart from California or flying to somewhere else in Mexico. Puerto Penasco is better than California because you can spend less than 1/4 the amount on your beach vacation rental, 1/2 the cost on drinks, 1/4 the cost on adventures and 1/5th the amount on food.
What separates PP over California even more is the water temperature and cleanliness. The water is often crystal clear blue and nice and warm for a swim, where in California it’s often pretty cold that many people never go in. Surprisingly there is so much to do that you can pack every day with something to do over a week let alone a long-weekend.
Before you go I recommend going to some of the sailing and boat tour websites to book your trips in advance. It’s a catch-22 as they sell-out fast but they also don’t set sail unless their minimum reservations happen. My advice is to book a trip before you head down, ideally book a tour on a day in the middle of your trip so you aren’t rushed and also aren’t left with something being sold out.
The two main tour companies are Del Mar Charters and Eco Fun Rentals. The main difference is that Del Mar is a nicer smaller catamaran boat but is a touch more expensive for this reason. They both offer the same tours and I highly recommend the Bird Island Tour to kayak with sea lions or the sunset tour.
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With all of that said… let’s get you things to do in Rocky Point and an itinerary to enjoy Rocky Point to the fullest!
Day 1 – Arrive, unpack and relax day.
If you are coming from Phoenix, I recommend leaving before rush-hour and trying to get into PP before it gets dark. You can find your way easier, feel more secure and hopefully enjoy your first drink and meal during sunset. If your resort has a restaurant then you can go for dinner and drinks there or if you are feeling anxious to dive into Mexico than drive downtown for your first dinner and drinks.
If you get in early than you can do one of my favorite things, which is go to Super Ley to stock up on cheap snacks, meats, fruit and of course alcohol. You can get; mangos and pineapples for 50 cents or less; mexican beers like Dos Equis or Tecate for cheap; and 1800 Tequila, Kahlua or Corralejo Tequila for 1/2 to 1/4 the price of the USA. It’s nuts, Corralejo Reposado is $35-40 in the US and $7-9 in Puerto Penasco.
PP is extremely safe and one of my favorite things to do is go for a walk at night on the beach. With a drink in hand walk in the water, find a spot on the beach and enjoy the serenity of the waves crashing in while admiring the bright stars.
Day 2 – Beach & Downtown Day!
On my first full day the last thing I want to do is be on a schedule to go on a tour or feel the need to be anywhere since yesterday you probably took hours to pack, unpack and drive. Today is a day to soak in the sun, enjoy the beach with a drink in hand and relax. With that said, if you’re like me it is hard to relax so there are plenty of things you can do that won’t eat up lots of your time.
If you love the beach but can only lay down for so long of the day, you’re in luck. You can; do some of the plethora of water adventures like jet-ski, banana boat and paddle-board; ride horses on the beach; ultralight flight gliders that fly you above the beach; and $40 hour-long massages on the beach. Once you have your fill of your daytime at the beach you can also always head into town before dinner and do some shopping, take in the buzz of Mexico or go to Super Ley and stock up if you didn’t have time to yet.
There are a ton of good restaurants throughout town and I listed some of my favorites at the end of this article. My main suggestion is eat Mexican, in all its forms enjoying the local fare. Eat the chicken with rice places, eat the street tacos and eat the seafood. If you read any of my articles you know I really stress the importance if taking in things you can’t do when you are at home.
Day 3 – Adventure Day!
Today is the day to seize some extra excitement! I would try to do the aforementioned Bird Island tour, fishing or the sunset booze cruise if you can. It’s not very often you can do some sea lion viewing via kayak, have drinks on the ocean and maybe spots some whales or dolphins along the way.
If land is more your speed than there are the infamous sand dunes with ATV rentals aplenty in the area. I love to ATV but I hate when you have to be on those guided tours. Rocky Point is an ATV or 4×4 paradise with so many great things to do in the dunes all by yourself. As you will see around town there are plenty of places renting quads and ATVs from $20 an hour or $200 for the top-of-the-line Razors. Just remember, as with everything in Mexico, prices are always negotiable. Do your price shopping for everything. Furthermore, be careful, those quads will flip on you in an instant.
There are so many good places to eat I had to break it down a little into subcategories so that you could see some of my favorites! As mentioned try to go to unique places or restaurants you can’t get back home. Whether it is the view or sitting on plastic chairs next to a busted down building… try something new!
Street Food Road – 1 De Junio
It turns out most places at the downtown port stop serving food at 10pm. We were struggling to find a place to eat until we came across this street meat utopia a block up from the main port road on street 1 De Junio. The street opens up to 10+ pop-up street vendors with little plastic chairs and tables set-up on the street to give you one of the coolest most authentic dinner settings I’ve had in some time.
Everyone in our group LOVED the food and had so much fun just sitting down outside with basically an all-you-can-eat feast for about $40 total between the 6+ of us. It was such a great time and cool experience so you absolutely have to go.
