DescriptionAlthough nomadic fishermen first gravitated to the area around San Felipe (sahn feh-LEE-peh) in the mid-19th century, the town was not permanently settled until the 1920s. The completion of Mex. 5 from Mexicali in 1951 brought a steady stream of American sportsmen who have helped transform San Felipe into a major winter vacation destination. Rapid expansion that began in the 1980s has produced a slew of waterfront trailer parks, condominiums and hotels. Even so, do not expect a luxury-style resort: San Felipe's style is distinctly no-frills.
About 193 kilometers (120 miles) south of Mexicali, the town's location combines the inviting—the Gulf of California's shimmering blue waters—with the forbidding—an extremely arid desert environment. Mex. 5 south from Mexicali is in excellent condition, including an initial stretch of four-lane divided highway. Note: There aren't any gas stations between the village of La Puerta and San Felipe, a distance of some 100 miles; make sure your tank is full before starting out.
After traversing open desert, an archway heralds the arrival into town. The steep eastern flank of the Sierra San Pedro Mártir range—which includes Baja California's tallest mountain, Picacho del Diablo—is clearly visible to the west. The town spreads out under 940-foot-tall Punta San Felipe, a promontory that forms the northern end of Bahía San Felipe. Yellow-sand beaches line the coast southeastward from the crescent-shaped bayfront to Punta Estrella, about 19 kilometers (12 miles) distant. A splendid view of the town and coastline is available from the Virgin of Guadalupe Shrine, atop a hill just north of San Felipe.
The bay, along with the entire northern Gulf of California, has an extreme tidal range that often reaches more than 20 feet, requiring an experienced boater to successfully navigate the waters. At high tide waves break against the shore; at low tide it is possible to wade far out over sand and mud flats.
South of town, a paved but rough road passes the airport and continues 85 kilometers (53 miles) to Puertecitos. Along the way are turn-offs leading to vacation home communities and trailer camps, but very few motorist facilities.
About 21 kilometers (13 miles) south of San Felipe via the Gulf of California coast road is the Valley of the Giants (El Valle de Los Gigantes). Watch for the sign for Colonia Gutierrez Polanco, then take the sandy road going in the opposite direction—southwest—about 5 kilometers (3 miles). The cluster of very large, very old cardón cactuses and other desert vegetation makes for an intriguing sight. It is recommended that this excursion be made only in a sturdy, high-clearance vehicle.
San Felipe attracts campers, anglers, road racers and beachcombers. Dwellings are modest, vegetation scarce, and litter sometimes an eyesore. The town attracts a rowdy crowd of motorcyclists and dune buggy fanciers on holiday weekends like Presidents Day and Thanksgiving and also during the 2 weeks around Easter; at these times San Felipe is noisy and congested. Also avoid the blistering summer months, when temperatures can soar to 120 degrees under cloudless skies. The weather November through April is much more pleasant.
At this major fishing center shrimp are caught commercially, and surf fishing and package or chartered fishing trips are available. Cabrilla, white sea bass, yellowtail, dorado and other game species are found in the gulf waters. Boat rentals range from oar-propelled pangas to large craft that can accommodate a party for several days. Local boating outfits are concentrated along Mar de Cortés, as are San Felipe's restaurants, bars and nightspots.
Visitor InfoTourist information office Calzada Chetumal #101 SAN FELIPE, BA . Phone:(686)577-1155