You may know Tecate for its beer, but did you know, this little border town has arts, culture, gastronomy, wine and natural beauty? Well, it has all that and more.
Initially, Tecate has the feel of a tired small city. However, after spending a bit more time there I came to realize it was anything but sleepy and if it seems a bit groggy, it is because it appears to be awakening.
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Tecate is a little border town just over an hour from San Diego. Because it is a small town and a bit further from San Diego than Tijuana, border crossing is a less dreadful process. We travel to Tecate via Ensenada but returned to the US from Tecate. We traversed into the US late on a Friday afternoon and there was no wait on either side of the border. This is ideal if you are planning to do a weekend or overnight trip. You will have more time to enjoy and less time in line.
Like a lot of northern Baja, Tecate seems to be going through a bit of a revival. In recent years, they have opened a cultural center downtown dedicated to the heritage of the indigenous people. In addition, they have cleaned up around the Arts Center and are in the process of expanding. While I was there, they were building a new first-rate performing arts center. Additionally, the center offers revolving art exhibits, art and music classes for adults and kids as well as theatre.
Expanding on the arts and Mexico’s long pottery and tile history, in 2017 the city plans to introduce a self-guided ceramics tour. The tour will provide visitors with a map of the traditional potters in the area. Visitors can see the process and of course purchase authentic Mexican terra-cotta.
A day and a half in Tecate and only scratched the surface. Click To Tweet
Another trend taking off in Tecate is small wineries. Locals and some non-locals have taken cues from Valle de Guadalupe and have decided to give winemaking a go in the area. As it was explained to me, if Valle could be so successful with wines without water, then Tecate should be able to succeed with water. It seems to be paying off, at least for the mother and daughter team at Veramendi: Casa Vinicola, where they are producing approximately 3900 cases of wine despite being a young winery with 2013 being their first year of production.
This region of Baja has long been regarded as a place of spiritually, wellness and healing. You can truly feel it in the air, whether you are hiking at nearby La Rumorosa or taking a weeklong sabbatical at the exclusive health resort of Rancho La Puerta.
It is worth taking a ride about 40 minutes outside of town to experience La Rumorosa. The vistas and valleys are breathtaking. You can see for miles and the only sign of humanity is the single-lane road winding through the painted landscape. Spend some time here and reconnect with nature, but watch out for rattlesnakes.
Health and Wellness
If you really want to get in touch with Mother Earth and your spiritual side, spend a week at Rancho La Puerta. This health spa offers all the services you would expect at a wellness center and much more. Every week they have presenters talking on a diverse range of topics. The week we were there, the lecture line-up included Pilates, sleep and dreams, autobiography and memoir writing as well as music and more. Additionally, they offer healthy cooking classes at La Cocina Que Canta with a guest chef.
If you are all about the food but not interested in cooking or learning to cook, there are plenty of places to indulge in some exceptional meals. We were treated to a nice selection of restaurants.
Our first meal in the area was at La Cocina Que Canta. We were four days into a five-day Baja trip and we had been eating nonstop. I was ready for some lighter fare. La Cocina is a vegetarian restaurant offering sandwiches and lovely salads made with greens from their on-site organic garden. Additionally, they serve up some nice soups. Be sure to leave room for espresso and dessert. We sampled all of them and I wouldn’t know which one to recommend. They were all tasty.
Another great option for lunch or dinner is El Lugar de Nos. This is an eclectic little joint with indoor and outdoor dining. We were there mid-afternoon but I can imagine that it is a bustling place in the evening. In addition to tables for dining, there are casual seating areas. I can envision hanging out here with friends until we are asked to leave so the help can go home. It is that kind of place. Of course, the food is fantastic. Again, the menu offerings are a bit on the lighter side but they have a nice selection of tostadas and salads and the servings are plentiful. Once again, you will want to leave room for dessert.
If you are looking for a more upscale meal, you will want to go to Asao located at Santuario Diegueno. This is Martin San Roman’s restaurant in Tecate. Roman is an international award-winning chef with other restaurants in Baja and San Diego. The menu at Asao is an upmarket Baja-Med. He does an Octopus Kebab that even I enjoyed. I say this because I have an aversion to eating anything with tentacles. The Braised Short-ribs and the Cilantro Risotto with Grilled Shrimp were delicious.
A good night’s sleep
Asao and Santuario Diegueno, the hotel where we stayed are on the same property. They sit perched on a hill with spectacular views. This is a lovely hotel. Rooms have vaulted ceilings and giant beds. The kind that make a girl feel like a princess but not foo-foo. The tones are neutral and décor comfortable. My room had a balcony overlooking a courtyard and a bathroom with a shower and soaking tub. On-site are business facilities, a swimming pool and exercise room. The hotel appeared brand new but I believe it is about 10 years old so I would say it is well maintained.
If you have ever considered a visit to Tecate but thought it was more of a pass-through town, I encourage you to go and stay a while. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the diversity of activities in the area. I know that after a day and a half there I felt like it was a place I need to revisit. I suspect we only scratched the surface of all Tecate has to offer.
Disclosure: I received compensation in exchange for writing this review. Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own. This post contains links to businesses where I may have been compensated. At this time, I do not receive any financial compensation by you clicking on a link.