1. During his expeditions through the Pinacate in the early 1700s, from atop the Santa Clara peak Jesuit Priest Francisco Eusebio Kino (“Padre Kino”) determined that Baja California was a peninsula rather than an island, as was believed at that time.
2. Given the similarity between the Pinacate and the moon’s surface, in 1969 NASA astronauts carried out tests in this area prior to the first trip to the moon.
3. Although the area surrounding the Pinacate and the Desert of Altar seems inhospitable, there are more than 500 plant species, 40 mammal species, 200 bird species and 40 reptile species to be found here.
4. For the Tohono O’odham culture, the Pinacate is sacred ground. According to their beliefs, this is where the universe was created as well as the roots of the four elements: water, land, air, and fire.
5. The largest sand dunes in North America can be found in the Pinacate. The dunes are in the form of a star and the “Queen Dune” reaches up to nearly 985 feet.
6. The bio-diverse area of the Pinacate is home to animals at risk of extinction including the Sonoran pronghorn, Gila monster, bighorn sheep, the desert tortoise, and chameleons.
7. For cyclists, there is a 15 kilometer bike route through the Pinacate. This begins at the biology station and winds along the “Batamote” range, offering a ride through diverse landscapes while being in contact with nature.
8. Given its natural beauty and tremendous biodiversity, on June 21, 2013 the Pinacate Biosphere Reserve and Grand Desert of Altar was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) during its gathering in the Kingdom of Cambodia.
9. The “Schuk Toak” Visitors Center contains an interactive museography about the Sonoran desert and the Pinacate. To date it is the largest self-sustaining public building in Latin America that runs on solar power. The Visitors Center is located at kilometer 72 along the Puerto Peñasco – Sonoyta highway.
10. The sight is known as the Pinacate based on the brilliant black color that distinguishes beetles of the same name, as well as the manner in which these insects raise their hindquarters thereby lending the name to the tallest volcano in the region (Volcán Pinacate), with an altitude of 3937 feet.
11. The Grand Desert of Altar is the most biologically diverse desert in the world.
12. The volcanic zone and dark lava flows found in the Pinacate are the result of volcanic eruptions dating back 4 million years!
Puerto Peñasco’s main attraction is undoubtedly its beaches, the horizontal strip where the sea merges with the rocky and sandy shores.
In addition to the coastline for those staying at beachfront hotels and condo complexes along Sandy Beach, there are various spots in Puerto Peñasco where one can enjoy a warm corner of the Sea of Cortez.
One of the most popular beaches is “Playa Hermosa,” which extends from in front of area hotels and toward the condo complexes of Sandy Beach. This stretch of beach traditionally receives the greatest number of tourists, given there are no marked drop-offs or pronounced rocks.
To facilitate access to Playa Hermosa, steps have been built at the spot known as “Los Palacio” next to the first condominium complex of the hotel zone, as well as at the area referred to as “Los Guardados,” the two principal access points. Another entry is along a walkway located between Hotel Peñasco del Sol and Gamma seafood restaurant. Sun shade rental is available along Playa Hermosa.
The area of the Mirador is another coastline offering various access points to the beach. The Mirador also offers a number of hotels and smaller condo complexes, along with RV parks, for visitors. Dozens of families make their way to this rockier shore to enjoy the sea. Here the drop-offs can be more pronounced during low tides and swimming is recommended only when the water is calm. Beach access spots are located along the Mirador and primarily toward the end of the Mirador intersecting with Ave. Sinaloa.
The area known as La Cholla, primarily consisting of U.S. residents, offers a coast frequented by both Mexicans and people from the U.S. given its much calmer waters. Although Cholla Bay is about 6 miles from the urban spread of Puerto Peñasco, a visit to the warm beach stretching from Pelican Point to the boat launch is well worth it. Hidden between the beach homes on the west side of Cholla Bay, one can also make their way down to the rocky landscape of Tucson Beach where families of sea lions often make their ways onto the rocks to relax.
Dirt roads from off one of the city’s main boulevard lead directly to Mi Playa. This area offers parking and a number of palapas for a fun family afternoon. However, it is recommended children not swim in this spot given stronger currents that can occur in this area. To get to Mi Playa, take the dirt road off Blvd. Fremont and follow the signs. Entrance and exit routes are separate leading in and out of Mi Playa.
