MEXICO — EL GOLFO
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?