Even though I’ve now been to Puerto Peñasco—what we call Rocky Point up here—and I’ve sat in the car during the 3.5 hour drive myself, I still can’t believe it when the words “it’s only 50 miles from the Arizona border” come out of my mouth. Only 50 miles? To the beach? From here? Yes, yes, in fact, it is. And it is so, so worth it.
Living in the seemingly waterless Sonoran desert north of the border often lulls a lot of us into thinking that we are totally and completely landlocked. But the thing that this sleepy seaside city reminds me is that we’re not—in fact, we’re a whole lot closer to Mexican beaches than we are to California ones. And ever since I returned home from my weekend away at the Princesa de Penasco condos, I’ve been telling everyone I meet how much the short drive, which is a spectacular drive by the way (it’s straight through the strikingly gorgeous Organ Pipe National Forest), is worth it. I’ve even been trying to convince my family in Atlanta that the next time they visit me, we should call Seaside Reservations, book a room, hop in the car, and caravan down there for a few days just so they can see a little piece of our nearest international neighbor. It’s an experience like none other.
A lot of Arizonans have spent many of their summers along the rocky coast of the Sea of Cortez, but for me, currently a Southwestern transplant, the idea of driving across the border into another country just for the weekend is still super exciting for me. For a lot of my friends, the idea of passing through borders is no big deal, but for me, it’s still the kind of travel experience that gets my heart racing, that thrills me in anticipation, and that has me glued to the car window while in transit, looking for the beautiful and unusual. As we drove through the organ pipes, watching the spiny cacti grow in numbers and fan out in large, green, spiky arms, I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d been to Mexico a handful of times before—to San Carlos and Ciudad Juarez—and I’d surfed around on the Internet a little bit to get of sense of what the city of Rocky Point might look like, but not until we crossed the border did I fully comprehend that we’d just crossed nations. In place of gas stations and familiar restaurant chains were suddenly the dottings of houses on the hillside and little shops with their names painted right onto the buildings. And yes, I know our border’s reputation is tenuous right now, but to be completely honest, driving through it at the tiny stop in Lukeville, Arizona, took all of five seconds (both in and out).
Our weekend was probably the epitome of a romantic voyage to a seemingly faraway place: as soon as we drove into the town and could see the water, we drove straight to the beach and dipped our toes in the cool sea; we drank local cocktails and had carousing conversations with bartenders and guests; we ate as much local cuisine as we could; we took long sunny walks on the beach; we swam in the waters; we talked; we slept in; we explored the city, the nightlife, and the nooks and crannies of winding streets. The whole time I was there I kept wondering how it was that we were only a short drive from home, where my dissertation, our two crazy cats, and all that other grown-up stuff awaited us.
During our weekend visit, we stayed in a one-bedroom condo with an ocean view at the funky Princesa de Peñasco, one of the many resorts that literally line the beach. Though there are many resorts with differing price points, amenities, and the like, what we loved about the Princesa was the fact that the resort is a lovely limestone color with round, blue roofs, evoking a sort of Mediterranean, almost Grecian-style architecture, and that that every room is completely furnished. Plus, the condos have fully-functional kitchens with a 4-burner stove, dishwasher, microwave, coffee maker, full-size refrigerator, and all the silverware, plates, and cups you could ever need. For travelers on a budget (which, unfortunately, is always me) this is a very positive perk. The resort amenities, too, are lovely: not only does the clubhouse with a fitness center sit in a circular glass room five seconds from the beach, there is an on-site convenience store (thank goodness, because I totally ripped my flip-flop while I was there), five heated swimming pools and a kid’s shallow wading pool. Princesa de Peñasco has been very carefully laid out to maximize waterfront views and create the feeling of both luxury and total privacy.
Our condo, which was on the third floor and overlooked the beach, restaurant (you seriously have to try their margaritas), fitness center, five pools, and tiled walkways, was inviting, comfortable, and fun. The master bedroom, for instance, had a fluffy queen bed with a wooden headboard carved with desert cacti, a sun, and a mountain landscape. The bedspread and accompanying pillows and area rugs were a bright, happily analogous color scheme – with blues, reds, and greens. The walls in the kitchen were a bright, ochre-colored red and matched the granite countertops and espresso-colored furniture beautifully, and there were glass double doors that opened onto a private patio. The whole place felt like a Mediterranean villa tucked away on a Mexican beach—and it was so, so perfect.
So, yes, even though I’ve now been to Rocky Point and I’ve sat in the car during the 3.5 hour drive myself, my tune stays the same. Only 50 miles? To the beach? From here? Yes, yes, in fact, it is. And it is so, so worth it.
You can check the resort and reservations out on Facebook, follow them on Twitter (@SeasideMexico) or call Seaside directly to make reservations (1-888-262-4508 for U.S. residents and 01800-700-7795 for Mexican residents). All of the staff is bilingual in English and Spanish.
Prices for La Princesa de Peñasco condos run between $102 and $359 depending on time of year and size of room. For our stay, we booked a one-bedroom condo with an ocean view room on the third floor ($121/night). For those who are traveling in groups of four, the pull-out sofa in the living room can easily convert the one-bedroom into a two-bedroom.
La Princesa de Peñasco Condominiums, Puerto Peñasco
83550 Sonora, Mexico
Article and all photographs by Kristin Winet.
Our Mexican getaway was courtesy of Seaside Reservations, but all opinions and stories are, of course, my own.