This charming Pacific port town is the third-largest city on the Baja California peninsula. For many years, visitors to the sleepy little Mexican town some call the “Cinderella of the Pacific” were mostly day-tripping surfers and college students from San Diego, about two hours to the north. Today, Ensenada is abuzz with activity every day and night of the week. Daytime fun includes deep-sea fishing excursions, wine tours, whale-watching, horseback riding on the beach, volleyball and surfing. Travelers hoping for a wilder weekend will find plenty of fun at world-famous Hussong's Cantina, a local and visitor favorite since 1892.
Stay at this classic property to enjoy a real Old Baja experience. A favorite of travelers since the 1950s, this gracious family-owned hotel provides easy access to one of the nicest private beaches in the Ensenada area. Two outdoor swimming pools, two hot tubs, a swim-up bar, private cottages and available in-room massage service promise serious relaxation. Kayaking, fishing, tennis courts, boat launch and a playground for the kiddies are also on-site, with golfing, surfing lessons and eco-tours available nearby.
Every room at the affordable, family-friendly Hotel Coral comes with a private balcony and ocean view. Situated at the scenic northern end of the Port of Ensenada, the Hotel Coral offers high-value amenities and services. A small grocery store and restaurant are also on-site, and the indoor and outdoor swimming pools are open year-round.
Ensenada's proximity to the warm Pacific Ocean makes it a natural for every kind of eatery, from first-class seafood restaurants to funky and flavorful street food vendors. Ensenada is abundant with fresh seafood and ripe produce during every season of the year. For those who aren’t too keen on seafood, La Stella is a beloved local Italian eatery, known for amazing pizzas. If you have the amenities to prepare meals in Ensenada hotel rooms, you'll want to shop at local supermarkets, bakeries and meat markets.
If you think you may be sensitive to the local water, avoid iced beverages and remember that most food servers and hotel staff will be happy to fulfil your request for unopened bottled water.
Summertime in Baja California can be scorching hot, but there are plenty of air-conditioned restaurants, bars, nightclubs and Ensenada hotels. Because the city sits right on the coast, the sea breeze means temperatures in Ensenada are rarely as severe as inland Baja. In the winter and spring months, however, the weather in Ensenada can change quickly from comfortably warm to tremendously rainy.
Surfers who come to Ensenada are reminded that the most massive waves of the year tend to occur during wintertime. It is worth noting that surfers and divers are advised to bring a full wetsuit no matter the time of year. The deep-sea canyons off the northern Baja peninsula funnel super-chilled water up to the surface. The water temperature at a surf break in Ensenada can be a whopping 10 degrees cooler than the water off San Diego on the same day.
A lot of people who travel to Ensenada arrive on a cruise ship or make the two-hour drive on I-5 south from San Diego, California. If you drive into Mexico, be sure to pre-purchase Mexican auto insurance online or stop at the border and buy Mexican insurance prior to entering the country. U.S. automobile insurance is not recognized anywhere south of the border.
Americans are required to have a passport to enter Mexico whether they arrive on a cruise ship, airplane or car through a border crossing. The nearest airport is Tijuana International Airport, located 75 miles away.