Plan your Trip to Lake El Novillo

Driving To El Novillo

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Taking your truck and boat to Mexico is truly not difficult, even if you don’t speak Spanish.  Most of the Mexican people you will meet are very friendly and speak some English.

Travel in Mexico, even driving, is fun and safe.  Use good judgment and understand that this is a foreign country.  It is different from the United States and that’s a good thing!  That is what makes Mexico a pleasure and an experience to enjoy.  Understand that Mexican people have different driving habits than you might be used to seeing.  Rules and customs are the same, in general, in that you should obey the posted signs such as speed limits, traffic signals and signs, and drive defensively.  DO NOT drive in Mexico at night unless absolutely necessary.  While there is not a specific reason for not doing so, its just common sense given that the vast majority of Mexican traffic injuries and deaths occur at night, so why tempt the fates by working against the statistics.  There are some specific things to be aware of:

    • TOPES – when you see this sign you are going to want to pay attention.  This is a “speed bump” in the road and they can create some moments of extreme anxiety when you neglect to pay attention to these signs and find the TOPES unawares. The term “AIRBORNE” will immediately come to mind…
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  • All speeds and distances are posted in KILOMETERS per hour, not miles per hour. When you see the speed limit sign stating 110 KPH, this is about 67 MPH.
  • A vehicle in front putting on its left turn signal. This can mean two separate things; it is clear to pass them, OR, they are going to turn left. IF they are telling you it is clear to pass, they are being courteous drivers, and you can proceed, but use good judgement just the same.  There is nothing more disconcerting than expecting a clear pass, only to have the car in front turn left.
  • While Mexico has been improving financially a great deal over the past 2 decades, and the vehicle on the roads will be pretty new and in good shape, there can still be some very slow vehicles on the road, even on the highways. Watch out for them.
  • You might encounter intersections with multiple signals, even stop signs and traffic lights at the same point. You can have a stop sign, and a green traffic light at the same time. Be careful but plan on the light being the one to use.
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Be sure to purchase Mexico Auto insurance prior to your entry into Mexico.  Auto accidents in Mexico can be considered criminal in nature and you will be responsible financially for the injuries and damage caused.   Novillo Sportfishing Association members receive a significant discount for their Mexico Auto policies if purchased from Palms Mexico Insurance;

Often the savings derived from purchasing the Mexico Auto insurance from Palms Mexico Insurance will pay for one, or even two years’ membership dues.  Not only does Palms Mexico Insurance provide a discount to members, they consistently provide the most competitive rates and best products we have found.

Driving to El Novillo from the the United States is pretty easy.  However, since you are driving into a foreign country, Mexico, certain rules and laws must be complied with to prevent any issues.  A word of caution here; Mexico is nowhere near as lenient with regards to illegal entry into their country as the United States tends to be.  Illegal entry, (not having the proper paperwork) is a criminal offense and you can end up in real hot water if you try to “blow it off” and not follow the simple rules for entry.

  • Each person traveling must obtain a visa from the immigration office. The government of Mexico requires all US or Canadian citizens to present a passport, or passport card, from their country of residence to enter Mexico. You will not need to obtain a “formal visa” but you will be required to obtain a “FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple), Visitor's Permit or Tourist Card.  If you travel more than 25 – 30 kilometers from the border you must pay an entry fee for the Tourist Card.  This fee is currently about $26.00 each person, including children, however, if you apply for the online at, you can receive your Tourist Card before you leave and, as of right now, it is free.  You can apply online up to 30 days before you enter the country, and the Tourist Card allows you to stay in the country for up to 180 days, with multiple entries and exits.  Our personal experience with the Mexican immigration office is that sometimes they give you 10 days, sometimes 30 days, and sometimes 180 days, depending upon what you tell them when you enter.  Everyone in your party, including children must have a valid passport and Tourist Card with them when traveling in Mexico.  It normally takes no more than 30 – 45 minutes to obtain the Tourist Cards when we enter through Nogales.  More about how to enter through Nogales later…) (click link takes to Driving from Nogales…)  Even if you obtain your Tourist Card online, you still will need to present your Card and Passport to the Immigration Officer upon entry so they can stamp it for entry. 
  • If you are bringing your own vehicle and boat, you have to get a permit for each of them. You can obtain them at the Banjercito office upon entry into Mexico, or you can apply for the permit online at 

Look in the upper right-hand side of the page for “Ingles” for a English language version.

