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Our trip to San Felipe

San Felipe Map

San Felipe Map

Spring is here in Mexicali, and what a great time to visit San Felipe!

The town is on the Sea of Cortez, also called the Gulf of California, 120 miles due south of Mexicali on near arrow-straight Highway 5.

Matthew, Jim and I all hopped into our truck and hit the highway. We filled up our gas tank in Mexicali, as there are no gas stations out on Highway 5, until you hit San Felipe.

Unlike Mexicali, San Felipe is a touristy place, with lots of Americans and Canadians going there, even to stay.

San Felipe Lighthouse

San Felipe Lighthouse

Driving down the road to San Felipe, we saw three serious car accidents – all due to the fact that the cars went off the road, which is elevated to avoid flooding.  There is also a lot of work being done to the road, which will someday become a four-lane divided highway. Due to the construction, we had to drive along side dirt roads at two points during the trip.

Highway 5 does not go beyond San Felipe, but curves right into the center of town.

On entering San Felipe, Jim pulled over into the first gas station we saw, and filled up the truck. “Better safe than sorry,” said Matthew.

“Yup,” replied Jim.

Following what was Highway 5 led us right to the beach – well almost. We had to take a one-way street south, and then hang a left, and another left to get on the one-way street that goes along the beach. Finally we got a good close-up look at the Sea of Cortez.

San Felipe Beach

San Felipe Beach

The Sea of Cortez looks more like a huge lake than a gulf. No waves, the water just laps up lazily onto the beach. San Felipe is on the western shore of the placid waters. It’s not like the Pacific Ocean – no surfing on the still waters of the Sea of Cortez.

From San Felipe, looking east you see only the Sea of Cortez. The coast due east is 100 miles away – that’s a lot of water. The greatest depth of the Sea of Cortez is 10,000 feet – that’s pretty deep.

San Felipe trailer park

San Felipe trailer park

With all the water, the Sea of Cortez is full of fish life, including the Humpback Whale, California Gray Whale, Killer Whale, Manta Ray and Leatherback Sea Turtle, and even the Blue Whale.

San Felipe was founded in 1916 as a commercial fishing port. By the end of the 1920s, the town had only about 100 people. By 2005, the population had grown to 14,831.

San Felipe Beach House

San Felipe Beach House

They began paving the Mexicali-San Felipe highway in 1948 and the job was completed in 1951. Before that, San Felipe was accessible only by a mountain road from Ensenada, Highway 3, which is still in use.

San Felipe’s income depends (in descending order of importance) upon tourism, shrimping, and fishing.

Aside from its permanent residents, San Felipe has as many as 250,000 American and Canadian visitors every year. November through March is the prime “snowbird” season with mobile homes arriving from all parts of the US and Canada. Easter week finds college students from schools in America invading San Felipe. This is the busiest time for the town.

On the main road along the beach, we found a very attractive looking restaurant – La Vaquita Marina.

La Vaquita

La Vaquita

Being sophisticated, Matthew suggested we start off with steamed clams, shrimp cocktails, and margaritas. This would be followed by the house specialty, Halibut, covered with a light cheese and stuffed with shrimp and squid. It was delicious – Matthew really knows his stuff, and impressed the waiter.

La Vaquita Lunch

La Vaquita Lunch

After our great seafood lunch, we rode around and took some photos of the town.

We drove up to get a good look at San Felipe’s lighthouse. Then we zipped around and saw some beautiful houses. There are dozens places to stay in San Felipe, including some unusual trailer parks, where you are given your own elevated terrace, high above the ground with a great sea view. There are even visitors staying in these places living in tents.

Our plan was to get back to Mexicali before sunset, to avoid driving on a dark and unlit Highway 5, so we headed back.

On the way, we hit the fancy gated community of Playa de Oro.

Of course we wanted to see how the rich folks lived in San Felipe.  Playa de Oro is a gated community. Jim pulled up with confidence at the guard gate.

“Jim,” said Matthew, “we don’t want to get into trouble now.”

Jim didn’t answer, but told the guard we wanted to look around, and we were allowed in.

Playa de Oro

Playa de Oro

Playa de Oro is a long narrow community, with lots of houses going all the way down to the beach.

Matthew was excited, as he wanted to touch the sea water. Jim and I wanted to check out the lovely homes, especially those near the water.

As we were standing outside the truck, taking some photos, an elderly couple ran towards us.  Matthew got worried, “Look, these people are running up to us!  What have we done?  Maybe we are not supposed to be here?”

Jim said, “Matthew, just take off your white gloves and we’re gonna be just fine.” Matthew quickly removed his white gloves and hid them in his pocket.

Jim and I stepped forward to meet the couple.  “Hi, I’m Jim,” and I said, “MaryAnn.”

The couple was real friendly – and very shortly we would find out why.

“I’m Baxter Sherman,” said the man, “and this is my wife Peggy.”

We exchanged greetings and shook hands.

“Would you like to see our house,” said Baxter, “it’s for sale.”

“Yup,” said Jim.

Playa de Oro House

Playa de Oro House

This was an unexpected opportunity for us to see the inside of one of the beautiful Playa de Oro houses.

