If there’s one thing I love about California, besides all of these things, it’s the proximity to another fine place– Mexico.
Personally, I’d be down there all the time if I only had more friends with the time to go, and if the border lines on Sunday were shorter. Still, I try and make it down there every couple of months.
And let me say it again– yes, it’s safe!
As long as you take all the necessary precautions as you would when traveling to any other foreign country, you’ll have no problems.
Baja Mexico has more than just a beautiful coastline. And with California’s favorite holiday coming up– good ‘ol Cinco de Mayo– I’ve partnered with Expedia to give some tips on where to drink south of the border.
Of course, safety first, so don’t drink your face off then blame me you lost your wallet. Mmkay?
All of the below are within proximity of Southern California, so find a designated driver (or stay the weekend) and head south!
At the Tecate Brewery
The biggest landmark in the sleepy border village of Tecate, this brewery is more like a small city in itself. After being bought by Heineken in 2010, the brewery churns out a variety of Mexican beers like Dos Equis, Sol, Bohemia and of course, Tecate.
Being the largest brewery and distribution center for North America, the building dominates the small town. You can even see it towering above the city when you cross over the border by foot.
Make a reservation by phone a few days in advance to get a free 30-40 minute tour of the grounds. After all that education on beer, it’s time to drink it. Everyone gets one free beer to enjoy in the beer garden.
Here’s a secret: If you’d like more than one beer, have one upon entering before the tour and then one after. They aren’t very strict and our guide even told us that some locals stop by every day just for the free beer. How generous of Heineken!
There’s not much else to do in Tecate, so after that go have some Mexican food (or more drinks) before heading back to San Diego (about 40 minutes).
Hours are 10am – 5pm Monday through Friday and 10am to 2pm on Saturdays. Call 011 +52 (665) 654-9490 or (665) 654-9478 (from the USA) to make a reservation.
At Tijuana’s up and coming craft breweries
I used to always skip Tijuana in favor of other coastal towns in Baja. That has definitely changed recently.
With the influx of craft beer in San Diego, Tijuana has also decided to jump on the trend. Now there are a handful of nice establishments around the city making their own beers, from Belgian style to smokey porters.
I recommend parking on the U.S. side of the border and walking across. From there you can take a short taxi ride to Avenida Revolución to begin the pub crawl.
Mamut is a great place for a few brews. Although hard to spot (there isn’t a large sign and you have to go up a staircase to the second floor), there is a great terrace where you can look down onto the busy street. The menu is written in chalk at the bar but if you have trouble ordering in Spanish most everyone speaks English.
Avenida Revolución is full of bars, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding a place to drink margaritas after that. If you’re interested in more craft beer tasting, catch a cab to BCB Tasting Room. This modern and trendy hang out has 4-5 pages of beers to choose from and past 7pm you’ll find it to be packed with hip locals.
At the beach bars along the Baja Coast
If you’ve got a weekend to spare, rent a beach house on the Baja coast near Puerto Nuevo. Not only will you get ocean views for half the price of San Diego, but you’ll get to enjoy the laid back vibe of this sleepy coastal area.
There are also many scenic bars which dot the coast. They tend to be a bit spread out though, so don’t expect to be able to walk everywhere. You’ll either need the number of a taxi driver in the area or should just set up camp near the famous La Fonda Hotel and Bar for a while. They have a great terrace with beautiful views of the coast and beach below. A whole afternoon could easily be spent here.
Another nice spot for food and drinks is at Splash. From here you can watch the waves crash against the rocks just a few feet from your table.
When you get sick of the bars, catch a ride back to your beach house and bliss out on full-flung vacation mode.
At some of Baja’s best wineries
Although wine has been made in Mexico for centuries, it is just finally getting some buzz thanks to Hugo D’Acosta, Baja’s wine visionary. In the 90’s Hugo came back from training in France and established Casa de Piedra, thus bringing high class full-bodied wines to Mexico.
Scattered around northern Baja along Route 3 in the Guadalupe Valley, you can find wineries and spas galore. From Tuscan-style bed and breakfasts in the countryside to more budget lodging near Ensenada, there is a lot to be discovered. Even with the 5 star luxury wineries, don’t be surprised to also see smaller family farms or cowboys roaming around either. It’s truly a place of contrasts.
Although going on your own might take a bit of research and calling ahead for reservations, the wines are worth the work. Or if you’ve got the extra cash, a few different companies offer wine tours.
At the port town of Ensenada
A popular cruise stop for many ships down the Baja coast, Ensenada knows how to entertain tourists. But that’s not the only reason to come. If you are looking to spend a couple of days enjoying Baja’s coastal scenery along with party your heart out, Ensenada might just have the perfect balance.
Also, not only is it further from the border giving it a more authentic Mexican feel, but it’s big enough to keep you entertained for a weekend.
The drive down the coast is a sight in itself and don’t forget about the food once you get there. Ensenada is full of great restaurants and also an endless amount of street taco vendors.
If you feel like dancing on tables, Papas & Beer is your spot. If you’d rather experience a real Mexican establishment, head to Hussong’s, the oldest and most well-known cantina in the area. It is also supposedly the spot of the first Margarita, created by a bartender in 1914.
Who knows if that is true, but it’s definitely worth some investigation. Don’t you agree?