Travel to Mexico from San Diego
Tijuana Mexico – Day Trip to Tijuana, Mexico
Read about Tijuana, Mexico. Did you know Tijuana is the world’s most-visited border city? Many visitors find Tijuana intimidating, but if you read our guides, you’ll be prepared for Tijuana. Learn how to cross the border to Tijuana and come back, find out how to get around Tijuana. Get a preview of Tijuana on a photo walking tour and learn the best places to shop in Tijuana. And if you take our luxury tour of Tijuana, you won’t be able to stop telling your friends about it.
Be Prepared for Tijuana
If you’re unsure about visiting Tijuana, our practical guide will tell you what to expect in Tijuana, what to take and what to leave at home. We’ll clue you in about a little-known Tijuana shopping area and even tell you where to "go" in Tijuana (if you know what I mean).
How to Get to Tijuana and Get Back to the United States
Use these tips to get to Tijuana from San Diego and back again with no hassles
Crossing the U. S. – Mexico Border into Tijuana – Step by Step
This pictorial step-by-step guide shows you how to cross the U.S.-Mexico border going into Tijuana, Mexico
Getting Around Tijuana by Bus,Taxi or On Foot
Read this guide to learn how to get around Tijuana by bus, taxi or on foot. Learn the important difference between yellow and white Tijuana taxis.
Use this handy map to get from the border to the main Tijuana shopping area.
Tijuana Photo Walking Tour
Even though it’s so close to the border, many people don’t know quite what to expect when they visit Tijuana. Take our photo walking tour of Tijuana to get a taste of what you’ll see when you go. Day Trip to Tijuana from San Diego
Step-by-step tips for taking a day trip to Tijuana from San Diego include how to get to Tijuana, what to do when you get there, how to bargain with Tijuana shopkeepers, where to find the best bargains. Tijuana Luxury Day Trip – The Hidden Tijuana
There’s more to Tijuana than you might think. Read this article to learn about the inexpensive, high-end activities in Tijuana, where you can live like a prince on a commoner’s budget How to Bargain with a Tijuana Shopkeeper
You can get the lowest prices from Tijuana shopkeepers using these simple tips. Beyond Tijuana: Baja Guide
From SignOn San Diego – a guide to the peninsula beyond Tijuana, Ensenada and the Baja Peninsula. California Baja Rent a Car
In case you feel adventurous. Most US rental companies won’t let you take a car across the border.
Everything you need to know
A vibrant world of mariachis and margaritas, fiestas and folkloric dance lies just 30 minutes south of downtown San Diego.
Mexico’s most popular visitor destination, Baja, is the longest peninsula in the world. It’s 1,000 miles of uncrowded beaches, striking mountain ranges, diverse desert, historic cities and laid-back resorts.
The tranquil beach resort of Rosarito, the famous lobster village of Puerto Nuevo and the friendly "Love Boat" port city of Ensenada all are within an hour’s drive of the border. And the scenic drive from Tijuana to Ensenada is breathtaking.
Best of all for San Diegans or San Diego visitors, Baja’s Gold Coast cities are close enough to enjoy in a single day.
Crossing the Border
Everything you need to know
More than 26 million tourists cross this busy border each year to wine, dine, wager, sun-worship and soak up the local culture. Many of them are determined to snag their share of the bargains to be found along Tijuana’s ultra-commercial Avenida Revolucion.
Others looking for a peaceful and romantic weekend take the drive south along the coast. Best of all for San Diego visitors, Baja’s Gold Coast cities are close enough to enjoy in a single day. And getting there is relatively hassle-free, but if you’re traveling by car, be prepared for a wait as you return to the United States.
A new reputation
It’s no wonder that Tijuana has become the world’s most visited border city. What was once, by reputation, just beer, beads and burrito territory is now better known as a destination for upscale shopping bargains. Folk art, for example, is a real steal.
It’s also a place for adventure, gourmet dining, disco crawling and all-night dancing. Tijuana today can be one of the most exciting cities on earth if you know where to look.
If you see a building shaped like a giant, beige golf ball, don’t pull out your 3-iron. You’ve found the Tijuana Cultural Center. Think of it as Balboa Park under one roof — simultaneous art exhibits, a performing arts theater with bilingual capabilities, a planetarium and Omnimax theater, galleries, shopping arcades, restaurant, bar and dancing. Best of all, it’s free. You can spend an entire morning or afternoon trying to see it all or an hour just catching a single show. Open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. On Boulevard Paseo de los Heroes and Mina Street in the Zona Rio. Call 011-52-664-687-9650.
