When thinking of Mexico, you probably aren’t thinking of sweeping vineyards in the mountains. More likely, your mind goes to beaches and delicious cuisine. Ensenada is known as the wine capital of Mexico. But don’t worry! If you’re not into wine, there are plenty of other things to do here.
This city was once known as a gambling town. However, the Mexican authorities outlawed it in the 1930s. So, it’s now just another resort beach town. But what sets it apart from other beach towns on the Pacific coast? The cool thing about Mexico is that there’s so much variety within its extensive territory.
So, are you curious about life in this beach town with the best Mexican wines? Deciding where to live in Mexico can be overwhelming as this beautiful country provides many great options.
First, let’s give you everything you need to know about Ensenada.
Where is it located?
Ensenada is in the northwestern part of Mexico, in Baja California. Ensenada is only 70 miles south of the U.S. border and Tijuana, just a 90-minute drive from San Diego.
This port city is on the Pacific Coast, specifically, the bay of Todos Santos. The Sierra de San Pedro Mártir mountain range runs north to south of the peninsula. Southwest of the city, you also have the Sierra de Juarez mountain range.
Ensenada’s unique location gives visitors and residents plenty of vantage points to take in the beautiful surroundings. And once you see the seaside view from one of the many cliffside lookouts, you’ll surely be hooked on Ensenada!
Getting to Ensenada can be simple for those in Southern California. You can quickly drive down for a weekend getaway. However, you’ve got plenty of options for those outside of California.
Even though the population of Ensenada is over 500,000 people, it does not have an international airport. So your best bet when arriving internationally by plane is to fly to the Tijuana Airport (TIJ). Then, you can get a transfer or a bus to Ensenada for about 90 minutes from there.
However, it’s important to note that there are no direct flights to Tijuana. So, you’ll have a stop in another major city in Mexico, most likely Mexico City.
Ensenada is one of Mexico’s most important ports and Pacific ports. It’s constantly buzzing with large ships arriving from Asia, North America, and South America. Cruise ships also dock at this port. So, many U.S. citizens and Canadians visit Ensenada via cruise.
Weather in Ensenada
Ensenada has a mild climate, especially compared to other popular beach locations in Mexico. This “Mediterranean” climate appeals to many planning their move to Mexico. Unsurprisingly, it’s similar to the weather of Southern California.
Year-round average temperatures in Ensenada range from 50-80 degrees Fahrenheit. In the cooler months of November-April, expect highs in the 60s and low 70s. During the “hotter” months of May-October, temperatures generally range from the mid-60s to the low 80s.
Ensenada doesn’t necessarily have a rainy or dry season. Generally, it’s an arid climate. However, there is a higher chance of precipitation in the winter, with its wettest month being February.
Referred to as the “Cinderella of the Pacific,” Ensenada provides its residents and visitors with many activities ranging from cultural events in the city to snorkeling off the coast.
Top 5 things to do in Ensenada:
- Visit the neighboring vineyards. Ensenada’s unique attractions are the great vineyards and wineries in the neighboring Valle de Guadalupe, which is only a 20-minute drive from downtown Ensenada. There are hundreds of wineries to visit, so you’ll have your pick. You could also take a day tour of the region. You may want to stay in the area if you plan a wine-tasting day. There are plenty of options for accommodations if you want to stay overnight.
- Go whale watching. Whale watching is plentiful here in the winter., If your main interest in visiting Ensenada is checking out marine life, plan your trip accordingly. Whale season runs from mid-December to mid-April. However, being a port city, boat tours are plentiful year-round. You just won’t be able to see the migration of the majestic gray whales in other months.
- Check out the cultural center. Riviera de Ensenada is full of rich history, symbolic of Ensenada’s roots. Many years ago, it was a casino, drawing plenty of Hollywood stars to its halls for fun. Locals speculate that it was the birthplace of the margarita. However, now this building serves as a cultural center.
- Have a beach day. Ensenada has about 12 miles of beaches, so you’ve got plenty of options. The most popular beaches downtown is Playa Hermosa and Playa San Miguel.
- Take in the view. Remember those breathtaking vistas we mentioned earlier? Well, El Mirador (the lookout) in Ensenada does not disappoint. El Mirador is the highest point in the city. You’ll get a panoramic view of the city and the bay from the top. You must go to Colinas de Chapultepec to reach the lookout point.
