Puerto Pensasco aka "Rocky Point," authentic Mexico: a complete visitors guide
Updated: Apr 21
Puerto Penasco, a little gem of a seaside retreat, is perfectly situated on the Sea of Cortez (aka the Gulf of California.) It will wow you with its clear blue water and sandy beaches that stretch picturesquely along the Gulf. It lies in the far northern Senora region of Mexico, near the Arizona and California borders where they often refer to it as "Rocky Point." Its drivability from the US makes it a great Mexican getaway option for those who don't want to fly. Come relax, enjoy, and get a taste of authentic Mexico with a little side of the tropics!
In my complete visitors guide to Puerto Penasco I cover everything you need to know when planning your Mexico getaway
BUT... I should warn you that once you arrive, you may find it hard to leave!
You may find, the same way that we did, that is can be difficult to leave this perfect little piece of paradise. On each occasion, we found ourselves trying to figure out how we could extend our stay!
Why Puerto Penasco???
Location: Because it is located high up at the top of the gulf, they are protected from harsh currents that tend to wash debris in from the ocean. So...no muck in the water! Peurto Penasco is also located within driving distance from the US...big bonus!
activities: There is something for everyone here! Because there is such a wide range of activities, Puerto Penasco makes a perfect trip for families, couples, girl's trips, guy's trips, and group trips!
the weather: With its temperate climate you can visit year round. I cover the best times to visit in the next section.
the prices: Prices for accommodations are quite pleasing to the pocketbook and food is reasonable. Compared to other places situated directly on the beach, and I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
the people: I found the people to be very friendly and helpful.
the food: fresh tasty food...fantastic!
when to go
From personal experience:
Our visits have been confined to late May and honestly, it seems like the perfect time to go. Despite visiting on a Memorial Day (holiday) weekends, the crowds were not at all bad (this coming from a person who despises crowds!) The weather and water temperature were absolutely perfect! This time of the year you'll likely have sunny days, clear blue waters, perfect temperatures, and low humidity with little chance of rain. PERFECT!
Best time for water activities:
"...from late May to late June and from late September to mid October." -weatherspark.com
Best time for General outdoor activities:
"...from mid March to mid June" -Weatherspark.com
#1 reason to plan a trip to Puerto Penasco in my opinion......
The Pièce de resistance...the reason I came...the water!!!! We were in search of a beach vacation with clear bathtub-like water where we could stay right on the beach. We found it! The water was a stunning shade of blue and the perfect temp. See for yourself!
This beach is made for walking:
Note: Do remember to bring water shoes because there is a lot of Rock and Coral under that beautiful water ("Rocky" Point!)
Notice anything missing in those photos? How about the crowds? Again, these were taken on Memorial Day weekend's when one would expect a crowded beach. I hear it can get crowded during spring break, but otherwise, if you are looking for a beach vacation without the crowds your chances are very good!
Relax poolside, or on the beach either one.
Whichever condo complex you choose, it is likely that the beach and the pool will be just steps apart!
Fruity drinks on the beach
Little stands on the beach sell cold drinks, made right in front of you with fresh fruit! Try the Pina Colada served in a pineapple (there's a whole pineapple in there! the overflow served in a separate cup) or the frozen mango drink made with a whole mango! Delicious!
Get a massage right on the beach!
Along the beach you'll find ladies with massage tables set up under beach umbrellas. Rates are ridiculously inexpensive compared to what I normally pay at home. We do several per visit...hey, who doesn't like a good massage and how often do you have the opportunity to get one ON THE BEACH?!
our favorite activities in Puerto Penasco!
Banana Boat Rides
Banana boat operators will zip you back and forth along the shore, have you laughing hysterically, and leave you a wet but happy mess. What a thrill! I thought rates were a bit high for this activity, but it's a lot of fun, and that's what you're here for! Here's list of banana boat operators in Puerto Penasoco, but you can just catch a ride most places along the beach.
Swim with sea lions?? Yes, you can!!!
