- Car Rental
- Bus Shuttle
- How to Get There
- Where to Stay
- Where to Dine
- Shopping Tour
- Exquisite Weddings
- La Bufadora
- Deep Sea Fishing
- Calendar of Events
- Wine Tasting in Ensendada
- Valle de Guadalupe
Only 70 miles south of the border via a sleek, modern toll road, which hugs the coastline is the romantic resort town of Ensenada, Mexico. It picturesquely rests on the shores of beautiful Todos Santos Bay. Here too are more than 70 excellent wineries which comprise Mexico’s popular wine growing region. So plan on a day excursion to visit the wineries as one of the attraction to see.
English is spoken in all of the hotels, restaurants and shops mentioned in this chapter. U.S. currency is readily accepted as well. U.S. citizens entering Mexico must have a valid passport. Americans and Canadians can enter Mexico for up to 7 days without a VISA.
Your American insurance is not valid in Mexico. So it is essential that you purchase it before crossing into Mexico. BajaBound.com is a great option, just click, buy and print and you’re ready to go.
Many travelers opt to rent a car instead. A company at the border that offers this service is International Car Rental, at 710 East San Ysidro Blvd. Suite D, San Ysidro (619-428-5100) [intlcarrentals.com]. They are open Mon.-Sat. 8 a.m.-–7 p.m. and Sun. 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Ask them about their daily specials. They have a fleet of cars to choose from and accept all major credit cards. It is easily accessible by taking the last U.S. exit before entering Mexico. Then take a left at the first signal; go across the bridge and turn right at the next signal and you will find their office on the right at 710 East San Ysidro Blvd. See San Ysidro.
Ensenada Bus Shuttle
California Fun Ride (877-729-8807) [shuttletijuana.com] has added transportation to Ensenada and the Tijuana Airport. This 29-passenger shuttle service originates in Downtown San Diego and travels to Ensenada. The cost is a mere ($30) per person each way. Their Tijuana Airport Shuttle is just ($18). Credit cards: MC, VISA.
Charter a Bus
Rent a bus for a fun day excursion of wine tasting in Ensenada’s Guadalupe Valley wine country by getting a group of up to 25 people and rent a bright red modern Mexicoach bus for a very reasonable fee of ($800) round trip. This works out to be a mere ($32) per person. Since it is a chartered bus you can even make arrangements for an overnight stay in Ensenada as well. You may also bring five cases of wine on a bus back to the U.S. And Volari’s Busline at (619-666-7800) offers a free shuttle to Ensenada.
How to Get There
If you are going to Ensenada by car, be sure to look for the signs that say Toll Road which will lead you out and around the outskirts of Tijuana and to the toll road. This scenic 70 mile toll road will take you past Rosarito Beach and down the coast with a constant view of the romantic views. The cost is about ($8) and will take you about one and a half hours to reach the small, romantic seaside resort town of Ensenada Mexico. A nice convenience is that there are rest rooms at each toll booth. But bring a roll of toilet paper just in case they have run out.
Make sure that you purchase Mexican auto insurance from a reputable company such as Baja Bound.com, which sells reasonably priced insurance online and accepts AE, MC and VISA. The beauty of online purchasing is that you can be quickly insured vs. stopping at the border and getting a policy at a drive thru brokerage firm or having to stop at the border and walk in to purchase it. So by purchasing your insurance online, you just stream through the border and on to your adventure in Mexico.
Upon entering Ensenada be sure to stop by an information office where bilingual staff can assist you. The first option is a Secretaria de Turismo office at Blvrd. Lázaro Cárdenas 1477, (+52 646 172 5444) just past the Museo de Historia on the left side heading South. This service is also provided by the Ensenada Tourism Board (16) which is called the Proturismo de Ensenada and is the City’s Visitor Information Center (01152-646-178-2411) located at 540 Blvd. Costero. It is on the right hand side of the street at the entrance of Ensenada in a two story white building. They are open daily 8 a.m.-8 p.m.
Where to Stay
Hotel Coral & Marina (16) on the Tijuana to Ensenada road just north of Ensenada, km 103, at 3421 Zona Playitas Ensenada. For reservations call direct (01152-646-175-0000) or toll free (800-862-9020) or (877-233-5839). Rate schedule for this 145-room, all suite hotel with ocean-view balconies is ($137-$851). Everything about this premier, modern hotel-resort and marina is first class. The suites are beautifully appointed with many modern conveniences including cable TV, HBO, air conditioning, wireless internet, and international telephone lines. Their spacious Antares Restaurant serves delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner. It overlooks the 382 -slip marina. This full-service marina with a 24-hour dock master can accommodate boats up to 120 ft. in length. They also have 2 lighted tennis courts, Jacuzzi, 24-hour security, ultramodern European-style spa offering massages, facials, steam sauna, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Plus, they offer an ocean-view lobby bar and nightclub, up to 600-person convention center, professional catering and two gift shops. If you are searching for a wedding site, they offer full service at two beautiful gardens for 320 people and banquets for 350 people. This resort has it all! Credit Cards: AE, MC, VISA.