If you apply online, be sure to allow at least 2 weeks for processing.  Temporary Vehicle Importation Permits, (autos, trucks, pickups, SUVs, etc.) are good for 180 days and can be used for multiple entries into the country.  You do NOT need to obtain a new permit every time you leave and re-enter the country during the 180-day time period.  However, if you are not planning on returning to Mexico after your visit within the 180 days, be ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that you turn your vehicle permit back into the Banjercirto office before you leave or it will be somewhat painful the next time you try to return.   In order to drive your own vehicle beyond the Zona Libre, or Free Zone, (usually about 20 – 30 kilometers from the border depending upon the place you enter Mexico…), you will need the correct documents;

  • Your passport
  • Your US or Canadian Driver’s License
  • Vehicle Title and Registration (lately they have only needed the registration, but things may change)
  • Credit contract if the vehicle has a loan on it
  • Valid Lease Contract if the vehicle is leased
  • Letter of Authorization from the creditor or lessor allowing temporary entry into Mexico, (This you have to get before you leave from whomever provided the loan on the vehicle)
  • A valid Credit Card with a limit of at least $500 USD.
  • One copy each of your passport, your Mexico Tourist Card, Vehicle Registration

Upon presenting the documents above to the Banjercito clerk, they will complete the Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit and charge your credit card for the permit.  The current price for the permit for entry into the Mexican state of Sonora is $1840.00 Mexican Pesos.  They will convert to US dollars at the current exchange rate they are using.  For example, if the exchange rate is 18 pesos to 1 US dollar, the permit fee would be $53.02.  In addition to the permit fee, you will have to post a “bond” on the credit card with the Banjercito office, guaranteeing that you will bring the vehicle with you out of Mexico before the 180 day permit period expires.  This is to make sure that you aren’t going to sell your vehicle or leave it in Mexico.  Currently, for vehicles from 2007 to current, the bond is $432.00 USD, for 2001 – 2006, its $300.00 USD, and $200.00 USD for vehicles older than 2001.  When you turn your permit in to the Banjercito office upon final exit from Mexico, this bond will be returned. 

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The new permits are all electronic and you no longer have to place the decal on your windshield.

  • Boat permits are essentially the same as the temporary vehicle permits, with the exception that they are good for 10 years. They can and should be obtained at the same time you get your vehicle permit or you can apply online at: 

Look in the upper right-hand side of the page for “Ingles” for a English language version.

Be sure to bring the same paperwork as for the vehicle;

  • Passport
  • Tourist Card
  • Title for the boat and the trailer
  • Registration for both
  • If financed, be sure you get the Letter of Authorization granting permission to take the boat to Mexico from the finance company.
  • Copy of the finance agreement

Note that boat titles in the name of a trust, even a family trust with your name on it, are normally NOT accepted.  This is not usually a problem for bass or smaller fishing boats such as you would normally use at El Novillo, but it is good to know before you go.  The permit fee is currently 950.00 MXP, or about $53.00 USD for 10 years and must be paid in cash or credit card.  This permit is good for multiple entries over the 10-year period.  Just like the vehicle permit, be sure that you turn it in prior to its expiration.

What can you bring with you?

You are allowed to bring pretty much what you will want for a fishing trip into Mexico.  Most personal electronic devices, such as laptops, printers, scanners, cameras, tablets, cell phones, etc. are allowed.  Mexico says that each person is allowed to bring 4 “fishing rods” per person and tackle, but in over 50 years of coming to El Novillo, it’s never been an issue for us if there are 5 or 6 rods.  Food, beer, liquor, is usually allowed.  That’s not to say that they would allow you to bring in 30 cases of beer for 4 guys, for a 3-day trip.  Be reasonable and check online for the regulations.

