BEFORE YOU GO
As of June 1, 2009, PASSPORTS are required to re-enter the US for US citizens. Permanent residents of the US who are not citizens do not need a passport but MUST HAVE THEIR GREEN CARD. For the most up to date information, go to the Dept. of Homeland Security’s website on crossing U. S. Borders: www.dhs.gov
You must get Mexican auto insurance covering you for the entire duration of your trip. You can get it on line at www.adventuremex.net
Plan to drive into Mexico during daylight hours. The roads are good and well maintained, but the roads are not illuminated. There may also be road hazards that you cannot see.
The Secretary of Tourism has created the Green Angel organization for the assistance and the protection of highway travelers. The service is free and their mission is to help motorists in distress. They will help with minor repairs, supply gasoline and generally assist drivers at no charge except for the gas or parts provided. Mexican highways are patrolled by the Mexican Federal Police (similar to our highway patrol) in black and white sedans. If you need emergency assistance, do not hesitate to flag down on these vehicles.
Under a joint agreement between the US and Mexican governments, checkpoints that are manned by the Mexican Army have been established to control contraband movement. There is no need to be alarmed; the guards are courteous. Signage is posted in Spanish and English. The rule is to be polite and cooperative, and as long as you are not transporting any guns or drugs, they pass you through very quickly. They may ask where you are going. Let them know you are going to El Dorado Ranch.
Gas in Mexico is plentiful and safe for any car. Pemex is the only gasoline producer in Mexico, but the gas stations are locally owned. There are several gas stations along the way when you a still in Mexicali, but once out of town, there are no gas stations until you get to El Dorado Ranch (about 100 miles). We recommend filling up in Calexico before crossing the border. That way you won’t have to stop until you get to El Dorado Ranch.
Bring a roll of toilet paper, some hand sanitizer, and paper towels. Restrooms (with the exception of restaurants) may not have toilet paper. Every Pemex station I have been to has bathroom facilities, but no toilet paper or soap.
For your comfort, bring water and snacks for the trip. There is little or no radio reception in Mexico, so if you don’t have Sirius/XM, you may want to bring CDs or an IPod.
If you have AT&T cell phones, they will work. Check to see what the current rate is for calling Mexico and getting calls. If you don’t have a Mexico phone plan, you will want to limit you phone conversations. There is cell service in most places along the road to San Felipe, in La Ventana del Mar, and in town. At this time, Verizon and Sprint do not work in Mexico.
There is free wireless Internet service at La Palapa and the Pavilion Restaurant in La Ventana del Mar. Some restaurants now have free wireless. This is a learning process, so it may take several trips to San Felipe before you start knowing which ones have it, and some may add it in the future.
With Internet service, you can also use Skipe and other call services to make calls from your computer.
All of the merchants in Mexicali and San Felipe accept U.S. currency. Bring a good supply of small bills 1’s, 5’s & 10’s. It is easier when you have exact change. Tipping in restaurants is customary 10-15%. I also use the ATM next to the La Ventana del Mar pool to get pesos; I think using pesos is better than most of the exchange rates offered by retailers and definitely better than at the gas stations. The ATMs do have a small service charge.
DIRECTIONS TO THE BORDER
When taking I-10 east to Indio
- Take 86S south past the Salton Sea to Westmoreland. The 4 way stop (at the Circle K) is Center St. Turn right and it will take you to I-8.
- Follow I-8 east to highway 111 and follow directions, below.
When taking the 405 south, take the 805 south, and then take I-8 east.
- Take I-8 east to highway 111.
If you live too far to drive, you may want to fly into an airport to be closer for you to drive.
- You can fly into San Diego and drive a rental car. Drive time is about 4 1/2 hours. Make sure you tell them you are driving into Mexico. I have heard that Red and Blue is the most economical and allows their vehicles into Mexico with the appropriate insurance. I recommend calling around before you go.
- You can fly into Yuma, AZ and drive a rental car. Drive time is about 3 ½ hours. Avis rents cars that go into Mexico. From Yuma, take I-8 west to highway 111.
