An Insider's Baja

Travel guide to Baja, Mexico. Where to eat, where to stay, where to shop when you travel to Tijuana, Ensenada and San Felipe.

Interview by Rebecca Adler
San Diego chef Deborah Schneider
Photograph: Photo by: Olga Gunn

Where to Eat
San Diego chef Deborah Schneider, 51, first explored Baja’s sights and cuisine with a caravan of fellow surfers. The result was her first cookbook, Cooking on the Edge. Here she tells us about her favorites on the Mexican peninsula.
Purchase Baja! Cooking on the Edge›
Where to Eat
"When you cross the border into Baja in late spring, the roads are lined with tall cirio trees, the hills are green, and everything looks washed clean because the rainy season has just ended. My first stop is usually Tijuana, where I grab lunch at one of the famous taco stands, such as Tacos El Gordo or TJ Tacos. If you’re an intrepid eater, try Cien Anos, also in Tijuana, which serves Aztec delicacies like ant caviar. For more conventional fare, head to Carnitas Uruapan, where locals dine on roast pork at communal wooden tables, and mariachi and ranchera bands often stroll in at night on the weekends."

Sights to See, Shopping
Sights to See
"Tijuana has a reputation for being rowdy, but the city is serious about culture. The Centro Cultural Tijuana hosts monthly exhibits on the history of Baja, including replicas of the first missions. I love Our Lady of Guadalupe Cathedral, an adobe church filled with ornate statues of saints, in the heart of the city. Baja is also known for ancient cave paintings, and don’t miss the El Diablito frescoes, in the town of La Rumorosa. The winemaking region, Valle de Guadalupe, an hour and a half from the border in Ensenada, produces Chenin Blanc and Petite Sirah. Some people say it’s what Napa was 20 years ago. You can stay at the Adobe Guadalupe winery, which has a stable of Aztec horses and a shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe."
Learn more about Adobe Guadalupe Vineyards & Inn›
Where to Shop
"The Mercado Hidalgo, in Tijuana, sells everything: produce, piloncillo [cones of spicy sugar], tortilla presses, sombreros. I always buy dried chilies, copper cooking pots, and fire-engine red masa grinders. If you want to escape the tourists, go to Mercado El Popo, where locals shop. Try the Real del Castillo cheese, which is creamy and dense, like Muenster."

Outdoor Adventure, Hotels
Outdoor Adventure
"San Felipe, south of Tijuana, is home to the Baja 250 off-road race, which leads up to the Baja 500 in June. The participating dune buggies look as if they’re on steroids, racing at 70 miles per hour. San Felipe borders the San Pedro Martir Mountains, where you can rent ATVs or hike to the pine forests at the summits."
Where to Stay
"The Rosarito Beach Hotel [rates start at $97 per night], south of Tijuana, has been a Hollywood-star favorite since the 1920s. The wood-beamed lobby is decorated with murals of Mexican landscapes, and rooms overlook the white sand beach. La Fonda Hotel [rates start at $100 per night] is a funky 1970s roadhouse on the ocean between Tijuana and Ensenada. The spa has a decadent four-hands healing massage."
Book your stay at the Rosarito Beach Hotel›
Learn more about La Fonda Hotel›
 
Originally published in MORE magazine, May 2007.

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