San Felipe, Baja California: Mexico’s Hidden Desert Beach
Nestled along the pristine shores of the Sea of Cortez, where the arid desert landscape meets the shimmering azure waters, lies a gem waiting to be unearthed by intrepid travelers: San Felipe, Baja California.
While Mexico boasts a plethora of renowned coastal destinations, San Felipe remains a well-kept secret, cherished by those who seek tranquility away from the tourist crowds.
With its captivating blend of desert charm and seaside allure, this hidden oasis offers a unique and unforgettable escape for adventurers seeking to immerse themselves in the natural beauty and rich culture of the Baja California peninsula.
The port of San Felipe is a well-known tourist and fishing destination.
Blue shrimp, a species highly appreciated for its size and flavor, is caught in its waters.
Shrimp fishing is so important that it has earned the “shrimp capital” title.
Where is San Felipe Mexico?
San Felipe Mexico is a coastal town on the upper Baja Peninsula, approximately 200 km south of Mexicali, and is considered the gateway to the Sea of Cortez.
Its beaches constitute a majestic landscape of intense blue water that contrasts with the sandy soil and the arid mountains of Baja California.
On these beaches, you can enjoy a privileged climate almost all year round because in San Felipe, “there are no bad days.”
From the city of Mexicali, heading south on Federal Highway 5, you will reach San Felipe.
You can also get to San Felipe if you’re driving from Ensenada by Federal Highway 3; both roads meet at the hamlet of El Chinero.
On the same route and a few kilometers before arriving in San Felipe are Playa el Paraíso and Playa Blanca.
Further south, along the same Highway 5, you reach Puertecitos, located a little more than 50 kilometers from San Felipe.
Some cruises arrive at the port of San Felipe within the route that crosses the Sea of Cortes, which comes from Mazatlan, passing by Los Cabos in Baja California Sur and the Bay of Angels in Baja California.
If driving is not your thing, you can also get there by air through the local airport for private flights.
Mexicali’s airport, General Rodolfo Sanchez Taboada, is the nearest commercial airport.
It offers domestic and international charter flights. It has bus, cab, and car rental services from well-known companies.
Another option for those traveling from the United States is the Calexico International Airport, adjacent to Mexicali.
Top things to do in San Felipe, Mexico
The natural environment of San Felipe offers multiple options to discover.
You can enjoy beaches with clear sands and small waves in the bay that goes from Punta El Machorro to Punta Estrella.
The sea temperature is temperate, cooling down a little in the winter.
The lack of major tourist developments makes its beaches, such as El Faro, Playa Rubens, and El Dorado Ranch, ideal for walking, sunbathing, and relaxing.
Water sports are a good option. The marina and hotels can arrange sportfishing excursions, motorboats, yacht rides, water skiing, and hang gliding.
The rocky terrain allows cross-country hiking and mountain biking.
Cerro Machorro is a hill near San Felipe from where you can get a panoramic view of the port, the mountains, and the sea.
In the urban area, you can visit the municipal park, where families traditionally go on weekends.
You can walk along the boardwalk and the lighthouse hill on the coastal avenue.
San Felipe’s Punta Estrella
Towards the south, near Punta Estrella, you can visit the valley of the Giant cardons, an extensive desert area populated by saguaros cacti.
On this same route, you find the fishing village of Puertecitos, located on the shore of a small and beautiful bay. Here you can visit geothermal springs and enjoy an amazing night sky.
To the west of San Felipe is the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir; in its mountains, you can find fossil fields, cave paintings, and Indian caverns.
Hiring expeditions made in special sand carts is recommended to get to know this area.
El Dorado Ranch
Although it has a large territory, Rancho El Dorado is still a hidden recreational paradise located in San Felipe Mexico.
For a select group of people who have found the year-round warm weather and quiet, uncrowded ranch ideal for vacationing and retirement.
Driving on Highway 5 towards San Felipe, you can’t miss Rancho El Dorado.
It is located at kilometer 176 on the San Felipe-Mexicali highway.
There is a waterfall, a security building, and two huge flags at the main entrance, one from Mexico and the other from the United States.
When you visit, you can enjoy all the ranch’s amenities, just as the owner himself would.
With the first and only 18-hole golf course in San Felipe, and the safest locations, there is simply no comparable place in the area.
And if you’re not a golf aficionado, don’t worry; there are a variety of activities to keep you entertained: a tennis court, swimming pools, pickleball courts, restaurants, and a private beach are just a few of the many amenities that are available for your enjoyment at the ranch.
The main pool, La Papala, has an adjacent bar and restaurant (try their tequila and mezcal tasting!).
With a surround sound system, it constantly plays a mix of lively and mellow music, much to the delight of visitors.
Additional information about San Felipe, Mexico
San Felipe has been transformed from a fishing port into an important tourist destination.
In recent years, the sale of properties and the construction of real estate developments have increased.
An impressive golf course called “Las Caras de Mexico” and another one designed by Jack Nicklaus is being built in the marina area.
There are multiple lodging options; you can find hotels, motels, palapas, and trailer parks with basic services, as well as rentals and timeshares.
Camping is allowed on some of the beaches on the way to Puertecitos.
San Felipe has specialized fishing stores, bars, and restaurants.
In any of these, you can taste the famous blue shrimp cooked any way you prefer: in a cocktail, grilled on skewers, breaded, or sauteed garlic.
The “cachanillas” (a slang term for Baja locals) recommend savoring the shrimp cocktail seasoned with tomato and lemon sauce in one of the local bungalows, where you can also taste the octopus with butter and the aguachiles with avocado.
Nature and Eco-tourism
As far as nature conservation and ecotourism are concerned, it is good to know that the imaginary line that crosses the sea and joins San Felipe with Puerto Peñasco in Sonora marks the limit of the protected waters of the Biosphere Reserve of the Upper Gulf of California and Delta of the Colorado River.
Therefore, no more than 5 kilometers from the port of San Felipe, you can find endemic species such as the Gila monster lizard, the totoaba fish, and the vaquita, unfortunately almost extinct.
The San Felipe carnival has been held for more than 20 years; although it may be small compared to other famous carnivals, it is characterized by the excitement of the locals and tourists, good weather, and safety.
San Felipe is a “Spring Break” destination for young people from the Pacific and Southwestern United States. During that season and Easter vacations, the high flow of tourists may cause overcrowding and excessive traffic.
Visiting San Felipe, Mexico: Conclusion
As I said before, this little village is perfect for relaxation and beach activities.
You can sunbathe, swim, and practice countless water sports such as kayaking, windsurfing, diving, or sport fishing.
Likewise, its geography favors the practice of ATV and all-terrain vehicle tours, hang-gliding, expeditions to the desert and mountains, camping, trekking, flora and fauna observation, or simply contemplating the night sky.
More recently, local resorts offer golf, gastronomic, wine sampling, and spa services.