Rocky Point: Much to do at the beach (or not)

Almost every time we plan a trip to Puerto Penasco, Sonora, our friends will ask, “What do you do down there, anyway? Just sit around on the beach?” Our answer: “There’s so much activity!” We proceed to list a host of activity options. Here are just a few of these pastimes in pictures:

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1. Talk a morning walk with a friend or two

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2. Search for seashells to add to your collection.

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3. Look for creative ways to photograph a sunset

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4. Take a relaxing drift on a ‘lazy river’

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5. Spend quality time with family

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6. Kick up your heels along the surf

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7. Enjoy delectable dishes from the Sea of Cortez

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8. Purchase refreshments without leaving the shade of your palapa

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9. Capture some lifelong memories for your scrapbook

10. Make a list of ‘things to do’ at the beach:

Watch a sunset, bury yourself in the sand, build a sand castle, watch for dolphins, fly a kite, read a book, listen to music, wiggle your toes in the sand, draw messages in the sand, watch pelicans and gulls, take a ride on a horse, Jet Ski, banana boat or an Ultralight, go boating, fishing or body surfing, watch a sunrise, paddle through the waves in a kayak or a stand-up board, snorkel, get a massage, shop for jewelry, pottery, blankets, wood carvings, or souvenirs such as “your name on a grain of rice.”

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11. Know that sitting around on the beach doing not much of anything is perfectly fine, too.

 

 

Exploring a library website’s travel resources

iStockphoto of Popocatepetl Volcano in Mexico

Planning a trip? Gathering information for travel – either business or pleasure — can be overwhelming and exhausting. Before you leave on your next trip, plan a stop at your public library’s reference website.

Online library databases are tremendous resources for travel information. It’s free — all you need is a library card and pin number to log on to a world of information. Find out what you need to know about your destination before you depart: Learn about a country’s currency, languages, customs, food and lodging accommodations and current events by using your library’s geographical or news databases.

I discovered that an immense amount of travel resources are available through Chandler Public Library’s website at a recent library volunteer appreciation event. One of the library staff members gave an informative and entertaining presentation about the library’s online systems and travel resources. She demonstrated several travel research tools and I’ve highlighted them here:

Global Road Warrior provides users with basics about a particular country. A “country snapshot” will allow you to take a quick glimpse of a particular country’s geography, climate, languages, religions, history and current political and economic conditions. Using tools on the home page, one can search by keywords. For example, a search using the words, “travel warnings” will produce 121 different countries where advisories are in effect. Use discretion, however, some of this information appears to be dated. You may need to crosscheck this data with another website such as the State Department travel advisory page.

With Masterfile Premier, you may need to experiment with a search. It’s a little trickier, but a basic knowledge of Boolean methods should allow you searching success. There are several periodical databases worth a deep search. Help tools are there to guide you. For example, I typed in, “Mexico volcanoes” and found an April 2012 New York Times article about Popocatepetl, an active volcano in central Mexico. After I found what I needed, I had several options: save, print, email or listen. That’s right, I could listen to the article being read aloud. Granted, It sounded like a choppy Siri reading on an iPhone, but at least I could hear how to pronounce Popocatepetl. (By the way, it’s poh-poh-kah-TEH-peh-til)

But you may not need pronunciation tools if you sign up to learn a foreign language with links to Mango or Rocket Language learning tools on the Library’s travel resource page. With these resources, you can be ready to speak the language before your upcoming travels abroad.

A click on Gale Travel Research collection button will bring you to a database of DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. Refine your search by keywords. I typed in Popocatepetl and up popped a couple of article listings. I clicked on an article called, “Around Mexico City” from the DK Mexico Travel Guide, then I simply word-searched on the page in text format to find a reference about the volcano. That provided the page number, so I just went back to the pdf format of the article and entered the exact page number. That forwarded me right to that page from the DK guidebook! I could print out a pdf of the page or return to the text version and save the article to my eReader or email it to myself. Now I will have the information stored about Popocatepetl on my device for my next visit to Mexico City. It’s good to have a backup in case I’m away from an Internet connection.

