Ensenada is a sunny Mexican sea port conveniently located on the Baja California Peninsula, just 80 miles south of San Diego. The town is a very popular vacation destination for Californians, who flock to the Baja to enjoy an authentic taste of Mexico and a wide variety of outdoor activities. Some visitors come to simply enjoy the sunny coastline, while others are drawn by the lively party vibe. After a busy day of water sports, sun tanning, and horseback riding, visitors can look forward to visiting one of the nearby vineyards to enjoy a wine tasting, followed by a wonderful Mexican meal at one of the many authentic restaurants.
1.Canon De Dona Petra Ecological Park
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Canon De Dona Petra Ecological Park is a nature park located in an elevated residential area and is a popular tourist attraction in Ensenada. Most people come to the park to enjoy sweeping views of the city and the beautiful coastline of Baja California. The park is an ideal place to relax with a good book or get a little more active and go walking, hiking, or mountain biking along a network of trails. Birdwatchers will also enjoy the park as it is home to several species of local birds. Central to the park is a very bright and colorful statue of the Buddhist Princess Tara, which was donated to the city by the people of Nepal.
Canon de Dona Petra Ecological Park, Av. Ruiz, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico
2.Caracol Museo de Ciencias (Caracol Science Museum)
© Caracol Museo de Ciencias (Caracol Science Museum)
The Caracol Science Museum is a fairly new addition to the list of attractions in Ensenada and is well worth a visit. The modern and innovative museum is housed in a distinctive building located between the harbor and the enormous Riviera Center. You can spend some time learning about (mainly) Mexican and Baja scientific and engineering projects, and most of the exhibits have English captions. Currently, permanent exhibits include The Earth, The Heavens, and a Manila galleon that was shipwrecked off the coast. There is also a dinosaur exhibit as well as a temporary exhibition centered around the receding polar ice caps and the effect on the marine environment.
Caracol Science Museum, Avenida Club Rotario 3, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico Phone: 646-177-0897
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Equestrians can arrange to have a day out with a difference at Desert Trails, located just 10 minutes north of Ensenada. The company has a small stable of well-trained horses suitable for just about all skill levels, and you can choose to simply explore the area on a trail ride or combine horseback riding with a tour of your choice. If you need to brush up on your riding skills, you can arrange for a lesson or two before setting off to ride on the beach or in the lovely mountainous countryside. Rides vary in duration from 1 to 4 hours and can include a packed lunch, a country barbeque, or even a cheese or wine tour.
Desert Trails, Ensenada 22801, Baja California, Mexico, Phone: +52-64-61-51-83-45
4.El Jardin de Tara
© El Jardin de Tara
You can find the Jardin de Tara (Garden of Tara) in the Ecological Park of Canon De Dona Petra. The park is a pleasant place to take a stroll or spend some time admiring the sweeping views of the city and the ocean beyond, but for many visitors the colossal 20-foot sculpture of the Tibetan princess the White Tara is the prime attraction of the gardens. Tara represents an enlightened female figure who embodies joy, wisdom, and compassion and she is revered throughout the Buddhist world. The statue was donated to the city of Empanada by the people of Nepal as a gesture of peace.
El Jardin de Tara, Av. Ruiz, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico
5.El Salto Canyon and Waterfall
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The El Salto Canyon and Waterfall is a well-kept secret that you will probably not find on any tour itinerary. The beautiful canyon area is located less than an hour from Ensenada on the Ensenada–Tijuana Free Highway and you can spend the day hiking and exploring the area for around 2 dollars (5 dollars if you want to camp overnight). A short and relatively easy hike will lead you to the base of the canyon, where there are seasonal pools and beautiful rock formations. You can also take a more strenuous clamber up over a large hill, which will reward you with stunning views and lead you to an inland lake where you can fish and swim. Rock climbing and rappelling are other popular activities.
