Arizona residents have long flocked to Rocky Point to spend some time near the ocean. Still, a very popular Spring Break destination (don't fall for the Spring Break scam!), Puerto Peñasco, known in the U.S. as Rocky Point, continues to grow as a resort destination. Rocky Point has RV parks, hotels, golf courses and a wide variety of restaurants and clubs. Timeshares are everywhere, and Americans buy beach condos. Many people take their RV to Rocky Point. Beach activities are plentiful. You can fish, snorkel, sail, scuba dive, and go whale watching in the winter months.
Be aware that there may be travel warnings for Mexico that are issued by the U.S. Department of State. Rocky Point was specifically mentioned in an alert dated May 2015: "U.S. citizens visiting Puerto Peñasco should use the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora border crossing, and limit driving to daylight hours."
Documents Needed to Drive to Rocky Point
What do you need to take with you to drive to Rocky Point and return to the U.S.? You need a passport or passport card. If you are driving (as opposed to taking a tour bus) you must drive a vehicle that is registered in your name.
Where Is Rocky Point?
Rocky Point is south of Phoenix, in Mexico. The drive to Rocky Point is about 215 miles from Phoenix if you take Route 85 through Gila Bend. Once you get to Ajo, you have about 95 miles to go. From the border at Lukeville, it's 68 more miles to Rocky Point. It is about a four- to five-hour drive from Phoenix, depending on what part of town you are leaving from, what time of day, and how you drive.
How to Get to Rocky Point From Phoenix
Drive west on I-10 from Phoenix to the State Route 85 exit. Go south on SR 85, passing through Gila Bend. Continue south on SR 85 to Ajo, the largest town between Phoenix and the border. It makes a good stop for any last minute shopping. Continue south on SR 85 to Why where you can fill up with gas. Continue south through Organ Pipe National Monument to the border at Lukeville, AZ. You can buy supplies and gas in Lukeville, too.
Note: You can fill your gas tank in Why, or in Lukeville. There's not much difference in price. If you want to use the restrooms, you have to buy either gas or food.
Cross the border into Sonoita. About 2 miles from the border you will come to a three-way intersection. Stay to the left (towards Caborca). You'll come to a fork in the road. The signs are clear—follow the signs to Puerto Peñasco or Pto Peñasco. Take this road all the way to Rocky Point.
Tip: The drive to Rocky Point has some beautiful desert views, but that last 20 or 30 miles is pretty dull.
Protect Your Car
Make sure your auto registration is current. Your American insurance does not cover you when driving in Mexico. Things happen in Rocky Point just like they can happen here—tickets, thefts, fender benders, and other mishaps. If you don't have Mexican insurance, you could find yourself in a serious situation.
Here are some places where you can purchase Mexican auto insurance for Rocky Point. You can wait until you are driving through Ajo to stop in and personally pick it up or you can get insurance online.
Mexican Auto Insurance Links
- Get Mexican Insurance, Aho, AZ
- Mexico Insurance Professionals, Flagstaff, AZ
- Mexico Trip Insurance Center specializes in RV insurance and in daily policies for tourists visiting Rocky Point.
- The Insurance House/Farmers Insurance, Tucson
- San Xavier Mexico Insurance, locations in Tucson and Nogales
Tip: You might encounter Border Patrol inspection stations on the way to the border. Slow down. Follow their directions. Chances are they will just wave you through.
Visiting Rocky Point isn't difficult, but it is different than visiting another U.S. city. Some people would warn you to never go to Rocky Point, because of the bad experience they had there. Please consider these tips when planning your Rocky Point vacation.
- Do not bring guns or ammunition into Mexico.
- Do not try to work in Mexico without the proper forms.
- Do not try to buy property in Mexico without the proper forms.
- If you will be driving outside of the free zone, you will also need a visa and a permit for your vehicle. If you'll be going anywhere other than Rocky Point, research this in advance.
- While in Rocky Point, secure your vehicle at all times. If you have a Club or similar device, use it.
- Keep your vehicle registration and Mexican insurance policy details with you, and not in the car.
- If you bring ATVs, jet skis, boats, or other recreational vehicles, be sure to bring the ownership documents with you.
- If you bring your dog, make sure you carry documents from your veterinarian evidencing rabies shots.
- Do not try to return to the U.S. with any wildlife, plants, fruit, coral, or fireworks.
- Keep receipts for items purchased. You may need them for Customs.
- Did I mention that you should not bring a gun into Mexico? I mean it. Don't do it.
- Don't break the law. Don't speed, don't use drugs, don't get in a fight, and (did I mention?) don't carry weapons. The Mexican judicial system is not like ours in the U.S. and it could be months before you ever get a trial. When you get your trial, don't expect a jury.
- Mexico is one of the top places to find Americans in jail, so take my advice: enjoy the beautiful beaches and the wonderful food and weather of Puerto Peñasco. But be a polite guest and don't get in any trouble.
