Ensenada enjoys a privileged location on the northern Pacific coast of Baja, just 75 miles south of México’s border with the United States, at Tijuana. The drive (especially on the toll road) to Ensenada takes you along a scenic stretch of some really incredible Baja coastline. This stretch of road has often been compared to northern California’s Highway 1 in terms of the incredible views that are found almost everywhere on the toll road from Tijuana.
Ensenada is a city of many different faces; a city where fishing, ranching, agriculture, shipyards, and tourism all blend in with the daily operations of the busiest port city in Baja. Ensenada wears all of its faces very well and unless you really look close, or get lost, it seems as if you’re in a relaxed seaside resort, catering only to tourists.
Most visitors to Ensenada arrive by car on the modern 4-lane toll road, from Southern California, via the world’s busiest border crossing at Tijuana. The drive from the north takes visitors along the incredibly picturesque stretch of the Pacific coast through Rosarito Beach and the lobster village of Puerto Nuevo.
Once you arrive in Ensenada, it’s time to relax or go shopping, fishing, horseback riding, enjoy an incredible meal, party hearty, play a round of golf, visit one of the many nearby vineyards or maybe enjoy a little of each. Since most visitors come for only a weekend, it can be difficult to enjoy all options Ensenada has to offer, depending on how much time you have.
One thing you are sure to notice is a city that moves at a somewhat slower pace than many, but at the same time, is very much alive with the pace of local commerce. Ensenada is a large city, by Baja standards, and therefore has many services that many of the smaller towns further south do not offer. For those who are making the drive to southern Baja, this is a good place to stock up on supplies.
For the tourist, Ensenada is very easy to navigate on foot as the main tourist areas are situated within easy walking distance of each other. The easiest reference point to find is the giant Mexican flag (you can’t miss it) near the Malecón. From here, you can easily get to the cruise ship docks, the sportfishing piers, the downtown shopping, and dining establishments as well as Baja’s largest fish market. Local maps and tourist information stands are easy to find.
The downtown tourist area is a no-brainer for shoppers, party animals, and diners alike. This is an area of wide streets that contain many great restaurants (lobster and seafood are local specialties), sidewalk cafes, coffee houses, taco stands, and of course, the ever-popular bars and nightclubs. Shoppers will find an abundance of shops offering goods from all over México and other parts of the world, as Ensenada enjoys duty-free status. Shop for silver of all kinds, jewelry, wrought iron, pottery and ceramics, liquor, pharmacy items, arts and crafts, and of course, tee shirts.
The downtown area of Ensenada is where tours can be arranged to the famous blowhole (La Bufadora), at Punta Banda 18 miles south of the city, or to the wine country to the north and east of the city. Here, by the huge flag, you will also find horse-drawn carriages that will be glad to take you on local city tours.