DO NOT ATTEMPT to bring any weapons, firearms, or ammunition into Mexico!  Make sure that you have removed all spent ammo cases from the cab and bed of your pickup, and don’t even have an empty magazine in with you.  Also,  while medical or recreational marijuana may be legal in your state, DO NOT attempt to bring it with you.  It’s doubtful that anyone would add a “Stay in Mexican Jail” to their bucket list, so don’t try it.

Driving to El Novillo from Nogales, AZ


There are multiple ways to drive to El Novillo from the United States southern border.  Entry through Nogales, AZ is one of the easiest. 

It is always advisable to change some US dollars into Mexican pesos before you leave home.  We always change at least $500 USD into pesos at our local bank before we leave.  Watch the exchange rate at the bank and online so you can make an advantageous purchase with the pesos.  You can purchase pesos at some of the “Casa de Cambio” locations which are on both sides of the border.  Pesos will normally be more expensive at these locations than at your local bank.  We have to order pesos from our local bank and it takes a couple of days for them to arrive, but the exchange rate is favorable.  The Casas de Cambios are in the business to make a profit percentage on the transaction, but they are usually not too aggressive in their markup.

It is advisable to fill up your fuel tanks in Nogales, AZ, before crossing the border.  Gasoline and Diesel are both available in Mexico along the route, but fuel is about 50% higher along the highway in Mexico.  The diesel is pretty much the same quality as in the US, but the gasoline has different additives in Mexico than in the US.  The quality and octane ratings are essentially the same, but you might notice a different odor when using the Mexican fuel.  Most Mexican gas stations carry at least two grades of gasoline.  It is recommended to use the higher grade even if it’s a bit more expensive in most vehicles. 

There is Nogales, Arizona, which is on the US side and Nogales, Sonora, which is on the Mexican side of the border.  There are two separate ports of entry at Nogales, Downtown and Mariposa ports of entry.  If you are bringing a boat, travel trailer, or side x side on a trailer, etc. you will have to use the Mariposa port of entry. The Downtown port of Entry, or DeConcini Port, (named after Senator Dennis DeConcini), and is locate at

9 N Grand Avenue, Nogales, AZ. 

You can get there by taking IH-10 to Tucson, AZ then IH-19 south about 65 miles to Nogales.  Stay on IH-19 if you wish to take the Downtown port of entry into Mexico.  Follow the signs and you can cross the border there.

Most travelers take the second port of entry in Nogales, which is called the Mariposa Port of Entry.  Again, take IH-19 south from Tucson and upon entering Nogales, AZ, look for the exit for Mariposa Road.  Take the Mariposa exit and turn right, (west), to the port of entry.

If you use the Mariposa port of entry, you will take Mariposa road all the way to the port.  Follow the signs and be aware that when passing through the US side, there is a tight left turn after you go through the cameras.  Leave yourself plenty of room to make the turn with a trailer.  Once you go through the US side, you will just follow the road around the US entry from Mexico.  There is a Mexico Aduana (Customs) office on the right, but we’ve found it easier to use the one down the road.  Stay on the same road as you enter Mexico, bypassing the office building on the right as you leave the US port. 

The road will continue for a couple of miles and is a good, paved, 4 lane road.  You will come up a hill and you want to stay to the LEFT coming up the hill.  Don’t enter between the K-rails, stay to the left side of the road, in the left lane.  You will come up to a Caseta de Cobro, or toll booth.  Have some Mexican pesos handy to pay the toll here as they don’t take credit cards or dollars.  You will pay the toll here and proceed a short distance to the Customs, or Aduana, station.  Again, keep in the left lane until you pass all the K-Rails on the right.  If you end up between the K-rails, don’t worry, you end up at the same place. 

