Strung like a hammock along the Eastern Baja coast, San Felipe lounges along the sandy beaches of the Sea of Cortez. The town's vibe is as laid back as the lapping of its Caribbean blue–like ocean waves.
Most know San Felipe for the fishing, off-road riding and fish tacos. It's all of that and a lot more.
Take a stroll along the malecón and watch the fisherman unload their catch of the day. Visit the shops or sit down at one of the many restaurants to enjoy a good meal and drink. One of my favorites is the Taco Factory. Even though fish tacos are common, the area is most famous for its shrimp. Margaritas in every variety imaginable are available, and each bar has a specialty.
Just south of town lies the Valle de los Gigantes, home to cardón cacti, which can live up to 300 years and grow in excess of 60 feet high. The sheer number of cardóns in this valley (often mistaken for the saguaro cactus, which they closely resemble) is nothing short of amazing. The area is accessible by foot, horse or ATVs.
Any concerns about visiting this Mexican town are unwarranted. It’s not just safe, it’s no-need-to-lock-your-doors safe (UPDATE: some residents have reported a recent uptick in burglaries, below). Locals’ demeanors are as sunny as the skies above. The pace is slow and the prices are low; it’s the closest thing to Old Mexico that I've discovered.
But that is changing.
Late in 2014 commercial flights from San Diego began on SeaPort Airlines. The normal five-hour drive from America’s Finest City is cut down to around eighty minutes – and needless to say, there's no worry of border delays on the return trip. With a capacity of nine passengers, the small planes are part of the adventure.
Development is also happening, mainly in the form of ex-pat living. The El Dorado is a planned community well on its way to completing 8,000 homes; their 18-hole golf course is open and active daily. Closer to town and abutting the ocean is the San Felipe Marina Resort. With its own private beach, it's long been a preferred place for visitors. Future plans include a Jack Nicklaus–designed golf course – although construction's been on hold the last few years – and an updated marina.
Dancers at a San Felipe festival
Weekend activities are becoming more common than not. Two of the biggest attractions are the SCORE San Felipe 250 Off Road Race in January and the November Shrimp Festival. On these occasions the town is streaming with tourists, but still manages to stay true to its soul.
With over 350 days of sunshine, beautiful beaches and friendly people, San Felipe should not be missed. Whether you fly or drive, set your compass to a southerly position and enjoy yourself in this warm, welcoming part of Baja.