On Point South of the Border

Puerto Peñasco can be everything from charming to luxurious

hadn’t been to Puerto Peñasco, Sonora — or Rocky Point, as it’s known to Americans — in more than a decade. So when we were invited to come for a visit by Las Palomas, perhaps the best-known of the large resorts in the community, I thought it was a great opportunity to look at the destination with a fresh set of eyes. 

After a quick family trip, what we found is a place that can be just about anything you want it to be. Whether you’re looking to be a beer-drinking beach bum or want to feel a little luxurious at a lower price, Rocky Point has something for everyone.

Puerto Peñasco started as a small fishing village along the Gulf of California, about 220 miles south of Phoenix and 60 miles south of the border. Over time, American visitors discovered two attributes of the community that changed everything. One, Rocky Point has miles and miles of pristine, sandy beaches. And two, the water off the Gulf of California is warm, almost bath-water-temperature in the summer and fall seasons, making for very pleasant conditions.

Starting in the mid-1990s, Rocky Point experienced a boom in resort construction. Today, the community boasts beachside high-rise towers to go along with a broad mix of motels, hotels, housing, camping and RV parks. Along with the water and beaches, the big attraction is the weather — picture a more moderated version of Phoenix’s climate, with warmer winter nights by the water and slightly cooler (but humid) summer days. It’s desert, not tropical, but you don’t know it when you’re on the beach.

Rocky Point itself is not a wealthy community, and it shows in some places. But a number of significant infrastructure improvements have taken place since the tourism boom began, making it easy to get there and easy
to get around once you’re there.

The Accommodations

We stayed at Las Palomas in a nicely equipped three-bedroom, three-bathroom condominium on the 14th floor of one of the four towers in the property’s newer Phase II (Phase III is under construction). The condo was spacious with ample room, large bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen and two private balconies. The interior featured travertine floors throughout, large bathtubs and showers and flatscreen TVs in each bedroom. It was a luxury for our family of four to be able to spread out a bit and for our kids to have their own rooms. Las Palomas’ floor plans range from one-bedroom residences to huge penthouses, and they cost more than a standard hotel, but what you get in extra space is worth it.

The sprawling property features two large pool deck areas with multiple pools (several of which were heated for the winter months), all facing Sandy Beach and its expansive sands. Swim-up bars (which also serve food) are located in each pool area. The property also features a full fitness room and small store, as well as a surprisingly large convention center and meeting space. The Links at Las Palomas is a full 18-hole championship course that is well-maintained and challenging for golfers at various skill levels.

Our esteemed publisher took the opportunity to visit the full-service spa, and enjoyed a 90-minute hot stone massage from the very friendly staff, at a price unheard of in the States. The spa is not massive, but it’s a relaxing environment and the décor provides a nice touch of comfort and elegance. The two restaurants at Las Palomas — La Maria, offering Mexican fare, and Citron, a more international concept — exceeded expectations. Breakfasts at Citron were flavorful, large and included a mix of American and Mexican favorites. Dinner at Citron provided a variety of American, Mexican and Italian fare at surprisingly low prices for a resort. We also dined on the steaks, seafood and Mexican menu at La Maria, which were nicely done.

The Activities

The original part of the city — the Old Port area — is rustic and full of curio shops, fish markets and bars/restaurants, but Rocky Point and its amenities now sprawl out over several square miles. A visit to the Old Port can be intimidating at first, as each store and restaurant has someone out front trying to lure you inside. But once you get used to it, a stroll around the area is an enjoyable experience which now includes pop-up stands with fresh piña coladas and Tajín-rimmed drinks. Mary’s Seafood has been there for decades and is still a favorite
of many Phoenicians with second homes who visit often.

With only a little bit of time to spend in Rocky Point, we wanted to make sure we hit at least one local restaurant/watering hole. Al Capone’s Seafood and Pizzeria — Capone visited sleepy Puerto Peñasco to fish and party during Prohibition — came highly recommended. The kids dug into crab cakes and fish tacos while the parents enjoyed a margarita, Mexican beer and fresh ceviche while watching NFL football. For a few minutes, we might have never known we were south of the border while inside this local favorite. Look for Al Capone’s to open a brewery concept in the coming year.

But it’s all about the water, whether you’re looking to go on a fishing expedition, try out a banana boat ride, parasail or simply take a stroll along the beach.

The Bottom Line

Rocky Point is more than just a spring break destination and more than just a fishing village. It can be a place for revelry or a place for family. It can be a chance to lay low or to live the high life. It’s all what you make of it, and all less than four hours away. 

About Tom Evans

Tom Evans is Contributing Editor of Frontdoors Media and a partner at ON Advertising in Phoenix.
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