Jimmy Buffet sang that changes in latitudes bring changes in attitudes. Five members of the Ability360 team with varying experiences with disability headed south of the border for some manana time.
Rocky Point is the closest ocean view from Phoenix – only a four-hour drive and just an hour over the border. Prices and weather tend to match Phoenix and Tucson. Spanish is helpful but not required, although a well-placed por favor or gracias can take you far.
Crossing the border requires a passport upon return. At the Mexican checkpoint stop, the Mexican border police may ask to look in your vehicle. Be friendly and cooperative and this process will go smoothly. Returning home, at the US checkpoint, you will declare your citizenship and present your passport. Upon entry or return, vehicles are randomly chosen for an enhanced inspection. Check in advance for the rules and restrictions on goods you can take over the border. You’ll also need auto insurance for Mexico. In many cases, your American policy writer will be able to assist you. We each paid about $25 for our four-day trip.
The Rocky Point Experience
ADA compliant ramps that would otherwise allow a manual chair user to push up and down solo were scarce in public areas of Rocky Point. A push up or guided descent were necessary to ensure safety. Even the most ardent among us was willing to sacrifice autonomy and accept an occasional push to get the very best views. While elevators were standard in the resort hotels, they were virtually non-existent throughout the city of Rocky Point.
Vendors and restaurant staff were eager to help, and offered to assist at every turn. It’s hard to say if this hospitality and eagerness applies to anyone who uses a chair, or if it was attributed to our tourist status.
Individuals with environmental disabilities need to be aware that nonsmoking areas are scarce and scented products abound.
When you arrive in town, find a place to whet your whistle and grab a bite. This might be a great time to shop. Once you settle in to your own beach view, “manana” sinks in fast. Time and ambition slow down and stillness prevails.
Eat, Play, Shop
Our favorite meals:
Mariachis and Tequila (what can go wrong here?). If you can find it and you’re willing to take another white-knuckle ramp, this Rodeo Drive restaurant is one the locals patronize.
La Curva has been part of Rocky Point forever. Access was easy. It is an expat favorite located in the suburbs.
The Point located on the pier at the Malecon offered a large wrap-around veranda over the water.
Street Food: Rocky Point is known for its plentiful “street tacos” and shrimp vendors. This is where your sense of adventure comes in. Not a street taco vendor per se, Lucas is one of our favorites.
Best sunset: El Capitan’s patio (get there early). The view is the best you’ll get, the drinks are cold, the food is…well, edible. Wheelchair access is a white-knuckle adventure – scary but worth it. Be advised that the trek to the best patio is not possible in a large power chair.
Many are on the second floor, with varying degrees of ramps and access, again challenging your sense of adventure.
• JJ’s Cantina, the ultimate dive bar, is famous (or infamous);
• Chongo’s has been there the longest;
• Banditos is owned by Arizona’s home-grown rocker, Roger Clyne. When Roger and the Peacemakers are in town, get there EARLY.
• Hit the Malecon, the avenue of street sellers. Do feel free to haggle over prices; it’s expected.
• Rodeo Drive is the place to work up your appetite shopping.
Rocky Point Geography
• Downtown, you’ll find shopping, ice cream, some hotels and the best restaurants. A festival can break out at any time.
• Los Conchas, to the east, where you’ll find the beach homes for rent; if you’re looking for “sleepy”, this is it.
• Sandy Beach, to the west, is the part of Rocky Point most people know best. Here you’ll find upwards of six resorts each with condos for rent. You can bring your own food and beverages and never roll the dice on local food and water. Each resort has its own restaurants, bars, pools, etc.
Sandy Beach Resorts:
Of all of resorts we visited, not one boasted a roll-in shower or hand-held shower head. A slight floor lip creates a barrier for some in the otherwise accessible showers. Make sure you do your homework, get good photos and ask for measurements if you have any doubts. These are each privately owned; hotel maintenance is not going to show up and remove a door or lower a mattress. Most of the accessible spaces available for rent have complete details available on-line.
Las Palmas (www.laspalmas-mex.com)
• Smallest and perhaps best-kept secret of Rocky Point accessibility
• Condos and 20 beachfront homes
• Single-level common grounds
• With enough ingenuity and adventure, you can get to the beach.
I couldn’t help but feel sad that two of my companions couldn’t go for a “roll” on the beach. Walking on the shifting sand admittedly increased my heart and breathing rate; the natural path would have required a Herculean effort by chair. Was the joy of the experience diminished for my comrades? I can’t answer that, but I do know that we were able to experience some of the most memorable moments in Mexico together: car karaoke; roadside shrimp stands; mariachi singers; bargain shopping, creative photo contests, insistent, early morning tamale vendors; mangoes on a stick smothered in lime juice, chile powder and salsa; lounging with drinks in hand; indescribable sunsets; whales breaking the surface ever so slightly; and enjoying meals together as the tide receded in our backyard.
Rocky Point is as accessible as your sense of adventure and your travel companions. Being outside of our routines, we wheelers were keenly aware that we were adding work for our able-bodied companions. Patience and a sense of humor were the order of the day.
Why Rocky Point? It’s a great launching pad for international travel as a person with a disability. And, there are no TSA hand searches. If one can manage the potholes and lack of ADA access, the world is your oyster. If you find it becomes more adventure than you’re up for, you’re only four hours from home.