The Zona Rio is a fashionable middle class Tijuana neighborhood known for its shopping, night clubs, and restaurants.
It is dominated by Paseo de los Heroes, a wide, divided and usually very busy street. The major intersections of Paseo de los Heroes are circuses, each with a large statue of a hero. Lesser heroes appear as busts along the grassy center of the avenue.
As circular intersections are almost unheard of in the US, the Zona Rio has a distinctly foreign look to the American eye, despite the fact that it is only a mile or so from the border. That you seldom see tourists in this zone adds to the sense of being truly abroad.
Destinations include the Mercado Hidalgo, a large open farmer's market, the Plaza Rio, a popular shopping mall, and countless restaurants, many of them with excellent reputations.
One can walk to the Zona Rio from the border in about 30 minutes, without passing through any bad neighborhoods. However, it is not obvious how to do this without experience or a good map. A cab ride should not cost more than US$3.
Exhibits at the Tijuana Cultural Center, on the intersections of Paseo de Los Heroes and Avenida Independencia, although most people can guide you how to get there.
- 1 Plaza Rio, Blvd. Paseo de los Heroes 95. One of the largest malls in Baja California. It has a variety of department stores, shops, restaurants and movie theaters.
- 2 Mercado Hidalgo. A farmers market selling a variety of produce and crafts.
- 1 Mision 19, Misión de San Javier 10643, ☎ .
- 2 Hornero - Pizza a la Piedra, Blvd. Salinas 10556-8 Colonia Aviacion, ☎ . Regarded by many as the best pizzeria in town.
- El Cafe Especial, Blvd Salinas 3600, Col. Aviacion, ☎ .
- Cien Años, Jose Maria de Velazco 2351, Zona Urbana Rio (on a side street off Paseo de los Heroes), ☎ . Sun 8AM-8PM; Mon-Fri 8AM-11PM, Sat 8AM-12AM. Open for lunch and dinner. Very famous. Supposedly every recipe on the menu is over 100 years old (hence the name "Cien Años", one hundred years). Some recipes supposedly date back to Aztec times. Menu includes a number of items such as corn fungus, and bone marrow soup. Gringo-friendly but Spanish is useful. Restaurant is small, with beautiful decor, and a relaxing atmosphere. Prices range from moderate to expensive.
- La Diferencia, Blvd. Sánchez Taboada No.10521, Zona Río, Aviacion (between Blvd. Abelardo L. Rodríguez & Escuadrón 201), ☎ . Sun 7:30AM-6PM; Mon-Sat 7:30AM-10:30PM. Offers Mexican dishes and great tamarindo margaritas. Moderately expensive by Tijuana standards but well worth it. ~US$95 for 2 people, incl. margaritas, wine, appetizer, entree & dessert.
- Villa Marina, Paseo de los Heroes 4449, Zona Urbana Rio Tijuana, ☎ .
- Italianissimo, Blvd. Agua Caliente No. 10556-9AR, Centro. Com. Rocasa. Serves dishes from all regions of Italy. Moderate to expensive.
- Villa Saverios, Escuadrón 201 3151, Aviacion (Blvd Sanchez Tabaoda & Escuadron), ☎ . Owned by the same founder of the other Italian restaurant chain in Tijuana, Giuseppi's, this Tuscany-style mansion/restaurant has excellent food and atmosphere, aimed at both middle and high class customers. It's also a favorite because of its unique menu which blends both Baja and Mediterranean flavors in its food and wine selection. It is in the so-called restaurant district on Blvd. Sanchez Taboada, right besides La Espadaña, T.G.I. Fridays, La Diferencia and Cheripan. There are two other Saverios in the city; both are smaller café-style ones. US$5-20.
The "accommodations" in the "budget" category are migrant houses or hostels operated by NGOs, religious organizations and other charities that are more geared towards meeting the spiritual and physical needs (including feeding & providing shelter) of the migrants from poorer regions of Mexico and Central America working in Tijuana or continuing north to the U.S. (or had been repatriated from the U.S.) than as a "hostel" for the backpacking tourist. Many are located in Colonia Postal north of Rio Tijuana, from Zona Rio. The neighborhood is a shabbier mixed use neighborhood between residential and light industrial use. The 'Ejercito de Salvacion' is located further in Libertad closer to the border and east of the San Ysidro crossing point. Some may let in a backpacker, ask:
- Ejercito de Salvacion (Salvation Army) (men only), Aquiles Serdán #11585, Libertad, ☎ .
- 1 Casa del Migrante en Tijuana (men only), Calle Galileao 239, Col Postal, ☎ . Calle Galileo 239, Col. Postal,
- 2 Casa Madre Asunta (women and children), Calle Galileo 2305, Col. Postal, ☎ .
- 3 Hotel Astor, Blvd. Insurgentes #1000-14, Fracc. Los Alamos (Blvd Insurgentes (Hwy 2) & Alamos in the 3rd stage in Zona Rio (SE part of town)), ☎ . They offer comfortable, clean and functional rooms equipped with general amenities. Staff offers attentive, friendly service. The restaurant serves traditional international breakfast. WiFi connectivity is available.
Most of the hotels in Zona Rio are in the "Splurge" category and are usually the Mexican and international chain brands. There are a number of hotels lined up along Blvd Aguascaliente north of the country club as well as along Paseo de la Reforma surrounding the Plaza Rio Mall.
- 4 Real Inn (formerly the pink Camino Real), Paseo de los Héroes 9902, Zona Urbana Rio (Paseo de los Heroes & Cuautehtemoc Nte (Hwy 1), next to the big Plaza Rio Mall), ☎ , toll-free: (US).
- 5 Grand Hotel Tijuana, Blvd Aguacaliente #4558, Col Aviacion (Along Blvd Aguacaliente between Sonora & Aguacaliente, north of the expansive golf course.), ☎ , toll-free: 01800 0266007 (MX), (US). The Grand Hotel Tijuana is one of the most prominent feature in Tijuana's skyline, having 2 33-story twin towers. It features several bars and restaurants, and an in-house shopping mall. Adjacent to the hotel is the Club Campestre de Tijuana, Tijuana's oldest and most prestigious country club, which features an 18-hole golf course in very good shape designed by Allister McKenzie, who also designed Augusta National Golf Club (site of the Masters professional championship).
- 6 Hotel Lucerna, Paseo de los Heroes 10902, Zona Rio, ☎ . Hotel Lucerna Tijuana is another very safe and clean hotel in the Zona Rio with a great pool, and service. It also has a very upscale bar, restaurant, and lounge area. Guards 24/7 and valet parking.
- 7 Marriott Tijuana (formerly Hotel Emporio), Blvrd Aguacliente #11553, Col. Aviacion (Blvd Aguacaliente and Salinas which connects to Paseo de los Heroes.), ☎ . The Marriott took over the Hotel Emporio in 2016.