Puerto Peñasco Mexico

Puerto Penasco - aka Rocky Point - is located near the intersection of California and Mexico at the north end of the Sea of Cortez. It’s 63 miles south of the border crossing at Lukeville, Arizona and Sonoyta, Sonora. Puerto Penasco’s appeal can be attributed to miles of white-sand beach interspersed with black volcanic rock, and its close proximity to Arizona, making it a popular destination for US spring breakers and RVers.

British explorers named Puerto Penasco “Rocky Point” during the 18th century, and most Americans refer to it by that name today. The town itself was established about 1927, after Mexican fishermen discovered an abundance of shrimp beds in the area. About the same time, American John Stone built the first hotel. During the prohibition era, outlaw Al Capone was a frequent visitor when he was hiding from US law enforcement.

Only in the last 20 years has Puerto Penasco become a hotspot tourist destination. In the 1990’s investors decided to take advantage of the influx of Americans coming to its beaches and began building beachfront hotels and condos. Before that time, tourism was limited to campers, fisherman, and young adults who came because of Mexico’s legal drinking age of 18. In the US, the legal drinking age is 21. In 1993, the government joined with private investors to begin a major push to make Puerto Penasco a key tourism center and thus began to build beachfront condominiums and other facilities to give those beach weekenders a place to stay. They also built a dynamic waterfront boardwalk (malecón) as a place where both visitors and locals could gather.

Puerto Penasco became Mexico’s fastest growing town when in 2007, investors pumped over 300 million US dollars into it for more condos and resorts, with another 1.2 billion USD is on the forefront. In 2009, they built Puerto Penasco’s international airport. By many reports, the splurge has over-commercialized and over-“condo-ed”, the once quaint little fishing village.

Puerto Penasco has become a seaside retirement community for non-natives that rivals Arizona, and the developers seems to have forgotten to add anything related to the Mexican culture. Sandy Beach (aka Sandy Point), the town’s main beach, features a dozen expansive condo-hotel resorts offering luxury rooms with ocean views, sports bars, and fancy restaurants, without a whisper of Mexican ethos. In the future, Puerto Penasco hopes to take advantage of the “Escalera Nautica”, which translates to Nautical Ladder, a coastal highway under development that will be constructed in close proximity to high-end marinas along the coasts. Puerto Penasco is at the start of the route at its northern tip.

Attractions & Things to Do in Puerto Peñasco

Beaches – Sandy Beach (aka Sandy Point) is Puerto Penasco’s main beach. Also, numerous tide pools caused by fantastically high tide changes (up to 23 feet) are available for exploration.

Acuario Cet-Mar – many colorful species of fish, invertebrates, octopi, and seahorses are on display in this aquarium. Visitors can feed sea lions and sea turtles. Information is provided on the species in both Spanish and English. All of the sea creatures are wild, hence the exhibits change as some animals are released back into their natural habitat. A great family attraction.

Intercultural Center for the Study of Desert and Oceans – aka CEDO, here scientists conduct research programs on the desert-coast ecosystem. Visitors can tour the facility (guides speak English) to learn about the area’s ecology and history. Nature outings are occasionally available, such as tidal pool or wetland bird walks, El Pinacate Biosphere Reserve excursions (Pinacate is a stink or acrobat beetle indigenous to the area) and kayaking trips to area estuaries.

Tour San Jorge Island - aka “Bird Island”, it’s not your normal island, but is really a small rocky outcroppings that rises just above the surface of the ocean about 40 km southeast of the city. The white-capped rocks are not covered in snow, but in guano (poop) of sea birds such as seagulls and pelicans. Very close to the surface of the water, tourists can glimpse sea lions, of which 3,000 live in the area. It is Mexico’s largest concentration of sea lions. They are amiable enough to swim with and the area is good for snorkeling. Can be reached via guided tour boat or kayak.

Golf – a few 18-hole golf course are in the area and are open to the public.

Horseback Riding – horse rentals are available for riding along Sandy Beach.

Other popular activities include sport-fishing, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, parasailing, kite-boarding, sunset cruises, and banana boat rides.

Spanish version of this page: Puerto Peñasco

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