Some History and Background
Tecate is one of the oldest border towns in Baja, first (attempted to be) settled in 1831 and lies in a valley at 1700 feet elevation surrounded by hills and mountains, the most prominent being Kuuchamaa Mountain which is located right on the U.S. – Mexico border. The peak is referred to as Tecate Peak on the U.S. side and is a sacred mountain for the Kumiai people. During Spanish colonial times, missionaries and small communities of settlers arrived in the region, but it was not until 1829 when a large parcel of the valley called Cañada de Tecate (Tecate Canyon) was granted to Juan Bandini, who would establish Rancho Tecate – the first written reference of the name – only to later be forced to abandon the ranch in 1838 due to repeated attacks from local Kumiai community. During much of the 19th century the region would see continuous fighting between different bands of the locals and the Mexican government, with neither side able to push the other side out. Settlers would continue to arrive and eventually formed the Colonia Agrícola Tecate, taking up arms to fight alongside elements of the Mexican army and were finally able to gain control of the valley. The town became formally established in 1892 and the municipality of Tecate was created in 1917. Those farmers and ranchers who fought for their land grants would benefit from the area’s plentiful natural resources with abundant water and fertile soil, making Tecate the perfect site for a productive farm market. Olives, grapes and grain would become Tecate’s staple crops coffee processing plants and breweries also beginning production.
Over a century later, the town of Tecate still holds onto its farming roots and feels like something out of a novel with the magnificent topography and natural scenery serving as a backdrop to the region’s old town vibe with some of the historic country ranchos still operating today.
With just over 100,000 people living in town and more than 130,00 total in the municipality today, Tecate retains its small town feel with a very typical Mexican story including its traditional infrastructure and looks. Quite different from most border towns, Tecate remains true to its origins with its main plaza in the center of the city; city hall and the historic Catholic church both within easy walking distance.
The social life of Tecate today has not changed much from a century ago and much of it remains anchored around Parque Hidalgo – the main plaza and the Tecate brewery is the centerpiece of town, standing out more than any other landmark in the city, making beer here since 1943.
Did we mention that Tecate is also famous for its exquisite bread and internationally famous spas and retreats?
There are plenty of good reasons why Mexico named Tecate as one of their “Pueblos Magicos” (Magical Towns) and should you decide to spend some time here, you’ll quickly discover why.
The designation of Pueblo Mágico is a great honor and awarded to those communities that over time have maintained their original architecture, traditions, history and culture as well as to those that have been of great relevance to the country’s history. Defined as places with great symbolism and legends, they are towns whose historical importance has been fundamental for the development of history and that enhance the national identity in each region of the country. These places have a special magic that connects the visitor with our roots and traditions and exceptional beauty that will most definitely captivate you. There is a small river branching off from the Tijuana River that runs through town called Tecate Creek and a small hamlet just across the border on the U.S. side – the unincorporated community of Tecate, California that locals refer to as “Tecatito” – “Small Tecate”. The two Tecates come together to constitute an important border crossing between the US and Mexico, providing a much less hectic conduit than the San Ysidro and Otay Mesa border crossings in Tijuana to the west. The border crossing at Tecate is open from 5 AM to 11 PM and can get a little jammed up on weekend afternoons, as hordes of cars drive the extra distance to avoid the horrendous traffic found at the Tijuana and Otay Mesa crossings. Here’s a guide to the very best of Tecate, the Pueblo Magico, should you ever find yourself spending some time here or simply passing by on your way to Tijuana, Mexicali, the Guadalupe Valley or further south down the Baja peninsula
Tecate Map – Lookup Address / Location
Things to See and Do in Tecate
1. Parque Hidalgo – the Main Plaza
Most “Tecatenses” would tell you that this tree lined, central plaza is the heart and soul of their community with much of Tecate’s social and even political life still centered around Parque Hidalgo with it’s welcome shade and colonial gazebo, taco stands, ice cream parlors and street vendors still surrounding the plaza, along with small coffee shops and bakeries, all providing the perfect backdrop to just sit and watch this pleasant and quaint town go about its daily business.
While sitting there, it’s easy to feel how little has changed in Tecate since the early 20th century, taking you back deep into México in some colonial city, not less than half a mile from the U.S. border. You can also find more information about the activities available locally at the tourist office that’s across the street, facing the park.
Calle Ortiz Rubio y Callejón Libertad s/n, Downtown.
2. The Tecate Brewery
Just a few blocks from the plaza and the largest structure and the most famous employer in town, the Tecate Brewery is the town’s centerpiece, standing out more than any other landmark in the city. The brewery makes a LOT of beer, over forty million liters each month with none of it currently being exported to the U.S.
In 1943, Alberto Aldrete would take over a local business producing vegetable oil in a brick building built in 1929 and from there he would start up a small malt brewing operation on the side. His brew became popular locally and would name his artisanal beer after the town, establishing its new enterprise as Cervecería Tecate in 1944.
The brewery brought prosperity to the town and by 1947, started exporting to Asian and American markets. In 1954, the company was bought out by Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery, expanding its market and introducing the “easy open” cans to Mexico in 1964. The boost from the new management and convenient presentation gave the beer a great new market and their logo became ubiquitous at beer depots, on table tops and the backs of folding chairs at road-side restaurants and supermarkets all around Mexico.