Elvis has been sighted again. This time at the Tijuana Wax Museum with Marilyn Monroe, Christopher Columbus, Jack the Ripper, Pancho Villa, Laurel and Hardy, Dracula and the last of the Aztec emperors. Don’t miss the gory, but authentic, Aztec human-sacrifice diorama. Adults will find it horrifying, and kids will love the fact that someone’s heart is getting ripped out. Allow 45 minutes to see the entire museum. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission for adults is less than $2; kids 5 and younger are free. On First Street, between Avenidas Revolucion and Madero. Call 011-52-664-688-2478.
When you want to wine down, drop by the L.A. Cetto Winery. Of Baja California’s nine wineries, Cetto is the only one with a facility in Tijuana. Cetto’s top-selling red is Cabernet Sauvignon at $7, but its Nebbiolo also is a favorite, and a steal, at $9. The Chardonnay is another excellent choice at $7. Wine tastings and tours of the vast Cetto cellars are offered hourly, and there is a spacious boutique for buying some of Mexico’s fine wines and wine accessories. A tour with four wines will run you $2. Deluxe wine and cheese tours are offered to groups of 10 or more, and free shuttle-bus service from the border to the winery is available on request for groups of 20 or more. Open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. At Canon Johnson No. 2108, just off Avenida Constitucion and 10th Street in downtown Tijuana. Call 011-52-664-685-3031.
Greyhound racing, with betting, has been a tradition in Tijuana for decades. You can see the dogs run daily at no charge at the historic Caliente race track. Races begin nightly at 7:45 p.m., with additional matinees at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Hipodromo Caliente Race Track, Blvd. Agua Caliente and Tapachula Ave. in downtown Tijuana. Call 011-52-664-681-7300.
Prices can change in Mexico from one day to the next due to fluctuation in the peso. Also, event starting times and merchant business hours can change without notice. Always call ahead.
Dining: Do lunch street-side or sit-down
For most Mexicans, the main meal of the day is a leisurely lunch, starting at 2 or even 3 p.m.; dinner is a lighter meal sometime between 8 p.m. and midnight. Don’t be surprised if you find many fine restaurants, and even taco stands, nearly deserted during American dining hours.
Smoking is permitted in most Mexican restaurants. Reservations are usually not necessary in border-area and Baja establishments. Here are a few favorites:
Cien Anos ("100 Years") is famous for its sizzling spice combos, authentic preparations and unusual pre-Columbian ingredients. Be prepared for a daring menu, which includes chili rellenos stuffed with shrimp in lobster sauce, garlicky ant eggs, buttery cactus worms and delicate squash blossom soup. Sound too exotic? Not to worry. Cien Anos’ menu has less adventurous items as well, even for conservative Aunt Minnie. Entrees range from $6 to $8. Appetizers, soups and salads are $5 to $8. Portions are generous. Cien Anos is one of few Tijuana restaurants where reservations are a must. Cien Anos is located in Zona Rio, just off Avenida Paseo de los Heroes, at Calle Jose Maria Velazco No. 1407, across from Mundo Divertido’s parking lot. Phone: 011-52-664-634-3039. Hours: Monday through Thursday, noon to 11 p.m.; Fri-Sat., noon to midnight; Sunday, noon to 8 p.m. Free valet parking. Credit cards accepted.
La Costa is a classy, quiet escape for weary visitors in the heart of the city’s shopping district. The menu boasts eight kinds of lobster, 20-plus shrimp dishes, crab, scallops, escargot, mussels, oysters, octopus, squid and even abalone, when available. Hot hors d’oeuvres are complimentary, and La Costa’s special Mexican after-dinner drinks are on the house. Full dinners range from $9 to $16. La Costa is located on Seventh Street, just off Avenida Revolucion. Phone: 011-52-664-685-8494. Hours: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to midnight. Supervised free parking. Credit cards accepted.
