Where the desert meets the sea in eastern Baja California, you will find boisterous San Felipe. Situated between the dramatic Colorado Desert and waters of the Gulf of California (also known as the Sea of Cortez), this once sleepy fishing village has emerged as one of Mexico’s fastest-growing resort towns and is becoming particularly popular with foreigners who are seeking a place for retirement or to purchase a vacation home.
San Felipe is located about 125 miles south of Mexicali. There is a good road connecting San Felipe to the States and the journey time takes about two hours by road from the US border.
The town was founded in 1916 and, until recent times, its inhabitants depended principally upon the shrimp fished from the local waters of the area. Today, the locals continue to fish the waters for shrimp, although the economy has been transformed by the influx of tourists and retirees. It is estimated that San Felipe attracts some 250,000 visitors a year; principally ‘snow birds’ from the US and Canada who arrive between November and March each year.
San Felipe has been a popular ‘spring break’ destination for US college students, long before tourists and retirees and began to arrive. They continue to visit here each year, and the ‘spring break’ season (usually just before or just after Easter each year) is a busy time for San Felipe’s campsites, hotels, B&Bs, bars and beaches.
New hotels and amenities are appearing every year in San Felipe. This is not a luxury vacation resort area, although it’s ideal if you’re seeking a warm desert climate alongside a beautifully unspoiled beach and want to be away from the hyper-commercialization associated with resorts situated on the southern tip of the Baja peninsula.
Pastimes here include sports fishing, desert tours, off-road driving, golf and nature walks along beaches and in the surrounding mountains.
San Felipe is one of various locations in Mexico which is beginning to emerge as one of Mexico’s most sought-after beach locations for retirees and those seeking affordable real estate investments. San Felipe is also host to a significant community of people building Eco Homes in Mexico.
As with so many ‘up-and-coming’ areas around Mexico, real estate developers are having a considerable influence on the social landscape of this region. Villages and small towns like San Felipe, which hitherto were off-the-beaten track locations, are now becoming connected by means of new roads and new infrastructure that is being implemented as part of the wider realty development projects. This trend is continuing to have a considerable influence on the popularity of the region.
Most people who visit San Felipe come to get away from the commercialized tourist scenes available elsewhere in Baja and also to scout the area for a possible property purchase and/or retirement home.
If you want a luxurious resort experience in Baja for your vacation, consider instead San Jose del Cabo or Cabo San Lucas. If you’re looking for a quieter and less commercialized beach experience, close to nature, close to the US border and away from the crowds, San Felipe may be ideal place to consider.
San Felipe offers a range of attractions, local services and amenities. A selection of what is available now is detailed below. More will follow in the months and years ahead as more people move in, communities develop further and the demand for local services increases.
As you would expect from a water-side location, a beach is never far away from San Felipe. For walking, jogging, strolling and swimming, San Felipe and environs offers a wonderful selection of beautifully quiet and unspoiled beaches to enjoy. The high salt content in the sea water makes you so bouyant that swimming is quite easy. Spectacular rises and falls of the tide may also be witnessed around the time of the new and full moon; check local tide tables for details.
Konsage island is clearly visible from the bay of San Felipe. It takes about a forty-five minute boat ride to reach the island; locals and visitors go here to enjoy watching sea lions and seals. The island is also popular with ornothologists as it’s home to a colonies of seabirds.
Las Caras de Mexico Golf Course
Las Caras de Mexico (“The Faces of Mexico”) Golf Course is an 18-hole course on the Sea of Cortez. Located within the beach and golf resort of La Ventana del Mar in San Felipe, this course offers unparalleled views of the sea and mountains. It was named “Faces of Mexico” to give it an archaeological, historical and social Mexican character. At every hole you will encounter one of the great men and women who have helped mold Mexico into the beautiful country it is today. See: http://www.lascarasdemexico.com/
San Felipe Boardwalk
The town’s boardwalk, or malecon, is the seawall that fronts the town’s principal beach area. In addition to watching life go by, a number of street sellers — including food stalls — set up for trade along the sea wall. Fish and shrimp tacos feature prominently as fresh fish is a key economic activity of the townspeople. Various fishing charter boats also advertise their services along the malecon.
