Be sure to check out the San Felipe Calendar of Events for a list of upcoming things to do.
The prime reason that most people come to San Felipe is to relax. Bring plenty of good books with you and put your feet up. A small library can be found on Calzada Chetumal near the electricity plant but you will not be able to take books out unless you go through a lengthy application process and get a local guarantor.
If you want something more active, stop in at the tourist office which has now relocated to the very center of town by our single traffic light, or call them from any telephone by dialing (686) 577-1155. They can tell you how to go on a fishing trip, visit the valley of the giant cacti, or possibly take a trip out into the desert to see the springs and waterfalls. If water sports are your fancy, bring your Kayak, SeaDoo or Pedal Boat.
Many people rent a quad for a few hours and ride it up and down the beaches. Since 2007, riding motorized vehicles on the beach has been illegal, but you will see the law routinely flouted. A better option is to ride out in the desert towards the airport. However, be careful not to run over old ocotillo branches as the spikes will definitely give you a puncture.
Various sporting events, such as Hobie Cat regattas, triathlons, desert bike races and, of course, the famous Baja 250 off-road races, are held and there are several local colorful pageants, which are staged for major Mexican fiesta days. Check our Calendar for upcoming events.
If you tow a boat down you can use the free launch ramp at the harbor which is a mile south of town. This facility was constructed for all to use (military and civilian). Do not confuse the free ramp with the Fonatur ramp near the new docks – they charge for that.
Jet skis and small sailboats can easily be launched from the beach if you are staying in a beachfront hotel or condo. Just watch for the very big tidal swings during the full and new moons. Many people have left their tow truck on the beach and found it under water when they returned a few hours later. Use our tide charts to schedule your fun according to the tides. Kite-surfing and windsurfing is also popular during the winter months (when it is windy). See here for additional details..>>
There is no crane launch facility in San Felipe so lowering a large boat into the water is not possible. You would have to go over to Puerto Penasco for such a service, or launch in San Diego and sail round the tip of the peninsular. One day, many years from now, the Mexican government’s plan for an Escalera Nautica (a “nautical ladder”) envisions boat harbors located all along the coastline of Baja California – each about 1 day’s sail from the next one. Unfortunately, the economics of this plan assume that around 80,000 boats will be in these new ports. That represents virtually all of the ocean-capable boats in all the harbors between San Diego and the Canadian border. It is now even more unrealistic as a result of the great recession that took hold in 2008.
A pleasant day trip for any vehicle is to drive down to Puertecitos, 50 miles south of San Felipe. The road is paved and in excellent condition. Puertecitos is a small American retirement community that has arisen around the hot, sulfurous, geothermal springs on the rocky shore there. Unless the tide is high, the spring’s water will generally be too hot to sit in, but you can test it with your feet; it is very relaxing. Again, you can check our tide tables to see when is the best time to visit. Though a new Pemex gas station has gone in, it is not yet open. The restaurant there typically opens on weekends. A nominal entrance fee is charged to enter the tourist section of Puertecitos.
If you enjoy scuba diving, you will want to go south of Puertecitos where there are rocky shores and the water is clear. In the San Felipe area, the water is generally turbid because of the silty/sandy bottom near shore. There are no cylinder filling facilities in San Felipe.
The road south of Puertecitos is excellent to past El Huerfanito and “Okie’s Landing” and is paved all the way to Rancho Grande (almost reaching Bahia San Luis Gonzaga) as of January 2012. After Gonzaga Bay, a passenger car with high clearance can still go on to Laguna Chapala, where you join up with the main highway down the peninsula to Cabo San Lucas. You should travel very slowly, tire damage by sharp rocks in the road is the main hazard. Be on the alert when approaching wide RVs.
If you feel as though you are retired, or soon might be, you should stop in at the San Felipe Association of Retired Persons (SFARP) and have a pleasant morning, meeting 50 or so active residents of the community who will be delighted to talk to you about life here. This group of people can offer a wealth of information about touring and living in the region. They get together the first and third Wednesdays of the month (October through May) at 10 a.m. (a.m. American time – you can be up to 10 minutes late) currently at the Ocotillo Lodge. There is a $2 per person charge to cover coffee and expenses. Check the Civic Groups page for more info and other groups you can join and take part in.
There are miles of pristine beaches to stroll on, but take a sweater (October through March) in case the wind comes up. A delightful walk south from town takes you past the El Cortez and the Las Misiones Hotel as well as several small campgrounds. At the El Cortez, you should check out the Barefoot Bar on the beach. It has a Hemmingway-era atmosphere with equipales tables and chairs and is a great place to stop for a drink on a winter afternoon. Look for a photograph on the El Cortez web page. Proceed across the harbor, where the shrimp fleet used to be housed (the big black boats you see there now are just floating relics that were repossessed by the bank), to the San Felipe Marina Resort. Head for the thatched roof building – the palapa – where you can enjoy a delicious breakfast or lunch and have an incredible view for around $10-20.
Mexican Time: San Felipe is a very casual town and it is important to remember this when making plans. If you set up a meeting with someone (Mexican or resident American), be sure when you say “Meet me at 9 o’clock at Chencho’s for breakfast” to be clear if you mean 9 a.m.a (american time) or 9 a.m.m (mexican time). 9 a.m.a time means not more than 10 minutes late, 9 a.m.m. means three-quarters of an hour late and is perfectly OK – just order coffee to start with.
San Felipe is also a town in which a lot of alcohol is consumed – both in the bars and on the road. The most popular local beer is Tecate, but several other brands, including US beers are available. Six-packs are common but the cognoscenti buy the more cost-effective 1 liter “caguamas” (turtles) which, custom dictates, must be wrapped in a sheet of newspaper. There is a deposit on each of these bottles to encourage recycling. Drinking on public streets is not allowed. The city has started to enforce a ban on the drinking of any alcoholic beverages on any street. In the past, it was OK to do this on the Malecon. Now you should avoid tempting a stay in the local jail. Glass bottles on the streets are forbidden. There are many local chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous that try to keep up with the demand for services.