Hacienda de la Tia Juana , which opened in 2004, is an excellent option for walkers, either on their way to Avenida Revolucion or on their way back home. This charming courtyard restaurant with its umbrella tables and central fountain is the closest thing in Tijuana to Old World Mexico and the only truly quiet dining spot where you can listen to romantic Mexican music without the din of discos. The menu has something to please everyone, from tortilla soup, chiles rellenos, combination plates, Caesar salads and shrimp tacos to authentic dishes like mole poblano and Tampiquena beef. Prices are reasonable, and the ambiance is lovely. This is the perfect place to people watch while having a margarita after a hard day of shopping since it’s right on the pedestrian walkway with no noisy auto or bus traffic. Prices range from $3.25 to $12.75, with most items in the $5 range. Hacienda de la Tia Juana is located on First Street, right next to the Wax Museum and just a few steps east of Avenida Revolucion and the new Tijuana Arch. Phone: 011-52-664-624-9147. Hours: weekdays and Sunday, 10-8 pm; Friday & Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 pm. VISA and Mastercard accepted. If driving, you can park a block away, behind the Gigante store on Avenida Revolucion.
La Cantina de Remedios (formerly The Guadalajara Grill — same management) is the ideal place to take Aunt Minnie, the kids or anyone else who wants an upbeat "Mexican experience" close to the border. This colorful, multi-level restaurant looks like a Mexican village, with balconies, street lamps and the bold, bright decor of central Mexico. Waiters are friendly and hip, and you’ll be comfortable here in jeans, shorts or other casual attire, both day and evening. The menu is predominantly appetizer-based, allowing for lots of sampling. For an entree, try the fajitas, chicken mole, tortilla soup or tequila shrimp. Entrees are $7 to $10. La Cantina de Remedios is located in Zona Rio, on Avenida Paseo de los Heroes, at the Abraham Lincoln statue. Phone: 011-52-664-634-3065. Hours: Daily, noon to midnight. Free parking. Credit cards accepted.
The under-a-buck taco is one of Mexico’s greatest inventions; in fact, some of the best food in Mexico has always been sold on the street. Unfortunately, the Avenida Revolucion tourist strip is an exception. You’re best off skipping the taco stands altogether from the walk-in border entry to the end of Avenida Revolucion and Ninth Street.
If you absolutely must munch a street taco while you shop, the large taco stand next to the parking lot at the corner of Third Street and Revolucion is your best bet.
Other light-snack options along the Avenue include these four quick-service restaurants with inexpensive taco platters and good Mexican combination snack plates. Try La Placita, next to Sara’s, between Third and Fourth; La Especial, in the underground maze on the east side at Fourth Street; Tilly’s, at Seventh Street and Revolucion; or Sanborn’s, at the corner of Eighth and Revolucion. Sanborn’s famous Swiss enchiladas will cost you about $6 and chicken fajitas $7. Hors d’ouevres for three, which includes three sodas or coffees, is $5.50. Breakfast is $4, with coffee, tea, juice or fruit.
Prices can change in Mexico from one day to the next due to fluctuation in the peso. Also, event starting times and merchant business hours can change without notice. Always call before going to a specific shop or restaurant.
Nightlife: after dark, the city lights up
In Mexico, they party late and all weekend long. Prime time party hours are between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m., Thursdays through Sundays. (Recently enacted laws have cut drinking hours short. Most clubs now stop serving at 2 or 3 a.m.) The legal drinking age in Mexico is 18 and it’s strictly enforced at popular Tijuana nightspots. Under-age patrons are not admitted to discos, even if accompanied by an adult.
The quality and cost of drinks varies dramatically between the string of discos on Avenida Revolucion and the more upscale clubs around town. On the Avenue, constant "booze wars" are the norm, with aggressive street hawkers offering "two for one" specials, "two for a dollar" beers, "three for a dollar" beers and other enticements to get you inside. If you’re looking for something stronger than a Corona, you’ll pay considerably less if you ask for Mexican liquor. Imports like Jack Daniels or Scotch are very expensive in Mexico because of the import taxes. On the Avenue, expect to find cheap liquor in your mixed drinks and not a lot of it. At other area clubs, the quality of the drinks is more in line with U.S. club standards.
When club-hopping on Avenida Revolucion, most revelers walk, since the discos are all so close. The street is well-lighted, and there are usually young crowds on the move well past midnight. Cabs are always available to take you back to the border. Safety is generally not a problem at night in the main tourist areas, but stay off the side streets. Use the same nighttime precautions you would use in the downtown area of any city with a million-plus population.
There’s no one spot that’s tops on Avenida Revolucion to drink or dance the night away. Between Second and Eighth streets, music blasts from Tequila Sunrise and People’s to Iguanas Ranas and Hard Rock Cafe. Before the sun rises, if you can still crawl, you can try them all: Tijuana Tilly’s, FX, Vive, Safari, Escape, Margaritas Village, El Torito Pub, the Caves and various others that open each month.
