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About Carla White

Carla White is a freelance writer, public relations/marketing consultant and event organizer based in Ensenada, Baja, California. Carla and her husband Jim moved to Baja in 2003 from the Los Angeles area believing that, thanks to the internet and satellite communications, they could continue working from home while enjoying a richer, more affordable lifestyle. So far, they’ve been right. Connect with Carla Google+

UPDATE: Tijuana-Ensenada Toll Road Collapses, Full Access to Ensenada Remains

Updated Information about Baja.com story:   Alternate Routes Designated/Full Access To Ensenada Remains

(See story below about toll road collapse on Dec. 28)

When traveling South on the toll road, the police will direct you off at Alisitos (La Fonda), which will get you to the free road and into Ensenada.
 If you are going to Bajamar, Punta Piedra, La Salina, etc., you can make a quick U turn and tell the police where you are going, they will let you back on the toll road and you can continue south.

Baja Government Designates Alternate Routes

Following Collapse of Scenic Road Section

Full Access Remains & Ensenada Events Continue As Usual

ENSENADA, BAJA CALIFORNIA (December 28, 2013) – . The State Government of Baja California, through the Ministry of Tourism (SECTURE), has designated alternate routes following the Saturday closure of a collapsed portion of the Tijuana-to-Ensenada Scenic Road.

The collapsed section of the Scenic Road sits on a geologic fault, said Baja Assistant Secretary of Tourism Ives Lelevier. It is at KM93, approximately 15 miles south of La Mision, and about 30 miles south of Rosarito Beach. It had been scheduled for temporary closure.

Mr. Lelevier said further study is being done to determine more about the cause of the collapse, as well the time needed before the road can be safely reopened.

The Scenic Road, for which tolls are charged, opened in 1967 and carries four million vehicles annually, It is the main route used between Tijuana and Ensenada by tourists, residents, businessmen and others, although an alternative Free Road is available.

“We hope the reopening can be done reasonably quickly, once all safety concerns are met.” Mr. Lelevier said.

In the meantime, events in Ensenada continue as usual. Signage and traffic direction are being put in place so that alternate routes, some near Baja’s Guadalupe Valley wine country, can easily be used.

Full access to Ensenada remains open.

Full access to Ensenada remains open.

Motorists traveling south to north, from Ensenada to Tijuana, will need to take the Free Highway and then enter the Scenic Road at La Mision, or simply continue on the free road to Tijuana.

Motorists going north to south, from Tijuana to Ensenada, need to leave the Scenic Road at the same spot deviate and take from there the free road to Ensenada, through the town of El Tigre.

 Another alternative is to use the federal Highway 3, Tecate – Ensenada, or take the road Ensenada – San Felipe to travel to Mexicali.

 “The picturesque roads will be well marked and assigned additional resources, but we will be working aggressively to reopen the Scenic Road section now closed to minimize any inconvenience.” Mr. Lelevier said.

 Baja State Tourism asks that motorists follow the new signs and directions of traffic support staff. Who are working in the area of diversion in order to expedite the maximum circulation.

For relevant tourism information in Ensenada, as well as the rest of the state of Baja California, the Ministry of Tourism has a number for Visitor Assistance and Attention: 078  that can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

From the United States the phone number to call is 1-866 978 7273.   Further information also will be posted on www.discoverbajacalifornia.com

Media Contact:   Mariano Escobedo, Director International Relations

 

Collapse of Tijuana-Ensenada Toll Road Precipitated by Earthquake

 by José Luis Sánchez Macías, excerpted with permission from San Diego Red

On December 28, late in the afternoon, the spectacular TijuanaEnsenada toll road fully collapsed. The road, which is the major artery for trucking companies and tourists arriving by car to Ensenada from the north, could take up to year to repair while travelers are forced to use old two-lane road (the free road).

tijuana toll road

tijuana toll road2

 

Days after a 4.6 earthquake struck south of Ensenada, the Tijuana-Ensenada toll road has collapsed towards the sea and threatens to continue to sink, although no injuries have been reported. The scenic road had already seen evidence of fractures and sinking since December 19th, the day of the earthquake, with many travelers posting pictures on social media of the increasingly critical situation of the highway.

However, no official state geologist or road engineers have confirmed that the collapse is due completely to the earthquake, with only the state government saying that “natural causes” were to blame. UPDATE: Baja California State Civil Protection has also put out the official version that this was due to a fault line running through the area.

On the morning of December 28,  the small fractures suddenly turned into enormous cracks on the cliffside, plunging the highway deeper and towards the sea (while not there yet), with some parts caving almost 300 feet.  Via Uniradioinforma.com, State Civil Protection Director Antonio Rosquillas said early Saturday morning that the collapse began to worsen around 2:30 a.m.

The collapse happened at the Salsipuedes stretch of highway towards Ensenada overlooking steep bluffs, only about 10 miles north of Ensenada and the San Miguel toll booth, and 56 miles south of the border.

Authorities have closed the highway from the La Misión toll to the San Miguel toll, forcing travelers to take the old non-toll road from La Misión to Ensenada, a alternate route of about 30 miles.  (Residents of the areas south of La Misión but north of the collapse can cut through to their development, with permission by civil authorities).

tijuana toll road3

From the BajaDock blog: http://bajadock.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/ensenada-toll-road-slide/

Also, the Baja state government advises travelers to take Federal Road 3 if they are heading out from Tecate towards Ensenada, or use the old Ensenada – San Felipe road for trips from Mexicali to Ensenada, or vice versa. There are conflicting accounts about just how long the highway will remain closed. Frontera reports that Rosa María Castañeda, regional director of the Federal Roads and Bridges agency responsible for the highway (Capufe in Spanish), has said that it might only take a week until the road reopens once again, although it’s hard to look at the pictures and conclude that it might only take a week. Other reports put the total time needed for such repairs at one year.

Baja California governor Francisco “Kiko” Vega tours the site of the collapse.

Baja California governor Francisco “Kiko” Vega tours the site of the collapse.

On December 29, Baja California governor Francisco “Kiko” Vega, toured the stretch of collapsed highway that connects Tijuana and Rosarito with Ensenada, after it sunk almost 300 feet off the cliffside and towards the coast on Saturday, adding that they’re working towards a definitive solution to the scenic road’s problems.

