The three best guidebooks to the area are Lonely Planet’s Baja California volume, the Moon series’ Mexico Handbook , and Fodor’s Mexico . You needn’t change money if you’re traveling no farther than Tijuana, Rosarito, and Ensenada, and you can rent a car from Avis in San Diego and drive it into Mexico (most rental companies don’t allow this). In Tijuana I stayed at the Hotel Lucerna, an attractive and airy place in the Río section (telephone 66-33-39-00; from the United States add the prefix 011-52). Outstanding among the city’s better restaurants is Cien Años, not far from the Lucerna, with imaginative specialties like tortillas with huitlacoche (a mushroomlike fungus that grows on corn) and beef fillet with pomegranate seeds and a vast selection of tequilas (66-34-30-39). In the La Revo area, eat at Café la Especial, a cozy place underground at No. 718 with traditional fare especially well prepared (66-85-66-54). Caesar’s is not far from there, at La Revo and Fifth Street (66-85-16-06). The undeniably entertaining Wax Museum is on First Street (66-88-24-78).
Don’t stay at the Rosarito Beach Hotel; its rooms have seen better days. Six miles south of Rosarito the Hotel Calafia has charming rooms with spectacular views from a bluff right over the water; its dining room is a saloon from the Titanic set (66-12-15-81). While in Rosarito Beach, eat at one of the many lobster houses in nearby Puerto Nuevo—take your pick—or at the restaurant El Nido, a wonderful place in a mock-forest setting, where you can get quail from the owner’s farm in garlic sauce (66-12-14-30). Also, take a day trip to Ensenada, where you will want to eat at any of the fishtaco stands around the fish market and drink at Hussong’s, on Avenida Ruíz (61-78-32-10) and at the bar at the Centro Social Cívico y Cultural de Ensenada, the former Riviera del Pacifico (61-76-43-10).