Thanks to its proximity to Southern California, the “Gateway to Mexico” was the Jessetters’ first international location of travel back in the early 2000s. Back then, Tijuana was a go-to destination for underage college kids (including the Jessetters) looking for cheap booze, dirty nightclubs, and some zonkeys. Many things can change in the course of a decade though. Fast forward to the late 2000s and increased border violence, drugs, and passport restrictions decimated the tourist industry in the area.
Thanks to a resident Jessetter, we recently had the opportunity to return to Tijuana and the surrounding areas for the first time in many years. It was a bit refreshing to re-experience the area as a seasoned traveler in their 30s compared to a college-aged kid just interested in the nightlife. We were able to enjoy nice restaurants with AWESOME food, decent shopping, and some fun touristy things. While it is still considered big, bad TJ, it doesn’t seem quite as bad as it had been. You just have to be smart and attentive when you are out and about.
One of the coolest activities we enjoyed during our stay was horseback riding in Puerto Nuevo at Pretty Horses Rescue. Though difficult to find, this place is run by friendly people that are doing incredible work saving and rehabilitating horses. We took an enjoyable one hour horseback ride through the country for $45/person. It was nice to know that the money was going to feed and help these horses that had been abused and neglected, some of which were in really bad shape. This place also takes care of some dogs, chickens, rabbits, and pigs. If you want to pay a visit, just make sure to follow all the “Pretty Horse” signs.
The food has always been a selling point to venture south of the border. From the lobster in Puerto Nuevo to the upscale food in Tijuana, there are plenty of places to get your grub on. Our favorite place this trip was El Taller in Tijuana. The ambiance was nice, and the food was great. Surprisingly, their beet salad was one of the best things I have had in a long time (Recommended times 10!).
It’s not all great south of the border though, and the worst part for us was having to wait in line to get back into the USA. The Jessetters had to stand in the sun for over 3 hours on a Sunday morning to finally get across (in no small part to all the individuals trying to cross without identification). **Tyler’s Tip: Get a passport card! The wait would have only been about an hour! You would get to wait in the Ready Line.**
While I don’t recommend this area as a destination to stay, I do think it is a fine place to day trip if you are looking for some adventure and good food…just be smart and be prepared to wait coming back across the border!