Take the Bus from Nogales to Rocky Point
Imagine relaxing on the beach, listening to the gentle lapping of the waves against the shore, soaking up the comforting warm sunshine and perhaps enjoying some cool liquid refreshment. Then after playing an invigorating game of volleyball in the warm beach sand, you get ready for a fantastic seafood dinner, or just a wild evening of raucous fun in a beachside cantina.
And all of this is just hours away from your home in Arizona, at the Mexican resort town of Rocky Point (also known as Puerto Peñasco), Mexico.
There are shuttle services that offer van trips from Tucson and Phoenix to Rocky Point. And if that is more convenient for you, enjoy your trip.
But if you are up for a little adventure on land before your adventure on the beach, think about taking a Mexican bus from Nogales to Puerto Peñasco. It’s economical, comfortable and offers great views of the Sonoran desert, towns and people as you make your way to the beachside resort.
There is only one place in Ambos Nogales that has daily direct bus trips from Nogales to Puerto Peñasco – the Albatros (pronounced al-bá-trose) bus lines in Nogales, Sonora.
Albatros has daily direct routes to Rocky Point that leave several times every day: 7:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. When I went in February of 2014 the tickets cost 270 pesos (about $20 at the time).
You can purchase a ticket online at the Albatros website, but I would not recommend it. I have found that many of the Mexican bus line websites seem a little shaky, and I do not know how well they can handle secure transactions.
If you decide to purchase online, be sure to print out all of the information, just in case their computer system is down when you arrive.
Get to Nogales
There are many ways to get to Nogales, Arizona, and if you are planning to take the bus to Nogales I would recommend taking Tufesa bus lines.
The Tufesa station is a three-block walk to the border crossing, or a short taxi ride. Tufesa also has buses that cross the border, although it is much easier from a customs headache perspective to cross the border on foot. More information about crossing the border in Nogales.
There is also long-term border parking available in Nogales. It will cost four or five dollars a day (or 12-hour period), but with at least one of the border lots, if you call in advance you may be able to finagle a discount price and a golf cart ride to the border.
Cross the Border
After you cross the border at the DeConcini Port of Entry, as you proceed to the end of the walkway you will find a number of taxistas. Or more likely, they will find you.
Whichever driver is next in line will take you to his taxi, and just ask to go to Albatros, or to the “central de camiones Albatros.” Don’t worry, if you forget the correct pronunciation the taxista will remind you how to say it.
If you want to get pesos first, you can ask the taxi driver to stop at a bank on the way. Try to avoid Banorte, because they charge something like six dollars for an ATM transaction; the others charge about half that. Or, if you are traveling light you can walk to the Banamex on Avenida Obregon to withdraw money before walking to a place where you can find a taxi.
At the time of this writing (March 2014) many of the main streets in the downtown Nogales, Sonora area have been torn up for construction, but the taxi driver will know alternate routes. I took the 7:30 a.m. bus and there was very little traffic in the early morning.
If you leave later in the day, be sure to allow extra time for possible road congestion. Also, buses that leave later in the day are often more full, as visitors who arrived in Nogales in the morning from other parts of Sonora take the bus home.
Another option would be to cross the border the night before and stay at a hotel that is close to the station (the Caribean is a short taxi ride to the bus station and the Marques de Cima is within walking distance), and walk or take a taxi to Albatros the next morning.
If you choose to spend the night in Nogales, Sonora, you can walk to the Albatros station that afternoon or evening to purchase your ticket for the next day, and there is an Oxxo convenience store (that sells beer and liquor) just past the bus station.
If you continue walking less than a block you will find a McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC just across the main intersection at Boulevar Greco. Behind the fast food joints is the Ley supermarket, where you can find a wider selection of snacks and beverages at better prices than the convenience store.
When you purchase your ticket, you will need to present a photo ID. Although the bus station will accept credit and debit cards for payment, you should have some cash with you, just in case the computer system is down. They will convert dollars to pesos, but you will not get as good of an exchange rate as you would by withdrawing cash from an ATM.
If you have time before the bus departs, you can walk to the Oxxo convenience store to stock up on water and snacks for the trip. All Aboard
The driver will announce when the bus is ready to depart. As you go outside to board the bus, take any luggage and other large items to the side of the bus, where a baggage handler will load them and give you a claim ticket.
Let him or her know that you are going to Peñasco (there are a few intermediate stops on the way) so that he puts the correct tag on your baggage. You may also want to give him a tip – five or ten pesos is always greatly appreciated.
Hand your ticket to the bus driver, who will be waiting at the door of the bus. He will return the ticket stub, which has your seat number printed on it. If there are not many people on board, you can usually pick and choose seats if you want to sit in another part of the bus.
Albatros claims that all of its buses have wireless internet on board, but the one I traveled on did not. You may want to ask the driver, it could be in my case that he had not just turned on the WiFi. At any rate, the bus is climate controlled and comfortable, and the driver will play movies during the ride, to give you a chance to practice your Spanish.
About the Journey
The trip will take about six hours, but there is a bathroom on board. Something that is very important to remember is that like U.S. bus lines, Mexican bus lines do not allow drinking or rowdiness on the bus. So keep it under control and save your energy for the beach. Remember that you are a visitor in a foreign country – you will find that being polite and respectful to others on the bus will get very good responses.
After leaving the Nogales station the bus will make brief stops at the towns of Imuris, Magdalena de Kino and Santa Ana. About an hour after leaving Santa Ana the bus will stop for about 10 minutes in Caborca, where you can use the restroom (for five pesos) or purchase food or snacks. Just to be safe, if you plan to leave the bus in Caborca, first make sure that the driver knows that you have gotten off the bus.
An hour or so after leaving Caborca the bus will stop briefly at La Igriega (the “Y,” referring to the intersection of roads that meet in the town), and after that is two hours riding through the Sonoran desert.
Not long after leaving La Igriega, you will be able to see the Sea of Cortez in the distance on the left side of the bus. Along the way there are a couple of places between where there is road construction and the bus will leave the highway to follow a “desviacion,” or detour, but they are fairly brief.
Arrive in Rocky Point
As the bus pulls into the station in the town of Puerto Peñasco, you may be surprised to see that the actual town is just like any other dusty Sonoran pueblo. After getting your luggage and other personal belongings together you will need to take a taxi to the area of the beachside Rocky Point where you will be staying.
There is an ATM located inside the Puerto Peñasco bus station, just in case you want to withdraw more money. One main reason you may need to do this is that it is expensive to take a taxi in Rocky Point.
A taxi will charge up to $20 dollars to take you from the town to the beachside areas. This is not as bad if you are traveling in a group and split the fare, but be aware that this kind of price gouging is common.
However you choose to travel to Rocky Point on your own, depending on where you depart from, it will most likely involve several hours of driving or riding in a vehicle. I have found that taking the bus from Nogales to Rocky Point is not only an inexpensive and comfortable way to travel, but it can be an interesting cultural experience as well.
Have fun on the beach!