The pandemic had set its lockdown across the streets and coast of Rocky Point, its most common name for English-speaking Arizonans, and its tourism industry was struggling — much like other parts of México and the world.
But more than a year into the pandemic, as Mexican health authorities progress in their vaccination efforts against COVID-19, “the sun has risen again” in the port, Hernández said.
“It was already necessary to see many people on the beach; happy families walking along the boardwalk, dancing and enjoying themselves,” said Hernández, signaling that the Sonoran beach destination is now open for business.
With more people getting vaccinated and COVID-19 infection levels declining, many people in Arizona are already planning a well-deserved summer vacation after months and months of lockdown.
One of the preferred destinations for the inhabitants of this state is undoubtedly Puerto Peñasco, located just 3.5 hours — by land — from downtown Phoenix.
Rocky Point reopened its beaches on Aug. 20, 2020, but with many restrictions. However, these have been progressively relaxed at the rate that the situation in terms of COVID-19 infections has improved.
The bay located at the northern end of the Gulf of Baja California, on the Sonora side, has been adapting to its new normal, and today they are open to receive tourists from the United States.
But the question is, is it worth traveling to Puerto Peñasco at this time? Here’s an overview.
Is Puerto Peñasco operating at 100%?
Before the pandemic, Puerto Peñasco regularly received an influx of 2.5 million visitors a year. With the pandemic, in 2020 they did not even reach half a million.
Lizette Ibarra, director of the Puerto Peñasco Convention and Visitors Bureau, told La Voz/The Arizona Republic that the port is already operating normally in its entirety, but without lowering its guard.
“All the restaurants are open and the hotels are operating at 100%. Obviously, we continue to apply the security protocols that are required here in México,” said Ibarra.
These protocols, much like in the U.S., are the use of face masks, antibacterial gel and maintaining a healthy distance.
In México, health authorities use a tool called Epidemiological Risk Traffic Light to monitor the severity of the viral infection by means of color: red (maximum), orange (high), yellow (medium) and green (low).
Currently, the state of Sonora is set at yellow, which means that outdoor public spaces are opened on a regular basis, and indoor public spaces can be opened with reduced capacity. These activities must be carried out with basic preventive measures.
“For the beaches, pools, boardwalk and other open places, a mask is not required, but a healthy distance is recommended,” said Ibarra.
If you want to monitor the epidemiological risk traffic light as your travel date approaches, you can do so by visiting https://coronavirus.gob.mx/semaforo/.
Do I need to verify my vaccination to make a hotel reservation?
No. Ibarra said that the port authorities are aware that at this stage of the game most Americans who travel to Puerto Peñasco are already vaccinated.
Proof of vaccination or a COVID-19 test is not required, but visitors are invited to continue respecting hygiene and safety protocols.
Health officials in Puerto Peñasco are gaining ground in getting their citizens vaccinated against COVID-19. On June 9, immunizations began to be applied to people over 40 years old and pregnant women over 18 years old.
Are the roads safe?
Puerto Peñasco, a city of about 60,000 inhabitants, is located 212 miles from Phoenix Arizona. In addition to its large hotels, it also has areas to park RVs, since so many visitors choose to travel by land.
The fastest way to get there is via SR 85 through Gila Bend heading south, passing through the cities of Ajo and Lukeville, Arizona. Once you cross the border from Lukeville into Sonoyta, it will take you about 68 miles to get to Rocky Point.
Ibarra said that during the pandemic, state officials saw an increase in road tourism given that people who previously traveled by air preferred to avoid it as a safety measure.
“We are only 3.5 hours from Phoenix, Tucson, and also very close to the California border, which makes Puerto Peñasco a highway destination,” said Ibarra. “In addition, the roads are very safe and in perfect condition.”
To avoid any setback, Ibarra recommended that travelers drive during the day for more safety, and check hours for border crossing since some work with special hours due to the pandemic.
Remember to always carry your passport or permit that’ll allow you re-entry into the U.S. once you’ve finalized your trip to Puerto Peñasco.
What about the Astoria Cruise?
It was on Jan. 9, 2020, when the Astoria Cruise set sail from Puerto Peñasco, to take an 11-day tour of the Sea of Cortez with 500 passengers on board, becoming the first tourist ship to depart from Rocky Point.
It was a very short season, and due to the pandemic, a scheduled return date has yet to be announced.
“The Astoria Cruise was sailing for a short period of approximately three months. It was the last year of her operations in Puerto Peñasco and she has already returned to her place of origin,” Ibarra said.
What the authorities are focusing on right now, she said, is the establishment of a commercial flight in the port.
“We have the Mar de Cortez International Airport but we do not have a commercial flight. This airport meets all the requirements of an international flight, however, we do not have one, only charter or private flights,” she said.
“Next week we have a meeting to try to tie something up with an airline that is flirting with us out there. Let’s hope it happens and that as soon as next year we can have a tourist flight in operation,” Ibarra said.
Those interested in obtaining more information about the hotels, events and activities can download the tourist guide, or they can visit the website www.cometorockypoint.com.
Other traveling tips to take into account
- You need to take your valid passport or permit with you — this applies to every person traveling with you.
- For added safety, drive during the day.
- It is highly recommended to buy auto insurance for México. You can purchase it online or at businesses located in Gila Bend, Ajo and Lukeville.
- Be on the lookout for U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints. Slow down, they may ask you a few questions.
- Slow down as you approach the border, the speed limit decreases rapidly at the border edge.
- On your drive, plan your visits to the bathroom or stopping for resources. There are no services between Gila Bend and Ajo, and very few from the border to Rocky Point.
- When the border cities are as small as Sonoyta, it is easy to pass it without even noticing. Be alert to the traffic signs that guide you to Puerto Peñasco so that you do not take the wrong path.
- It’s a 65-mile drive from the border to Rocky Point, but it can take about 80 minutes to get there because of the variable speed limits. Be on the lookout for them.
- Drive carefully to avoid being stopped by local authorities. If you are arrested you will have to visit a local police station to pay your fine.
- Try to bring a mask and antibacterial gel, to be protected when visiting restaurants and other busy tourist spots.