Chandler Public Library’s travel resource page also makes available shortcuts to sites about passport services, currency converters, distance calculators, worldwide weather, as well as international ATM locations for Visa and MasterCard. You also can find links to all the popular guidebook and travel magazine sites: Frommer’s, Fodor’s, Lonely Planet, Rick Steves’ Europe and Insiders’ Guides. Everything you need to plan a statewide trip is here: Arizona tourism information links: ArizonaGuide.com, azstateparks.com, and transportation (airlines, highways, train travel) links.

Many public libraries provide access to this information; I’m just really pleased that Chandler Public Library has made it so concise and easy to use.

Readers: How do you research your international travels? Anyone still using an agent for anything other than cruising?

Find out more about AZGetawayTravel: Become a Friend on Facebook. And follow me on Twitter.

Fine Italian dining at Mare Blu in Rocky Point

dining room

Stop! Drop the lame excuse to try new restaurants! Now step away from your comfort zone! When choosing seafood restaurants during your next visit to Puerto Penasco, try something different! Mare Blu Ristorante has been on Sandy Beach for two years, so it’s certainly not new to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point), but its difference is remarkable.

I usually don’t like to write reviews based on only one visit, so feel free to call this blog, “a first taste review.” During our Rocky Point vacations, we try to eat out for at least one nice seafood dinner. Unfortunately over the years, we have been stuck in a “restaurant rut” – going to the same two or three restaurants in the Old Port section of town.

On this recent trip, we just happened to stop by Mare Blu before attending Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers’ annual “Circus Mexicus” concert, held this year, just steps away, near Wrecked at the Reef. Sometimes spontaneous dinner outings– those new restaurant adventures — don’t turn out very well. Thankfully, this time, our ‘first taste’ of Mare Blu was delightful!

Upon arriving, I was immediately impressed by the well-maintained condition of the building and interior dining room, piano lounge and bar. Unlike the casual pool room, bikini and flip-flop ‘ambience’ at the Reef, the Mare Blu has finesse, polished charm — almost an aura of elegance. Our hostess seated us on the front outside patio, so we could watch the peak tide of Mare di Cortez as well as a growing number of concertgoers were lining up early.

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Grand piano in the Mare Blu cocktail lounge.

As I’m reading the menu my first thought is: What an ambitious goal, to capture the epitome of a fine, elegant Italian restaurant in Rocky Point… on Sandy Beach… next to the ‘Reef.’ (Now please don’t get me wrong. — I’ve nothing against Wrecked on the Reef. It has its own merits, but those will have to wait for another blog post.) The Mare Blu menu offers a solid, wide range of appetizers, soups, salads and entrees. The oenophiles in our group were pleased about the wine selection.

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Wine and liquor on display in Mare Blu Ristorante lounge.

We started with two appetizers, calamari and clams. The fried calamari was some of the best I’ve tasted in a long time: tender, succulent and lightly breaded! The clams were freshly steamed in a tasty bath of garlic and white wine. My husband and I shared one entrée: shrimp and angel hair pasta in pesto. The pasta was cooked perfectly — neither overcooked nor molto al dente. And my shrimp could have been absolutely perfect if only it had spent a minute or two less on the grill. But the combination of taste, presentation and quantity more than made up for the slightly overcooked shrimp. The two other couples in our group ordered unique menu selections so we all sampled a variety of menu items. Everyone was extremely satisfied.

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Sit outdoors on Mare Blu patio and you’ll be enjoying beach-side dining

At this well-organized, well-staffed and well-executed restaurant, we were happy to pay a bit more for high quality food, excellent service plus beachside dining. Plan to spend about $25 to $30 per person for the entire experience. Mare Blu Ristorante is worth it!

Readers: If you’ve been to Rocky Point recently, what are your favorite dining spots? I would love to know your recommendations!

Rocky Point beach condo packing list ‘extras’

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Beach condo family vacations can be the most memorable.