If you stay left, you’ll end up in with one or two lanes open with a Customs office on both sides of the road, and an inspection station located after the building on the left.  The two lanes will have cameras and sensors, and a light that will show either GREEN or RED once you reach it.  If it shows GREEN, then the barricade will swing up and you proceed through the inspection station.  Be careful as it’s a tight fit with a large boat or trailer. Many times the customs officers will open the plastic traffic barricades and let you through.  If they don’t, then just proceed through the inspection lanes.  If the light shows RED, then you have been selected to be inspected.  NOT TO WORRY, unless you are bringing anything in that you should not bring.  The customs officers will ask you what you are bringing and where you are going.  They may wish to search the vehicle, looking for contraband or items that you might need to pay a duty to import.  I

f you are bringing a boat or a trailer, and have not obtained your temporary permit in advance, you will be required to make a U-turn and leave your trailer or boat inside the chainlink fenced lot, then proceed down the road to the Banercito office about 8 miles down the road to obtain your permit for the boat or trailer.  The lot is pretty secure and we've never heard of anyone having any problems with theft or vandalism there.

Once you clear the Aduana station, you will want to proceed on the same road, which will stay a 4 lane road.  There is still a lot of construction along the road, so be aware of trucks and vehicles pulling out from both sides.  About 8 miles after you leave the Aduana station, you will come to the Immigration and Banjercito building(s) on the right side of the road.  The parking lot entrance is before you reach the buildings and is fenced in with chain link fence.  It is the only chain link parking lot along the right side of the road.  Be aware that, lately, there can be a drop off as you leave the highway.   Pull into the parking lot and secure your vehicle. 

Take the paperwork, (passports, titles, registrations, etc. ) with you and go to the Immigration office.  It is the small white building on the left side of the open covered courtyard.  It is marked with signs.  This is where you get your Tourist Card stamped, or if you want to get it there, you will fill out the form with the official.  Once you get your Tourist Card filled out, you will need to go to the Banjercito office next door and pay the clerk for the Tourist Card(s).    This is also when and where you will get the Temporary Vehicle Importation Permits, if you haven’t already received the paperwork online.  Even if you have the paperwork, you will need to pay the permit fees and post the bond here.  Once you pay for the Tourist Cards, have one of your party take the cards and receipt to the Copy Office, which is right outside the exit of the Immigration Office, and get a copy made of it.  You will need it for the vehicle permit(s).  You should already have copies of your drivers’ license, registrations, passports with you.  If not, have copies of those made at the same time.  Hand them all to the Banjercito clerk and they will complete the paperwork, which you will then sign. 

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Most of the clerks understand English pretty well, and speak the language somewhat.  Be aware that their accent may be heavy.  (And remember that we sound just as bad when we speak Spanish…)  Be patient, courteous and friendly, and they will be as well.  When Mexican visitors enter the US, they have to deal with essentially the same process on our side, so it’s not a “Mexican” thing.  Once you receive and pay for your Tourist Card(s) and permits, you will return to the Immigration office, (through the exit door), for the Immigration officer to stamp your Card and your passports for entry.

Plan on up to an hour, including the waiting time for others in line also, to complete the process. If you travel on a holiday, expect longer wait times as there will be more people in line.  The locals call the months of November and December the "Califonia Season" as there are usually large numbers of families and individuals driving from southern California to visit family and friends in Mexico.  Wait times may be longer during this period.

Once you have all your paperwork completed, pull back onto the highway, which now becomes Carratera Quince, or Highway 15.  You will stay on this road all the way to the outskirts of Hermosillo. 

The road is a 4 lane divided highway and is in very good shape, as it is pretty new.   As you travel down this road, there is still some construction where you will take detours and go down to a single lane each way.  These construction zones are short and don’t delay travel much.  You can travel this road at the posted speed limits, (in kilometers), easily.  There will be, buses and semi-trucks pulling 2 full-sized semi-trailers moving at speeds slower and faster than the speed limit.  There is a good shoulder on the side of the road if you have any issues.

The first town you will come to will be Imuris.   Be ready for the Topes on the highway.  There are often vendors in the streets selling cheese or other local delicacies.  Purchase and eat these with caution. 

