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.
The region’s most impressive natural attraction, the Reserva de la Biósfera 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.