When you are a new visitor to the city (and maybe a new visitor to Mexico), it can be confusing to know where to go to get essential supplies, groceries, and household items. That was definitely the case for me. Since I was staying in Puerto Peñasco for several weeks, I needed to quickly find a place to buy some grocery staples and basic items to stock up my rented apartment. Now that I have been here for a while, I have been able to explore several options for both groceries and other items available around town. This blog will explore the available options, which options I prefer over others, and why.
Option 1: Sam’s Club/Bodega Aurrera (aka Walmart Mexico)
This may be an appealing option for many visitors or expats from the USA, for obvious reasons. These stores are right next to each other, very close to the entrance to town, very easy to find, and the ‘branding’ is comforting. These are the first stores I shopped in when I arrived in Rocky Point, for two reasons: they were very close to where I was staying, and it was recommended to me by another US tourist that was staying in my apartment complex.
I went into the Walmart first. While I was able to find many items I needed at that time, I realize now that this were not favorite place to shop. Strangely, there were things I needed that I absolutely could not find (spices! bagels! coffee!), but most of my concern was that the store is just generally disorganized, even by ‘Walmart’ standards. Items were hard to find generally, boxes of goods were piled on the floor throughout the store, and it was very crowded. Also, other stores in the town have far better options for fresh baked goods and produce. Lastly, the prices for the grocery items here are generally any less then other options in town. Overall, the Bodega Aurrera was adequate, but not the best option for shopping, especially grocery shopping. Cards are accepted in addition to pesos.
If you are in need of an ATM to get pesos, the Bodega has two of them.
After I shopped and at Bodega Aurrera, I went next door to the Sam’s Club in search of some of the items I could not find (and because I was curious to see it). I was surprised: it was nearly identical to a Sam’s Club in the United States, except just not as many items for sale. It was very clean and organized, far more then the store next door. The staff were friendly and polite. The downsides to shopping here are honestly about the same as any other Sam’s Club: you need to have a membership, and most items come in bulk sizing. So I finally found ground pepper, but I had to buy it in one of those ‘restaurant kitchen’ mega-size containers. And I finally found actual coffee grounds for my coffee maker. Did you know: most of the coffee on the shelves in Mexico is instant coffee? It’s definitely a thing here.
And yes, a Sam’s Club membership purchased in America will work in Mexico (or any other country which has one). The only problem was that I could not use a self-checkout: an out-of-country membership card has to be manually entered by an actual cashier. No problem, really. And, happily, the Sam’s Club here (and all others in Mexico, I assume), has the famous ‘Cafe’ where you can buy the cheap hot dog/soda combos, pizza slices, and the like, all pretty cheap.
Option 2: Super Ley/Ley Express
Super Ley is the main ‘grocery’ store in town, very similar to a Kroger or a Safeway in the United States. The Ley Express, located across town, is the same, just a little bit smaller. Both feature a classic grocery store layout, with aisles of goods across the store, and dairy, produce, bakery, meat/butcher, liquor/spirits and the like around the edges. Once I visited these stores, I immediately preferred them over other options in town.
Both stores are very well stocked, with plenty of options for whatever you are looking for. There is a panaderia (bakery) in both stores that sells fresh baked goods and freshly-made tortillas (which is awesome). The produce is of a good quality with a good selection of general items (although you won’t find everything…I could not find potatoes for some reason). There is even a section with specialty meats and cheeses. The staff are friendly and polite, even with customers who are still not fluent in Spanish (read: me).
There are a few things to know about these stores:
- They are very cool inside. Literally the coldest stores I’ve ever been in. They keep the air conditioning cranked up. Take a jacket: you won’t regret it.
- There are baggers at the check stands who bag your groceries. Be aware that there is a good possibility that these baggers are not employed by the store; instead, they work for tips. Make sure you tip them a 5-10 pesos, or more if you have several bags of groceries. More information about this can be found here and here. The same applies to anyone outside who helps you park. Please offer a small tip in pesos as you are able.
- The stores are typically busy, and sometimes there aren’t many parking spaces available. You may want to go early in the day or later in the evening if you prefer to shop around fewer people.
Option 3: Local Bakeries (Panaderias), Produce Shops (Fruterias) and Meat/Fish Shops (Carnicerias/Pescaderias)
In order to get the freshest, best selection of some items, it definitely pays to search out local specialty shops. There are many standalone bakeries, produce stores and meat/fish/seafood shops scattered throughout Puerto Peñasco. Many neighborhoods have a small bakery nearby, and fish and seafood shops are especially abundant, selling local and regionally sourced items from the area’s famous sea trade. No matter what part of town you are in, you can find all of these shops nearby.
The quality of the items at local bakeries here in Puerto Peñasco can’t be beat. They offer a variety of breads, rolls, doughnuts and pastries, and everything I have tried has been fantastic. For the best selection, it is best to go as early in the morning as possible. The selection tends to be considerably less in the afternoons, although definitely still worth going.
Fruit and vegetable shops are also very abundant in the town, and I highly recommend them. They typically have the best selection of fruits, vegetables and chilis in town. The produce is always very fresh. You also may be able to find items that aren’t easily found elsewhere. For example, I was able to find regular Russet-style potatoes at a well-regarded store here in town, called Fruteria Sinaloa. I had not been able to find them at the bigger chain stores. Score!
Not only do local small shops typically have excellent offerings, you’re also supporting local small businesses and local families by spending money there instead of at the bigger chain locations. Another consideration is price. I found that the prices at local bakeries and produce shops easily beat the bigger stores. This also applies to seafood shops, where buying direct from local vendors can save you a lot of pesos compared to normal retail options.
Shopping local makes financial sense as well as practical sense!
Option 4: Oxxo
Oxxo is a brand of Mexican convenience stores that are VERY common in most Mexico towns and throughout Latin America. I have been to several cities and towns in Mexico, on both sides of the country, and I have seen Oxxo’s in literally every town I have visited, even very small ones. Here in Puerto Peñasco, they are very prevalent. I can walk to at least 3 different Oxxo’s from my apartment here in town, within 15 minutes. It’s almost like they are on every other street corner (which is honestly not far from the truth).
Oxxo’s aren’t really for shopping for groceries. Similar to convenience stores such as 7-11 in the United States, they sell some basic items like bread, cheese and milk, along with traditional offerings of beer and soda. Many Oxxo’s are open 24 hours a day, so that is convenient if you need something urgently and your local grocery store option isn’t open. That being said, the prices for the items on the shelf will be more then at the grocery stores, just like at convenience stores in the States. A decent option for an urgent need or a 12-pack of beer, otherwise not the best shopping option.
Hopefully this article saves you some time and hassle! Drop a comment below if there is a good option for grocery shopping that I missed, or if you know of a particular local store that is awesome (or needs to be avoided!). Thanks for reading!