Baja California's Rosarito Beach playground offers tradition, charm

Published 04 January 08 05:03 PM

Warmed by breezes filled with the scent of spice and flowers, Rosarito Beach embraces the endearing Mexican tradition and charm that lure international travelers.

A playground for all ages and all tastes, Rosarito Beach sits between the Tijuana and Ensenada corridor that stretches across 20 scenic miles of Baja California's gold coast. Life the way it used to be still exists in this magical retreat.

The area was officially put on the map when the Rosarito Beach Hotel was built in 1925. The original owners, Manuel Barbachano and his wife, Maria Luisa Chabert, played host to Ali Kahn, a son of the shah of Iran, many Mexican presidents, and screen legends such as Rita Hayworth, Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Dolores Del Rio, Mickey Rooney and Gregory Peck. When word of this illustrious retreat got out, the attraction to the alluring Mexican town grew.

It's a place where everyone can have a great time doing a lot or a little. The beaches lure sun worshippers, swimmers and surfers. It's paradise for fishermen, as the waters off Rosarito are productive. For those who are up for more excitement, there's body surfing, body boarding, beach volleyball, parasailing, riding all-terrain vehicles, rock climbing, mountain biking, and hiking along the low bluffs and beaches. Horseback riding and walking trails range from laid-back to extreme.

Golfers can play at ocean-view links such as Real Del Mar and Bajamar on the scenic road south of Rosarito. Sporting events include the traditional Rosarito-Ensenada bike ride, three-wheeler competitions, triathlons, 5- and 10-K runs, and sand castle contests.

A major highlight from January to March is the sighting of gray whales passing through the waters off Rosarito Beach on their migration from the Sea of Cortez to Alaska.

Acquaint yourself with a leisurely stroll downtown. With only three traffic lights in the entire city, everything of interest for poking around is in walking distance. You can dine in restaurants that feature traditional Mexican, Chinese, Italian, French, American and Continental cuisine. Shopping along the lively main street, Boulevard Benito Juarez, you'll find clusters of open-air stalls offering Mexican folk art, souvenirs, rustic arts and crafts, handcraft silver, leather goods and clothing, all waiting for eager bargain-hunters. Dollars and pesos are accepted.

You might also want to check out the magic of moviemaking by touring Foxploration, the new theme park in Fox Studios Baja. You can mingle among the waterfront movie sets, some of the largest in the world. You might also be interested in the interactive sound effects and prop rooms, including those of "Planet of the Apes." The tour of the "Titanic" set is followed by a video clip that includes the building of the ship intermingled with actual footage from the movie.

Popotla, once known as a tiny coastal fishing town, has emerged into a cross-culture of art galleries, lofts and craft shops showcasing locally talented artisans. There's a mix of professional-quality fine arts that reflect the soul and warmth of the people. Along with the colors and scenes that are captured on canvas, there's earthen pottery, tile, metal, glassware, furniture, statues and fountains all ready to purchase in these eclectic roadside shops.

The fishing village of Puerto Nuevo, just 15 miles south of Rosarito proper, is known for its fresh lobster, fried and served with rice, beans and hand-made flour tortillas. A favorite is the Puerto Nuevo-style lobster, still prepared from the original 1956 recipe at the Puerto Nuevo II Restaurant. Strolling mariachi bands, playing traditional Mexican music, add to the atmosphere.

Ensenada, with its wine country and seaport, is a 40-mile drive along a highway that offers breathtaking ocean views. An artist colony is thriving, and a marina project is being planned.

More than 14,000 Americans now call Rosarito Beach home. Many of them came for a day, but decided to stay forever.

Their numbers are growing rapidly as high-rises reach into the sky by the Pacific.

If you go

Where to stay

The Spanish colonial-style Rosarito Hotel, a family-owned seaside resort, has 230 oceanfront rooms and suites, two large oceanfront pools, water slide, three water spas and a walking pier that juts out in the ocean. The European-style Casa Playa Spa has a complete gym outfitted with Universal equipment. All-day dining is presented in the Azteca Restaurant, and when you're ready for a margarita, the Azteca Bar is the place to go. Chabert's Restaurant, set in the founder's historic mansion (shared with the spa), offers French, Mexican and Mediterranean cuisine and a full menu for Mexican wines. For reservations, call 800-343-8582 or visit

By Mel and Ronnie Greenberg
Ventura County Star - Camarillo,CA,USA


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