The Mexican border city of Tijuana is one of the most popular areas for visitors to Mexico. In just a short hop over the border, visitors from the United States can enjoy beautiful beaches, colonial history, and a lively restaurant and nightlife scene.
While many people choose to pass through Tijuana before heading out on their Baja California adventures, others choose to stay overnight and linger in what the city has to offer.
If you belong to the latter camp, here is a guide that can help you decide where to stay in Tijuana on your vacation.
Why You Should Visit Tijuana in 2023
Visiting Tijuana is always a good idea. Due to its proximity to the border, many U.S. citizens visit it frequently to access more affordable dental services, medication, and shopping. However, the city is worth a visit in its own right as a sightseeing destination.
The city has a long, rich history, although it only formally became an urban settlement in 1889. While it doesn’t have quite the history of other places in Mexico, you can still see some beautiful buildings, such as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The entire center has beautiful architecture. Most of Tijuana’s cultural appeal is decidedly modern. The city has several revered cultural institutions dedicated to the local history and culture, such as the Tijuana Cultural Center.
In recent years, the modern art scene has taken off, with plenty of galleries such as La Caja Galería, street art murals, and performances to take in. Tijuana also has a well-earned reputation for hedonism.
The city’s nightlife has long attracted visitors from the United States, other parts of Mexico, and from all over the world. There is something for everyone, from the titillating clubs of Zona Rosa and nightly live music to elegant mezcal tastings.
The dining scene is also excellent, with excellent street food and Baja-Mediterranean fusion (the famous Caesar salad was invented here, not in Italy).
The city also has its own beach, just about 15 minutes away from the center! You can laze on the beach during the day, then head into the center to enjoy the nightlife at night. Playa de Tijuana is often home to sporting events, art exhibits, and other events.
Famous beach towns of Baja California are a short drive south if you want to explore other parts of the region and use Tijuana as your base. Tijuana has a lot to offer if you are willing to look below the gritty exterior.
Figuring out where to stay is important for getting the most out of your visit. Staying in the right place in Tijuana is more important than in many other cities because some parts of the city are quite dangerous, and you don’t want to be caught in the wrong part of town.
But don’t worry — that’s why we made this guide. Ready to get started? So are we — let’s dive in!
The 5 Best Parts of Tijuana
- Zona Centro: Best area for first-time visitors, sightseeing, and nightlife
- Zona Río: Best area for upscale travel and shopping
- Playa de Tijuana: Best area for the beach
- Rosarito: Best area for a quiet getaway, resort experience, and nightlife
- Chula Vista: Best area for American visitors and safety
The Best Areas and Hotels in Tijuana
Tijuana has several great neighborhoods perfect for visitors looking to explore the charms of the city. They have very distinctive characters.
This guide can help you figure out where is the best place to stay for you while visiting Tijuana.
1. Zona Centro
Zona Centro is Tijuana’s downtown area and where most of the city’s main attractions are located. For first-time visitors, this is a great place to stay because you are close to all of Tijuana’s main attractions, restaurants, and nightlife.
Zona Centro has many attractions, from historic buildings to cultural centers and museums. The centerpiece of this neighborhood is the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe, an imposing building built over 100 years ago.
Another important Tijuana landmark is the Monumental Arch. No visit to Tijuana is complete without a stroll down Avenida Revolución, the main thoroughfare in the neighborhood. Take in the shops, galleries, restaurants, and bars along the way.
At night, the avenue becomes a lively thoroughfare, with the party often spilling into the streets. Once a popular site for bootleggers during Prohibition in the United States, the avenue has a reputation for partying.
The other benefit of staying in Zona Centro is that you are close to everything. You can see the main sights, check out the main nightlife areas, and even head to the beach or to the American border just a few miles away.
However, Zona Centro is not the best place to stay if you are looking for a quiet vacation. The lively atmosphere of the city often lasts late into the night, at the expense of travelers hoping for their beauty sleep. It may also be overwhelming for families with small children.
Things to Do
- Marvel at the architecture of the Cathedral of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
- Go shopping at the specialty shops on Avenida Constitución.
