El Mirador is a beach in Rocky Point, Mexico. Rocky Point, or Puerto Peñasco. Rocky Point is about a 3 1/2 hour drive from Phoenix, so it draws lots of Americans from both Arizona and California. I made my first trip down shortly after moving to Arizona in 2006. This was my first time back in several years, and likely the last time I will go.
Rocky Point is a gritty little Mexican tourist town that provides a stark contrast to American culture. When I first started visiting Rocky Point in 2006, there was a lot of excitement about a movie theater being constructed. It finally opened in 2012 in the new Plaza Port Mio shopping center. When I visited in 2014, construction on the Plaza Port Mio shopping center was still not completed.
A more blunt illustration of how the combination of the 2008 real estate collapse and fear of drug cartels had depressed the local economy were the construction cranes on the Esmeralda Phase II site, the exact same ones that had been there in 2006.
In my opinion, the Esmeralda Resort is the most stunning of those on Sandy Beach. It also happens to be one of the most expensive. Units that were selling in the $1,000,000 price range in 2006 are on the market for as low as $499,999, and still not moving.
Before the real estate collapse in 2008, there was an abundance of Arizona real estate agents who also had offices in Rocky Point. On this 2014 trip, there were only a handful remaining. I don’t think that the Rocky Point tourism office ever appreciated how much free publicity they were getting from Arizona and California real estate agents who had set up shop in some way in Rocky Point.
There are no particularly good upscale restaurants in Rocky Point, which is okay because I prefer the street vendors and restaurants that the locals frequent. The fresh, cold mango on a stick is one of my favorites!
Pollo Lucas is one of my favorite restaurants filled with locals. The smell of their roasting chickens calls you to stop when you’re driving by. There is a hole in the wall restaurant on the right as you walk to the beach from the Peñasco del Sol hotel (should have taken a picture) that serves to-die-for deep fried fish. And then there is my favorite taco shop in Old Port, which was only one story when I first started visiting in 2006.
On this trip, I stayed at the El Mirador Hotel on El Mirador beach. The El Mirador Hotel is a beach front hotel that is like a Quality Inn rather than a resort. I’ve stayed in a number of the resorts in Sandy Beach, which always strike me as being in Scottsdale but on the beach. The El Mirador hotel is clean, safe, has a grilling area, has free wifi, and there’s an in-room refrigerator. It’s also only ~$50 a night. The money I saved on the hotel room went to jet ski rental.
El Mirador beach used to be the “happening” place in Rocky Point. Manny’s Beach Club, with a capacity of up to 1,000, was a particular hot spot. The economic downturn led to the iconic Manny’s Beach Club closing in 2010. As of today, the land and building are still for sale. We had drinks on Friday night at the Pink Cadillac, another El Mirador strip icon. It was nearly vacant.
Rocky Point has the second most extreme tides in the world. Low tide can literally be hundreds of meters from high tide. At low tide, Rocky Point’s Cholla Bay becomes a stinking sediment pit. I’ve always wondered why anyone is drawn to living or staying anywhere close to it.
Rocky Point’s extreme tides helps explain why the water there is so murky. Underwater visiblity is about 4 feet on a good day, which makes snorkeling a boring endeavor. Rocky Point’s low tide also create tidal pools in the craters of its rocky coast.
|Old Port is the epitome of a tourist trap. Locals sell cheap souvenirs imported from China like these. Even with my warped sense of humor, I still don’t get the toothpick thing.
On the streets, there is no shortage of aggressive salesmen (I’ve yet to see a woman) trying to eke out a living by hocking resort presentations, sunset cruises, and other tourist attractions. Some are overtly willing to be your “boyfriend” (eww, just eww, I don’t want to know where that thing has been), and I’m sure there are women who take them up on it.
A sad difference this trip was the surprising number of children employed as street vendors to “beg” for sales. They are even allowed in some restaurants where they pester diners. This is a new low for Rocky Point’s culture.