October 30, 2018

Lobster & Adventure in Mexico’s Puerto Nuevo Lobster Village

It’s always an adventure when DayTripper Tours heads south of the border, and today was no exception.  On this day, our adventure took us to Puerto Nuevo, a.k.a., The Lobster Village. We were fortunate to have Abel as our driver.  He drives many of our tours to Mexico and really knows his way around.

Our border crossings were a breeze and the lobster was delicious as usual!

Our first stop was at the historic Rosarito Beach Hotel.  Whenever I’m here, I always imagine what life must have been like back in 1925 during the prohibition era when Manuel Barbachano opened the first hotel in Rosarito.  His hotel became a haven for the more well-heeled and Hollywood set and it was the “place to be” for the rich and famous.  Today, you can still feel that Hollywood glamour when you step foot into the hotel.

The sign above the main entrance reads “Through this door pass the most beautiful women in the world,” and one of the most beautiful women to ever pass through was his own wife, Maria Louisa Chabert, a talented and beautiful actress.

He built a mansion on the ocean for her and his family, and that elegant mansion now forms the hotel’s Casa Playa Spa and Chabert’s restaurant.

Rita Hayworth was also a visitor to the hotel back in 1954.  At the time, she was married to Prince Ali Khan (son of the Shah of Iran). They brought in their own staff, including a personal chef, and took over an entire floor. The hotel was also visited by other Hollywood film stars such as Orson Welles and Dolores del Río, Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Mickey Rooney, Ava Gardner, Gregory Peck, Vincent Price, Anthony Quinn, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn.

We enjoyed an hour of shopping and fun time in Rosarito, and there are so many shopping options here.  The shopping center next to the hotel has lots of nicer items and then there’s a typical Mexican Market about 4 blocks north (on the ocean side) that has a huge selection of typical Mexican items.  Some of the more unique items that I recommend to my guests when shopping in Mexico include:  Fountain pots, hand painted tile, piñatas, tequila (Añejo is best), duty free French perfume, silver jewelry, blankets, leather, ceramics, rustic furniture and blown glass.

Many of our folks enjoyed a drink inside the hotel bar, which has a really unique “Old Hollywood” atmosphere with dark woods, etc.   I always suggest a walk through the hotel to see the pool, beach and waterfront.  The beach is very well kept and there are numerous activities to choose from including horseback riding.

Back on the bus, we headed for Puerto Nuevo.  We passed by Baja Studios originally built by Twentieth Century Fox for the reconstruction of RMS Titanic in 1997 film Titanic. Most of the epic film was filmed right here.  Some other notable films that have been shot here include: Disney’s “Pearl Harbor,” starring Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale and Fox’s “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World,” starring Russell Crowe.   The British Navy Ship “HMS Surprise” that was constructed here is docked at the San Diego Maritime Museum and is part of the museum’s permanent collection. Today, the studio is an independent Mexican-owned film studio that is still for rent for major motion pictures.  Perhaps their biggest selling point as a movie studio is that they have the largest water tank in the world, for shooting aquatic themed movies such as Titantic.

We also passed by the colossal Christ of the Sacred Heart statue, a 75-foot-tall statue of Jesus displaying his Sacred Heart (on his chest). The statue weighs 40 tons and was commissioned by Don Antonio and placed in 2006. As the story goes, when he was little boy, he and his siblings had no father. They survived by taking care of one another. He did not have shoes until he was twelve. Every day they would go to church to pray for work to sustain the family. Little by little the prayers were answered and the family began to thrive in the earlier days of Rosarito. The Sacred Heart of Christ is the symbol of his deepest gratitude.

Yet another amazing site that we saw along the way was La Sirena, or “The Mermaid House.”  This 50 ft. tall, 5 story home is shaped like a lady and is home to artist Armando Garcia and his wife. Armando dropped out of school at the age of 11 and started teaching himself art at 14.  He has spent the last 15 years working on the house, dating back early 2000s.  The living room and kitchen are in the tummy, the bedroom is in her chesty parts and, to be anatomically correct, the bathroom was located in her bottom.  On the 3rd floor is Armando’s gallery and on the 5th floor, the head and hair is his open-air studio and study.   The 2nd floor now houses a French restaurant which recently opened. Although he worked in a French Restaurant in La Jolla, Armando is a self-trained chef.  He cooks the four-course meals, and you can even have dinner in one of her breasts! He makes a living from the restaurant and by selling keepsakes of the house. Armando first became known in Baja in 1991 which was the year he completed “La Mona,” or The Doll.  The artist first proposed the naked lady be “built” to commemorate Tijuana’s 1989 centennial. The city declined the offer.  (We got to see La Mona later on our drive through Tijuana en route to the Otay Mesa border crossing)

Finally, we were in Puerto Nuevo and it was time for some lobster!  Puerto Nuevo originated as a fishermen’s neighborhood where they offered their daily catch literally from their living rooms. The people of Puerto Nuevo were so poor back in the 40s and 50s and they basically only ate lobster and they were sick of it. But, found out other people liked it, so they started to exchange lobster for any other goods they could get.

Puerto Nuevo was officially founded in 1956 with the opening of its first lobster restaurant.  Now known locally as the “lobster village,” Puerto Nuevo gained popularity in the 1970s and 80s, and today there are over 30 lobster restaurants in Puerto Nuevo, and the town is still famous for its lobster served “Puerto Nuevo-style.” According to tradition, the lobsters are pan-fried in lard, so the meat stays soft and tender, and it is served with beans, rice and gigantic homemade flour tortillas. Over a million lobsters are served in Puerto Nuevo each year to visitors who come from all over Baja and beyond.

Our meal was at Villa Ortega’s, one of my favorite restaurants in Puerto Nuevo.

This family-owned restaurant has been in the family for five generations and they own and operate several restaurants in Puerto Nuevo and Rosarito.  The ambiance here is very nice, as is the ocean view.  Much of the décor throughout the restaurant has been hand-selected to give guests the rustic Mexican feel. The lobsters came to our table on bright red on platters along with bowls of rice, refried beans, salsa and tortillas.  Unlike Maine Lobster, where there is a lot of cracking and mess involved, the lobsters here come out split and cooked, with the halves stacked on a platter. Very convenient and very tasty!

The lobsters caught here are called spiny lobsters, also known as langouste or rock lobsters. Spiny lobsters are sometimes called crayfish, sea crayfish or crawfish.  Unlike their Maine lobsters (their distant relatives) spiny lobsters have much larger antennae and do not have claws.

Our last stop of the day was in Tijuana at Panadería La Vienesa, said by many to be the best bakery in the city. One of my favorite bakery items here are Coricos which are ring shaped and made of corn meal.  Another really popular item here are the many varieties of Conchas (sweet bread shaped like a sea shell) They also have a special section here dedicated to whole grain items and another section dedicated just to cakes.  Our folks loaded up on all the delicious bakery items that were ridiculously cheap!

All too soon, it was time to head for home.  It was interesting to drive by the Tijuana airport to see the new BorderXpress bridge which crosses over from the U.S. side, making it very convenient for Americans to fly out of the Tijuana.  We made it through the Otay Mesa border crossing in no time flat and were home minutes later.  Many of my guests commented that it had been years since they had traveled to Mexico, and they were surprised and delighted with our day!

Mark Jacobson
DayTripper Tour Manager

Tour: Puerto Nuevo Lobster Village with Lunch
Date: October 27, 2018


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