Your Secluded Oasis

 As I stared out either side of my car, there was nothing but mountains, sand and more sand with an occasional saguaro cactus lifting its arms to the hot baking sun. At first I thought it was a mirage, a figment of my imagination, but there in a distance was a place where the sand meets crystal blue waters and the beach seems to go on for miles…

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 Coming from Arizona where it’s called a “dry heat” and there’s minimal water, I’m always longing for a beach to dip my toes in the soft powdery sand and float in the warm water. I daydream about quick week- end getaways to this majestic place called Puerto Peñasco. My husband Jeff and I crossed through the town of Lukeville on the Arizona/Mexico border and drove approximately 65 miles South to Puerto Peñasco. This is where the Sea of Cortez, known for diving, fishing and shrimping, meets the Sonoran Desert.

The Oasis of Rocky Point

This secluded oasis, nicknamed “Rocky Point”, is located on a strip of land that joins the peninsula of Baja California with the rest of Mexico and draws the majority of its visitors from California and Arizona. We had finally arrived at what people call “Arizona’s Beach.”

 Our destination, Sandy Beach, was once a place that college kids escaped to set up their tents on the sand, but is now home to beautiful high rise resorts dotting the beach.

Bella Sirena

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Since I visit this particular condo yearly, I knew that beyond the gates an oasis over- looks the ocean, with lush tropical foliage and water cascading down rock formations. The negative edge pools beckon for me to grasp the edge and watch the water plunge down below me. Queen Palms and Royal Palms towered above me as we drove through the resort the resort; their fan- shaped fronds blew in the breezes”

We rode the elevator to our haven on the 6th floor, where the panoramic view of the blue ocean captivated us. From each room of the condo we saw landscaped court- yards with red flowers and indigenous rock façade. We stepped into Old World architecture, inspired by Mexican and Tuscan villas, with all the luxuries you could desire. There is a fully functioning kitchen with a full-size refrigerator, granite countertops, dark chocolate cabinets, beautifully laid tile, and fresh water at the push of a button. Perfect for dining-in when you want.

Passing through the dining room, we ad- mired the wicker-backed chairs and enormous, decorative mirror which enhanced the room. In the Great Room, I sat down on the plush leather sofa that embraced my body and raised my eyes to the ceiling. There, beautiful brick and cantera domes surrounded recessed fans.

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 To keep in touch with your family, or if you need online access, a secure Wi-Fi is avail- able for your convenience. If your desire is to get away from it all, there are a variety of DVDs. Then my eyes moved to the bedroom. Each of the two bedrooms felt like a master suite with their own individual bathrooms for full privacy. The biggest choice was which bed- room to make our home for the weekend.

 We decided on the bedroom with a bath- room almost half the length of the condo. This lovely condo felt like our home away from home, not your usual hotel room. We were so excited and couldn’t wait to see the view from the patio (photo below). From the sixth floor we had decadent views of the entire resort, including the two negative edge pools, hand-laid stone streets leading to each casita and the Sea of Cortez. I opened the balcony door, inhaled the salty air from the ocean, and felt the humidity moisten my skin. Down here, I felt younger. Any dryness from Arizona was whisked away. In the distance, I saw boats and jet skis catching the waves in the blue water and horses trotting along the soft white sand. If we were lucky, we might see a Gray Whale’s tail slapping the water when they migrate to the Sea of Cortez for the winter. These huge creatures love the tasty krill that surface with the massive up- swells from the tide and find the water ideal for calving.

Venturing Out

Now it was time to venture out to the ocean. The tides from the Pacific Ocean pour in and rush out with 20-foot tide changes, dragging and uncovering delicate creatures like star- fish, tiny crabs, sea cucumbers and colorful seashells. I couldn’t wait to see the aquatic life that washed into all the nooks and crannies.

As we strolled down to the beach, we saw massage vendors just waiting to relieve your stress with your choice of treatments. Imagine hearing the waves crashing on the shore and the pelicans and seagulls calling to their friends, swooping down for their next meal. Every now and then we looked up to see adventurous people windsurfing, riding the banana boats or flying overhead in the Ultra- light planes. When we had enough sand for the day, we made a path to the swim- up pool bar for a light snack of shrimp ceviche or tacos washed down with a beer or Mai-Tai. Island music, top 40s and Classic Rock shuffled in a playlist as we floated around the pool with our cock- tails in hand.

Along The Road To Town

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After sunning ourselves, we traveled into town for some authentic Mexican food and to select some souvenirs. Along the few miles between Bella Sirena and Old Port Rocky Point, you’ll see ATV rental shacks dotting every corner and straightaway, luring you to the miles of trails in the desert and sand dunes.

If you’re feeling courageous, discover Competition Hill (photo below) that’s adjacent to Cholla Bay, a 300-foot hill with a 30-de- gree slope. You’ll see 4-wheelers and sand rails sprinting up the hill from early morning until the night time. There’s never a lack of trails to fulfill your passion for speed, nature and excitement.

The best part about Rocky Point for many visitors is the seafood market place and the hole-in-the-wall restaurants.  At Federico’s and Perico Marinero Restaurant Bar and Grill, you can personally select your clams for a delectable appetizer. You’ll be amazed at the size of these humongous shells that fill the palm of your hand. Chefs sauté the freshest clams with garlic, tomatoes, onions, white wine, butter, lime juice and cilantro to create that authentic Mexican flavor, then serve them in the opened shells with warmed tortilla chips. As we waited for our meal, we enjoyed the open-air alcove at the corner of the restaurant overlooking the Sea  of  Cortez. Every once in a while we heard a cracking noise and saw the pelicans all dive for a shell that didn’t make the cut for our meal. The massive shell fragmented into hundreds of pieces, drawing colonies of seabirds to devour the meat.

