Puerto Peñasco Sonora
by Bill and Dorothy Bell
Elevation – Sea Level
Industry – Fishing, Tourism
Weather: Dry and hot with an average year round high temperature of 28.7 °C (84 °F)
Known for: 110 km of beaches / Spring Break due to proximity to US and lower drinking age.
Puerto Peñasco Sonora is a small fishing town that has rapidly grown with tourism to become a small beach resort city. While lacking in culture, Puerto Peñasco is never-the-less- a fun town and great get away for those from Tucson or Phoenix who need a little beach, a little sun and a lot of party.
Puerto Peñasco, also known as Rocky Point to the thousands of American visitors who flock here year round is a small city of over 25,000 people nestled on the Sea of Cortez. Only a hop skip and a 4 hour drive from Tucson, it is known as Arizona’s waterfront. You do not require a visa to visit but you should have Mexican vehicle insurance. The closest border is Lukeville / Sonoyta.
Puerto Peñasco began as an isolated shrimping village connected to Lukeville Arizona and Sonoyta Sonora by a sandy trail. After the Mexico US territorial war, the Mexican government and President Antonio de Santa Anna remained steadfast in negotiations with the US over redrawing of the border. Mexico did not want to lose the land bridge to the Baja. The Gadsen Purchase in 1854 gave the US a southern route to the pacific and left Mexico with the coveted land connecting over the Sea of Cortez to the adjoining peninsula.
In the 1920’s Al Capone developed a Casino in the village to avoid interference into his operations by local and Federal governments. He built the first water well, airport and dock to serve his Hotel and Casino and bootlegging business. The area attracted new visitors, many famous and decidedly rich. Boats laden with bootlegged booze were docked, unloaded. A liquor trail was established and trucks easily slipped through the desert across the Arizona border. However, Capone received exactly that which he was avoiding; Government interference. Tired of bribing US and Mexican officials, he secretly packed his bags and casino equipment up one evening and blew up the well and dock with dynamite.
Puerto Peñasco continued to develop small scale tourism and fishing. During World War II, the US paved the trail to protect the Port and potential attack by the Japanese. This highway then became the pipeline for tourism in this area and weekends in this village have never been the same.
The drive down Highway 8 is uneventful. It is desert country; hot and arid, cactus and sand. You soon start to see the occasional RV Park and then more and more businesses as you approach the City. Continue straight until you reach the town or veer right for a quieter area known as Sandy Beach.
The water is great for swimming and other water activities. The Sea is warmest in late spring, summer and fall. The area is known for its extreme tides which can reach more than 20 feet.
If you want Mexican culture at its finest, you’ve come to the wrong place. This is RV heaven and a party town. It caters to both and the mix is decidedly American where the US greenback is king. No need to change those dollars into pesos. Just about everything is sold in US currency. Most businesses can find someone on staff who is bilingual.
As can be expected, this town is packed during holidays and Spring Break. Spring Break, for example, has over 50,000 young visitors who go crazy and want to party 24/7. Great if you do too. Not so great if you want some peace and quiet.
RV Parks cater to the American traveler. You can find basic boon docking spots (for a fee) to fully serviced paved sites. Usually the spots are crowded and tightly packed – sardine style – to allow for all those weekend and holiday travelers. If you arrive on a weekday, you are likely to have a bit more room.
While we wouldn’t exactly call Puerto Peñasco a Mexican adventure, you can enjoy it just the same. If you want Mexican culture or quiet camping, move on.
Desert Oasis Resort