- More safety tips for traveling in Mexico.
Rocky Point is the closest real beach to Phoenix, but if traveling across the border makes you nervous, or if you have had bad experiences in the past in Mexico, it takes only a couple of hours longer to drive to San Diego from Phoenix!
Old Port and New Construction
Old Port is the place for shopping, eating, and bars. If you aren't spending your time boating or swimming in the Sea of Cortez, or on the beach, or taking a nap, this is where you are likely to end up. Across the water, you can see all the new high-rise condos and resorts being built along the shore.
You'll see many references to Arizona while visiting Rocky Point. They know that many of the people who visit there are from Phoenix. Motels, convenience stores, and bars often use Arizona in their name.
Tip: July/August is probably the slowest tourist season because it is hot and humid. Spring Break is the busiest time.
Bring cash and your negotiating skills when you shop in the Old Port section. Many people hate negotiating, but it's part of the experience! Don't be rude if they don't agree to the price you offered. Just leave.
You don't need to learn Spanish to visit Rocky Point. Most menus are in both Spanish and English. Just about everyone speaks English. For example, if someone says "por favor" in Spanish, you can say "thank you" in English if you aren't comfortable pronouncing the word "gracias." They will recognize you as being polite, and that's what counts.
Spanish Words That You Should Know
- baño - restroom
- mujeres - women
- hombres - men
- alto - stop
- abierto - open
- cerrado - closed
- por favor - please
- gracias - thank you
- camarón - shrimp
- mariscos - seafood
- cerveza - beer
- cuenta - check or bill, in a restaurant
Tip: Businesses in Rocky Point all accept U.S. Dollars (USD), so there's no need to bring pesos. When you sign credit card slips, make sure it is clear on the slip whether the currency quoted is pesos (MXP or M$) or USD. Try to have the exact amount if you pay in cash so you don't get your change back in pesos.
How to Get Fresh Seafood
Water activities are very popular in Rocky Point. There's parasailing, jet skiing, boat rides, sunset cruises, and fishing charters. Don't forget, Rocky Point was and still is a fishing village. If you weren't brave enough to hire a charter boat to go out and get your own seafood for dinner, fresh seafood is for sale at the malecón (pier) in the Old Port part of Rocky Point. Bring an empty cooler with you to bring back fresh shrimp.
You'll be paying by the pound, so don't let them weigh the shrimp with ice. Understand that the scales used by some vendors might not be accurate. You'll just have to live with it unless you feel like carrying your own one pound standard in your pocket to test the scale. You might not be getting the bargain of the century, but you'll get some great shrimp.
Tip: Bring some freezer bags with you to make some smaller lots if you'll be freezing some of the seafood before you return to the U.S.
Enjoy the Mexican Food
Don't expect the food or service in Rocky Point to be the same as in the United States. Tacos aren't the same, beans aren't the same, desserts aren't the same. It's all a matter of expectations. Be a little adventurous and open-minded—the food is wonderful. Those of you that don't like your food spicy, don't worry. The food is pretty mild. Those of us who like it hot will use salsas and hot sauces to add an appropriate burn.
As for service, remember you are in Mexico when you are in Rocky Point and you are on vacation. Everything moves a bit slower in Mexico. Typically, a server won't bring you a check unless you ask for it because they don't want you to think they are rushing you. Relax.
Tip: You decide if the water is safe to drink or not. Order beer or wine, and you won't have to decide about the ice.
Visiting Sandy Beach
Sandy Beach is a public beach that has soft white sand. It's why most people go to Rocky Point. Even though it isn't the ocean, it serves the purpose!
In case you are wondering, Sandy Beach is not a topless beach.
You will come across vendors on Sandy Beach who will want to sell you beach junk, like jewelry and hats, or offer you services like boat rides or braiding your hair. If you don't want to be bothered, you are in the wrong place. Just give the vendor a firm "no thanks" and don't make eye contact. You'll be left alone until the next vendor approaches.
Tip: The sun and sand are hot and there's no shade available on Sandy Beach. Bring an umbrella or a canopy with you if you'll be spending a lot of time on the beach.
Roads and Speed Limits
All the roads from Phoenix all the way to Rocky Point are in good condition. A 4WD vehicle isn't necessary to make the trip. There are some roads like the one pictured here in the Cholla Bay area, and the neighborhood streets in some parts of Rocky Point aren't that great either. Still, if you go slowly, just about any vehicle will be fine.
And speaking of speeds, the speed limits in Mexico are s-l-o-w. Much like here, if you drive the speed limit, the locals will be bearing down on your back bumper. The dilemma, though, is that you aren't a local, and you don't want to be stopped for speeding in Rocky Point. Add to that the fact that there are times when you can drive for long stretches without seeing a speed limit sign. Use your judgment here.
Tip: Speeds in Mexico are in kilometers per hour, not miles per hour. Don't panic when you see that first speed limit sign. Look at your dashboard. Your speedometer not only indicates mph but also kph.