Puerto Penasco is a beach city in the northwestern corner of the Mexican state of Sonora , on the shores of the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California). On the small strip of land that joins the Baja California Peninsula with the rest of Mexico, it is about 70 miles south of the border with Arizona. The area is part of the Altar Desert, one of the driest and hottest areas of the larger Sonora Desert.
Sonora is Mexico's second-largest state (neighboring Chihuahua is first) and has astonishingly rich cultural and ecological heritage within its 180,000 sq km. It boasts miles and miles of beautiful sandy beaches, desert moonscapes in El Pinacate Reserve, near Puerto Penasco, and everything in between.
As well as the area's rich culture, there is a fascinating mix of native people as well as colonial influences from Spain that shows up in everything from the local culinary creations to the vibrant musical and dance traditions. Because tourism is the driving economic force here, Spanish is the main language but English is widely spoken.
Although Puerto Penasco is a growing tourist destination, it is still considered a fishing village. Framed by lush islands, estuaries and reefs, it boasts exceptional fishing year-round in its mostly shallow waters. The rocky coves and reefs in places like Cholla Bay are great for bottom fishing for leopard grouper, yellow tail, mackerel, sea bass, flounder and red snapper. No matter what time of year you visit, there's always something biting in the waters here.
The coastal town is a fantastic hub for water sports and has some of the top snorkeling, diving, kayaking, sailing tours, and fishing charters in the Gulf of California. Jet skiing is a very popular activity here and Puerto Penasco's super calm waters and warm temperature make it the perfect place for jet skiing at high speeds if that's what you like to do. Jet ski rentals are available at all of the towns beaches. One of the best ways to explore the local beaches and estuaries is to rent a kayak. Kayaking is lots of fun any time of day and all year round, and with no big waves, it's ideal for beginners. But you don't need experience to kayak anyway. Some of the top scuba and snorkeling spots in the area are located in Cholla Bay and Bird Island. The Sea of Cortez is well known for its vast marine biology and the diversity in sea life should invite snorkelers of all levels. Bird Island, as the name suggests, is where birds such as marine swallows and blue footed boobies flock. There are also sea lions of varied species, who will pleasantly welcome visitors, or shy away based on their mood.
Whale watching season is at its best between early February and mid-May. Gray whales follow a migration pattern that sees them spend Summer in the Bering Sea as their favorite food (krill) comes to the surface of the ocean. They return to the Sea of Cortez in Winter as the ambient water temperature is ideal for calving. They mate and then head north again after giving birth.
The Sea of Cortez has been a fisherman's paradise for many decades. Spring and summer are great months for fishing with plenty of red snapper, whitefish, halibut, goldspotted bass and black sea bass. During late summer, charter boats that travel far from shore will find dorado and marlin. The best places to fish from shore are ports and estuaries where you can find an abundance of rock bass and trigger fish. In the "Old Port" in Penasco you can find many fishing places and plenty of local fishermen selling their catch of the day. It is worth visiting even if you do not fish.
The balmy weather and relatively light rainfall make Puerto Penasco a golfer's paradise. It has nearly 68 miles of shoreline to help keep you comfortable as cool ocean breezes fill the air. The climate is mostly desert. June to September are the hottest months where temperatures can rise into the low 100's, but the rest of the year, the average temperature is about 84 degrees. Average rainfall for the year is 2-3 inches. The Sonoran region's summer rains are typically short and heavy - 'monsoons' that can wash out desert roads and uproot trees. Winter rains tend to be longer, lighter, more widespread and less dangerous. The temperature of the sea has variations throughout the year reaching a low of 61 degrees in February and a high of 82 degrees in August and September.
Rocky Point has several 18-hole, par-72, championship courses, all sculpted from dramatic seaside dunes in the "true links" tradition. These courses are reminiscent of the golf courses constructed along the coast of the British Isles. The Links at Las Palomas is one of the first courses ever planted with a new variety of grass called Sea Dwarf Paspalum which is famous for its perfect carpet-like appearance. This course draws every golfer into the challenge, mystifying and rewarding players of all skill levels with each new round.
The Mayan Palace Golf Course is a luxury golf course known as a Nicklaus Legacy course, which means Jack Nicklaus and Jack Nicklaus II designed it. It is one of the longer and more challenging courses and it is 7,210 yards, 18 holes, and a par 72 course.
Laguna Del Mar Golf Course is another Jack Nicklaus signature course. The design and layout of all the holes is beautiful, not to mention the salt water lagoons and stunning scenery that surround the course. This ocean side course is immaculate in every way although it is the most challenging Rocky Point has to offer.
In Mexico, every beach city has a Malecon which is a boardwalk area to watch the sunsets, have concerts, people watch or shop and eat. Malecon Plaza was recently revamped to include statuary of local notables, and an upper and lower area for congregating along the beach. It is a lively and bustling place, lined with souvenir shops, restaurants, and cafes. From handcrafted artisan items to kitschy tourist items, vendors here are eager and willing to showcase their finest wares. Haggling over the price is a customary practice.
So important are Mexico's ancient Aztec and Mayan sites and historic colonial cities that many have been designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, ensuring they'll remain unchanged for generations to come. The Pinacate Biosphere Reserve is unique as one of the few archaeological & geological areas that remain mostly untouched by human hands, nature or development. For almost 4 million years beneath the earth, hot magma melted rock creating massive subterranean pools of intensely hot liquid. This slowly built up pressure far below the earth's surface and this pressure, along with the molten lava following it, finally exploded up through the desert floor. The result is an area unique in all the world, with its moon like craters over a mile wide, lava tubes, 'moon-scapes', black pumice soil, cinder cones and sleeping volcanoes. Nine massive volcanic craters remain from this time and their later contact with water caused violent 'steam explosions' that sent millions of pounds of rocks-debris into the sky. The Reserve encompasses over 600 square miles, along with tunnels, ash & rock that can be observed scattered for miles in the area.