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Los Arcos Restaurant and Happy Jackass - San Felipe staples

by Benjamin Eugene

Sue and Cliff have been in business for four years, two at the same location on the south side of the Arches entering San Felipe. Sue has been in San Felipe for 24 years and Cliff has been here 6 years and both have extensive experience in the restaurant industry.

They believe the most exciting thing about owning a restaurant is seeing your hard work pay off through the smiles and compliments of the guests. The summer months can be slow at the restaurant, “the worst thing is the heat in the summer,” says Cliff.

However, the summer is a great time for making changes and additions. They’ve begun renovation of the restaurant with the first phase, the installation of a new water treatment system. They now have potable cold and hot water from the tap.

Two of their most popular dinners are the filet mignon dinner and the chicken fried steak. “And, of course, our burgers,” Cliff adds.

They have also added new menu items, including new burgers, like the pizza burger and Cuban burger, and other items like a Tri-tip for two, Caribbean rib eye, Philly white pizza, and Pepper Jack pizza, to name a few.

They’ve also hired some new employees. Cliff says, “They have worked out well, everyone is pitching in.”

The Happy Jackass, the bar attached to the restaurant, keeps things lively by offering Karaoke nights on Fridays, and various live music other nights of the week; it also hosts the semimonthly San Felipe Lion’s Club meetings. “Having activities for the patrons helps both the bar and the restaurant during slow times,” he says.

Cliff envisions San Felipe rebounding from the current economic downswing in the next 12 to 18 months: “These things are cyclical. It seems we think that every time things occur that it is the first time. It isn't. Remember 1979, 1992, & 2001. It all goes around.”

Cliff would like to see San Felipe promoted as a destination resort by the Mexican Tourist Bureau. “We have a lot of great attributes as a city,” he says.

Stop by Los Arcos Restaurant and The Happy Jackass and say hello to Cliff and Sue, you can’t miss them, they’re on the right as you enter San Felipe. Tell them you saw them in Mexico Living!

Real Estate in Puerto Peñasco: Choosing a Realtor

by Gretchen Ellinger

Gretchen Ellinger Receives State of Sonora Real Estate License from Minerva Zatairin and Edwin Beraud at the State Department of Economy in Hermosillo on 12 June 2008.

Licensure for real estate agents is a reality in the state of Sonora, and a new era of real estate professionalism has evolved in Puerto Peñasco! When considering a real estate transaction, the most important choice for a prospective client may very well be selection of an agent to represent their needs. A few short years ago, northwest Mexico was the Wild West of real estate, with many transactions occurring with very little oversight, and widely varying qualities of professionalism and real estate expertise among salespeople. “Buyer beware!” was the mantra. There have been many changes since then!

Most recently, the State of Sonora became the first state in Mexico to require Licensure for real estate salespeople. A 102-hour course, called the Diplomado, was brought to Puerto Peñasco by ISAP and CMIC (state governmental departments), with assistance from AMPI and PPAREA (national and local real estate organizations, respectively) from the state university in Hermosillo. Many real estate agents have taken the course, and a few have completed all the requirements and received their licenses. A requirement for licensure, in addition to background checks, fingerprinting, and much paperwork, the course provides a broad overview of real estate law, ethics, and practical application to real estate transactions in Mexico, which are quite different than in other countries, including the USA.

The Diplomado, as well as the local Puerto Peñasco Association of Real Estate Agents (PPAREA) and the Puerto Peñasco chapter of AMPI, the Mexican national organization of real estate practitioners, and a thriving multiple listing service at their fingertips, afford real estate agents more opportunities than ever before to develop their skills and expertise. The result is that Puerto Peñasco clients, whether buyers or sellers, can choose from among many talented and qualified real estate practitioners.

Choosing a Realtor with experience in the area of your need, education, membership in local organizations, and a license from the state of Sonora is an excellent place to start your real estate adventure. Some agents specialize in representing buyers or sellers, others are experts in certain areas of the locale, still others deal with only commercial or only residential properties. Some represent one development. All should be able to refer you to someone who can better help you, if your needs don’t fit their areas of expertise. Your well-chosen Realtor will successfully guide you through the process of your particular type of transaction, getting your Mexico adventure off to an excellent start.

