The room at the Festival Plaza Hotel was six stories up with a great ocean view. Parking for motorcycles is indoors, with 24-hour security, no charge. We hit the cabanas on the beach for a couple of margaritas, coronas, chips, and salsa…our first (and last) mistake. The beach is clean and service stellar, I just didn’t ask how much and the 20-dollar pinch felt more like L.A. The Festival Plaza is surrounded by massive party places like Papas & Beer, Iggys, and Coco Beach, so if you’ve come for peace and quiet, avoid spring break. There is a cool pier here with a ton of shops and everything within stumbling distance. We stumbled across some fireworks and made a small investment of four bucks each for the evening entertainment. Rosarito is obviously a tourist stop but doesn’t feel at all cheesy; it still retains an old-world charm. Yes, vendors will hawk their wares, but that’s to be expected. Hitting the main streets to look for dinner, we passed a fully stocked cigar lounge and smoke shop, and realized I forgot my cigar cutter (three-dollar expenditure).
View from the $40 Festival Plaza Hotel room
We figured most visitors would spend the bulk of their entertainment cash on a good dinner. The El Nido restaurant, just a block away, is a culinary paradise. The interior is jungle-like with an aviary and waterfalls. Claiming Rosarito’s best margarita, and I have no reason to doubt, it was a truly serious pour. The handmade tortillas were without a doubt the best I’ve ever had, even El Chiefo was impressed. The meals included salads, a mound of giant garlic shrimp, fresh Chili relleno, quesadillas, polenta, rice, beans, amazing homemade salsa, and guacamole. All of it was superb, and what was the total price of this four star dining feast, for two (including four major mondo margaritas)? $530 pesos or about 44 American dollars.
Lighting fireworks at the beach with our cigars, we enjoyed getting out of the states. It’s a unique experience; you feel like you’ve actually gone somewhere. A bit wild and wooly but that’s the fun of it, you’re not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. Breakfast at an adjacent outdoor restaurant was again a culinary surprise. Egg burritos filled with fresh grilled red and green bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions, a complete unique Tapatio sauce, lightly fried potatoes, a fruit plate with melons, banana, and guava with honey, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and rich full bodied coffee: $14…for both of us! I decided to peruse the local bazaar and found my own Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling mask and Captain Chapter 11 now claims the Mexican moniker of El Barato.
So how did the economics of a Budget Bagger Baja Bash really pan out? In the U.S. a full tank of gas was $19.45, and I still had gas left when I filled up in Mexico. In Mexico gas was $2.90 a gallon, that only cost me another $10.76 to get home. Total fuel expense: $30.21 roundtrip. Festival Plaza Hotel was 40 bucks, which I split with El Cheifo: $20 bucks each. Toll road both ways: $5 each. Expensive beach cabana tourist rip-off round: $10 each. Fireworks: $4 each. A one-dollar taco: $1. Splurge on an incredible dinner and the best margaritas in Rosarito: $22 each. More killer drinks from the hotel bar: $5 each. Breakfast at the hotel: $7 each. Total expenditure for me: $99.21. Oh yeah, I spent three bucks on a cigar cutter and eight bucks on a Mexican wrestling mask, well worth blowing the budget for.
When returning on motorcycles to the states you can ride to the front at the border saving hours of waiting or trying to lane-split between the throngs of vendors and exhaust-spewing cagers. Nothing is well marked, but there is a lane to the very right which is cordoned off by yellow barriers. If you miss it, motorcycles can easily slip between the barrier openings and ride to the front.