I once heard that during World War II the nightlife was electric. Often the front lines were miles away from cities, and people spent their nights partying and drinking like it was their last. When things are unpredictable, our senses are heightened, and the experience intensifies and becomes more memorable. Venice Beach used to have that level of unpredictability. There was real shit that could go down at any time. The edge is what attracted people to Venice, and that edge came from the people. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but everything and everyone seemed to be a lot more carefree, and the vibe was intoxicating. I get that same feeling when I reminisce about 150 clicks south of LA. I drive across an imaginary line trying not to imagine a wall with white walkers on the other side, and my awareness and heightened senses are instantly activated. I’m talking about Tijuana, Mexico, a place where the dollar is still strong, the waves are always firing, the tacos are better, and the beer is cheaper. It’s the full package, and, if you can get over Trump’s bullshit fear-mongering, you too can realize it should be on everyone’s weekend radar.
This journey starts at the border. Your biggest challenge and most nerve-racking part will be navigating the border into Mexico. It’s a little intimidating first time around, but that goes for most new countries we visit. No passport checks necessary on your way in. You drive straight through and past some customs officers holding machine guns. From here, and this is the most important thing you need to remember, STAY RIGHT AT THE FORK. If you go left, you’ll be lost forever into the Tijuana abyss. The right takes you to the toll road, which is smooth and policed, so it’s very safe. Carry cash for the tolls, and you’ll be all set. Once you get through the first 5+ miles of road, you'll hit the coast. Your angst dies, and the excitement levels explode. You’ll start seeing bitchin homes that were once owned by narco bosses and plenty of rugged coastline. Your first stop should be Baja Malibu. It’s easy to find, and if you follow the signs, you’ll see a private community on your right. Pull in there and park at Bullies Patisserie. Give Hugo at the surf shop $5 to keep an eye on your car while you surf, and, if you’re in need of some caffeine, Bullies is the only place with a decent coffee machine. The beach at the bottom of the hill feels endless with not many people in sight. Baja Malibu is a fun beach break that works on all tides and conditions, and the water is always a few degrees warmer.
You’ve now had a fun session and are starving. To the modern foodie, this might be your fav’ part of my Mexico trip. There have been many times I’ve driven down and there’s been terrible waves, but it’s all been worth it because of the tacos. From Baja Malibu keep heading south for around 5+ mins and take the Rosarito exit. It’s a happening little town full of restaurants, bars, and shops. One road splits the town, so take a left at your first light and look for Tacos Manuel about 500m up on your left. Fried fish and al pastor tacos are the jam, and, if you’re up for something new, try a quesataco. It’s as it sounds and might be the best collab food in the world. For under $20 bucks you can get 12 tacos, 2 Mexican cokes (they just call them cokes down there), and 2 cervezas.
You're happily stuffed and ready to tackle the course. Hop back on the toll road, start heading north, drive past where you just surfed, and, as you start heading back up the hill, you’ll see the signs for Real Del Mar Golf Resort. It’s a hidden gem, and its own little oasis. So, if you don’t surf, head straight here. If you feel like making a night of it, the hotel is great, and the restaurant/bar has a bitchin vibe with good tunes and food. I like to let my round of golf dictate whether I stay the night or not. The course is decent. Its roughs are rough, so bring lots of balls, and its bunkers are unusual with almost more weeds than grass. The greens are great though, and some of the fairways are better than others. It’s the course you’d expect in Mexico as it’s not very well maintained, signs warning of snakes and you can get a bit wild with your cart since it’s Mexico. It’s really about the ocean views though. It’s got the views of Torrey Pines for the cost of a case of domestic beer. If you stay the night and are up for a good time, make sure you hit Hong Kong. It’s a strip club meets night club that’s multiple floors and maximum fun.
Before you play, make sure you buy a Fast Pass from the reception. This is to get you across the border quickly and will be the best $25 (per car) you spend. The Fast Pass allows you to go through the medical lane and shoots you out at the front of the borderline. While crossing back into the USA is an experience, 7 hours in your car is the last thing you feel like after or a long day, especially with a hangover. Follow the signs for the medical lane, and, if you miss it, swing back around and aim for it. Navigating your way to the border is best described as running the gauntlet. Don’t worry it’s safe. The driving is just a bit chaotic, so use your maps. Once in the line, buy yourself some churros and some crappy souvenirs you don’t need. Give the kids juggling your remaining pesos, and stay away from the ceviche tostada (or run that gauntlet). By now you’ve made it back to the USA and relief is starting to set in. To celebrate your freedom, and to make sure you don’t get the squirts, stop at In-N-Out to equip yourself for the 150 miles back to Graceland.