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      Popotola is a unique slice Baja that most travelers never see. Yet thousands of Baja visitors drive within 100 yards of it every weekend. With all of the other popular coastal stops that lie between Rosarito Beach and Ensenada, Popotola somehow got lost in the shuffle. And that is a good thing for people who want to stray just a bit off of the beaten tourist path.


      To give you an idea of just how easy it is to miss Popotla, even Carlos Fiesta drove by here for decades without stopping. But one fateful day he stumbled upon this small village in search of a new place to eat fish tacos, and it has been on his Baja radar ever since.

      Popotla is just a hop, skip and a jump south of Rosarito Beach. It is literally less than 10 minutes south of the ever popular Rosarito Beach Hotel. But it is light years away from the tourists crowds and daily drama of Rosarito Beach.

      There are very few places on the road from Tijuana to Ensenada that have not been overrun by tourists. Popotla is one of those places. Not that it can't get crowded, because it can. But the majority of the visitors here are Mexican, with just a sprinkling of gringos and gringas who want a more authentic flavor of Mexico.

      Like many of Baja's coastal towns Popotla started off as a fishing village. And today fishing boats still line up on the shore below the bluffs, just as they have been doing for decades. The fishermen go out on the morning and come back in the early afternoon with their catch. Which explains why the fish tacos here are so fresh.


      Looking north along the coast towards Popotla


      If you thought Popotla was just another small seaside fishing village like Puerto Nuevo you would be half right. Like Puerto Nuevo, Popotla is a collection of restaurants and curious stands situated along the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. But that is where the similarities end.

      Puerto Nuevo has gone mainstream and has become a destination unto itself. Popotla is more of a place to stop over on the way to somewhere else, which gives it a unique charm. And while lobster is the name of the game in Puerto Nuevo, all kinds of seafood and Mexican food is available at the 18 plus restaurants at Popotla.

      If Popotla is such a great place why doesn't everyone know about it? There are several reasons. For starters it is not located right on the main highway, and there are no big signs. If you don't know its there chances are good you'll just drive by it. Another reason it is not well known is because it is small. You can walk the entire village in less than 20 minutes, if you don't stop to eat.

      But probably one of the biggest reasons Popotla had yet to make it big is that it is not refined. There are no paved streets, no sidewalks, no master plan. The streets are not swept on a regular basis and the smell of fish is not disguised by the smell of churros or lobsters. The place just sort of evolved over the years in a haphazard way that can only happen to a village with absolutely no planning.

      Popotla is easy to find. When heading south on the old free road from Rosarito Beach look for the tall funky white half arches on the right side of the street, just past Fox Studios Baja. Hang a right, drive along the Fox Studios wall and look for a place to park.

      If you haven't been to Popotola, try to stop by next time you are headed south from Rosarito Beach. It's an interesting place to grab a bite to eat, have a cold drink, or just walk around and check out the action. A walk on the beach is also a fun diversion, especially at sunset.



      The first issue at hand when visiting Popotla is finding a place to park. There are always parking spaces available along the Fox Studios wall, but some people like to park as close to the village as possible. If your parking karma is good try driving all the way down the dirt road to the village itself for a parking spot near the restaurants. Sometimes a small tip to the parking guy will get you a parking spot close to the action.



      Unlike most of the popular places along the Gold Coast Popotla is not dominated by tourists. The majority of the people eating and drinking here are local Mexicans. There are some gringo tourists, but nothing like Puerto Nuevo. It's a refreshing change.



      Of all of the bluff top restaurants in Popotola Carlos Fiesta recommends Restaurant Mariscos La Tio. It's a decent sized restaurant, offers tables inside and on outside the ocean view deck and even has a stairway from the deck to the rocky beach. They have good food, good service, and live music on weekends.



      Looking for a mini-adventure? Walk past the restaurants on the road through the village and bear right. The street ends at the Pacific Ocean and its not hard to walk down the rocks to the tide pools along the ocean. This as a great place for a sunset photograph!




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