Baja.com notes:  The ‘free road’ route that is being used to redirect traffic to Ensenada turns inland, and is a dramatic road that passes close to Mexico’s wine country.  Although it is likely that the route will add 30-50 minutes of travel time to the drive to Ensenada, it is scenic and offers a view of Ensenada that most first-time tourists to the region do not get.  Additionally, with the highway being closed in La Mision, at the famous La Fonda restaurant exit, visitors should note that if they are proceeding to La Salina or to Bajamar Hotel and Oceanfront Golf Course (which are not at all threatened unstable earth), they simply need to address the civil servants at the highway exit point.

 

Sandiegored.com is designed as the first portal in Spanish that provides information/entertainment and news in SanDiego and the Tijuana / Baja California region. Our main objective is that you find all the information that you need in SanDiegoRed and BECOME  your preferred portal. We are committed to working tirelessly to meet your expectations and deliver the best website in Spanish. Contact SanDiegoRed.com or call (858) 454-511.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about localrestaurants, hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411.

Mole Magic by Chef Martin San Roman: Turkey and Organic Mole Dishes for the Holidays

 

An organic mole was created by Chef Martin for Whole Foods Market in Hillcrest, San Diego.

An organic mole was created by Chef Martin for Whole Foods Market in Hillcrest, San Diego.

There are few things more iconic of Mexico than mole, a word that most people associate with chocolate but which actually is a generic reference to a number of different sauces that are integral to authentic Mexican cuisine. And there are few chefs whose culinary skills capture the magic of mole quite as effectively as Chef Martin San Roman.

Chef Martin San Roman

Chef Martin San Roman

The award-winning (more than 250 awards, actually) Chef Martin has traveled the world representing Mexican cuisine. He is currently a consulting chef for Season Catering and Events and for Whole Foods Market 7th Ave Pub in Hillcrest, both in San Diego. He defines his San Diego menus as Urban Baja Cuisine. He is also the executive chef/consultant  for the boutique hotel La Casa Fernanda’s La Veladora restaurant in the pueblo magico of Tepoztlan, Morelos, Mexico. Here, he has perfected a style of cooking that he calls Baja Tepoz, using ingredients from the Morelos area with a Baja flair – things like wild cilantro, wild mushrooms from deep in the forest, masa triangles called itacates, as well as rabbits, quail, lamb, goat and more.

Rabbit tamal with tomatillo and wild cilantro sauce at La Casa Fernanda.

Rabbit tamal with tomatillo and wild cilantro sauce at La Casa Fernanda.

His deep knowledge of ingredients and how to employ them has helped him attain stature among Mexico’s top chefs…and it has given him the ability to diversify and adapt his food creations to any occasion. Hence, his ability to produce a luscious organic mole for a recent tasting at Whole Foods Market.

Holy organic mole, Batman! This rich concoction, which will undoubtedly make guests ooh-and-aah, is a perfect enhancement to holiday meals, no matter whether they are eaten in Mexico or the United States. Chef Martin has agreed to share his mole recipe and ideas for menu preparation with Baja.com.

First, let’s get to know a bit more about mole. The history of mole is, like the final sauce product, a bit murky but in a delicious way. The favorite version takes place at the Convent of Santa Rosa in Puebla, in the 17th century. The Archbishop was planning a last-minute visit and the nuns didn’t have anything to serve him. They prayed for a tasty answer and, so the legend goes, the angels responded by giving them an idea: the nuns slaughtered an old turkey and, realizing the bird needed some doctoring up, they created a sauce out of things they had on hand—more than 20 components including chili peppers, spices, stale bread, nuts and, to add a European touch, chocolate. Clearly, the dish was a hit.

Grinding nuts, chiles and spices is part of the laborious but rewarding process of making mole.

Grinding nuts, chiles and spices is part of the laborious but rewarding process of making mole.

The word mole comes from mulli, an ancient Aztec word for sauce or stew. There are those who believe that mole was actually created by the Aztec’s king Moctezuma to honor the conquistador Cortez. This version of the story also has a ring of truth in that chocolate was a common ingredient in pre-Columbian Mexico. And there are other versions, too…

What we know for sure is that, history aside, mole is representative of Mexico’s rich culinary and cultural heritage and of the earth, climate and peoples who have invented this savory salsa.

Chef Martin San Roman’s Recipe Created for Whole Foods Market 7th Ave Pub

Organic Mole & Turkey

Step 1:  A 12-14 pound turkey

 Step 2:

3 oz chile morita

3 oz chile pasilla

3 oz chile mulato

3 oz chile cascabel

2 0z chile de arbol

Let the chiles soak in warm water (or organic chicken stock) overnight in a cooler or refrigerator. Save the water.

The next day, fry all the chiles in corn oil, separated, for 1 minute. Then let them cool.

 Step 3:

1 oz sesame seeds

1 oz peanuts

1 oz pumpkin seeds

1 oz walnuts

1 oz almonds

Toast the sesame seeds in a pan and reserve. Fry the remaining ingredients in corn oil. Drain.

Cinnamon and chocolate (particularly Mexican chocolate) add a special flavor to mole.

Cinnamon and chocolate (particularly Mexican chocolate) add a special flavor to mole.

Step 4:

1/2 cinnamon stick

6 oz organic semi-sweet chocolate

Also:

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped tomato

1 tortilla (shredded)

½ cup broken crackers

2-3 cloves of minced garlic

1 chopped plantain

1 tablespoon cinnamon

In a blender, add the chiles and all the nuts.

Then add chopped onion, chopped tomato, tortilla, crackers, minced garlic, a chopped plantain, cinnamon and mix well.

Incorporate the water you have saved (from soaking the chiles) with the blended ingredients (if you need more liquid, it is fine to add a bit more water or organic broth). Blend again, and then pass the mixture through a strainer. Then blend what is left on the strainer mesh with a bit more liquid, and pass it again through the strainer. The goal is to create the smoothest sauce.

In a deep pan, add some corn oil and fry the ingredients, constantly mixing with a wooden spoon. Bring all to a low hot simmer, add the chocolate and and blend well.  Season to taste. Your mole must have a chocolate/reddish color, and a smooth mole texture.

 Step 5: 

Roast your turkey. Let it cool and then carve it into small pieces. Mix the pieces with the mole.

