Text by Noreen Kompanik

Locals call San Felipe, Mexico a hero with a thousand faces. A popular retirement destination, the sleepy coastal village is also a fisherman’s paradise, a sport and outdoor lovers’ paradise and even an artist’s mecca.

The town is situated 120 miles south of the Baja Mexican on the Sea of Cortez, a mere half-day drive from Southern California or the Arizona border. But after one visit here, we understand why visitors come. It’s one of those rare places where Mother Nature has blessed the locale with the beauty of both the desert and the sea.

Beaches are wide and plentiful and due to the abundance of sunshine, seaside sunsets are magnificent here. Its warm and clear tourmaline waters make kayaking and sailing popular water sports. The multitude of area and dunes provides an ideal setting for sandboarding and four-wheeling.

Like most Mexican coastal towns, San Felipe has a Malecon—a walkable waterfront with a large colorful identifying sign. Artist renderings of frolicking mermaids and sea life on building fronts fits the fishing village to a tee, a reminder that San Felipe is really all about the water.

One of San Felipe’s most iconic landmarks is its tall white lighthouse perched on a beachside bluff on the northern end of town. Next to the lighthouse, the Shrine of Guadalupe can be accessed from a set of steep stairs.

Panoramic views of the Sea of Cortez and town of San Felipe from the top are magnificent. San Felipe is also home to the world’s largest cactus, the Mexican Cardón. Endemic to the deserts of Baja, California

this cactus resembles the Saguaro but is more massive. These thousand-year-old Sonoran Desert flora can be found just a short ride from San Felipe in a nature reserve known by local expats as The Valley of the Giants (Valle de los Gigantos).

Walking the Malecon and shopping the local businesses is quite fun. The waterfront stores represent a kaleidoscope of color and range from local Mexican handcrafts to jewelry, leather, clothing, sea and nautical products.

With the abundant waters framing this coastal town, it’s no surprise that seafood here is king. Surf dishes of all types are featured in its restaurant menus.

La Vaquita, situated right on the edge of town is named for the dolphin native to the northern part of the Gulf of Mexico waters. One of the locals’ favorites (and it’s easy to see why), the charming restaurant specializes in steak and seafood, and their dishes are delectable.

Coconut shrimp and steamed clams are some of their most popular menu items and even their food presentation is a work of art. Portions are hearty in size as are their margaritas and sangrias.

Situated in the heart of the Malecon, Baja Mar provides an extraordinary dining experience with its thatched-roofed palapas and tables overlooking the Sea of Cortez. Shrimp ceviche here was phenomenal and the Chiles rellenos dish was almost too good to be shared.

A fun place to pop in for a drink overlooking the Malecon and mingle with the expats and locals alike is The Sweet Spot. Owned by former NFL player D‘Andre White and his wife Tobi, this fun and festive establishment has a lively happy hour. The restaurant and bar specializes in local seafood and smoked ribs smothered in a secret sauce.

With its friendly people, stunning scenery, magnificent cuisine, relaxed ambience and miles of pristine beaches, it’s no wonder the area is chosen by many expats for their primary or secondary homes. For those of us who visit, it’s easy to understand why people fall in love–and come back again.

Noreen Kompanik

Noreen Kompanik is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in San Diego, California and a retired nurse. Traveling with her husband, children and grandchildren is her favorite pastime. Her articles include inspirational writing, sustainable healthy living, family travel, history, wine and food. Her favorite place to be is on a beach somewhere. Noreen is a member of the International Travel Writers and Photographer’s Association, International Food and Wine Travel Writers Association, and San Diego Press Club. Her published articles can be found on her website http://whatsinyoursuitcase.com/.

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