This is one of the coolest things that I have done...EVER! You can Swim with California Sea Lions on San Jorge Island, aka Bird Island, a series of rocks about 27 miles out from Puerto Penasco, It is home to over 3,500 sea lions.
Tour operators will take you out on their boats and let you spend a couple hours there with the sea lions and other wildlife. In addition to the sea lions, you will see various types of birds and may even spot dolphins, sting rays and in season you might even spot a whale.
Bird Island excursions are about six hours. Snorkel, kayak, or get in and swim like I did! Our tour operators assured us that there are no sharks this far north in the Sea of Cortez, and I believed them.....because I wanted to.
Choose a company to take you by boat to the island. Here is a list of operators that take tours out to Bird Island (sorry I can't remember who we used.)
Get in and play with the sea lions!
I recommend you get in and swim with these playful little guys. The old grumpy sea lions will bark at you from their rock, but these young sea lions are curious, frisky, and playful! See the footage here on my YouTube Channel of me getting in the water and getting up close and personal with these cute little guys!
We went with Del Mar Charters for a sunset catamaran cruise. They advertise: no cattle boats, no crowding, no party boats. Soft drinks, bottled water, beer and margaritas included. Oscar our captain was great!
take to the skies in an ultralight!
Our group was able to catch a ride just down the road from Wrecked at the Reef (a favorite place to eat!) Two thumbs up from the riders!
See it in action!
party on a pirate boat!
When I say party, I mean party. This was a very lively atmosphere, so if you are looking for something relaxed and chill look at one of the other tour options. If a party boat sounds like a good time to you, then check out Rey Del Mar Charters for information their pirate boat tours in Puerto Penasco.
...don't forget the sunsets...always free!
Where to stay in Puerto Penasco
There are condo complexes with a view all up and down the beach. The Puerto Penasco Convention and Visitors Bureau has a full listing of condo rental options. You can book direct through the websites or check VROB, Airbnb, HomeAway etc.
food in Puerto Penasco
The food is always good in Puerto Penasco! Check out these food picks!
...and check out this jalapeno pecan pancakes from Colins Cantina, located at the Princesa Resort. YUM!
our favorite places to eat:
We always choose a seat outside under a tiki umbrella! The shrimp tacos are my favorite!
Wrecked at the Reef
Wrecked at the Reef serves up my favorite kind of dining experience...toes in the sand, right on the beach! or sit inside for a more lively atmosphere. They are always busy, so if you're starving you might consider going somewhere else but be sure to make plans to eat here at least once. It is my #1 favorite place to eat in Puerto Penasco, and I personally could eat here every day! love the food! love the atmosphere!
The food at the Reef: These photos say it all!
If this is your kind of dining experience head on over to The Point Restaurant. You can't beat a good meal with a side of ocean breeze:
Make your own!
One evening we picked up some fresh seafood at the seafood market, headed to the grocery store, and prepared a pretty darn good meal in our vacation rental.
My favorite spot to shop in Puerto Penasco is on Rodeo Drive. Don't forget to haggle! they expect it here, and if you don't you're paying too much! I can't get enough of the inexpensive yard art.
While you make your way from shop to shop be sure to pick up one of the fresh warm churros they sell on the Rodeo Drive.
more things to do in Puerto Penasco:
The Boardwalk: take a stroll along the boardwalk with a view of the Sea of Cortes, visit the bars, restaurants, shops and the fish market for scrumptiously fresh seafood. Learn more about the boardwalk in Puerto Penasco here.
Boating options: Sunsets, dolphins, sea lions, and pirates are a few of the things you'll find while boating. See a full list of boating tour operators in Puerto Penasco here.
Sport Fishing: list of sport fishing tour operators in Puerto Penasco.
Sand Dunes: Sand dune buggy, ATV, Rhino or RZR rentals at Rocky Point Adventures.