Posada El Rey Sol (24), 130 Blancarte Ave., across from the world famous El Rey Sol Restaurant. For reservations call (1-888-3116871) or [firstname.lastname@example.org]. Prices for the least expensive room range from ($89 in the off season plus tax) to ($109) for a single room in the high season plus tax). The junior suite is ($170) plus tax in the low season). Prices are guidelines and may change without notice. Warm hospitality and personalized service, with a charming Mexican colonial ambience, make this 52-room boutique hotel a real winner. Also featured is a honeymoon suite along with many upgraded rooms and a cantina restaurant overlooking the pool and Jacuzzi. It’s ideally located literately steps from the Paseo Calle Primera shopping and dining promenade. See Where to Dine in this chapter. Plus, they have 24-hour auto security, and wireless Internet in every room. This place is a good, reliable recommendation and always ranks highly on [tripadvisor.com]. Credit cards: AE, MC, VISA.
Where to Dine
When dining, take the opportunity to order wines produced in the Guadalupe Valley. Ensenada has several excellent restaurants. The best of the best is the city’s internationally acclaimed French restaurant.
El Rey Sol Restaurant (23), Ave. Lopez Mateos 1000 Ensenada (011-52-646-178-1733) featuring French, Mexican and Seafood. ($10-$30). Here in the heart of town is the one and only El Rey Sol Restaurant, which is reason enough to visit Ensenada. If fact this award winning restaurant has won or bestowed almost every award of excellence imaginable worldwide no less! It’s beautiful from it high cathedral ceilings to it’s intimate seating with attentive well-trained waiters who will attend to your every need. Breakfasts are excellent as are the full course meals such as freshly caught lobster to a sizzling rib eye steak to escargot. They have it all and more. You will simply rave about this dining discovery. And it has received every restaurant award imaginable. Even from the president of Mexico. Credit Cards: AE, MC, VISA.
Sano’s Steak House (26) km 108 on the Tijuana to Ensenada Toll Road just north of Ensenada (011-52-646-174-4061). For great steaks and attentive service look no farther than this well-established restaurant. Credit cards: MC. VISA.
The premier shopping and dining district is an eight-block promenade called Paseo Calle Primera. The geographic perimeters are from Avenida Blancarte at the south end, north to Avenida Ruiz, with many additional shops and restaurants on the side streets and along Boulevard Costero (see map). Expect to find silver jewelry from Taxco, Mexican folk art, beautiful embroidered dresses, hand blown glassware, leather goods and imports including French perfumes. Best of all, you will be purchasing duty-free merchandise at 30–60 percent off U.S. prices. Most stores are open daily 9 a.m.–7p.m. Most accept credit cards and all accept U.S. dollars. English is spoken at all of the shops and restaurants on this tour. If you like to bargain, some stores will give you a better price.
Casa De Los Siete Patios (30), at 99.75 Km. Carretera Mex.1, Ensenada (01152-646-178-8486) [CasaDeLosSietePatios.com] is a luxurious 8,000 sq. ft. villa overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which can easily accommodate any wedding up to 600 people for a magical and unforgettable event. Contact their office Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. to plan your custom wedding package.
La Bufadora “Blow Hole”
A few miles south of town is a spectacular blowhole (25), which spews ocean water up to 35 ft. in the air with a mighty roar. Admission is free. There’s a shopping and dining area with live music every Saturday.
Deep Sea Fishing
Deep sea fishing is also popular here. Boats vary in size from the big 30 passenger Coco Loco with Captain Arturo Reyes (01152-646-185-1464) to the smaller Wahoo carrying 6 passengers and skippered by Captain Jorge Villanueva (01152-646-208-2302). The total fleet contains about 30 boats. They will also ice your fish or smoke it for you or you can take it to El Rey Sol Restaurant and they will prepare it to your liking.
Calendar of Events
For exact dates, contact the tourism office at (01152-646-172-5444).
Here is an event you should not miss. It is called Fiestas de la Vendimia (+52-646-178-3038) and it a festival like no other. It is a two and a half week festival celebrated throughout the city of Ensenada and other participating municipalities [www.provinoac.org/] as well as at many wineries [email@example.com]. The objective of this vastly popular event is to introduce and educate the general public as to magnitude of the quality of the wineries in the Guadalupe Valley, which is less than a half hour north of Ensenada. This year’s event will be held from July 28th through Aug. 20th, 2017. Each event has a different cost but the initial event is about ($40) a person and is called Muestra de Vino and will be held at the Rivera del Pacifico Convention Center in Ensenada. You can obtain tickets by contacting the Provino office by phone.
