24 hours in Valle de Guadalupe
If you’ve got the right crew and a cause for celebration, traveling with friends can be an absolute blast. We were lucky enough to have an opportunity to cruise down to Mexico from our home base of San Diego for a little birthday weekend South of the border. This trip was a perfect ode to the last minute overnight that might be waiting right in your own backyard.
We arrived at our glamorous camp just as the sun was beginning to set. I’m new to the glamping scene, but the well-appointed tents at Cabanas Cuatro Cuatros felt like home to me! For the most part, our whole group was already there so we made our way up to the hilltop bar to enjoy a margarita as the last of the sun dropped into the Pacific.
Staying with friends at Cuatro Cuatros is about like staying at a trendy adult summer camp. On checking in, everyone is given a walkie-talkie with which they can call for water, snacks, a ride to the bar, or even the construction of a bonfire (seriously). Meals are available in the small restaurant onsite.
Valle de Guadalupe is a quirky wine-growing region about 2 hours South of the U.S. Mexico border and you can reach it from either the San Ysidro or the Tecate checkpoints. I recommend entering from San Ysidro and leaving from Tecate if it’s a busy time and you don’t have a Sentri Pass.
After waking up and getting after some huevos rancheros and migas, we headed into Valle.
Our first stop was the little Seafood bar Conchas de Piedras run by chef Drew Deckman. His main attraction, Deckman's, is just down the road and definitely high on my list of places to eat next time I'm in Valle de Guadalupe. Like so many places in Baja, I’d give you directions, but I’ll just refer you to the website because I’m sure the cow, fruit stand, and chickens I would give you as guidelines have all moved. This place was delicious and fairly cheap. Our team put an end to a bottle of local Rosé from down the hill, chips and fresh guacamole, and several plates grilled and fresh oysters, mussels, and scallops all for about $70.00
Next stop: The Valle de Guadalupe mecca surrounding Finca Altozano. Even if you don't have time (or room in your stomach) to have lunch at or another snack at the main restaurant, you should still stop. This spot is host to a holy trinity of local staples. The aforementioned Finca Altozano consistently makes "Best of Baja" lists. Das Cortez is a brilliant coffee shop inside a giant wine barrel - the baristas are friendly and the house special is a delicious blend of spices, steamed milk, and espresso. Finally, if you want a quicker bite than you find at Finca Altozano, Chef Javier Plascencia's killer torta truck, LUPE is standing by.
Our group had been dwindling throughout the day, but Liz and I along with the two other couples decided we had one more stop in us and I’m glad we did. When you stroll into La Esperanza by Baja Med Cocina, it looks unassuming enough, but definitely gives off the vibe that there may be something worthwhile inside. As soon as you walk in you’re greeted with a huge glass meat locker and enormous grill to your right, but you almost don’t even notice because the restaurant itself steals the show. There is no back wall and the whole place gets treated to a sweeping panorama of desert hills and the bordering vineyard. I need to go eat there again when I’m fresh – I had a bottle of Topo Chico and a dessert, but Esperanza was, in any case, a perfect place to make one final birthday toast before heading back to the states.