Let me just start out by saying I am absolutely OBSESSED with traveling to Mexico! As a Southern California based traveler, you can’t find another country that is so close, so easy to get to, so cheap, and so much fun! When people hear how much I love traveling to Mexico I’m often met with looks of worry, or comments such as “Aren’t you scared you’re going to get mugged/shot/attacked/kidnapped?” Let me just say, in my opinion, these people have been watching a few too many Narcos movies.
Yes, there is risk involved in traveling to Mexico. But, this is true anywhere in the world, especially when traveling to a less developed country. However, I believe in taking calculated risks, and traveling to Mexico is just that. If you mind your own business, don’t go off by yourself, and are generally respectful and aware of your surroundings, you shouldn’t have an issue. I’ve partied in Cabo, explored Cancun, spent new years in Mexico City, and enjoyed the authenticity of Guadalajara, and not once have I ever felt like I was in danger. Behave appropriately and you should be ok.
Tips and Tricks:
*Be aware of your surroundings*
*Try to speak Spanish when you can*
*If you have Global Entry, walk over the border instead of driving across and do NOT forget your Global Entry card AND passport. You’ll need it for pedestrian crossing unlike flying*
*If you don’t have Global Entry, stay somewhere that will give you a medical fast pass*
*If you do walk over the border, rent a car once you cross. Las Gaviotas is a bit of a drive from Rosarito and it can take time to hail a cab*
*Hire a driver for any activities that are more than a 20 minute drive from the Las Gaviotas community*
Las Gaviotas is a sleepy little community just south of Rosarito. The community is gated and patrolled 24/7 which left our group feeling very safe. While Las Gaviotas is a great home base if you’re looking to explore places south of Rosarito, I wouldn’t recommend it if you are planning to spend most of your time in downtown Rosarito (think Papas and Beer, beach bars, nightlife). While it’s only a 20-30 minute drive south of Rosarito, it can be very difficult to get a cab or find an Uber. Fortunately, the 24/7 security guards were more than happy to help us with any transportation needs.
While I’ve been to Rosarito before, this was the first time I ever used Global Entry to walk across the border. We crossed at the Otay Mesa border and the process was very easy. You can also cross at the San Ysidro border which is closer to Rosarito, and we’ll probably try this on a future trip. I always recommend crossing on foot because traffic at the border can be unpredictable both ways. While crossing into Mexico tends to move relatively quick, coming back can take up to 8 hours. Sitting in stopped traffic is typically the last thing you want to do at the end of a vacation. (If you have any specific questions on crossing by foot be sure to email to DM me!)
If you do not have Global Entry and only have the option of driving, my best recommendation is to stay somewhere where they offer a medical fast pass. The last time we received one of these we stayed at the Rosarito Beach Hotel and it took about 7-8 hours off of our crossing time. We were home by noon and our friends without the fast pass didn’t get home until 8 PM.
CuatroCuatros is a new development about 45 minutes south of Las Gaviotas. It reminds me of a uniquely luxurious and rustic escape from the world that also serves as a vineyard. When we entered, we were met by a bus that gave everyone a beer and drove us to the top of a mountain, that had an unobstructed view of the ocean. The bar on top of the mountain had European vibes, with deep house music playing in the background and bottle service available. The food was “meh” but the view and drinks made it worth the trek. CuatroCuatros wasn’t quite done being built when we visited, but they plan to have a variety of cabins where people can escape on a luxury retreat and re-energize before going back into the world.
If you choose to come here, be sure to make reservations and hire a driver. I definitely would not have felt comfortable driving that far in an area I was unfamiliar with. I never knew about CuatroCuatros, but it is a must-visit if you’re in the Rosarito area. It is so rare to see so much land with a view of the beach completely undeveloped. Also, if you’re anything like me, I judge a place placed on the bathrooms and these did not disappoint!
Valle de Guadalupe (Mexico’s Wine Country)
I never knew that Mexico had a wine country until recently, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled when I found out! Wine country was about 1-1.5 hours away from where we were staying in Las Gaviotas. Again, it is necessary to hire a driver, especially since you’ll be drinking. We were lucky and were able to hire the same driver for our wine country tour and CuatroCuatros.
Our group only made it to two wineries: Finca Altozano and Frida (a winery dedicated to all things Frida Kahlo). We also visited on the Day of the Dead weekend which meant there were a plethora of decorations out for us to view. We started at Frida and it was perfect! It was hot outside but we were able to go into a private tasting room instead of sitting out in the heat. Along with wine, we were able to taste a host of fine tequilas which was a nice change of pace.
After Frida, we headed over to Finca Altozano. This was probably my favorite winery because they had wine, sangria, food, and a beautiful backdrop. All over the property, there were massive wine barrels that you could sit in with friends, and enjoy a glass of wine while taking in the views. In addition, the food was phenomenal! We ordered everything from oysters to pasta to short rib and it was one of my favorite meals on the trip. Another reason I love Mexico: the food is phenomenal, and its the price of a halfway decent meal here in Orange County. We always order everything on the menu and every time I’m surprised at how tasty it is and how cheap it is.
Our trip was short but sweet. We went down Friday morning and left Sunday morning and it was just the right amount of time. You don’t need a long time in Baja. However, I do recommend planning two separate trips for Downtown Rosarito (party trip) and Las Gaviotas (relaxing trip). On our way back to the U.S. we had a cab drive us to the pedestrian border crossing at Otay Mesa. There is no signage about Global Entry. However, if you show the guard your Global Entry card, they let you cut the line. A quick scan of your passport and you’re cleared to walk through to the U.S. I love Mexico and already have a few trips planned for 2020! Stay tuned…
“Live with no excuses and travel with no regrets.”