Off-Road Vehicle Tours, Rentals and Racing
San Felipe Off Road (SFOR), an off-road adventure company, offers you the ride of your life. Take a thrilling whirl through the desert on a All-Terrain-Vehicle (ATV). SFOR boasts the area’s only dedicated Desert Quad Park, private desert access to world class routes and an equipment fleet unmatched anywhere in San Felipe. See: http://www.sanfelipeoffroad.com/
Sports Fishing in San Felipe
Sports fishing is one of the biggest and most popular pastimes in Baja, and San Felipe is no exception. Sports fishing expeditions are available from San Felipe, with some of the operators having decades of experience of the local waters.
Enjoy Hot Springs at Nearby Puertecitos
An easy 50 mile drive from San Felipe is Puertecitos (meaning ‘little ports’), where you’ll find natural hot springs that are said to soothe and heal. The town, which has been frequented by visitors since the time of the Spanish Conquest, was famously settled by Rafael Orozco in the late 1940’s and his daughter continues to have a home in the village. The town has a number of small motels, restaurants and is also host to some retirement communities populated principally by Americans and Canadians.
Desert Eco Tours
The wonderful natural environment, the beaches and the mountains provide an ideal back-drop for desert tours from San Felipe. It’s the perfect area for people who are interested in desert geology, as well as its flora and fauna including over 100 species which grow here and nowhere else in the world.
Valley of the Giants
The ‘Valley of Giants’ is one of the most frequented attractions here. The area is a natural reserve of the tallest cactus species in the world, the Cardon Cactus, with some specimens over sixty-feet in height and over 1,000 years old. The area is especially popular with photographers who delight in capturing shots of these gentle giants as well as the outstanding natural beauty that surrounds them.
By Air – San Felipe does have a small airport, but no commercial flights arrive there. The closest commercial airport is in Mexicali (on the US border, about a 2 hour drive from San Felipe) and Loreto, further to the south. If you arrive in San Felipe by air (must be on a private jet or charter as no commercial airlines fly there yet) you will need to arrange your own local road transport. The airport is situated about 6 miles (10 km) south of the town. For detailed information about flights and flying, see the Mexperience guide to Air Travel in Mexico.
By Bus – Bus services connect Ensenada and Mexicali to San Felipe daily. If your journey begins in Tijuana, you’ll need to take a bus to either Ensenada or Mexicali and change there for a bus to San Felipe. The journey from Mexicali takes around 2.5 hours; the journey from Tijuana around 6 hours. For detailed information about bus transportation read the Mexperience guide to Bus Travel in Mexico.
By Car – Virtually all visitors to San Felipe arrive by road. The journey time from the US border is approximately 2 hours from Mexicali (the most common border crossing for travelers arriving to San Felipe) using Highway 5. By crossing the border at San Diego, some travelers take the scenic coastal road to Ensenada and then take highway 3 (southeast) which intersects with highway 5 about 30 miles north of San Felipe. See additional information about Driving in Mexico and Mexico’s Toll Roads on Mexperience.
Car Rental – To properly explore Mexico’s Baja Peninsula consider renting a car for your visit. Having your own car will give you more flexibility than using public transport options and, in some cases, offer you access to places which are otherwise difficult to visit without the use of a car. Read our guide to Car Rental in Mexico to learn what you need to know about car rental in Mexico and connect to the Mexperience Travel Center to reserve your Rental Car.
By Ferry – If you are on Mexico’s mainland, or want to get to it, there is a ferry that crosses the Sea of Cortez (also known as the Gulf of California) to and from La Paz to the port cities of Mazatlan and Los Mochis (Topolobambo). The ferry trip to/from Mazatlan takes 18 hours and does not run daily; sleeping cabins are available with advance bookings. The ferry to/from Los Mochis (Topolobambo) takes around 8 hours and does not sail daily either. Check the Ferry’s web site at: http://www.ferrytmc.com/ for details of routes, schedules, prices and contact details.
