Located in the northwestern corner of the state of Sonora, Puerto Peñasco (or Rocky Point as it is commonly referred to by expatriates) makes our “Best Places to Live in Mexico” list for it’s proximity to the U.S., large expatriate community, dry desert climate set against miles of dramatic shoreline and ease of living. Modern conveniences, nature and outdoor activities in the surrounding dunes make Puerto Peñasco on the Sea of Cortez an alluring choice as a relocation and vacation destination.
The general population of about 57,000 consists of local fishermen and expatriates. Tourism is the driving economic force in Puerto Peñasco followed by fishing. Because of this, Spanish is the main language but English is widely spoken here.
There are enough full and part time expatriates living in Puerto Peñasco to support 3 local golf courses, numerous social clubs, charity events and highlighted community activities throughout the year.
Life is fairly quiet during the week in Puerto Peñasco, but Thursday through Sunday brings a surge of tourists that come down from the southwest U.S. on a regular basis as Tucson and Phoenix are only 4 hours away and San Diego is only 6 hours away.
Although Puerto Peñasco is growing, it is still considered a fishing village. Puerto Peñasco is an eclectic mix of an old fishing village atmosphere against modern hotels, town homes and upscale homes.
Development projects in the area are starting to pick up again and there are plans for a major cruise dock port near the hotel condo zone.
The weather is one of the main reasons people are drawn to Puerto Peñasco as the sun shines year round. Part of the Sonoran desert, this region gets less than 3 inches of rain a year so plenty of sunshine is guaranteed no matter what time of year it is.
Located about 60 miles from the Arizona border, Puerto Peñasco is tucked in between the Sea of Cortez and the Altar Desert, a stunning combination.
Considered one of the driest deserts in the world, ATV’s and motocross are popular activities and permitted on the surrounding sand dunes with miles of trails and hills to climb. In contrast to desert sports, Rocky Point also boasts 3 golf courses (The Links Golf Course at Las Palomas Beach and Golf Club being the most popular) and stunning beaches with clear water for swimming, boating, jet skiing, fishing, beach combing and sun worshiping. The shelling in the area is world famous for the variety and quantity that regularly wash ashore with the dramatic tides.
Both Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona are about 220 driving miles or about 4 hours away. For this reason, expatriates enjoy the Mexican atmosphere with “close to home” conveniences such as widely spoken English, modern shopping options, great restaurants and social clubs.
The climate is mostly desert. Average rain fall for the year is 2-3 inches. June through September are the hottest months where temperatures can rise into the low 100’s, but the rest of the year, the average temperature is about 84 degrees.
Puerto Peñasco has nearly 68 miles of shoreline to help keep you comfortable as cool ocean breezes fill the air. The temperature of the sea has variations throughout the year reaching a low of 61 degrees in February and a high of 82 degrees in August and September.
Cost of Living
If you are considering relocating to Puerto Peñasco, we recommend renting in the area for a while before purchasing. Modest apartment rentals “in town” run anywhere from $200.00 U.S. – $350.00 U.S a month, plus utilities. If you want to go higher end you can, with beachfront and beach neighborhood homes and condos going for $600-$1500+ per month.
Typical utilities are electric (varies widely depending on use), water ($6.00 a month) and cable ($50.00 a month). If your rental has a gas water heater, you will need to have gas tanks delivered as well but this will lower your electric bill.
Gasoline is about $3.40 per gallon, produce is very cheap, and groceries in general are less than in the U.S. if you buy the Mexican brands rather than the imported U.S. brands. It’s possible to save about 30-40% on your groceries compared to Tucson or Phoenix as produce, fish and poultry are much less expensive.
Restaurants in the area range in price depending on what you are looking for. Local fare of fish, beef tacos and chicken are meals for under $6.00 U.S. You can also find a variety of international flavors in the mid-range of prices along with fine dinning to satisfy any palette on the higher end.
Doctor visits are about $40. 00 U.S. and a cleaning at the dentist is about $50.00 U.S.
Average Prices of Real Estate
Americans can own property in Puerto Peñasco without a Mexican partner. Along the border or along waterways, title to property purchased by non-Mexican citizens is held in a Mexican Bank Trust called a “Fideicomiso”. Within the interior of Mexico, non-Mexican citizens can hold direct title. The restricted border zones are 50 kilometers from any seashore and 100 kilometers from any land border.