For the very best flavors, eat this delicious dish the day after you make it, allowing all the flavors of the spices, nuts, chocolate and chiles to merge.

To create your organic mole, all products must be organic and you can find them at Whole Foods Market or authentic Mexican market.

Buen Provecho and Happy Holidays!
Chef Martin San Roman

Academie Culinaire de France

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

 

The Tastes of Baja: A Fresh Look at the Latest Culinary Trends

The Tastes of Baja: A Fresh Look at the Latest Culinary Trends

Last year, Baja.com published a story on culinary trends in Baja, focusing on the northern region known as Baja California. Since then, the news of Baja’s gastronomic revolution has spread like honey on a hot day; throughout the world, television programs, newspapers, magazines and social media have lapped up and dished out pieces and pics about Baja’s chefs, stand-out restaurants, and even its food trucks. What began as a tentative foray into the world of fresh, organic and sustainable cuisine has been given a name – Baja Med – and it is reshaping the perception of the Baja peninsula – north and south (Baja California Sur) – on an international level.

So what defines the new tastes of Baja?

Chef Diego Hernandez of Corazon de Tierra literally steps into his garden to find each day's fresh ingredients.

Farm-to-table: Chef Diego Hernandez of Corazon de Tierra literally steps into his garden to find each day’s fresh ingredients.

The basic precepts haven’t changed.  Baja Med focuses on some key concepts:

  • Innovative
  • Organic
  • Fresh
  • Sustainable

Add to that some new buzz phrases:

  • Farm-to-table
  • Slow Food (referring to the movement to preserve authentic, regional cuisine that employs ingredients and characteristics of the local ecosystem)
  • ‘Campestre’ style, that moves away from formalized fine dining to a more casual, authentic approach.

These words reflect a not-so-subtle shift in the way diners are experiencing Baja’s food. Although, certainly, there is still room for the great steak houses like Rosarito’s El Nido, Ensenada’s Sano’s, and Tijuana’s  El Taurino, visitors and locals alike are exploring new ways of eating and appreciating what they are consuming.

Baja's bounty includes vast strawberry farms.

Baja’s bounty includes vast strawberry farms.

Today, Baja’s natural bounty is vast, which is good because it is being consumed with alacrity! Now, menus are rich with descriptive plate details that reflect the peninsula’s seemingly endless acres of tomatoes and strawberries; seafood that is merely hours out of the water; abalone and oysters cultivated in sustainable nurseries. Even venison, rabbit, corn fungus (huitlacoche) and handmade cheeses from local ranchos are making the scene.

And then there are the wines and artisanal beers that are popping up quicker than grasshoppers on a griddle. With literally thousands of wines now made in Baja (from more than 100 wineries) – virtually all from Mexico’s wine country in the Valle de Guadalupe and Valle de Santo Tomas – Baja is showcasing more of its palate pleasers than ever before.

At the recent Sabores de Baja event, Ceasar's restaurant (Tijuana) paired with Madera 5 wines, coming first in the culinary competition.

At the recent Sabor de Baja event, Ceasar’s restaurant (Tijuana) paired with Madera 5 wines, coming first in the culinary competition.

Recently, a gala event atop the new tower of the Rosarito Beach Hotel was held in support of the Rosarito Boys and Girls Club.  The name of the event was Sabor de Baja (Taste of Baja), conceived of by Bo Bendana Sein, who recognized that the excitement behind the gastronomic movement is exactly what she wanted to harness for this fundraising evening. Sabores de Baja brought together Baja’s top chefs, all cooking in a single room, showcasing not only the best chef-ery but the most interesting and authentic ingredients of the region. Drew Deckman was there, and so were Roberto Alcocer, Javier Plascencia, Juan Plascencia, Susanna Stehr,  Erick Saenz, and others. Most remarkable was not the fact that the event was packed; that everyone wore white; that the food was so diverse and across the board delicious. Rather, it was a symbiotic energy that the chefs and sous chefs exuded – a kind of simmering knowledge that they are Baja’s newest rock stars and that the food they work with stars in its own right.

So where do you find these innovative tastes of Baja?  Up and down the Baja.  Not every great restaurant or chef is listed here, but rather the following focuses on some who are putting into practice the ‘new’ Baja cuisine and gastronomy.

Chef Javier Plascencia's Mision 19 restaurant is at the forefront of Baja's new cuisine.

Chef Javier Plascencia’s Mision 19 restaurant is at the forefront of Baja’s new cuisine.

Tijuana

Tijuana has emerged as Mexico’s culinary powerhouse, with even award-winning chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author Rick Bayless calling it “one of the great food cities of North America.”

Here, leading the way, have been food pioneers like Javier Plascencia, the chef-owner of Mision 19, located in the heart of the Zona Rio (River District). Plascencia was one of the first to focus on Baja Med cuisine and his Tijuana restaurant remains supreme in delivering new takes on simple, basic ingredients.

The Plascencia family and Juan Plascencia are behind the all-new and yet delightfully retro Ceasar’s Restaurant in Tijuana. It hails back to its roots (the Ceasar Salad was invented here, and thrives in its new iteration), although the new menu offers delectable twists on things like grilled octopus, carpaccio, and even the amazing tapenade that comes with bread at the start of your meal.

Baja Med cuisine is king at Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero's La Querencia.

Baja Med cuisine is king at Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero’s La Querencia.

Chef Miguel Angel Guerrero’s La Querencia restaurant in Tijuana remains at the top of the food chain, with consistently imaginative dishes and fresh ingredients. Favorites here are plates like flamed tequila octopus, duck tacos, machacas or sashimi. El Taller restaurant is a casual, hip place to sample a wide array of wood-fired pizzas and other dishes. (Chef Miguel’s culinary arm also stretches into Ensenada’s wine region, with Almazara restaurant. Sashimi, gourmet tacos, and other jewels stud the master’s menu).

And speaking about tacos, how about them tacos?  Yes, tacos are indeed turning heads in the culinary world, including those of taco-maker Javier Campos Guttiérez at Tacos Salceados. These are not your Mexican grandmother’s tacos (although who could beat those?), they are whimsical creations using seasonal and fresh products like strawberries and mangos and green onions to sauce up fresh shrimp and cheese. Tacos Kokopelli  (named after the Hopi god of fertility) was started by Chef Guillermo “Oso” Campos Moreno and his brothers, and takes a kind of Aztec thrust at food—salsas and cremas with lots of chiles, peppers, and peanuts.

