Tijuana is always a good idea. Whether you’re heading south of the border to cut loose or it’s the starting point of your epic Baja California road trip, in this post I’ll share with you 20 fun things to do in Tijuana Mexico.
I’ve visited a few times and I’ve never had anything other than a good time. If you are worried about safety, I have written about that in a separate post, which also covers how to get to Tijuana from San Diego.
And if you’re on that epic Baja California road trip, you can read my post taking that drive and what to see and do in Baja California here.
At the end of the post, I’ve included a google map of all the places I’ve mentioned in this
A lot of you reading this will fall squarely into that 18 to 20 years (and 11 months) age bracket and you’re visiting Tijuana to take advantage of the lower drinking age limit in Mexico.
Of course, you might end up doing more than that one thing – like getting a tattoo on your posterior of a man and a donkey having…how do I put this delicately…intimate relations (yes: that’s a true story from a travel friend I met and yes, I was ‘treated’ to a public viewing of the aforementioned tattoo).
But Tijuana nightlife is not the only thing to do when you cross the border. Here’s a list of 20 things to in Tijuana. And to help you out, I’ve included a Google Map of all these locations at the end of this Tijuana blog post.
1. Take a picture of Tijuana’s Monumental Arch
You should take a picture of Tijuana’s Monumental Arch (main image) because it is monumental – so much so you can see it before you cross the border. it’s quite the introduction to the city and is one of the fun free things to do in Tijuana. I would say it’s a Tijuana must see but really I think you’d find it hard NOT to see it.
2. Get some culture at Centro Cultural Tijuana (CECUT)
Most people don’t think of Tijuana as a cultural centre but it is stuffed with cultural activities and has a centre dedicated to exactly that. As well as an IMAX and a full performance program, there is an exhibit of the history of Baja California – ideal if you’re at the start of a road trip down the peninsula. Find out more on the CECUT website here.
3. Visit Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe
Being a tourist means you’re duty bound to see the local cathedral, doesn’t it? If you hold that opinion, you can get your fix at Catedral de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe.
4. Try to get a picture of the Mexican flag in the breeze
The flag in Tijuana is not only highly visible courtesy of its size, it’s one of the banderas monumentales – a program of large flags in Mexico marking locations of significant Mexican events. I can’t find the exact dimensions of the flag online so if anyone wants to shimmy up the pole and measure it for me, that would be great.
5. Explore the Tijuana shopping scene
I’ll confess I’m not a lover of shopping but I appreciate that many people are so here’s a short list of the top spots for shopping in Tijuana:
- Plaza Rio Tijuana – your classic outdoor mall
- Sanborns – if you’re after a department store
- Mercado Hidalgo – more on this fresh produce market below
- Mercado El Popo – another fresh produce market
- Plaza Agua Caliente – if you’re looking for designer brands
If you’re a real shopping fanatic and don’t want to spend time figuring out the Tijuana shopping scene, you can book a 5-hour day trip from San Diego to Tijuana that includes plenty of shopping as well as some sightseeing. Click here to check prices and availability on TripAdvisor.
6. Visit a Mexican market at Mercado Hidalgo
This shopping activity merits a separate mention because it’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in Mexican daily life. Brimming with fresh local produce, crafts and eateries, Mercado Hidalgo has every Mexican food or souvenir that you could want all in one place.
7. Track down some street art in Tijuana
Pasaje Rodriguez is well know for street art in Tijuana but it’s not the only place you’ll find it. Get some Tijuana Street Art inspiration from Pinterest and I’ll be posting my Tijuana street art pictures on Pinterest here.
8. Go and see some Lucha Libre
Another confession: for all my travels in Mexico, I’ve never seen a Lucha Libre wrestling match. No reason, I’ve just never gotten around to it. Don’t be like me. Go, and let me know what it’s like. Definitely one of the unique things to do in Tijuana. You can check dates and book tickets here.