To help guide travels, TripAdvisor is a popular tool and its familiar green owl can be seen across Puerto Peñasco, providing a sense of well-being to all.
TripAdvisor gives out two types of awards that distinguish spots best evaluated through client opinion: Certificate of Excellence and Travelers’ Choice, based off millions of opinions and comments from travelers around the globe.
The TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence is a way of recognizing certain establishments, attractions, and restaurants that demonstrate a constant commitment to excellence in hospitality and services.
To be eligible, a business must have a certain number of remarks from travelers that provide reviews on the TripAdvisor site and maintain a general rank of four (with a maximum of five).
In Puerto Peñasco, there are a number of hotels that have been given Certificates of Excellence, and others that are ranking well though possible have not yet received the required amount of client remarks for the year. Nevertheless, in planning one’s travel, every opinion counts.
Hotels in Puerto Peñasco that received Certificate of Excellence for 2014 include: Las Palomas Beach & Golf Resort and Sonoran Sky Resort.
Here are the top 10 hotels in Puerto Peñasco, as ranked by opinions on TripAdvisor:
1. Las Palomas Beach & Golf Resort
2. Sonoran Sky Resort
3. Mayan Palace Puerto Peñasco
4.Sonoran Sun Resort
5. Peñasco del Sol Hotel
6. El Mirador Village Hotel
7. Casa Blanca Golf Villas
8. Las Palmas
9. Playa Bonita Hotel
10. Hotel Paraíso del Desierto
Have you stayed at a local hotel that you’d like to recommend? Vote! Your opinion always counts!]]>
Just a few miles outside of Puerto Peñasco, the Pinacate and Grand Desert of Altar Biosphere Reserve is a special space and one of a kind in the world given the richness of its landscape, history, geology, as well as its flora and fauna.
The Pinacate Reserve, recognized in 2013 as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, offers visitors the opportunity to visually attest to its majestic natural beauty, diverse geology, lava
fields, maar craters, moving dunes, and granite mountains. These elements have attracted researchers from across the globe to the area, including even NASA at one time prior to the
first trip to the moon.
The biology station at the Pinacate Reserve, located about 50 kilometers from Puerto Peñasco, is open to visitors 365 days a year from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Staff from the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (CONANP) are there to register guests and suggest routes.
During the summer,
meteorological stations within the Pinacate register extremely high temperatures, therefore visitors are recommended to wear comfortable clothing covering all skin surfaces, walking shoes for all types of
terrain, as well as a cap or hat to help protect against the sun’s rays.
Héctor Munro Colosio, CONANP Director of Communications, Image, and International Relations at the Pinacate Reserve, explains during the summer one can enjoy the flowers and fruits of cactus from saguaro, pitahaya, nopales, and la biznaga. These are pollinated principally by bats and flower generally at night.
In addition to thousands of bats, Munro indicates, fauna during this season include guanas, wild hares, quail, prairie dogs, and roadrunners among other species that transit the area due to the few predators. In the afternoons or very early in the morning there are also coyote, fox, deer, mountain goats, wild boars, kangaroo rats, and rattlesnakes, among other species.
The Communications Director explains the Pinacate Reserve receives up to 17,000 visitors yearly, a number which has increased significantly after the area was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Even so, he adds, it continues to be one of the cleanest natural protected areas in Mexico, and they are confident that visitors possess this awareness.
“Schuk Toak” Visitors Center
The “Schuck Toak” Visitors Center located about 30 kilometers from Puerto Peñasco is another option for those who wish to learn more about the Pinacate
Biosphere Reserve without necessarily journeying out on routes through the Sonoran desert.
The self-sustaining ecological building, which operates off more than 200 solar panels, houses an interactive museum covering top pics of geology, biology, culture, and history. It also provides informational stations along walking paths in the area, a well-equipped audiovisual hall with videos about the Pinacate, and a spacious terrace from where visitors can take in the natural landscapes and, on special occasions, spectacular views of night skies and meteor showers.