There are a few great spots to catch a sunset dinner in Puerto Penasco and you must do this at least 1-2x on your visit, especially if there is a good sunset.
One place literally rises above all the others in Casa Del Capitan. Casa is set on the highest point in Puerto Penasco’s Old Port area overlooking the entire downtown, ocean and of course a beautiful view of the sunset. I will warn you to watch out for the Margaritas, they are deadly!
The Point Restaurant is also amazing being ranked near the top. Another good option is Lucky’s Cantina, among others on the main drag downtown to have some good food and great sunset views.
Brunch At Max’s Cafe
Max’s seems to be the go-to breakfast or brunch spot and with good reason. The food is amazing and the bloody mary’s are enormous and absolutely terrific. Be sure to try as much as you can and eat what you normally wouldn’t at home!
Eat Chicken And Rice At Pollo Lucas
Something about just basic chicken, rice and salsa or hot sauce just gets me excited. It is so basic but when done correctly it is ohhhh so good. Pollo Lucas is THE spot for chicken and rice and it is like $8 USD or an entire family meal. One whole chicken meal purchase gets you rice, tortillas, beans, cabbage and salsa for literally the cheapest meal around.
As you drive around town you will see a ton of seafood stands and don’t hesitate to stock up if you are a seafood lover. As with most everything down in Mexico you will see how cheap it is for some fresh seafood creating another great reason to visit Rocky Point.
Wrecked At The Reef
Wrecked is the absolutely perfect quintessential beach bar. It is inside/outside with little cabana style tables outside as well as a bar and sometimes even a stage with live music. It’s a must visit when you are in town as most people will tell you.
Bar Hop The Best Bars In The Southwest…ish
There are the bessssst bars in Rocky Point, especially down in the Old Port. With pretty affordable drinks you can hop around downtown to all the different unique themed bars. They have clubs, gorgeous patios, bars with swings inside, bars with slides and even bars with two-story beer bongs! If you are ready for a drinking good time this is one of my favorite places to do it!
Some of my favorites downtown are Sharkbite, BooBar, Manny’s and Tekila Bar. With that said, all of them down there are a good time so just hop around!
- If coming from Phoenix try to depart Phoenix before 3pm to avoid rush-hour. Going west down the 10 to the 85 is the quickest way unless you are coming from the East side. Use Google maps to see how traffic is.
- When going back home try to depart Puerto Penasco early Monday morning and go late into work vs. wait 2-3 hours at the border and the two border patrol lineups on the way home. At minimum you save 2-4 hours with less traffic… it can even be 4-5 hours if it is a holiday weekend.
- Get car insurance before you go. Your car insurance probably won’t apply in Mexico. It normally runs around $20-25 per day through your insurance carrier or is $25-30 on the side of the road before the border.
- I suggest to save time and do it with your own insurance carrier over the phone. Most request you print it out as well to have a hard copy.
- You can risk without it and I normally would but… imagine your car gets stolen and you’re out the $10,000-$40,000 or whatever your car cost? It’s such a racket but better safe than sorry.
- Health insurance through Berkshire Hathaway. I mentioned you do a lot of sketchy things… so best be covered and health insurance is like $1-2 day.
- Price shop. Don’t take the first offer to come your way. Feel free to shop around and make sure you are getting the best value before purchasing.
- Negotiate. Remember things are always negotiable when shopping or on the street in Mexico.
- Push your comfort level with food and experiences!
- Stock up on alcohol and homegoods to bring back home.
- Seriously eat at that street meat spot.
Where To Stay In Rocky Point
The beach on the North Side of the downtown is my personal favorite. It is just 10 minutes from downtown, your resort has its own stretch of beach and it is close to Wrecked At The Reef, the sand dunes and some of the local markets.
Las Palomas Beach & Golf Resort
The pricest option on Rocky Point but wow is it worth it! I was a little skeptical when I saw the prices of the resort, especially considering it was in Rocky Point, not Cancun. However, WOW it blew away my expectations and is a true stunning resort.
There are multiple incredible infinity pools, amazing beach bars, perfectly groomed grounds, the beach is perfect and the insides of these places are immaculate! Our kitchen, living room and patio were nicer than pretty much every house I have seen.
While it is a little pricier than other options, if you have the money saved up it is definitely worth it! I love Las Palomas and it hands down is the best resort in Rocky Point.
Bella Sirena Resort
This is the perfect place if you don’t have the money to spend at Las Palomas but still want a nice place. They have the perfect quintessential pool bar, perfect beach just like Las Palomas, multiple pools and the rooms are also amazing. If you stay here you won’t be disappointed and it is relatively affordable for a great place in Rocky Point.
If you don’t do any of those then check out airbnb. Often you might be able to score places in both of these resorts for cheaper than their prices on the websites. While I am down on Airbnb lately due to the extreme rise in “fees” the options in Rocky Point are really good. Ideally try to stay on the beach in the resorts vs. in town where your area might be hit and miss.