El Salto Canyon and Waterfall, (off the Ensenada–Tijuana Highway), Baja California, Mexico
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If cage diving with great white sharks features on your bucket list, be sure to book your Ensenada vacation between July and November, when you have the unique opportunity to hop aboard a Nautilus liveaboard vessel for the adventure of a lifetime on Guadalupe Island. Your adventure includes 5 days on board the vessel and the chance to spend upwards of 2 hours each day in the cages, which are lowered to around 30 meters below the surface of the ocean, where great whites can be found. Come face to face with one of the world’s most feared predators in a safe and natural environment accompanied by an experienced divemaster.
169 East Flagler Street, Miami, Florida 33131, Phone: 604-241-1918
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No trip to Ensenada would be complete without including at least one visit to the historic Hussong’s Cantina, widely believed to be the birthplace of the margarita. The noisy, crowded and sawdust-floored cantina, located in an erstwhile stage-coach inn, offers an authentic Mexican pub vibe and you will often find at least one live band in attendance and many visitors and locals enjoying the atmosphere. You should not leave without tasting a signature Margarita – it is believed that the now-popular drink was first concocted in this very cantina back in 1941 for the visiting daughter of a German ambassador and named in her honor.
Hussong’s Cantina, Av. Ruiz 113, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, Phone: +52-64-61-78-32-10
8.Juan More Taco Food Tours
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Foodies are in for a treat when they sign up for a Juan More Taco Food Tour, which combines the delectable flavors of Mexico with a fun and informative walking tour of Ensenada. Visitors often don’t know where to start when it comes to trying local flavors, which is why you should aim to go on your food tour right at the start of your vacation – you will definitely uncover several great eateries to return to. The walking tour takes around 2.5 hours and you can expect to make your way through local neighborhoods as well as downtown Ensenada, learning about local culture and history as well as tasting some of the best food in town.
Juan More Taco Food Tours, Ensenada’s Boardwalk Fountain, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, Phone: +52-3-22-21-70-42-77
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La Bufadora is one of the largest blow holes in North America and also one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ensenada. The powerful marine geyser is caused by the might of the waves, which trap air inside an underwater cave. As the waves recede, the trapped air is released in the form of a massive spout of water, often reaching 100 feet in height. The entire spectacle is repeated every few minutes and you have a good chance of a drenching if you are standing at the edge of the viewing platform. La Bufadora is at its best at high tide and it is worth checking the times for the tides before your visit if you are driving yourself to the site.
La Bufadora, Punta Banda, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico
© La Guerrerense
La Guerrerense is an Ensenada institution – a humble food cart that has been serving up fresh and fabulous seafood since 1960 and has often been dubbed the “Best Food Cart in the World” by fans and even by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. You can look forward to lip-smacking shrimp, octopus, ceviche tostadas, and much more. There is very little seating (just a few plastic chairs and tables dotted around the cart) but the usually long queues waiting to order attest to the popularity of La Guerrerense. You are advised to get there early if you want a wider choice – favorites often sell out by the time they close at 6:00pm. They also sell a variety of legendary homemade salsas.
La Guerrerense, Av. Adolfo Lopez Mateos 917, Zona Centro, 22800 Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico
11.Las Canadas Canopy Tour
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Forming part of the Las Canadas Campground, the Las Canadas Canopy Tour is an exciting zipline adventure that will surely be one of the highlights of your Ensenada vacation. The canopy tour is made up of a series of five separate zipline sectors, two of which are over a quarter of a mile long. The sections are linked by five hanging bridges, each of which will require a different set of balancing strategies. You will start your adventure at the central tower, where you get strapped into your harness and set off to enjoy a bird’s eye view of the beautiful surroundings. There are secure lockers where you can leave your valuables.
