Ensenada Escapade: Your Ultimate Guide to Baja California
Welcome to Ensenada Mexico, a coastal town ideal for experiencing the best of Baja California!
Known for its stunning beaches, delicious seafood, and vibrant culture, Ensenada is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to explore the beauty and charm of Mexico’s Pacific coast.
In this post, I’ll dive into all that Ensenada offers, from its world-class wineries to its lively nightlife scene.
So sit back, grab a margarita, and join me on a journey through this enchanting city.
Getting to Ensenada, Mexico
Ensenada is a beautiful coastal city located in the northern region of Baja California, just a short drive from the US-Mexico border (about 80 miles).
There are several ways to get to Ensenada:
By Car: If traveling from the United States, you can enter Mexico through the San Ysidro border crossing in San Diego, California. From there, take the toll road (Mexican Highway 1) south to Ensenada. The drive takes about 1.5 to 2 hours.
By Bus: Several bus companies offer service to Ensenada from major regional cities, including Tijuana and Mexicali. The trip takes about 2-3 hours from Tijuana and 5-6 hours from Mexicali.
By Air: The nearest major airport is in Tijuana, about 95 km north of Ensenada. From there, you can take a taxi, bus, or rent a car.
By Cruise: Ensenada is a popular port of call for cruise ships traveling along the west coast of North America. If you’re taking a cruise, you’ll likely dock at the Ensenada Cruise Port in the city’s center.
Top 12 things to do and see in Ensenada Mexico
1. Admire La Bufadora
In Punta Banda, this amazing “rock,” 34 km from Ensenada, is mistakenly called a marine geyser.
In reality, it is not a column of hot water coming from the seabed but a natural system of chimneys opened in the cliff, through which the water rises with force in hours of high tide, reaching heights close to 30 meters.
2. Stroll along with Calle Primera and the Civic Plaza
Ensenada beats along Avenida López Mateos, known as Calle Primera (first street).
It is approximately one km long and is a delight to walk along amidst the pleasant, always spring-like weather of this Baja California city.
Calle Primera is well endowed with stores where you can buy that piece you forgot to put in your suitcase, cafes, bars, and restaurants where you can stop for a drink or a snack while you take the city’s pulse.
The Civic Plaza is a large esplanade with giant sculptures of the heads of Hidalgo, Juárez, and Carranza.
3. Sunbathe on Ensenada’s beaches
Ensenada Mexico has charming public and private beaches, where you can spend a relaxing and fun day sunbathing, practicing your favorite sea entertainments, and drinking Margaritas and ice-cold beer, accompanied by delicious “Fruits de Mer.”
- Among the private beaches are Mona Lisa and Estero Beach
- For public beaches, there are El Punto and San Miguel
For surf lovers, on the north coast of Ensenada, you have sound waves at California Trailer, San Miguel, Park, 3 M’s, and Stacks.
If you like to spend some time in fresh water after a long day at the beach, Ensenada has several water parks with excellent facilities such as swimming pools, water slides, lagoons for boating, palapas with barbecue grills, restaurants, and other goodies.
One of the most complete water parks is Las Cañadas in Ejido El Zorrillo.
Other options are El Palomar, in the Santo Tomás District; Los Cárdenas, also in El Zorrillo; and Albercas María Teresa, in Valle de Guadalupe.
4. Take the Wine Route
There are vineyards and wineries on the Wine Route that runs through the valleys of Guadalupe, Santo Tomas, and San Antonio de las Minas, from the most prestigious to the small and artisanal ones, which surprise with the quality of their lesser-known wines.
There are hotels and restaurants with splendid views of the vineyards and delicious meals to enjoy the regional wines.
The wineries offer tours and tastings that pair their best wines with the area’s exquisite cheeses and artisanal products.
5. Visit the Ensenada Museum of the Vine and Wine
The Ensenada Vine and Wine Museum deserve a separate chapter for the city’s winemaking tradition and the exhibition’s importance and beauty.
This museum has a History Room and an Identity Room, where the history of wine since ancient times is didactically explained with texts and beautiful pieces of viticulture tools.
The Industry Room is dedicated to producing wine on a larger scale, while the Art Room exhibits paintings and art objects related to wine.
6. Take a marine wildlife-watching tour
Life-watching enthusiasts will feel wonderful in Ensenada, as the migration of gray whales and other species can be admired along its coastline.
The gray whale is a cetacean that can reach 20 tons in weight and 15 meters in length, making a 10,000 km marathon, alone or in groups, from the icy north to the warm waters of the lagoons of Baja California.
Boats leave the Ensenada boardwalk to look at these exciting examples of biodiversity and other species, such as the blue whale, the humpback whale, the pilot whale, and the orca.
7. Visit the Riviera Cultural Center
The most symbolic cultural space in Ensenada is the Riviera.
It is housed in a beautiful white building with red roofs, surrounded by beautiful gardens and green areas, built in the 1930s as a casino.
It was a gambling house until 1935, when that activity was prohibited in Mexico and used to receive great national and international celebrities, such as Dolores del Rio, Rita Hayworth, Lucille Ball, and Bing Crosby.
