Long before it was full of Spring Break beach clubs and taco stands, Rosarito was a glamorous hub. Hollywood stars and U.S. servicemen partied at the few great hotels along the strand. I remember it differently as a kid. We often camped near the beach. I loved playing in the warm water with my siblings, a few feet from my parent’s teardrop trailer. One afternoon my mother had a big pot boiling on the back kitchenette and pulled a steaming red alien from the waters. It was my first lobster, caught by my dad who tagged along with locals. Over the years, each time we would visit Rosarito, the city had new amenities and returning now still excites me.
The Hotel Rosarito tower from the beach.
Camping has moved much further out of town now but finally I had a chance to visit the historical, Rosarito Beach Hotel. My young parents couldn’t afford the luxury then, but today travelers have the benefit of a generous exchange rate. Whether one of the traditional beach rooms, a villa, a suite in the tower or a visit to the spa, the hotel has managed to retain its historical, Spanish Colonial style while upgrading with all the amenities a visitor could want.
Here’s a glimpse of a rest stop on the coast route to visit Rosarito:
Today, Rosarito is an easy getaway, less than two hours by car from my hometown of San Diego. It’s fairly simple to drive from the border but I prefer being a passenger and watching the changing landscape. The coastal route along the toll road is my favorite ride south. There’s also an interior road from Tijuana which, while more crowded, is actually shorter. Those not wanting to drive have the benefit of bus and van services too. I left the driving to others on the most recent trip while joining a few friends and enjoyed a pleasant, air conditioned Tiketon shuttle van from the border. Before I knew it, we were walking into the historical lobby of the Rosarito Beach Hotel.
We checked in quickly and walked from the historical side of the property to the newer tower. This is the part of the hotel that I’d often seen from the freeway on trips to Ensenada or La Bufadora. The tower lobby ceiling loomed over us and opened to a tempting, spacious pool and bar. I had to pass on a swim as we were meeting soon for Margaritas and a short tour of the spa.
Tower bedroom suite
The hotel is partly condos and members have their own pool – on the rooftop with the best views in the region. On one side is the ocean, on the other the hill country of Baja spreads to the horizon. Beaches stretch as far north and south as one can see. It’s a beautiful spot for a swim too!
The Rosarito Beach Hotel, members only, rooftop pool
The view to the Tower pool from my room veranda
The original owner’s home has been converted into the Casa Playa Spa and a private dining space. Above the tiled entrance lobby, guest rooms are now service spaces for massages, facials, body wraps and other services. We learned that booking must be done in the spa itself and not to rely on the hotel desk.
The original home that now houses the spa and event space.
North of the hotel the beach area is spotted with big dance clubs that still roar to life on weekends but now there are more Mexicans partying than boozy, American college students. Weekends find families on the beach where tables can be rented by the hour, with or without umbrellas. Mariachis and food vendors come to you!
Dinner at Susanna’s
In the evening we went south from the hotel and stepped through a stone archway for dinner at Susanna’s. Susanne Stehr is a California girl who fell in love with the graceful beach style of Rosarito years ago. A natural interior designer, her restaurant is glowing with color and textures. Chairs are deeply upolstered, charger plates gleam as if in a home dining room and fresh creative dishes are served ‘California Style.’ Favorites include the Citrus Fruit and Sonoma Chicken Salad, Strawberry Salmon and Sonora Ribeye Steak entrees. Appetizers updated from local traditions like Jalapeno Cream Cheese Empanadas and Susanna’s Gourmet Tamales are moist and mild. The wine list overflows with vintages drawn from the famous Valle de Guadalupe wine region not 25 miles away.
You’d think we would never eat again but the next morning found us in the hotel main dining room for breakfast. So hard to choose from so much! Soon after being seated the table filled with platters of (shredded, roasted beef) machaca and eggs, fluffy omelets, home made sauces and delicious breads accompanied by fresh squeezed orange juice and mugs of aromatic coffee.
Rosarita Hotel Dining Room
Luckily there was time for a walk before returning to the border and we sauntered along the main road, passing cafes and restaurants, night clubs and shops. Across the beach road, neighborhoods stretched up to the main highway. Kids in uniforms walked past quickly on their way to school. There were several churches and more cafes full of locals. Here the village life style still works side-by-side with tourism. It’s a big part of why I love Baja and to visit Rosarito.
A food truck on the main street of Rosarito
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If you plan to visit Rosarito:
Crossing the International border takes a bit of preparation but recent improvements are making it easier and wait times shorter. Here’s a post about what to expect. I update it often.
Transportation around the region from the U.S. – Contact Tiketon for van pick up and prices: 619-428-0011 / To and from the Tijuana airport: 683-8113
Thank you to our Binational Liason, Juan Arturo Saldaña Angulo with Tijuana Tourism and Convention Bureau and tour organizer, Alexa Williams Meisler. The trip sponsors were the Tijuana Tourism and Convention Bureau and Rosarito Beach Hotel with transportation provided by Ticketon and Turismo Express.
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Elaine J. Masters
Whether you're taking a short road trip or zipping across the planet, I'm be here to help. Learn from my years of travel for work and pleasure, solo, family and a few tours. The Tripwellgal mission remains: To help us connect with our beautiful planet and each other with care and wonder. Stay in touch and happy travels!
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What a lovely place and your pictures are so evocative. Great post!
Thanks for stopping by. Tucson has lots to keep visitors engaged.
wow that looks amazing !! and that pool! I never made my way to San Diego and that area but it looks like you went to amazing holiday in Mexico not America 😀 great post !
