NAME: Jen Kramer TOWN: Rosarito HOW LONG: One and a half years OCCUPATION: Marketing Director for Discover Baja BIO: As the daughter of Hugh and Carol, I grew up traveling to Baja from the time I was an infant. Most of my favorite childhood memories are from traveling around Baja in our VW camper with the Kingston Trio playing in the background and a sense of adventure in the air. That spirit and love for Baja never left me, even in the decade that I spent in New York City working in the fashion industry. Now, as the marketing director for Discover Baja, I have the privilege of getting to experience the best of Baja for a living. In my free time, I also write www.bajatheothercalifornia.com, a blog about some of my favorite places to eat, drink and explore in northern Baja.
Best activities to enjoy in Rosarito? Rosarito has a little something for everyone – beach goers, surfers, foodies, golfers, explorers. They just sunk a ship to operate as a new underwater dive park, and the Coronado Islands (just a few miles off the coast) are a haven for divers and fishermen. K38 and Baja Malibu are great spots for surfing. Baja Mar and Real del Mar are popular for golfing. You can enjoy an easy day trip up to Tijuana or down to Ensenada, as well as the Valle de Guadalupe for wine tasting.
If you had to describe Rosarito in three words, what would they be? Perfect weekend escape
Any good street food (taco stands, food carts, etc)? There are lots of good taco stands along the main street in town, Benito Juarez. One of the most popular taco stands, Tacos el Yaqui, serves arrachera tacos just a few blocks off of Benito Juarez. Tito’s Mariscos (up across from the Comercial Mexicana) is probably my favorite because you can get giant, delicious fish tacos for under a dollar apiece. One taco is a full meal in itself. If you’re looking for something a little different, El Gaucho Argentino is a great little Argentinian place with steak sandwiches and empanadas. It used to be a streetcart and recently moved into a little restaurant space.
Favorite sit-down restaurants? The Perez family owns many of the traditional Mexican restaurants in town and I love all of them. My family has been frequenting them for decades. They all feature a wonderfully authentic setting with wood and cactus decor, candle lighting and a lady making homemade tortillas in the corner. El Nido was started by the oldest sibling and is a classic right in town, Los Pelicanos has a lovely spot right on the beach, La Estancia has great steaks (and margaritas), and my favorite of the bunch is Tapanco. You can’t go to Rosarito without going to at least one of these restaurants. Carnitas la flor de Michoacan is a famous local’s spot for carnitas and Betuccini’s is delicious Italian with homemade pastas and pizzas in a charming setting. Just south of town down at the famous surf spot K38, Calypso Baja restaurant (the same Calypso that used to be up in Leucadia in northern San Diego for decades) is some of the best food in Rosarito with a great outdoor space as well.
What are some of the best hotels in the area? The Rosarito Beach Hotel is a classic that celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne and Gregory Peck frequented in their day. There are also plenty of condo rentals around town where you can stay in a luxury condo right on the beach and enjoy nice amenities as well.
What are the best beaches to visit in Rosarito? One of the main attractions of Rosarito is the beach. The beach along the main part of town is large and beautiful and offers lots of activities to enjoy such as ATVs, horseback riding, surfing and ultralight airplanes. If you’re looking for a more peaceful experience, there’s a gorgeous beach north of town right across from the Baja California Convention Center that is absolutely breathtaking and minus all of the crowds from town.
Any popular nightlife or entertainment? Rosarito used to be known as a popular spring break spot with clubs and bars crawling with college students partying all night long. But the city has grown up a lot over the past few years. While there’s still a small party scene at places like Papas & Beer and Iggy’s, there are lots of quality restaurants and nicer bars that offer a more adult Rosarito experience. Extremely talented artists, like the guitarist Miguel de Hoyos and the musician Quino McWhinney from Big Mountain, play live music at hotels and restaurants around town with no cover to get in. It’s always a casual and intimate experience.
Annual events that are worth making a trip to Rosarito for? The Rosarito Art Fest at the beginning of every summer is a personal favorite. Rosarito just had it’s first beer fest with tons of local Baja craft beers, food and live music which was really fun and hopefully an event that will be happening again in the future. Puerto Nuevo has a lobster fest each fall to kick off lobster season.
Are there internet cafes or wifi spots in town? Most of the major hotels and restaurants have wifi and many of the restaurants will give you their wifi password if you just ask for it.
Things people shouldn’t visit Rosarito without seeing or doing? You have to go to Puerto Nuevo for lobster (it’s fried and served with rice, beans and tortillas – delicious!). If you love seafood, check out Popotla, just south of Baja Studios (where they filmed Titanic – unfortunately the studio is no longer open for studio tours as it was in the past). It’s a grungy little fishing village, but you can walk along the beach to see the fresh catches of the day and stop into any of the little restaurants to have them serve you up fresh seafood. Have a drink at the Rosarito Beach Hotel (I prefer the Beachcomber Bar at sunset time where you can enjoy views overlooking the beach and pier). If you have an extra day, you’re only an hour and a half or so from the Valle de Guadalupe wine region if you want to get in some wine tasting.
Insider tip about visiting Rosarito? One of the best wineries in Baja isn’t in the Valle de Guadalupe – it’s in Rosarito. If you love wine, don’t go to Rosarito without visiting Claudius Winery. They even have wine class they offer on weekends over the course of a few months if you’re a true oenophile. At the end of the class, you’ll have made 300 bottle of your own wine! (www.claudiusvino.com) Also, if you love a good bargain, there’s a Cinépolis movie theater in the large Pabellón on the north side of town where you can go see a movie for under $3 a ticket. Just make sure that you’re looking for movies with “SUB” behind the title so that you’re getting a movie in English (with Spanish subtitles).
What’s the best time of year to visit? Because the weather is so temperate, it’s pleasant to visit all year long. The beaches get very crowded on the weekends during the summer and, because it’s on the coast, Rosarito gets “May Gray” and “June Gloom” the same way that San Diego does. Early fall is my favorite time of year because there are fewer crowds and the weather is perfect.
Any good shopping? There’s a little open-air market with stalls on the main street in town, Benito Juarez, where you can find typical Mexican souvenirs like blankets, knick knacks, art and jewelry. As you’re heading out of town to the south on the free road, there’s a mile or so of curios shops and artisans making beautiful ironwork and wood furniture. Calimax and Comercial Mexicana are great for picking up groceries. Baja Produce is a cute little shop with lots of local produce, cheeses and artisan snacks. If you enjoy buying art, there’s a great artist scene in Rosarito with lots of talented local artists.
The best “local spot” in town? There’s a large community of ex-pats living in Rosarito, so there are a number of gringo hangouts. Renee’s Sports Bar and Splash restaurant are two popular ones. The invite-only Mi Casa Supper Club, recently opened a new restaurant space that’s now open to the public so that even visitors can stop by to enjoy drinks and appetizers.
You’re favorite thing about living in Rosarito? It’s so incredible to be so close to the U.S. but to be able to experience such a different culture. The food is amazingly delicious and incredibly cheap, the beaches and countrysides are lovely, and the people are welcoming and genuine. Rosarito has such a great location. You’re close to Tijuana, Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe and in just an hour, you can go from San Diego to this wonderful little Mexican town on the beach. It feels like magically transporting to a completely different world.
For more on Rosarito, visit the Discover Baja Rosarito Page!