Gretchen Ellinger has lived and been a realtor in Cholla Bay for over 5 years. She is the Cholla Bay Manager for Century 21 Sun and Sand, and also operates Casa Monica Cholla Bay Bed & Breakfast. Contact her at or 602-412-3311 (USA).

Bamboo Garden: A New Favorite in Ensenada

By Lisa Shannon

When one thinks about Mexico, very seldom would “authentic Szechuan cuisine” come to mind. But in Ensenada, there is an excellent place on Riveroll called Bamboo Garden. The owners, Sam and Nancy Wong, are at the restaurant daily to meet and greet customers, and Nancy can often be found in the kitchen cooking. Nancy recommends the house specialty―a special bone-in Curry Chicken. Curry Chicken is a favorite among many Chinese, so this is a great choice at Bamboo Garden.

Eating at this restaurant is an experience because it’s more than just the flavor of the food; it’s the service, the presentation of the meal, and the overall atmosphere of the restaurant. Their wonton appetizers are fantastic and their hot mustard is exquisite. The meals are steamy and aromatic and the scent of curry wafts through the room. Anyone interested in gourmet Chinese should experience Bamboo Garden and see for themselves just how incredible the food is.

Bamboo Garden is located on Riveroll between 1st (Lopez Mateos) and 2nd Streets in Ensenada.

Science to Art...a talented transition

by Robin Waters

It’s funny the turns life makes. Kathy Keane began hiking in her early twenties and became curious about the wonders of nature she saw along the trail. She took a class in bird identification and signed up for botany walks. Those left her wondering, as she gazed out the window of the medical office where she worked, whether she could get a job outdoors. She wrote to a wildlife biologist she had read about in National Wildlife magazine, and the author replied with some good advice. Kathy volunteered for the Forest Service and a local nature center and began her college education at age 25. She’d done well in high school biology but hadn’t taken much chemistry or math, so it was ten years before she earned her Master’s degree.

In 1995, she started her own biological consulting business. She works with about 15 other biologists as subcontractors; they do surveys for utility and transportation projects, monitor protected nesting areas for endangered species, and oversee construction projects near wildlife habitat to ensure that the species aren’t harmed.

The artist’s right brain wasn’t well developed as a child, and she was never encouraged or inspired to any art or music. She was a nerdy and shy kid, probably a precursor to the scientist she would become, she claims.

For over 20 years, in her leisure time, she organized and guided educational nature excursions into the southern California mountains, deserts, and coastal areas, and still participates in an annual Nature Knowledge Workshop.

On her 50th birthday, she found and fell in love with San Felipe. There she learned how to sit and enjoy the beauty and wonder of nature; she was no longer compelled to identify and analyze every plant or creature around her. It was then, at San Felipe’s El Nido Restaurant, that she met Ruth Olivar-Millan, who paints incredible scenes and people of traditional Mexico. She showered Kathy with compliments about her work and encouraged her to join the San Felipe Fine Arts Association.

Kathy says, “sometimes I’m lucky to be at the right place at just the right time, but generally I have to plan and wait for the perfect light, the precise pose of an animal, the ideal moment; still, I maybe use one out of 200 photos to enlarge and frame for an art show.” Before she switched to a digital camera, she explains, she would sit over the wastebasket when reviewing a box of 36 developed slides and was happy if there two were “keepers.” Digital photography allows her to see what she has captured on a screen, so it’s easier to correct mistakes right away and take another shot.

Where to find Kathy Keane’s work: The San Felipe Title Company will have her calendars and cards this fall. Kathy will again be at the SFFAA Art Show on Thanksgiving weekend at Playa de Oro in San Felipe. Web site:

Letters to the Editor

We have lived in Baja for nearly 5 years now. Just picked up our first copy of your excellent publication, very interesting, informative and well organized. Such an improvement over the rag [name omitted] that us ex-patriots had here before. It’s great not having to read trash about the place we have chosen to live and call home. Best of luck. - Dottie Leeper

Thank you very much. We will continue to do our best.

My wife has Multiple Scleroses (MS) and I was just wondering if there is some kind of fund raiser for the MS Society in Mexico, because I want my wife to live a happy and long life. I also want to know if you can do research on Multiple Scleroses and put an article. - R. P. Jones.

