Until the 1920s, ‘Rocky Point,’ as Americans affectionately call this Sea of Cortez coastal town, was just that: a landmark on military maps and no more. Its location alongside one of the driest parts of the Sonoran Desert deterred all would-be settlers bar intrepid fishers until Prohibition gave the fledgling community an unexpected boost. When the global economy nosedived in the 1930s, Peñasco enjoyed a (very) lengthy siesta, until state investment and a desalination plant kick-started the local economy in the early 1990s. The result has been a boom in both development and population, and now this beach town has become the seaside destination Arizona never had.
The historic core – El Malecón (Old Port) – hugs the rocky point itself, while just north sits the pleasant beach, Playa Bonita. Heading west is Sandy Beach, home to a sprawling stretch of condo-hotel resorts, expensive restaurants and golf courses carved out of the desert.