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7-Day Road Trip from San Diego to Mexico

san diego to mexico road trip

One of the most appealing features of San Diego is its easy access to Mexico - the border is only 17 miles from downtown. Here, you will find an abundance of natural beauty, white sand beaches, fresh seafood, vibrant culture, and colonial cities and towns. To help plan your exciting journey, VroomVroomVroom shares this self-drive itinerary so you can make most of your road trip adventure.

How to get into Mexico from San Diego

A selection of car rental companies will allow you to take their vehicles to Mexico. Keep in mind that some restrictions will apply. Make sure you read and understand everything in the terms and conditions of our suppliers or simply contact them directly if you are planning to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Crossing an international border in a car rental is easy if you have the required documents and have permission from your supplier. Note that you can drive a rental car from the United States into Mexico, but you must pay for a Mexican Automobile Liability Insurance which is only available in specific U.S. states like California. Before you cross the border, ensure you have proper identification with you. Check the current requirements here to see what other documents you will need to travel to Mexico.

Recommended car: Book an intermediate SUV such as the Toyota Rav4 or similar for convenience and comfort.

Quick tips for driving in Mexico

  • Secure your permit and important documents if you are driving outside the Border Zone
  • Driving is on the right with overtaking is on the left
  • Speed limits are posted in kilometers per hour (kph) and not miles per hour (mph)
  • Current speed limits are: 60-80 km/h on urban, 70-90 km/h on rural, and 100-110 on major highways
  • Look out for signed topes and potholes
  • Drive cautiously because you'll often see animals on the road 
  • Avoid driving while drunk
  • Carrying a good map is recommended
  • Avoid driving at night, especially any long distances

San Diego to Mexico itinerary

  • Day 1: San Diego, California
  • Day 2: Tijuana
  • Day 3: Mexicali
  • Day 4: Hermosillo
  • Day 5: Sinaloa
  • Day 6: Guadalajara
  • Day 7: Mexico City

Day 1: Visit La Jolla Cove and admire the beautiful sunset on the ocean

sunset at la jolla cove in san diego

San Diego Highlights

  • There are plenty of exciting places to discover in this part of California, and going to the beach is one of them. There are many beautiful beaches to choose from, including the Coronado Beach, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach and Mission Beach. Go paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving or just bask in the sun – you won’t be disappointed.
  • Visitors and locals flock to La Jolla Cove to witness the awe-inspiring sunset on the ocean. In addition, you'll get amazing views of San Diego if you drive to the top of Mt. Soledad in La Jolla. Breathtaking views of East County communities in the city also await tourists at the top of Mt. Helix.
  • Head to Old Town and watch the living legacy of San Diego history. Feel free to stroll through historic buildings, blacksmith shops, including the oldest schoolhouse in San Diego, and more.

Day 2: Stroll along Avenida Revolucion in Tijuana

tijuana coastline in mexico

Tijuana Highlights

  • Just beyond the border and only 20 minutes from San Diego, the city of Tijuana Mexico is often called the "gateway to the tourist corridor of Baja California." With more than 40 million border crossings each year, Tijuana is recognized as one of most visited cities in the world. Top attractions include the Tijuana Cultural Centre, Tijuana Wax Museum, El Popo, and Avenida Revolucion.
  • There are many breweries, markets, boutiques, and street vendor booths to explore in the city. After stopping in Tijuana, travelers also make it a point to stop at Rosarito Beach, a favorite oceanside getaway for Americans and Mexicans alike.
  • Just half an hour drive from Tijuana, a visit to Rosarito is a must. Head south of Rosario in Puerto Nuevo to reach the famed "Lobster Village," known for the delicious and tasty crustaceans.

Day 3: Savor some Mexican food in Mexicali

vintage wood signboard of mexicali

Mexicali Highlights

  • Also known as Chilicali, Mexicali is the capital of the state of Baja California and can be found across the border from Calexico in California. Its proximity to the U.S. has made the city a popular tourist destination with Americans. It also serves as a gateway for travelers who are heading south to San Felipe or even over to mainland Mexico. Driving time from Tijuana to Mexicali will take an hour and a half.
  • Visit the Asadero Acatlan de Juarez for the best tacos and sincronizada (tortilla-based sandwich). Mexicali's Chinatown or "La Chinesca" should not be missed. It is no secret that Mexicans love and enjoy their beer, and that is especially true in Mexicali. Make sure to pay a visit to Cerveza Cucapá, and to the famous Cerveceria Mexicali.
  • The Teatro del Estado is another must-see in Mexicali. The teatro, or theatre, which can accommodate 1,100 seats, hosts many productions, both theatrical and musical, during the whole year.