So your vacation condo listing advises: “just bring swimsuit and toothbrush” but I’m sure you’ll probably want to bring a few more items. We’re getting ready for another beach vacation to Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico so I thought a post about packing for a beach condo would be apropos. If you’ve made several trips to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point) and have stayed at the condo resorts, you’re already aware of these tips. But even a seasoned condo guest may benefit from our list:

1. Extra coffee filters

Call me a control freak, but I like to bring extra filters from home. The condo may provide one or two, but if you need more, it can be a hassle. Forget to buy them on your back from town, and you’ll find yourself fashioning a makeshift filter out of paper towels or napkins. That’s why I bring a few both standard cone and basket filter types for most 12-cup coffee makers. After all, you’re on vacation — you shouldn’t have to work for your morning coffee.

2. Extra kitchen tie-type garbage bags

The condo or timeshare may provide a few bags, or your resort may provide daily towel and ‘tidy’ service. Nevertheless, trash has a way of doubling in size at check out time. Yes, you always could try to find a housekeeper with spare bags or maybe call up the front desk to send some up. It’s easier to just stick a few extras in your bag – they can always be used for wet swim suits, towels or sandy sneakers.

3. Small bottles of dish and laundry detergent, and liquid hand soap

Chalk this under the “why make an extra trip to the store this when you could be sitting on the beach and it costs three times what it’s worth at the resort mini-mart” column. I know, housekeeping is supposed to restock this stuff, but I think it’s just easier to bring small amounts to have on hand.

4. Plastic cups for the pool

With your own plastic cups or sports bottles, you can bring your own drink down from the room. You don’t have to worry about hiding a can or bottle under a Kan Koozie. (You wouldn’t bring glass to the pool anyway.) At the end of your stay, you can use plastic cups with lids for transporting home the kids’ seashells.

5. Insulated tote back or soft cooler

Resort management heavily frowns upon bringing your 120-quart ice chest down to the pool, setting it up next to the swim-up bar and serving 100 of your friends. So keep it classy and exercise a little decorum. For this reason, we love our small, soft cooler that resembles a backpack or beach tote.

6. Binoculars

At one condo we rented, the owner provided a spotting scope. It was great for viewing the ocean sights! Binoculars come in handy for those long distance views over the Sea of Cortez, keeping an eye out for early morning dolphins while you enjoy your coffee on the balcony. Bring a pair to the beach to watch kids on the banana boat, sailboats on the horizon, or to see if that crazy guy hanging out of the ultralight is someone you know.

7. Favorite foods and beverages

Although it’s not necessarily true of all parts of Mexico: some American products are really hard to find in Rocky Point grocery stores. So we often bring our favorite brands for wine, dark chocolate, club soda, English muffins, craft beer, apples, tea and cheese. Just about everything else is available at the Super Ley.

8. Folding camp chairs

Here’s why you may want to bring a few extra chairs: 1) Beach sand can get really warm! It’s too hot to sit on a little towel or even one of those grass mats for very long! 2) Chaises under the beach palapas can get very crowded during summer months and 3) poolside chairs also will be in heavy demand.

What’s on your beach vacation packing list?

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Beach condo vacations can be relaxing with a little planning

Guaymas, Sonora pearl farm a ‘must-see’

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Sea of Cortez pearl set in sterling silver

No vacation to the San Carlos-Guaymas coastal resort area of Sonora, Mexico is complete without a stop at Perlas del Mar de Cortez, (Sea of Cortez Pearl Farm). The attraction is not only a tourist destination; it’s an ongoing research facility of pearl-producing oysters, a scientific enterprise of pearl farming and also, a kind of historical landmark.

Natural and cultivated, single- and multicolored pearls from two main regional species: the black-lipped pearl oyster and the rainbow-lipped pearl oyster have found their way to various aspects of culture, notably John Steinbeck’s, “The Pearl” and less notably, but more interestingly, “El Mechudo — the long-haired Yaqui.” Find more fascinating cultural and historical references on the Perlas del Mar de Cortez website.

If you’re considering a tour of the pearl farm, plan to spend at least two hours. You will want to either book a tour with your San Carlos or Guaymas resort concierge, or simply venture out on your own, to the location on Bacochibampo Bay. The tour includes a general history of pearls and New World pearls, especially those from Mexico. You will learn how they are created naturally, artificially and also get a lesson about different pearl varieties. You’ll also receive information about how this educational facility began and its current endeavors and challenges.