- Visit one of the many museums, such as the Museum of the History of Tijuana.
- Go dancing in Calle 6, the main nightlife area.
Where to Eat
- Try the tacos a vapor and other Baja California specialties at La Justina.
- Visit Caesar’s, the upscale restaurant where the original Caesar’s salad was invented.
- Check out local IPAs and bar snacks at Norte Brewing Co.
Zona Centro Budget Hotels
- Staying at the home of the Caesar salad is surprisingly affordable. Besides great food, the Hotel Caesars offers guests cozy rooms, comfortable beds, and small touches such as complimentary coffee.
- The Hotel Rio Rita offers guests sleek rooms with flat-screen TVs, great bilingual service, and a location on the Avenida Revolución that can’t be beat.
Zona Centro Mid-Range Hotels
- Modern Hotel Ticuán welcomes guests with air-conditioned rooms, a fitness center, meeting rooms, and a lobby bar for melting away the stress of the day.
- The elegant Hotel Grand One has air-conditioned rooms, facilities such as a rooftop restaurant, and excellent service that even arranges tours for guests.
Zona Centro Luxury Hotels
- Elegant Alou Hotel Boutique welcomes guests with its modernistic design, comfortable rooms, and excellent service. It is in a quieter location, a little outside of the downtown area, but still close to major sights.
- The Hotel Boutique Lafayette Tijuana is a colorful, elegant hotel in a great location. All rooms include air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, and a coffee maker, and some even have a couples’ soaking tub.
2. Zona Río
Zona Río is a modern hub. This stretch of Tijuana along the river has most of Tijuana’s modern office buildings, hotels, and centers.
It is the city’s financial center as well as an elegant district that is a hub for upper-class locals and visitors. This district is not just a place for hedonism—it is also home to important locations for Tijuana’s culture.
The most important is the spectacular Tijuana Cultural Center (CECUT), a behemoth of a center that includes workshops for visitors of all ages, a theater, several gallery spaces, and a 360-degree OMNIMAX theater affectionately nicknamed “La Bola.”
Zona Río is also a popular destination for more lowbrow pursuits, such as shopping. This neighborhood is home to Tijuana’s largest mall as well as hundreds of other shops, boutiques, and shopping centers. Whatever you need, you will probably find it here.
This district is a fun place to stay in Tijuana, but it is also the most expensive place to stay. Budget travelers should probably stay in the downtown area or towards the outskirts of town and take a day trip to see the Tijuana Cultural Center.
Things to Do
- Spend a day taking in the exhibits at the Tijuana Cultural Center.
- Go shopping at the massive Plaza Río Tijuana.
- Visit the El Hidalgo Market to mingle with the locals and stop at local cafés.
Where to Eat
- Have an upscale meal at Georgina, operated by a Spanish Top Chef judge.
- Taste some of the best seafood in the city at the unassuming Mariscos El Paisa.
- Try some Mexican classics at La Espadaña.
Zona Río Budget Hotels
- The Ibis Tijuana is one of the few true budget options in Zona Río and offers comfortable rooms and basic amenities such as a business center and breakfast.
- Sleek Hotel Real del Río offers guests elegant rooms, an on-site restaurant, and perks you can pay extra for such as laundry service.
Zona Río Mid-Range Hotels
- The Pueblo Amigo Hotel Plaza Y Casino offers simple, elegant rooms, excellent service, and an on-site casino for entertainment.
- The Real Inn Tijuana by Camino Real Hotels has stylish modern décor, comfortable rooms with TVs and seating, and on-site amenities such as restaurants and a fitness center.
Zona Río Luxury Hotels
- The Quartz Hotel & Spa has plenty of amenities, including a fitness center, a spa with beauty treatments, and an outdoor pool, plus elegant rooms perfect for recharging.
- At the upscale Hotel Lucerna, you can spend all day in your room watching the satellite TV and ordering room service, lounging by the pool, or enjoying the delicious on-site restaurant.
