North of Sinaloa, Hwy-15 slices into Sonora, the second-largest state in Mexico and the nation’s breadbasket; note that Sonora is one hour behind Sinaloa in the summer (April–Oct). There’s little to stop for on the road, though the handsome colonial town of Álamos is a worthy diversion, and low-key beach resorts at San Carlos, Bahía de Kino and Puerto Peñasco provide some relief from the scorching heat. From the coast it’s a long drive through the desert to the US border at Nogales or the boundary with Baja California at the Colorado River – you’ll also have to put your watch back an hour when you cross this state line, unless Baja California is on Daylight Saving Time (April–Oct), in which case there’s no change.
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Around 16km west of Guaymas, the small town of SAN CARLOS is in the infant stages of becoming a larger resort geared towards a mainly retired clientele. The main activities here are diving and fishing, though the chief attraction above the water is the scenery: the resort is dominated by the barren, jagged peaks of Cerro Tatakawi, and the scorched desert landscape makes a stunning backdrop to a series of inviting bays, beaches and calm, cobalt-blue waters. Founded only in the 1960s, San Carlos sports a seasonal population of around seven thousand today.
- Bahía de Kino
Not long ago, PUERTO PEÑASCO was little more than a tiny shrimping port. Since the 1990s, though, the town has exploded into a major resort for Arizona’s beach-starved masses, and it is now filled with high-rise condominiums. Travel warnings and the 2009 US recession hit Puerto Peñasco hard, but now things have settled down the development is sure to continue: a new highway along the coast (reducing driving times from California) opened in 2008, and the new Mar de Cortés International Airport was inaugurated one year later. If you like resorts, golf or just fancy a couple of days on the beach before heading into the US, “Rocky Point” (as the expat community calls it) can be lots of fun. Note that temperatures regularly top 40°C (104°F) in the summer.
Reserva de la Biósfera El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar
The region’s most impressive natural attraction, the Reserva de la Biosfera El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar, lies north of Puerto Peñasco on Hwy-8. NASA used this otherworldly expanse of volcanic cinder cones and craters to train its astronauts for lunar landings. One of Pinacate’s largest and most awe-inspiring craters, “El Elegante”, is 1.6km wide and 250m deep and can be seen from space. Exhibits at the Centro de Visitantes Schuk Toak provide background, as well as displays of Tohono O’odham artefacts.
El Carnaval de Guaymas
El Carnaval de Guaymas
An important shrimp-fishing port on the main Hwy-15 corridor, GUAYMAS, around 180km north of Navajoa, claims some proud history but has little to offer visitors. Unless you’re looking for somewhere to crash for one night, it’s advisable to head for nearby beaches; the resort town of San Carlos is just a short bus ride away. One reason to linger in Guaymas is the annual carnival, held here in February since 1888 and one of Mexico’s best (it begins on the Thurs before Ash Wednesday and ends at the beginning of Lent). Concerts and parades are held all over town (the main location is the Plaza de los Tres Presidentes), beginning with the traditional burning in effigy of something or someone who has upset the public that year (Vicente Fox and George Bush have both featured in the past). Note that accommodation in town is booked months in advance.
Most bus companies have terminals on C 14 near C 12, a couple of blocks south of Serdán and within walking distance of the waterfront. Buses to San Carlos cost M$9. Tufesa and TAP have terminals 1km west at García López 927 and 915 respectively (near C Jaiba).
Ferries from Santa Rosalía in Baja California arrive at the docks 2km east of the centre, easily reached on local buses (M$5) along Serdán. The ferry from Guaymas to Santa Rosalía departs on Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri and Sat at 8pm; the crossing takes seven hours. Always call in advance, though, as schedules often change. One-way tickets are M$790 (returns are M$1480), but you’ll often get a discount on Sun. A cabin is an additional M$900, while cars cost M$3200 (one way). The ticket office inside the terminal is open Mon–Sat 8am–3pm (
622 222 0204, w ferrysantarosalia.com).
Carr Internacional Salida al Norte s/n
622 225 2800, w hotelarmida.com.mx. If you have to stay in Guaymas, aim for this well-equipped hotel, close to the TAP and Tufesa terminals, with 124 rooms ranging from luxurious doubles (M$1220) to decent standards. M$660
Hotel del Sol
García López 995
622 224 9411,
[email protected] Prices here are a bit cheaper than the Armida, with 25 simple but adequate rooms close to the main bus terminals. M$580
Eating and drinking
Coctelería El Doug Out
García López between calles 11 and 12
622 222 2626. A no-frills food court offering excellent crab and various ceviche, pulpo cocido and other shellfish, all for well under M$100 (half kilo of shrimp is M$70). Daily noon–10pm.
Serdán at C 25
622 222 4270. A justly popular local comedor at the far end of Serdán, lauded for its giant papas locas (huge baked potatoes stuffed with meat, cheese and cream) and tacos carne asada. Daily 4–10pm.