The best weekend getaway from Los Angeles, Orange County, or San Diego isn't in California at all - it's across the border into Baja California, Mexico!
Valle de Guadalupe is known first as Mexico's premiere wine destination, and produces over 90% of all wine made in Mexico - and the valley is one of the fastest-growing wine regions in the entire world. While the communities here have been making wine for over 100 years, there is now over 120 wineries in the region. Many of the local wineries get very creative with combining grapes for unique blends, and mixing traditional wine-making techniques to create a style all their own, and many winemakers in the area are focusing on unfiltered, organic, and bio-dynamic wines. At our wedding in Cabo this year, all of the wine served at our venue was from Valle de Guadalupe wineries!
In the last few years, the valley has been exploding as a destination for design-focused boutique hotels, incredible restaurants with both inventive cuisine and stunning valley or ocean views. We first heard of Valle De Guadalupe a few years ago, and had been so excited to visit - and I will say in brief, the valley completely blew our expectations away. Just an hour and a half from San Diego, Mexico's wine capital needs to be on your radar if it hasn't been yet! Below is a full travel guide to which hotels to stay in, the best restaurants and wineries that you cannot miss, and everything you need to know to have an amazing weekend getaway in Valle de Guadalupe.
See an unedited look at our trip on my Instagram Highlight Here.
Is Valle De Guadalupe Safe?
Being close to Tijuana, is Valle de Guadalupe safe to visit? In short, yes, absolutely. The valley is incredibly safe and is very familiar with international and American tourists. There wasn't a single moment that we felt unsafe at all, even when crossing the border at Tijuana. I am someone that is cautious with my physical safety, and I will 100% be visiting here again and again. You can read a bit more on safety in Valle de Guadalupe here.
When is the best time to Visit?
- Spring through Fall
While the Valley is not a strictly seasonal destination and hotels, restaurants and attractions are open all year, and the climate is generally mild, it does get a it chillier in the winter. We visited in mid-November, and while the days were nice and moderately warm, the nights do get cold and we would have loved another few degrees all around. Baja's "rainy" season is from December through March, however the climate is mostly desert, and chances of rain are always low. April-May and September-October are generally considered the best all around months to visit, with winter being the quietest season.
How Long Should I Visit?
Valle de Guadalupe is perfect for a long weekend - we stayed for 3 nights and felt like we got a great overview, visited most of the restaurants and wineries we wanted to check out, and had time for some adventure and relaxation, but there was still plenty to do! 3-4 nights is ideal for a quick getaway here.
: If you're coming from Southern California, the most popular and often simplest way to get into the Valle is to drive over the border yourself at the San Ysidro border crossing. The border crossing at Tijuana varies from being able to breeze right through, to having a lot of traffic, and it's best to hit the border as early as possible to avoid afternoon traffic if you can. This process is much easier if everyone in your vehicle has global entry. I always recommend global entry to everyone in all circumstances (I have had it myself for 8 years now and am still grateful that I do every single time I arrive back in the US). To speed up the process, you can register your car with SENTRI, to get to use the special SENTRI/NEXUS lanes and skip out on the vast majority of the the lines. Save this URL to check wait times live for both general and SENTRI entry lines: https://bwt.cbp.gov/details/09250401/POV
Alternatively, you can also cross the border at the Tecate Port of Entry land border, which is known for having much shorter lines. However, this way doesn't take you down the stunning coastal drive.
: . As an alternative to driving across the border, a popular method is to park in a parking lot right at the edge of San Diego, and cross the border into Mexico on foot. (You can also do the same to fly out of Tijuana - something many of our friends have done to get cheap flights to Cabo.) All you need is a passport to get in to Mexico, and the entire process took us around 20 minutes - most of which was just walking.
For our trip, we hired a local tour service for our entire time in the valley, and I would highly recommend - more details on that just below in Getting Around.
When Returning to the US: If it is at all possible for you to register with Global Entry, this is one place where it really comes in clutch. For this to work you need to bring your physical Global Entry Card with you (I never use this for flying, this was the first time I have actually ever used the card.)
- Step 1: Locate your Global Entry Card from whatever drawer it is hiding in.
- Step 2: Before your trip, activate your Global Entry Card online: Instructions and links to do that are here.