This was the perfect outlook to scan the horizon for clouds of mist rising from the blowholes of the whales. We also watched for spinner dolphins, and sea lions basking in the sun on one of the rocks. After a taste of clams, we ventured down to the souvenir shops. There brightly colored garments hung from the racks, and silver rings, bracelets and necklaces called out to me…asking me to pick them up and try them on.

One eclectic shop you don’t want to miss is  Galeria Mercedes Rusticos. This classic Mexican artisan shop includes art, furniture, glassware, colorful linens and Christmas decorations all under one roof. As you walk around, you find yourself reaching out to touch all the decorative accessories. It’s the place to find that perfect gift for someone.

On our return to our condo, we passed roughly fifteen shacks selling piña coladas. But one caught my eye with its Rastafarian figurine. At La Cabanita shack choose between authentic Piña Coladas with real minced coconut in your drink, or eat shrimp meals and fruit dishes out of these carved coconuts. Watch as they chop through three layers, drain the coconut water and scrape out the meat. Preserving the coconut water, they serve it in a plastic bag with a straw to thirsty customers. After our fill of coconuts, we drove back to the condo for an evening of desert stargazing from the balcony of our condo. Away from the downtown lights, we gazed into the sky, picking out planets, clusters of stars and counting occasional shooting stars.

Bring Out Your Adventurous Side

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If you seek adventure, you don’t have to go very far in Rocky Point to experience it. Have you ever wanted to see 3500 sea lions as they frolic around you? If you said yes, then you don’t want to miss the Islands of San Jorge, or as they are known locally, Bird Island. They consist of several rocky islands about 11 miles from shore. Excursions take you kayaking, snorkeling, or swimming to one of the biggest colonies of sea lions in the Gulf of California.

In 1978, this Biological sanctuary was declared a Reserved Area of shelter for migratory birds such as blue-footed boobies, other tropical birds and wild fauna. Another ecotour is Estero Morua, where oysters are bred in an organic manner. Not only will you find oysters, you’ll see other aquatic creatures as you kayak around this clear water lake.

CET-MA Aquariums, a marine study center, is the perfect destination to educate your kids. Its calm waters allow you to view sea horses, octopuses, and sea turtles.” If you need a break from the water, come on down to Rocky Point in November for one of the biggest motorcycle rallies south of the border. Music, sun, bikes and fun are all available on Sea of Cortez’s shores.

Fun Foodies

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For the best sunset views, we ventured to the top of Whale Hill in The most popular place in port is Flavio’s. If you haven’t already overdosed on shrimp, try their mammoth shrimp cocktail or some tasty Costa Brava Shrimp covered in cheese, wrapped in bacon and fried to perfection.

Max’s Café, a local café bar, is ideal for curing your morning hang- over with their spicy Bloody Mary’s and yummy huevos rancheros. Feeling like Italian seafood? Try Mare Blue Ristorante serving Ital- at the Reef, your eyes widen as you enter the eclectic seafood restaurant with lime green colors and classical piano music. White tablecloths with black napkins adorn the tables, giving it that upscale feeling. In 2013, the town voted it the best Italian restaurant. Delight in filet mignon cooked to perfection, set atop veggies, surround- ed by Gorgonzola cheese sauce, garnished with whipped potatoes. Or savor flounder with white wine, lemon capers and artichokes on a plate dusted with parsley sprigs. You’ll find this establishment along the outskirts of Sandy Beach, close to Cholla Bay.

La Curva, off the beaten path, is voted the best place for breakfast. There are no views of the ocean, but the food melts in your mouth. You’ll find locals here all the time, so you know it’s authentic. A blend of spicy salsa and cheeses melted on tortilla chips is the highlight of this visit. It’s typically closed for a month in summer but open for breakfast, lunch and dinner other times.

JJ’s Cantina, located in Cholla Bay just minutes from Sandy beach, serves tacos and burritos. Wash your food down with some Mexican beer while you watch the locals swim in the bay. En- joy pool tables and sports on big screen TV’s. Bult to feel like a true Mexican cantina, it’s been around for over 24 years. JJ’s caters to the locals and visitors that drift down for an authentic Mexican feel. Sailboat races, fishing tournaments and chili cook-offs are just some of the events that JJ’s hosts.

At Cholla Bay, you’ll find an eclectic assortment of custom homes, from mansions to small cottages, all with a Mexican flair. Years ago, it was the deal place to launch boats into the Sea of Cortez for fishing. Today, it’s grown into one of the largest American expat neighborhoods in Mexico.

So, if you’re looking to get your beach groove on and return home with some adventure stories, the Sea of Cortez and Rocky Point is the perfect place for your escape. It’s more tranquil than the Pacific side and is abundant in rich marine life. The skies are so clear that it gives the illusion of crystal diamonds reflecting off the blue ocean.

When you need some rest and relaxation, real luxury with the finishing touches and average of 340 days of sun, consider Bella Sirena on Sandy Beach in Puerto Peñasco for your secluded oasis.

by Dede Sindelar

 For rates and availability at the Bella Sirena Resort

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