Mexicali to San Felipe
Among Baja’s international border towns, agricultural Mexicali strikes a balance between bustling Tijuana and quiet Tecate. Its palm-lined boulevards are cleaner and less touristy than other Baja California cities of its size (pop. 1 million). In addition to farming, state government drives much of the local economy, as Mexicali is the capital of Baja California (Norte).
Across the border from Mexicali, smaller Calexico is in every way a symbiotic community—equally dependent on agriculture and related businesses. The whimsical names of the Mexicali and Calexico border towns reflect the laid-back tone in these sister cities. Outside of the immediate border-crossing area, the focus on tourism that colors the visitor’s experience in Tijuana and Ensenada is largely absent.
Among other Baja cities, Mexicali is most similar to La Paz in its mixed population of mainland Mexicans and foreign immigrants and the presence of a thriving local middle class. The city welcomes visitors, but its businesses do not cater to their every need. If you’ve had your fill of Americanized beach resorts with their activity booths and timeshare reps, Mexicali offers independent travelers a refreshing view of life in an ordinary Mexican city.
For California and Arizona residents, Mexicali is a gateway to both the Baja Peninsula and mainland Mexico. San Felipe and the northern beaches along the Sea of Cortez are just a couple of hours away by car. Southwest of Mexicali there are plenty of opportunities for desert hiking, soaking in natural hot springs, and off-road racing, as well as some of the best fishing and hunting in the country.
© Nikki Goth Itoi from Moon Baja, 9th Edition