Vacations in Ensenada

ensenada baja california mexico

Looking for a mini vacation spot for a weekend getaway that feels like you went far, but really didn’t have to drive more than 2 hours?  Ensenada is the place for you. It’s a relaxed place where you can hang out and party as much or a little as you want.

Driving to Ensenada

Driving to Ensenada is easy peasy, you just cross over the border at San Ysidro into Tijuana and follow the signs to Playas de Tijuana/Rosarito via the toll road (Cuota).  You’ll drive for about 2 hours or so along the coast, it’s a beautiful drive! Once you come to the 3rd toll both, you’ve reached the beginning of Ensenada. Signs are actually decent in that area and you shouldn’t have a problem navigating to the downtown area.

Exploring Ensenada

Ensenada is the third town in Baja that still has a small town vibe. It’s a cruise ship destination that caters to locals and visitors. Here’s a few things to check out:

  • Shopping – Downtown area has shops with a mix of souvenirs and jewelry.
  • Marina – the marina is long and good for a stroll.  There are souvenirs along the way, a few restaurants, like Villa Marina Restaurante, and near the end a park with a kid’s play area.
  • Ocean – from the Marina, you can charter a private or group boat ride to either fish, see whales (during whale season) or just see more of the harbor.  We did one fishing trip and one whale trip and the part I remember the most about both of them was the 100+ dolphins we saw swimming around the boat.
  • La bufadora – this is a natural blow hole that is more impressive in the afternoon.  This is a bit of a drive out of town to the south, but if you’re spending the weekend, could be worth it.
  • Valle de Guadalupe – Wine. El Valle deserves a whole day to really enjoy it.  Honestly, it could use a lot of days! There’s so many wineries that it can be overwhelming.  I’ve found that 3 is usually about all we can get to in a day. More on this coming soon…
  • Festivals – Ensenada hosts quite a few festivals including beer, wine (of course), music, and carnaval in Feb.
  • Camping – Las Cañadas is a great camping ground with plenty of activities such as pools, paddle boats, ziplines, and hicking.
  • Nightlife – Downtown area is the main nightlife scene and includes various places to drink, enjoy music and dance, including the famous Paps & Beer.

Eating in Ensenada

If you’re looking for traditional Mexican food, then I highly recommend Loncheria Chaparrita, this little hole in the wall has a variety of dishes to choose from that they prepare daily.  Don’t expect fancy service though, it’s more of a lunch counter feel. And all dishes are served with rice, beans and pasta salad.

You also can’t go wrong with seafood, Baja is where the fish taco was invented!  Check out La Guerrenrense, now also a restaurant, where Anthony Bourdain raved about the best tostadas he’s ever had.  

From downtown to the marina, take a stroll down Mercado Negro and you’ll find plenty of tasty seafood spots.

If you’re a bit sweet, like myself, then head over to El Rey Sol Restaurante and pick up some sweet breads.  Best in town!

In summary…

There’s never a shortage of things to do in Ensenada, especially if you like wine.  It’s a great place for families, couples and friends. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone.

Summer Fun in Tijuana

Playas de Tijuana

Summer is finally on the horizon, so let’s talk about Tijuana summer fun! What beaches to go to.  Did you know there’s a waterpark? And of course, the festivals that are coming up.


There’s not much difference between the beaches in San Diego and the ones near Tijuana except maybe what the people wear and what people drink.  The 2 main beaches within 30 minutes of the border are:

  • Playas de Tijuana (10 min from San Ysidro border)
  • Rosarito Beach (30 min drive from San Ysidro border)

Playas de Tijuana is known for being right next to the border. I’m sure you’ve seen the photos in the news a few months back of the migrants sitting on top of the ‘wall’. That’s the place!

There’s also a nice wooden boardwalk and all kinds of food. The beach here has darker sand and is small in width…meaning, it fills up fast! In order to get a good spot, you should arrive before noon.  And just as a heads up, most people don’t wear swimsuits here… the majority will be in clothes :).

Rosarito beach on the other hand, has a popular section near the bars like Papas ‘n Beer, but there’s so much more space here and you can find a quiet spot for relaxing.  The sand here isn’t quite as dark and the majority of people wear their swimming suits.

Whichever beach is best for you, either one allows alcohol in any form.  So pack up that cooler and enjoy a nice cold bev on your day off. If you forget to bring snacks, don’t worry, there will be plenty of opportunity to buy something like pizza, corn in a cup, fruit salad, mangos on a stick…you get the idea 🙂

You can also spend more quality time down here and Rent a house to spend the whole weekend on the beach!


Another great way to enjoy the hot, sweaty summer is to go to the waterpark El Vergel .

El Vergel is less than $10 per person and you can spend the day at the various pools, slides, lazy river, wave pool or kiddie pool.  They also have food and beer to purchase or you can bring your own food and have a carne asada. The only thing you can’t bring in is alcohol.  Get there early to get a good spot!

waterpark el vergel tijuana
El Vergel kiddie pool

Summer festivals

Not into water or the beach?  No problem! There’s plenty of festivals to attend, here’s a few that are currently on the calendar:

Enjoy the summer wherever you are! Maybe I’ll see you at a festival.