A mainstay on the plaza for decades, Hotel Tecate (Cárdenas y Callejón Libertad No. 20, tel. 665/654-1116, US$35) has 12 simple rooms, some of which overlook the plaza. The hotel is above a sushi restaurant and Subway chain.
Centrally located El Paraíso (Aldrete 83 at Juárez, tel. 665/654-1716, US$25 pp) has 38 clean rooms with air-conditioning and hot showers. The management also provides space heaters for chilly winter nights. There is secure parking in an underground garage.
La Hacienda (Juárez 861, tel. 665/654-1250, US$40) offers clean and safe accommodations on the outskirts of town. Rooms have air-conditioning and cable TV, and there is secure parking. It has a restaurant that’s open 8 A.M.–4 P.M. daily, except for Monday, when it closes at noon. A cab ride to the town center costs about US$5.
If you need modern accommodations in a central location for an overnight stop on your way through Tecate , Estancia Inn (Juárez 1450, Col. Encanto, tel. 665/521-3066, www.estanciainn.com.mx , US$60–75) will do. It caters to business travelers with an adjoining restaurant, El Mezquíte Restaurante. Its 80 rooms and 9 suites come with cable TV, phones, and air-conditioning. Other amenities include a swimming pool, gym, parking, 24-hour security, and high-speed Internet.
On the road to Ensenada , just outside of town, the Hotel Rosita Resort Inn (Km. 3.6, Carr. Tecate-Ensenada, tel. 665/103-0093, hotelrositainn [at] live [dot] com [dot] mx, US$50–100) has 52 rooms and suites with air-conditioning, phone, cable TV, and high-speed Internet. Its restaurant serves Mexican specialties (7 A.M.–10 P.M. Mon.–Sat.), and the recreation area has a swimming pool. Secure parking is another feature.
Popular with the ATV and motorcycle crowds, Hacienda Santa Verónica (Km. 95, Carr. Tijuana-Mexicali Cuota/Mexico 2 D, tel. 665/521-0017 or -0018, toll-free U.S. tel. 888/556-6288, www.ranchosantaveronica.com , US$70) is located about 30 kilometers east of Tecate. Mission-style accommodations (52 rooms and 8 suites) have fireplaces and patios, and meal plans are an option. Activities include tennis, off-road riding (quad rentals US$40/hr), horseback riding, swimming, volleyball, and basketball, and you can come for just the day (8 A.M.–10:30 P.M.) Its campground/RV park is open to the public. To find the resort, exit at Km. 106 from the free road and follow the signs; there is no exit for the ranch from the toll road. An unusual beer bath was recently added to the menu of treatments at the on-site El Descanso Spa. Massages here are US$50 for 50 minutes.
Rancho Los Chabacanos (Km. 118, Carr. Mexicali-Tecate, tel. 665/655-1624, U.S. tel. 619/565-1183, www.rancholoschabacanos.com , US$80–285) has a distinct colonial feel in both its hacienda-style architecture and the surrounding eco-preserve. There are no TVs or phones in its 17 casitas, though Wi-Fi is an option. Guests enjoy black mud treatments and steam treatments at the on-site spa.
Stays at the historic Rancho La Puerta (U.S. tel. 760/744-4222 or toll-free U.S. tel. 800/443-7565, www.rancholapuerta.com ) are a full week and include all meals. Guests stay in modern cottages or suites—most with fireplaces and each with its own private garden—and the resort can hold 150 guests at a time. All-inclusive prices range from US$3,780 per week for a studio with bath to US$4,715 for a two-bedroom villa suite. Summer rates (late June–early September) are lower.
Before making a reservation, be sure you have a good idea of what a stay here will entail. It’s quite different from the typical spa experience. The mantra here is healthy living (not just relaxation), which means taking care of mind, body, and the environment. Gray water systems, alternative energy, organic farming, conservation programs, and community involvement are some of the ways in which the resort gives back.
Upon arrival, guests receive a program of activities offered each hour of the day 6 A.M.–8 P.M. and a blank calendar on which to note the classes they want to take. The typical day begins with a sunrise hike and ends with healthy-living lectures. In between are classes in yoga, meditation, group cycling, pilates, and more. When not in an exercise class or eating a family-style meal in the dining hall, guests make appointments at the spa, walk the labyrinth, or relax in a poolside hammock.
A genuine and attentive staff tends to guests’ needs. Rancho La Puerta employees stay for decades, beginning as bellboys and eventually graduating into management positions.
There is friendly competition among repeat visitors. At the start of each week, the staff posts a list of returning guests with the number of previous visits, and it’s not uncommon to see 20, 25, or 30 visits at the top. (The record is around 100 visits—people with a lot of vacation time on their hands!) A very energetic and engaged 89-year-old Deborah Szekely continues to run the business today, along with her daughter.
Accommodations are pleasantly rustic—mostly studio casitas made of brick with some high-end touches inside, such as luxury linens, iPod players, filtered water, a hot-water dispenser for herbal tea, and nightly turndown service. If you have a fireplace, the staff will build a fire for you each night. Bathrooms are simply tiled and could use an update in some of the units, but chances are you’ll spend most of your time at the spa anyway.
If you’re used to a diet of burgers and soda, the spa cuisine may come as a shock to the system. Rice and beans play heavily in the daily menu, with some fish and seafood mixed in. There are bowls of flax and chia seeds on the condiment table and honey and agave syrup for sweeteners. Ingredients are fresh and seasonal, often picked the same day from the ranch’s own vegetable farm nearby. Portions are small to help prevent overeating, but you can always go back for seconds or request a yam or potato as a side.
A morning garden tour or evening cooking class at Rancho La Puerta’s cooking school adds another opportunity for enrichment during the week. La Cocina que Canta is set amid fields of organic vegetables, flowers, and fruit and olive trees about two miles from the ranch property. The school hosts visiting chefs who are skilled in a wide variety of cuisines.
You might find fancier accommodations and more pampering closer to home for the same amount of money, but this is a one-of-a-kind place that has found a way to stay true to its mission while embracing the trends of the time.
Rancho Ojai (Km. 112, Carr. Libre Mexicali-Tecate, tel. 665/655-3014, www.rancho  ojai.com, reservaciones [at] campinginbaja [dot] com) offers tent sites, RV sites with full hookups, and cabins on a working ranch. This is a family-friendly place that is popular with upscale Tijuana  and Tecate  residents, who come for the immaculate cabins, pool, and miniature golf. Rancho Ojai is part of the KOA network, and has been voted one of top KOA campgrounds in the world. Cabins with shared bath are US$69–83, US$92–107 with private bath, and US$138 with private bath and kitchenette. Tent sites cost US$12 and RV sites are US$31. The ranch is 21 kilometers east of Tecate on Mexico 2. Exit the toll road at El Hongo and drive west on Mexico 2 for eight kilometers to the Rancho Ojai gates.
Rancho Santa Verónica (30 km east of Tecate at Km. 98, Mexico 2, toll-free U.S. tel. 888/556-6288, www.ranchosantaveronica.com , US$20) also has full-hookup slots and tent spaces. Guests may use any of the ranch’s recreational facilities.