Ensenada lies just 70 miles south of San Diego, across the border into Mexico, south of Tijuana on the Baja Peninsula. Nicknamed the Pearl of the Pacific or the Cinderella of the Pacific, the third-largest city in Baja California has earned both titles with its spectacular scenery and culinary scene. One of the most popular cruise ship destinations on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, this seaside city has a lot going for it—some of the best surfing in Mexico goes along with wineries, whale-watching excursions, and hiking trails that travel far off the beaten path. Racing fans also know Ensenada as the home of the Baja 1000 and 500, two of the world’s most exciting off-road races.
Before the Europeans arrived in the New World, the Yuman People lived on the land that would some day be called Ensenada. The city was first called San Mateo, founded in 1542 after Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo arrived. The city received its new name in 1602, renamed by the Spanish captain Sebastian Vizcanio. He dubbed the community Ensenada de Todos Los Santos, the cove of all saints. From there, the little town grew; Jesuit missionaries were the first residents. At one point, Ensenada was the capital of Baja California, but the Mexican Revolution left too much devastation for it to remain. The city eventually rebuilt and became a center for tourism in the 20th century.
Cruises Image: tj scenes (flickr)
While Ensenada is connected to Tijuana and San Diego highway, many of its visitors arrive by cruise ships. Carnival and other major cruise companies bring their large cruise ships to the port on Ensenada. Once passengers start their shore leave, they have a long list of options, including sample the local culinary scene and visiting wineries. The beaches also draw the attention of cruisers, who spend time learning to kayak, snorkel, and ride horses. There’s talk of running ferry service from San Diego; in the meantime, a few ferries do run throughout Baja California, but none is all that convenient for Ensenada travel. Ensenada Beaches However you arrive in Ensenada, you should make your way to the beach. Several Pacific Ocean beaches are located in and near Ensenada, with some excellent conditions for surfing and snorkeling. Punta Banda is popular with both visitors and locals with its food vendors, big waves, and a great vantage point for spotting whales.
Attractions Image: wisley (flickr)
If you want a closer look at the whales, plenty of local outfitters lead boat trips out into the waters where the whales are playing. They also equip you with everything you need for diving excursions and deep-sea fishing. The list of things to do also includes plenty to do back on shore. Miles of hiking trails wind from the beach through town and into the desert. It’s that landscape that makes Ensenada such as appealing start for the Baja 1000 and Baja 500 road races. If you even don’t have a driver’s license, you can still cheer on the race as spectators. Ensenada is also Baja’s culinary capital, with the freshest seafood and locally made wine. Many of Ensenada’s wineries are open for tasting experiences and vineyard tours.
Ensenada Hotels & Lodging
Ensenada Hotels Image: Hotel Coral & Marina
Overnight accommodations in Ensenada run the gamut from cheap hotels to luxury beach resorts. If you’re looking to save money, staying in one of the low-cost hotels may be best for you. You’ll still have a place to relax for the night, but you won’t have to spend a lot for your private room. Some of Ensenada’s budget properties have familiar names; they’re part of international companies. Of the other end of the spectrum, the beach resorts specialize in luxurious surroundings in view of the Pacific.