About 10 minutes south of Rosarito is the small fishing village of Popotla. Comprised of just a few unpaved roads roads that are crammed with dingy-looking seafood restaurants, you can walk from one side of town to the other in under five minutes or so. But don’t underestimate Popotla because of its size or appearances; this can be some of the best seafood in Baja.
For many reasons, Popotla is often overlooked. It is, after all, a rundown little fishing village that features those aggressively annoying guys outside of restaurants shoving menus in your face and trying to get you to come in to eat at their restaurant, “amigo.” On top of that, the place gets packed on weekends as families swarm the tiny town to indulge in seafood and ocean views. The traffic for Popotla backs up all the way onto the main free road. Did I mention there are rumors that at night Popotla moonlights as a smugglers’ launch pad for boats carrying drugs and illegal immigrants up to the U.S.?
But, if you can get past the unsavory appearances and seedy extracurricular activities of the village, Popotla is a gem for seafood lovers.
If you visit Popotla during the week, you’ll find the town nearly empty and it’s fun to walk along the beach to check out the fresh catches of the day and then have them freshly prepared for you to eat. As you walk into town, head down onto the beach where people drive right onto the sand with their boats and trucks to unload their fresh catches. You’ll find a wide variety of fish, clams, crabs, oysters and sea urchin laid out for sale. When you’re ready to eat, head into one of the restaurants on the beach and get ready for some extremely fresh seafood.
Even Anthony Bourdain visited (and loved) Popotla where he had a seafood feast on the beach complete with lobster Puerto Nuevo-style and a huge crab. The pescado zarandeado – fish that’s been butterflied and grilled, is a specialty of the town. Ceviches, raw shellfish and Mexican seafood cocktails are on all the menus as well. If you love seafood and you’re up for an adventure, don’t miss Popotla.
KM 33 on the free road, just south of Baja Film Studios (formerly Fox Studios). Enter through the dilapidated white arch.
GPS: 32.282065, -117.034997