Dock facility at pearl farm (2004 photo)

Dock facility at pearl farm (2004 photo)

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Actually, there’s not a lot to do or see at the farm – it’s a small group of buildings and a boat ramp. However, your tour guide will spend most of the tour time (an hour) explaining the intensive and fascinating process underwater (the farm), in the lab and at the dock. You will be able to see the black floats, like buoys, out in the bay indicating the location of each submerged cage of young, growing oysters and other implanted oysters developing the pearls. In the submerged cages, or “pearl nets”, it usually takes about 18 months for a young oyster to reach the stage to be seeded and another 18 to 24 months for a seeded oyster to develop the pearls. During this time, workers remove and clean the oysters about every two months — a very tedious, but necessary task.

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Black floats mark the location of pearl nets

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After your pearl farm tour, a visit to the pearl gift shop is also a must, because, even if you choose not to buy, you will want to see the finished products – beautiful pendants, earrings, rings and individual pearls in all shapes, sizes and colors!

Tip: After a morning at the pearl farm, take a little detour to one of Guaymas’ many colorful shopping centers for souvenirs and lunch. Also consider visiting other Guaymas sights including Tres Presidentes Plaza, City Hall and San Fernando Church.

Readers: Have you been to San Carlos or Guaymas? Can you tell us: What are your favorite activities and places to visit?

We last visited Guaymas in 2008. Please note that the farm photos are actually taken in 2004. I’m assuming the dock building was rebuilt following the September 2009 storm. Any reader updates or comments would be welcomed and appreciated.

Eight reasons for spring break at Cancun’s Royal Resorts

Ready for a spring break getaway? Soon many Arizonans will be heading to Puerto Penasco (Rocky Point), San Diego, Las Vegas or Colorado while others may be setting their sights on farther destinations, such as Cancun.

So right now, you’re thinking: Cancun craziness of college spring breaks, wild drinking and partying. Well, it’s not necessarily true of all Cancun resorts. In fact some, such as the Royal Resorts properties, discourage the wild spring break scene by requiring guest-registering adults be 25 years old or older. Plus, strict behavior and noise policies inhibit unruliness. A family-friendly atmosphere is just one reason why we like Royal Resorts. Here are seven more:

2. Floor plan of the ‘Flexivillas’

With the main living area in the middle of each two-bedroom suite, the unit is a perfect floor plan for families. One side is the studio lock-off side, a self-contained room with full bath and kitchenette. The one-bedroom side has the main entrance to the suite, with separate one-bedroom with dining area, fully equipped kitchen with full-size appliances. Each living room area not only is spacious but it also features fold-down Murphy beds. The two-bedroom is an ideal setup for two couples who like some privacy, or a family with four children.

Spacious living room in Royal Resorts suite -- perfect floor plan for family vacation

3. Site design

It’s not really fair to say this ‘horseshoe’ layout is only typical at Royal Resorts, in fact many properties in the hotel zone are designed the same way, with the buildings fanned out with a clean view of the Caribbean, but from what we’ve experienced, the building layout of the Royal Mayan, Sands, Islander and Caribbean seems superior, both vertical and horizontal spaces are maximized. From almost every suite balcony in the resort, guests can set their eyes on the aquamarine color of the Caribbean. Most walkways are open breezeways. Restaurants, lobbies, gift shops, offices, convenience markets all are on the ground floors, so even the lowest floor of suites is higher than the restaurant building, usually set behind or next to the well-manicured gardens and pool areas. Best suites are up in the front row with spectacular ocean views. Steps or elevators take guests down to the palapas on the white sand beach.

Waterfalls cascade over well-groomed landscaping at the Royal Islander

4. Your fridge is filled upon arrival

After you’ve confirmed your reservations, you can place a grocery order to the Royal Resort market to have various items placed in your refrigerator before you get there. So if your flight is delayed, or you missed your transportation from the airport, and arrive at the resort late, you don’t have to worry, your fridge is filled with beverages and groceries for that evening, the next morning or for your entire week, if you want – all at no charge. In fact, many reservations for tours, spa visits, dining, or special events can be arranged online before you get there.

