Did you know that Arizona has a beach? I’ve always said that Phoenix was the perfect place to live except that we don’t have an ocean view! But now we do: Arizona’s Beach is Rocky Point, Mexico and the Sea of Cortez! The road to Rocky Point is long and weary for many (about a four-hour drive from Phoenix). However, each year we make our annual trek across the border from Phoenix, Arizona to Puerto Penasco, better known as “Rocky Point, Mexico” by most Phoenicians, or “Arizona’s beach.”
You guys know that I am kidding about calling it that, but honestly, it really is an easy trip for most Phoenicians, even southern California’s go here quite often as well. They have about a five and a half hour drive to get here. Really it is an easy jaunt from both states, but the differences between Rocky Point, Mexico, and Phoenix, Arizona or Southern California are worlds apart. So let’s explore!
Rocky Point, Mexico: Arizona Mexico Border
What is most apparent in the beginning of a road trip to Arizona’s beach is the landscape changes. There is more open road and fewer people. Then the towns begin to shrink and they become seedier and dirtier. However, we don’t care, we go anyway because we love Rocky Point, Mexico!
Stop in Ajo, Arizona for a Photo Op
Each time we get closer to the Arizona Mexico border, we always stop for a photo opportunity at the blindingly white church in the desert town of Ajo, right before the border. We do this even if is a quick, rolling stop, and everyone in the family knows why and what we are doing.
Some twenty years ago, we got out and took an amazing photo of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Ajo, Arizona. We then had Ortiz Villa de Moro, an artist that is long since gone from Santiago, Chile’s art scene, create us a masterpiece of this very church. It hangs with pride over my mantle above the fireplace.
I even remember him making a sketch and faxing it over to see if I liked it! It was such an honor to have him paint it; I am even shocked to this day that he could be so personable to a stranger who admired his work. I thought artists were more finicky than that. Either you love their work or you don’t. Today some of his paintings go for the upwards of over $1000, so I am honored to own a few…
Kudos to my husband who took the photograph of the Villa de Moro painting in our great room, as I am in Italy **** at the moment writing this piece about Mexico. When I return, I will try to take another photograph of it that has better lighting, but in the meantime, thanks to my rockstar husband, Dr. Patrick A. Maloney!
In the meantime, if you do get a chance to go to Ajo, might as well read about the Sonoran Desert Inn from my good friend and fellow blogger Andi who has stayed there!
Once You Arrive at the Arizona Beach: Rocky Point Beach!
What to do in Rocky Point, Mexico:
As soon as we arrive, we always make a beeline for the ocean. That is the one thing we don’t have here in Arizona, so we always want to see the ocean first! And even though I call it Arizona’s Beach, really it is a Rocky Point Beach. The Sea of Cortez shines brightly back at us, gleaming spots are coming off the water, blinding our eyes with the pelicans and birds swarming the sides of the beach.
Go down to the curve
We make our way all the way to the ocean at an area called “the curve” to our favorite spot for a lunch. It has been about a four-hour drive. It is the perfect time to have a little seafood lunch. The fish are always fresh here and prepared in such an interesting way: grilled with the head and tail still on! But what I really love are the margaritas, the pico de gallo (with chips), and the handmade tortillas! My husband always wants a cold Pacifico with a lime, and the kiddos want ice cold orange Fanta’s bottled in Mexico, so we place our orders!
I order the shrimp and always get a kick out of reading the menus that have been translated into English. Today I will have Butter Garlic Shrimp: “Coocked” w/ butter, garlic, and white wine! At least this time, I don’t spy shrimpS, as I usually do on a Mexican menu! But I do spot the “coocked” versus cooked mistake and we all have a laugh!
Time to Shop for Souvenirs along the Curve
After lunch, we went for our usual stroll of shopping for nick-nacks of all things Mexican related. Shopping really for nothing, but enjoying with pleasure all the handcrafted items that we see. One thing is for sure, the sights are colorful, but it is scorching hot outside, which shortens our time shopping! (I did notice that the quality of many of the products here is not the same as you get when you are at a more mainstream Mexican coastal resort or a larger metropolitan Mexican city area, just so you are aware.)
When Is the Best Time to Go?
It doesn’t take long for drops of sweat to roll down our necks and soon enough we are ready to find our rented apartment/condo in Bella Serena. It is best to go to Rocky Point from October to February, as the weather will cooperate with you a much better. We are here in August and should know better since we are from Phoenix. It seems whatever weather we have in Phoenix, they have the same weather here in Rocky Point and right now it is hot!
Where to Stay?
We stayed at Bella Serena on this trip and booked it on Travelocity, although there are quite a few local Rocky Point websites that offer private homes that are beachfront or close to it. For years, we always stayed in the private enclave of Las Conchas and I continue to recommend it. It is a private gated community of mostly beachfront property and million dollar homes. I still love it there to this day! And if you stay in a home and need information on buying groceries for the house, read here. I give you my best tips on what to buy and prepare you for what you might find in a grocery store in Mexico.
Time to Jump into the Sea of Cortez at Rocky Point Beach
Once we have located our digs, the first thing the kids want to do is go down to the Sea of Cortez. Being water babies in the desert is a curse, as we never can get enough ocean time.
Sea of Cortez
The cap/hat salesmen walking to always remind me of the book I used to read to my kids:
Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business
Time to Relax at Rocky Point Beach on the Sea of Cortez
Once we are all “sunned” and “beached” out, we head to the room for some R & R.
Well, I thought we were going to Relax!
The boys, by now, are wanting to go out and pop the firecrackers that they bought at the local stores and so off we go into the night, because one thing I know about teenage boys, they like fire.
Rocky Point Mexico is a mixed bag
Mexico is such a mix of good and bad, yet it wears this on its sleeve. It is so blatantly obvious that its people and its culture are vibrant and warm, yet its people struggle with day to day life in many ways.
Buildings are blown out in Rocky Point and trash is strewn about downtown. When we (Americans) get hit with bad economic times, they get hit a hundred times worse. I honestly don’t know how they do it.
But the people are strong and I can see that they are proud and resilient. You would think that we would eventually tire of this place with all the dirt and trash and now expensive meals (it used to be cheap to go to Mexico!), but I have to tell you, Rocky Point always brings us back.
Get Street Tacos Along the Route
And one more thing:
The best street tacos are along the route to Rocky Point, Mexico from Phoenix!!
Carne asada on flour or corn tortillas with pico de gallo and cabbage. We all stand there, our mouths’ watering, waiting for the next bite. At only a buck apiece, we could hang out here for a little while, but instead, we grab it to go. We pile back into the car for the four-hour road trip home.
Thanks, Rocky Point Mexico for all that you are, we can truly say as a family!
“We love you!”
- Where: Puerto Penasco, otherwise known as Rocky Point, Mexico or Arizona’s Beach
- How to get there: Take I-10 West out of Phoenix to State Highway 85 South. Follow 85 through Gila Bend, Ajo and Why until you reach the Arizona-Mexico Border. From there, stay on the same road and watch for signs to Puerto Penasco. Drive time: Approx. 4 hours
- Cost: I would say to start for a family of four, accommodation is $150/night and up
- Amenities: It is pretty rugged and off the beaten path, so don’t expect too much glitz and glamour, this is, after all, Mexico and it is by no means a high-end resort town, but it is guaranteed that you will have good food and a lot of fun!
Here are a few other articles I have written about Mexico:
****The fact that I am writing a post about Mexico while in Italy is not lost on me, I realize it is quite the contrast, but a traveler’s work is never done. Thus the work in a peculiar way, sitting on my terrace overlooking Genoa with my laptop writing about Mexico is such a treat!