 

Rosarito

Besides being home to the aforementioned El Nido steak house, this beach town has become famous for its tacos and food trucks. Along with places like Tacos El Yaqui or El Gerente (local hangouts overflowing with carne asada or shrimp offerings), there is also El Gaucho Argentino that offers great sausages, empanadas, and more. Susanna’s is a favorite romantic restaurant for the expatriate community, offering traditional/continental fare with Susanna Stehr’s gourmet twist.

Master Chef Erick Saenz shares his passion for cuisine on his own television program.

Master Chef Erick Saenz shares his passion for cuisine on his own television program.

There is a new chef in town, too…Master Chef Erick Saenz, who brings a fresh taste and fusion-style to dining at the oceanfront Casa Blanca restaurant in the Rosarito Beach Hotel.  Saenz, a celebrity chef for Bravo TV, particularly enjoys taking the tried and true, like filet mignon or perhaps fresh diver scallops and putting a twist on them – eh, voilά, perhaps a Ceviche Margarita ensues!

Ensenada

Cuisine in Ensenada is influenced by several factors: the Pacific Ocean at its doorstep; the fertile fields of Maneadero just south of town, home to acres of abundant, fresh produce, and the fact that Mexico’s wine country is in the city’s backyard.  Just in the past several years, the Valle de Guadalupe has burgeoned from a score of wineries to almost 100. And, where wineries and wine tasters go, restaurants and chefs are sure to follow. The city of Ensenada is full of outstanding eateries and, in the last year, it is estimated that the number of ‘campestres’ in the Valle de Guadalupe has gone from a handful to more than 20.

In September, 2013, an article appeared in Restaurant Magazine noting that of the Top 50 Restaurants in Latin America, two were from Ensenada.

Corazon de Tierra was named one of the top restaurants in Latin America.

Corazon de Tierra was named one of the top restaurants in Latin America.

Corazon de Tierra, under the leadership of Chef Diego Hernandez Baquedano, was one of the restaurants selected by Restaurant Magazine’s culinary experts. Part of the elegant La Villa del Valle retreat, and adjacent to the Vena Cava winery in the Valle de Guadalupe, Corazon de Tierra is avant-garde in its design and menu, both of which incorporate nature at every level. Surrounded by towering glass panels, the dining room merges seamlessly with the organic gardens that surround the restaurant. The very herbs and flowers that serve as ambience for diners also decorate their palates in dishes that vary daily, depending on Chef Hernandez’ menu selections. (New to the La Villa del Valle compound is a high-end food truck, Troika, that offers terrific small-plate salads and foods right outside of the winery. These pair brilliantly with Phil Gregory’s acclaimed wines and with the Wendlandt artisanal beers that are also offered at Troika).

Laja was one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in Ensenada's wine country...and remains one of the best.

Laja was one of the first farm-to-table restaurants in Ensenada’s wine country…and remains one of the best.

But back to those two restaurants selected as among the best in Latin America: the other is an icon in the wine country, Laja (which has been dubbed Baja’s version of Napa’s French Laundry). The masterful Chef Jair Tellez has created a warm, Provencal-type of experience in this white adobe house, where a hot summer breeze can carry the scent of lavender as well as the rich, peppery aroma of searing beef.  Here is a place where it is equally as nice to spend the waning day with a platter of cheese and a crisp white wine as it is to indulge in a Sunday afternoon five-course (or three) prix fixe menu that allows the chef to shine.

Chef Javier Plascencia's Finca Altozano serves 'slow food' in an outdoor setting.

Chef Javier Plascencia’s Finca Altozano serves ‘slow food’ in an outdoor setting.

With success in Tijuana, Chef Javier Plascencia took a look at Ensenada’s wine country and clearly felt compelled to be part of the scene. He opened Finca Altozano in the heart of the Valle de Guadalupe. Here, small plates rule – everything from grilled artichokes to an assortment of tacos that include tongue, lamb, bean and cheese, and others – and the open-air setting fulfills the sense of being at one with nature and its offerings.

Chef Benito Molino and his wife Solange, owners of Manzanilla.

Chef Benito Molina and his wife Solange, owners of Manzanilla.

Manzanilla restaurant is one of Mexico’s most influential, thriving under the powerful talent of renowned Chef Benito Molina and his wife Solange.  Located in the port area of Ensenada, the industrial-looking bistro is innovative both in its rather stark restaurant design and in its offerings. Focusing on its location, this is where seafood, oysters (yes, especially oysters on the half-shell seasoned to perfection), clams and abalone (try it seared) get special treatment. Chef Molina, one of the early pioneers of Baja’s new cuisine, doesn’t just focus on seafood, though…his tapas-style menus are broad, with things like huitlacoche (corn fungus) risotto, sliced beef tongue, and more.

Chef Drew Deckman at his outdoor kitchen at Decman's En El Mogor.

Chef Drew Deckman at his outdoor kitchen at Deckman’s En El Mogor.

Chef Drew Deckman has quickly become a legend in Mexico’s wine country, even though his restaurant is currently operated on a seasonal basis. Deckman’s En El Mogor graces a little knoll adjacent to the Mogor Badan winery. It is surrounded by oleanders, pine trees and vineyards, and from its outdoor kitchen waft the scents of grilling seafood, beef and lamb and other meats, and the subtle aromas of fresh herbs and lightly charred vegetables. The chef, who returns in winter to his restaurant in San Jose del Cabo, prides himself on using only the finest local ingredients, such as regional cheeses, and pairing them with Mogor’s Chasselas or other complementing wines. Deckman’s En El Mogor also offers locally brewed beers and even a mezcal. With white-linen topped tables adorned with fresh flowers and rosemary, it is hard not to feel at one with the land at this charming outdoor bistro.

Mussels and French fries are a staple at the waterfront Muelle Tres.

Mussels and French fries are a staple at the waterfront Muelle Tres.

Muelle Tres, right on the pier, is crazy busy most of the time (it is open only in the afternoons). Owner David Martinez welcomes everyone to this petit eatery and soon the Agua Mala beer is plentiful as is the house ceviche, mussels in broth, sea bass seared to perfection, and all fresh from the boat that has barely docked outside. This is a true favorite for sampling the bounties from the Pacific Ocean that are staples of Baja cuisine.