5. Royal shuttle

Unless you plan on driving around the Yucatan, you probably don’t need a rental car. Or, you could rent one for a day or two of sightseeing. Taxis can be an excellent alternative. But the best deals are these Royal shuttle buses – they’re free. Some readers right now are probably cringing because these boulevard buses can be the noisy reminders of civilization we wanted to escape from. But we appreciated the Royal shuttles to carry us between all of the Cancun-area Royal Resorts. So we could visit the beaches in front of the Royal Caribbean, or eat lunch at the Royal Mayan. We could travel from the Royal Islander to the Royal Sands for a spa day, or take a five-minutes walk down the boulevard to the upscale shops at Kukulkan Plaza.

6. Save your cash

Put your cash away in your room safe when you check in. Except for the occasional tip, you probably won’t need much cash – at least while you’re at one of the Royal Resort properties. The room key card is your payment method for all bar bills, dining room meals, grocery and gift shop purchases, tour bookings and spa services. You simply pay for the entire week when you check out. It makes it easy not to have to carry cash with you or worry about misplacing it. Of course, this convenience could be a drawback, especially when you get to the gift shop and are tempted by a fine leather briefcase, a giant stuffed dolphin or a huipil — a colorful, embroidered Mayan blouse.

Even during the busy season, it's possible to find some midday solace on the Royal Islander activity deck

7. Many amenities

Some hotels or resorts will charge as much as $20 per day for parking and Internet access. Both are free at Royal Resorts. Daily maid service was an important one to us too. The well-stocked convenience stores carry many popular American and Mexican brands of just about everything: cereal, snacks, candy, liquor, beer, plus fine local favorites: coffee, chocolate and vanilla. You can have an order (over $30USD) of groceries delivered to your condo for free. Activities are plentiful, frequent and everywhere. Or you could choose to do absolutely nothing but sit on the white sand and soak it all in. Even on the resort grounds, it’s easy to find a quiet corner to finish that novel you started on your flight.

8. Information everywhere…

The website impressed us – it’s very easy to navigate around each of the resort pages to make reservations and check amenities. Online, you cruise around the resorts via a virtual tour while standing in the Caribbean at the Royal Cancun or watch the parasails land on the beach in front of the Royal Mayan. From the comprehensive company newsletter link, “Royal Resorts News,” learn about safety in Mexico, latest news updates from Cancun, tips and travel tools. Here you can link to the Royal Channel, the resorts’ video and photo collection to see recent guests enjoying their Royal Resorts vacation.

Beautiful ocean views from almost any vantage point

US Airways still offers daily nonstop round-trip flights from Phoenix to Cancun ranging from about $600 to $700.

What are your favorite spring break vacations? Have any getaway recommendations you’d like to share?

 

 

Seven reasons to visit Guaymas/San Carlos, Sonora

San Carlos is one of our favorite Mexican getaways. The resort area is about a seven-hours’ drive south from Phoenix and half an hour from Guaymas, Sonora. It’s an easy drive though Tucson, Nogales and Hermosillo. Spring is a perfect time to visit. We love San Carlos for the same reasons most tourists enjoy Mexico: beaches, fishing, boating, diving, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, shopping, dining, nightlife, sight-seeing… the list seems endless. Here are just a few things we love best about the destination:

1. Crystal clean pools at our resort, the Sea of Cortez Beach Club

2. San Pedro Island’s sea lions

3. Walks along the beach: Playa Los Algodones

4. Sensational sunsets over San Luis, Doble and Venado Islands

5. Tours to Guaymas to see the city hall, municipal plaza and this church: Iglesia San Fernando

6. Snorkeling at San Pedro Island

7. Tetakawi Mountain and Lalo Cove

San Carlos has a wide variety of dining and lodging accommodations. Here are a few websites we recommend for additional travel information:

