Mexico is full of many diversified and colorful places that just happen to catch your eye no matter where you’re heading to in the country. Back in March of this year, my parents and I had embarked on a cruise where one of the destinations was Mexico, specifically in the state of Baja California and the city is called Ensenada.
Ensenada is a bit of an underrated coastal destination but with cruises making it a destination stop, it’s getting more and more noticed. Though Ensenada is a safe and affordable area to stop by and explore when you’re on a budget. It’s just less than 2 hours away from San Diego, so a drive off of there wouldn’t be bad. Ensenada, a small coastal city in Baja California, is a great introduction to the culture and for a beginner of Mexico. And just like the English meaning of ‘ensenada’ translating to a ‘small coastal inlet’ or ‘cove’, there’s no better word to name and describe this city.
I was greeted with the views that sunny morning I woke up when the cruise docked right into Mexico, I was captivated by Ensenada’s buildings stacked up by another on the grassy hills and the many sailboats docked. The city is actually a port for fishing, important commercial, and it handles farms that grow vegetables and flowers. I was then curious, “what would be there to explore in this city?” It surprised me, especially not knowing a certain thing or doing very minimal research beforehand. We decided to join a tour guide and allow her to present us with things to explore the Ensenada experience.
Here are 9 things to do when you travel to Ensenada:
1. Wine tasting
If you’re a wine lover or just want to taste the local wine of every vineyard you can find in your travels, then you can experience it right here in Ensenada. There are many wineries to stop by in Ensenada and they will all offer the divine taste created in the city as it is considered the wine capital. The one we stopped by was bought to us by the Ensenada Travels Tours we took. From here, you can witness amazing green lush mountains and vineyards in the backdrop and feel at peace there sipping away from their varying selection of wine.
With $5 per a nicely poured wine glass, you can choose from sweet-dry to very dry and be pleasantly surprised by how smooth they go down.
2. Visit PaiPai Ecotourism.
If around the corner of the winery I just listed isn’t more of your scene, the PaiPai Ecotourism attraction is connected right to it. PaiPai is a conservation organization that houses exotic animals for rehabilitation such as big cat cubs that is sick or have been abandoned by their moms.
The duties of ecotourisms are to conserve the environment and the well-being of people and animals. Knowing that your admission fees or extra fees to have an up-close and personal encounter with these exotic animals goes to giving the necessary care for these animals and towards education programs gives you the hope to join in. I’ve never heard or seen of lemurs until I took that personal encounter to pet and feed them and they seemed very friendly.
3. Visit La Bufadora, one of the only 3 blowholes in the world.
La Bufadora, located on the Punta Bunda Peninsula, is one of Ensenada’s top attractions besides its wine country. It is one of the only 3 blowholes in the world besides the one in Hawaii and Australia and it places 2nd place for being the biggest. What exactly is a blowhole? It is basically a marine geyser that shoots up ocean water from the pressure of waves under a sea cave.
Looking at the blowhole erupt from the sea was a fun experience as you can hear the waves rumbling and gathering to shoot up the water. Quite violent but majestic to witness. It can shoot up to 100 feet high above sea level and it repeats so many times in just a minute interval. But, don’t expect an Old Faithful with this one.
I should also note the drive here is also very scenic as you’re driving up a higher elevation, getting an epic aerial view of the sea where its blue reflects blends in and seemingly disappears with the sky and mountains from afar.
4. Walk the flea market leading to La Bufadora.
Before you enter into the tourist stop of La Bufadora, there is a long-walked flea market leading to there. This is actually a great way to boost tourism sales for all these local vendors. You can find hand-crafted artisan products, Mexican attire, toys, Ensenada souvenirs ranging from shirts to magnets, knock-off designer bags that are so identical to the real ones… there is pretty much something there for everyone. The best part: there is plenty of all freshly cooked food and drinks to be found here — which I will get to right after.
5. Try authentic tacos and the highly recommended smoked clams.
I highly believe the authentic Mexican tacos are the best type of tacos to exist in the world and I was even more excited to try them in its originating country. Through the flea market, I stopped by a food vendor and ordered myself some chicken and shrimp tacos. It was everything I hoped for and you can choose whichever you’d like to put on them as toppings or you can sit back and relax and let them do whatever. You can also watch them prepare and grill them right in front of you.
I don’t know about you, but my family and I are big into seafood. (Filipinos, go figure!) When our tour guide and other locals suggested trying the smoked clams, we were all in. It looked so appetizing the second my eyes landed on these smoked clams and one whiff of them and your stomach will thank you once you order some. This regional dish is grilled in front of you as well and for $8 for two smoked clams, you cannot go wrong.
6. Try the pina colada and margaritas.
Mexico loves its alcohol. The pina colada is the tastiest out here in Ensenada than ones I’ve tried here in America and so are the margaritas! These tropical drinks will give you that great buzz to feeling good exploring the city and it’s the perfect combination by the shore. With fresh pineapple juice used and with so many samples given and stacked as you walk the flea market, it’ll be hard for you to resist a taste.
7. Try varieties of tequila.
Tequila is quintessential in Mexico… and Ensenada! If you want the real deal, you can find it in this city. There are so many varieties of tequila I can guarantee you haven’t tried outside of the states (if you’re from there, that is). Ever heard of coffee tequila? It tastes just like coffee and you wouldn’t think they’re a good combination til you try it! Or have you tried mango tequila? It’s so good! There was also pink colored tequila to try! (One is called “The Heartbreaker” but it’s unbeknownst to me what the flavor is.)The sampling of tequila is a great experience you have to try if you’re a spirit junkie. If you like those flavors of tequila so much, you can take a whole bottle home as a souvenir for you and your friends and family to share with.
8. Take home a hand-woven Mexican blanket.
Oh my goodness, the Mexican blanket is probably the king of all blankets. They’re also known in their other several names like sarape, serape, or jorongo. It’s the warmest kind of blanket I’ve ever owned or had around me. I have used this blanket twice camping and I can assure that they have withstood harsh cold weathers to keep me from shivering and they’re also cuddle-approved! Not that I cuddled with anything or anyone with it yet… but I know it is. 😉
You can find so many hand-woven Mexican blankets created by skilled artisans here in shops and they’re created in vibrant different colors and striped patterns with usually fringed ends. They’re made from a loom and typically made 50% cotton and 50% acrylic.
9. Admire the shore and the mountains.
Ensenada is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, specifically in the coastline of Bahia de Todos Santos, an inlet of the ocean that serves as the busy Port of Ensenada. As mentioned, the sea is imperative to Ensenada and the maritime industry since it has produced commercially fished seafood to import such as the tuna you can taste right off Japanese markets along with shrimp, sardines, and mackerel, to name a few. Its fishing is considered serious business to the city and it is the only deep-water port in Baja California.
The sea is heavenly blue that is only good to swim in for certain months of the year but shore activities like kayaking can be done there anytime. The city is surrounded by small mountain ranges that actually have trails for hiking and horse riding. The landscapes make for a good destination that fulfills you with Mexico’s nature and family-friendly bonding in Ensenada.
In Ensenada, you can never find a low supply of food to fulfill you at any time of the day. You can always find something to do as a family and there are plenty of markets to stop by and shop in. Ensenada cherishes and takes great pride in what they offer.
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