3. Playa de Tijuana
Tijuana has the advantage over many other cities in that it has its own beach! The beachfront district of Tijuana, Playa de Tijuana, is within city limits but feels like a laid-back beach town.
It is a great place to stay if you want to explore the city and stay by the beach, plus it has some of the best entertainment in the city. Tijuana’s beach is surprisingly beautiful, considering its proximity to a major metro area (even though the border wall, which extends into the ocean, ruins the view somewhat).
You can tan, swim, or try out other water sports, such as surfing or kayaking. The area around Playa de Tijuana is also perfect for entertainment. Walk along the boardwalk, and you’re sure to run into artists, street performers, and bustling clubs.
The area is also home to massive entertainment venues such as the Plaza Monumental Tijuana. Playa de Tijuana is a great place to stay if you want both beach and city experiences.
However, it is a bit far from the city center and not as pristine a beach experience as you might get in Rosarito. Most of the accommodation options found here tend to be budget options, so high-end travelers should stay elsewhere.
Things to Do
- Stroll along the boardwalk, or malecón, of Playa de Tijuana.
- If you’re brave, take in a bullfighting show at Plaza Monumental Tijuana.
- Enjoy the beautiful sun, sand, and surf at the beach.
Where to Eat
- Grab a sweet treat from one of the many churro stands along the boardwalk.
- Have an elegant dinner with a view at Sunset Lounge Playas.
- Try a range of seafood tacos from Alga Bien.
Playa de Tijuana Budget Hotels
- The comfy Suites del Sol have spacious guest suites with bathrooms, large family rooms, and seating areas. The location is excellent.
- Suites Leon Rojo is a hotel that offers roomy apartments, laundry facilities, and excellent service, including help with booking tours.
Playa de Tijuana Mid-Range Hotels
- Homestays are a good mid-range option for Playa de Tijuana, such as this apartment Near Border, Revolución, & Playas de Tijuana, with balcony and parking included.
- The comfy Del Mar Inn Playas has a heated pool, an on-site Mexican restaurant, and even a beauty salon just steps away from the beach.
Playa de Tijuana Luxury Hotels
- At the Hotel Jatay, guests enjoy air-conditioned rooms (not a guarantee in this neighborhood), a great location, and extra services such as car rentals.
- Stay further south at the Real del Mar Golf Resort for true luxury, including amenities such as spacious suites and studios, an on-site spa, a restaurant, and of course, a golf course.
If you want to stay near enough to Tijuana to reap all of the benefits of being in a big city but want a quieter place to spend the night, then the beach town of Rosarito is perfect for you.
This beautiful town by the coast is one of the most popular beach destinations in Baja California and is just minutes away from Tijuana. You can easily visit Tijuana from Rosarito, but it might be hard to tear yourself away.
The town has a spectacular coastline and beach perfect for swimming and lazing away. Rosarito is one of the best resort towns in this area of Mexico and has plenty of resorts where you can stay and enjoy the atmosphere.
Plus, it has a bustling nightlife with beach bars, live music, and clubs. The atmosphere in Rosarito is very different from Tijuana. The town is much quieter, and it is easier to relax here than in a bustling metropolis.
For those who are concerned about the safety of staying overnight in Tijuana, staying in Rosarito may be a good compromise as the town is much, much safer than the city.
If you want the convenience of staying close to the city center, you should pick one of the neighborhoods of Tijuana proper for your stay. Plus, accommodation in Rosarito can get a bit expensive.
Things to Do
- Relax on one of the stunning beaches, such as Rosarito or Baja Malibu.
- Check out the Rosarito Underwater Park, a popular destination for scuba diving.
- Grab a cocktail by the beach and dance the night away.
- Go horseback riding on the beach.
Where to Eat
- Have brunch in the foliage-packed restaurant El Nido.
- Try tacos at favorite local taco stand Tacos El Yaqui.
- Rub elbows with local fishermen at the Popotla Seafood Market.
Rosarito Budget Hotels
- The Poco Cielo Hotel is surprisingly affordable and still boasts amenities such as highly decorated rooms, all-night service, and an on-site bar.