In San Miguel surf spot near Ensenada, Boules o ffers great views and different spins on things like ribeye, marrow bone, and more.

Located near the San Miguel surf spot in Ensenada, Boules offers great views and different spins on things like rib-eye, marrow bone, and more.

Boules is near the famous San Miguel surf spot, adjacent to the Ensenada toll booth. Javier Martinez Garza runs the restaurant, replete with a boules court (petanco, or bocce ball). Marrow bone appetizers, anyone? That is just the beginning; if you opt for Garza’s tasting selections, a whole series of mouth-watering plates with an edgy presentation will be brought to your table…which, by the way, just might have one of Ensenada’s most spectacular views.

Barra Azul is on 11th street--out of the way. But the seafood dishes here are consistently out of the world, even though they are fresh and local.

Barra Azul is on 11th street– out of the way. But the seafood dishes here are consistently out of this world, even though they are fresh and local.

Barra Azul is not a tourist spot, which is one reason why those who go there enjoy it so much. Many feel that the most consistently outstanding seafood dishes are found at this off-the-main-drag restaurant, located on 11th street. The tempura fried oysters (from sustainable oyster beds south of Ensenada) scream for attention. Luckily, owner Alain Genchi has also created the Ultramarino oyster bar on Ruiz street near Hussongs, so that tourists can get their fix, too.

Malva Cocina de Baja California is at the western edge of Baja's wine country.

Malva Cocina de Baja California is at the western edge of Baja’s wine country.

As its name implies, Malva Cocina de Baja  is riding the ‘campestre’ wave by bringing local ingredients to the table. This is one of Ensenada’s newest restaurants, located in the wine valley in San Antonio de las Minas, at Mina Penelope, the winery of Veronica Santiago. Chef Roberto Olcocer plays a starring role here, along with homemade sauces, cheese and fresh picked herbs that harmonize wonderfully with local wines.

La Guerrerense's Sabina Bandera Gonzalez with her biggest fan.

La Guerrerense’s Sabina Banderas with her biggest fan.

Last but not least in today’s notes: La Guerrerense, on the main shopping street of Ensenada. Here is what celebrity/author Anthony Bourdain said about it: “La Guerrense, a humble street cart, is about as simple as it gets. Doña Sabina Bandera Gonzalez serves up the most mind blowingly fresh, sophisticated and colorful tostadas imaginable. Absolutely phenomenal…”

Los Cabos

Flora Farms

Flora Farms Field Kitchen offers freshness straight from their farm.

There might not be a celebrity chef attached to Gloria and Patrick Greene’s Flora’s Field Kitchen, but the kitchen itself is truly a ‘rock star’ in the world of sustainable, farm fresh eating. Flora’s Field Kitchen is set in the middle of a 10-acre organic garden, and the kitchen uses its own farm-raised poultry and pork (wood-fired pork chops, anyone?) as well as produce and herbs. Cured meats and eggs come from a nearby ranch. Meals are wholly organic; even the cocktails take on a farm-fresh twist, using things like home-grown carrots to create a ‘Farmarita’. Located just outside of San Jose del Cabo, Floras Field Kitchen is offering a fresh look at what Baja’s land – and environmentally conscientious cooks — can put on the table.

Parmesan baked lobster tail with basil butter and lemon risotto at Don Sanchez

Parmesan baked lobster tail with basil butter and lemon risotto at Don Sanchez

Award-winning chef Tadd Chapman has not one but two restaurants in Baja Sur – Don Sanchez and Habanero’s Gastro Grill.  He is referred to as a ‘celebrity’ chef, but that is clearly not what keeps him motivated. Chapman’s restaurants, while populated to some degree by tourists, also attract a goodly volume of full-time residents who are lured by the consistency and freshness of the Baja Fusion/Baja Contemporary Cuisine menus. Both establishments work with local purveyors, including fishermen who bring in the catch of the day (try the gingered tuna ceviche) along with fresh clams and oysters. Chapman’s menu is extremely diverse (as is his vast assortment of wines) but it resonates with the tastes of Baja: stuffed poblano chiles with filet tips and mushroom duxelle; grilled corn, chorizo, panela and cilantro that create a roasted poblano cream, and even a Baja Cioppino seafood chowder are just a few of the Baja Med dishes featured.

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Mi Cocina’s bounties of the sea (Sea of Cortez) prepared in savory style.

Mi Cocina and its co-owner and chef Loic Tenoux are giving San Jose del Cabo a true lesson in Baja Med fusion – things like lobster risotto, marinated octopus and nopal cactus salad. There is something remarkably sunwashed and light about Casa Natalia (home to Mi Cocina), but somehow the food and its presentation underscore this feeling of being on a sunny European coast.  The ubiquitous fresh Baja seafood in combination with unusual home-made products (Chinese noodles, for instance) are helping make people’s experiences at the chic boutique hotel Casa Natalia even more delectable.

Chef Drew Deckman's grilled pulpo (octopus) salad.

Chef Drew Deckman’s grilled pulpo (octopus) salad.

He’s here..and he’s there (up in Baja California, at the outdoor Deckman’s En El Mogor). But Deckman’s San Jose restaurant by Chef Drew Deckman showcases all-Mexico products more, perhaps, than any other in Baja Sur. Drew Deckman is truly one of the Baja kitchen rock stars, probably even has groupies, and he is often seen in the company of some of his fellow chef friends. He spent 10 years in France, Switzerland, and Germany cooking with masters such as Paul Bocuse and Jacques Maximin, earning a coveted Michelin star for his work as executive chef at the Four Seasons in Berlin.  His forte, perhaps, is his ability to absorb and represent the region in which he is working…and he does that with impeccable skill at his restaurant, bringing Baja’s wines to the forefront as an integral accompaniment to the meals he is serving. Diners get to try many of Chef Drew’s specialties through 3-, 5- and 7-course samplings…why wouldn’t everyone go for the 7?

Tuna Tartar at Bar Esquina is a crowd pleaser.

Tuna Tartar at Bar Esquina is a crowd pleaser.