Las Canadas Canopy Tour, Carretera Ensenada KM. 31.5, La Paz, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, Phone: +52-64-61-53-10-55
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Chocolate is mentioned in ancient Mayan scripts from as far back as 3,500 years ago, when it is believed that the gods brought the first cacao beans to the ancient Mayans. Since then, the humble cacao bean has been revered as a food of the gods. On your visit to Maya Cacao you will learn all about the history and legend attached to the cacao bean, see where the trees are grown, and sample fresh beans direct from the pod. You will also have the chance to participate in a hands-on 60-minute chocolate making demonstration and will get to sample a traditional Mayan chocolate drink and other chocolate samples.
Maya Cacao, 914 Alvarado Ave, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, Phone: +52-64-61-56-51-33
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13.Ensenada Museum of History
© Ensenada Museum of History
History enthusiasts will find it interesting to spend some time in the Ensenada Museum of History, which forms part of the Riviera Cultural Center. The museum primarily focuses on the history of the Baja Peninsula and the people who have made it what it is today. You will learn about the influence that the European missionaries and explorers had on the native local populations. Although the museum is quite small, the history is well documented and there are narratives in both Spanish and English. The museum also houses a library, photo library, and shop and guided tours can be arranged.
Ensenada Museum of History, Centro Cultural, Riviera Blvd, Zona Centro CP 22820, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, Phone: +52-64-61-77-05-94
14.Regional Historical Museum
© Regional Historical Museum
It is quite confusing to find two history museums in one town, and the Regional Historical Museum is often confused with the Ensenada Museum of History, located in the Riviera Cultural Center. The Regional Historical Museum occupies what was once the local prison and several of the exhibits are set up in former cells in one of Ensenada’s oldest buildings. The museum showcases the history, culture, and landscape of Baja California, and as you stroll through you will be able to view bones and fossils that date back millions of years. In addition to the permanent collections, the museum also hosts visiting exhibitions from time to time.
Regional Historical Museum, Av. Gastelum, Colonia Centro, CP 22800, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico
15.Riviera of Ensenada
© Riviera of Ensenada
The Riviera Center is the cultural heart of Ensenada and encompasses the Ensenada Museum of History in an historic building that was once the Riviera Del Pacifico Resort and Casino. The building will be of interest to both history buffs and architecture enthusiasts and contains many examples of ornate woodwork, local tiles, beautiful painted ceilings, and ornate chandeliers. The best way to fully appreciate what you are viewing is to join one of the daily docent-led tours, which are available in English. The complex is surrounded by beautiful manicured gardens, which are also well worth exploring.
Riviera of Ensenada, Lazaro Cardenas 1421, Bahia Ensenada, 22880 Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico
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Sergio’s Sportfishing has been welcoming avid fishermen (and women) on board their fleet of tailormade sport fishing vessels since 1997. The outfitter specializes in 6-hour to full day deep-sea sport fishing excursions to Punta Banda, Todos Santos Island, and San Miguel Reef, and their large fleet of boats can accommodate anything from 3 to 30 people. On board you can expect all the necessary equipment for a day of high excitement, including a fish-finder, live bait, rods, reels, and sinkers. In addition to sport fishing, the vessels are also available for charter if you just want to enjoy a scenic cruise along the beautiful shoreline or want to host an on-board party or celebration.
Sergio’s Sportfishing, Callejon Todos Santos, Centro, 22800, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, Phone: +52-64-61-78-21-85
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Sky diving may not be everyone’s cup of tea but if you are one of the daredevils who enjoy this most extreme sport, you should definitely try a dive in Ensenada. Skydive Baja offers the opportunity for just about everyone to experience the thrill of jumping out of a plane or helicopter at a dizzying altitude of 12,000 feet. If you have never tried the sport before, you can receive instruction on site before setting off on the adventure of a lifetime over the stunning Valle des Ojos Negros, which is just 45 minutes from Ensenada. Your skydive will include a fabulous 60-second freefall before you open your parachute and float back down to Earth.
