MEX­ICO — EL GOLFO

Yuma Sun - Visiting In Yuma - - NEWS -

Although we live in the desert,the sparkling,blue wa­ters of the Sea of Cortez and the tiny town of El Golfo de Santa Clara are only an hour away. El Golfo, as lo­cals call it, lies in Sonora, Mex­ico, and is a small clus­ter of restau­rants, ho­tels, cu­rio shops and a gas sta­tion.What draws tourists south of the bor­der is not El Golfo, but the beau­ti­ful ocean that lies just out­side of town, beck­on­ing you with its sandy beaches and rip­pling waves.

The Sea of Cortez sep­a­rates main­land Mex­ico from the Cal­i­for­nia Baja penin­sula.Its shal­low,warm wa­ter is a mecca for sun wor­ship­pers and out­door en­thu­si­asts. Fam­i­lies load their ve­hi­cles with pop-up tents, grills, chairs for loung­ing, cool­ers filled with food and drinks rang­ing from soda to beer, and head to El Golfo for a week­end of fun.You have to like the noise of dune bug­gies and 4x4s, the taste of blow­ing sand and crowds of happy peo­ple to en­joy the full El Golfo ex­pe­ri­ence on a busy week­end.You also have to like rough­ing it, since most peo­ple camp out.Ve­hi­cles line the beaches, each with its own ra­mada or pop-up tent.

Vis­it­ing El Golfo is like go­ing to Yuma’s sand dunes for wild fun ex­cept you have a sparkling ocean await­ing at the foot of the dunes. Cool ocean breezes and a dip in the Sea of Cortez help cool you off af­ter heated races up and down the dunes.

This is a fam­ily-friendly des­ti­na­tion with some­thing for ev­ery mem­ber of the fam­ily to en­joy. Snor­kel­ing, swim­ming, kayak­ing, driv­ing the dunes,ocean fish­ing,clam dig­ging and peo­ple-watch­ing are just a few pop­u­lar pas­times.

When you tire of dune bug­gy­ing,jump on your quad and drive along the beach. Salty air rushes past your face as you buzz past ra­madas filled with peo­ple en­joy­ing front-row seats to all the beach­side ac­tion.

Kids are ev­ery­where, dig­ging in the sand or splash­ing along the ocean’s edge.Teens slathered with sun­tan lo­tion are sun­bathing on col­or­ful tow­els or strolling along the beach look­ing for a spe­cial sea shell to take home. Fam­i­lies stand an­kle-deep in the ocean toss­ing Fris­bees or balls to each other.When the tide is out clam dig­ging is an­other pop­u­lar pas­time.

The de­li­cious smell of grilling ham­burg­ers,hot dogs and carne asada fill the air and sig­nal time to head back to camp. Upon reach­ing your ra­mada, you grab a chair and head down to the ocean. Now is the per­fect time to take a selfie of you loung­ing with your toes in the wa­ter and a drink in your hand.Send it to your friends up north who are al­ready shiv­er­ing from tem­per­a­tures in the low 50s.They’ll re­ally ap­pre­ci­ate you think­ing of them. When the sun dips be­low the hori­zon and tem­per­a­tures cool, camp­fires dot the beach, adding their glow to the balmy night sky.The smoky scent of burn­ing logs swirls around campers as they re­lax by their fire pits shar­ing sto­ries of their day’s ad­ven­tures.A few die-hard duners chal­lenge the sand dunes, head­lights shin­ing and en­gines growl­ing.

“My fam­ily be­gan driv­ing to El Golfo when I was a small boy. My par­ents would load up the fam­ily dog and three kids in our sta­tion wagon and head to Mex­ico,”Den­nis Franklin, long-time Yuma res­i­dent, rem­i­nisced. “There was no road to El Golfo back then, and we ei­ther dropped onto the beach at Ri­ito, Sonora, Mex­ico,and drove thirty miles or so be­side the ocean un­til we found a spot where we wanted to set up camp, or we rat­tled over the rail­road tracks – yes I said rail­road tracks – un­til we were ready to head down the em­bank­ment to the beach.We had to drive re­ally fast once on the beach so we didn’t get stuck.There cer­tainly was no tow truck around to res­cue us. In those days, you had to be tough to make it to El Golfo.

“We didn’t mind the rough ride.Few peo­ple came down to El Golfo from Yuma back then, which meant we had our own per­sonal beach to en­joy,”Franklin chuck­led.“Who could ask for any­thing more?”

To­day, you can zip along a paved high­way (Coastal High­way El Golfo de Santa Clara) lead­ing straight to El Golfo from San Luis. In no time at all, you are look­ing out at an end­less vista of blue wa­ter and sandy beaches. Com­pared to San Diego, the beaches are still rel­a­tively empty ex­cept for ma­jor hol­i­days when thou­sands flock to El Golfo to en­joy the fun.

“The new high­way is easy to find,” Franklin ex­plained.“Just as soon as you en­ter San Luis,take the first road to the right where a sign says El Golfo and Rocky Point.This road con­nects to the new high­way.You pay a toll to use the high­way, but it’s not enough of a cost to worry about.”

Pur­chase Mex­i­can in­sur­ance for the day or two you’re in Mex­ico.You also need your pass­port,ve­hi­cle reg­is­tra­tion and proof of car in­sur­ance to en­ter back into the U.S.

For those with RVs, El Golfo Beach Re­sort pro­vides beach­side camp­ing sites. You must be a mem­ber of the Colorado Ad­ven­ture or­ga­ni­za­tion to stay at the re­sort.There are also a few ho­tels where you can re­serve a room for the week­end.

The Sea of Cortez and the Colorado River con­verge near El Golfo to form a 2.3 mil­lion acre ma­rine habi­tat called the Colorado River Delta Bio­sphere Re­serve.For those want­ing a more peace­ful week­end, grab your binoc­u­lars and see how many of the 80 species of mi­gra­tory birds you can spot in the re­serve.The area con­tains 75 per­cent of all types of veg­e­ta­tion found in Mex­ico and is a na­ture lover’s paradise.

Now that our weather is great, if you haven’t vis­ited El Golfo, why not plan a week­end ad­ven­ture soon?

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