Take highway 111 south to Calexico and the border crossing into Mexicali
Mileage/Times to San Felipe from:
|City||Approx Miles||Approx Time (hours)|
|El Centro, CA||130||2 1/4|
|San Diego, CA||240||4 1/2|
|Palm Springs, CA||245||4|
|Los Angeles, CA||350||6 1/2|
|San Francisco, CA||725||12 1/2|
|Yuma, AZ||185||2 3/4|
DIRECTIONS AFTER CROSSING THE BORDER: SET YOUR TRIP MILEAGE METER TO ZERO
There are 2 – 3 lanes when crossing the border, stay in one of the 2 right lanes because you will have to take the right fork shortly after you cross the border.
The road in front of you will have 3 lanes. We recommend staying in one of the 2 left lanes. You will go over 2 overpasses continuing straight for 4.5 miles. At this point get in the right lane. You will keep going south (straight) at the traffic circle (watch the signs) and will go over some railroad tracks.
After you go over the railroad tracks it is a straight road to San Felipe and you will be out of most of the congestion of the city
There is a gas station at about the 12 mile mark; if you need gas you should fill up here. There is one gas station past this point, but don’t wait if you need it. There will be no other gas stations for the next 100 miles.
It is an interesting drive to San Felipe. You will pass farms, cattle and sheep ranches, and small towns. Be aware that there is a giant speed bump in one of the towns with significant signs warning you to slow down. Heed these signs. Do not try to go over the speed bump at more that 5 miles per hour.
When you get out of town completely, you will see 8,000 to 10,000 feet mountains off in the distance and closer, smaller hills that are from old volcanic activity. You will drive over a large dry river bed, along a small river, and eventually you will see the Sea of Cortez. The military check point is about 92 miles south of the border. There is road construction before, at, and past the check point. They are widening the highway between San Felipe and Mexicali and there is a detour road right now for about 10 miles.
At mile 114 (kilometer marker 176) you will see the entrance to La Ventana Del Mar (El Dorado Ranch). You will come back to this entrance after picking up your guest passes. Pick up guest passes at the Home Owner office, 1 mile past this entrance, turn right after you see the “Rockodile” sign, a big green crocodile shaped sign on the right side of the road. Turn right at the road after the sign and go straight to the office. Give your names and they will give you guest cards. Show these at the entrance to La Ventana and at the pools. Another option is wristbands, and arrangements can be made for those through the management company.
NOW THE FUN BEGINS
In La Ventana there are tennis courts, pools, Jacuzzi, 2 restaurants, a beautiful beach and an 18 hole golf course. Golf passes come with the condo rental.
There are 3 pool areas, 2 close to the condos within walking distance and a new pool area after the HOA office, where you picked up your guest passes.
At the pool is the La Palapa restaurant/bar open from noon to 5pm with a lunch menu. There are seasonal hours, so check when you get there.
The Pavilion is the fancy restaurant. It is next door to the golf shop. The food is very good, it is reasonably priced and is open for lunch and dinner till 7pm (9pm sat & sun) There are seasonal hours, so check when you get there.
There is a quad rental place across the highway from the entrance to La Ventana del Mar.
It is 7 miles from the ranch to the Arches at the beginning of “Town” and about 9 miles to the Malacon (like the Boardwalk) in San Felipe.
Please use the Local Area Guide page to assist with making your arrangements.
If you want to partake in water sports, such as kayaking, you will need to bring your own equipment.
When you entered Mexico it was thru the western gate.
You will be returning to the USA thru the eastern gate. My experience is that it takes less time this way.
SET YOUR TRIP MILEAGE METER TO ZERO
When you reach the 108 mile mark you will be in Mexicali and you will be near the Kenworth truck facility. You will see a large sign from several blocks away that says KENWORTH. Turn right at that street (you will see occasional signs that say Garita II). After a few miles you will go into an underpass. In less than a mile the last traffic signal is at a street named Brasil. The street after Brasil turn right. You will pass a large manufacturing plant for Bosh, Black and Decker, Skil. The second stop sign will have a left turn lane for you to turn into the entrance of the eastern border crossing to the USA.
Once in the USA you will be on route 7 going north. There are 2 consecutive gas stations. The second one has a Jack in the Box and lots of bathroom facilities.
Continue north and get on I-8 going west.
If you want to return on the I-10:
You will pass the off ramps for Calexico and El Centro. Take the off ramp Forrester Road and turn right going north.
This will take you to Westmoreland.
At Route 86S turn left till you get to I-10 and go west.
If you want to return on the 405, go west on I-8. Go north on the 805, north on I-5, and follow that to the 405.
Take I-8 east to get back to Arizona.