Skydive Baja, Carretare Ensenada San Felipe, Ojos Negros, 22771 Ensenada, B.C. Mexico, Phone: +52-64-61-07-66-28
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Your Ensenada vacation is the perfect time to learn how to surf or to spend some time honing your surfing skills with Surf Ensenada. Surf Ensenada offers personalized one-on-one private surfing lessons that will have you up and off in no time at all. A private lesson lasts about 2 hours and includes an on-land segment to familiarize newbies with everything they need to know before they hit the water. The lessons are suitable for all ages and you do not need your own gear – Surf Ensenada will provide everything necessary including a soft-top surf board, rash vest, wet suit, and even sunscreen. Group lessons are also available.
Surf Ensenada, Ensenada, B.C. Mexico, Phone: +52-64-61-94-08-46
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19.The Opal Mine
© The Opal Mine
It is hard to resist buying some locally made jewelry while in Mexico, and at the Opal Mine you will find a huge selection of beautiful pieces featuring the national stone of Mexico – the opal. There are hundreds of designs to choose from and the friendly staff to assist you in making your selections. The interior of the jewelry store is set up to resemble the inside of a genuine opal mine to remind visitors of the origins of the beautiful polished stones. The store offers the services of a while-you-wait jeweler for re-sizing of rings, and the wide selection ensures that there is something to suit all budgets. A unique piece of jewelry featuring a genuine Mexican opal is an ideal souvenir of your Ensenada vacation.
The Opal Mine, Lazaro Cardenas, Zone Centro, 22800 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico, Phone: +52-64-61-78-27-38
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20.Valley Girl Wine Tours
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The best way to make the most of your Valle de Guadalupe wine experience is to sign up for a private tour of the region with Valley Girl Wine Tours. Not only will you have the services of a driver (taste as much wonderful wine as you like), but you will also have the added advantage of seeing the vineyards and wineries through the eyes of your experienced guide. Tours are tailored to suit your particular wine preferences and most tours will include visits (and tastings) to at least three wineries and an artisan cheesery as well as lunch at a wonderful restaurant.
Valley Girl Wine Tours, Street with no Name at the Entrance to Heaven, Ensenada, 22755, Mexico, Phone: +52-64-61-08-78-15
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Adventure seekers who are looking for a really different type of tour can enjoy a day of fun and excitement with ATV Ensenada, who offer a variety of interesting tours on all-terrain vehicles. You will have the chance to drive your own ATV (or be a passenger on a two-seater vehicle) and the tour itineraries offer something for everyone. The ATV Wine Tour combines some exciting trail riding with visits to up to four wineries. If you are more interested in action, choose the ATV Mountain Tour or the ATV Zip Line Combo Tour. Nature enthusiasts may prefer to see one of Ensenada’s prime attractions on the ATV Blow Hole Tour or join the ATV Hot Springs Tour.
ATV Ensenada, Avenue Castillo & Boulevard Costero, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, Phone: +52-64-61-51-94-29
22. Baja Blue Diver
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One of the greatest attractions of Ensenada is the wonderful underwater world that awaits you offshore. Even if you have never tried snorkeling or scuba diving before, Baja Blue Diver offers lessons for beginners and will have you enjoying the remarkable wealth of marine life in no time at all. The company offers scuba diving tours, snorkeling excursions, hose dives, and kayaking tours and will also combine more than one adventure if you prefer. Most of the tours include a traditional Mexican lunch and if you are joining the tour from a visiting cruise ship, the company guarantees to get you back to your ship in good time.
Baja Blue Diver, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, Phone: +52-64-61-02-23-64
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© Cafe Torino
When you need a caffeine break you can make your way to Café Torino, a favorite Italian-style Ensenada coffee shop frequented by locals and visitors alike. The café has a very friendly atmosphere and serves a variety of coffees, both hot and cold. You are welcome to bring along your laptop and enjoy the free internet while you absorb the laidback holiday atmosphere and sip a latte or cappuccino. The café also serves a selection of tasty pastries to accompany your tea or coffee, and there are also some light meals on the menu. Local artists’ works are on display to add a touch of color and local flavor.
