Rocky Point: A Complete Guide

Rocky Point Beach Umbrellas
memo06dic / Getty Images.

 memo06dic / Getty Images

Rocky Point, like a lot of tourist hot-spots in Mexico, is known as a Spring Break destination, but there’s fun to be had year-round. Puerto Peñasco, known as Rocky Point in the U.S., has continued to grow in recent years as a resort town and with the booming business of vacation rental companies like Airbnb and Vrbo. For Southwest residents seeking the sea, Rocky Point is an easy drive. Equally popular with families and young folks, it’s a common vacation spot for many Phoenix residents. Rocky Point is less popular than more well-known Mexican beach towns like Cancún and Cabo and this fact comes with its pros and cons. While prices are significantly less and the crowds are fewer, there’s also less infrastructure for serious travelers.

History of Rocky Point

Conveniently located on the Gulf of California and near trade routes with the U.S., Puerto Peñasco was once one of the most successful fishing villages in Sonora, Mexico. It’s convenience to the U.S. border has always made it a popular spot for Americans and it’s most frequented by fans of land-based travel. The destination’s tourism industry has been negatively affected in recent years by U.S. media coverage, but long-time fans continue to flock to the seaside spot. Recent developments include a cruise ship port, with inaugural ships setting sail the end of 2019 for cruises around the Gulf of California and Mexico’s Pacific coast.

Things to Do in Rocky Point

Fans of Mexico love the stunning ocean vistas, tantalizing cuisine, and robust culture. Rocky Point boasts all of these merits – albeit on a smaller scale than more mainstream Mexico beach destinations.

  • Water Activities: All the heavy-hitters are here – snorkeling, fishing, parasailing, kite surfing and more. One thing to keep in mind is that Rocky Point is located on a gulf, meaning the waves are minimal. While surfing isn’t feasible, the calm waters make for ideal swimming conditions.
  • Sample the Sea: American fans of Mexican cuisine might not immediately think of seafood, but it’s an integral part of any menu in Rocky Point. Standouts include fresh shrimp and ceviche.
  • Charter a Boat: Private boat charters are common and inexpensive in Puerto Peñasco. Board a boat for a fishing excursion, to go snorkeling around Bird Island or for a romantic sunset cruise.
  • Explore the Beaches: The two most popular beaches in Rocky Point are Playa Hermosa and Sandy Beach. Both Playa Hermosa is best known for its tide pools and Sandy Beach is the spot for soft sand.
  • Shop for Local Goods: Rocky Point has lots of shopping areas featuring local handicrafts and clothing. Yet another perk of driving south of the border? No need to worry about extra baggage fees!
  • Nightlife: With its Spring Break reputation, it’s no surprise that Rocky Point has a bustling nightlife. There are bars a-plenty, but always keep safety in mind and don’t travel alone at night.
  • Activities for Landlubbers: The nearby sand dunes provide ample opportunity for adrenaline seekers. Quads and ATVs can be rented throughout Rocky Point and don’t forget your helmet!

Tips for Visiting Rocky Point

A lot of Americans are weary about visiting Mexico, so here are some answers to frequently asked questions and general tips for visiting.

Pack Your Documents: Americans driving across the border can do so with either a passport or U.S. issued passport card. Whenever traveling internationally, it’s always best to have a copy of your travel documents on-hand as a precaution. If you’re bringing along any recreational vehicles like ATVs or Jet Skis, be sure to bring the ownership documents with you.

The Best Time to Go: The most popular times to visit Rocky Point are March through June. The weather is warm and temperate, before the high temps of July and August set in. Keep in mind that March and April will bring Spring Break crowds.

Your Money’s Good: There’s no need to exchange currency if you don’t want to. Virtually every business and stand in Rocky Point will accept American dollars. Just be sure to check the exchange rate before starting your shopping. Also, most bank and credit cards will work in Mexico. If you don’t travel internationally often, it’s a good idea to notify your bank or credit card company that you’ll be visiting Mexico. This will avoid any confusion with them canceling your cards for fear of fraudulent activity.

You Don’t Have to Speak Spanish: Rocky Point has been a popular vacation spot for Americans for decades and most everyone speaks English. Most signs and restaurant menus are in both Spanish and English. While it might not be absolutely necessary, it’s still smart (and polite!) to learn some basic Spanish words and phrases ahead of your trip.

Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate: When shopping in Rocky Point, it’s virtually always acceptable to negotiate prices. The vendors expect it and will negotiate…within reason. Can’t get the price you want? No worries – odds are another store or stall will have similar goods.

You Do Need Insurance: If you’re going to drive in Mexico, your American insurance will not cover you. Be sure to research Mexican auto insurance in advance. It’s relatively inexpensive and you don’t want to be caught without it.

Have Good Sense: Like most popular tourist destinations worldwide, Rocky Point has folks looking to tend to tourists…and also to take advantage of them. Be smart and don’t always assume that people have good intentions. If someone comes up to you on the beach or in the street, be wary of what they’re selling and don’t go anywhere alone.

Consider the Neighborhood: If you’re going to rent a condo or house for your visit to Rocky Point via a rental website like Airbnb or Vrbo, you might consider homes in gated communities. Common rental properties can fall prey to local crime, so keep safety in mind when picking the area.

How to Get to Rocky Point

Rocky Point is located roughly 60 miles south of the U.S. border and is an easy four-hour drive from Phoenix. The nearest U.S. border crossing is the Lukeville Port of Entry in Arizona and it’s just over an hour drive southwest to Rocky Point. Most signs en route are in both English and Spanish, making the navigation straightforward. Be sure to check the most recent State Department travel advisories before leaving home.

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