Rosarito, only about 20 miles south of the U.S.-Mexico border at San Diego, is a Pacific Coast city with a mild climate that mirrors that of San Diego. The city of about 90,000 has tourist-class hotels and restaurants, tile and furniture makers, water sports and horseback riding on the beach. You need a U.S. passport if your time in Rosarito is less than 72 hours; otherwise, you will also need a special visa. Drive the full distance or park at the border and travel from there to Rosarito by bus or taxi. You can also take the San Diego Trolley to the border and go the rest of the way by bus or taxi.
Rosarito by Car
Buy Mexican insurance for your car because Mexico does not recognize U.S. insurance. Check to see if you can buy Mexican insurance from your provider; if not, you can get it at a roadside Mexican insurance office between San Diego and Tijuana.
Follow Interstates 805 or 5 from San Diego. They merge at the border. From the same road, once you cross the border, take the “Rosarito-Ensenada-Scenic Road” toll road exit. This well-maintained toll road, which winds along the Pacific Coast, is equipped with roadside emergency telephone booths. Take the third Rosarito exit. It's the shortcut to the city’s main cluster of hotels, restaurants and shops.
Prepare to wait in heavy traffic on your return trip to the U.S. When traveling by car, it’s a quick trip across the border into Mexico. The return trip sometimes can involve hours-long waits, especially on weekends, at the U.S. Border Patrol crossing.
Rosarito by Bus
Take Mexicoach, the biggest provider of bus trips in northern Mexico. Buy a ticket and board at the last San Diego Trolley station stop at the border or in Tijuana. Mexicoach has four round-trip schedules to Rosarito each day.
Take a tour bus shuttle. An abundance of bus tours to Rosarito operate out of San Diego.
Walk from the Rosarito Beach Hotel, located on the beach in the southern end of the city, where most tour bus shuttles and buses drop off passengers and pick them up for return trips. It’s a short walk from the hotel to other major Rosarito hotels, shops and restaurants. The first shops and restaurants are a few steps away.
Rosarito by Taxi
Take one of Mexico's numerous regulated yellow taxis, which are parked directly across the border when you walk across the border crossing. You will recognize them because they are yellow or green and say "Taxi" on signs atop the vehicle. The station wagons you see parked there are not affiliated with the local government. They are cheap, and they ferry large numbers of local and foreign passengers.
Barter with the taxi driver for the best price and arrange with the driver on a designated time to pick you up in Rosarito at a designated location for the return trip. If you don't speak Spanish, use a map or the location written in Spanish. Or choose a taxi operated by one of Tijuana's many English-speaking drivers.
Walk back across the border once you have been deposited near the U.S. Border Patrol pedestrian entry by your taxi on the return trip from Rosarito. Your walk across the border might involve less waiting time than sitting in a car at the busy border crossing. Shops, sidewalk vendors and public-access restrooms line the walkways to the pedestrian entry to the U.S.
Things You Will Need
U.S. passport (for trips less than 72 hours)
U.S. passport and visa (for visits of more than 72 hours)
Mexican car insurance (if you drive)
For side trips beginning at the Rosarito Beach Hotel, you can travel 4 miles south to visit Baja Studios, a working movie studio that was built to make the hit movie “Titanic.” A mile south of Baja Studios is Calafia, where Hotel Calafia outdoor patios offer wide views of the Pacific, a restaurant with the RMS Titanic as its theme, shops and art gallery. About 6 miles south of Calafia is Puerto Nuevo, also called Lobster Village, which is known for its lobster fishing industry and seafood restaurants.
The U.S. State Department in November 2012 issued a travel warning for Mexico, citing an escalating number of homicides as a result of the Mexico government’s war on drug cartels. The caveat is that “millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism and business,” reports the State Department, which adds that traditional Mexico tourist destinations such as Rosarito have not been targeted. The toll road to Rosarito bypasses the main thoroughfares of Tijuana, which was singled out in the report for its high murder rate. Never travel at night. Don’t travel alone. Leave expensive-looking accessories at home. Keep purses and wallets out of sight. Dialing 078 will connect you to a bilingual tourist hotline. Check the State Department website for advisories before traveling to any foreign country.