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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Mexico’s Rocky Point: A fall break destination

The beach at Rocky Point — Puerto Peñasco in Sonora, Mexico. Courtesy of OH PARTNERS.

I hadn’t been to Rocky Point in more than 20 years, when the roads were rough and resorts were sparse. Today, the popular vacation destination offers ample oceanfront vacation options, and the beaches are amazing — clean, walkable stretches of sand, warm gentle water, active tide pools.

I have friends who regularly take their kids to Rocky Point — technically Puerto Peñasco in Sonora — so it was something I’d already been considering when I was offered a chance to visit Mexico’s sunny beaches as part of a freelance press trip. The Puerto Peñasco Convention and Visitors Bureau calls this “Arizona’s Beach,” because it’s a relatively quick 3.5-hour drive from Phoenix, compared to six or more hours to California’s beaches.

It’s a great way to expose the kids to the sights, sounds and tastes of another country, without the expense or time involved in an overseas trip. English is spoken everywhere, so non-Spanish speakers should have no problem. However, if you are willing to try speaking Spanish, the effort is appreciated. And if your children are studying Spanish, this is a great opportunity for them to practice their language skills.

Fall break is an ideal time to visit, because you’ll avoid the crazy spring-breakers and experience warm, calm water, and lower off-season resort prices. But there are things you must know before you go.

Passports, insurance

Two things you’ll need before you hit the road are passports (or passport cards) for every member of the family and Mexican car insurance. If you’re like me and can’t find your passport, or if you discover it’s expired, you’re in luck. Tucson is home to a passport center where you can obtain a passport within days (or even on the same day, if you can show proof that your itinerary requires such speedy service).

Also, make sure you purchase Mexican car insurance before leaving the U.S., because American insurance won’t cover you if you’re in a car accident in Mexico. The easiest way to do this is online with AAA. You can also check with your own auto insurance company, or purchase it in a town near the border. You should also check with your cell phone carrier to make sure your cell phone will work in Mexico without exorbitant roaming fees.

Safety

The U.S. State Department’s travel website does urge caution in Sonora (a known drug- and human-trafficking area) and asks that U.S. citizens use the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora border crossing and limit driving to daylight hours. You can also register your trip with the U.S. Embassy in Mexico via the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

Some friends I know caravan to Rocky Point, citing safety in numbers. My main safety concern was that I would get pulled over for a traffic violation. I was very careful to obey the speed limits and to come to a complete stop at all stop signs. (I actually went the wrong way down a one-way street right in front of a police officer, but not even then did I get pulled over!)

I know people who have been cited for traffic violations in Sonora; they advise keeping $50 in your wallet and the rest of your cash elsewhere, so you can pay the fee without worrying you will be asked for more than $50.

Resorts and dining

If you’re traveling with small children, a swimming pool is always a plus. I stayed at Las Palomas Beach & Golf Resort. Picture modern, clean condo buildings with expansive balconies, amazing views and a swimming pool with a lazy river and swim-up bar. Something for everyone! Plus, the property is located right on the beach. The overall feeling is clean, well-lit, safe and beautiful.

Las Palomas also has a great breakfast buffet with a wide selection of food that will appeal to even the pickiest of little eaters.

I recommend enjoying the blue shrimp Rocky Point is known for. Shrimp season kicks off in September, so fall break is the perfect time to enjoy it. You might even head straight to longtime Rocky Point landmark El Capitan and request a table on the deck overlooking the sea. The best lunch I had on the trip was at the beachfront Sonoran Sky Resort, which I have heard is another a great place to stay. Their crispy fish tacos, thick chips, chunky guacamole and refreshing horchata were perfection.

Finally, no trip to Mexico is complete without buying a mango on a stick from a beach vendor’s cart. It will be peeled and carved into a flower while you wait, then doused with fresh lime juice and sprinkled with chili lime powder. Snap a pic, post it on Facebook, and tell your friends you are enjoying #arizonasbeach.

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Elaina Verhoff

Elaina Verhoff is a Phoenix freelance writer and the mother of Riley (13) and Lily (11). Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @elainaverhoff.

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