It was a lovely stay and I always enjoy crossing the border into Baja, Mexico
I love that the original home is still a part of the hotel. It looks so pretty with all the tile and colors! I’d love to stay at this hotel one day.
The tile work was amazing, truly and yes, visiting the original home, now spa, was a treat. I imagined making an entrance down those stairs!
We haven’t done much of Mexico as we’re on the East Coast and other places are closer but Rosarita looks pretty amazing. Love that rooftop pool!
It’s true that the girth of America makes visiting the ‘other side’ a bit harder! I haven’t seen enough of the South too.
Looks like such a colorful and fun place! Sign me up! Great photos and post, thanks for sharing. Happy travels 🙂
Thanks, Carmen. Colorful and fun indeed.
I love how the hotel is very hip. I love the pool area, I know where I’ll be for sunset.
It’s a sweet stop and I hope you get to see that sunset.
That pool is incredible. I’d love to visit this hotel.
It a great hotel for a dip.
This sounds like a lovely trip – being able to relive your past while taking note of the development of the area through time. While the private rooftop pool is nice, the one down below looks even better!
Rosarito’s a great town to visit. I did manage to spend a bit of time swimming in that pool down below.
I’d never knew about this a place, but would love to visit now. The Rosario Hotel looks fantastic, a good mix of historical and modern. I’d definitely be found in the Casa Playa Spa! Did you get a chance to sample the private dining space?
Thanks, Rachel, the dining space was a nightclub but it’s being refurbished.
I love that some of the rooms have their own pools. That is so convenient when traveling with families. Overall it is such a beautiful property!
Cool, I’ve never been to Mexico and always love to hear stories and experiences from SoCal residents who visit the Baja area frequently. I need to make the trip! Thanks for sharing about this hotel.
You’re welcome, Sarah. I love venturing south often and hope you make the trip one day as well.
What a beautiful hotel! It’s extra sweet that this particular location has sentimental value to you. I’m glad you finally got to visit! That margarita looks so tasty, and the style and menu of Susanna’s is right up my alley. Look at me, focusing on the food. Can you tell I’m hungry over here!? Next up: a dip in that beautiful pool! Thank you for the post, I will have to check this hotel out if I am ever in the area. 🙂
You have me giggling, Beth. I often post on my foodie Instagram when I’m fasting!! But a nice swim would make the caloric inspiration worth it.
Rosarito looks like a fantastic getaway south of the border! Great article.
Thanks, Jim. It’s definitely one of a string of interesting towns along the Baja Norte coast.
Looks amazing I bet you returned home refreshed and relaxed.
It was relaxing but only an overnight work trip. Still worth the change of scenery as always!
I had only heard of Rosarito as a college student destination, but Rosarito Beach Hotel looks beautiful and luxurious. Not a bad place to visit, especially when its so close to the border and San Diego. Easy overnight trip from SoCal.
The hotel is definitely the grandest part of the city. There’s more lux along the coast and a bit inland, in Valle Guadalupe. You two would love it.
I love Rosarito (and Baja in general). We have never stayed in the Rosarito Beach Hotel (but have walked around). Didn’t know about that awesome rooftop pool or about the spa. I really need to stay there one day. We are making plans to go to Ensenada n about two weeks.
I love Baja and visit often but this was my first time in the Rosarito hotel. So glad to have finally ‘discovered’ it!
a lot of history behind this Rosarito. The hotel sounds absolutely lovely. I’m a fish in water, a regular water baby and love swimming but I’d have to pass for a margarita too! How could you not!
You’d love the area if you love the ocean as well. There’s plans underway for a sculptural reef offshore. I can’t wait to dive it one day!
I like the idea of taking a shuttle to Rosarita. I had never considered that before- great idea!
Love having someone else drive! I hope you get the chance.
I admit I didn’t know much about Rosarito (I’m from Europe), but it is wonderful to discover new and amazing places to visit one day! The landscape looks amazing – and the hotel is quite impressive (the pool on the rooftop looks great!)
The area is really making a comeback and poised for visitors. I hope you visit one day.
Glad to hear there are Mexicans partying in their town, it’s always prefer to interact with the locals if I can. Thank you for keeping an updated post about crossing the border as well!
Thanks for the comment, Annie. I loved the afternoon spent on the beach with locals. Party central still but more family style (during the day especially.)
What a fabulous place, and I love that you passed up the lovely pool for a cool margarita. This does look like a fab place for R&R, perfect for me! Great review, thanks for sharing this information #weekendwanderlust
Actually, I dipped into the downstairs pool just before hitting the road. Just lovely. Thanks for dropping by, Angie.
You had me sold at roof top pool! Plus I love Mexican food. It really looks like a nice place and you are lucky to live so close to it. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard.
Thanks, Anisa. It’s a lovely spot for sunset especially. I need to return and stay longer!
You won me at the mention of Margarita and spa! The pool view from your room veranda looks great too.
I think you’d love visting, Lyn!
This place looks spectacularly comfy. Love it. #The WeeklyPostcard
Thanks, Arnie. It was comfy and colorful – a winning combination.
OMG, Elaine, this place changed so much! I visited it 27 years ago during a very hot summer. At that time it was just a small village, with no nice buildings, no fancy restaurants and no air conditioning anywhere. It surely came a long way.
It has changed! There’s so much more to enjoy. Rough edges on the outskirts but plenty to do for everyone and every budget.