The hip Bar Esquina in Cabo San Lucas has the advantage of being right on Medano Beach. But it also has executive chef Rogelio García whose deft menu choices focus on Mexican-influenced Mediterranean plates like spicy Yellowtail, cucumber and avocado rolls or chorizo pizzas, and organic coffees from Chiapas and Oaxaca. Although the restaurant is part of Bahia Hotel and Beach Club, it stands on its own, attracting a foodie clientele looking for high-end dining at a good value.

Todos Santos

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Tre Galline brings a definitive Baja flavor to traditional northern Italian fare.

Tre Galline is a northern Italian restaurant in Todos Santos…and it is also a northern Italian restaurant in the wine country near Ensenada (seasonal). Owned by Chef Angelo Dal Bon and his wife Magda Valpiani, this restaurant uses age-old Italian recipes but tweaks them with local Baja ingredients and flavors, truly representing the farm-to-table experience.

Sometimes, great restaurants don’t even try to be great. ‘Sustainable’ and ‘Slow Food’ are ways of life, rather than theories put into practice. Secretos del Jardin (the Secret Garden) is just such a place. Run by Laura Martinez and her family, this is an ‘off the beaten path’ kind of dining experience that involves vegetables picked daily from the garden, sauces made on the spot, fresh squeezed juices from local mangos or guavas or strawberries, or chiles rellenos stuffed with shrimp fresh from the net.

If fresh is a trend, then good for us. If ‘campestre style’ means eating healthy, sustainable foods that are produced by real people (not giant corporations) and prepared by cooks who value the ingredients, then what can be wrong with that? And if this part of Mexico is becoming world-renowned for its gastronomy, its rock star chefs and its unique dining experiences, then who’s to argue (and why would they)? These are some of the tastes of Baja in 2013.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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Ship Ahoy! Taking a Cruise to Ensenada

Ship Ahoy! Taking a Cruise to Ensenada

If you are thinking of taking a cruise to Ensenada, Baja California, there are a few things you should know. For instance, it is the only cruise ship port in all of Mexico that increased its number of cruise ship/passenger arrivals in 2012. In 2013, it is anticipated that there will be more than 181,000 visitors arriving in the ‘friendly’ port city of Ensenada, primarily via the Carnival, Princess, Holland America, and Celebrity lines.

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Cruise ships are a frequent sight in Ensenada’s harbor. Photo by Edgar Lima.

There are lots of reasons for the uptick in ‘Cruiser Tourism’ to Ensenada, but keys to the popularity of this particular itinerary are cost and accessibility.

Two-night cruises to Ensenada from Los Angeles start on Carnival from just $199 per person and four-night trips from just $229. At those prices, it would be almost crazy not to take this trip to this city that is also the gateway to Mexico’s wine country and home to some of the nation’s top restaurants (two of which, Laja and Corazon de Tierra, were recently named in the list of Top 50 Restaurants in Latin America). And whether you choose to use your day in Ensenada to take a day-trip or just peruse the shopping district that’s minutes away from the port, it will be easy to fill your hours with safe, fun, and affordable activities. So where to begin?

After disembarking, you’ll pass through the cruise-ship terminal area that hosts a smattering of vendors and information kiosks. It’s fun to look around (albeit a little touristy, but then that is what you are, right?) and, if you are heading out on a day journey rather than visiting the downtown area, you might even want to do some buying in this marketplace.

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The harbor fringed by foothills is a pretty sight to see when you are taking a cruise to Ensenada.

Exploring Ensenada

If you decide that you want to head out on your own to explore Ensenada – also called the ‘Cinderella of the Pacific’ – it’s a no-brainer. Shuttles are available to take you into town (about $2), just a few minutes away.  You can also easily walk, giving you a chance to see the famous Rivera Cultural Center that at one time was a casino but now is more of a venue for weddings and special events and even has its own museum. You will also pass CEARTE, the state’s small but sophisticated museum of modern art that features art expositions, occasional entertainment, and a bookstore. On the ocean-side of Costero Blvd., try to make a stop at the Galeria Pérez Meillón that features hand-selected arts and crafts, including Mata Ortiz pottery and native Indian art from northwestern Mexico.

Mata Ortiz pottery is featured at Perez Meillon gallery.

Mata Ortiz pottery is featured at Perez Meillon gallery.

A little further down the street is Starbuck’s (although for this writer’s money, there are some great independent cafes on Lopez Mateos Blvd., just a street away) and the movie theater, Cinepolis, that shows many English language movies.

Ducking in behind Starbucks and adjacent to the cinema, you will discover one of Baja California’s treasures:  the Mercado Negro (Black Market). It is actually a fish market – and a photographer’s dream venue – composed of individual vendor shelves displaying everything from swordfish and halibut to shiny squid and octopus to mountains of fresh shrimp ranging from small to jumbo. Surrounding the market are numerous small restaurants, most with long dining tables, that serve giant cocktail glasses full of ceviche, fried fish plates and other seafood delights. On the far side of the Mercado Negro, stroll along the oceanfront boardwalk.

Seals and sea lions like cruising to Ensenada, too.

Seals and sea lions like cruising to Ensenada, too.

Returning to Costero Blvd., continue eastward a block. This will bring you to the shopping district on Lopez Mateos Blvd. Although the entire long street has abundant shops of all sorts, from souvenirs to leather and clothing, Lopez Mateos has two very distinct personalities…the northern end and the southern end.

Most visitors start at the southern end, nearest the cruise ship terminal, which is calm and quiet. A gambol into Fausto Polanco is always worthwhile even if the store’s amazing and large handcrafted hacienda-style furniture is not particularly suited to taking back to your ship’s stateroom. A visit to this two-story shop is like traveling back into old Mexico. Its walls are hung with colorful religious icons, massive carved tables and armoirs, and evocative Mexican paintings and figurines. Heading to the north, you will pass wine and coffee bars, and the El Rey Sol restaurant that features fine French dining, not to mention luscious French pastries and coffee drinks.

Along the way, you might take note of a special food truck — La Guerrerense. Usually, there is a long line of people waiting to be served. Why, you ask?  Only because the food — things from the ocean — is amazing, so much so that it has actually been named one of the best restaurants (not just food trucks) in the world! In this stretch, and for several blocks, you’ll discover myriad jewelry stores including the renowned purveyors of .925 silver (always look for the mark), Mario’s and Los Castillos. Purses, jackets and leather goods are great buys in Ensenada, and worth the money even if they are knock-offs.

Lopez Mateos is the main shopping street in downtown Ensenada.