- The Vista Hermosa Resort and Spa has great amenities such as a pool, spa, and great views. All guests rent out entire villas.
Rosarito Mid-Range Hotels
- Rent a holiday home at La Paloma Beach & Tennis Resort, and you can enjoy access to a shared pool, tennis court, and wellness center with the privacy of your own space.
- Condo hotels such as Casa de Ortiz are a popular option in Rosarito. This one stands out thanks to its beachfront location, hot tub, and great security.
Rosarito Luxury Hotels
- The highly rated Rosarito Inn welcomes guests with spacious apartments, an outdoor pool, a hot tub, and a great location close to both the beach and popular nightlife areas.
- The Breathtaking Oceana del Mar condo hotel is a cut above the rest thanks to its shared lounge areas, comfortable furnishings with two bedrooms and bathrooms, and little touches such as free cookies.
5. Chula Vista
Chula Vista is not technically part of Tijuana—in fact, it’s not even part of the same country. This town is located just across the U.S.–Mexico border. It is a short distance from the border and Tijuana and makes a convenient base for visiting San Diego.
Many American visitors choose to stay there for comfort and to be able to visit both major cities in one trip. The main draw of Chula Vista is its proximity to both Tijuana and San Diego, which has famous attractions such as the San Diego Zoo.
It also has great attractions in its own right, such as its own water park, Aquatica San Diego in Chula Vista, and a stunning coastline. Getting to Tijuana from Chula Vista is fairly easy.
You can drive, take the trolley, or even walk to the border if you are feeling adventurous. However, it is still more of a hassle than if you were staying in Tijuana proper. If you were hoping to visit Tijuana for more than one day, crossing the border every day might become a hassle.
Things to Do
- Visit nearby San Diego and enjoy main attractions such as SeaWorld San Diego.
- Splash around in Aquatica San Diego in Chula Vista, a great local water park.
- Take a scenic walk in Marina View Park and enjoy the views of the coast.
Where to Eat
- Try Mexican-Mediterranean fusion at Romesco.
- Try craft beer favorites at Novo Brazil Brewing.
- Enjoy delicious vegan food at Anthem Chula Vista.
Chula Vista Budget Hotels
- Stylish El Primero Boutique Hotel welcomes guests with elegant rooms and complimentary breakfast in a restored historic 1930s building.
- The comfy, colorful Rambler Motel offers simple rooms and access to shared amenities such as a pool.
Chula Vista Mid-Range Hotels
- The Holiday Inn Express San Diego South – Chula Vista has comfy air-conditioned rooms complete with Wi-Fi and satellite TV, a year-round outdoor pool, and even a hot tub.
- The always-reliable La Quinta Inn by Wyndham San Diego Chula Vista has comfy rooms and basic mid-range amenities such as a pool and fitness center.
Chula Vista Luxury Hotels
- The Hampton Inn Chula Vista Eastlake features elegant furnishings and fun activities such as a pool, hot tub, and even a pool table.
- The elegant Ayres Hotel San Diego South – Chula Vista is a modern hotel with a business center, pool, and stand-out service.
So, Where Should You Stay in Tijuana?
|📷 Best for Sightseeing||Zona Centro|
|🛍️ Best for Shopping||Zona Río|
|⛱️ Best for Beaches||Playa de Tijuana|
|🎉 Best for Nightlife||Rosarito|
|🇺🇸 Best for Americans||Chula Vista|
Tijuana is a popular destination for people looking to shop, play, and learn more about a new place. Zona Centro contains the main sights, museums, and nightlife areas.
It is the best place to stay for visitors who want to sightsee or who are in Tijuana for the first time. Zona Río is the upscale area of Tijuana and is the best area for shopping as well as more luxury travelers. There are also places to stay towards the coast.
Playa de Tijuana is the best place to stay for the beach as well as entertainment.
The town of Rosarito, a few minutes south of Tijuana, is perfect for resorts and a more relaxing vacation. Finally, you can always stay just across the border in Chula Vista and venture into Tijuana just for a day.
Picking the right place to stay can hopefully make your trip to Tijuana a success!