Day 4: Visit Cerro de la Campana on your trip to Hermosillo

scenic view of mirador lookout at san carlos, sonora

Hermosillo Highlights

  • The travel time between Hermosillo and Mexicali is six hours and 11 minutes. Despite its location, Hermosillo has become a major tourist destination in the north of Mexico. The vibrant city, which can be found centrally in the northwestern state of Sonora, has a rich history and marvelous colonial buildings.
  • The city capital is home to a majestic cathedral, as well as several wonderful museums and galleries. Check out the Museo Musas, a Sonoran art museum that has regularly rotating art exhibitions, or you can also visit the indigenous art at Casa Hoeffer.
  • The city is within easy reach of spectacular beaches, which are just an hour away by car. Of course, you absolutely can’t visit Hermosillo without taking a trip to the Cerro de la Campana and admiring a Sonoran sunset.

Day 5: Enjoy fishing in Topolobampo, Sinaloa

lookout at mazatlan coast in mexico

Sinaloa Highlights

  • The are several amazing sites and fun things to do in Sinaloa. Travel time from Hermosillo to Sinaloa by car is 8 hours and 37 minutes via Mexico 15 S. Top attractions include Our Lady of the Rosary of Culiacan Cathedral, Science Center of Sinalo, Guadalupe Sanctuary, and Sinaloa Art Museum.
  • Topolobampo Bay, which has picturesque landscapes, is a popular seaport located in the Californian Gulf in northwestern Sinaloa. Topolobampo and its surroundings are some of the favorite tourist fishing spots. There are numerous restaurants providing authentic delicacies with fresh seafood - something you need to try.
  • Maviri is one of the most magnificent beaches in the state of Sinaloa, and is only a 15-minute drive via Los Mochis - Topolobampo/SIN 1-22/SIN. Mazatlan, a beach town in the state of Sinaloa, is another must-see.

Day 6: Sip tequila like a Mexican in Jalisco

guadalajara cathedral in jalisco

Guadalajara Highlights

  • The travel time by car between Sinaloa and Guadalajara is nine hours and 17 minutes via México 15D. Guadalajara is a top tourist destination in Jalisco, a state in Western Mexico famous for its spectacular beaches and coastal town of Puerto Vallarta.
  • Did you know that Jalisco is the birthplace of tequila? If so, then heading to Guadalajara without spending a day in Tequila is unforgivable. Cantaritos (tequila and a mixture of fruit juices) is a must try while overlooking the small central plaza.
  • The historic center in Guadalajara is well worth an afternoon visit. Flanked by four aesthetic plazas, the Centro Histórico is really worth your time. You can relax in La Rotonda de Los Jalicienses Ilustres, shop at San Juan, dance in El Sonidero and have some fun with a few shots of tequila at Chupitería La Favorita.

Day 7: Experience the top of Torre Latinoamericana

torre latinoamericana on juarez avenue

Mexico City Highlights

  • The travel time between Guadalajara and Mexico City is seven hours and 7 minutes via México 15D. Take the trip down to Coyoacan to explore the art of the famous Frida Kahlo, also known as the Blue House. The modern Museo Suomaya is another must-see. It is also the most visited museum in Mexico City. Other notable attractions in the city include Parque Mexico, Palacio de Bellas Artes, Coyoacán, Monumento a la Revolución, Cineteca Nacional, Pirámides de Teotihuacán, Xochimilco and the Trajineras.
  • The Torre Latinoamericana is one of the most important and recognizable landmarks in Mexico City. Tourists can go to the top of the nearly 600-foot tower and simply admire the sprawling metropolis from above.
  • If you want a break from the city life, don't miss out on Chapultepec Park, also called the "Bosque de Chapultepec." The park is one of the largest parks in Latin Americana, spanning over 1,600 acres - double that of Central Park in New York. You can visit a museum, ride a roller coaster, relax at the lake, explore the market and even visit the giant pandas while in the park.

Map of San Diego to Mexico itinerary

Do you know that you can download this map directly to your phone? Press the box symbol located on the top-right corner of this map to open in your Google Maps app. Now you can easily access this map on your next road trip adventure from San Diego to Mexico.

Travel time and distance: 31 hours via I-8 E / México 15D

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