This city in Mexico is one of the closest destinations to go to the beach by the southwest states, aside from California. Puerto Penasco, also known as Rocky Point (as translated in English), is a Mexican city known for its fishing and resorts. It is in the state of Sonora in Mexico. I’ve heard about this city from locals here in Arizona and I thought since it was only 3 hours and a half from my city, it is so doable to drive to.
In fact, a lot of Arizonans also have property alongside the shores of Puerto Penasco. Puerto Penasco has miles of beaches and a lot of its beaches are also rocky (hence the name of the city). It is a nice getaway to go to a different country just in the neighboring USA state of Arizona.
However, the most logical way to get to Puerto Penasco is to drive by doing a road trip, which will require you to cross the border. There is a lot to see in this Mexican city, so this is a guide of things to know before you go and things to keep in mind when planning out your vacation here.
1. The currency.
Money is cheap in Mexico equivalent to US dollars (think of a combo lunch of Asian food cut in half like $4). When going to Puerto Penasco, you don’t need to exchange your dollars to pesos (the currency for Mexican money). You can use your US dollars and they would still be accepting of that.
2. Be sure about what to bring (and what you can bring out) when crossing the border.
If you are driving there to cross the border (from Arizona), make sure you know what you can bring in your car and what you cannot. I would highly look at this page on Puerto Penasco’s website on customs as it does go through a lot of information from the process with the vehicle entry inspection to info of what duty-free items you can get to info on importing to what to keep in mind when returning back to the United States. I learned from our personal experience being at Puerto Penasco, you can only bring 15 pounds of seafood per person from Mexico.
The border can get busy and it makes you wait for a longgg time as we did. However, I would check up on the border wait times to avoid traffic. This .gov website by the US Customs and Border Protection is the site you should be on to take a look at the border wait times and the status of the line.
Of course, you should be bringing important documents and that includes your driver’s license, your passport, and you NEED to buy Mexican auto insurance prior ahead (regardless if you have your own car insurance from the US already – that WILL not cover you).
The reason why you need an auto insurance from under their country is because it is the law and that is what is necessary to drive legally in the country. Since January 2019, Mexico made it mandatory to have a minimum of third party liability insurance coverage when traveling on federal highways. We bought our Mexico auto insurance from Mexicoinsuranceonline.com.
3. Remember to tip those who are in your service.
There are certainly places in the world where tipping is not required (for example Iceland), but Mexico is a place where its workers can benefit from tips and it’s almost expected to tip in the country as many of these workers rely on tips to earn a living wage. You can tip in either pesos or dollars, both are acceptable. In terms of how much to tip, you would do so the same way in the US, where you tip according to the quality of the service. For food and tours, try 10-20%; For spa services, try 15-20%.
4. You can stay at a resort or opt for an Airbnb. You have many choices!
Puerto Penasco is known for being a vacation spot for many Americans, especially those coming from Arizona. There are plenty of resorts to choose from and many of them are alongside the shore. Another thing others opt to do is to stay at an Airbnb, like I did.
The Airbnb I stayed in was adorable, cozy, and it was nice to be there to see the liveliness of the nights in Mexico. Called Dream Weaver Inn Room 5, this Airbnb room is filled with vivid colors from turquoise to magenta to red and there is a small kitchenette area with the bathroom enclosed within the room. You can stay outside on the balcony to eat your meals! It is not far from downtown Puerto Penasco too.
Is Airbnb not your thing? Search for a hotel here then.
5. El Malecon is the central boardwalk with shops & restaurants.
One place you cannot skip out seeing in Puerto Penasco is El Malecon. If you’re wondering if there is a “downtown” and a boardwalk where you can just walk around to explore the city, this area is it.
Out here, you can see a lot of vendors with a variety of things to shop from ranging from clothes to souvenirs to more and there are restaurants (from Mexican to American to even Chinese) as well as street food (tacos, hot dogs, pina colada, corn, etc.). You must try and buy the freshly caught shrimp around there! You could also take it home like we did. At night, there is sometimes live music and although it might seem a little sketchy to go out at night, just consider staying locally around the boardwalk.
6. There are plenty of beaches to go to.
Puerto Penasco has miles of beaches along its coastline. They range from very turquoise to not as vivid blue but sometimes still low tide enough to walk miles from the shoreline. Driving to the beaches from El Malecon is about a half an hour drive though.
One beach I do recommend you check out is Sandy Beach and also this popular restaurant called Wrecked at the Reef, which sometimes has live music on the weekends, games, and of course, there are food and cocktails. You can chill out there on the back of the restaurant and from there, you can step directly out into Sandy Beach.
If you’re by the resort areas, you will probably see a beach to walk out to from the backside of them connected to their pool areas; some of those beaches you’ll come across are Playa Bonita Beach and Playa Hermosa Beach.
7. You can enjoy oceanside view restaurants everywhere!
In El Malecon, there are a few restaurants that have the view of the sea that gives you that oceanic, breezy scent. One restaurant in El Malecon with beautiful ocean views that I recommend to eat at is Restaurante de Marisco’s. The food there was fantastic with fresh fish, a broth bowl of a variety of seafood, and at the time when I used to drink, their margaritas were good too. Another popular restaurant (that we did not get to try) with an oceanside view is The Point Restaurant and if you’re closer to Playa Bonita Resort, try Puesta Del Sol.
Pro tip: Ask the locals for recommended restaurants if you’re looking for some specific food or a restaurant setting like by a particular beach.
Note: This post includes affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure policy here. If you make a purchase from one of these links, I will earn a small commission but with no additional cost from you. Like most sites, my blog website needs compensation to keep it running, so thank you for supporting me to keep on helping!