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Meet Tim Barnes of Boca Roja, Baja Wine Adventures in Encinitas

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tim Barnes.

Tim, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
It really started with my first trip to Baja as an adult about six years ago. A good friend of mine who I surf with every morning was always either going or coming from Baja – truly living like a local. I did not grow up visiting Mexico with family and friends and I was intrigued by how easy it was for him to shoot down there for lunch or a surf and get back to San Diego in such a short period of time. I volunteered to buy gas and dinner if he would take me down there to “show me the way.”

We went down one afternoon for a sunset surf session and a great dinner at this little family owned restaurant in Rosarito and the lightbulb went off. It is such a beautiful place with such a rich culture and amazing citizens – I was hooked from Day 1!

After that it was a pretty organic development that happened slowly over time. As my fiancée Katie and I explored more and more fell deeper and deeper in love with Baja (and each other!) we had our closest friends and family asking us to show them around the area. During our trips to Valle de Guadalupe with our amigos I realized that Valle is truly a world-class wine, food and craft beer destination and somehow no one is even talking about it!

Southern Californians are flocking to Temecula, Napa Valley and other popular wine regions for, in my opinion, overpriced, ultra-commercialized wine “experiences” while Valle de Guadalupe is burgeoning with incredibly talented winemakers and some of the top chef’s in all of Mexico and it is located right next door to San Diego! After doing some market research I realized that many of the tour operators are more hobbyists than true businesses looking to capture a tremendously exciting opportunity.

On top of that, I experienced a near-death experience with boredom sitting behind a computer crunching spreadsheets for 10 hours a day. My doctor recommended I make a change so I did and I never looked back!

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has not always been smooth but it sure has been fun! I think the most important aspect of what we offer and what makes Boca Roja special is the strength of our relationships with the top talent in Baja. Those relationships cannot be created overnight but rather forged slowly over time.

Establishing the foundation of those relationships with people who are now close, personal friends required me to spend quite a bit of time away from home. Long nights and lots of driving. That was taxing but in my mind, it was the only way that our company could create world-class travel experiences rather than a simple and unexciting tour.

While developing our footprint in Baja we of course were sharing our experiences with our natural market and potential customer base and that is where things are easy. Some businesses start and create a new category and need to convince people that they want or need what you have. Boca Roja is just the opposite – everyone wants what we have! I will get half way into my elevator pitch and people starting checking their calendars for available dates and pulling out their wallets to hand me their money!

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Boca Roja creates world-class travel experiences in the fastest-growing and most exciting wine, food and craft beer region in the world, Valle de Guadalupe. We do not offer tours – at least not in the traditional sense.

Our name means “red mouth” in Spanish because while we are the #1 top-rated company operating in Valle de Guadalupe serving the Southern California and Northern Baja, we are also a lot of fun. On occasion our guests might find their mouths and lips slightly red or purple from all of the fantastic wine that they have enjoyed along the way!

That all starts with our customer service from the very moment our customers engage us online or by giving us a call. We actually have a stated goal in the first to respond to our client’s emails within 5 minutes or less regardless of the time of day that they are received. After that first contact we work alongside our customers to design customized experiences that will great unforgettable memories for them and those that they are traveling with. We do things the hard way. We do things the expensive way (for us). Our customers are the ones who benefit each step of the way.

Other companies simply get you to Valle and take you back to where you came from. They don’t have the relationships that we have with the winemakers, chefs, brewers and hoteliers to create world-class travel experiences and you can’t create those relationships. You have to earn them and we have!

At the end of the day, we want to change the way our customers think about travel as a whole. I want my customers to book a trip to another part of the world and think “Wow! Why can’t this be as easy and seamless and fun as the time I visited Baja with Boca Roja?”

Our experiences begin with one of our amazing Adventure Guides meeting you and your group at your home so you don’t have to worry about the hassle of driving to the border and crossing on foot – what a pain in the neck! Once we are in Baja you will visit hole-in-the-wall taco shops with unbelievable good food and even at these places Boca Roja guests receive red-carpet treatment! We visit the best wineries in Valle de Guadalupe – not the biggest or most “popular” or easiest to find. They are small with very limited production and most people have never heard of them which is what we like. Our guests never wait in line and everywhere we visit they are greeted like longtime friends, not new strangers from a foreign land.

Besides the experiences we offer in wine country (Valle de Guadalupe) we also host amazing adventures featuring the craft breweries in Ensenada, food-focused trips which include the tastiest street food in Baja along with visits to the most awarded restaurants in the region. Recently we started offering surfing adventures that also include visits to wineries and breweries, as well!

I am incredibly proud of the brand and culture that developed around the business and the connection that we have with our customers. When our adventures end our guests are always planning their next trip with us. Our local events that support the community are always well attended and I think it is because people love what we stand for!

What were you like growing up?
I lived in Palm Springs until I was ten years old before moving to San Diego. I was always a little reserved – prefer to listen and observe than share with the class – and I think that’s because I am the middle child and both of my siblings have fairly large personalities (in a great way!). I was very active, always playing multiple sports including baseball, soccer and football which I continued to play when I attended college at the University of Pennsylvania.

Our family was fortunate to have the means to travel a few times a year which sparked my interest in travel to experience new people and places. I love road trips and taking side roads to see the true heart of a culture and community which is what led me to Baja and Valle de Guadalupe!


  • Our most budget-oriented trips begin as low as $85 per person
  • Our most luxurious packages include private flights, private chef dinners, 5-star hotels and more and can run as high as $5,000 per person.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Boca Roja, LLC

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Kristy

    September 5, 2019 at 5:55 pm

    Hey there! How much does it cost per person for a tour guide to pick a group up in San Diego and go to Valle de Guadalupe?

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