You do not need a Residente Temporal or Residente Permanente visa to own property in Mexico. You will need a tourist visa to purchase property. A “Visitante” tourist visa can granted on request at the Lukeville border or any other port of entry.
3 areas to consider living in Puerto Peñasco:
Sandy Beach and the Hotel Condo Zone
There is the hotel condo zone where local professionals, second home owners and weekenders live. These condominiums are a bit higher in price but are beautifully appointed and managed by an HOA. They are also on the beach or have beach views, this is luxury living. Rentals can range from $750 to $1500+ U.S. per month. Prices for a condominium or neighborhood home in this area range from the high $100’s and up.
Puerto Peñasco has a home to fit just about any budget.
First off, know that your domestic health insurance policy will not work in Mexico. If you are traveling, you should purchase a medical travel policy. These are quick, affordable and simple to purchase as there is no medical underwriting and no age limit. You purchase only the days you will be traveling and choose your policy limit and your deductible.
***If you are a Medicare recipient and you have a supplemental plan, your supplemental plan will cover you outside the U.S. for 60 days, up to $50,000.00. In this case, you may not need to purchase more health insurance.*****
If you are re-locating to Puerto Peñasco, consider purchasing an international major medical policy that will work in Mexico. The reason for this is if you have a serious accident or illness, you may not be healthy enough to travel back to the U.S. for treatment, so you want to have coverage in Mexico just in case.
Puerto Peñasco has many health care options:
The Santa Fe Clinic (47 Morua Ave, 83550, Phone 383-2447) currently serves as the prime emergency care facility in conjunction with the local Red Cross ambulance service (94 Fremont Blvd, Phone 383-2266).
If Emergency Air Evacuation (AirEvac, Inc. Phone 95-880-321-9522) or Ambulance Transport (Ajo Ambulance, Inc Phone 520-387-5154/520-387-7621) is needed to the United States arrangements will be made by the clinic.
The Central Health Community Hospital (97 Barrera Avenue, 83550, Phone 383-2110) is an also an option.
One Stop Medical Clinic (Fremont Blvd. at Fremont Plaza, 83550, Phone 383-4422) offers full service medical care with complete diagnostic and treatment. It is the first American style clinic in Puerto Peñasco and the staff speak English. It is open M-F, 8:00 am – 6:00 pm and weekends from 10:00 am to 2:00 p.m. There is a doctor on call for medical emergencies.
There are also 2 maternity clinics, 2 funeral homes, numerous dentists and pharmacies.
The Puerto Peñasco International Airport (PPE), officially named La Mar de Cortes International Airport, currently has two airlines flying into it: Aeromexico and Aeromexico Connect. There is also a charter flight, Global Air that flys in from Mexico. AeroMexico also recently started flying weekly direct flights from Las Vegas, Nevada.
There are about five Mexican banks (BBVA Bancomer, Banamex, Serfin Bank) in Puerto Peñasco and they all have ATM machines that will take your debit card. All money you get from ATM machines will be in pesos.
The nearest U.S. ATM machines are located in Ajo, Whay and Lukeville, AZ.
Most businesses will accept your visa or master card but really small merchants will ONLY accept dollars or pesos so make sure you have some cash in hand (preferably pesos to get a better exchange rate). We recommend using your credit card where ever possible as you will get a better exchange rate.
Hardly any vendors or restaurants will accept checks. Travelers Checks are accepted by some merchants, but are not cashable at any bank in Puerto Peñasco.
The closest U.S. bank is National Bank of Arizona. The address to this bank is:
National Bank of Arizona
101 La Mina Ave.
Ajo, Az. 85321
(520) 387 7616
Mon. – Thurs. 9 – 4, Fri. 9 – 5.
Important: Please note they do not exchange pesos or Canadian dollars!
There is a Western Union in Puerto Penasco in case you need to wire money.
There are 10 different veterinarians to choose from.
Local English Newspapers
Local news in Puerto Peñasco is primarily supplied via newspapers and radio (106.1 FM). The Rocky Point Times is the most popular source of local news.
The Arizona Daily Star also has issues shipped down to Puerto Peñasco on a daily basis.
There are 13 churches in Puerto Peñasco. Three of them host English speaking services: The Church of Jesus Christ LDS, The Family of God Christian Fellowship and the Jehova’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall.
