Last Updated on July 2, 2023
Mexico’s Baja coastal towns and seafood. It’s a match made in heaven.
Naturally, a land mass surrounded by the sea should have a large variety of fish and seafood on its menus. What makes Baja, California’s seafood so spectacular is the unusual combination of cold-water streams traveling down from Alaska on the Pacific side, and the much more temperate eastern waters of the Sea of Cortez.
With nearly 2,000 miles of coastline, the Baja peninsula extends from Tijuana near the U.S. border to Cabo San Lucas in the south. With Baja’s bounty of lobster, shrimp and other seafood delights, talented chefs of this region expertly create some of the most tantalizing culinary treasures my family and I have had anywhere in the world.
Puerto Nuevo: Mexico’s Lobster Capital
Located just 20 minutes south of Rosarito Beach in North Baja and only 30 minutes from the U.S. border, Puerto Nuevo is Mexico’s lobster capital. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen so many ways to eat lobster until visiting this charming coastal village full of quaint shops and eateries.
Thanks to Francisco Bautista (Paco) Plascencia, third generation owner of La Casa de la Langosta (House of the Lobster), we had the chance to see how an authentic Mexican lobster burrito is made from start to finish. After following each step of the process in the kitchen, we sat down to assemble the burrito with all its magnificent ingredients and finally consume the finished product.
Our verdict? Indescribable mouthwatering goodness!
Puerto Nuevo’s lobster season runs from October through March and each year the town celebrates the abundance of Pacific waters in a spectacular Wine and Lobster Festival. Award-winning wineries from the nearby Guadalupe Valley participate with samples of their best vintages, and the festival features colorful folk dancers, mariachi bands and live music.
This is quintessential Baja, Mexico at its best.
Ensenada’s Famous Fish Tacos
Fish tacos were popularized in the United States by Ralph Rubio who first tasted them from a hole-in-the-wall taco stand in Baja on a spring break and scrawled the recipe on a small piece of paper. He brought the recipe back to San Diego where several years later, he opened his own restaurant called Rubios- Home of the Fish Taco, now an immensely popular restaurant chain in Southern California.
It’s next to impossible to get anything other than an amazing fish taco in Ensenada, reputed to be the birthplace of this tasty creation dating back to 1958. Nestled on the Pacific Coast 80 miles south of the border, this magnificent town is one of Baja California’s gems. Its affectionate local moniker is the “Cinderella of the Pacific.”
Whether it’s dining at a sit-down restaurant or with a street vendor, the delectable delight is made with lightly-fried local fish (snapper, grouper, flounder, tilapia, halibut or cod). It’s served in a warm corn tortilla with shredded cabbage and topped with avocado and a zesty cream sauce. The result is an unforgettably delicious twist on the traditional meat taco.
San Felipe’s Succulent Shrimp
Switching sides to the Eastern shore along the Sea of Cortez, San Felipe is a throwback to days when Mexican coastal towns were quaint fishing villages and life was easygoing and carefree. Its wide sandy beaches, warm tourmaline seas and sunny days make it a year-round sought-after destination.
With the abundant waters framing this coastal town, it’s no surprise that seafood here is king. The reigning monarch of the sea is without a doubt San Felipe’s magnificent shrimp (camarones). It’s no wonder the savory blue Pacific shrimp is celebrated in an annual three-day festival held the first weekend of November along its colorful waterfront (Malecon).
Cooked every imaginable way, it’s served in shrimp tacos, fried with butter on skewers, wrapped in bacon, coconut, or prepared as a ceviche. Restaurants thankfully serve it year-round along with many other seafood treasures.
Our favorite seafood joint in San Felipe is La Vaquita, named for the type of dolphin found only in the Gulf of Mexico.
Loreto’s Chocolate Clams
A pristine paradise on the southeastern coast of Baja, Loreta is known as a water-sports and diving haven. Parque Nacional Bahía de Loreto (Loreto’s National Marine Park) is a magnificent protected preserve of sea, shoreline and stunning offshore islands.
The area’s seafood claim-to-fame is the chocolate clam. No, they’re not dipped in chocolate, but rather named for the rich brown color of the shell. These are no small treasures for the fishermen who dig them from the sand as the massive clams measure five-to-six inches in diameter.
They are best eaten in simple escabeche style (served cold and lightly marinated). However, they can also be baked with garlic, chipotle, butter, and Monterey Jack cheese.
Villa del Palmar’s signature restaurant Danzante, overlooking the Sea of Cortez, serves up some of the best clams on the island in a variety of styles, including their mouthwatering mushroom-stuffed chocolate clams. Accompanied by soft candlelight and a lovely Mexican wine, enjoying this delight was a magical experience.
Los Cabos: Fishing Capital of the World
On the southernmost tip of the Baja peninsula where desert meets the ocean, Cabo is home to sparkling beaches, spectacular sunsets and its magnificent iconic arch at Land’s End.
But Cabo is also world-renowned for sportfishing. Visitors from all over the globe come to the legendary waters of Los Cabos hoping to snag a world-class catch. Even if they don’t take first place, fishermen can still take their catch into town where many of the restaurants are happy to clean and prepare the fish for a nominal fee.
Those not into fishing, but definitely into seafood will appreciate the myriad of restaurants throughout Cabo serving fresh hook-to-table catches like mahi-mahi, snapper, tuna, wahoo and more. Our favorite dining venue for its breathtaking multi-tiered views, sweeping ocean panoramas, tantalizing cuisine and impeccable service is Sunset Monalisa.
And then there’s the fish…delectable delights like Branzino, a local sea bass, moist, buttery and crisped to perfection. Dining on softly-lit cliff terraces, toasting the sunset with gentle ocean breezes blowing through your hair–well, it just doesn’t get any better than this.
Three-Michelin star winning chef Heston Blumenthal once said, “To me, food is as much about the moment, the occasion, the location and the company as it is about the taste.” Baja proves this to be so very true.dining