Located approximately 50 mi/80 km north of Ensenada, Rosarito is a small Mexican town on the Baja Peninsula.
Once a spring-break location for college students, Rosarito has recently transformed into a family destination. It offers reasonably priced hotels and a friendly, laid-back atmosphere.
In recent years, the growing arts community has attracted a wider clientele, but more cultured visitors haven't detracted from the town's kitschiness—Rosarito still offers a Las Vegas-style amusement park complete with a 70-ft/22-m statue of Jesus with his arms spread to the Pacific.
Back in the 1930s, Hollywood types and just plain folks began making the drive across the border at San Diego to Rosarito for a Mexico self-drive getaway, only 35 minutes south of the U.S. border.
They went for the sportfishing, surf and Mexican culture—especially the cuisine. Like many resort areas in Mexico, Rosarito has seen its ups and downs. When drug cartel violence in Tijuana escalated, nearby Rosarito suffered. U.S. travelers began thinking twice about visiting, and tourism figures plummeted. Now that Mexico's drug cartels have shifted their activities away from Tijuana, Rosarito is seeing more tourists return.
The beach is the main attraction in Rosarito, where popular activities include swimming, surfing, horseback riding and fishing off the Rosarito Beach Hotel's pier.
Adventurous foodies will want to explore the street-food scene in the town. One of the best open-air eateries is Tacos El Yaqui, only a few blocks from the hotel, where hungry locals and expats stand in line for tacos perrones, made from grilled beef.
A landmark restaurant in town is El Nido, which means the Nest in Spanish. The 30-table restaurant opened several decades ago and is still operated by the same owner, Guadalupe Perez. El Nido is linked to a farm, 15 minutes away, where deer, rabbit and quail are raised to eventually appear on the menu. The restaurant is cozy and rustic, with open fireplaces and lighting fixtures fashioned from cactus. The restaurant also serves its own wine, which is made from grapes grown on the nearby farm.
Additional attractions include the handicraft shops specializing in ceramics, tile, iron work and rustic furniture.
Also noteworthy is the town of Puerto Nuevo, a 10-minute drive south of Rosarito that is famous for its lobster grilled in the Mexican style.
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