Reported to be the busiest international border crossing in the world, Tijuana is a crossroads in many respects. It is where visitors heading south into Baja first enter Mexico. The trinket toting tourist, as well as party animals, come for the day or evening. Agricultural and manufactured goods make their way north while U.S. business interests head south. Even the pacific rim economy has Tijuana on its map. The poor of Mexico and Latin America pass through on their way to the U.S. in search of a better life, as the first world meets the third world. Tijuana is a diverse mix of people from many parts of Mexico and the world. Nearly 50 different languages are spoken by the people in this busy and vibrant city.
While Tijuana is very Mexican, it is not like other places in Mexico. Unlike other cities in Mexico, it has no central square with the requisite church to serve as a focal point for the community. In some ways, the city is as much a reflection on the U.S. as it is Mexico. Just as Mexico has influenced Southern California, so it has gone the other way too. Possibly to a greater extent. One of the primary factors in its growth early in the century was the banning of cabarets in San Diego and then the prohibition of alcohol, both of which Tijuana was happy to provide visitors. More recently, U.S. business interests have set up shop and proven to be a large factor in Tijuana’s growth (the city has one of the highest urban growth rates in the world). In fact, Tijuana is sometimes called the television capital of the world because of the number of televisions that are manufactured there. As with any large urban center, Tijuana is experiencing growing pains. Their infrastructure is inadequate, they have a housing shortage, and of course, crime is an increasing problem.
Still, Tijuana offers much to visitors. A taste of Mexico is right next door to Southern Californians, and the city provides plenty of good hotels, dining, shopping & entertainment. In fact, Tijuana can be a very wild and fun place for adventurous.
Food & Drink
Boccaccio’s – Small and elegant with a mostly Italian menu with seafood and beef dishes. Full bar, lunch & dinner daily, late dining. Blvd. Agua Caliente #11250 (at Gen. Salinas), Tel. (66) 86-22-66.
Buenos Aires – This Argentinean restaurant offers grilled meats, Italian style dishes and empanadas, a full bar, lunch & dinner daily and late dining. Blvd. Gen. Rodolfo Sanchez Taboada (at Calle 9, upstairs and diagonally across from the Tijuana Cultural Center), Zona Río, Tel. (66) 84-73-32.
Cafe La Especial – Mexican basics like enchiladas and chiles rellenos are served in this busy Mexican cafe. Full bar, breakfast, lunch & dinner daily. Ave. Revolución # 718 (between Calle 3 & 4), Tel. (66) 85-66-54.
Cien Años – Here, at Tijuana’s #1 gourmet hot-spot, reservations are a must. Calle Jose Maria Velazco #1407, Tel. (66)-34-30-39.
El Taurino – This Tijuana mainstay is mostly a beef house, but also offers fowl and seafood. Full bar, lunch & dinner daily, late dining. Sixth St #7957 (off Revolución). Tel. (66) 85-70-75.
Grand Bistro Restaurante This fine but pricey eatery features seafood dishes. Lunch & dinner daily. Blvd. Agua Caliente #4500 (located in the Grand Hotel Tijuana). Tel. (66) 81-70-00.
Guadalajara Bar & Grill – An upbeat and fun Mexican village atmosphere with good food. Try the great fajitas. Av. Paseo de los Heroes (at the Abraham Lincoln statue), Zona Rio, Tel. (66) 34-30-65.
Gypsy’s – Funky Dali-esque decor, Catalan style Spanish tapas, paella, 30 exotic hot and cold appetizers, entrees, and Catalan cream dessert. Pueblo Amigo Center, Zona Rio, Tel. (66) 83-60-06.
La Costa – Consistently fresh seafood. Full bar, lunch & dinner daily, late dining. Calle Seventh Galeana #8131 (between Revolución & Constitución), Tel. (66) 85-84-94.
La Escondida – This old hacienda houses, now a restaurant, serves international and Mexican cuisine such as chicken mole and tequila shrimp. Full bar, breakfast, lunch & dinner daily, late dining Mon.-Sat. Reservations needed on weekends. Santa Monica #1, Tel. (66) 81-44-57.
La Fonda de Roberto’s – Serving authentic southern Mexican cuisine such as pollo mole, chile enogada and chalupas poblanas. Full bar, lunch & dinner Tues-Sun Blvd. Cuauhtemoc #2800 (at Ave. 16 de Septiembre, Inside the Sierra Motel).Tel. (66)-86-46-87.
La Taberna Española – This very Spanish taverna has great bread and many small, saucy tapas dishes to dip it in. The mushrooms in garlic sauce is a favorite of many. Plaza Fiesta, Zona Rio, Tel. (66) 84-75-62.
Ortega’s – A longtime coastal favorite, known for its Mexican and seafood specialties, now has a place in Tijuana and boasts the city’s biggest and best brunch, lunch and dinner buffets. Av. Paseo de los Heroes (just past the Indian statues), Zona Rio, Tel. (66) 34-36-55.
Restaurant Argentino de Tony – Argentinean style steak house. Prime, juicy slabs of steak, lamb chops, mixed grills and the house specialty “calf-breaded steak”. Pueblo Amigo Center, Zona Rio, Tel (66) 82-81-11.
