San Felipe: Baja Mexico’s Best Kept Secret

Friends told us how much they’d loved visiting San Felipe, Mexico a few years back. So we decided once and for all to finally check it out for ourselves. A four-hour drive from San Diego or 6-hours from Phoenix, we found it’s an ideal destination for a long weekend getaway.

Located on the Eastern side of the Baja Peninsula, San Felipe is a throwback to days when Mexican coastal towns were mere quaint fishing villages and life was easygoing and carefree. Though the San Felipe of today sports more restaurants and shops along its Malecon, time here moves at a much slower and more comfortable pace.

November through May is San Felipe’s snowbird season. This isn’t surprising as the weather becomes more dry and temperate, and many from the U.S. and Canada who own second homes here choose this time to return.

Where to Stay and Play

San Felipe is known for its beach camping and RV parks. For those not into roughing it, however, there’s a selection of motels and ranch sites close to town. Then there’s the highly recommended Sandollar. And now we know why.

Sandollar Beachfront Resort located on the sparkling tourmaline waters of Sea of Cortez is an ideal place to stay in San Felipe. Only five minutes south of the heart of the town, the gated boutique resort offers the intimacy and charm of Baja living with its fully furnished oceanfront suites. It’s escapism at its best. We loved the thatched-roofs and tropical laid-back, warm feel of the resort.

Sandollar’s swimming pool is cool and inviting and the spacious hot tub is a great place to relax and unwind. Suites have their own private patios with grills and outdoor seating. Swings located throughout the property are perfect for relaxing and watching the tide come in. As we enjoyed our morning coffee, a pod of playful dolphins frolicked in the distance much to our delight.

The white-sand beach fronting the property is ideal for swimming. The water here is shallow for a long way out and wave action is pretty calm. At low tide, beachcombers love collecting shells deposited on the sand. The sand dollars found here especially during the winter months inspired the name of the resort. It’s important to note, there are two high and low tides each day with an impressive 65-foot tide change that exposes over ½ mile of beach.

Surfboards, kayaks and a large inflatable Zodiac are complimentary and available on site for those seeking more water adventure. Golf enthusiasts love the 18-hole Las Caras de Mexico (Faces of Mexico) course located just minutes away with its unparalleled views of the Sea of Cortez and San Felipe mountains.

The Town of San Felipe

Like most Mexican coastal towns, San Felipe has a Malecon—a walkable waterfront with a large colorful sign. Artist renderings of mermaids and sea life on building fronts fit the fishing village to perfection, a reminder that San Felipe is all about the water.

One of San Felipe’s most iconic landmarks is its tall white lighthouse perched on a bluff on the northern end of town. Next to the lighthouse, is the Shrine of Guadalupe, which is accessible by a set of steep stairs. Panoramic views of the Sea of Cortez and the town of San Felipe from the top are stunning.

San Felipe is home to the world’s largest cactus known as the Mexican Cardón. Endemic to the deserts of Baja, California this cactus resembles the Saguaro but is more massive. These thousand-year-old Sonoran Desert plants can be found just a short ride from San Felipe in a natural reserve known by the local expats as The Valley of the Giants.

Where to Dine in San Felipe

With the abundant waters framing this coastal town, it’s no surprise that seafood here is king. Surf dishes of all types are featured in its restaurant menus.

Located on the edge of town, La Vaquita named for the dolphin found only in the Gulf of Mexico is a definite must-do here in San Felipe. One of the locals’ favorites, the charming restaurant specializes in steak and seafood, and their dishes are divine.

Coconut shrimp and steamed clams are some of their most popular menu items and even their presentation is a work of art. Portions are hearty in size as are their margaritas and sangrias.

Situated in the heart of the Malecon, Baja Mar provides an extraordinary dining experience with its thatched-roofed palapas and tables overlooking the Sea of Cortez. The Shrimp ceviche here was phenomenal and the Chiles Rellenos dish was too good to share.

With its friendly people, stunning scenery, magnificent cuisine, relaxed ambiance, and miles of pristine beaches it’s no wonder most people return again after their first visit.

As one celebrity gentleman at the Sandollar resort remarked “What’s not to love here? It’s paradise and it gives visitors the anonymity we can’t get in other destinations.”

He’s right. Which is why we can’t reveal who he is!

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