Tijuana’s more discerning nightlife set, most of whom wouldn’t be caught dead on Avenida Revolucion, gather at Plaza Fiesta for music, dancing, late-night dining and hobnobbing. The big, hacienda-like, square-block plaza — busy every night and packed on weekends — is a veritable rabbit warren of side-by-side clubs and open-air venues competing in music formats from rock to Afro-Cubano and Latin rhythms. (Favorites include Aah! Jijo, Monte Picacho, long-time favorite Sotano Suizo and the gigantic Mi Barra.) Plaza Fiesta is in the very heart of Tijuana’s Zona Rio, diagonally across from the Cultural Center at the corner of Avenida Paseo del los Heroes and Independencia, right at the twin-spires monument. The plaza has its own parking lot.
Drop by Rodeo Santa Fe at midnight and you’ll find a live, indoor rodeo. There’s also all-night Norteno dancing with disco lights, a pulsating sea of white vaquero hats and wait staff that administers spontaneous tequila poppers right on the dance floor at this enormous, three-level club. The club is open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Admission is $8. Rodeo Santa Fe is in the Pueblo Amigo Shopping Center on Avenida Paseo Tijuana in the Zona Rio. Call 011-52-664-682-4967 through 69.
Senor Frog’s is a long-time favorite for tourists and locals alike looking to enjoy a night out. Entertainment is varied and the place is always hopping. Special events include Tuesday’s "Taquiza" (includes Mexican food buffet, tequila, beer for $14.50); Fridays feature live radio broadcasts from 9 p.m. to midnight. Sunday afternoons turn into "Frogslandia," with live entertainment, clowns, face painting and pinatas to attract families. Open Sunday through Thursday, noon to 2 a.m.; Friday and Saturday, noon to 4 a.m. The club is located in the Pueblo Amigo shopping mall in Zona Rio. Call 011-52-664-682-4958.
Ska, the nightclub formerly located on Blvd. Paseo de los Heroes at the Lincoln statue in the Zona Rio, has closed.
Prices can change in Mexico from one day to the next due to fluctuation in the peso. Also, event starting times and merchant business hours can change without notice. Always call before leaving to your destination.
Fun in the sun, south of the border
From a recreating standpoint, you’d be hard pressed to find a better invitation from nature than a finger of land poking up out of a vast blue ocean. The coastline entices board sporters, while the peninsula’s dramatic topography lures golfers from all corners.
Since San Diego County’s fairways have become as congested as its freeways, Baja’s golf courses are as popular with day-golfers as they are with folks on a two-week vacation extravaganza.
Golf in Baja is no more than an hour from almost anywhere in the county, and you’ll find several quality courses in Baja where you can get in a round and be home in time to mow the lawn.
If surfing is more your speed, you’ll be glad to know that heavy winter swells travel from northwest to southeast daily along the entire Pacific coast of the Baja peninsula. With the exception of Hawaii and San Francisco, the waves at Islas Todos Santos off the coast of Ensenada are said to be the biggest in the winter Pacific. Unless you’re ready to join the pro circuit, you’re better off heading to Baja.
Whether you’re turned on by warm waters or a hot driving range, we’ve got a few good places for you and your mates to recreate.
Shopping in Baja
More than 9 million people cross the border into Baja each year just to shop — most of them savvy Californians who recognize Baja as the bargain bonanza that it is.
Savings in some categories can run as high as 90% compared with similar stateside merchandise.
But, even without the lure of great savings, shopping south of the border is just plain fun, mostly because it isn’t anything like the mall. Vibrant flower sellers and silly, zebra-striped donkeys turn street corners into a carnival. Bargaining can be a blast — as long as you know what you’re doing. And a frosty midday margarita seems to be an instant cure for tired feet.
Here’s what keeps bringing the bargain hunters back
Baja’s Best Buys
For sheer volume, leather tops the list of Baja buys. Jackets, boots, briefcases, belts, handbags, wallets and virtually all other quality leather items run about half of stateside prices. Designer leather rip-offs offer outrageous savings as well. Home furnishings are excellent deals, as are fine arts and crafts. The same colorful, unusual and exotic Mexican artisan works, handmade furniture and home decorations seen stateside in expensive decorator or import shops can run one-third to one-half of U.S. prices.
Most of those oh-so-expensive U.S. prescriptions — such as Ultrum, Paxil and Atenol — are sold over the counter in Mexico and most are 30% to 40% less when you buy across the border.
