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Cruises to Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco)

Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco) (Photo:Chris Curtis/Shutterstock)

About Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco)

Known as "Arizona's beach," Puerto Penasco -- Rocky Port in English -- isn't widely known to those outside of Arizona. Sixty-five miles south of the Arizona-Mexico border, and a four-hour drive from both Phoenix and Tucson, the port referred to as Rocky Point draws the bulk of its visitors from those areas. But that could change with the construction of a cruise ship facility, which would make it a homeport for sailings on the Sea of Cortez.

The development has had a rocky (no pun intended) history, with starts and stops over the past decade or so. Nevertheless, the first of three cruises sailed from Puerto Penasco in January 2020, with passengers ferried to and from the ship via tender. There's no word yet on whether the line that offered those sailings, UK-based Cruise & Maritime Voyages, will return for a second season.

Puerto Penasco is poised at a spot where the Sonoran Desert meets the Sea of Cortez, so it's hot and humid in summer and can get chilly in winter. It was a mere fishing stop until the 1920s, when a developer dug a well creating the area's first water source, and built a casino and hotel. Visitors from Arizona flocked to drink, gamble and revel, but post-Prohibition, that action waned.

Rocky Point's major growth spurt came in the 1990s, when a forest of high-rise condos began to take root on then-pristine Sandy Beach. Around the same time, more expats began building vacation homes on beaches to the south. Today, the town of 62,000 gets about 2.5 million visitors annually.

The residential developments have spawned more tourism-related enterprises including golf courses, dive outfitters and fishing charters. It isn't the laidback fishing village it once was, but you won't have to look far to discover what French explorer Jacques Cousteau meant when he dubbed the Sea of Cortez "the world's aquarium."

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  • More about Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco)

    Why go to Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco)?

    Pros: Pristine beaches and rich tidal pools within driving distance of Arizona.

    Cons: A dearth of cultural and historic sites; no port facilities.

    Bottom Line: Downtown lacks charm, but the beaches make up for it.

    Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco) Cruise Port Facilities

    There are no formal port facilities in Rocky Point at this time. As noted above, a long-planned cruise terminal has yet to take shape and officials can't say when it will.

    Passengers tender to and from the federal Fonatur marina.

    Good to Know

    Locals dub the gauntlet of shops on the road to Cholla Bay "Rodeo Drive" or "Shacks 5th Avenue." In reality, this strip of concentrated commerce is called Cholla Mall. Some vendors are willing to haggle. Some aren't. Either way, it never hurts to try.

    Getting Around

    Transportation options in Puerto Penasco are limited, given that most visitors drive to the destination.

    On Foot: The town's most walkable area is around the malecon (seaside promenade), where shops, restaurants and fish vendors are doing business. Otherwise, Rocky Point is not all that pedestrian friendly.

    By Taxi: Cabs congregate around the malecon and at the condo developments on Sandy Beach. It's a good idea to establish a price with the driver before you take off.

    By Rental Car: A couple of independently owned agencies -- U-Save Car and Truck Rental, and Bufaloss Rent a Car -- are located downtown.

    Currency & Best Way to Get Money

    The Mexican peso is the currency of choice. But given the town's proximity to the U.S. border, dollars are also widely accepted. ATMs located in town are the most cost-effective way to get local currency.

    Language

    Spanish is the lingua franca but English is widely spoken.


    Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco) Cruise Reviews

    katamaranken
    Sail Date: Feb 2020
    We were on a schedule commercial bus to Rocky Point from Phoenix, about 50 passenger. There was a single line that took about 45 minutes to check in....Read More
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