The Tecate brew imported into the U.S. definitely tastes different and is made in Monterrey, Mexico, with different water and less alcohol than its Tecate-bottled, spring-water brew, explaining why so many tourists take as much Tecate back home as they can get through customs.
There are scheduled tours of the brewery but you need to make a reservation prior by phone and be sure to specify your language preference. The tour gets you a free beer from the adjacent beer garden, which is open Monday through Friday, 10am–5pm and Saturday from 10am–2pm.
Tour hours are a bit more limited.
Blvd. Oscar Bailón Chacón No. 150, Tecate, Baja California
3. Rancho La Puerta
For those fortunate enough to not have to ask how much something costs first before handing over their credit card, Rancho La Puerta offers a one-of-a-kind, legendary wellness retreat that has been pampering its guests for over 80 years.
Over the years, Rancho La Puerta has grown into a world-renowned fitness resort and spa offering week-long vacations to help their guests reacquaint themselves with exercise, eating organic, vegetarian meals and relaxation. Over 4,000 acres of land surrounds you in a beautiful natural setting of mountains and meadows.
Resort guests are housed in casitas (cottages among spectacular gardens, pools and a 5-acre organic farm with over 40 miles of hiking trails on the property and the resort has been consistently ranked among the world’s best destination spas.
Carretera Mexicali-Tijuana K.M, 136.5, Rancho la Puerta, 21520 Tecate, B.C.
Vintage Tecate from the 1940’s
4. La Rumorosa
Awaiting you on the road between Tecate and Mexicali lies a natural wonder that’s not to be missed. The effects of erosion on the Sierra de Juárez create some of the strangest, most spectacular landscapes you’ll ever see in your lifetime.
Local lore insists that on a moonless night you might find an old woman asking for a “raite” (a ride), but after you get her on board and go a few miles, you will notice that she is no longer on board your vehicle. This is one of the many legends that surround La Rumorosa, a road of dangerous curves that winds through the middle of the Sierra Juarez and is part of the Carretera Federal 2D Tijuana-Mexicali, connecting Tecate with Mexicali.La Rumorosa gets it’s name from the wind that howls through the rocky canons and crevices, seeming to create the illusion of voices crying out from the wind, whistling through the myriad of rock formations all along the twisting route. Driving the road can be hazardous due to the conditions and grade so it’s best to check your tires and brakes before attempting as well as slow down. You’ll enjoy the drive even more and be able to better enjoy the panoramic views of rock formations created by erosion in ochre tones. One very popular attraction are the “hongos” (mushrooms) that grow over 3 feet high, and are located at the side of the Tecate toll booth.In winter, the landscape becomes even more amazing when La Rumorosa is snowed in, usually between December and February. But also much more dangerous as countless cars and trucks have overturned due to the curving roadway and icy conditions leaving behind cemeteries of twisted iron and tires that could never be removed from deep canyons, earning the route the nickname of “la carretera de la muerte” (the highway of death), from decades prior when the highway only had one lane in each direction. In addition to the Martian like landscape, among its rocks is El Vallecito archaeological site, where the ancient Kumiai people once created cave paintings. Today, there are also sightseeing areas marked where you can stop and if you are lucky, be able to to view condors, bighorn sheep and mountain lions.On the way down from Tecate to Mexicali, you will find the famous Casa de Piedra (Stone House). This is a geopark for launching eco-adventure activities such as mountain biking, rappelling and climbing to the top of La Rumorosa’s rocky peaks.
5. Tecate Bread
Speaking of tasty, Tecate is known as the “Capital of Bread” with the aroma of freshly baked artisan bread coming from dozens of brick ovens of local bakeries around the plaza tempting you early each morning.
Probably the best known of the bakeries is “El Mejor Pan de Tecate” (The Best bread of Tecate) with over 200 varieties of bread and located on Avenida Juarez, a block and a half from the plaza. They never close, open 24 hours each day and if you stop by, try the barrita de mantequilla, the staple roll or the classic bolillos, birotes and conchas.
Av. Juárez No. 331Tecate, Baja California
6. Community Museum Kumiai
There aren’t a lot of museums in Tecate, but the one is totally worth a visit. Get to know the Kumiai, the ancient people of the region and their history in relation to Tecate.
Located adjacent to the Centro Cultural Tecate (CECUTEC), the museum tells the Kumiai’s version of the struggle for control of the valley, divided into three parts: the pre-colonial history of the Kumiai, the era of the ranches and their place today in Tecate. In its permanent exhibitions, you can find authentic regional artifacts, photographs, murals and sculptures.
Calle Tlaloc No. 400
Tecate, Baja California
Los Chabacanos Retreat
The hills and valleys surrounding Tecate are filled with dozens of ranches and resorts that take advantage of the local topography and conditions, with each venue providing their own flavor of a unique ecotourism experience.
You may want to spend a week working at an authentic Dude Ranch where you will work cattle on horseback like an old time vaquero, learn to train wild horses or even put some of those experiences to canvas at a ranch that also functions as an art retreat.
Or maybe you simply want to find a ranch with something for the entire family where you can work with farm animals – big and small – that offers cabin rentals as well as onsite camping.
Cañada del Sol offers you all that at very reasonable prices and is a very popular destination for tourists.
Carretera Libre Tecate-Mexicali
Km 105 Cañada Verde
Tecate, Baja California
+52 (664) 129-4242 | (665) 845-2807 | 664) 375-4850