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El Centro is a compact town in the southern reaches of California. This is your final destination in the US before you reach the border with Mexico, which is just a few miles away. It’s an old desert city with the feeling of a frontier, but modern California has definitely found its way into the city. Golf courses pop out of the desert landscape, while the town is lined with shops and entertainment venues.

Rent a car through Orbitz in El Centro, and the surrounding desert opens up to you. Roads here lead to dramatic dunes and colorful Mexican towns, beckoning to adventurers and explorers.

El Centro and beyond: Roaming the borderlands

Once you’ve picked up your rental car in El Centro, it’s time to get exploring. Head out into the desert to discover the wonderful sights in California’s southern border region.


If you’ve planned ahead with your rental car provider, you can cross the border into Mexico at the city of Mexicali. The good news is, the border crossing isn’t nearly as stressful as getting into Tijuana, and the resulting destination is possibly more interesting. There’s a salt lagoon, caves with ancient paintings, and a popular zoo in the city center.

Journey time: Around 45 minutes

Distance: Approximately 15 miles

San Diego

For the quintessential San Diego experience, spend the day in Balboa Park. The vast, sprawling site features colonial architecture, pleasant walks in the gardens, and a number of attractions. Here, you’ll find the San Diego Zoo, one of the best in the country, as well as the San Diego Art Museum, the Museum of Natural History and more.

Journey time: Around 1 hour 50 minutes

Distance: Approximately 120 miles

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

This sprawling state park, to the north of El Centro, is an enchanting and almost alien desert landscape. Pack plenty of water bottles and set off hiking through the park. You’ll find slot canyons, desert dunes, and plains lined with cacti. The heat may be sweltering, but you’ll be rewarded with silence and serenity in one of Southern California’s most dramatic landscapes.

Journey time: Around 1 hour 30 minutes

Distance: Approximately 80 miles