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.