What’s Up San Carlos

San Carlos, Mexico

Go2SanCarlos

Desert Divers

 

 

2012 vacation goals: Ring in the new and old — destinations

2012 arrives at AZGetawayTravel with annual resolutions, new household budget, new business prospects and new travel plans. Each January, my husband and I reassess our vacation plans. This year, we’d like to set our sights on Europe, Central America or the Caribbean. And as we have learned, there are always a few leftover items from the ‘to-do’ list of past travels. So we’d also like to return to a few of our favorite places and complete the itinerary. Here’s a sampling:

1. San Carlos, Sonora

We once dreamed of having the means to explore the small coves and inlets, around Guaymas and San Carlos in our own 42′ foot sailboat. Now, it’s more realistic for us to buy a couple of seats on a tour boat, or brush up on our kayaking skills. We still imagine ourselves in those isolated coves, only the method of access is changed. Maybe this year, we return to San Carlos — for gunkholing the Sea of Cortez.

View of Playa Piedras Pintas from Zorro Cove trail

Southern tip of Playa Algodones near Marina Real

Tetakawi Mountain and Zorro Cove near San Carlos

2. Kauai

We love the Hawaiian island of Kauai, and its numerous small, tucked-away beaches. These may be hidden, but they’re certainly not secret. Yet some of the access trails are a bit challenging, so they help to prevent overcrowding by most tourists. We’ve visited several of these seemingly obscure beaches, but there’s a few we missed and someday, we hope to return.

Queen's Bath on Kauai's north coast, is a pool carved into the island's lava shelf

A catamaran takes visitors to Nualolo Kai on Kauai's Napali Coast

Our doorless helicopter ride was a thrill. Maybe this year we'll get a closer look at Kauai's beaches.

3. Cancun and Riviera Maya

We spent one week in Cancun in 2006. One week was not nearly enough. Our stay was filled with sight-seeing, beach time, snorkeling, boating, but several side trips had to be postponed. Maybe this year we can return to explore the Rivieria Maya, or visit nearby islands of Isla Mujeres and Cozumel.

Chichen Itza is one of several Mayan ruin sites on the Yucatan

Cancun beaches are fantastic -- remember to save time for side trips

Folk dancer entertains tourists near Chichen Itza, Yucatan

Puerto Penasco – June 2011

What was once an extremely popular vacation destination, Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico — more commonly known as Rocky Point — has seen a sudden drop in visitors because of the recession and the fear of violence. Travel writers, bloggers, Arizona journalists for years have been using the beach town as subject matter and in the past 15 years, the city on the Sea of Cortez in northwestern Sonora, had been gaining enormous growth. But in the past two or three years, since the Mexican government began heavy drug cartel crackdowns, the border towns have been hurting, after witnessing higher levels of violence, primarily along the Texas border. With the exception of rather isolated violence in the border entry of Nogales, Sonora, most of the Arizona border towns are relatively quiet. Puerto Penasco, like other municipalities within close proximity of the border, has also seen sharp decline. But things may be changing. Rocky Point is just beginning to see an increase in tourist activity as more and more Arizonans are beginning to feel more secure about traveling to Mexico. On our trip this month, we spoke to business owners, resort workers and restaurant staff that have said they felt tourism starting to improve.

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Seagulls finding solace in the early morning tide

Morning walk

Morning walks along the beach can be a time of renewal and relaxation

With Rocky Point’s development of the area just north of town, known as Sandy Beach in the past 10-15 years, tourists are reminiscent of beach-lined resorts in other parts of Mexico, like Cancun or Puerto Vallarta. Building after building of high-rise condominiums line up along the water, from the edge of the commercial fishing marina to the northwestern land’s end, known as Pelican Point. The Reef, with its bar and camping/RV park, is still there, a well-known reminder of spring breaks past and a time when Sandy Beach was more for campsites than condos. While the units of these condo resorts are almost all privately, individually owned, many are investment properties rented like hotel suites. They provide golf discounts, fine dining and nightlife opportunities – even spa, fitness and business center amenities.