Lopez Mateos is the main shopping street in downtown Ensenada.

At the north end of Lopez Mateos, things get hoppin’ for those in search of parties, music, tacos and beer. The famous Hussong’s Cantina is always a treat and a great place to get your shoes shined by the now-famous Shoe Shine Man. Papas & Beer provides a watering hole and  an official  store, and the corner bar Mango Mango can offer  gigantic group margaritas, which often result in street and sidewalk dancing. There are some great taco stands on the east side of Ruiz (where Hussong’s is), and on the west side of Ruiz is Ultramarino, a great place for oysters tempura and other small plates.

Touring the Ensenada area

Typically, the cruise to Ensenada involves only a single day or an overnight stop, and many cruisers decide to make the most of their time by taking tours of the Ensenada region. According to Oscar Kawanishi, director of Proturismo in Ensenada, there are three really popular tours that offer diverse experiences:  the La Bufadora tour, the City Tour, or the Wine Country Tour.  You may choose to take organized tours or you also have the option or hiring taxis or shuttles to do any of the following.

La Bufadora:  the blowhole.

La Bufadora: the blowhole.

La Bufadora: About an hour south of Ensenada is one of the world’s only true ‘blowholes’, La Bufadora.  It is at the tip of a rocky point and causes oohs and aahs when waves comes scooting between jagged rocks and blow up in foamy pillars high into the air. But for the record, the real fun at this touristy destination is the little village – in fact, going through the one-street village is a mind-boggling mélange of noise and colors, as street hawkers try to lure you with merchandise from all over Mexico. It is good to be prepared and to take it all in good fun; believe it or not, you will actually find some really neat stuff at some good prices. You will also pass restaurants offering the freshest seafood and fare, and you would be remiss not to try the amazing grilled chocolate clams (sort of like clams casino) that are sold from street carts.

The City Tour: This is the more official and comprehensive version of the walking tour you can take by yourself. But the advantage here is that you get some history and information about what you are seeing. You will hear the history of Ensenada and some of the colorful anecdotes that surround places like the Riviera de Ensenada, that was so glamorous in the 1930s.  The tour includes a stop at the lovely Santo Tomas Winery founded in 1888, and it also takes visitors to the shopping district.

the vines

The Wine Country Tour: Remember, there are established tours that can take you to the wine country, or you can consider hiring a taxi or shuttle. The trip to the Valle de Guadalupe – Mexico’s wine country, where 98% of the nation’s wines are produced – is a short one, and you will have ample time to visit several of the more than 100 wineries/cavas that are now in operation. Most wineries are open without an appointment, and many offer cheese plates and breads. You will discover that Mexico is creating acclaimed varietals (predominantly red) like Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Merlot, Zinfandel and others. There are huge operations with giant tasting rooms, such as LA Cetto, and there is also an abundance of boutique wineries like Vinisterra, Mogor Badan, Villa Montefiori, Torres Alegre, Alximia, Vintango, Tres Mujeres, Emeve, JC Bravo, Adobe Guadalupe, Vena Cava and others that welcome your visit.

Other Ensenada Activities

Are you a special interest person? Never fear, there are plenty more activities in which you can engage!

*Harbor Tours, Whale Watching and Sport fishing: Just a walk away from the cruise ship terminal is the pier area, and the Mercado Negro. Throughout the day, harbor tours depart from the pier, offering visitors a chance to see the beautiful bay of Ensenada, Isla Todos Santos (Todos Santos Island), the Estero Beach estuary, and more oceanfront sights. Sport fishing operations, including Sergio’s Sport Fishing, are based in the pier area, as well. Each year, usually starting in November and running well into March, whale watching trips begin, taking visitors out for a few hours to try and see the migrating California gray whales.

bajamar golf course2

A cruise to Ensenada might not be complete with out a land-loving activity like golf.

*Golf: Ensenada features two golf courses, each with its own distinct personality. Bajamar Golf Resort and Hotel is about 30 minutes north of the cruise ship terminal, and offers 27 holes of spectacularly landscaped golf. A number of holes are right on the Pacific Ocean, many with dramatic views and vistas. Baja Country Club is about 30 minutes south of town, with 18 holes of golf in a lovely canyon-like setting. Both courses are challenging:  Bajamar tempts players to hit over barrancas and water features, while Baja Country Club’s long fairways offer plenty of fun for the big hitters.

*Kayaking and panga boat rides: There are several opportunities for kayakers, most available south of town at the Estero Beach estuary area or near La Bufadora.  Los Arbolitos cove offers one of the most famous hotspots for kayakers, nestled into the rugged coastal cliffs.  You’ll feel isolated from the world, experiencing just the sounds of barking seals, crashing waves, and soaring seabirds. For those not into the kayak experience, panga boat rides can also be had at a variety of locations. With experienced drivers/guides, the panga boats can take you into the mussel beds or the estuaries for fishing or sightseeing.

Cruise ships are a great and relaxing way to visit Ensenada…and then at the end of a tiring day, you get to kick back on board, enjoy an umbrella drink of some sort, and share the day’s adventures with your maties. For Mexico newbies, this kind of journey offers an easy and reassuring introduction to the joys of traveling in Baja. A great destination and a great price…so porque no? Why not? In Baja, the end of summer just means it’s time to cruise into more fun!

When you decide to return, whether by taking a cruise to Ensenada or by driving or flying, talk to a travel agent at Baja.com!  We even have tours to help you on your land-bound voyage of exploration.  

 

cruiseship at sunset

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.


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Exclusive Ticket/Accommodation Package for the Grape Harvest Festival, Vendimia

Book now…this package is offered on a first-come, first-served basis.  Tickets are limited!

These are the most exclusive — and hard to come by — tickets  for Baja California’s famous Vendimia, the grape harvest festival, held in Mexico’s wine country in the Valle de Guadalupe!  And this package offers a great value for a two-night stay and two amazing Vendimia events.  Here is a description of the package that includes tickets for two to two events, and a two-night stay at one of Ensenada’s iconic hotels — all for only $849 FOR TWO PEOPLE.

  • Admission for 2 people to the famous  La Muestra del Vino on Friday, August 2, 7 p.m.   This event is one of the most popular events in Ensenada, walking distance from your hotel accommodation.  Tickets are coveted, and very difficult to access.  Baja.com is proud to be able to offer these  tickets that will bring you into Mexico’s world of wines.  With many wineries offering booths and tastings, live entertainment, food tastings and more, La Muestra is a highlight of the grape harvest festival.

