Ensenada is a pretty typical port town- not particularly glamorous , full of tourist crap but interesting once you start getting off the the main thoroughfare.
We went down for a couple of days before Christmas and I have to say, it was an odd but good experience. The border crossing was no problem whatsoever (not that we were expecting one on the way in), but we could not find the spot to get the little visa we were supposed to get. The websites Al had read said that it could be difficult to find, and they weren’t wrong! Luckily, no one stopped us anywhere so it didn’t turn out to be a big deal. We took the coast road down to Ensenada which was a nice well kept highway. There are tolls along the road which we totally would have paid but no one was accepting any money- still not entirely sure what was going on but you don’t have to tell me twice, I’m taking free tolls!
We ended up staying in an air bnb which was theoretically good: until we had no power or hot water on Christmas day. I didn’t check out any of the hotels but next time I want to spend the money on one of the many eco-lodge thingies nestled amongst the wineries, these TOTALLY sound like me (though cost significantly more than our little air bnb)
So many great little wineries to explore! For this trip we did a day tour with Baja Wine & Sun Tours. It’s a good idea when you want to taste the wine and not have anyone have to drive after. The tour was about 50USD per person and the tour group was small which I really liked. Next time however, I want to explore more the of the wineries so I will need a chauffeur or a sober friend.
TRES VALLES VITIVINICOLA
This little outpost for Tres Valles was our first stop on the tour. Full disclosure, we were pretty hungover when we got here so it took a few wines to get into it! Despite the hangover, this was probably my favourite of the three. It’s small and the server is attentive. I also like the wine the most from here. I found most of the stuff really light and slightly sweet but here we got some that was less sweet. It’ all reasonably priced as well so no excuses not to buy some to take home.
Man was this place was busy! 10,000 tour groups! It was a nice place to do the tastings though because they did them outside. Our server was also highly amused by our stupidity which is a characteristic I really appreciate.
The wines were ok, nothing amazing. As I mentioned before, they were pretty light. I think we ended up picking a chardonnay here. The shop however, was a nightmare! Expect the queue to match the number of tour buses!
The final one for our day, and man what a view! You could sit out there forever enjoying that. Sadly, the wine was not to my taste. I don’t think we even ended up buying anything here which it not like me at all!
Ok, as far as “sights” go, Ensenada town is lacking them. You’ve got a giant flag (I remember seeing one of those in Puerto Vallarta as well, looks like they are a thing).
An Ensenada sign– also familiar from Puerto Vallarta.
The blowhole! Totally worth going out to. It’s about a 30 min drive from town and the roads (once you get out of Ensenada) aren’t bad. You’ve got to pay for parking down there and then fight your way through the market stalls to get to the blowhole. I say fight, you might want blankets, fruit, cocktails or drugs 🙂 One bar bragged about having animals inside, which was something I was not keen to investigate. The blowhole itself was pretty cool though. It really gets a lot of power!
This bar is gorgeous!! Perched up on the edge of a cliff looking over the ocean, this is the perfect place for sunset- which we raced to get to and only caught the tail end of. I’d recommend booking a table, especially if you aren’t going off season like we did.
There’s a couple of important things for you to know about with this place:
- You have to catch their shuttle up to the bar. It’s going to cost you a few pesos, but you get a free beer for the drive. Just pay it, there is no other way up there.
- There is pretty much no mobile reception here, and you are in the middle of nowhere. If you caught an Uber out so you didn’t drink and drive you are going to have to get the hotel reception to call a taxi for you and it is likely going to be a 40 minute wait for it to get there. And you are definitely paying above the odds for that ride home.
- There’s a bar on the boat for you to wait in for your taxi! It’s expensive, but you don’t have a choice. Plus, it’s a boat! On land! I can’t hate on that sort of novelty
Apparently this place invented the margarita. I don’t know if that is really true, but I remember they were good and cheap as hell. The bar was rammed, we were drunk- it was a perfect combination. AND THEN WE MET A MAGICIAN!!!! This night could not get any better. I LOVE magicians! How do they do that? And who carries all that crap out to the bar with them? I’ll tell you who. A smart person who knows I’m buying drinks if you entertain me!
PAPAS & BEER
We ended up in here on Christmas Eve as it was one of the few places open (the town pretty much shuts down from lunch time on Christmas Eve), this place is not really for me. It’s a typical rank tourist bar that is rowdy af. Yes, Hussongs is as well, but when I went there I was rowdy af so…..
I LOVE good Mexican food. Living in LA, I am now hooked. Ensenada has some great restaurants, usually out in the wineries, our problem was the time of year meant a lot of things were closed. You know this means I now have an excuse to go back to an eco-lodge.
This little bakery is delicious!. Everyone but Chris & I were too hungover to drag themselves out for breakfast but that is not a thing for me! I am so glad we went. I had read that the chilaquiles were good here, and you know how I love a chilaquiles! So we got them, with an egg on top. So, so tasty! Plus Chris was very excited by the whole breakfast nachos thing 🙂 We were good friends and brought back pastries for Amanda & Al, which we all ended up being thankful for over the next few days as we ate them. We ended up in a few ’emergency food’ situations and those pastries still tasted good a couple of days later.
It will come as no surprise that these are absolutely everywhere. If you don’t know, the Baja style is a fried fish one. Which in theory is cool, but I always forget I can’t eat battered fish any more- it always gives me a mega stomach ache.
I got a good meat one and fish one from a little stand on Alvarado & Boulevard Cardenas. It was worth stopping at. A good taco can always banish a bad mood (which I was in).
Taco Fenix for a shrimp one. Amanda & Al went for fish and both enjoyed theirs.
And not an actual stand, but a shop, we found a shop doing tasty Tijuana style tacos which was located on Macheros & Juarez. I really enjoyed these, and not just because we had tried about 3 different places looking for dinner on Christmas Eve!
I am genuinely sad I did not get to taste more tacos. I’d say I am not sure how we ran out of time for these things but I think it might have been the wine!
Our tour guide told us this was THE town to come to for breakfast. Apparently in Ensenada, everyone goes out to the many restaurants for weekend brunch. El Correcaminos was his recommendation, and I am glad we headed out. Probably about 30 mins drive out of Ensenada, it’s on the wine highway so again, the roads are in good condition (better than LA).
We went in and it is like a big version of going to someone’s house for breakfast – but you know, someone you pay and don’t know, or even speak the same language with.
The food was delicious and cheap as hell! I went for a huevos racheros, which was a lot wetter than I am used to but the flavour was great. Al had a chorizo egg thing, and his was the winner. But then again, chorizo always is in my books
ADOBE GUADALUPE FOOD TRUCK
We stopped in here on our wine tour, as recommended by our driver. It’s a Spanish tapas style food truck at one of the wineries. We past a hundred little hole in the wall places I probably would have stopped in but this was nice. You sit out in the gardens and despite having no power, they were still getting food out, seriously impressive. The potatoes were sooooo good! So were the croquettas, but the prawns tasted seriously plasticy to me, probably because I couldn’t see the water.
So while Ensenada itself isn’t an amazing town, it is well worth a visit to get out to the wineries. I’ll be heading back down for my eco-lodge fix and check out some of those restaurants I missed out on this time.