5 ½ things to do while in the port of Ensenada, Mexico
Over the years, Ensenada, Mexico has become one of my favorite places to visit. It is approximately 67 miles south of the US-Mexico border and 89 miles south of San Diego. I arrived in Ensenada by cruise ship and by bike on the Rosarito-Ensenada bike ride. The weather is pleasant all year round, but strong winds between mid-January and mid-February could potentially disrupt your cruise itinerary or some shore excursions.
The port of Ensenada is one of the most visited ports of call in Mexico by major cruise lines. As you might expect, there are plenty of activities here to keep all cruise ship passengers busy. Below are 5 ½. Yes, 5 ½.
Whatever activities on this list you choose to participate in, you’ll be doing a fair amount of walking. Comfortable walking shoes are recommended.
The first three activities can be experienced without any means of transport other than your feet; they are only a few blocks from the harbor. Others require an organized tour or a taxi to reach. These will most likely be offered as shore excursions by the cruise line you are sailing with.
1. Centro Social, Cívico Y Cultural Riviera Del Pacifico
Your cruise ship will likely offer excursions that include a visit to Centro Social, Cívico Y Cultural Riviera del Pacifico. But it’s so close to the port that you might prefer to walk there yourself. At the time of publication, the entry price was $ 2.
Centro Social, Cívico Y Cultural Riviera del Pacifico was once the Hotel Riviera del Pacifico. Its rich history involves prohibition, Mexican businessmen and politicians, and Hollywood celebrities. After Prohibition ended, things took a turn for the worse for the hotel. It was restored from 1978 and became the Centro Social, Cívico Y Cultural Riviera del Pacifico. What has survived are the beautiful tiles, the murals, the ballroom, the chandeliers, the woodwork, the gardens and the casino room.
I recommend taking a guide so you can learn about the history behind the building and hear a few stories that accompany them. One of my favorite stories is how, during the dances in the ballroom, the boys and girls were able to set up dates while still being under the hawk watch of the chaperones. I also recommend a visit to the museum.
Fun fact: The Andaluz bar in Riviera del Pacifico claims to have invented the margarita. See below for the other origin story.
2. Tasting of fish tacos
It is almost universally accepted that the fish taco as we know it today originated in Ensenada. What better place to create your own fish taco tour than Ensenada! The fish taco contains breaded and fried fish. Angel shark (Angelito) is a commonly used fish because it resists frying well. Spiny dogfish and Mako shark (my favorite) are also used. Cod, pollock, halibut and whitefish are other options. It’s topped with cabbage (sometimes lettuce), pico de gallo, sour cream, or citrus / mayonnaise sauce, and served on a flour or corn tortilla. Variations on toppings, salsas and other condiments help each stand establish its own, uh, flavor, just like the type of fish used. I found a stall on Lázaro Cárdenas just outside the harbor that served manta ray tacos.
If you start at the corner of Avenida Adolfo López Mateos and Castillo and head northwest along López Mateos, you will come across a number of restaurants, cafes and terraces serving fish tacos. Near Miramar, López Mateos turns into Calle Primera. You will find more cabins here. And it’s these shacks that tend to serve the most authentic fish tacos, although the places you’ve been to get here make some pretty good ones.
My personal tour included La Guerrerense (the website is in Spanish – and their cart doesn’t sell fish tacos but their restaurant does), a restaurant called Mariscos Playa Azul, and a final stop at a small stand simply called Fish Tacos Ensenada. , or Tacos de Pescado de Ensenada.
Pro tip # 1: If you’re going for a fish taco tasting, have a light breakfast or skip breakfast altogether. Tacos may look small, but after visiting three or four or more places, you’ll be pretty full. I was, and I have a huge appetite.
Pro tip # 2: Consider going up a few blocks further down Calle Primera to Avenida Ruíz. Turn right. Just before Calle Segunda is the famous Cantina de Hussong. It is said that the margarita was invented here in 1941. A (very strong) margarita from Hussong’s makes a historic and satisfying end to your fish taco tasting tour.
