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Sonora is a large state directly south of Arizona in northwestern Mexico. All along its western edge, it is bounded by the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California). Common destinations include Nogales, Hermosillo, Guaymas and Ciudad Obregon. Hermosillo is the capital of Sonora and is about 400 km or 250 mi from Tucson. Resort destinations at present are Puerto Peñasco, Bahia Kino, and San Carlos, from north to south. Mexico is developing a 4-lane highway from San Luis Colorado on the Colorado River at the extreme northwest of Sonora along the coast to Guaymas. As it develops, the next resort will likely be at Desemboque west of Caborca on the Sea of Cortez; today it is a small fishing village with some tourist accomodations and campgrounds, and beautiful sandy beaches.
Resort Cities :
Puerto Peñasco (also called Rocky Point) is moderately expensive today, with nice hotels in the range of $75-300 per night depending on the time of year and the class of hotel or resort. PP is alleged to be the fastest developing resort location in North America. It also has many condominiums which can be rented by the day, week or month. Food varies from street vendors to upscale restaurants, all healthy and safe. Excellent seafood. Sightseeing is not very diverse, primarily the sea and the desert nearby including the Piñacate Reserve which is an area of former volcanoes and unusal plants.
Best time to visit PP is Spring (April to early June) and Fall (late September to early December); same applies to Bahia Kino and San Carlos below. Summer is very hot and humid. Winter is chilly, and the water is cold. Beaches in PP are sand. For accomodations latest info, search "Rocky Point" on the Internet. Travel to PP is by car, charter bus or tour. Puerto Peñasco has recently opened its international airport. Aeromexico (a Delta partner) did have flights from Los Angeles however discontued them as there was not sufficient business. The re are no scheduled flights at this time. PP also has a municipal airport; general aviation is permitted at both airports. PP is full of partying college students from the U.S. during Spring Break which is generally the second half of March up to the time of Easter, Memorial Day weekend, and Labor Day weekend.
Bahia Kino (Kino Bay) is a less-developed town 100 km or 60 mi west of Hermosillo. It is very scenic. It has at the extreme limits and easy to reach ten miles of sandy beach, and also more and very private beaches further north via very bad bumpy dirt roads. There are two towns, Old Kino and New Kino. Old Kino is the old fishing village at the end of the road from Hermosillo. New Kino is the developed beach area north of Old Kino and about 5 miles long. Nearby is the island, Isla Tiburon, which is a national park, and can be reached by renting a boat and guide (permits are required and may be obtained in Hermosillo or from the Seri Tribe in Punta Chueca north of Kino). The waters around Isla Tiburon are dangerous with swift currents and shark-infested; that's why it's called "shark island." The beaches in the Kinos are safe and clean. (There are some photos here in TA of Bahia Kino.)
There are a few hotels in the two Kinos, very good RV parks, and condos for rent. Do an Internet search for "Kino Bay." There are not many restaurants, but there are some very good ones. Ask the "locals" who nearly all speak English, and a lot of them are from the U.S. There are food stores, snack shops, and gasoline stations. Fishing is very popular with tourists, and is very good year round. Bahia Kino is part of the Hermosillo municipality and has water, sewer and garbage services. With the development of the coastal highway, it will develop rapidly, and it's already begun. For a resort home, it is probably more affordable than PP or San Carlos. Bahia Kino has an airport for private aircraft and no commercial service at present. Get there from Hermosillo by car or by public bus. Most of the "Seri ironwood carvings" which you will find for sale here in shops and on the street were not carved by Seri Indians and were likely made on machines; purchase with caution and don't pay very much. Bahia Kino is quiet and uncrowded all year except at the time of Semana Santa, the weeks before and after Easter when all schools are out and Hermosillo heads for the beach. Late spring and early fall weekends can also see crowds at the public beach areas. Sin embargo (however), even then the crowds are localized and it is a calm and peaceful place. One can drive south and north on passable dirt roads along the coast to deserted and very scenic beaches.
San Carlos is just west of Guaymas in southern Sonora 90 miles south of Hermosillo. Think desert volcanic (extinct) mountains right by the sea. It is very beautiful and not as highly developed as Puerto Peñasco, and costs are about the same. Scuba diving is a big activity here, and the Sea of Cortez is one of the most spectacular underwater areas in the world. There is an abundance of hotels and restaurants of all classes. As with PP, there are also many condos for rent. An Internet search will get it all. The food is very good, and all healthy and safe. Guaymas is close and has quite a few buildings from the Spanish Colonial era and mid-19th century.
Guaymas is a commerical city, and is an international shipping port with rail service north to the Port of Tucson (a designated rail port for international shipping). Guaymas also has some very good restaurants, but hotels in San Carlos are nicer. In both cities you will find grocery stores and other stores; Guaymas has "mega-mart" style supermarkets as well. Travel to San Carlos is primarily by car or bus. Air travel is generally via Phoenix connections to Guaymas' international airport (no service from Tucson at present). San Carlos is a popular Spring Break destination for college students, and also very popular during Semana Santa, the weeks before and after Easter, when all Mexican students at all levels are out of school. However, there are several hotels and resorts which are fairly remote from the main town north along the coast and offer peace and quiet all year.