The British have a very lovely word: “mini-break.” I suppose our U.S. counterpart term would be “getaway,” and that is just what I did with Doug and a couple of our friends—we got away from it all, in a whole other country, just 30 minutes away! We kept joking we could call it our #twodayvacay (saying “hashtag” aloud, of course).
Where to Stay
The One Bunk team has opened their most ambitious project yet: a totally renovated hotel on Avenida Revolución, Tijuana’s main tourist street. I’ve written more about the hotel (I took a ton of pictures; I’m gushing about it) here, but this post is about a few lovely ways to spend two days in town, assuming you’ll rest your head at One Bunk. You could definitely do many things on this list in one day if you don’t want to stay overnight.
Foodies in San Diego are well aware that a culinary renaissance has been underway in Tijuana for quite some time. For those not as close to the action, let me tell you: you can get some amazing food across the border for a great price! Southern California and even Arizona residents should come over to San Diego, cross, and take a little #twodayvacay of their own.
When you’re walking down Revolución, it is important not to take the storefronts at face value. Look deeper and you’ll normally find pasajes (corridors) leading away from the street into the interior of the city block. My first stop is normally Collectivo 9, a pasaje with shops selling clothing, vintage books, and crafts. At the end, a courtyard surrounded by vendors making amazing food. You must try the smoked marlin empanada at 19/87 Empanadas and ramen from Tatami.
If you’re looking into dining in Tijuana, you will see a name pop up time and time again: Javier Plascencia. His restaurant La Justina is directly downstairs from One Bunk TJ and I regret booking on a Sunday/Monday since La Justina was closed both days. It’s certainly on my list for next time.
Craft coffee is easy to find. Halfway between the border and Revolución, you can stop in Café Nativo for a handcrafted espresso, tea, or lemonade (top photo in this article). Container Coffee Co is on the main drag and they play great music.
Here’s somewhere you can walk to, but I wouldn’t judge you for taking a cab (don’t pay more than $5, it’s not that far). Telefonica Gastro Park is a courtyard of food trucks, some more permanently installed than others. The food here is phenomenal and the park’s reputation is strong north of the border. Pilgrimages down here for food are common. They often have live music or are showing a soccer match. These days, they are apparently showing Game of Thrones every Sunday night!
Craft beer is one of San Diego’s biggest industries and that culture has definitely trickled across the border (pun intended). You can still get extremely cheap Coronas and Tecates, but why not get something that tastes better and helps the local economy?
Mamut brewery is one block off of Revolución (Carrillo Puerto y o Tercera), on the second level of a building. Pass by an artisan cheese seller and enter through an unassuming staircase. They have a wide variety of flavors, a beautiful sunny patio, and amazing nachos. Other tasting rooms close by include Teorama/Ludica Co-tasting Room (pictured below) and Azteca Craft Brewing.
A taxi ride to Plaza Fiesta will connect you with a lot of breweries, restaurants, and shopping in one place. We stopped by on a Monday and almost everything was closed. I can picture this area getting really full/crazy/wild on a weekend.
I’ll admit that this area is a little weak for me, since all I do down there is eat. On Revolución, you’ll find food and drink, tourist shops, a splash of gambling, and not much else. However, for many, bargaining in itself can be an activity. If you want some nice Mexican blankets, leather sandals, or pottery (please steer clear of the tacky shirts and turtle magnets), never take the first price the shops tell you. You can often get them to lower the price by half!
Cine Tonalá is an arthouse cinema; you can buy a ticket if you speak Spanish or aren’t bothered by the language barrier. They have shopping inside as well, and an amazing rooftop bar/restaurant. It is my goal to come here for the weekend brunch buffet.
You can take a taxi or Uber MX to playas, (the beach), where you’ll find more restaurants and a boardwalk with colorful murals. On the weekend you might come across live music. Note, in recent months there has been news about water contamination, so I’d stick to eating paletas on the sand instead of swimming in the ocean.
Yes, you will need a valid passport. If you drive your car across you will need to buy special insurance and pay for parking. Do what we did and take the trolley all the way down from San Diego (we hopped on at Old Town). The trolley is $2.50 USD each person, each direction.
Walk through the checkpoint and then ignore the gauntlet of taxis—getting to the part of TJ I’ve covered here does not take long and you don’t need one. If you do take one, make sure to arrange the price before you even get in the car; I would never pay more than $10 USD, $5 USD would be more appropriate.
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All photos by Staci and Doug Jackson for The Voyageer.