UNESCO World Heritage Site: 10 volcanic craters and peaks in the desert, and the dunes of the Gran Altar are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Whale watching: Between January and March giant blackfin and humpback whales travel to the warm waters of the Sea of Cortes. Here is a list of tour operators.
Zip-line: Zip across the sand dunes with a view of the sea from 2,000 feet up. Rocky Point Adventures.
fun on the water: Information on kayak and jet ski rental can be found at the Convention and Visitors website.
Horseback riding on the beach, parasailing and more: Check out Rocky Point Adventures for these activities as well as rental of kayak, paddle boards, floating water pads, electric bikes and more.
Getting to Puerto Penasco
We flew into Phoenix where my sister-in-law lives, she then drove us to Puerto Penasco. It's a pleasant 3-4 hour drive, with the final hour or so of the drive through Mexico. Some people aren't comfortable driving through Mexico, but Arizona and California residents burn up the highway between the US and Puerto Penasco without incident.
DO NOT SPEED IN MEXICO! COME TO A COMPLETE STOP AT ALL STOP SIGNS, OBEY ALL TRAFFIC LAWS.
If you get pulled over, you'll be asked to pay a fine on the spot, and you just don't want to deal with that. Obey all traffic laws and you will be fine.
Mexican Auto Insurance
"Mexican auto insurance is required for all vehicles - including rental vehicles. U.S. automobile liability insurance is not valid in Mexico, nor is most collision and comprehensive coverage issued by U.S. companies. Most rental car companies will roll the Mexican car insurance into your rental bill - but be absolutely sure that they do so when you rent your vehicle." -puerto-penasco.com
You can purchase a policy around the boarder, or online (google it! I notice that trusted companies like Geico and progressive offer Mexican Auto Insurance Policies) It should run you less than $100 for a few days of coverage for a passenger vehicle.
Many polices don't cover you outside of the US. I have in the past purchased a policy from IMG Global for a very reasonable rate.
let's talk money
Businesses in Puerto Penasoco, right down to the frosty drink place and the massage lady on the beach, accept US dollars. I never saw a peso either time I was in Mexico. Most places accept US credit cards, but have some cash on hand for your frosty drink and your massage 😉
Be aware of Dynamic Currency Conversion
Normally that is not a favorable situation for you.
Here's what Rick Steve's, my European travel guru, has to say about DCC.
"Some merchants...cheerfully charge you for converting your purchase price into dollars. If it's offered, refuse this "service." You'll pay extra for the expensive convenience of seeing your charge in dollars. If your receipt shows the total in dollars only, ask that it be rung up again in the local currency. If an ATM offers to "lock in" or "guarantee" your conversion rate, choose "proceed without conversion." Other prompts might state, "You can be charged in dollars: Press YES for dollars, NO for euros." Always choose the local currency."
So long story short, go ahead and let them bring you your credit card bill in pesos!
Border crossing tips:
Traffic can get backed up on high traffic days. Although our visits were on holiday weekends, we crossed on various days midweek in order to avoiding high traffic situations...and basically zipped right through. The US Department of State has complete information on crossing the US/Mexico border by land.
Take Note: You must drive through Mexico in order to reach Puerto Penasco. Only you can determine if that is a choice that you are comfortable with. Things change so do your research. The US Department of State website publishes current travel advisories.
One tip always rings true, do all of your driving during daylight hours and OBEY ALL TRAFFIC LAWS. That being said, I've been twice, both times without incident other than being pulled over for a speeding violation and asked to pay the fine on the spot.
The condo complex
You must show ID to get into your condo complex for the first time. They will give you a wristband that you will wear for the duration of your stay. Each time you come and go through the guard shack to your complex you will need to present your wristband. Each complex has guards on duty 24/7. It felt very safe to me.
Wandering around after dark probably isn't a good idea. We left Wrecked at the Reef after dark one night and took a taxi back to the rental because we had walked there along the beach. Don't expect to get a good rate. They know you are without options, but safety first!
And there you have it! My complete guide to visiting Puerto Penasco!