We will looked into it and be sure to include it in our Health and Wellness edition. We would like to also encourage our readers to send us any information they may have on MS in Mexico to

We love Baja and bought a home. No matter how good your Cruz Roja or General Hospital when minutes count, the ambulance is too slow and the technicians don’t understand English. My sister broke her ankle and it took 40 minutes for the ambulance to come from Rosarito and 40 minutes back again to Cruz Roja, then a 40 minute trip to the border to be transferred. The stress and pain was too much for her heart and she had a heart attack. She was barely breathing when she reached a hospital in SD. Because of this ongoing situation we had to leave our home. I feel responsible to tell people that the medical service, especially ambulance is very bad. - J. Pratt

I am sorry to hear about your sister, I hope she has recovered okay. I don’t know how recently this happened, but Rosarito now has a medical assistance program ( with 24-hour bilingual support and the area just received additional ambulances by the government in March.

Importing Household Goods into Mexico

Moving to Mexico can be an exciting adventure, but can also be frustrating and sometimes even a little scary. One of the more complex tasks in moving is shipping your household goods across the border. As a US citizen you are allowed a one time exemption from paying duty on your used belongings. That does not mean that you cross for free. Before your goods are allowed across the border there is a complex set of requirements that must be met. Here is an abbreviated list of the things that must be done to cross:

1. You must have a complete inventory of your household goods listed in both English and Spanish.
2. Anything with a serial number, i.e. appliances, stereo, TV etc. must be listed with model and serial number.
3. Your inventory must be taken to the Mexican consulate nearest your home in the USA and stamped.
4. You must have an FM 3 or an FM 2 from Mexican immigration.
5. You need proof of residence in the USA (an electric bill will work).
6. You need proof of residence in Mexico (again an electric bill will work).
7. You need to hire an import broker to prepare documents for crossing.
8. You need to hire a company with an import license to document your crossing.
9. When you arrive at the border with all the above paperwork your truck may be unloaded for inspection and you will be charged for that plus the cost of reloading.
10. If your trucker doesn’t have licenses on both sides of the border you will have to have your goods trans loaded to a Mexican truck.

There are a number of people who claim to be able to move your goods across the border for you. BE CAREFUL! Check references. Many of these people are smugglers, and you risk having your belongings confiscated along with the truck. The fines run in the thousands of dollars. Mexican customs has become very demanding on this issue and just driving across the border is no longer an option. You can go through the process yourself, but it can be overwhelming in its complexity and many large USA moving companies have no idea how to handle the border crossing issues. When selecting a company to help with the move ask if they can:

1. Translate and format your inventory for you.
2. Handle all the import paperwork for you.
3. Have a truck that can pick up your goods at your USA home and deliver to your home in Mexico without trans loading.
4. Can unload at your new home
5. Have experience and local references to confirm their legitimacy.
6. Will give you a firm quote for the entire package.

With proper help it can be a smooth, enjoyable process. Welcome home.
Article provided by San Felipe Moving & Storage. The provide complete doorstep to doorstep delivery and storage. Contact them directly at 686-576-0432, or online:

Why Choose Rocky Point?

Puerto Peñasco, Sonora, also known as Rocky Point, Mexico, has unique qualities that make it a desirable spot to live.

Whether you are retiring or looking for a change in pace in your life, Puerto Peñasco should be on your list. It has the best of both Worlds: The US and Mexico. For US mail, open a PO Box in Lukeville and a private service can deliver your mail to Puerto Peñasco. Shop online, through U.S. catalogs (further south this isn’t possible). You need no special permit for your vehicle in this free zone, just purchase Mexican insurance, park your car mainly in Mexico, and your insurance bill will be significantly lower. Phoenix is just 3 ½ hours away, allowing frequent shopping in the USA, and even Las Vegas is only half a day’s drive. Many enjoyable places are within a day's drive — you won't feel "trapped on an island". You will experience small town living but with big city proximity for anything you might need. Medical insurance can work with your US insurance and transfers to US hospitals can be arranged. The pace of life is calm. Walk into a restaurant, to the owner’s warm greeting, look around, and you will probably see people you know. Enjoy the sense of community with many fellow American townsfolk.