Taxis – Taxis in most of Mexico’s beachside towns and cities are not metered, so agree your price before you get in. Taxi travel is very affordable in Mexico, in comparison to the USA, Canada and Europe, and so provides a viable means of public transportation in Mexico. Your hotel can arrange taxis for you; some post their rates on a board in the lobby; taxi hotel rates are usually higher than cabs you hail off the street. If you speak Spanish, you will have a distinct advantage and be able to negotiate a price with the driver. For detailed information, read the Mexperience guide to Taxi Travel in Mexico.
Local Bus – If your budget is tight or you want to see more of local life, local buses do run locally connecting San Felipe to main places north: Mexicali, Ensenada, Tijuana; and south: towns and villages along the coastline between San Felipe and Puertecitos.
With its growing popularity as a location for vacationers as well as its communities of expatriates, San Felipe’s events is expanding all the time.
February – Early in February this region celebrates its carnival season. The carnival is regional and the principal events take place in Ensenada and Mazatlan; however, San Felipe takes part in the celebrations too, and you can enjoy dancing, live music, sports events and carnival rides downtown around the malecon (boardwalk) area.
Easter Week – Like most places in Mexico, Easter Week is very busy in San Felipe. Expect local camp-grounds, hotels and B&Bs to be packed solid. Also expect spring-breakers before/after Easter the period to descend upon the town, depending on the US scholastic calendar.
September – Shrimp season begins in September, and local fishermen will undertake a ceremony to mark this important time of year for them. Check locally for precise dates.
Telephone: Connect to the Communications in Mexico page on Mexperience for detailed information about keeping in touch and the latest table of national dialing codes.
Exchanging Currency: Banks with ATM machines can be found at banks in the downtown area of San Felipe; some stores also have ATM facilities available. For detailed information about exchanging and managing your money, read the Mexperience guide to Money in Mexico.
Travel Insurance: We recommend that you are adequately covered with travel medical insurance and/or travel assistance insurance when you are visiting Mexico. Note that your US Automobile Insurance will not cover you in Mexico — you must get a top-up policy to be properly covered. Read the Mexperience guide to Travel Insurance in Mexico for full details and links to specialist insurance suppliers.
Internet Access: Internet cafes are commonplace in Mexico. New ones open and old ones close all the time, but you won’t have to look too hard to find one downtown and in the main tourist areas.
San Felipe has a number of local restaurants, bars and night spots for residents and visitors to enjoy. Fresh seafood is the principal food of choice in the area and may be enjoyed in restaurants throughout San Felipe.
Juanito’s Cantina: Located right on the beach, overlooking the Sea of Cortez, Juanitos offers casual dining, satellite television, and a range of social events and pastimes.
Las Palapas Bar and Grill: This little Bar and Grill is situated “poolside” along El Dorado Ranch’s large outdoor heated swimming pool. Members and guests can enjoy an assortment of drinks, appetizers, sandwiches, soup, and tacos while sun bathing, swimming or just relaxing by the pool.
The Pavilion Restaurant:The Pavilion Restaurant offers world class cuisine with renowned Chef Martin Colman. The menu specializes in Escoffiers.
La Hacienda de la Langosta Restaurant: One of San Felipe’s premiere restaurants, it offers Italian-style seafood.
San Felipe has a varied nightlife scene, with a number of bars downtown. During the ‘spring break’ season these become over-filled with college students from the USA who arrive in San Felipe for their traditional spring vacation get-away.
There exist a small number of commercial establishments in the downtown area offering the opportunity to buy works of art and hand-painted pottery.
Be sure to try the seafood in San Felipe — you have the opportunity to savor the freshest of fish here at one of the local restaurants.
San Felipe’s climate is ideal for the enjoying the natural beauty this region has to offer.
Winter temperatures (Dec-Mar) average in the mid 60’sF, spring temperatures (Apr-Jun) rise to average in the late 70’s F, summer temperatures (July-Sep) may average as high as the mid 90’s F, cooling again in the fall to spring averages.
Weather & Climates in Mexico
Learn more about the weather and climates through the seasons and regions by connecting to the Mexperience guide about Weather and Climates in Mexico