Best Beaches in Ensenada
If you’re seeking out the coast, you’re interested in knowing where the best beaches in Ensenada are. But, of course, the best beach for you depends on what you want to do.
Are you hoping to do some snorkeling or catch some waves? Or are you just hoping to lounge in the sun and swim in the tranquil waters? Either way, we’ll show you the best beaches in Ensenada for whatever you desire.
Best beaches in the city:
- Playa Hermosa. Located along the Malecon (boardwalk) in the city, this is the most convenient beach within the town.
- Playa Puertecitos– Ideal for observing coastal fauna such as seagulls, pelicans and cormorants, among others.
- Playa San Miguel. Also making our list of top surf spots in Ensenada, San Miguel is a popular beach for everyone. It’s great for swimming and snorkeling.
- Playa Estero. Renowned for its natural beauty, this beach is more tranquil than the others drawing less of a crowd. It’s great for swimming, sunbathing, kayaking, snorkeling, and diving.
- Playa El Faro. Conveniently located close to downtown, this beach is a popular spot to enjoy the views. It’s a less crowded beach than San Miguel.
Best snorkeling beaches:
- Isla de Todos Santos. Located just off the coast of Ensenada, this beautiful island is a great spot to snorkel or scuba dive. The waters are clear, and the coral reefs are home to cool wildlife.
- La Bufadora. La Bufadora is a blowhole that creates quite a show for visitors, with a great snorkeling spot nearby
- La Lobera. Ok, this beach is quite a trek at about 3 hours from Ensenada. It’s a breathtaking cove that’s home to sea lions! In addition, there is snorkeling in the nearby areas. Also, consider taking a tour of this beach as well as the terrain to get here can be rough.
Best surfing beaches:
- Playa San Miguel. Located just outside Ensenada, this is one of the best places for surfing nearby. However, because this wave breaks over a reef, only experienced surfers should surf here. As a bonus, this beach is known for its incredible sunsets!
- Stacks. This beach has consistently good waves, making it a favorite amongst surfers. It’s an excellent spot for beginners as well.
- Playa Hermosa. One of our top picks for city beaches, this is an excellent place for beginners. It’s not the prettiest wave for the experienced rider, but it’s great for someone looking to try something new and enjoy the experience of being on a board in the water.
Many people from California choose to drive here because of Ensenada’s close proximity to the U.S. While having a car here is unnecessary, you will be able to experience much more of the natural beauty in the surrounding areas if you do. Some of the most breathtaking beaches and the famous vineyards are a long drive outside the city.
So, if you’ve come to Ensenada by air or boat and are feeling adventurous, you’ll have plenty of options to rent a car. However, there are also plenty of tours that will take you to the surrounding areas. Or you could always order a private taxi.
You won’t need a vehicle to get around within Ensenada’s city limits. Most visitors or residents stay in Centro because the area has many restaurants, museums, and events. There is public transit (buses and colectivos) or taxis that you can use.
Uber is also available in Ensenada and is cheaper than a regular taxi. In addition, Uber offers specials for visitors wanting to go to Valle de Guadalupe (the neighboring wine region). This is especially ideal if you’re planning on doing some wine tasting, and you don’t have to worry about a designated driver, as Uber will be able to get you there and back!
Food in Ensenada
Eating the local delicacies is a large part of experiencing the culture.
Logically, most dishes in Ensenada feature fresh seafood. And The dish that Ensenada is known for and that you’re sure to love is Baja-style tacos.
Many restaurants make fish tacos with halibut, and deep fry them in tempura batter. You can also get a shrimp taco version. Like all tacos in Mexico, this dish is accompanied by delicious salsas.
While there are plenty of wonderful restaurants in Ensenada, the city is known for its incredible street stands. So, try those tacos that smell so great when you’re wandering the city. It may just be your favorite meal of the trip!
Is Ensenada for you?
Whether you’re choosing your next vacation spot or your future home in Mexico, Ensenada should be considered a top contender. It has some great beaches, views, cultural events, and food.
And remember that if you’re planning to retire early in Mexico, always visit your top choices before making the move. The only way to get a feel for the place is by being there yourself. So, if our Ensenada guide intrigues you, plan your visit!
Alternatively, are you still deciding if a move to Mexico is for you? Sign up for our free 10-Part Email Series, where we explain what it takes to move to Mexico. We’ll give you expert advice so you can decide if moving to Mexico is right for you for you.