The Beaches are beautiful, with one of the largest tidal changes in the world. The same beach is radically different from hour to hour; you can be snorkeling in the morning and walking on the same rocks that afternoon! At full tide, there is up to 18 feet change in depth in just 6 hours! Water temperature, warmer than the Pacific side, makes for very pleasant swimming. Waves are very small, making it safe for children. Only occasionally do waves get big enough for surfing. Rocky Point has several choice beaches, from the tidal beach at Mirador, perfect for tidal pool exploration, to the more active Sandy beach where beach volleyball, skim boarding, flying ultra lights and jet ski's are the order of the day. Twenty minutes south, you can find miles of unspoiled and isolated beaches if that is your preference. Eat fresh oysters from an oyster farm in one of the many estuaries or go clamming at low tide in Cholla Bay. Culinary options abound, ranging from modest taco stands to high-end resort cuisine; shrimp, the staple of our town, is excellent anywhere you go.

Most importantly: If you move here you will feel welcomed by friendly people who will quickly make you feel that you belong to our community. So come on down, breathe our fresh ocean air and call Puerto Peñasco your new home!

Amigos Cantina - "The Friendliest Cantina In The Baja".

We all remember that great television show Cheers…..Well, Baja has its very own version of the fun loving bar. The first time you visit Bahia Cantiles / Amigo's Cantina you will know what I mean.

Owner Nicolas Santos has been service business for many years. Eleven years ago, he was tending bar at the then named Las Palmas in Puerto Nuevo, then he moved to a restaurant named Raul's and later he became the bartender at Cantiles, which he now owns.
If you are looking for a quality drink at an affordable price in a very friendly atmosphere this is the bar.

About ¼ mile north of the entrance to Puerto Nuevo and just behind "Virgins" at KM43, you will find this quaint and unique little restaurant and cantina Once you have experienced the hospitality, service and comradery you will return time and again.

On the menu they have the finest Black Sea Bass in all of Baja, prepared in a variety of styles. Mondays is Men's Day and Wednesday is Ladies Day with special drink prices from 2-6. On the weekend live bands make for a great party environment.

Take a chance on this hot tip and you won't regret it. You will discover why it is called "The Friendliest Cantina In The Baja".

Top Ten Reasons to Retire in Mexico

By Marc Talon

1. Stretch your retirement income. Cost of living is quite low compared to most places in North America and a retiree can lead a very cost efficient lifestyle. The cost of hydro has risen considerably, but food, entertainment, property taxes and maintenance are very reasonable. The combination of low land and building costs make Mexico an affordable choice for retirement.

2. You’ll enjoy the fresh food choices. There is an immense variety of fish, meats, and fresh fruits and vegetables available at the local markets for reasonable prices.

3. Don’t worry about healthcare. Various types of insurance healthcare plans are widely available and there is a good selection of doctors, hospitals and medical specialists.

4. Enjoy the relaxed pace. Retirement is all about removing the stress from your life and taking time to relax. Mexico’s environment is far from fast paced, as a retiree you can be active, but still enjoy a low stress lifestyle.

5. Pick your climate. Decide what sort of climate you are most comfortable living in, depending on the area the weather ranges from year round spring-like weather to warm sea front locations and dry desert heat.

6. Mexico is big on sports. Most activities are available here, and whether you choose scuba diving or golfing, there is something for everyone.

7. Choose from a wide variety of locations. Whether you want city living, a secluded property surrounded by nature, or something in between, there are plenty of areas to choose from.

8. Select from a myriad of real estate opportunities There are properties available to suit every need including, apartments, resorts, condos and beach front homes.
If you intend on renting your property, some of the resorts have property managers who can assist with this process.

9. Commonly used items are widely available. In order to accommodate the many foreign retirees, most foods purchased in Canada, the United States and Europe are available at many Mexican supermarkets.

10. You can keep up to date with the news back home. Cable and satellite are widely used, allowing you to continue viewing all the major US networks and global channels.
Major U.S. magazines and papers are available in most towns, but some of the European newspapers are only available at the major airports.

Off the Beaten Path in Puerto Peñasco

Gems Beyond the Tourist District by Gretchen Ellinger

Fishing was a way of life in Puerto Peñasco long before there was a tourist industry; in fact, fishing was necessary for most families to eat! Every man and woman I know who was raised in Peñasco can peel and de-vein a kilo of shrimp, and fry it to perfection in garlic oil, faster than you can look up how many pounds are in a kilo! A number of these talented cooks operate fine restaurants, and it wouldn’t be a trip to Puerto Peñasco without a great shrimp or fish dinner!