- Step 3: At the San Ysidro land crossing in Mexico, walk to the right side of the larger line of people. If the line is long, you will likely not see the signs that say "SENTRI" from the very back. Once you see the signs, continue right to follow them to a separate line that will be almost completely empty.
- Step 4: Present your passport and Global Entry Card to the customs officer, answer any questions, and pass through in minutes. You can still use this line if your Global Entry Card is not activated, but they will call you into a separate room for a few further questions - this happens very often and the officers are used to people not knowing about the card registration. But this will take an additional 10-20 minutes and they may open your bags and inspect them.
: If you are coming from farther than driving distance, fly into Tijuana International Airport (TIJ), and either rent a car or take a car service from there.
The best way to travel around the valley is by car - everywhere is a bit spread out across the valley and walking or public transit isn't much of a viable option.
What we did: We booked a private van for the duration of our trip through Sibaria Tours, and this is absolutely the best way to go if you are planning on wine tasting and truly enjoying the valley - especially if you are traveling with a group. For around $220 a day, you can hire a private van and driver that will take you anywhere you want to go and back with as many stops as you can schedule. Our driver, José, was excellent and very knowledgable, the van was clean and comfortable, we were able to to play our own playlists and keep our phones charged, and the. best part - all of us were able to enjoy the trip with no worries about drinking and driving, or having to navigate ourselves around. José simply picked us up, and took us everywhere we needed to go. Sibaria Tours picked us up right from the Mexico side of the border when we arrived, and dropped us back off a few days later. (He even fronted us pesos when one of the restaurants we stopped at was cash-only and we didn't have enough on us.) I would highly recommend going this route for a luxurious, completely stress-free experience! The $220 price includes up to 6 people, for a full day make-your-own tour.
What to Pack:
Most of the roads in the valley are unpaved and dusty. I went with a bit of western flair with my boots but even if that isn't your vibe, boots are a must for the valley!
A Warm Jacket
Even in the summer months, nights in Valle de Guadalupe can be chilly - especially when there is an ocean breeze. Don't forget to pack a jacket!
Starting Your Journey: Take the Coastal Route
Regardless of which way you arrive to the valley, your first stop should absolutely be the Coastal Route along the south of the border extensions of California's famous Highway 1. The drive has endless spectacular views of the Pacific, and a few great stops before turning into the Valley.
Stop for lunch at the famous Poseidon Restaurant:
Half-way between the US border and Valle de Guadalupe, Poseidon Restaurante is famous for their lobster and multiple floors of ocean views. I would also recommend the tortilla soup, homemade tortillas, and guacamole!
Don't Miss: Drinks and Vibes at Los Portales de García
I had seen photos of the clifftop Los Portales de Garcia a couple of years ago and have been wanting to visit here ever since - and it really is even better in person! This beautiful, oceanside stone building is reminiscent of the Italian coastline - but with a southwest twist and a very fun day-club vibe. The DJ plays a great house mix, the cocktails are incredible, and we didn't have a chance to try the food, but everything coming out both looked and smelled amazing. This is the perfect place to spend an afternoon if you want to get into a vacation spirit, and drink with both a view, and a serious vibe.
The cocktails here were seriously impressive - I had the Leche de Tigre which includes all my favorite things: ginger, kombucha, passionfruit and tequila. It was so good, I made sure to write down the ingredients to share this exact drink because I could not get over how tasty it was. Las Portales de Garcia was one of my favorite places on our entire journey!
Sunset ocean views on the way into the valley.
Where to Stay: The Best Hotels In Valle de Guadalupe
The valley has no shortage of beautiful, design-forward, boutique hotels that have been opening up over the past few years, many attached to some of the best wineries and restaurants in the area - both in the luxury and budget price points. Unlike most hotels, the majority of the hotels and resorts in Valle de Guadalupe have each room as individual villas, detached from all other rooms, for a luxurious amount of privacy and quiet.
Luxury/ Boutique Hotels (Over $150/Night):
- Encuentro Guadalupe - Where we stayed! Encuentro features very private individual pods with sweeping views of the valley, with a beautiful restaurant overlooking the pool and hot-tub deck (we ate breakfast here every morning and it was fantastic), as well as a separate large tasting room. The hotel is a bit spread out over the mountainside and they run a shuttle service to get you around the hotel. Request a room by the pool and restaurant for easy walking! Check the best prices in Booking.com here.
