If you want to escape the hectic pace and noise of Tijuana, head for ROSARITO, about 45 minutes' bus ride south on the old road to Ensenada. Beaches in Tijuana are invariably crowded and dirty, so Rosarito's longer and sandier beach is a good alternative and provides a more restful atmosphere during the week (and a better party scene on weekends). The hotels and condo developments that abut the beach are better value than those in the centre, making it worthwhile to stay out near the water. If at all possible, avoid visiting during March and April, when spring-breakers make the town difficult to bear for anyone who wishes to remain sober.
Until 1995 Rosarito was part of the city of Tijuana, but it became a municipality when local politicians realized that it was capable of generating its own tourism dollars. In the last ten years it has also become an attraction for movie aficionados who have come to see Fox Studios Baja, just south of town at Km 32.8 on the free highway to Ensenada. This bit of Hollywood-in-Mexico, originally created for the filming of Titanic, is now a massive full-time production facility that utilizes its seventeen-million-gallon oceanfront tank for water-based films (including Pearl Harbor and Tomorrow Never Dies). Foxploration tours are available every day but Monday and Tuesday (provided they are not filming). The Titanic model, created at 95 percent scale, has been disassembled, but much of the set is viewable in storage (Wed– Fri 9am–4.30pm, Sat & Sun 10am–5.30pm; M$90–120; Tel:661/614-9444, US Tel:866/369-2252, Web: www.foxploration.com ).
To get to Rosarito from Tijuana, drive south along either the toll or free road for 25km, or take a Mexicoach bus from the Terminal Turístico on La Revo. You can also take one of the colectivo taxis that leave from Madero between calles 4 and 5, or head for the old bus station at Madero and Calle 1, from where buses leave every hour or so; to get back, try flagging down a bus or colectivo on Juárez, Rosarito's main street.
The main tourist office, Km 28 Hwy-1, is a good twenty-minute walk from the centre (daily 9am–7pm; Tel:661/612-5222). There is a smaller office (Mon– Fri 9am– noon & 2pm–5pm; Tel:661/612-0200) inside a building shared with a hair salon on Hwy-1 2km south of the Rosarito Beach Hotel. Both offer brochures, maps and advice – the latter, though, is dependent on whether the friendly staff are on duty. The convention bureau has an office in the Centro Comercial Oceana Plaza on Juárez just across from Señor Frog (Mon– Thurs 10am–4pm, Fri & Sat 10am–7pm; Tel:661/612-0396).
Accommodation prices are highest during spring break (March & April) and the week after Christmas, but drop considerably the rest of the year. Throughout the year it's advisable to reserve at least a week in advance if you plan on staying Friday or Saturday night. It's a short hike south of town, but the tiny rooms at the single-storey Paraiso Ortiz, Km 28 Hwy1 (Tel:661/612-1020; Price: M$250-350), in between Rene's Sports Bar and the southernmost tourist office, almost all have ocean views. Waterfront rooms and a restaurant/bar overlooking a native plant garden at Pelicanos, Cedros 115 (Tel:661/612-5545, Web: pelicanosrosarito.com ; Price: M$350-500), make up for rather lacklustre, frill-free rooms. The Rosarito Beach Hotel, Benito Juárez 31 (Tel:661/612-0144, US Tel:1-800/343-8582, Web: www.rosaritohtl.com ; Price: M$750-1100), which gave the city its name, is now a mini-village with a spa, restaurants, bars, two pools, time-share apartments, a racquetball court, craft shops, liquor stores, a history museum and an Internet café. Many of the rooms have ocean views but are otherwise without charm; request an older room with garden view – they've managed to retain some character.
Along the single street behind the beach is a row of restaurants, cafés and bars, some of which are pretty good, in particular the fish restaurants and a couple of cafés that serve decent cappuccino and cakes. Party-goers flock to Papas and Beer, Coronado 100 (Tel:664/612-0444, Web: www.papasandbeer.com ), and nearby Iggy's, Coronado 11327 (Tel:661/612-0537, Web: www.clubiggys.com ), where beach volleyball and knocking back as much Corona as possible are the order of the day.
If you're continuing south to Ensenada and beyond, you can pick up long-distance buses (at least hourly) at the autopista tollbooth 1km south of the tourist office, past the Rosarito Beach Hotel. The coast road down through Rosarito – now supplanted by the motorway to Ensenada – is an attractive drive, lined with seaside villas and condos.