9. Enjoy the park life at Parque Morelos
Looking for some green space in an otherwise building oriented city? Head to Parque Morales. A blend of woodland and traditional park, there is also a lake and a train for getting around (probably aimed at kids but I’m sure your inner child can hop aboard). You can find out more about the facilities and what’s on here.
10. Go to the beach in Tijuana (Playas de Tijuana)
Wait? What? There’s a beach in Tijuana. Yep, I know, right! And, if you are in TJ to party, the country is really well set up for taking a six pack to the beach with cool boxes and ice available in 7-Eleven and OXXO. If nothing else, go there for the sunsets. If you’re wondering what is there to do in Tijuana for a day, I say enjoy Mexican beach life. It really is a completely different experience compared to San Diego; beach snacks from carts and beers, for one.
11. Go tequila tasting in Tijuana
Ok, so there isn’t exactly a lot of organised tequila tasting opportunities in Tijuana, which, frankly, is missing a trick as far as I’m concerned, but you’re in Mexico, so all you really need to do is step into a bar – any bar will do – and try a few brands you’ve not tried before. Not sure where to start? Check out my guide to how to drink Tequila like a Mexican. My current favourite is an unfortunately rather pricey tequila called Adictivo, which does exactly what the name suggests.
12. Eat all the Tijuana tacos you can
As if you were going to go to Tijuana and not try the local food! As far as I’m concerned, you’ll be hard pushed to find a bad taco in Tijuana and the more substantive plates are just as good. However, if you’re the kind of person who wants the kind of food that comes ‘highly recommended’, I’ve got a list of where to eat in Tijuana below.
13. Check out the malecón
The sand and sea isn’t all that’s on offer at the beach in Tijuana. There’s a lively malécon featuring streetfood vendors, local crafts, restaurants and bars. Personally, if you’re not sure what to do in Tijuana, I’d serve downtown Tijuana and start here.
14. Drink Mexican coffee
Did you know that Mexico is one of the largest coffee producing countries in the world? If you didn’t, you do now and what better place to drink it than in Mexico itself. Make sure you’re buying local. You can find out more about Mexican coffee here. My favourite Mexican coffee comes from Chiapas.
15. Gamble your pesos away at a casino
Who needs Vegas when you can gamble in Mexico? Here’s a guide to casinos in Tijuana – Casino Caliente is a popular choice.
16. Enjoy Tijuana’s craft beer scene
Like many places around the world, craft beer has arrived on the scene in Tijuana and I have to say it’s good.
How to do it: BCB Tasting Room is a popular place to taste Tijuana craft beers. Otherwise, you can find a longer list of suggested supping spots here.
17. Check out the Tijuana nightlife – on Avenida Revolucion and Calle Sexta
Whether the Tijuana nightlife is the beginning, middle and end of your plans for the city or whether you just want to see what the fuss is all about, here is a list of some of the best places to go. Otherwise, hitting downtown Tijuana isn’t a bad place to start.
18. Go wine tasting at L.A. Cetto
My most recent trip to Tijuana was part of a larger trip down Baja California, which included a visit to one of Mexico’s most famous wineries – L.A. Cetto in Ensenada. But if you can’t make it to Ensenada, you can still go tasting at the L.A. Cetto cava in Tijuana. You can find out more about L.A. Cetto in Tijuana here.
19. Try the fish tacos at La Mojarrita
Yes, I know I said I’d give you a list of the best restaurants in Tijuana below – and I will, I promise – but the fish tacos at this restaurant by the beach deserve a special mention (picture below if you want proof).
20. Treat your hangover to a Michelada
I’m not going to win any prizes for being a healthy lifestyle role model with this one but, you know what, you’re fresh off the back of the Tijuana nightlife, your head hurts and you have more party plans coming up. At least by trying a michelada, you’re mixing your ‘hair of the dog’ remedy (beer) with all the goodness of tomato, clam juice, lemon and chilli. I know it sounds vile but, trust me, it works, and tastes good too.
