For beach bunnies, water sport enthusiasts and animal encounter fans, Puerto Peñasco, Sonora (a.k.a. Rocky Point) overlooking the Sea of Cortez, is the beach destination you’re going to want to add to your bucket list. Just a few hours from the Mexican border, Puerto Peñasco is an ideal weekend destination for visitors from the US – here are the top nine things to see and do while you’re there.
It’s not for nothing that Puerto Peñasco is sometimes known as ‘Arizona Beach’. After all, it’s the closest beach town to Arizona and is blessed with some of Northern Mexico’s most delightful stretches of coastline. Playa Arenosa is enjoying a moment right now, but you should also check out Las Conchas when in Rocky Point.
Those beaches aren’t just for lounging on though (although we definitely recommend doing that). In fact, you can and should also dedicate a few hours to doing some snorkelling in the Sea of Cortez, although do keep your eyes peeled for manta rays. While it might not rival the Mexican Caribbean’s snorkelling opportunities, you’ll still be able to ogle some tropical fish. Rent your equipment on the beach.
If you don’t fancy sticking your head under the water in Puerto Peñasco, try your balance (and your patience) with a spot of paddleboarding. Again, you can easily rent your equipment on the beach and even sign up for a class or two if you’re a total newbie to this core-building and deceptively challenging water sport.
Animal lovers should jump at the chance to take a whale watching tour when in Puerto Peñasco, as the opportunity for grey whale spotting is huge from the month of February through to roughly mid-May. There are numerous companies which offer tours to see these majestic creatures, but do shop around to get a good deal and go with an ethically reputable company.
CEDO (the Intercultural Centre for the Study of Deserts and Oceans) is a must-visit when in Puerto Peñasco. As well as running eco-friendly summer camps and programmes, they also offer incredible ecotours focusing on the ocean and desert, during which the knowledgeable and bilingual guides will teach you about the environment of the Gulf of California.
Driving through town in an ATV is far from an uncommon sight in Puerto Peñasco, and there are numerous rentals which will loan you a speedy little buggy for the duration of your stay. While these ATVs can be fun to drive downtown, you should also take advantage and have some off-road fun too.
Mexico is a surprisingly diverse country as far as birds go, and there are plenty of prime birding spots the length and breadth of the country, including Puerto Peñasco which has its fair share of winged animals. For peak birding in the area, head to the Estero de Morua or the Isla San Jorge (which is also known as Bird Island) and keep your eyes peeled for everything from herons to boobies while you’re there – you might even spot dolphins and whales on your way to Isla San Jorge too.
As well as having some great wildlife, Puerto Peñasco also has some world class golf courses, so you could easily buy a day pass and enjoy a relaxing day of golfing while on vacation there. One of Puerto Peñasco’s best golf courses is the 18-hole, 72-par course at Las Palomas, although you can’t miss out on the chance to play the Jack Nicklaus designed course over at the Mayan Palace either.
For a relatively small beach destination in Northern Mexico, you might be surprised to learn that Puerto Peñasco is also home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the form of El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve. Made up of huge shifting dune fields (the largest in North America), as well as volcanic craters, checking out El Pinacate is easily one of the best things to do in Puerto Peñasco.