- El Cielo Resort - We stopped at the El Cielo Winery and restaurant for a tasting, and the expansive property is one of the larger vineyards in the area, with very popular wine tours on site, as well as two restaurants.
- Contemplación Hotel Boutique - Contemplacion is the #1 top rated hotel in the valley, featuring only 6 private villa rooms with giant windows to take in the views. There is an outdoor pool overlooking the vineyards, a winery and restaurant on site and all the reviews recommend this place highly - this one is definitely on my list for when we return. Check it out on Booking.com here!
- Maglen Resort - This design-focused resort has three pools and two restaurants, and was one of the places we considered staying in the valley.
Budget-Friendly Hotels (Under $150/Night):
- Don Tomas Viñedo Cabañas - We visited the Don Tomas winery, and noticed how cute the rooms and balconies looked overlooking the vineyards.
- Lumi - At around $150 per night, Lumi is one of the highest rated hotels in the valley. The rooms are all separated in the garden and feature really aesthetically stunning rooftop balconies and hot tubs. Check out how cool these rooms look at sunset here!
- Valle 13 Ruta del Vino - At under $100/night for a room for two (Or under $150 in a room that sleeps 4), Valle 13 Ruta Del Vino is one of the best-rated budget hotels in the valley.
- Terra del Valle B&B - This B&B has a perfect 5 star rating on TripAdvisor, with each room featuring private terraces and tons of privacy.
Details from Encuentro Guadalupe
Cabañas Perched over the vineyards at Don Tomas Viñedo
Wine Tour: The Best Wineries in Valle de Guadalupe
On to the main attraction! With over 100 wineries in the valley and more opening every year, it's impossible to visit all of them, but some are absolute must-visits! Luckily, my dear friend Michelle from Live Like It's The Weekend, curated a best-of-the-best list for us, and we were very impressed with the wine we tried!
- Lechuza Vineyard - Lechuza was a real stand out for us, and we both bought bottles to take home from here. My father is a former sommelier, and we chose a red blend from this winery as the one bottle we gave him to try (we're still waiting to hear his official review). Lechuza is the first Mexican winery to be featured in the incomparable French Laundry and their wines are on the lists in some of the best Michelin Star restaurants around the world.
- El Cielo - Of all of the wines we tasted in the valley, the 2020 G&G by Ginasommelier rosé from El Cielo would be the one I chose as my overall favorite (It's a pale colored, light and tart rosé, and I had to go back for a second glass!) This winery has an expansive 95 hectares of vineyards, grows a wide variety of grapes, and has a beautiful indoor/outdoor tasting room and restaurant.
- Bruma Wine Garden - On the same property as the amazing Fauna restaurant, Bruma Wine Garden is one of the most well-known wineries in the region. A tasting here is more of an experience: instead of bringing each bottle to you like most wineries, you travel through the different areas of the winery and learn about the process as you move from different wine, the tasting rooms also double as a local art gallery, with rotating featured artists.
- Bloodlust Wine Bar - While not a winery, Bloodlust is such a cool and unique spot, it is well worth a stop. We were told that the shape of the bar is designed to represent a wine drop, but I am convinced it is actually a head of garlic (Please tell me your interpretation in the comments!). Either way, the interior of the bar is impeccably designed, dark, and moody and includes wine on their menu from more than 60 wineries in the region - as well as small bites and craft cocktails. This is the perfect stop for a nightcap after a a full day and dinner!
- Don Tomas Vineyard - We stopped here for a sampler tasting on their beautiful patio overlooking the vineyards. There's a variety of reds, whites, and rosés and the Sauvignon Blanc 400 was my favorite wine here.
- Villa Montefiori - We didn't have the chance to stop here ourselves, but one of the sommeliers leading our tastings told us that this winery is his absolute favorite in the region. This one is definitely top of my list for when we return!
- Alternatively, Book a Wine Tour - Want to explore multiple vineyards without having to make plans and reservations yourself? Check the best rated wine tours here, where a guide can take you around all day with no stress on your end!
Where to Eat: The Best Restaurants in Valle De Guadalupe
Overall, all three of us were completely blown away with the food here - every restaurant we went to was inventive, delicious, and there's a wide mix in more avant garde dishes and traditional Mexican offerings. If you are a foodie, the restaurant scene in the valley is truly spectacular - and overall priced much lower than comparable restaurants just across the border (for reference: a large dinner for 3 with appetizers and mains and a bottle of wine came to around $130 total at Finca Altozano, one of the most popular restaurants in the valley.)