The beautiful building of Moorish architecture hosts events, workshops, and cultural groups in dance, ballet, theater, literature, painting, drawing, and sculpture.
8. Tour the museums and galleries in Ensenada
There are several fascinating museums in Ensenada Mexico.
The Caracol is a science museum and aquarium oriented to scientific and environmental education for children and young people.
It has three permanent halls (Earth, Sky, and Sea) and one for temporary exhibits.
The Regional History Museum offers a free tour of local history in a building from the 1880s, one of the oldest in the city.
The History Museum is located inside the Riviera Cultural Center and was developed by the Archeology Department of the Autonomous University of Baja California.
Another exciting collection is the Russian Community Museum, which shows facets of the life of the small Russian community settled in the area at the beginning of the 20th century.
Although not a huge city, Ensenada is distinguished by its cosmopolitanism, evidenced by its museums and cultural institutions, theaters, and art galleries.
The Pérez Meillón Gallery was founded in 1988 by siblings Adalberto and Patricia Pérez Meillón, who began with a store selling high-quality handicrafts (Tarahumara pieces, Pai Pai pottery, and Kumiai basketry), and today it offers wide range of works by local and national artists.
Another gallery of interest in Ensenada Mexico is Los Arcos Art Studio and Gallery, located on Carrera Punta Banda in Ejido Esteban Cantú.
9. Breathe fresh air in Constitución de 1857 National Park
This park is another of the rare wooded areas of the arid Baja California peninsula near Ensenada.
Its main fauna species are the endangered bighorn sheep and mule deer.
The area of more than 5,000 hectares is densely populated with conifers and other trees.
In the park, you can practice outdoor sports, such as walking and hiking, and in the lagoon, you can go canoeing and fishing.
10. Visit Ensenada’s Fish & Seafood Market
One of the most picturesque places worth visiting is the Fish & Seafood Market, located near the north side of the Malecon (boardwalk).
All the best & freshest fish, shellfish, and mollusks are found in this marketplace, where the voices of the stall keepers praising their merchandise mix noisily with those of the buyers demanding maximum freshness and the best price.
You can taste the famous fish tacos and other preparations in the market’s food sales area.
11. Visit the Todos Santos Islands
The Todos Santos Islands, which are two (North and South), are located only 20 km from Ensenada, and their only access is by sea, with departures from Ensenada and La Bufadora.
The islands stand out for two reasons: their magnificent waves for surfing and their rich biodiversity.
The Todos Santos Norte Island waves are among the highest on the American continent.
Among the local fauna species, the Rata combalachera de Todos Santos and the Todos Santos Viper stand out for their beauty and rarity.
12. Enjoy Off-Road Races
The Mexican Baja Peninsula is one of Mexico’s sanctuaries for off-road racing. The famous Baja 1000 race traditionally takes place in November, starting in Ensenada and finishing in La Paz.
It is the longest single-stage race in the world, covering 1,050 miles (1,700 km), hence its name.
Cars, trucks, pickups, motorcycles, and ATVs participate. The rest of the year, there are races in different categories, with the sponsorship of hotels and companies linked to the world of motors.
Have a Margarita at Hussong’s Cantina
Although several places in Baja California dispute the creation of the famous Margarita cocktail, the most widely accepted version is that it was the work of Carlos Orozco, bartender at Cantina Hussong’s, located at 113 Ruiz Avenue in Ensenada.
Don Carlos liked to experiment and offered the novel cocktail to Margarita Henkel, daughter of the German ambassador, who lived in the city.
The client liked the invention, and the drink took her name.
It would be unthinkable for you to go to Ensenada and not try this fantastic mix of tequila, triple sec, and lime juice in its place of origin, Cantina Hussong’s, where there is also a great atmosphere, with music and typical shows.
Ensenada Mexico Hotels
Ensenada has accommodations for all budgets, from beachfront hotels, which charge for their privileged ocean views, to the more modest inland hotels.
You will be excellently served by the friendly locals, paying less.
These are the two most popular hotels in Ensenada:
- Hotel Coral & Marina, at km 103 on the highway to Tijuana, has excellent facilities and a lovely marina
- Estero Beach has a private beach, and its rooms are very spacious and comfortable
There are also nice places at lower rates, such as the Quintas Papagayo, Hotel Sausalito, and Hotel Plaza Fatima.
Ensenada Mexico is the home of Fish Tacos
Ensenada’s most emblematic dish is Tacos de Pescado (fish tacos), a 1960’s creation of Don Zeferino Mancillas, a fisherman who loved to cook.
Don Zeferino started selling his fish fried whole with garnishes, and for a change, he began to prepare tacos, coating the fish with flour and seasoning it with pico de gallo.
In any beach restaurant or stall in town, you can informally enjoy this culinary symbol of Ensenada and all the delicacies of Baja California’s land and sea.
The weather, the beach atmosphere, the water and land sports, the Margaritas, the excellent Baja wines, beers, and the seafood snacks work together in Ensenada to make you go out for a good night out in the bars and nightclubs.
There are many of them, from the famous Cantina Hussong’s to the most modern and cosmopolitan style.
Aside from Hussong’s, some places with the best nightlife are Papas & Beer Ensenada, Mango Mango, and Bar 646 ¡Salud!