Beach palapas at Las Palomas Resort

Beach palapas can be a good opportunity for shade but they fill up fast

So if you’re in Arizona, no doubt you’ve been watching the heavy boost of Mexico tourism-sponsored TV and print advertising, and perhaps now you’re thinking about returning to Rocky Point. Before venturing back to Puerto Penasco, here’s a few travel tips:

1. Travel during the day. It’s a good idea whether you’re crossing the Arizona desert or the Sonora desert. As a group of three couples, the six of us  — all from the eastern Phoenix-area suburbs usually depart in the early morning hours, driving from Chandler to Maricopa, then take State Route SR 2387 to drive to Gila Bend, where we usually make a breakfast stop. From Gila Bend, it’s a straight shot on State Route 85 through Ajo (watch your speed on this stretch) and then on to Lukeville.

2. Be prepared when crossing the international border; there’s a few changes. When crossing the border, the Mexican authorities will now stop motorists and ask if they are transporting firearms. I have heard they have also questioned drivers about vehicle registration, passports or auto insurance. In addition, your vehicle may be randomly selected for a thorough search, so it’s important to know what you can and cannot bring. One website which has comprehensive travel information is the RPTimes site, but there are many numerous Rocky Point travel websites now, so it’s a good idea to check several to see which ones are up-to-date.

3.  You might want to bring some loose change for charity donations. Periodically as you drive through Sonoita, just south of the border from Lukeville, and the north end of Puerto Penasco, you will encounter children and adults standing in the middle of the street, holding a can asking for donations for various charities. Popular ones could be Red Cross, the local fire department, a senior living home, an orphanage, etc. If you feel you want to donate, please do, and that’s why we always travel to Rocky Point with some loose change or pesos leftover from a previous trip. After you pass through Sonoita, it should be smooth sailing until you get to Rocky Point.

 

4. Buy your food and drinks for your vacation in Puerto Penasco. Except for your favorite wines, craft brews, apples and chocolate, you will find most everything else you will need for your vacation in Rocky Point stores and markets.  Shrimp is best when purchased during the season, which is usually April-May or October. Find the wide assortment at the markets on the malecon. But many other seafood varieties are available throughout the year.  In addition to the souvenir vendors at Rodeo Drive, there are many nice newer stores, selling high quality silver, pottery, T-shirts, cotton dresses, leather products, metal sculptures, glassware — much more.  The blankets I bought in 1978 for $6 each, are still used today and in fantastic shape. Additional groceries stores are opening up in many neighborhoods. We particularly like the one called Super Ley, a kind of mini warehouse-type grocery and variety store.

5. Some of the best deals are found at places you’d likely least expect, such as these “Puerto Penasco” mugs I found at one of the local pharmacies. Many of these drug stores, have much more than prescriptions — they also carry sundries, beach toys, cosmetics and a few even stock sodas and frozen fruit treats.

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Puerto Penasco insulated souvenir mugs are perfect for those cold, tasty beverages down at the pool

6. One of the first things we do when we arrive to Puerto Penasco is pick up several of the English newspapers, featuring listings of many of the activities and events and current real estate classifieds, which often include news of new residential developments, businesses and tourism services. Three of the free newspapers we have found reliable are the Rocky Point Times, Join Us Here in Rocky Point, Rocky Point Weekly, plus there are probably more.  Check your resort’s front desk, restaurant or in front of the nearby pharmacy for a display rack.

 

 

7. Develop a vacation tradition. As soon as we arrive in Rocky Point, the smells of the sand and sea, roasting chiles and simmering frijoles get our mouths watering for our favorite meals. One of our first stops we make after arriving in Rocky Point is for lunch, at Flavio’s (Aqui es con Flavio). This waterfront restaurant at the malecon (waterfront esplanade) is a favorite among locals and visitors alike for the fresh seafood dishes, well-equipped margaritas and real pina coladas. Each person in our group has their special favorite, whether it’s fish or shrimp tacos, an meal-sized shrimp cocktail, a whole fish dinner or a combo plate. Flavio’s is just one of several excellent restaurants along the Malecon. We like it not just because of the food, but also the excellent friendly service provided by the parking attendants, wait staff, bartenders — even the strolling musicians. Other visitors find their vacation tradition watching the sun set over the water at one of the hilltop restaurants with the best views like Casa del Capitan. Some find their tradition with a visit to JJ’s Cantina in Cholla Bay. Start a tradition for your family reunion group or circle of friends.