Shopping on Calle Primera / Avenida López Mateos should not be missed. Small electronics, souvenirs, silver and turquoise jewelry (especially jewelry from Taxco, a town famous for its silver and turquoise), trinkets, and arts and crafts abound. Leather goods such as jackets, handbags, sports bags, and so on, are your best bargains.
Start by walking northwest on López Mateos. You will see shops on both sides of the street. Upon arriving at Miramar, you will notice more jewelry stores. Turn right on Miramar and you will come across more clothing, electronics, and general stores.
Pro tip: Most sellers know or assume that you arrived in Ensenada by cruise ship. So although most are negotiating, they will start with the higher tourist prices. The best way to get the best deals is to shop around. It can be as simple as crossing the street at a competitor’s house.
4. Wine tasting tour
I was surprised to learn on one of my previous visits that there were wineries in the area. Located approximately 45 minutes north of Ensenada, Guadalupe Valley (Valle de Guadalupe) is a thriving wine region, home to over 100 wineries. The area is said to rival that of California’s Sonoma and Napa valleys. You can book a wine tasting tour through your cruise line.
You will likely visit two to four wineries depending on your visit. Most of the wineries are located on dirt roads. Make sure to watch the beautiful surrounding valley on your way to the vineyards. Our tour stopped at two wineries in Valle de Guadalupe: La Casa de Doña Lupe and the pioneering winemaker of the LA Cetto region. In addition to producing wine, Casa Doña Lupe produces sherry, tequila and brandy. LA Cetto has an arena on the property. From their domain, you have a beautiful unobstructed view of the valley below.
These tours will usually return you to the ship or drop you off downtown. Taxis from downtown to the port are plentiful, but if you don’t mind walking a few blocks, you can save the taxi fare and spend it on souvenirs.
Pro tip: Buy your wine while you visit the cellar. It is more expensive elsewhere. Check with your cruise line for their policy on returning alcohol on board.
5. Kayaking at La Bufadora (the vent)
La Bufadora, or The Blowhole, is one of the largest marine vent holes in the world. Seeing it from sea level by kayak is a unique experience. Air and water are trapped in an underground cave. When a wave approaches, the pressure in the cave rises. As the wave recedes, the pressure is released, throwing water up to 100 feet into the air.
From the shore you will paddle a short distance to the vent. As you approach the vent, you will be rocking up and down as each swell passes under your kayak. It’s quite humbling when you realize that every swell that lifted your kayak will soon crash into the rocks, resulting in that hundred-foot-high spray and thunder that the blowhole is famous for. Most guides will prepare you to take photos with the vent erupting a safe distance behind you. Bring a waterproof camera. Note: Kayak tours normally only operate during the summer months.
Pro tip: Before starting the tour, ask the guide or driver if the tour will stop at Lidia. They will know about Lidia. If so, you can take advantage of the half that remains to be done …
And a half: La Bufadora belvedere
From the car park, take the asphalt road. You’ll find vendors lined up on both sides of the road selling a wide variety of souvenirs. Churro vendors will offer you fresh samples from the fryer and point you to their stalls. The ones we liked the most were sold by the last vendor on the right, downstairs from the Blanquita restaurant. A vendor had giant clams topped with cilantro and onions, tomatoes and baking cheese on the barbie.
Keep walking along the path until you reach the viewpoint overlooking the vent. There will be a small crowd there where many will take selfies. Bide your time and you can go to the wall to take your own photos. Don’t get too close or you’ll get wet.
Pro tip: If you like fish tacos, you must Stop by Lidia’s Tacos Grill or Tacos Lidia. This once-well-kept secret has been around for a long time. Expect a crowd, but it moves fast.
My next visit to Ensenada is already being planned and will include a reminder of a few of these activities.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about the Rosarito-Ensenada Bike Ride Stan’s references in his first paragraph here.