Loma del Mar Travel Information
San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
Currently there is no commercial air service into Guaymas from the US. An alternate route is through the airport in Hermosillo (HMO), which is 75 miles away and then complete your journey by bus, shuttle or rental car to Guaymas/San Carlos. Hermosillo is served from several US cities and offers a wider selection of routes. An interesting history of Guaymas International Airport can be found on Wikipedia
TUFESA Bus Lines has International Service to Hermosillo and Guaymas departing from Phoenix and Tucson. Terminal locations and phone numbers are as follows:
Phoenix: 1614 N. 27th Ave & McDowell Rd.
Phone: (602) 415-9900/9902
Tucson: 5550 S. 12th Ave
Phone: (520) 670-1534
The Sonora "Free Zone": The Sonora Free Zone program for vehicles has expanded!! This means that those who plan to travel with vehicles in the state of Sonora north of Empalme/Guaymas no longer have to register and obtain a vehicle permit. If you plan to travel to the San Carlos-Guaymas area and no further into Mexico, this option applies. This also applies to trailers, boats, etc. Tourist cards are still required but for stays of 7 days or less you can get a no-fee tourist card.
Where is the Free Zone? The Free Zone includes the area west of Mexico Highway 15 to the coast or the border with Baja. It also includes the area from Douglas-Agua Prieta via Mexico Highway 2 west though Cananea to Imuris and everything north of that highway to the US-Mexico border. The southern end of the free zone is at KM 98 on Mexico 15, just south of Empalme. Communities in the free zone include Agua Prieta, Naco, Cananea, Nogales, Puerto Penasco, Sonoyta, San Luis Colorado, Caborca, Imuris, Magdalena, Santa Ana, Hermosillo, Kino Bay, San Carlos, Guaymas and Empalme. See the map below-the free zone is in beige.
San Carlos is approximately 4 hours (250 miles) south of the border from Nogales, AZ. The route is Mexico Federal Highway 15, which is a four-lane road. This route will take you through Imuris, Magdalena, Santa Anna and Hermosillo. There are three toll booths enroute at Nogales, Magdalena and Hermosillo. The toll for an automobile is from $2-$6 at each booth, depending on currency rates. Note that trailers and towed vehicles incur an additional charge per axle. Toll booths will accept payment in US currency with change given in pesos.
There are two border crossing points in Nogales. The original point is downtown and can be reached by following 1-19 from Tucson to it's end or by going south on Business 19 if coming from the east on AZ Hwy 82. This crossing is open 24 hours per day. It is usually very busy and is not suitable if you are towing a boat. There is no toll charge using this entry port.
We prefer and recommend the newer Mariposa crossing on Hwy 189. If coming from Tucson, exit I-19 at Hwy 189 and go west. If coming from the east on Hwy 82, take North Business 19 and turn left at the second traffic light. The crossing is open daily from 6AM to 10PM, but is much less constricted. It is the way to go if towing anything bigger than a jet-ski or ATV.
Current road conditions in Sonora are available online at the Arizona Department of Transportation web site at: www.az511.gov/Sonora/
Travel Advisory: A vehicle height restriction has been imposed on the Mariposa crossing. Vehicles over 2.49 meters or 8.5 feet high may only cross the border going into Mexico between 8 AM and 10PM, Monday through Saturday. Vehicles over 8.5 feet high cannot use this crossing on Sunday. Plan accordingly if you are driving an RV or towing a large boat or trailer.
Border Crossing Times: During the months of December and January, traffic returning to the US from Mexico can be very heavy and result in long waiting times to cross the border in Nogales. Weekends and holidays can be very congested. If your travel plans permit, try and avoid these periods. If they cannot be avoided we do suggest you get an early start leaving San Carlos.
Services: Fuel including unleaded or diesel is available at numerous service stations along the route. You can buy any brand you like as long as it's PEMEX, the Mexican National Oil Company. These are full service so don't pump your own. They take pesos or dollars. There is usually a youngster around to clean your windshield and a small gratuity of 25-50 cents is in order. Restrooms (banos) are normally available and can also be found at the toll booths.
Another neat feature about this route are the Green Angel trucks. These are mobile motorist aid units who will stop and assist if you do have a breakdown. Their mission is to perform minor repairs to get you back on the road. The best way not to meet them is to have the vehicle serviced before you cross the border. But it's nice to know they are there.
Speed Limits: Observe the speed limit signs, which are in kilometers per hour. Pay particular attention in built up areas as it is not uncommon to have pedestrians or animals along the right of way. Driving at night is generally not recommended as domestic animals may wander off the open range and onto the highway. El Toro (the bull) is neat, until you wrap a ton of steer around your front end. Stick to the daylight hours for highway travel. And as in the US, please don't drink and drive. And please don't litter.
Traveling with pets: If your pet is going on the trip with you, visit your veterinarian and get the animal a checkup and health certificate before you go. Take the rabies certificate for the animal with you as well. Be very conscious of temperature conditions and insure your animal has sufficient water and protection from heat, especially during the summer months.
Weapons: We'll say this more than once, but DO NOT take any type of firearm or ammunition into Mexico. If you hunt or shoot sporting clays or carry firearms or ammunition in your vehicle for any reason, check it carefully to make sure you did not leave these items in the vehicle. If caught in Mexico with these items in your possession the Mexican authorities will toss you in jail and forget where the key is! They won't care if it was accidental or otherwise.
Some common signs and their meanings:
- Peligrosa: Danger (They really mean it too)
- Curva: Curve
- Poblado Proxima: Population ahead
- Llanteros: Tire Repair Shop
- Izquierdo: Left
- Derecho: Right
- Alto: Stop
- Cuotas: Toll
- Caseta: Toll Booth
- Topes: Speed bumps (big ones!!)
- Obey traffic laws and observe speed limits.
- Try and learn a bit of Spanish and use it. The Mexican people will respect you for trying.
- Remember that you are a guest in their country.
- Carry a supply of water in your vehicle for both you and the vehicle.
- Sample the local cuisine. The seafood is especially wonderful in San Carlos and the beef is some of the best anywhere.
- Take precaution against over exposure to the sun-it can get HOT in Mexico.
- Take medications with you, particularly for stomach problems.
- Watch for disabled vehicle warning signs, livestock and construction zones. These can appear very suddenly
- Drink & Drive
- Bring firearms or ammunition to Mexico
- Be an ugly Norte Americano. Show the proper respect for your hosts.
- Attempt to conduct business under a tourist visa - you may NOT do so.
- Drink the water from the tap. In many places it is safe, but why take the chance on spoiling your trip with Montezuma's Revenge. Buy and use bottled water.
- Be stupid and break the law or doing anything you wouldn't or shouldn't do in your own country.