If you have not yet tried Aladino’s, you are in for a treat! Attractive with traditional Mexican decór, Aladino’s features a menu of Mexican entreés, at reasonable prices. Tortilla chips and salsa bandera, with cocktails from the full bar, started our meal. Our bilingual waiter patiently answered questions, but hedged on recommendations. “Well, I enjoy the camarón del Diablo, but you might not like something quite that spicy.” We did, and the less-spicy garlic shrimp was excellent, too. What? Everyone does not love shrimp? Those who love plain and simple fish will enjoy the pescado a la plancha, flounder broiled to perfection. All our meals were served with white rice, California-style mixed vegetables, and lots of hot tortillas. Very good flan, accompanied by freshly-brewed coffee, ended the meal perfectly.

Cost? Under $20 each! Aladino’s, open from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., is located on Avenida Constitución (Super Ley grocery is on the same street) 3 blocks north of Boulevard Benito Juarez (the main artery through town). Look for Hotel Paraiso, with the onion domes, on the west side of the street--Aladino’s shares the parking lot with the hotel. ¡Provecho!

Why Move to Mexico?

by Anna Kaplan

Many people move to Mexico to fulfill their dreams. They may be dreaming of a house near the ocean with warm temperatures and sea breezes. They may be dreaming of a quiet, slowly paced life, with time to enjoy simple things. They may enjoy water sports, fishing and snorkeling. They may long for a big, beautiful house that they can’t afford in the United States.

They often fall in love with Mexico as visitors, and later decide they have found the perfect place to retire. Where in Mexico they choose to live depends on what they found there that they could not find in the United States. Many choose to go to Northwestern Mexico, to Rosarito Beach, Enseñada, San Felipe or Puerto Peñasco or San Felipe.

Cathy and Greg Tiwald visited Mexico many times as tourists. They love to scuba dive and had spent time in San Carlos, Enseñada and Puerto Peñasco. They looked into investing in Mexico but after visiting San Felipe, they decided they wanted to be residents, not visitors.

San Felipe is a small fishing village which has shifted from dependence on fishing to tourism and real estate as its economic base. In 2005, about 15,000 people lived in San Felipe, many of whom were American or Canadian.

Cathy explains that when they found San Felipe, they felt comfortable with the place and its people. She says, “San Felipe made us feel like we were ‘at home.’ In San Felipe we found a great town, located on the beach, with warm weather and water which we like, and a wonderful home we could afford.”

Greg says that the couple regularly visited Mexico to scuba dive. When they saw an advertisement for an opportunity to own property in Mexico, they decided to buy with the intent of retiring in Mexico.

The Tiwalds acquired their land through a Fideicomiso, a trust that allows foreigners to buy land near the ocean, and built a house there. Greg says, “We live in Playa de Oro. We call it the ‘Beverly Hills of San Felipe.’ Our home's total size is over 4000 sq ft. In the U.S. a house by the beach of this quality and size would be well over $1,000,000, but we paid just a fraction of that.”

Greg and Cathy did not expect to work in San Felipe, but they are starting a business catering to other Americans, called Sand and Sea. Cathy explains, “We are opening a market, deli and internet cafe, with business center for copies, fax, scanning and business supplies. With the rental of a private mailbox, our clients will receive a set amount of free minutes to call the U.S. The market will carry many of the items that we are used to using in the U.S. that are not available at the stores in town.”

They definitely recommend San Felipe to other people interested in living in Mexico, but they do emphasize that it is a small town with a small-town feel. Cathy says, “I love the ‘family’ we have created here. Our friends have time to talk and visit, and we all support each other. Life, friendships and living are celebrated and encouraged here.”

Diane Pavellas also was looking for the right place to retire, and eventually picked Rosarito Beach, which is located 20 minutes from the border crossing at Tijuana, almost commuting distance to San Diego. About 85,000 people live in Rosarito, including some 25,000 Americans.

Diane was looking for a quiet place by the ocean. She already had lived in many places, including New York and San Francisco, and wanted something different. She says, “When retirement was starting to become an option, I began searching for my ideal place. It had to be near the ocean and have 65 to 90 degree weather.”

