Though it’s not a top destination for most travelers, Santa Rosalía (pop. 9,700) leaves a lasting impression on those who do pass through.
The reason is twofold: First, for drivers headed south on Highway 1, this former silver-mining hub is the first town you reach on the Sea of Cortez. After many hours of desert and mountain vistas, you’ll likely never forget that first glimpse of ocean blue and the rapid descent to the water’s edge.
Second, besides its proximity to the sea, the buildings in Santa Rosalía look very different from the rest of Baja. In contrast to the Spanish influence that dominates the peninsula, the colonial architecture here is distinctly French, thanks to the influence of a French mining company called El Boleo, which set up shop here in the 19th century and operated until 1954. Many of the original wood-frame houses are still intact. A famous French bakery and metal church, supposedly designed by none other than Gustave Eiffel, complete the effect.
Crowded into the mouth of a deep arroyo, the town’s main commercial area runs perpendicular to the sea, with high mesa walls on either side. Old mining equipment and machinery still are visible in many places around town.
Today Santa Rosalía serves as a government and business hub for central Baja as well as a convenient place for travelers to stock up on supplies. A public library in Parque Morelos displays photos from the town’s historic mining days.
If you visit June–October, be prepared for extremely hot temperatures. The town’s waterfront promenade, or malecón, is a good place to catch an afternoon breeze.
Santa Rosalía celebrates Carnaval, usually in mid-February, and the annual Fiesta de Santa Rosalía, is held around September 4 in honor of patron saint Santa Rosalía. A founder’s day celebration also occurs in mid-October.
Domestic air service may be available from Palo Verde Airport (PVP) in San Bruno . At last check, Aéreo Servicio Guerrero (www.aereoserviciosguerrero.com.mx ) was operating regular flights as well as an air taxi service between Baja and Hermosillo, Sonora, on the mainland. Daily flights are available from Guaymas and twice a week from Hermosillo, Sonora.
Santa Rosalía’s intercity bus depot has moved to the ferry terminal. Several buses a day travel north to San Ignacio , Guerrero Negro , San Quintín , Ensenada , Mexicali , and Tijuana  as well as south to Mulegé , Loreto , and La Paz .
A word of caution about filling up in Santa Rosalía: The Pemex station near the ferry terminal on Mexico 1 has long been known for scamming tourists. Watch the pump and count your change, or, better yet, fill up in San Ignacio or Mulegé instead.
Inside the harbor, Marina Santa Rosalía (tel./fax 615/152-0011) rents 20 moorings and sells fuel. Also here are the port captain, immigration, and customs offices.