There are enough expatriates living in Puerto Peñasco to support many different social groups for expatriates:
- The American Legion (638) 383-6325
- The Lions Club (638) 383-2488
- The Rotary Club (638) 383-2221
- The Old Boys Social Club (meetings the 2nd Sunday of every month at 11:00 am in Cholla Bay, October – July)
- Cholla Bay Sportman Club (Distressed boating help and different boating events)
- Club Canada (638) 384-3875
- Guardian Angels (638) 383-3354
- Women’s Professional and Business Club (638) 383-2052
- The Ladies Luncheon (638) 383-6325
- Red Hat Luncheon
- South of the Border Singles
- Penasco Sunset Theater Group (638) 388-0179
Puerto Peñasco is a border town so there is some drug violence mixed with a heavy presence of military. Expatriates who live here witness little drug violence in expatriate neighborhoods but they stay smart and do not venture into bad neighborhoods or get involved with drugs (using the same common sense you would use in the U.S.).
It is recommended that you keep a low profile by not wearing valuable jewelry, stay out of bad neighborhoods, do not buy drugs, ect. Don’t flaunt personal wealth or leave valuables unattended. Be cautious when using public transportation and catch cabs only from designated taxi stands.
However, just like in the U.S., if you do not go looking for trouble, you can stay safe living or visiting here.
The most current State Department travel warning for Sonora is to exercise caution. Travelers throughout Sonora are encouraged to limit travel to main roads during daylight hours.
Throughout each year, there are no shortage of activities in Puerto Peñasco. In fact, there are so many events happening around town, at all times of the year, there isn’t enough space to touch them all in this article. Golf tournaments, boating events, fishing events, charity events, triathalons, cook-offs. These activities are advertised in the Rocky Point Times newspaper and radio stations (FM 106.1, XHPPO).
Traveling to Puerto Penasco
Many Americans and Canadians enjoy vacationing in Puerto Peñasco, especially those close by including San Diego, Tucson and Phoenix. From RV parks to luxury high rise hotels, Puerto Peñasco can accommodate your vacation plans.
If you are only going into Sonora, which is a “Free Zone”, you will not need to get a Mexican tourist visa. If you intend to drive further into Mexico, you will need to get a tourist visa at the border or at your Mexican Consulate.
All the roads from Phoenix into Puerto Peñasco are in good condition. A 4WD vehicle isn’t necessary.
When driving to Puerto Peñasco, bring your passport, your drivers license, vehicle registration in your name and Mexican auto insurance. It is the law in Mexico to have Mexican auto insurance as your domestic insurance will not work in Mexico.
The most simple way to purchase Mexican auto insurance is on-line. You can print out your policy and keep it in your glove compartment with your U.S. auto insurance. Purchase your Mexican auto insurance before you get to the border to save time.
It is always recommended to drive during daylight hours in Mexico, however, the border does not close until 12:00 midnight. Puerto Penasco hotels are about 1 hour from the border.
If You Are Towing a Boat or ATV
If you are towing recreational vehicles (ATVs, jet skis, boats or similar) make sure you have current documents proving ownership.
If you are towing a boat, your boat is insured as long as it is on a trailer towed by your car. Once your boat is off the trailer, it is un-insured so you need to purchase Mexican boat insurance to drive your boat.
If you are towing an ATV or motorcycle, they are insured as long as they are on a trailer towed by your car. Once they are off the trailer, they are un-insured so you need to purchase Mexican motorcycle insurance to drive them.
ATV’S ARE NOT PERMITTED ON CITY BEACHES Please follow these rules when riding ATV’s in Rocky Point. • Helmets recommended • Only 2 persons per ATV • No riding after dark • Driver’s must be 16 yrs. of age • Do not race, jump, do wheelies, etc. • Do not drink and drive DO NOT RIDE IN THE FOLLOWING AREAS Main Blvd. Benito Juarez Blvd. Fremont or in the Old Port You will be fined if riding in these areas.
Driving Directions to Puerto Peñasco
From Phoenix: Heading West from Phoenix on I-10, take Exit 112 (Highway 85 South). Continue on Highway 85 through Gila Bend, Ajo, and Why, AZ to the Lukeville crossing.
From the southern side of the Phoenix area, take AZ 347 S through Maricopa to AZ 84 W, and then I-8 toward Gila Bend/ San Diego. In Gila Bend, take Highway 85 South. Another option from Maricopa is AZ 238 to Gila Bend.