A visit to the Cet-Mar Aquarium near Las Conchas should be on every family's Rocky Point "Things to Do"

8. Find your own getaway niche at Rocky Point. This destination can be equally accommodating to any leisure pursuit, whether it’s a fiesta or a siesta. The resorts may be bustling at times, like late in the afternoons when everyone’s checking in to their suites and excited to be headed to the cafes or cantinas, or they can be calm and relaxing, such as the early morning, when only a few guests get up early to take a stroll along the beach, or simply sit in the common areas to enjoy the shaded pool areas or finely manicured gardens.

views

Views of the Sandy Beach resorts

9. Beach it! I always have to chuckle when people come to the beach but then don’t go near the beach. Well, I guess some folks just want to “view” the beach. Too sandy? Too wet? I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. But I know I want to be on the beach, especially Sandy Beach! The sand is really fine and smooth and except for a few deposits of coral which you can easily locate when the tide is out, most all the sea floor is perfect for wading, swimming, splashing, whatever. Indeed, there are times of year when jellyfish are more prevalent; those are usually when there seasonal weather changes, or windy conditions exist, such as during late summer monsoon time or occasional spring storms. I keep a spray bottle of white vinegar just in case of jellyfish sting. Then there are stingrays, so it’s best to do the shuffling of feet through the shallows. it’s good to know there is now an outpatient medical clinic on Sandy Beach.

10. Come ready to play on the beach! Bring the cooler full of lots of water, snacks, etc. Those backpack coolers work great, even better than the ones with the wheels, I think. For the kids, bring kites, sand castle construction equipment, frisbees, and plenty of other water toys. Of course, you’ll need the obvious sunscreen; plus maybe some wet wipes, which will come in handy after the kids eat those fresh dripping mangos on a stick. Many resorts have their own palapas — those grass covered canopies — but you may want to bring your own beach umbrella or other portable canopy with plenty of sand anchors. Nothing destroys a brand new beach umbrella more than the wind blowing southwest from the Sea of Cortez in late spring or early summer. We like our screw-in beach umbrella anchor.

banana boat

The banana boat rides are a favorite form of excitement in the waves

11. Sandy Beach can often be the best place to shop. Why take away from valuable beach time when the jewelry, silver, pottery, hats, sunglasses, sundresses, etc can come right to you under the shade of your umbrella? Relaxing on the beach is the best time to shop for all those souvenirs you really don’t need. Why? Because the vendors are coming to you, of course.  These vendors have no overhead costs, and every incentive to unload some heavy merchandise they’ve been toting around. Many of the items probably can be found almost anywhere in town or at the Rodeo Drive shopping district, but occasionally you will find something new or unique on the beach, and the deals on the beach are better than anywhere else. Remember these vendors can be very enthusiastic, so if beach shopping is not your thing, a simple shake of the head and a smile, or a polite, “no, gracias” will suffice to keep the vendors moving along.

sunset

Sunset over the Sea of Cortez

Rocky Point has something for everyone. It can be a perfect place for a time of meditation and reflection, to take advantage of the tranquility of sunrise or sunset walks at water’s edge to relax. Or it can be a perfect place to recharge, energize, take part in some exciting challenge like parasailing, ultra-light flying, jetskiing or kite-surfing. Maybe there’s something in between or even a little bit of everything.

Are you a first timer to Rocky Point? Do some research. There are many websites to look at when you google Rocky Point, Mexico or Puerto Penasco. Read the reviews on tripadvisor or virtualtourist websites. Check out youtube for some videos of activities and events. Get to know Rocky Point.  If you have been meaning to return to Rocky Point, I’d highly recommend it. Get to know Rocky Point again.

pool area

The pool area of Las Palomas Phase II from 14th floor

Here is the official Rocky Point tourism website

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