Here’s your Tijuana Mexico guide to all things to do, eat and enjoy in this Baja California city from its stunning beaches and sand dunes to the seafood. Enjoy!
I must admit that during the almost 6 years that I’ve lived in Mexico, I traveled a lot due to my job as a stunt performer. I’ve been to Leon, Manzanillo, Mazatlán, Acapulco, Villa Hermosa in Tabasco, Cancun, Puebla, Monterrey, San Luis Potosí, and the list goes on. However, the state and the city that took my heart forever are Tijuana and Baja California.
How I ended up visiting Tijuana
I was based in Mexico City because working also as an actress for the TV series of Telemundo, it was easier for me to live there. Back in September 2014, I chose to visit Rosarito and Tijuana for the first time and so I left Mexico City to explore for a whole week in Baja California.
Little I knew back then that I would fall in love with that state. And every time I was going back to Tijuana, the feeling was not leaving me. I found a home. I felt in a place that made me happy.
Why Tijuana stole my heart
Tijuana has everything: from the modernity of the five stars resorts, establishments, and shops to the more authentic part where you can learn more about the great culture of the Tijuanenses, as are called the people living in Tijuana.
An up and coming tourist destination
In the last years, Tijuana has become the home to a lot of United States citizens who decided to move from San Diego and neighborhoods, To come and live in Tijuana, Rosarito, and Playas. People understood how the highly affordable cost of living in Baja California was a great enhancement to their lifestyles. They switch from renting an apartment in San Diego or a small house to being able to afford a big residence on the beach, with probably half of the price.
And a retirement haven
And many others also decide to plan their retirement here. A lot of people coming from all over the world, save money to be able to buy one of the luxurious apartments that are being built on the shoreline and spend the rest of their lives facing the ocean and enjoying the laidback Mexican lifestyle.
Some of the best Tijuana attractions
If you are planning a visit, there are a few things that I want you to know about the Mexican city that stole my heart. Without further ado, here are some of the best things to do in Tijuana:
1. Have Caesar’s salad where the dish was born
One of my favorite places in Tijuana is Caesar’s restaurant in the old part of the city, on Avenida Revolucion. For those unaware of the history of this place, we are talking about the restaurant that invented the world-famous Caesar’s salad.
The place is classic with its art deco style, the staff great at doing the job, and the food is exquisite. This restaurant was first opened in an alley by the Italian immigrant Cesare Cardini in 1923, and his salad became famous, the following year.
GYG has a Tijuana city tour with food tasting included from San Diego to sample some of the city’s delicacies.
2. Enjoy Playas de Tijuana, oysters, shrimps, and cold beers
From the fanciness of Caesar’s to the good vibes of the fresh seafood restaurants in Playas de Tijuana. If you have been to Mexico, you already know how delicious seafood is over there. So much so that just writing about it, my mouth is already watering.
Ten minutes away from the city, you can find Playa de Tijuana, where the sad wall that marks the border between Mexico and the United States finishes into the sea.
From the beach, where tens of street merchants sell their delicacies like mango with chile and lemon (try to ask it also with Miguelito and chamoy and thank me later for the tip), fresh oysters – and by fresh oysters I mean collected few minutes before from the rocks nearby – at the cost of 50 pesos/2,24USD for a dozen, coconuts opened right in front of your eyes, chopped in a glass and they usually give you the coconut water to drink separately as well, to the main street that goes all the way down for kilometers, where you can find small restaurants able to serve you the best cold Mexican beer and the best fresh seafood you will ever taste, Playas de Tijuana is a paradise for foodies.
Last year, the day after the Xpilots Freestyle Motocross show at the Estadio Caliente, I went with Natalia, the kid I took under my wings years ago, and her mom, to take a walk in Playas and relax a bit before taking my flight back to Mexico City. We had a walk and we bought the largest 50 pesos brochetas de camarones / shrimp skewers you will ever see in your life.
Cooked on charcoal, it is served with lemon, and if you dare to, some mild or very spicy chile.
After that, we decided to stop in one of the restaurants I mentioned above, and we ordered some cocktails as well. The cocktails and the beer arrived in big glasses, the beers with the traditional vaso escarchado, which is when the border of the glass has salt on it or chile. The food, a few moments later, was tasty and copious.