Best Restaurants in Tijuana
What follows is a short list of the most famous/ best restaurants in Tijuana together with a few of my favourites and a couple of recommendations from local friends. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on these places and any other suggestions in the comments below. I’ve also included these places on my Google map below.
You’ll start a hot debate if you try to get a firm view on the best tacos in Tijuana but here are a few places to start:
- Tacos el Franc – wins the popular vote
- Tacos Kokopelli – upmarket tacos, recommended to me by a local
- Telefonica gastro park – taco trucks galore
- La Mojaritta – my favourite for fresh, fantastic fish tacos
Some of the best restaurants in Tijuana include
- Caesar’s Restaurant – another place that the internet collectively waxs lyrical about
- Mision 19 – for modern Mexican
- Tras/Horizonte – restaurant from the people behind Kokopelli
- Los Panchos Pollos Rostizados – simple but succulent chicken by the beach (and one of my favourites)
And a few extra mentions
- Cafe Acai – for chilled out sunset beers
- Costa Tosta – another road side favourite of mine for morning coffee and sweet treats
Best Tijuana Tours from San Diego
Don’t want to explore Tijuana on your own? Can’t be bothered to figure out the border? Why not take one of the many Tijuana tours from San Diego in a private, escorted vehicle. Here are a few suggestions:
- Tijuana Half Day Sightseeing Tour from San Diego (price $65) – if you just want to dip your toe in Tijuana, this half day tour is the perfect introduction. Your guide will meet you in San Diego, take you across the border, show you around Tijuana, give you tips on how to haggle in the market and you’ll end the day by getting some hands on Mexican cooking (and eating) experience.
- Grand Baja Mexico Tour (Price, $119) – this 1 day trip gives you so much more than just Tijuana. Add in the seaside village of Puerto Nuevo and Rosarito Beach. This is Baja California at it’s finest in just one day from San Diego – your guide will take you across the border.
- San Diego and Tijuana Day Trip from San Diego – looking to combine a guided tour of both San Diego and Tijuana? This is the tour for you, with an optional harbour cruise in San Diego. Click here to check prices and availability on TripAdvisor.
And if you’re looking for things to do in San Diego, check out my post: What to Do in San Diego
Recommended Tijuana Hotels
I’m not going to sugarcoat it, you do need to be a little bit more careful picking where to stay in Tijuana. Why? Firstly, you don’t want to stay in an unsavoury area. Secondly, there have been instances of possessions being stolen from rooms.
The good news is that both of these risks can be countered: first by sticking to the tourist area for your accommodation; second, reading reviews on Trip Advisor to make sure that past guests checked out with all of their luggage.
I have previously stayed in these two places, which were in good locations and nothing went missing.
Aqua Rio Hotel – A budget hotel in a good location with very friendly management. Book ahead because this hotel is popular (probably for the same reasons I like it). Trying to book a few days in advance in August over the weekend, it was fully booked out. Click here to check prices and availability through Booking.
Lifestyle Hostel – This is my favourite place to stay in Tijuana. Yes, its budget and a hostel but they have a private room and you absolutely cannot beat the location, which is just across the road from the beach. You’ll also, you’ll be surrounded by like-minded travellers who are more than happy to share tips about where to go and what to do in Tijuana. Click here to check prices and and availability with HostelWorld.
Tijuana Marriott – if you want somewhere more upmarket, there is a Marriott near the business district, which gets great reviews and delivers everything you’d expect from this hotel chain. This is also probably the most luxurious option you’ll find in Tijuana. Click here to check prices and availability through Booking.
Hotel Ticuan – a good mid-range option in a good location in Zona Centro, this hotel is popular. Click here to check prices and availability through Booking.
I found the Wikipedia travel page for Tijuana helpful when researching where to stay.
Map of Things To Do In Tijuana Mexico
So, that’s my guide to the 20 fun things to do in Tijuana Mexico. Got any questions or thoughts, let me know in the comments below.
More of my Mexico Blog Posts
Blog posts to help you book (and pack) for your trip
The Only Packing List You’ll Ever Need (with printable checklist)