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San Felipe (Mexico)

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San Felipe is a city in Baja California, Mexico on the coast of the Gulf of California.


San Felipe was originally a sleepy fishing village, barely connected by road to Mexicali over a long, often flooded, mud, or washed-out road. Over the years it has developed into a resort destination for both Americans and Mexicans. However, its fishing roots are still evident in the large commercial harbor south of town frequented by shrimp boats.

Get in[edit]

The easiest way to get to San Felipe is to drive. You can fly into the small Aeropuerto International De San Felipe. There are also long distance buses, although there are no local buses once you arrive.

By car[edit]

If you are coming from California, into Baja Mexico, there are two simple routes.

1. San Diego/Tijuana Border Crossing: Drive South on the Mexican 1-D to Ensenada. Then, take the Mexican 3 South to the Mexican 5. Head south on the Mexican 5. The 5 ends directly in San Felipe. This route takes you directly across the Baja Peninsula. You will pass two or sometimes three Mexican Army checkpoints, where you will be greeted and searched by soldiers. Leaving/entering San Felipe you will be searched thoroughly. Also leaving Ensenada, heading towards San Felipe there is another military thorough inspection, and not only cars are searched. You will need to tell them your final destination. The Mexican 3 is notorious for major potholes and sometimes bandidos. The drive will feel like it goes on forever.

2. Mexicali: The drive to San Felipe from the Mexicali border crossing is relatively more direct. Just hold South on the Mexican 5 all the way to San Felipe. The majority of this path will take you through desert terrain. Make sure to have extra water.

General driving advice:

Be very wary of Mexican big rigs. If a car or truck in front of you turns on its blinkers, this usually denotes that it is safe to pass on a two lane highway. Make sure your car is in good shape. Make sure to be able to speak even a little bit of Spanish! Also, few gas stations live along the road to San Felipe so make sure you have full tank of gas. It is best to fill up before you leave Mexicali or San Felipe. Another warning: Be careful with parking your car on the beach, regardless of it being 2 or 4-wheel drive. The tide is very quick, and will turn over your car/truck before you know it.

By plane[edit]

San Felipe has a small international airport a few miles south of town. The airport currently has no commercial flights.

By bus[edit]

ABC Buses run from Mexicali.

Get around[edit]

The malecon (waterfront) is the center of San Felipe. Most of the bars and restaurants are situated here and are within walking distance of each other. Free, ample parking is usually available.

Many of the beach-front camps and vacation villages are a couple miles away from town. You will need a car to get into town.

Driving on the beach is an excellent way to get stuck shovelling sand for a few hours. While four-wheel drive vehicles are better at driving on the beach, they too will get stuck at particularly soft spots.

See[edit][add listing]

The tide. The Sea of Cortez has incredible tide changes. Walk out and see the ocean bed. Be wary of the tide though. The tide can take you and your car quickly if you park on the beach.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Fishing. Many local fishermen will take you out on their boat for a fee. Take note that while a permit is not needed to fish from shore, a permit is needed to fish from a boat. Collecting clams and other shellfish is legal only for locals.
  • The Baja 500 and Baja 1000 races often pass near or through San Felipe.
  • California Motorsport Adventours Off road adventure tours for people of all riding abilities. Everyone welcome: families, couples, friends, single riders, bachelor and corporate groups. Our trips to San Felipe can be done in 4 or 5 days. Begin in San Diego, end in San Felipe. We can also customize tours around the Baja 500 and 1000. Contact the office for reservations and inquiries.
  • Blues Festival. An annual event that normally takes place in April. Many local bands and a great way to enjoy the outdoors during the spring in Mexico  edit

Event announcements and local news from almost all local websites (in English) appear on San Felipe News

  • La Valle del gigante. A drive or hike into some giant saguaros. Access is about 15 miles south of town on the road to puertecitos, no signals until you're close and its at the 14 km signpost on the second road - be careful to not end up at the airport. Pretty cool. 10 usd entrance fee per vehicle and you might have to find the guard to open the gate,  edit
  • Atv rentals. You'll find them around town, for US$ 20-25/hr. there are plenty of sand dunes to drive over and it's good fun.  edit
  • Inflatable Banana Boats (San Felipe Banana tubing). For those seeing some thrilling adventure, inflatable banana boats is a fun activity. In inflatable banana tube is pulled by a speed boat across the water while everyone tries to hang on. If this activity interested you, you can find these for rent at the San Felipe Malecon. $30.  edit

Buy[edit][add listing]

Most stores in San Felipe sell the same souvenirs: rings, necklaces, T-shirts, and so on. Typically, shopping will happen on a need basis -- "oh, I forgot to bring sunglasses; I'd better buy some", or else on a whim -- "That's a nice-looking ring". In addition to the actual stores, there are often peddlers walking around on the streets or beaches selling wares of some kind, usually personal accessories. Often, these people are associated with a store. Almost without exception, vendors in San Felipe accept the U.S. dollar.

  • San Felipe Rentals, Calle Pase de Las Palmas, 626-239-3745, [1]. 3pm to 12pm. The Beach is your front yard, beach home and 2 beach condos, five minute drive to town. Garages and 24 hour security 250 a night.  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

Fish Tacos!! San Felipe is known as the birthplace of the fish taco and every restaurant on the malecon serves them. It is said to be the taste that launched Rubio's chain of Mexican restaurants. A trip to San Felipe would be incomplete without trying the local delicacy. Most places also serve tacos with other types of seafood as well. As with most eateries in Mexico, look for ones frequented by locals.

It is possible to buy seafood, especially shrimp (camerones) and clams (almejas), from local fish markets, or occasionally directly from the fishing vessels in the large commercial harbor.

