So much to do in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico

If you missed my last post covering our drive and arrival at Puerto Peñasco, click here.  In this segment I’ll try to encapsulate what we did during our nine days south of the border, without running too long.

Puerto Penasco, Mexico
A look at Playa Bonita from The Point Restaurant

Our destination was located where the Sonoran desert meets the Sea of Cortez, 65 miles south of the U.S./Mexican border at Lukeville, AZ.  The name Puerto Peñasco derives from 19th century maps drafted by Lieutenant William Hardy, who visited the region to scout for potential pearl fisheries.  Lt. Hardy dubbed the area “Rocky Point”, after the prominent rocky basaltic headland that pinpoints the town today.

Rocky Point, Mexico

The spot later became known in Spanish as Puerto Peñasco or “Rocky Port”, as the estuary at the base of the mountain gave natural refuge to mariners.  It’s also known as Rocky Point or “Arizona Beach”, since many tourists visiting here for fishing, beach bumming and partying travel from Arizona just across the border.

Rocky Point, Mexico

It is also located in an arid desert environment, which means lots of sand – not only on the beaches but everywhere as far as the eye can see!

Puerto Penasco, Mexico
Sand, sand everywhere!

First on our agenda the day after we arrived was a car caravan to tour the town.  With our event hosts leading and a map of the downtown area in hand, we learned where to shop, eat, and souvenir shop, and the best places to buy the incredible fresh seafood here.

Puerto Penasco, Mexico
Pineapple/coconut truck or PinaColada Truck

We also learned the traffic rules – “topes” are speed bumps, “alto” is stop, and above all don’t speed through town!  Of course, the locals had no trouble spotting us gringos as they sped by and ignored all signs.  But hey, it’s their country!  After the tour we were comfortable driving around town to get groceries and eat at the many wonderful restaurants.

Old Port, Rocky Point, Mexico
The Shrimp Man sculpture at the Old Port

Between potlucks, happy hours and group meals, we definitely satisfied the main goal of this event – meeting new friends – 67 of them!  It was fun throwing together spur-of-the-moment carpools so everyone could do their favorite activities together.  In short, the caravan allowed us to socialize to the max during our first-ever driving foray into Mexico.

Winnebago Outdoor Adventures
Close the street – now this is what you call a block party!
RVng in Puerto Penasco
Steve talking with our new friends Bob and Dee Dee from Washington state
Winnebago Outdoor Adventures
Just another big happy hour
Chicken Dance
Let’s do the chicken dance!

We had lots of free time and many activities to enjoy under the sun.  During the day everyone did their own thing; golfing, 4-wheeling in the sand dunes, fishing, whale watching, souvenir shopping, trips to the local Tequila Factory or just lazing around the RV’s or on the beach.

Playa Bonita
Enjoying sunsets with friends
Playa Bonita
Kite Playing
Puesta del Sol Restaurant
Entertainment after dinner

As for us, I checked out the El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, known for its unique physical and biological characteristics.  The 1.7 million acre site comprises two distinct parts: the dormant volcanic Pinacate Shield of black and red lava flows and desert pavements to the east, and in the west the Gran Altar Desert – the largest active dune field in North America.  This area was declared a Biosphere Reserve in 1993.

Picos del Pinacate)
The Pinacate Peaks (Picos del Pinacate), a group of volcanic peaks and cinder cones
El Pinacate Trail
Walking on lava fields
Desert Iguana
Desert Iguana grabbing a snack
Gran Desierto de Altar
Dune fields in the distance

We visited the Intercultural Center for the Study of Deserts and Oceans (CEDO), where we learned about the Gulf of California’s extreme tides, the endangered Vaquita Porpoise and CEDO’s current projects.  CEDO’s campus is outlined by an elegant sinuous wall and entry gate sculpture designed by artist Joseph P. McShane.  The main edifice is constructed in the Greek Monastic architectural style with an open patio courtyard and a balcony overlooking the Sea of Cortez.


Puerto Penasco, Mexico
The skeleton of a 55′ Fin Whale that beached in the area
Puerto Penasco, Mexico
Steve tried to be helpful and pointed  Puerto Penasco on the map
Endangered Totoaba
Now endangered, the Totoabas depends on the brackish water in the delta of the Colorado River to reproduce.  Ugly!

Having an excellent burrito or tamale for breakfast in the mornings and margarita in the afternoons gave us strong impetus to walk 4-5 miles along the beach every day!

Playa Bonita, Puerto Penasco, Mexico
Picking up a burrito for breakfast

Puerto Penasco, Mexico

Puerto Penasco, Mexico

We learned immediately upon arrival that a large group of mexican workers were available to perform many services on RV’s and cars.  Everything from wash/wax to body/paint, and even interior cleaning.  And these guys are good!  Steve knows body and paint work, and he was impressed by what he saw.  We had Betsy’s wheels polished and the car washed/waxed for $60!  They did a great job and we wished we had gotten in line in time to get some minor paint work done.