She did not know that there was a way Americans could buy land near the ocean in Mexico. She was thinking of San Diego and all its amenities when she decided to take a look at Mexico.

She recalls thinking, “If only I could afford San Diego…Perfect weather, the ocean, the arts, and the theatre. I suddenly got the itch to explore Mexico again. I went on the Internet and was dazzled by the array of homes for sale. I studied the rules of purchasing and prices, and was very happy to find ways to buy my dream. The ocean, the arts and the theatre- I would have it all.”

She told her cousins, Tom and Dee Thomas. They decided to join Diane as she looked for the right place. She says, “This was my first trip to Mexico in 20 years. I relied on my cousins’ opinions and the information I received from the Internet and books.

“I already had determined Rosarito was the place for me. I would be near the ocean away from the busy night life, but only 10 minutes away. I could lounge on my terrace and view the ocean and have a wonderful patio to plant a garden.”

Unfortunately she had a few problems before she found her perfect place. The realtors initially seemed unable to find her a one-story house with two baths and bedrooms, one for her and one for her 88-year-old mother. Eventually, however, they did; and she found her dream home. Her cousins bought the house next door. Sadly, her mother had a stroke and could not live in this new home; but Diane made other arrangements for her and eventually moved to Rosarito.

Diane says, “It has all been worth it! I am happily getting up to either sunny or partially overcast days that turn into spectacular days, which are typically 70 to 85 degrees. I ask myself,

‘Diane, what do you want to do today?’ Ah, freedom.”

Bernadette Schmuker lives about 40 miles south of Rosarito in Enseñada, which is popular with both tourists and people looking for a place to live in Mexico. About 38,000 of its 220,000 residents are from the United States or Canada. Originally from Michigan, she was a foreign exchange student through Rotary International, and spent a year in Sonora. She returned home to Michigan, but felt that she had to return to Mexico.

Bernadette says, “I feel comfortable, welcomed and safe (with) not so many rules. There's a happiness I feel inside here. I live each day for what it is. (I) watch a beautiful sunset over the ocean, and enjoy traveling and exploring all that Baja has to offer. Each day I wake up and say, 'Gracias.'”

Roland and Tammy Mondragon also followed their dreams and moved to Mexico, to Puerto Peñasco. They were living in Las Vegas, caught up in the corporate “rat race.” They thought it would be best for them to escape the stress.

Tammy says, “Roland started coming to Mexico, mostly Enseñada and Rosarito, when he was 16. He introduced me to the area when we met nine years ago. It became our dream to live and work in Mexico one day, because we really loved its environment and culture. We dreamt, worked hard, saved and made it happen.”

The Mondragons decided to move to Puerto Peñasco, also known as Rocky Point, a small city of about 42,000 people best known for its fishing and tourism industries. Tammy recalls, “Before we moved we researched the areas of interest to us, the cost of living, the community and the potential for growth. We decided on Puerto Peñasco.”

The Mondragons did not buy a house, but they opened a business called Kayak Rocky Point.

They rent kayaks, snorkel equipment, boogie boards and fishing poles. They also take people out on the water to see the area. Tammy explains, “The estuaries can be accessed only by non-motorized crafts, making the kayaks a favorite. We offer boat charters for deep sea fishing, sunset tours, parasailing, Bird Island and all other water excursions here in Puerto Peñasco.”

She adds, “Our business is going very well for our first year. We feel that we have built a solid reputation here and have met many great contacts and supporters from both the American and Mexican communities.”

Tammy and Roland left behind children and grandchildren in Las Vegas, and they do miss their family. E-mail and internet phone services such as Vonage, and magicJack however, facilitate frequent communication. The family visited for Thanksgiving, and plan to make it an annual event.

Tammy adds, “Home is where you make it, and there are many opportunities here in the laid-back, low-stress environment of Mexican towns and cities.”

She echoes the sentiments of Greg and Cathy. Cathy describes San Felipe and says, “This is a peaceful, relaxing town and lifestyle…This is like living a permanent vacation.”

Bernadette says, “The Mexican cultural atmosphere- its color, traditions, art, freedom to be who you are, the warmth of its people, the smell of food in the air and the sounds of laughter and music- keeps true to its spirit. I am true to my body, mind and spirit. This is why I choose to be here.”