If you’ve heard anything about Baja Beach Fest — the reggaeton and Latin hip-hop festival coming to Rosarito, Mexico’s historic Papas & Beer this weekend — you know this: It’s a party. Like a big, wild, sprawling, bucket-list rager. And while other festivals seek to widen their reach by bringing in digital artists, broadening the genres they focus on, or adding in a health component, Baja Beach Fest is staying true to its identity. Both the genre they rep for, by bringing in Ozuna and J Balvin to headline; and their home, one of the most historic clubs on earth, located in Mexico’s Northern Baja.
The crowds have taken note. Hotels and AirBnBs for this weekend have been booked out for months and fans of reggaeton coming from the United States aren’t about to be dissuaded by the fear-mongering that has long dominated the travel conversation surrounding Tijuana, Rosarito, and even the calm hamlet of Puerto Nuevo a few clicks south.
“We brought well over 100,000 people across the border to Papas & Beer over the course of last year alone,” says Chris Den Uijl, Baja Beach Fest’s co-founder. “This year, we’re on pace to double that. People are clearly waking back up to Rosarito as a travel destination. I think bringing mainstream artists like YG, Migos, and Little Uzi Vert — as well as the biggest Latin artists — helps them feel more comfortable.”
Den Uijl launched Baja Beach Fest with his close friend Aaron Ampudia, whose parents started Papas & Beer in ’83. Together, the duo has quickly built their brand into a destination festival that brings exciting names to the region and challenges stereotypes about Northern Baja Tourism. Though Tijuana’s murder rate sits at or near the top of global lists, lovers of everything from the local food scene to the beloved surf breaks remind travelers that more than 90% of all homicides involve people associated with the drug trade. Regardless, Rosarito is a destination unto itself — a beach resort, rather than a suburb of TJ.
“We really pride ourselves on the safety portion of throwing a festival,” Den Uijl notes. “Education is the biggest barrier, so we emphasize that — showing people how accessible Rosarito is, showcasing the food of the region, and celebrating its growth.”
On the cusp of Baja Beach Fest, we asked Den Uijl and Ampudia to share their highlights of the region. Their joint picks provide a virtual roadmap, should you be heading to Baja Norte for Baja Beach Fest, one of Papa’s & Beer’s many parties throughout the year, or just a weekend of waves and quiet beach time.
The best street food.
The tostadas from La Guerrerense are the best street food — known and loved worldwide.
The best sit-down food or upscale meal.
Fauna en Bruma is my favorite upscale meal in Valle de Guadalupe. Apart from the amazing food, the vibe of the restaurant is unreal.
Best “food experience.”
Buying lobster fresh from the ocean in Puerto Nuevo and making endless lobster burritos is a traditional food experience everyone must try out when they visit.
Best place to party.
Papas & Beer, hands down. We gotta shout ourselves out on this one.
Best late-night jam.
A good taco shop like El Paisa (Ensenada), Tacos el Frank (Tijuana), or El Yanky (Rosarito) is what you need, depending on which city of Baja you’re in.
Cerveceria Wendlandt is the best brewery in Mexico hands down, not only going to their tasting room but also the hole in the wall bar they have in Ensenada.
Best hangover breakfast.
Cuarzo in Valle de Guadalupe is the best breakfast if you’re hungover. It’s also the best pick if you just want to try the best enchiladas south of the border.
Best/ favorite surf break.
Best lounging beach.
Estero Beach in Ensenada would be the best beach to just relax and enjoy a resort-style weekend.
Best unexpected attraction.
The people of Baja are in my opinion the most unexpected attraction, everyone is really nice and wants you to explore the culture, food, and drinks.
Most iconic experience.
Racing the Baja 1000, The Score International Championship is the biggest/most dangerous off-road race in the world and it takes place in the backcountry of Baja. You want to know this area, participate in that.
One thing you tell everyone going to the Baja to try.
Authentic Northern Baja food is a must-try for anyone coming this way.
Favorite travel trick for visiting the region.
Drive down before rush hour at the border (before 3 pm), plan ahead like any other place where you are going and make reservations wherever you plan on attending. You’ll be surprised by the waiting list times.
“Before you go” advice to anyone heading to the region.
Most hotels offer a fast pass for tourists who stay at their properties but don’t be so confident about getting to the border by noon and expecting that fast pass to work. The key is to get to the fast pass by the time they open it up 8am and you’ll cross the border in 10min.
Ways people behave when visiting that piss you off.
It’s like any other place is the world — being disrespectful to Baja or its people will piss anyone off. Locals of this region included.
What makes you most hyped for Baja Beach fest?
What it means for Baja. This is the biggest music event produced in Baja California and being able to be from Baja and produce it, is pretty cool.
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