Vacations in Kino Bay, Sonora

A friend asked us:

What information do you have about Bahía de Kino? Can you help us with a nice place to camp and anything we might be interested in seeing? We want to spend several nights there.

Our trip to Kino Bay in January 2005 was memorable in many ways, so I decided to share our answers for the benefit of anyone considering visiting the area.

Kino Bay (Bahía de Kino, Sonora, Mexico) is a great choice for a vacation. There are lots of things to do, friendly people, and fairly inexpensive places to stay.

First things first, there are two “Kinos.” One is the old town, and called Kino Viejo. It has some restaurants, but no places to stay. We didn’t do much there. Kino Nuevo is the newer area, and is about five miles up the coast from the old town. It is where all the fun beaches, restaurants, and newer homes are.

Hotels

There is a wide variety to choose from ranging from moderately priced to quite spendy.

Don’t stay at Posada del Mar in Kino Nuevo, it is horrible and spendy. Our room was spartan and a bit dirty, and the bed had the comfort of a cardboard box (and about the same thickness).

We found a gem: Saguaro RV Park. They rent three or four small kitchenettes for about $30 a night. While the kitchenettes are old and a little rundown, they have a fridge , stove, bathroom, and a nice bed/living room. They are also right on the beach (well, you have to cross the street first). Check them out! They are about half way into Kino Nuevo on the right side. Look for the green and yellow sign.

Camping

As far as I know, you can camp on most beaches. I wouldn’t camp too close to town, though, as there are curious folks who will show up to bug you. If you go north or south of Kino area there are tons of beaches to choose from. Some of the RV parks also allow tents, so ask around. Fires should be OK, but be prepared with your own wood.

What to do?

  • Hit the beach!
  • Learn about local history and culture at the Seri Indian Museum in Kino Nuevo (exhibits are in Spanish yet informative).
  • Camp and play at Playa San Nicolas: dolphins, birds, waves, and sun.
  • Visit Isla Tiburón: hire a guide for $100 a day (4 people).
  • Relax and listen to live music at Jorge’s Restaurant.
  • Bird watching and wildlife viewing.
  • Whale and porpoise watching (in season).

We really like the beaches north of Kino—just south of the Punta Chueca Seri village. There is an RV park nearby called Western Horizons. Follow the signs to the park from Kino Nuevo, and you’ll see the beaches near the RV park. Make sure you camp away from the park if you don’t want them to charge you for your stay.

Also, south of Kino Bay there are was a beach we liked really well: Playa San Nicolas (near Playa San Esteban). There are big sand dunes and beautiful views out into the Sea of Cortez. You can camp on those beaches, as well, but be prepared for neighbors in the easy-to-reach areas and on weekends. Ask a local for directions as it is not well-marked.

Restaurants

La Palapa and Jorge’s, both in Kino Nuevo, were our favorites. Good food, good prices, and fun people. Jorge’s has live music almost every night of the week, and the fish tacos are the best in the area. At La Palapa I recommend the Camarón al Alcatraz, which is local shrimp prepared with an orange citrus glaze. In Kino Viejo, the nicest place was Restaurant Marlin which is well-known for fresh seafood but can be hard to find in the maze of streets.

Note: Don’t ask at any of these restaurants about their “fish of the day.” I asked at La Palapa and our waiter scolded me, saying, “All our fish is fresh daily—we don’t have a fish of the day.” He then stormed off and wouldn’t take our orders until we’d shown proper respect for the local fish and its freshness.

For cooking in your apartment or at your campsite, there are two or three small stores in Kino Nuevo that sell the basics; be prepared to pay a higher price than in normal Mexican grocery stores. Look for mobile seafood vendors (walking or on bikes) near the beaches and RV parks, they will sell you freshly caught shrimp and crab meat at bargain prices.

Getting there

Make sure to plan for one to three hours for border crossings since they can take a long time, especially on weekends or around holidays. The road from Nogales to Hermosillo is a well-maintained toll road. If you get off the highway at Magdalena de Kino (about an hour south of Nogales) you can skip one of the toll booths on the highway and also stock up on groceries at the city market. Padre Kino, famous for his exploration and mission work in the Southwest, is buried there in Magdalena.

In Hermosillo, follow signs for Bahía de Kino; sometimes the signs read “Salida a Kino.” Take advantage of the big city if you need to get cash or food. We stopped at a well-lit ATM in downtown Hermosillo to extract pesos from the machine since the exchange rate is usually better that way. There won’t be big grocery stores or ATMs in Kino Bay so plan ahead. The road from Hermosillo to Kino Bay is very narrow, and watch for potholes. We recommend day travel as night-time visibility is limited and there are no shoulders or painted lane lines much of the way.

All in all, the Sonoran coast is an easy drive from Arizona—about six hours from Tucson, eight from Phoenix. For a relaxing vacation, you can’t beat the quiet beauty of Kino Nuevo, the quintessential sleepy fishing town on the Sea of Cortez.

Map: See my “edited” map of the Kino Nuevo area with a few of our favorite places marked in pen (map is in PDF format, 1.8MB).

Related: See our photos from Kino Bay.