Other can’t-be-beat buys throughout the border area are sterling silver; duty-free imports from Europe, including name-brand cosmetics and perfumes; high-quality pottery and gardenware; wovenware, from baskets and blankets to handmade hammocks and Zapotec rugs; and, of course, booze.
Where to head first
For quality, variety and accessibility, Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada are Baja’s best shop stops, located five minutes, 20 minutes and 60 minutes, respectively, from the California border at San Ysidro.
Tijuana’s Avenida Revolucion is a 10-minute stroll or a five-minute cab ride from the border. There you’ll find an overwhelming eight-block strip of stores, stalls, arcades and underground passageways filled with bargains from all around the globe.
All of Rosarito’s excellent shopping locations can be found along Boulevard Benito Juarez, the laid-back beach resort’s main street. Shops at the north, center and south areas of town are walkable clusters, and free street parking is easy to find everywhere. The Rosarito Beach Hotel’s shopping arcade, located at the south end of town, has numerous high-quality shops and art galleries.
The city’s large arts and crafts mercado , with almost 100 stalls, is just a short stroll up the main street, beginning next to the El Nido restaurant. Immediately south of town, you’ll find a miracle mile of pottery, gardenware, Guadalajara-cement statues and fountains, curios and rug and blanket weavers in an interesting mix of roadside shops. Currently, crews are widening this section of the road to allow for four lanes of bargain-hunting traffic, so while it’s a rough ride now it will soon be much easier to navigate.
Rosarito’s main street is also, by far, the best place on the entire 1,000-mile Baja peninsula to buy Mexican furniture. Southwestern, pigskin, wrought-iron, hacienda, willow, hand-carved and hand-painted furniture, plus custom pieces, are all made locally. The selection is vast, and specialty shops dot both sides of the street for the full length of the city.
As one of Mexico’s popular cruise ports, Ensenada’s merchandise selection is extensive. To accommodate cruise-ship passengers on regular two- or three-hour layovers, shopping is conveniently concentrated along a single street, Boulevard Lopez Mateos. Located just a block from the waterfront, this eight-block shoppers’ strip runs between Avenida Ruiz at the north end of town to Avenida Castillo near the riverbed.
Several of Tijuana’s top stores have Ensenada branches on Boulevard Lopez Mateos. The block between El Rey Sol restaurant and the Hotel Cortez (Avenidas Blancarte and Alvarado) is the most upscale, with large duty-free stores, designer rip-off specialty shops and exclusive sterling and pewter stores.
Before you go
Most tourist-area shops are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m, seven days a week, in Tijuana and Ensenada, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in Rosarito. Some Rosarito shops close on Tuesdays during the winter off-season.
Bringing it back
You can bring back $800 of duty-free merchandise per person, per month, including one liter of alcohol. Mexican arts and crafts, including handcrafted furniture, are duty-free and do not count toward the $800 limit.
If you’re walking back over the border and don’t know how to haul all the loot to your car, pay a buck and take one of the well-marked shuttle buses from Avenida Revolucion. At the border you’ll be met by enterprising men pushing two-wheeled carts, and they’ll steer your bargains directly to the Customs inspection counter. From there on, you’re on your own. But, if you were smart enough to park in the lots on the east side of Interstates 5 and 805, you’ve only got a block to go.
Detailed information about Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada can be obtained from the following Baja tourist offices:
Tijuana Convention and Visitors Bureau:
011-52-664-684-0537 or -684-0481 or 634-6330 or toll free from the U.S. (888) 775-2417; www.tijuanaonline.org.
Rosarito Convention and Visitors Bureau:
011-52-661-612-5222 or (800) 962-2252; www.rosarito.org
Ensenada State Tourism Office:
011-52-646-172-3022 or (800) 310-9687; www.enjoyensenada.com
Baja California State Tourism Office:
011-52-664-634-6330, -634-6918 or -634-6574 or toll free from the U.S. (888) 775-2417; www.turismobc.gob.mx
Everything you need to know
Mexican food as it is in the States is quite different from food served in Mexico. Though you’ll find a Tex-Mex version if you’re looking for it, you may want to branch out and discover some of the joys of true Mexican cuisine. And fine dining in Tijuana is just a click away.
How about a taste of Baja lobster at sunset, when the salt air seems to rise up and call for tequila and lime wedge? Or perhaps you’d like to dine by flickering candlelight and explore the timeless complexities of chiles en nogada? Perhaps you’ll try both and even explore further, stopping at a few food stands along the way. Whatever you choose, Baja will nourish you with good food and beautiful, adventurous days and nights.