3. Go horse riding where sky and sea melt
Another great experience that you could enjoy around Tijuana is going horse riding on the hills surrounding the cities of Tijuana, Rosarito, and Ensenada.
I did it back in 2014, and it is a breathtaking adventure. I remember going to this stable in Ensenada where the horses are all rescued, and you can donate in exchange for a guided ride. Up and down the Cerro, we were able to visit not only the hills but also going all the way up to the top from where you could admire the ocean.
4. Sleep under the stars in a five stars bubble suite
Not so far from Tijuana, for the delight of boutique hotels and glamping fans, Campera Hotel Bubble offers the possibility of sleeping under the stars, in a high-tech bubble suite. While you are at it, you can also enjoy a glass of red or white from Docepiedras vineyards to be found on the bubble’s minibar.
Related read: 6 Eco-friendly glamping trends
5. Eat lobsters in Porto Nuevo and sip wine in Ensenada’s wineries
Taking about wineries, Baja California is the reign of great wines. Back in 2017, we went on a Sunday trip altogether, taking the panoramic route from Tijuana down to Ensenada. We stopped in Porto Nuevo to have a great brunch made by fresh lobsters with butter and homemade tortillas. The prices are astonishingly cheap for what you will eat, and if you are lucky enough, you could be able to enjoy your food with the traditional sound of the Mariachis!
Back on the road, we drove towards Ensenada’s inland area, where we stopped to visit a winery. A magical place indeed. After wandering around the vineyards for a while, we ended up under a tall wooden tower. From its top, you could have a glimpse of the surrounding area on a beautiful summer night. We celebrated by drinking homemade wine and swinging on hammocks.
Read also: Best places around the world for wine lovers
6. Live every fashionista’s dream
Shopping lovers will be glad to know that there are plenty of boutiques where to buy affordable clothing and shoes in Tijuana. One of my favorites is Runway Boutique and Shoes.
With highly fashionable items and prices as low as 10 dollars, it has become the go-to boutique among Tijuana and San Diego‘s fashion victims.
7. Taste the best sushi in Tijuana
I couldn’t miss talking about my favorite sushi restaurant in Tijuana, the Nigori Sushi de Autor, located in the shopping mall Galerias Hipodromo. I was highly surprised by the food quality when I visited it last year, before an afternoon show.
Both presentation and freshness were on point but it was the respect towards traditional Japanese cuisine and the will to try new combinations that stood out to me.
I must admit that it could be the direct competitor of my beloved Hotaru Lomas in Mexico City, my favorite sushi restaurant in the city.
8. Cross the border and go on an outlet shopping trip
If you want to go wild with shopping, say no more and cross to the San Diego side.
In just 20 minutes you will reach the shopping paradise Las Americas Premium Outlets, where more than a hundred brands are waiting for you. There, you will be able to save from 25% up to 75% off on known US brands such as Banana Republic Factory Store, J.Crew, Nike Factory Store, Michael Kors, and Tommy Hilfiger.
9. Explore the nearby dunes
Another great do-not-miss-it, are Los Arenales dunes. Located a few kilometers away from Tijuana, more on the side of Rosarito, this place is a paradise for adrenaline junkies.
We spent a great afternoon with the team riders in this place, rented ATVs, and had fun riding the sand dunes down to the seashore.
10. Don’t be carried away by fear or prejudices
I am well aware of the prejudices about Tijuana and surrounding areas. Of course, like every city, there are zones where a tourist should not go, but this happens everywhere, from Barcelona to Milan, to Paris, to Antwerp to London.
Read also: Safest Latin-American countries
During all of these years, I developed a healthy relationship with Tijuana and its people, a relationship made of very positive vibes. I had the chance, thanks to Gerardo and the Xpilots family, to discover places that built great memories and if there is one thing I learned by being a traveler, is that we have to let places amaze us.
Tijuana is not Cancun with its boho vibes and yoga retreats. Tijuana is the essence of Mexican roots with an international touch. It is the desertic hills touching the ocean. The wild nightlife and the peaceful coffee place in the morning that will be the set of your next Instagram post.
Tijuana and in general, the Baja California state, are places that you don’t want to miss when it comes to exploring Mexico. Enjoy!
Italian as the espresso and currently based in Belgium, Barbara Fava – aka The Wandering Cloud – is a content creator, a blogger, a sports announcer, and a pro stunt rider. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.