Just across the border from the United States, Tijuana has long been a bridge to enjoy Mexican delights without having to travel far. Such is the ease of access that the rich and famous would venture here during the Prohibition and throughout the Golden Age of Hollywood.
During the latter half of the 20th century, Tijuana developed a seedy reputation. But over recent years, the concerted efforts and investment into local culture have seen the city change for the better. Today, there are plenty of things to do in Tijuana with theaters, street art and museums all being elevated to the same level as the city’s rambunctious cuisine.
Tijuana is no longer just a stopover for all things tequila and fun. It’s now a great way to experience the culture of Baja California.
12. Plaza Rio Tijuana
You’ll have plenty of opportunities in Tijuana to indulge in some shopping. But one place that has a little of everything is Plaza Rio Tijuana. The large, open-air mall is the biggest of its kind in Baja California. It was inspired by the malls in the United States and has been thrilling shoppers since 1981.
The mall is alongside the Tijuana Cultural Center and offers over 100 stores to browse and explore. These are a pleasant mix of local boutiques, national brands and prominent American stores.
The plaza has a number of full-service restaurants for when you get peckish. You’ll also have the choice of two cinemas.
11. Rosarito Beach
The local beaches of Tijuana are popular among locals and a great way to enjoy the ocean without leaving town. However, for a true Mexican beach experience, head 30 minutes south to Rosarito Beach.
If you’re crossing the border from the United States, Rosarito represents the first major resort town on your travels south. Here, during the 1930s, otherwise known as the Golden Age of Hollywood, stars would flock to the seaside town to enjoy the glistening golden sand.
The wide expanse of sand provides ample space even on those busy days. You won’t have any trouble finding your own patch of sand to enjoy the views before running right back into the deep blue ocean.
10. Go horseback riding
Much of your time in Tijuana will be spent enjoying the vibrant downtown streets and exploring the local culture. But for some time among nature, why not take the opportunity to go horseback riding on the beach?
Whether you’re traveling with friends and family or simply looking for a romantic experience, horseback riding is a great way to experience the surrounding regions.
You’ll have your choice of a number of local outfits offering slightly different experiences. Afternoon and sunset strolls along the beach are popular choices, but you can also embark on a coastal journey that will show off the Pacific in all her glory.
9. Pasaje Rodriguez
Among the chaotic good that is Avenida Revolucion, Tijuana’s famous thoroughfare, is the Pasaje Rodriguez. If the Avenida is the car driving Tijuana’s evolution, then the artistic passageway is the engine.
As you wander along the main drag teeming with hotels, bars, shops and restaurants, make a detour along Pasaje Rodriguez. It’s an atmospheric alley laden with public art interrupted by tiny and mouthwatering restaurants. You’ll also find art galleries with permanent exhibitions showcasing the best artists in Tijuana.
Travelers should attempt to arrive at Pasaje Rodriguez on the first Friday of the month. The already vibrant passage plays host to exciting events, elevating the experience.
8. Caesar’s Restaurant
In 1924, Caesar Cardini put the finishing touches on a dish that would become popular around the world. That’s right, the Caesar Salad was invented right here in Tijuana, at Caesar’s Restaurant to be exact.
It’s a fact that certainly blew my mind upon realizing that the salad was a part of Mexican cuisine. While you can find a Caesar Salad in many restaurants around the world, why not experience the most authentic? Caesar’s Restaurant is still slinging the original recipe today, providing a delightful balance between zesty street eats and other local cuisine.
The restaurant is within Hotel Caesars, a place that was popular among Americans during Prohibition.
7. Park Morelos
Tijuana can be a hectic place at the best of times. Aside from the coast, there are few natural spaces around town. However, you can take the time to relax, tuck into a book or hang with friends at Park Morelos.
The park has a hearty blend of wooded forests and open lawns. This provides a lovely balance between walking paths, shade and airy spaces perfect for a picnic. As you wander around Park Morelos, you’ll come across the beautiful lake. Aside from admiring the views, this is a great place to spend a few hours with your partner.