Wine Tasting in Ensenada
Wine lovers will definitely enjoy discovering the many wineries that comprise Mexico’s most valued wine growing region. It’s called the Valle de Guadalupe. If you don’t have time to go to the wineries be sure to visit Bodegas de Santo Tomas Winery at 666 Miramar Ave. (01152-646-178-3333 extension 26). Knowledgeable wine drinkers know that wines from Bodegas de Santo Tomas are excellent. Of particular note are the San Emilion, Barbera and Chardonay. The winery was founded at the beginning of the 17th century by the Order of the Dominican Fathers. The stocks of the vines were brought from Europe. Their half-hour tour, conducted by a bilingual guide, concludes with a sampling of nine wines and a brandy along with an assortment of breads and cheese, after which you may purchase these and other wines from their package store. The cost of this thoroughly rewarding tour is only ($10) to sample five wines. Tours are conducted daily at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Special tours are given by appointment.
Valle de Guadalupe Wineries
The Guadalupe Valley wineries are a hot item to get to know while they’re still relatively unknown. And due to the limitation of print, only a few could be featured in print but if you go to the state of Baja Norte’s website aptly named [discoverbajacalifornia.com] many more are featured.
The top four wineries in terms of reputation and years in business are listed first. These are the wineries that you should definitely visit.
L.A. Cetto, Valle de Guadalupe at Km 73.5 Highway 3 Tecate–Ensenada (01152-646-155-2264) [cettowines.com]. Open daily 10 a.m.–5 p.m. L.A. Cetto is the largest producer of wine in Mexico and one of the most renowned wineries in the Guadalupe Valley. They offer gardens, a picnic area, wine tasting room, tours and the wine boutique. Plus, they have a tasting room in the city of Ensenada. No reservations required.
Pedro Domecq, at Km 73.5 Highway 3 Tecate–Ensenada (01152-646-155-2249) [domecq.com.mx]. Open Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; and Sat. till 1:30 p.m. Domecq is famous throughout Mexico for making both wine and brandy. The winery features a wine tasting room, picnic area and store. They also have wine tasting, shopping and tours of the vineyards. No reservations required.
Monte Xanic, 01152-646-155-2080) [montexanic.com.mx] from Highway 3 take the main road to the small town of Francisco Zarco. Follow the signs to the winery and on the right just after the INAH Museum you’ll find the winery’s entrance. Open Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–4 p.m.; Sat. till noon; Sun. 10 a.m.–4 p.m. Established in 1985, this privately-owned vineyard and winery offers wine tasting, tours.
Viña de Liceaga, at Km 93 Highway 3 Tecate–Ensenada (01152-646-178-2922). Open Mon.–Fri., 8 a.m.–5p.m.; and Sat.–Sun. from 5 p.m. This family-owned winery and vineyard offers shopping and wine tasting in their cellar. Reservations are not required, but recommended. [vinosliceaga.com].
Adobe Guadalupe, (01152-646-155-2094) [adobeguadalupe.com] from Highway 3 take the main road for approximately 17.5 miles. Cross the Guadalupe River and turn left and travel past Chateau Camou and Monte Xanic wineries. This winery offers wine tastings for ($10) and is also a six-room bed and breakfast inn that features a private restaurant, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and stables. Horseback riding, wine tasting tours, dining and lodging are offered. Reservations required.
Casa de Piedra, at Km 93.5 Highway 3 on the Tecate–Ensenada road (01152-646-178-2173) [vinoscasadepiedra.com] Casa de Piedra winery has a unique tasting room built out of stone. They offer wine tasting, tours of the winery and the annual four weekend wine making seminar. Reservations required.
Chateau Camou, from Highway 3 take the main road and turn at the Health Center (IMSS Centro de Salud). Make a right at the end of Adobe Guadalupe’s vineyards. You’ll see the winery on top of the hill on your left (01152-646-177-3303) [ccamou.com]. Open Mon.–Sun., 10 a.m.–3:30 p.m. Chateau Camou was built in a late 19th century mission style with ample gardens and an excellent view of the valley. Wine tasting, tours and shopping are offered. Reservations required for groups of 10 or more [chateau-camou.com.mx].
Encuentro Guadalupe, km 75 on the Tecate-Ensenada Road
(01152-646-151-6137). Just north of the Town of Gaudalupe. Featuring 6 vineyards and four varietals with a production of 6,300 cases annually.