Tour de France – Lovely gardens and fabulous French delights, including butter browned filets served in a sauce of escargot, garlic and cream. Don’t miss the white chocolate gateau. Gobernador Ibarra #252 (two blocks south of Blvd. Agua Caliente), Tel. (66) 81-75-42.
Victor’s – Follow the Tijuana power-lunch crowd for the best carne asada and Caesar salad in the city. Blvd. Sanchez Taboada (at Juaquin Clausell Street), Zona Rio. Tel. (66) 34-33-55.
Baby Rock – A very popular disco with shooter girls, dancers and lots of pyrotechnics. Calle Diego Rivera #1482, Tel. (66) 84-94-38.
Bacarat – Upscale dining and dancing. Blvd. Agua Caliente (in the Grand Hotel Tijuana, just before the Tijuana Country Club, look for the twin towers), Tel. (66) 81-70-00.
Diamante Disco – Not quite as intimidating as most of the seedy Latin bars, but unaccompanied women might receive more unsolicited attention than they would like. Revolución and 1st.
El Jardin – Classic rock for dancing at Tijuana’s Cultural Center. Fridays at 9 p.m. Av. Paseo de los Heroes (at Mina Street), Tel. (66) 84-11-11 Ext. 105.
Las Pulgas – A modern Latin disco with a huge dance floor. Revolución 1127 (opposite the jai alai).
El Lugar del Nopal – Music and nightly happenings for the salsa, cumbia and rock crowd. Good inexpensive food by day. Cinco de Mayo #1328 (at Avenida F in downtown), Tel. (66) 85-24-13
El Perro Azul – An artsy, bohemian kinda place with live acoustic music, art exhibitions and a mixed, friendly clientele. Hmmm…sounds like fun. Closes at 2am, Plaza Fiesta.
People’s Sports and Rock – Consistently a fun bar, with a harder edge to the music, but beware, the bar staff might pour free tequila down your throat to encourage you to open that wallet wider than you planned. Revolución 786 (at 2nd).
Rodeo Santa Fe – Where else but Tijuana would you find a live, indoor rodeo at Midnight? Go here for an all-nighter of Norteno dancing and a pulsating sea of white vaquero hats. This three-level club has the city’s hottest disco upstairs, live Norteno music downstairs, a wild west theme and a mechanical bull. Late and packed on weekends. Pueblo Amigo shopping center, Av. Paseo Tijuana, Zona Rio, Tel. (66) 82-49-67.
Salón de Baile – This is the real thing! A traditional dancehall playing salsa, cumbia and norteño. Between Revolución and Madero (at 6th).
Senor Frogs – A Mexico mainstay with canned music, an international menu and upbeat atmosphere. Pueblo Amigo shopping center, Av. Paseo Tijuana, Zona Rio, Tel. (66) 82-49-58 or (66) 82-49-64.
The Cave – Pretty much the same as all the other tourist joints, but at least from the street level you can get a look at what you are in for. Revolución 1137 (between 5th and 6th).
Yuppies Sports Cafe – Loud music, televised sports and food is the norm at this favorite for sports nuts. Av. Paseo de los Heroes (at Diego Rivera), Zona Rio, Tel. (66) 34-22-27.
Taxis – The taxis are really very convenient and easy to use, and you shouldn’t have any problems with prices as long as you always ask how much before getting in. If you are going to a restaurant or something, do not let the taxi driver talk you into going to some place he is suggesting rather than where you want to go. Drivers often ask gringos for more $ so always ask how much (cuanto). Trips from the border crossing taxi stand to Av. Revolución run about US$5, most trips within the downtown area (centro) will run US$4 to US$5, from the centro to the Grand Hotel Tijuana/racetrack/bullring run about US$8, to the airport (aeropuerto) or the main bus terminal (central camionera) run about US$10.
Route Taxis (taxis de ruta) – These are generally large station wagons that hold 10 to 12 passengers. They run along set routes like buses, but stop wherever they are flagged down. Fares are about US$.45 pp. As on city buses, only pesos are accepted. Also, they are painted according to their routes. Red and black route taxis run between calle 2 (between Avenidas Revolución and Constitución) and La Mesa along Blvd. Agua Caliente, while the brown and white route taxis run to the Zona Río and Otay Mesa. Tell the driver where you want to go and he will drop you there or close.
Buses – The buses are a very easy, fun and a cheap way to get around. Sometimes they can get crowded. City buses (urbanos) in Tijuana come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. The route is usually designated by the city district (colonia) that it is going to, and is usually on a sign in the windshield or whitewashed on it. Prices are about U.S.$.35 and payable only in pesos. Most buses leaving downtown can be caught along Av. Constitución. The “Baja P” will take you to the Zona Río (Plaza Río Tijuana, Plaza Fiesta and Tijuana Cultural Center), and the green & cream buses run between downtown and La Mesa district (near the Caliente Greyhound track), while the blue & white run between downtown and the Playas district (Plaza Monumental).
Car Rental – Car rentals are available at the airport, at many of the hotels, and along Blvd Agua Caliente. In general, rental car rates are lower in Tijuana than other places in northern Baja, so if you are going to need a rental car in Ensenada, you might want to rent one while you are in Tijuana. You may get the best rates by reserving in advance from U.S. based companies, but some local agencies offer some reasonable rates as well. If you would like to reserve a rental car ahead of time you can do that right here. We are working in association with TravelNow to bring you some great prices. Take a look.