Top 10 Things To Do in Puerto Penasco: Where the Sonoran Desert Meets the Sea

El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere

Puerto Penasco, Mexico also known as Rocky Point to the gringos, has so many fun things to do including some amazing dining options, active adventures, and a nearby UNESCO site. You can attribute this to its unique location where the Sonoran Desert meets the Sea of Cortez.

Puerto Penasco, is a small beach town situated on the Sea of Cortez at the place where Mexico’s mainland connects to the Baja Peninsula. Because it is less than a 4-hour drive from both Phoenix and Tucson, it has been called Arizona’s beach. Rocky Point attracts visitors from these surrounding cities as well as those from other parts of Mexico and even southern California.

**Disclaimer: This was a hosted trip however all opinions are my own. I strive to provide my readers with my most authentic sentiments.

Mayan Palace A Vidanta Resort

Though originally a small fishing port town, it is burgeoning into a bustling beach resort. Puerto Penasco has seen a boom of expansion in recent year attracting exclusive resorts such as Vidanta’s Mayan Palace and Grand Mayan. These resorts are self-contained and provide enough activities, including an extensive lazy river and a Jack Nicklaus golf course, that you never need to leave unless you choose.

Whether you are venturing off the property of one of these member’s only mega-resorts or staying at a beach resort closer to town, you will find plenty of things to do in Puerto Penasco Mexico.

Here are just a few of the top things to do, both active and otherwise when visiting this diverse resort town.

ATV or Buggy in the desert dunes

ATV riding on the Puerto Penasco sand dunes

Image courtesy of Alexa Meisler of 52perfectdays.com and breakintotravelwriting.com.

Despite coming from a family of Professional ATV (AKA Quads) racers (not an exaggeration, my brother and nephew both race professionally), I had never been on one myself. Because I have intimate knowledge of injuries incurred while riding (including my brother’s broken neck), I had some trepidation about riding. However, at the same time, I was excited to do so. Javie’s ATV Rentals supplied our rentals. There are a number of ATV rentals in Rocky Point.

One of Javie’s team led us from his in-town location out to the nearby Puerto Penasco sand dunes for our one-hour expedition. Initially, we all stayed relatively close to town and played among the smaller sandhills. Before long, we had the feel of our ATVs and built our confidence. Most of us then headed toward the large sand ridges that lie closer to the water.

Puerto Penasco Sand Dunes

I was determined to make it up the largest rise I could see. I blasted toward the summit. But alas my efforts were thwarted by an overheating engine and nearly bald tires. 😥 😥  I was rescued by one of my cohorts and by that time my engine had cooled. Unfortunately, our hour was nearly through. We all returned safely to our starting point.

Things to do in Puerto Penasco, ride an ATV on the Rocky Point Sand Dunes

Tequila Tasting at Manny’s Tequila Factory

If you’ve never done any tequila tasting, it is a bit like a beer or wine tasting but rowdier.

Manny's Tequila Factory in Puerto Penasco, MX

Despite what the name implies, Manny’s is not actually a tequila distillery. Nevertheless, Manny will entertain you as you learn about the distilling process as well as the difference between tequila and Mescal.

Manny's Tequila Factory Puerto Penasco

You will have an opportunity to sample 6 different kinds of tequila and mescal both as simple shots as well as some attractive combination.

There's something for everybody in Puerto Penasco. Here is my list of the ultimate things to do. Click To Tweet

Wander Off the Beaten Path

A trip to the boardwalk area or the Malecon as it is known is essentially a given when visiting Rocky Point, however, I encourage you to get away from the touristy shops and fish markets that line the waterfront. I did exactly this with Elaine Mc Master of Tripwellgal.com and Gary House of Nevertooldtotravel.com.

Art at El OKtopus

After an amazing lunch at El Oktopus of ceviche and popcorn shrimp, while overlooking the Sea of Cortez, we headed out to explore the diverse side streets.  We found some fantastic street art, a few artists’ studios, a shop of traditional Mexican pottery and even a boutique hotel called The Dreamweaver.

Sea of Cortez from El Oktopus

Diane, an American and the hotel’s owner, gave us a tour of her eclectic seven casitas property. Each room is unique and imaginatively decorated. The large shared front palapa (a traditional Mexican patio covered with palm fronds) offers views of the Sea of Cortez and ocean breezes. If you are looking for a more authentic hotel in Puerto Penasco, I would recommend you check out The Dreamweaver.

DreamWeaver Puerto Penasco

We wrapped up our excursion with a coffee from Puerto Viejo Tostadores de Kaffe. In addition to being a local, corner café it is also a coffee roasting laboratory.

Coffee

If you choose to venture off the beaten path keep safety in mind as you would anywhere else. This side trip will make your friends who have visited Puerto Penasco in the past think you were in a different town. I know mine did.

Puerto Penasco Pottery

Stand-up Paddleboard (SUP), Kayak or Golf

A short drive from the tourist center is the Laguna Del Mar Community. Here you will find a 9-hole golf course (the other 9 holes are under development) as well as nearly 100 acres of saltwater lagoons ideal for Stand Up Paddle-boarding (SUP) and kayaking. SUPs and Kayaks are available on-site for rental. Additionally, these waterways are an idyllic spot for viewing wildlife including seagulls, egrets, eagles, and hawks and more.

