Best Travel 2012
Tijuana tour guide extraordinaire and former San Diego-based entertainment and outdoors reporter Chinn shares his favorite eats, drinks, and stuff to do across the border.
His Best of Tijuana
Pizza & beer: Horno 320
The name means “Oven 320,” a reference to the temperature at which they cook the pizza in woodfired ovens. On foot it’s about a 15-minute straight shot south of the border fence, just north of the lifeguard station in Playas de Tijuana. Quaint and rustic with a lot of bare wood but definitely chic, the entire place consists of five or so tables facing the open kitchen, with a few stools out on the front patio—prime real estate for watching the sunset over the ocean.
Celebrity chef: Javier Plascencia
The international media darling of Tijuana chefs has a restaurant for every occasion and budget. When I’m poor and craving pizza, I go to Giuseppi’s, the bottom tier of his family’s empire of eateries (on par with The Olive Garden). When I have pesos to blow on farm-to-table delicacies with deconstructed truffle garnishes over a glass of Valle de Guadalupe wine, I put on a bunch of black and go to Misión 19, on the 19th floor of Tijuana’s first and only LEED-certified building. When I’m somewhere in between I go to Cebicheria Erizo (intentionally misspelled with a B instead of a V), Plascencia’s Baja fish market-restaurant in a strip of eateries on Avenida Sonora at the entrance to Chapultepec, the wannabe Beverly Hills of Tijuana.
It’s run by Baja Culinary Art School grads on the southern edge of downtown near La Cacho, the would-be North Park of Tijuana. The Travel Channel has filmed a show here, but the place was already winning popularity contests before the cameras showed up. Try the Kraken, pesto octopus served taco-style in a hollowed-out California chile.
Date night: The Carlos Monsivais Cineteca
The state-of-the-art, 230-seat, beautiful movie theater is at Centro Cultural Tijuana. They play two indie foreign films nightly, tickets are 40 pesos per film (about $3), and they sell Cerveza Tijuana at the concession stand. Check Facebook for the movie schedule, and remember that unless you either speak whatever language the movie happens to be in or read Spanish subtitles, you’re pretty much left in the dark.
Las Ventanas al Paraiso, Cabo San Lucas
Newly Renovated Spa: Las Ventanas al Paraiso, Cabo San Lucas
Hooooly massage. Recent renovations have made this ultra-luxe spa even better. Treatments take place in indoor/outdoor huts, and begin with a relaxing footbath. Afterward, steam and detox in the pools or read a book in the relaxation area, surrounded by lush bougainvillea. You’ll emerge a changed person.
23400 San José del Cabo, Baja
Steaks and Cigs: La Quinta Resort & Spa
Weekend getaways were made for the gals. But La Quinta’s newest amenities aim squarely at the fellas. The classic à la carte steak menu at Morgan’s in the Desert is the stuff dads dream of, and the new Havana Club cigar lounge across the courtyard is perfectly designed for a shave, a Scotch, and a smoke. Who needs golf? Or gals?
49499 Eisenhower Drive, La Quinta
Action-Packed Weekender: Zip Lines
With a mile-long web of zip lines and suspended “sky bridges” weaving through the forest in Riverside County, Navitat (a theme park for ropes and pullies) is like getting to go on a far-flung corporate retreat without the trust falls.
6047 Park Drive, Wrightwood
Local Airline for the Tipsy Traveler: Alaska Airlines
We love the nonstop service to Maui, plus free Mai Tais and macadamia nuts. Now there are also direct flights from SAN to Monterrey and Sonoma—get free wine and beer on the way there and you’re allowed a checked 12-bottle case per passenger on the way back. Talk about friendly skies.
Non-Hollywood L.A. Desto: M Café at Calamigos Ranch
Part hippie, part hipster, this outdoor restaurant and bar is tucked in the Santa Monica Mountains, far from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood. Uncork a bottle from a local winery and enjoy the sweeping scenery, complete with chandeliers strung from eucalyptus trees, a duck pond, and paddleboats.
327 Latigo Canyon Road, Malibu
Luxe Hawaiian Hideaway: Kukui’ula
San Diego slow foodies will feel especially at home in Kauai’s new community of vacation villas. There’s a 20-acre lake and farm onsite—guests are welcome to pick bananas, papayas, arugula, and herbs to create a local feast. Or leave the foraging to chef Ben Takahashi, who is winning raves from world travelers online.
27 Ke Alaula Street, Koloa, Hawaii
New Reason to Go To Vegas: Barrymore
Old-timey Sinatra fans and hipsters alike are flipping over this intimate gem hiding off-strip in the semi-sketchy Royal Resort. Try the lobster deviled eggs and sip a martini.
99 Convention Center Drive, Las Vegas
Best Place to Drop AnchorDanzante Bay
Park your sailboat in this scenic cove protected by the volcanic Islands of Loreto, and take advantage of the adjacent Villa del Palmar’s amenities. The resort grants boaters free access to their pools, spa, gym, WiFi, and shuttles into town.
Carretera Transpeninsular km 84, Ensenada Blanca. Loreto, Baja