Those traveling around Tijuana with kids should also head to the park. Not only is it a fun way to blow off some steam, but Park Morelos has a miniature train for getting around.
6. La Bufadora
Just over 20 hours south of Tijuana is an exceptional natural landmark. La Bufadora is found at the edge of the Punta Banda Peninsula and is thought to be the second biggest marine geyser on earth (Makapu’u Point, Oahu is number 1).
The incredible sight is just out of the historic, yet cosmopolitan city of Ensendada. The geyser has the strength to shoot water over 60 feet in the air. It’s a phenomenon that occurs because of the amount of water packed into a submerged sea cave. Over time, the pressure becomes too much with air and water ejected through a narrow hole.
After seeing the spectacular display, check out some of the local vendors and enjoy the coastal drive back to Tijuana.
5. Tijuana Cathedral
Construction on the Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Senora de Guadalope began at the start of the 20th century. But the cathedral you see today wasn’t complete until the 1970s. For locals, its mix of neo-classical and colonial architecture was worth the wait.
The Tijuana Cathedral was the first local Catholic church and one of the city’s finest constructions. Its elegant facade is noted for its beguiling brickwork, along with its two towers accented by a series of columns, spires and crosses. Perhaps the most sightly aspect is the image of Our Lady which stands proudly above the entrance.
4. El Popo Market
One of the best ways to experience Mexico is through their mercados and in Tijuana this continues to ring true. While not the biggest, travelers will be hard pressed to find a better market in town than El Popo.
El Popo Market is found on Calle Benito Juarez, a popular tourist street. It’s an instant burst of color, flavor and atmosphere with dozens of permanent stalls and delectable local cuisine. You’ll find all your market favorites from artisanal cheeses, fresh produce to local candies, soaps and incense.
The market attracts farmers and artisans from well beyond Tijuana, providing you with a glimpse into the world beyond the border town. Before departing, check out El Popo’s many street eats.
3. Playas de Tijuana
In the west end of Tijuana, Playas de Tijuanas is the best way to get a taste of the Pacific while in town. It’s here you can enjoy the best of the local beaches without having to go far from downtown. Forget venturing to Rosarito or Ensenada and enjoy the 2.5 mile beach. One that is a particular hit with locals on the weekend.
The white sand beach offers splendid swimming, with calm currents and fun but not crazy swell. Of course, facing west, you’ll be privy to a spectacular sunset each night.
In Playas de Tijuana, travelers will also have the chance to wander along the four-mile boardwalk that paints the coastline all the way to the U.S. Border and back again.
2. Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT)
Minutes from the United States border, the Tijuana Cultural Center is a dramatic sight. The sprawling complex is home to a striking spherical building. It opened in 1982, quickly becoming one of the main symbols of Tijuana. The city may not be known as a culture hot spot, but CECUT is helping to change Tijuana’s reputation.
The sphere is otherwise known as La Bola, and features the city’s only IMAX cinema. Aside from being a great way to enjoy some time out of the sun, the Tijuana Cultural Center has another must see highlight. Within the Museo de las Californias, you can discover both the natural and human history within the region.
The Cultural Center also has a strong focus on Indigenous Mexicans whose artists are showcased in a number of captivating exhibitions.
1. Avenida Revolucion
Known simply as La Revu, the Avenida Revolucion is an iconic part of Tijuana. Once harboring the bulk of the city’s seedy past, it has been revitalized to become the center of local life. Wandering the thoroughfare, which spans for eight blocks, will provide you with rows of vibrant buildings featuring every color of the rainbow.
It’s a hub of activity, day and night, providing travelers with a burst of energy. Beyond the atmosphere, you’ll discover poignant murals, boutique galleries, chic cafes and fantastic restaurants. All complemented by street performers, creating an open-air entertainment complex.
For foodies, you can’t go wrong on Avenida Revolucion. It’s here that Tijuana’s culinary scene was flipped on its head. Come here to try authentic local cuisine along with international cuisine from renowned chefs.