Golf course in Puerto Penasco

I had an opportunity to try out a SUP. Having never done this before I was a little concerned, I would not have the core strength (since I have the abs of a 50+-year-old menopausal woman who has had 3 hip surgeries) or coordination to do it (I can’t walk a straight line even on the best day). It pleases me to say I would consider my first foray into it a success. I did, however, spend a lot of time on my knees.  I learned real quick that when it is windy and you stand upright you essentially become a sail.

SUP in Puerto Penasco

Paella at El Tapeo

Believe it or not, this was a first for me. I am not a fish person. While I do enjoy most shellfish, I’m allergic to oysters. I get a little nervous about eating things like this because I never know what is hidden among the good stuff. However, I was able to verify with the cook that there were no oysters. So glad I did. This dish was not only beautiful it was delicious. The crustaceans and bivalves were extremely fresh and bursting with flavor. The chorizo provided just the right amount of heat. El Tapeo presented us with a picture-perfect meal.

Paella El Tapeo

Catch Agua de Coco

It seems this local Latin Jazz band plays nearly every night of the week somewhere around Puerto Penasco.  We caught up with them all over the place. However, our first introduction to them was at El Tapeo. Between the sangria, the paella, the outdoor seating, and the music, this made for a perfect evening. It may even inspire you to try a little Latin dancing.

Agua de Coco

Catamaran Ride on the Senorita Rita

Unfortunately, we were not able to actually sail on the Senorita Rita due to high winds, we did spend an evening in the ports listening to music, taking in the salt air and enjoying cocktails aboard the catamaran. The dolphin even puts on a show for us. They frolicked in the distance as we sipped our cocktails and danced on the upper deck.

Senorita Rita Rocky Point

UNESCO designated El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere

 

El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere

Image courtesy of Alexa Meisler of 52perfectdays.com and breakintotravelwriting.com

So, what is a biosphere? I wasn’t quite sure either. In the broadest sense, it is the worldwide sum of all ecosystems. In more general terms it is any closed, self-regulating systems containing ecosystems.

El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar total nearly 3000 sq. miles with almost 800 sq. miles of dormant volcanic area with 10 Maar (steam blast) craters. The Gran Altar Desert, the largest field of active sand dunes in North America and only active Erg dunes, comprise the remainder of the area. Wikipedia describes these dunes as “a broad, flat area of desert covered with wind-swept sand with little or no vegetative cover. “ Some mounds measure in at more than 200 yards in height.

El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere

The Biosphere is home to over 800 documented species of plant, mammal, bird, and reptiles as well as countless undocumented insect species. And according to one source, there are even a few fish species.

This eco-preserve is located about 40 minutes from town. The fee for entry is 50 pesos which depending on the exchange rate equals about $2.50US. Be sure to bring water and use the restrooms near the entrance, as there are no others. Ladies, bring some tissues into the ladies’ room as it will likely have no toilet paper.  Be sure to wear your sunscreen.

El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere

Massage on the Beach

Unfortunately, time did not allow me to have a massage but it was an offering at the Penasco Del Sol, where I stayed during my visit. Guests can arrange for a beach massage as well as other spa services at the spa located off the hotel lobby. When I visited the spa was offering a package that included massage, facial and nails for around $100. Where I come from that’s a bargain.

Beach Massage Puerto Penasco

Horseback riding

One of the most romantic things to do in Rocky Point Mexico is a  horseback ride on the beach? If you are going to do it and want that idyllic experience, I recommend you do it early in the morning as the beaches become crowded and lively later in the day and the party goes on until after sundown.

According to my research, there are several stables nearby that offer rides for around $30 an hour. The most popular and highly rated stable seems to be El Establo Ranch. They can be found on Sandy Beach.

Beach Puerto Penasco

With so many active fun things to do in Puerto Penasco, don’t wait. First, you’re going want to do them before you’re too worried about breaking a hip.LOL Second, although Puerto Penasco looks like nothing but wide-open space, it won’t be long before the world discovers this wonderful place and resorts and gated communities begin to crowd that space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Susan Decoteau-Ferrier

Travel writer/blogger, photographer. Avid potter and wanna-be artist. Wife, Mom to 6 fur kids, gardener, coffee snob.

9 Comments:

  1. laura palacio soto

    THANK YOU! FROM THE STAFF OF EL TAPEO!

  2. Pingback: BITW 119: 2017 Travel Writers Academy Mastermind and Media Trips (Part 1) - Break Into Travel Writing

  3. Puerto Penasco seems so picturesque and stunning. All of these ideas seem like lots of fun. When’s the best time of the year to explore it?

    • Agness,
      I would say the best time to visit is probably in the spring or fall. While it is likely not as unbearably hot as Arizona during the summer months due to its sea breezes, I imagine it is still quite warm. Also, like most places it will have the summer crowds because this is when families travel. Winter time I would think they get quite a lot of the snowbirds from Arizona looking for a quick beach escape. I visited in September and the weather was perfect. I arrived on a Thursday and departed Sunday. Thursday and Friday it was not crowded. Saturday and Sunday the visitor population grew but was not unbearable. I love traveling in those shoulder seasons.
      Susan

  4. I live in Los Angeles, so I have heard about this place a lot. It is not that easy to visit from California as is from Arizona but I hope to visit one day. The Desierto de Altar looks beautiful. Nice share!

    • We had some folks on the trip with us from California. They flew into Phoenix and then travels to Puerto Penasco. I’m not sure if they did it this way because Phoenix was our rendezvous point or if this is a convenient way to go about it.

  5. It sounds like the perfect combination of adventure, relaxation and cocktails. I’d love to go!

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