One other highlight here was meeting up with friends Rick and Joanne.  They were with a group of 60 rigs from the Escapees club that overlapped with our trip.  We had a great time catching up with them.

Point Restaurant, Puerto Penasco, Mexico
Food and drinks with Rick and Joanne at The Point Restaurant
Sandy Beach, Puerto Penasco, Mexico
Those rigs off to the distant left are the Escapees group

When in Mexico it’s expected that Mariachi bands will come to serenade you while you’re dining in a restaurant, or if you’re at the Old Port locals will flag you down to get your attention and business.  We observed that once we said “No, Gracias”, they didn’t continue to bother us.  At our campground, vendors selling their crafts were limited to the beach area and not allowed inside the park.  Some were vetted by our event hosts so we knew who to buy from and were able to bargain with them.  We knew these talented folks were working very hard and we didn’t try to “lowball” them.

Playa Bonita, Puerto Penasco, Mexico
I love these colorful tables, but somebody in the household says no place in the rig to store it 😦
Playa Bonita, Puerto Penasco, Mexico
Showing off their wares

Puerto Peñasco is known for its fresh seafood, and on our last day we met up with friends Bob and Dee Dee to go downtown and bargain.  Steve got carried away and bought 10 lbs. of gorgeous shrimp, 3 lbs. of scallops and 5 lbs. of grouper – all for $100!  Needless to say our freezer will be full for a while.

Old Port, Puerto Penasco, Mexico
Steve is Mr. Fish’s new BFF!

This was our first caravan trip and first RV exploration into Mexico.  We felt safe and secure during our entire stay.  We didn’t mind being intimately parked next to our neighbors – that’s just the way they do it here.  The knowledge and experience of our excellent hosts Jerry and Sue and Paul and Kathy helped allay any concerns we may have had about crossing the border.  In fact, we would gladly do it again with some of our RV buddies – any takers?

Winnebago Outdoor Adventures
Our incredibly talented and friendly hosts (Sue, Paul, Kathy and Jerry)

The sunsets, great food, clean beaches and camaraderie made our stay terrific and memorable.

Playa Bonita
Spectacular sunrises…
Playa Bonita
…and sunsets
Betsy's dawn departure
Betsy’s dawn departure




  1. I spent a week there years ago with some guy friends after renting a place there. We will be out west next winter and may just have to take a trip down there for old times sake… well that and the fresh seafood for those prices!

  2. Sounds like you had a great time, I’m sure it won’t be the last. You will love the organ pipes NM, i hope the ranger talk is on while you are there

  3. The light is just how I remember it being in PP! And the vendors on the beach, and the serenading tableside while dining at night! Brought back very fond memories! Robin now in NC

  4. What an awesome nine days. You have Paul all excited. If you do go back, please keep us in mind. We have no idea what we would have to take or not allowed to take. We do have passports.

  5. So glad to read about your positive experience in Mexico:) Nice to see there were plenty of activities for everyone. That seafood purchase alone would have been worth the trip. Now I think you need to return to Tucson so we can test that seafood for you:) Great timing that Rick and Joanne were also right there and you got to catch up.

  6. Beautiful! I love Mexico! I’m glad you got to go there. If you ever get a chance go to Sayulita near Puerto Vallerta. Lots of American’s and Canadians live there. It is really cute surfing town. My husband goes there every winter. There are RV parks on the beach. It is tropical with lots of coconut trees and jungle.

  7. LOL at a Dawn Departure. Not if David is driving. Your sunset pictures are exquisite. I’d love to have that view. Really great job of covering what looks like 9 days of fun in one post. I can barely do one day. I love the things you picked to explore. Right down my alley too. The CDEO complex looks beautiful from what I could see through its lovely entrance. Wish you had been standing next to that enormous whale. I just can’t imagine a creature that big. Also wish I could volunteer my services to help you with that seafood.

  8. The pictures of the beach are so pretty. The breakfast burrito on the beach and pina colada get my vote!

    Glad you are back safely in the states…

  9. So surprised to see that you’re camping in Gila Bend at the same park as us! We’ve been following you for years… have fun!

  10. Dave was drooling over the fresh fish. Glad to see you enjoyed the caravan trip, might be the way to go one of these days.

  11. Looks like you had a great time in Mexico. We’ve always enjoyed our holidays in Mexico, but have yet to make it down there in the motorhome … maybe in a couple of years when we finally hit Arizona.

  12. Looks like you had a blast, and enjoyed such a great variety of activities! We would love to caravan with a group of friends to Mexico. Especially if we can find some good birding locales. 🙂 We’re going to be stocking up on seafood before we leave Florida at the end of March. I miss the Gulf seafood when we’re away from here. So nice that your freezer is full of shrimp, scallops, and grouper — it doesn’t sound like too much to me at all, haha!

  13. Fun, fun, fun. And your lit up face tells it so. It’s like having a RV “vacation”… with like minded people to do it with.
    It’s cold where I’m at, and could totally feel the warmth of those desert images. And of course, I love those blazing colors of the sky.

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