Once inside, the house was even better than we had imagined. It had beautiful terracotta floors, and great Mexican-style furniture, right down to the carpets. The kitchen had a wine cooler, granite countertops – the works. Baxter said the place was 2,000 square feet. Jim looked around and whispered to me, “Looks more like a thousand.”

The two bedrooms had built in closets with wooden Mexican-style doors. The master bedroom had a huge walk-in closet with all sorts of built in shelves and drawers.

In back, there was a gazebo with a beautiful chandelier, and stairs leading to the roof, most of which was a patio. All the utilities were underground – no telephone poles like back in Mexicali.

Playa de Oro Pool

Playa de Oro Pool

Having been given a tour of the house, the Shermans invited us into their living room.

Baxter explained that, unfortunately, they had to sell the house, as they were getting old and wanted to be near their relatives in the America.

“I have a heart problem, and really want to get back to Kansas,” said a worried Peggy.

This led in to Baxter’s sales pitch. “Jim,” he said, “we have really come down on price. Originally, we were asking for $750,000.”

“Uh huh,” said Jim, casting a glance my way.

Baxter continued, “But now we are going to have to let it go for only $499,999.”

Jim squirmed a bit, but I remained calm.

Peggy added, “We bought the lot, and had this wonderful contractor build the house.”

“Nice place,” was all Jim could come up with.

“Well?” asked Baxter, looking at Jim.

“Nice place,” Jim repeated, then he continued, “I don’t think I’m in a position to buy it right away…”

Baxter interrupted, “Of course not – take your time to decide.”

Jim continued, “I do have some deals cookin, and might be able to free up some cash in a couple of weeks, or so – right MaryAnn?”

“Right,” I replied.

“Before it gets dark, I want to run down to the water,” said Matthew, like a little kid.

“OK,” said Jim, “but come right back.”

Matthew ran out into the fading light. I could tell it was going to be pitch dark by the time we hit the highway.

Baxter and Peggy, very interesting people, told us about themselves. They had both been schoolteachers. Their kids were all doctors, PhDs, and stuff like that. Even their grandchildren were brilliant. This continued until it got completely dark outside. We were listening to the Shermans, but were really wondering where was Matthew.

Finally, Jim got up, and said, “We gotta be getting back to Mexicali.”

“Good gosh,” said Peggy, “we didn’t know you were from Mexicali. You’ve got a long drive ahead of you.”

“You bet,” said Jim. “MaryAnn, let’s get in the truck, pick up Matthew, and hit the road.”

Baxter gave Jim his card, saying, “My numbers on the card, even my email address – when that cash frees up, do give us a call.”

“Yes,” said Peggy.

We all said our goodbyes, and Jim and I set out in the truck to look for Matthew.

Playa de Oro has no street lights, so we really had a hard time knowing where we were going. After driving around for quite a bit, we saw Matthew. Talk about a deer in the headlights! Matthew was all wet from head to toe. Jim pulled to a stop, and Matthew opened the door and jumped in.

“Matthew, what did you do – go for a swim?” I laughed.

“No,” he answered, “I tripped in the dark and fell into the water.”

“Lucky you didn’t drown,” said Jim.

“I was terrified, and had no idea of where I was, or how to get back to those people’s house,” said Matthew with a shivering voice.

“All’s well that ends well,” said Jim.

The Night Road Home

The Night Road Home

In the darkness, it took us some time to find our way out of Playa de Oro, and onto the highway. No lights, no cars, just us. On the way out we drove by a fancy home, and we could see six people watching their flat screen TV.

“Do you think this place is safe, Jim?” I asked.

“Hell no – I could pick’em off easy with that Ruger Old Vaquero Stainless 45 Colt I picked up in Phoenix,” Jim laughed, “too bad I couldn’t bring that baby down to Mexico.”

After about ten minutes, Matthew said, “I’m feeling better now.”

“Good,” I said.

“Jim,” said Matthew, “I didn’t realize you had financial deals going on to free up cash for that that expensive house.”

“Neither did I,” answered Jim.

5 comments to Our trip to San Felipe

  • There are plenty of storage facilities in Calexico. You will find available housing by clicking on OLX, a website link on our right sidebar. The only surprize waiting for you on crossing the border into Mexico, is that you can pass right through – no waiting. We have only been stopped once coming into Mexico, but nothing happened, even though we usually bring in junk from our storage facility. Crossing into America is another matter. Usually takes over an hour, as U.S. Border Patrol wastes a lot of time and money by stopping everybody. Believe me, the real crooks get into America with no problem. If you pay around $100+, you can get a special pass for quick processing by entering what is called the Sentri lane. God Bless, MaryAnn

  • Deborah

    I just came across your blog yesterday. I love it! I will be moving to Mexicali from Wisconsin at the end of the month along with my fiance who is Mexican. We will be renting a storage facility in Calexico and bringing things across the border bit by bit. What advice can you give me about the move to Mexicali? Will I encounter any surprises at the border? Are there any websites I can visit to locate housing?


  • MaryAnn

    Thanks Monica – you are going to love it here. God Bless, MaryAnn

  • Monica

    That was great!! That will be one trip to make when I move to Mexicali, I hope I run into some free money not knowing it too…lol , you guys are awesome love your stories. Thanks

  • Michael Kulyk

    Thanks for the article. It was fun to read. I can’t wait until I move to Baja !

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