Most of the restaurants in the valley feature outdoor and open-air dining, so if you are visiting in the colder months especially, make sure to bring a jacket or sweater if you get cold! Although most every restaurant we went to was incredibly cozy with heater and fires.
- Finca Altozano - Finca is a very popular spot for dinner, if your'e here over a Friday or Saturday night especially, make sure to make a reservation. The restaurant has a huge local wine list, and the appetizers really shine here - the octopus dish and kale salad were phenomenal, as was our suckling pig entree. The restaurant has a few very friendly local celebrity dogs that wander around the tables and love to accept pets and treats if you want to share them.
- Bar Bura at Cuatro Cuatros - WOW - this place is a serious standout. About a 20 minute drive from central Valle da Guadalupe, Cuatro Cuatros is perched high up on the untouched hills hovering over the coast with amazing wrap-around ocean views - this is absolutely the best place for sunset in the valley. (Scroll down a bit for more photos) On top of the unmatched views, the live DJ is excellent, as are the food and the drinks. We tried a variety of specialty cocktails, and had an incredible dinner of oysters, steak, a fried polenta dish, and fresh local salads. Bar Bura is a seriously impressive spot for the views, the vibe, and the food and is well worth the bus journey up the hill to get here.
- Wa Kumiai Tabita - This is a well-known breakfast spot, and unlike any other restaurant we visited in the valley. Located in an indigenous community (locally known as the the Kumiai), the chef here cooks traditional, delicious local dishes. The restaurant is well known for it's acorn coffee, made from acorns roasted and brewed like coffee beans, which tastes a bit like a nutty, mild black tea. You can watch the chefs make tortillas by hand, roast meats on the open-air grills, and enjoy your meal in a beautiful garden restaurant. Please note that this restaurant is cash only - the only place we encountered in everywhere we stopped in the valley that was (we were able to get by with credit cards everywhere else we went) - but it is 100% worth it to stop here!
- Fauna - Fauna was by far our favorite restaurant of the trip! The restaurant itself is absolutely beautiful and the menu has some of the most creative, beautiful food I have ever had - the photos I took didn't even do it justice. We started with Wagyu beef sopas and tuna ceviche - and loved them so much we had to order a second round of both. We followed up with a charred romaine, scallops with squid ink and a lamb dish and none of us could stop fawning over how good the food was.
- Salvia Blanca Restaurante - We didn't have the opportunity to eat here, but this is the #1 rated restaurant in the valley. Next time!
Need to see even more?
Check out Eater's round up of the 20 best restaurants in the valley here!
For the Adventurers: What to Do in Valle de Guadalupe
Looking to add a bit of thrill and excitement to your weekend? Beyond the food, wine, and scenery of the valley, there is a growing tourism infrastructure with a variety of fun excursions you can take.
Take an ATV Tour through the valley
We had a ton of fun cruising through the valley and getting dirty on an ATV tour booked with Offroad Tours Valle de Guadalupe. The best part - in the middle of the tour, we drove our ATVs right up to the Don Tomas Vineyard, and took a break for a wine tasting, before getting back on our quads to continue on! It's such a fun way to get around and explore the valley.
Take a helicopter tour
The next day we took to the skies for a 30 minute scenic helicopter tour booked with Heli Baja Adventure Tours! The wine route tour takes you over the valley and out to the coastline for endless views. Heli Baja also offers whale watching flights during whale season!
Other Adventures in Valle de Guadalupe:
- Take a hot air balloon ride - we were initially planning on going up on a hot air balloon tour, but unfortunately they had just closed for the winter season, as the weather had recently become too cold. I can't wait to take this tour next time we return!
- Take a day Surfing - located so close to Ensenada, it's very easy to book a surf lesson or guided surf day to mix into your trip!
Save all of my recommendations on Google Maps here:
The pool deck and a mid-day hot tub soak at Encuentro Guadalupe
Aerial views at Encuentro Guadalupe
Sunset at Cuatro Cuatros
The lobby and tasting room at Encuentro Guadalupe
Sunset views at Bar Bura at Cuatro Cuatros
Poolside at Encuentro Guadalupe
Design details at Bruma Wine Garden
This blog was made possible by the Baja California Tourism Board, but as always all opinions are my own and I only recommend places I love!