The former capital city of Baja California, Ensenada, makes for a wonderful stop-off point on any road trip through the peninsula. Just over 100 km south of the American border, Ensenada is regarded as the sister city to Tijuana and “The Wine Capital of Mexico”. Valle de Guadalupe is a 45 minute drive away and boasts sensational wine and Baja Med cuisine.
Whether you arrive by car or cruise ship, this port city can be recognized from a far distance due to the massive Mexican flag that stands proudly over the malecon. The esplanade is a nice place for a stroll where you will see small fishing boats jostling for space with large cruise ships full of tourists. Avenida Lopez Mateos is the other main walking destination.
Spanning four blocks, Lopez Mateos is the perfect place to base yourself for a few nights and enjoy the restaurants, shops and vendors on your doorstep that sell everything from fine art and jewelry to tacky t-shirts and souvenirs. Food and wine are two highlights of the city, especially seafood which can be tried at famous street food stalls such as La Guerrerense.
Beyond the city limits lies a different set of pleasures, namely: outdoor adventures. Two national parks are situated nearby – Constitution 1857 and Sierra de San Pedro Martir national parks. The latter is where hikers can hit the trails around the highest mountain in Baja called Picacho Del Diablo (Devil’s Peak). Also, the National Astronomical Observatory is found here.
Another popular attraction is La Bufadora – a marine geyser where waves crash into a small cave. At high tide the pressurized waters shoot up into the sky in a spectacular fashion. The best way to experience these places, and even more destinations in the area, is to book one of the Ensenada tours offered by a fantastic local company called Ensenada Excursions.
This 5-star rated tour operator can customize a dream experience for you, no matter your preferences. Their team of bi-lingual drivers and tour guides offer pick-up and drop-off services at the cruise port or at your hotel in downtown Ensenada. Enjoy a mix of adventure, spa treatments and food & wine on one of their excursions. Let’s have a look at their tours below.
7 Best Tours in Ensenada
1. La Bufadora Tour
La Bufadora is the second largest marine geyser in the world but you should know that there is no volcanic activity. Instead, pressurized water that reaches a peak during high tide explodes into the air to create a geyser-like effect. The drive from Ensenada takes 45 minutes and winds its way around stunning coastal roads. The journey there is a highlight in itself.
On this private tour with Ensenada Excursions, you will be picked up from the cruise port or your hotel and transported in an air-conditioned vehicle. Included on the trip is a visit to a flea market where you can go shopping, a free tequila tasting, and other stops such as roadside taco stands and souvenir stalls. Seeing this geyser up close is a tremendous experience.
2. Ensenada Horseback Riding Tour
Ensenada’s beaches and mountains provide an ideal setting for horseback riding adventures. With the team at Ensenada Excursions you can choose to either ride horses on the beach or in the mountains (the mountain trip is longer). Be led along relaxing trails by your vaquero who will ensure maximum safety and comfort. These horses are well trained and behaved.
3. ATV Tour in Ensenada
A thrilling ATV ride on a dirt track in the mountains near Ensenada. There will be no other vehicles on the road – just your group and their ATV’s carving up the trails. Get all dusty and let loose before you head back to your hotel where you can shower or jump into the sea at the nearest beach. Private transport is included as well as a “back-to-ship” guarantee.
4. Zipline and Canopy Tour
For a truly unforgettable experience book the Zipline and Canopy Tour with Ensenada Excursions. This four hour adventure tour takes you across a series of hanging bridges and five different ziplines where you can build up some speed. It’s a lot of fun to propel yourself from one pulsating zipline line to the next. Your group will leave with some awesome photos too.
5. Valle de Guadalupe Wine Tasting Tour
Valle de Guadalupe has become a popular spot recently thanks to some fantastic wine labels, spectacular vistas and a handful of Instagrammers frequenting the area. Despite its popularity, Guadalupe is still a relatively relaxed place where you can try your favorite bottle of local wine and gorge on delicious Baja Med cuisine (fusion of Mexican and Mediterranean).
The area boasts many wineries and you can easily do three tastings in a day. While it takes 45 minutes to get there from Ensenada, the wine route starts about 20 minutes in – so the drive along the way is rather special. Having your own designated driver means you can travel to the region worry free and not have to watch how many glasses of wine you drink!
On the Valle de Guadalupe Wine Tour with Ensenada Excursions, you will get the chance to visit three boutique wineries and be taken care of from start to finish. The duration of the tour is five to six hours which will give you plenty of time to delight your palate. There is also an option to add on a massage or facial to this experience for those who are interested.
6. Day Spa in Ensenada
After a few activities that have got your heart racing and adrenaline pumping, what better way to relax than at Ensenada’s best day spa (as rated by TripAdvisor). Enjoy massages, facials and manicures at Ensenada Massage – the trusted prefered partner of Ensenada Excursions. These spa treatments can be done on their own or added to an existing tour above.
7. Surf Lessons in Ensenada
If you have ever wanted to learn surfing then this surf lessons tour is your chance! Suited for the entire family, even young children (ages 5+) – enjoy two hours trying to stand up on your board for the first time at a fantastic beginners beach. A local instructor will provide you with all the gear and lessons you need to (hopefully) be able to ride a wave no matter how small.
Good to Know Before you Go
This amazing Mexican peninsula that sits below the US is best experienced on a road trip. You can get some inspiration here: Baja California Road Trip blog. Having your own car opens up a world of opportunities where you can cruise along the stunning coastlines at your own pace, and stop at picturesque bays and taco joints whenever you please.
Ensenada is a great place to visit after Tijuana. Some people might want to stay in Valle de Guadalupe, but we recommend basing yourself in Ensenada for a few nights to soak in the city atmosphere and to try the famously good food. Find a hotel that offers parking, and then just enjoy strolling the streets and booking tours which include pick-up and drop-off.
This is a safe city as long as you keep your wits about you. Many people here can speak English, however knowing some basic Spanish will make your trip more enjoyable. If you are driving, be sure to organize proper car insurance for Mexico. For those arriving by cruise ship, the best way to spend your time is by booking a tour like the ones mentioned above.
Ensure the tour provider guarantees “back-to-ship” drop-offs in time for your departure. With a full day in Ensenada, cruise guests could enjoy a walk around the city in the morning before booking a tour for the afternoon. Supporting tour operators like Ensenada Excursions helps to support locals and keeps money circulating in the economy, which is nice.
US Dollars are widely accepted. Although you might receive change in pesos, so just keep that in mind. Ideally you would have a mix of dollars and pesos. Finally, make sure you stop by La Guerrerense and try their outstanding seafood. The late-great Anthony Bourdain ate here and was stopped in his tracks by how good the food was. For sure you will be too!