Baja road-trippers tend to remember their first time passing through the commercial center of El Rosario (pop. 3,500) because it’s the last chance to gas up before the long haul across the desert. As if to emphasize the point, the town has one of the largest Pemex stations in the area, and it’s open 24/7.
There are two other reasons to hang around a while: If it’s late in the day and you need a place to crash for the night, the Baja Cactus Motel has great rooms at unbelievably low prices. And if you just need a bite to eat on your way through, recently remodeled Ed’s Baja’s Best is a good bet.
Misión Nuestra Señora del Rosario de Viñadaco
The Dominicans established Misíon Nuestra Señora del Rosario De Viñadaco (1774–1832), the first of their nine Baja California missions, in present day El Rosario in 1774, led by Padres Vicente Mora and Francisco Galisteo. Adobe ruins of its second site are visible just off the west side of the highway at the sharp bend in the road. (Turn right at the grocery store and then left at the first road. Cross the arroyo and look for the ruins on the right.)
The standard mission crops of barley, corn, and beans grew especially well here, and the mission was able to convert hundreds of indigenous people before European illnesses began to take their toll on the population. By 1832 the mission was turned over to the local people.
Hotels and Restaurants
Between the Pemex station and Mama Espinosa’s restaurant, the Baja Cactus Motel (Km. 55, tel. 616/165-8850, www.bajacactus.com) has caused quite a stir among Transpeninsular insiders in recent years. Where else in the world can you enjoy all the amenities of a four-star establishment—immaculate tiled baths, granite counters, four-poster king-size beds, luxury linens, gorgeous woodwork, 29-inch satellite TVs, purified water, air-conditioning—for US$35 a night? The story goes that the son of the motel owners wanted to help his parents fix the place up. All 22 rooms are wired with Ethernet cables, so that when high-speed Internet comes to El Rosario, Baja Cactus patrons will be among the first to enjoy it. You probably won’t escape the sound of trucks decelerating through town, but you’ll enjoy some of the finest accommodations anywhere on the peninsula.
The dining experience at historic Mama Espinosa’s (east side of Mexico 1, just past the large Pemex as you enter the town from the north, no tel., breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily) has slipped of late, with higher prices (US$13–20) and disappointing meals. Stop in if you want to see all of the Baja 1000 memorabilia and learn a bit about the town’s matriarch, Doña Anita, but lower your expectations for a memorable meal.
On the south side of town, recently remodeled Baja’s Best Café (no tel., 7 A.M.–7 P.M. daily, mains US$7–15) serves a mean breakfast with real sausage and dependable coffee. It also runs a bed-and-breakfast on the premises. Rooms have comfortable beds and rain showers (US$50).
El Rosario has several grocery stores that carry produce, bread, and basic household supplies. Mercado Hermanos Jaramillo (Mexico 1, no tel.), near Mama Espinosa’s, is the best of the bunch.
© Nikki Goth Itoi from Moon Baja, 9th Edition