Reader Travel Guide: Baja Norte

Get your Mexican car insurance, fill up the tank and head south – and don't worry about a two-hour border wait on the way back. We'll explain.

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  1. There's more to Calle Revolución – Tijuana's main drag – than zebra-painted donkeys. Park at the border and cab it for a couple standout lunch options: Caesar's, where they invented the Caesar salad and do it better than any you've had before (below), and the Mercado Municipal a couple blocks west for cheap, authentic street food (2nd story)
  2. And, if you're feeling frisky, stop in for a tasting at the only real tequila bar in these parts, Mama Tequila.
  3. Tijuana Times - Mexico
  4. (video of Revolución area)
  5. Returning to your car, your accommodations for the evening (assuming sobriety) are a 30-minute jaunt south down Mexico's Highway 1 toll road. Take the "Puerto Nuevo" exit south of Rosarito & K38 to reach Las Gaviotas (below), where 6-bedroom condos run $175 a night. A quality reef break's directly in front – hope you brought your board! There's a sandy beach for non-surfers.
  6. Or, up the road a few minutes is the town of Rosarito and the Rosarito Beach Hotel ($80 a night) with idyllic ocean views. For dinner, get in touch with your inner carnivore and check out El Nido
  7. Day 2: from here, the justifiably hyped "lobster town" of Puerto Nuevo is just 5-10 miles south and makes for a great – and reasonably priced – early lunch stop (noticing a food-tour theme here?) on your way further down Route 1 to Ensenada. 
  8. After a breathtaking cliffside drive along the Pacific, you arrive in the seafood capital of Ensenada. What to do? Check out the oldest bar in all of Mexico (where they invented the margarita), Hussong's, and one of the proclaimed best street-food carts in the world, Mariscos la Guerrerense (story above). Stroll the malecón (below) and sample fish tacos at the fish market.  
  9. Now what? Choose from the tranquil town's hotel options like Hotel Coral & Marina (below) and save your energy for tomorrow's wine tasting adventure. An early AM sportfishing charter's also an option. Or, follow the Ruta del Vino back home this afternoon by way of the Tecate border crossing (1.5 hours away) – where wait times are minimal. 

    (TIP: some Ensenada and Baja hotels also offer Tijuana border "fast passes" to their guests. Google for more info.)
  10. Day 3: Baja's unheralded wine country – still something of a well-kept secret – starts just a 20-minute drive north and inland from Ensenada, so it's a perfect way to close out your trip on the drive home. Sample top-notch Petit Verdot at Bodegas Marilena (below)

    (TIP: You're allowed to bring two bottles per person back into the U.S.)
  11. Driving up through the Guadalupe Valley, it's just an hour from the end of the wine route to the Tecate border. Have time for one last stop? Park for laid-back Tecate's best tacos at Los Amigos.
  12. Like this Reader Travel guide? Check out our guides on L.A. and Palm Springs & Joshua Tree
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