From Tucson: Take Ajo Way / AZ 86 W through Sells to Why. Turn left on Highway 85 S and continue on 85 to the Lukeville crossing.
From California and southwestern AZ: Puerto Peñasco can now be easily reached by car along the new Coastal Highway 003. From the US/Mexico border near San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, take Mexico highway 2 east to highway 003 that leads to Santa Clara Gulf. From Santa Clara to Puerto Peñasco it is about 1½ hours. Note: Part of this section is a toll-road.
The recommended border crossings are the Lukeville, Arizona/Sonoyta, Sonora entrances. The border opens at 6:00 a.m. At the border, the border guards will stamp your passport leaving the U.S.
Since Sonora is considered a “free zone”, you will not be given a tourist visa unless you intend to travel further south into Mexico.
If you do intend to travel further south, let the border guards know your intentions and fill out the tourist visa application. Make sure you keep your Mexican tourist visa with your passport the entire trip. When you re-enter the U.S., the border guards will stamp your passport back into the U.S. and take your tourist visa.
If you plan to travel past the Free Zone with your car, you will also need to get a permit at the time you cross the border.
In order to acquire the car permit you will need the original and a copy of: the car title, your valid visa (from immigration), your driver’s license, passport, and a valid credit card.
If you prefer to pay in cash you will be asked to leave a $200 USD deposit at the border.
After visiting Mexico, you must check in at the border so that the permit may be taken off your car by the designated officials. This will also guarantee that you will not be charged for not reentering the US.
Car permits are generally valid for a period up to 6 months as is the case with a tourist visa. Cars entering only the area known as the “free zone” do not need to get this permit, though are required to have Mexican insurance.
The free zone includes the area along the border and up to approximately 60 miles.
Again, the Lukeville, Sonoyta or Sonora border hours are 6:00 am – 12:00 midnight.
If you use the Nogales Mariposa border crossing, the hours are 6:00 am to 10:00 p.m. and the Nogales Deconcini border crossing is open 24 hours a day.
The Puerto Peñasco International Airport (PPE), officially named The Sea of Cortés International Airport, is approximately 9 miles southeast of Puerto Peñasco on the Peñasco – Caborca highway #37.
The airport currently offers two runways and can receive both private and commercial planes. In 2010 the airport began to welcome charter flights from various Mexican cities including Juarez, Chihuahua, Tijuana, B.C., and Queretaro.
If You Are Taking Your Dog
If you are bringing your pet with you, make sure you get a valid U.S. Veterinarian Health Certificate Form and Rabies Certificate # 77043 within 5 days of crossing the border. If you will be traveling longer than that before you reach the border, there are plenty of veterinarians in Phoenix and Tucson.
Call Your Bank
Call your bank and credit card companies to notify them of your plans to travel to Mexico. It is not necessary to carry a lot of cash, and not recommended, as banks and ATM’s are prevalent in Puerto Peñasco.
Most merchants and restaurants accept U.S. credit cards, however, to avoid a block on your debit or credit card, notify them of your travel plans. U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere, but you will get a better exchange rate if you use pesos. All ATM machines can dispense pesos.
Calling Puerto Peñasco
To call into Puerto Penasco, dial the following sequence: 011-52-638, and then the 7-digit local number. 011 is the code for international telephone connection, 52 is for Mexico, and 638 is the area code for Rocky Point.
Calling the U.S. from Puerto Peñasco
For 800 numbers dial 95-880 and then the 7-digit number.
For 888 numbers dial 001-880 and then the 7-digit number.
For other numbers dial 001, then the area code and the number.
To call collect from Mexico to the U.S. dial 09. This will reach a bilingual operator.
To call from a cell phone, press *, dial 800, press SEND, wait for the dial tone, then dial 1-800 and the 7-digit number.
To call an AT&T operator, dial 95-880-462-4240 with your calling card.
You can also buy Telmex phone cards in many different Telmex stores or convenience stores in Puerto Peñasco.
Using Your American Cell Phone in Mexico
Stop at a Telcel or Movitel office and have it programmed for a Mexican number. You can switch back and forth when you cross the border. You can buy time in increments at Telcel. The clerk will sell you a temporary card.
Support Puerto Penasco
Puerto Peñasco is an interesting mix of locals, tourists and expatriates. Beaches, golf courses, desert sand dunes, restaurants and night life may make Puerto Peñasco your “Best Places to Live” and “Best Places to Visit” list too!