  • Rumors Bar & Grill, Playa De Oro (North of San Felipe). Brian, orignally from Iowa, makes great Mexican and American food. You must try the tenderloin sandwich and the MaidRites.  edit

Note: Brian's is no more. Brian's is now called Rumors. It is owned by the same guy that owns Fatboy Pizza. Initially the food was so so, and the drinks were too expensive. The food has improved but the drinks are weak and expensive.

  • The Taco Factory, Downtown (At the melecon). Great tacos, quasedillas and cervezas  edit

  • El Cortez/Bare Foot Beach Bar. Just south of the Malecom, the El Cortez is a great Hotel, but has a great breakfast and a nice beach bar.
  • The Sweet Spot is the main hangout on the Malecon for "gringos" and is owned and operated by an American. Als Backstreet Bar is another famous local gringo hangout, and is two streets west of the Malecon right behind the Bancomer branch.
  • Pavivilion Restaurant, El Dorado Ranch, [2]. One of the largest and most American restaurants is the Pavilion in the gated golf course community of El Dorado Ranch eight miles North of San Felipe on Hwy 5. It is open to the public so just tell the guard where you are going. The restaurant and location are so beautiful it has become the #1 Wedding and reception restaurant in San Felipe for both Mexicans and Americans.  edit
  • Fat Boys Pizzeria and Bar (Fat Boys Bar & Pizzeria), Chetumal Blvd, San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico, 21850 (Located in downtown San Felipe, one block from the Malecon), 686-577-4092, [3]. 10AM - 2AM. One of the best pizza joints in San Felipe conveniently located in downtown San Felipe on the main thoroughfare - Chetumal blvd. This place has a full bar. $5.  edit
  • Tacos El Poblano (Tacos El Poblano), Chetumal Blvd (From the San Felipe gates, drive South on Chetumal Blvd. Look to your left for the sign), [4]. 6PM - 1AM. Tacos El Poblano taco restaurant specializes in pork and beef tacos. This is a down-to-earth eatery where you eat like the locals. There is outdoor seating and semi-covered seating. Check for opening hours after 6PM. $1.50.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

Most restaurants serve beer and wine, and many have a full bar. Most of the campgrounds have a bar, making the stumble back to your tent relatively quick and painless.

There's a couple of bars/clubs along the malecon. Some of the more popular dance clubs are Rockodile and Beachcomber but they don't get hopping till after midnight. If you want to have fun with the American expat locals, no trip to San Felipe is compleate without a trip to Al's bar. A true "dive: by any definition yet 100% safe and LOADS of fun. It's like being in a Fellini movie. A block off the malecon on a seedy dark street but worth seeking out.

Buy some Cuban rum, Coke, and limes at one of the local markets and drink Cuba Libres at your campsite on the beach. Local distributors also sell Mexican beer by the case (with a deposit for bottles).

  • Barefoot bar. At the hotel Cortez, very cool beachfront bar. 24 pesos/ beer and 36 for a STRONG margarita!  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Many beach campgrounds ("campos" or "playas") are located a few miles north of town. Most offer a parking place, palapas, and bathrooms; some have showers.

There are a number of adequate motels in town. There is a larger hotel south of town, near the commercial harbor.

  • San Felipe Rentals (Vacation rental homes in San Felipe), Eldorado Ranch (Highway 5), 1-760-592-1261, [5]. checkin: 3:00PM; checkout: 11:00AM. Rental homes include Eldorado Ranch beach front condos and La Ventana del Mar golf course accommodations. $109/night.  edit
  • El Dorado San Felipe Rentals (San Felipe Condos), KM 177 Mexicali - San Felipe Highway 5, 011-521-686-216-1360, [6]. checkin: 2:00PM; checkout: 10:00AM. Fully furnished rental homes, including San Felipe condos. El dorado San Felipe amenities include private beach, swimming pools, tennis courts. San Felipe condos available in two bedroom and three bedroom. $60.  edit
  • Hotel Cortez. Nice, beachfront large units. More expensive than average for town, but the location is unbeatable.  edit
  • Posada Don Jesus. A couple of streets back from the Malecon, (i.e. a 3 minute walk), and close to town. large, sunny rooms with cable, wifi And super hot showers. Clean and friendly staff. Around 500 pesos/dbl, depending on season.  edit
  • San Felipe Rentals Company (Juliet Front Yard Beach Home and Condos), 4613 Calle Paseo de Las Palmas (Highway 5), 213-9295093, [7]. checkin: 3:00pm; checkout: 12:00pm. 3 options to rent, Beach Home, Beach condo 1 or 2, or Beach Triplex includes beach home and 2 beach condos. Kayaks, 8 car garage, WiFi, each with their own private BBQ Grill Patio $250 -$150.  edit
  • San Felipe Vacation Rental Homes (San Felipe Vacation Rental Homes), KM 176 San Felipe Mexicali Highway 5 (From the US border, drive South on San Felipe - Mexicali Highway 5 until you arrive at Kilometer marker 176.5), 1-323-440-5799, [8]. checkin: 3:PM; checkout: 11AM. Beachfront condos and vacation rental homes across San Felipe including Golf Course condos with complimentary golf pass for unlimited golf. 4 Big swimming pools and 7 tennis courts. Friendly on-site manager 60.  edit

Get out[edit]

Valley of the Giants is a natural Reserve of the thousand year old Cardon Cactus. This area has become a major visitors attraction due to the selection of one of these giant specimens that was transported to Seville, Spain during World Expo '92.

South of San Felipe, the paved road continues to Puertocitos, through to Gonzaga Bay, where it turns to a dirt road back to Highway 1 between Catavina and Bay of Los Angeles. The views Near Gonzaga are simply breathtaking.

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