Continuing on Highway 15, you will come to another toll booth.  For the last couple of years this booth has allowed everyone to pass through without payment, although it’s always a good idea to put some coins or small peso bills into their buckets or cans they hold up.  They are protesting the State’s use of funds, and the local politics don’t really affect us.  If the situation changes, the toll is still pretty cheap.  Remember that the toll you pay is for the construction of the highway, which is pretty dang great!  This will be just before you pass the town of Magdelena on the right.

Stay on Highway 15 for a bit more and you’ll come to the town of Santa Ana.  This is a pretty significant town with traffic lights and Topes.  Stay on the main highway through Santa Ana.  From here its all divided highway at speed to Hermosillo.  Just before you reach Hermosillo, there are some large vineyards on the east side of the road.   You will come to another toll booth as you approach Hermosillo.  This one is not normally free.  There is a good rest room in the center between the traffic lanes.

There are two routes to El Novillo, from Hermosillo.  The first one takes the exit for Highway 14, exiting off the right side and up over Highway 15 towards the towns of Ures and Mazocahui. 

Take the exit of Highway 15 onto Highway 14, which will initially go through a populated area of Hermosillo.  There will be Topes, traffic lights,  and local traffic on this road.  After a couple of miles you will be through this and on a two lane highway heading towards Ures.  There are some grades and turns as you go over some hills on the way to Ures.

Upon entering Ures, stay to the RIGHT side of the road, as it will split when entering the town.  Once you are on the one-way road, look for the CORONA store on the south-east corner of an intersection.  Be on the lookout for the CORONA store before you reach the intersection as you will turn RIGHT on this street before the store.  There are two sets of TOPES on this road as you drive through the couple of blocks of the town.

This road will lead you to the town of Pueblo de Alamos.  It is a nice, normally empty, two lane road.  Once you reach Pueblo de Alamos, stay on the paved road until it ends, and then immediately turn LEFT.  The road through town is partially paved and has potholes and ruts throughout the dirt sections.  Continue on this road until you come to the big, blue satellite dish in front of you.  Turn RIGHT on the road before the house with the satellite dish.  This will immediately become paved again and you will continue on this paved road until it dead ends on the road to San Pedro de la Cueva.  When the road from Pueblo de Alamos dead ends in the next road, you will turn LEFT onto this two lane road.

This road now leads all the away to San Pedro de la Cueva and El Novillo.  It is windy and twisty with some short steep uphills and downhills so drive with some caution.  You will go over a pass through a good sized mountain called Tuntenude and then be ready for a very steep descent for a couple of miles, with sharp turns.  Take your time and be aware that there may be traffic coming the other way, and that this road can have livestock on it.  Beware of your speed as your brakes can heat up rapidly on this stretch of road.

This road will deadend onto the final turn.  Turn left when you reach it if you are proceeding to San Pedro de la Cueva, or turn right if you want to head to the lake.

You are now there!!!!

The second route from Hermosillo to San Pedro de la Cueva takes you through the edge of the city of Hermosillo, the capital city of Sonora.  To take this route, you continue on Highway 15 into the city.  Stay on the same road, Highway 15, which is also named “Blvd Enrique Mazón López”.   Watch for the “AUTOZONE” store on the left side of the road and be ready to turn LEFT after the next block.  The road is marked Highway 15, but its also named “Periférico Oriente”.  Stay on this road, passed the lake on the left,  until you see the signs for Highway 20, named Ave. Sahuaria, to Mazatán.  Take this road until you enter the little town of Mazatán.

Here you will take a LEFT in the middle of town, passed the central plaza, (park), and you are now on the road to San Pedro de la Cueva.  You may have to ask a local to help get through the town and turn on the correct road.  The people are very kind and helpful.  You need only ask them for “San Pedro de la Cueva” and they will make sure you get on the right road.  Once you leave Mazatán, you will stay on this same road through the town of Nacori and on to San Pedro.  This road will be a two lane paved road, but has some tight turns and short, steep grades.  Once you go through the pass and see the sign “Tuntenude”, be aware that the road will be steep, downhill,  and the turns sharp for a bit.  This road will then dead end onto another two-lane paved road which you will take to the left about ¾ mile to San Pedro de la Cueva. 

You have arrived!