Café Torino, 1076 Calle Primera, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, Phone: +52-64-61-56-54-73
24.Desert Nest Zipline
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When you need a break from the beaches and watersports of Empanada, you can head to Desert Nest Zipline in El Sauzal for an exciting zipline experience. The mountain-top adventure park comprises a circuit of five ziplines, with a total length of about 3.6 km (11,811 feet). Double parallel cables are one of the safety features in place, and you will be securely strapped into a type of seat as you “fly” off the mountain on the ride of your life. The views of the surrounding countryside and the ocean are exceptional, and you can also have some fun crossing the swaying suspension bridge before you attempt the zipline. Minimum weight for the zipline ride is 45kg (99 lb.).
Desert Nest Zipline, El Sauzal, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, Phone: +52-64-61-74-65-95
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25.Ensenada Brewing Company
© Ensenada Brewing Company
Beer lovers will be delighted to know that although Mexico is more usually associated with tequila than beer, Ensenada can boast its own craft beer producing company. The Ensenada Brewing Company was recently awarded the title of Best Brewery in Mexico and produces artisan craft beers using the best local ingredients with a unique Mexican flavor. There are three labels to choose from, one of which contains sweet local agave nectar, another is flavored with locally grown vanilla, while the third contains a touch of piloncillo, an unrefined Mexican sugar. If you visit them at the Old Mission Brewery, you can enjoy a woodfired pizza with your beer.
Ensenada Brewing Company, Old Mission Brewery, 9th and Ruiz, Central Zone, Ensenada, Mexico, Phone: +52-61-98-52-70-58
25 Best Things to Do in Ensenada
- Canon De Dona Petra Ecological Park, Photo: Courtesy of Tom JMelo - Fotolia.com
- Caracol Museo de Ciencias (Caracol Science Museum), Photo: Caracol Museo de Ciencias (Caracol Science Museum)
- Desert Trails, Photo: Courtesy of virgonira - Fotolia.com
- El Jardin de Tara, Photo: El Jardin de Tara
- El Salto Canyon and Waterfall, Photo: Courtesy of Debra - Fotolia.com
- Guadalupe Island, Photo: Courtesy of wildestanimal - Fotolia.com
- Hussong's Cantina, Photo: Courtesy of Syda Productions - Fotolia.com
- Juan More Taco Food Tours, Photo: Courtesy of Maren Winter - Fotolia.com
- La Bufadora, Photo: Courtesy of Sergei - Fotolia.com
- La Guerrerense, Photo: La Guerrerense
- Las Canadas Canopy Tour, Photo: Courtesy of Petr Bonek - Fotolia.com
- Maya Cacao, Photo: Courtesy of foliavectorolirz - Fotolia.com
- Ensenada Museum of History, Photo: Ensenada Museum of History
- Regional Historical Museum, Photo: Regional Historical Museum
- Riviera of Ensenada, Photo: Riviera of Ensenada
- Sergio's Sportfishing, Photo: Courtesy of salvoni photo - Fotolia.com
- Skydive Baja, Photo: Courtesy of freefly - Fotolia.com
- Surf Ensenada, Photo: Courtesy of Fredrik - Fotolia.com
- The Opal Mine, Photo: The Opal Mine
- Valley Girl Wine Tours, Photo: Courtesy of sherryvsmith - Fotolia.com
- ATV Ensenada, Photo: Courtesy of navee - Fotolia.com
- Baja Blue Diver, Photo: Courtesy of james - Fotolia.com
- Cafe Torino, Photo: Cafe Torino
- Desert Nest Zipline, Photo: Courtesy of aquatarkus - Fotolia.com
- Ensenada Brewing Company, Photo: Ensenada Brewing Company
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Andrea Izzotti - Fotolia.com