 

Tickets to La Muestra, walking distance from the San Nicolas Hotel, are highly coveted.

Tickets to La Muestra, walking distance from the San Nicolas Hotel, are highly coveted.

  • Admission for 2 people to the stunning Las Nubes winery, and  Vinedos Las Nubes Gourmet Dinner with renowned Chef Javier Plascencia on Saturday, August 3, 6 p.m.  Las Nubes, in the Valle de Guadalupe, is perched on a hillside with magnificent views…a great complement to its magnificent wines.   This is the perfect framework for Chef Plascencia (Mision 19 in Tijuana) whose innovative cuisine uses local farm-fresh products to highlight the characteristics of the wines.

 

Stunning Las Nubes winery is the setting for a wine pairing dinner by Chef Javier Plascencia.

Stunning Las Nubes winery is the setting for a wine pairing dinner by Chef Javier Plascencia.

 

  • Two nights at the San Nicolas Hotel and Casino in Ensenada.  This Ensenada hostelry is located within a five minute walk of the La Muestra event, and is centrally located to the shopping and dining/bar district in Ensenada.

 san nicolas hotel

 

***Optional additions include  8/3 Valle de Guadalupe bus tour, 8/4 “Comida Campestre” afternoon event, and a weekend of automotive insurance coverage with Baja Bound Insurance company.

Book now for this exclusive Baja.com package which is offered on a first-come, first-served basis.  Contact us at info@baja.com.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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Public/Private Partnerships Result in Cruise Ship Gains and a ‘Back to Ensenada’ campaign

Public/Private Partnerships Result in Cruise Ship Gains and a ‘Back to Ensenada’ campaign

In a recent press release by the Secretary of Tourism in Baja California Mexico, Juan Tintos Funcke, it was noted that the port of Ensenada has distinguished itself in the past two years for being the only port in the Mexican Pacific to record increases in the number of arrivals of cruise ships and passengers, a situation that the government is anticipating will further improve in 2014.

According to official figures from the Secretary of Tourism’s office, arrivals to Ensenada increased by 8% and there was a 10% increase in the number of passengers arriving for the period from 2011 to 2012.  On a national comparison of the 25 Mexico cruise ports, this placed Ensenada as second only to Cozumel as being the country’s most popular destination.

Cruise ship arrivals have increased in Ensenada.  Photo by Edgar Lima.

Cruise ship arrivals have increased in Ensenada. Photo by Edgar Lima.

The Secretary of Tourism chalks this surge in cruise ship activity up to a re-invigoration of the cruise ship program approximately two years ago, when “a team was formed between authorities and the private sector, who — working together — brought significant progress to the tourism initiative.” The Secretary, himself, led a meeting of this public/private committee that was attended by Javier Gallardo, advisor to the Carnival Cruise Lines in Mexico.  Gallardo confirmed that by 2014, Ensenada will be receiving an additional Carnival vessel as well as two more Princess Cruises, which will elevate the number of passengers currently visiting Ensenada from 439,000 to 707,400 for the year 2014.

Juan Tintos Funcke, Secretary of Tourism, announced a new incentive for cruise ship passengers.

Juan Tintos Funcke, Secretary of Tourism, announced a new incentive for cruise ship passengers.

The Secretary of Tourism also acknowledged that with these significant advances that have been made in tourism, there are still issues to be addressed in Ensenada to ensure that travelers have the best possible experience in Baja California, such as increasing oversight of street vendors, city cleaning, maintaining good security and offering even more tours.

“With the support of the Port Authority (API) and other Federal, State and Municipal bodies, and the participation of the private sector, I trust that Ensenada will become one of the top destinations for cruises in Mexico .”

Back to Ensenada:  Incentives for Cruise Ship Passengers to be Inaugurated in early July!

 In an exclusive interview with Baja.com, Secretary Juan Tintos offered an exciting update to the information about cruise ship activity in Ensenada.

According to him, “Beginning in early July, the tourism board is initiating a ‘Back to Ensenada’ campaign.”

He went on to explain that studies have shown that more than 75% of the passengers arriving by cruise ship in Ensenada are from Los Angeles and surrounding areas – meaning that they live within driving distance of northern Baja and Ensenada.

“We want to take advantage of this fact, and incent people to return to Ensenada even after their cruise, by offering coupon booklets with discounts on restaurants, stores, activities and more,” said the Secretary,  “And, we are offering them an invitation…a courtesy certificate for a one night hotel stay.”

The 'Back to Ensenada' campaign will offer coupons and a special invitation to cruise passengers.

The ‘Back to Ensenada’ campaign will offer coupons and a special invitation to cruise passengers.

A representative from the tourism board will be stationed in the port terminal to welcome passengers as they debark, and to extend these booklets and invitations to them and to encourage them to return to the welcoming city of Ensenada which, according to Secretary Tintos, they can visit on any weekend to visit the wineries, eateries, galleries and shops of this welcoming city.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.

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Baja Bash is Back in 2013 with Rockstar Chefs and Hot Entertainment: Save the Coast and Save the Date!

Tickets are on sale now for the famous Baja Bash!

Baja Bash photo

Join WiLDCOAST at the Baja Bash in honoring El Hijo Del Santo and Chef Javier Plascencia for their efforts to shine a spotlight on threats to our coastlines and coastal environments and for sharing their conservation message with their fans!

This is a great way to show your support for Baja’s fragile ecosystem and mingle with conservation advocates at the Baja Bash on Saturday, June 15, 6-10 p.m., at the Port Pavilion on the Broadway Pier in San Diego. WiLDCOAST, a San Diego-based organization that works for coastal and marine conservation, is throwing the benefit party to celebrate the best of Baja—including the region’s food, wine, music, and wildlife.

The evening will feature rockstar chefs: besides Baja’s Plascencia, chefs Chad White and Jason Knibb will be in attendance, along with Miguel Angel Guerrero, also from Baja).  Quality beverages from both sides of the border (including some of Baja’s world famous wines) and a live set from Latin Alternative recording artist, B-Side Players will highlight the evening.

 

WiLDCOAST's Baja Bash helps protect Baja's coastline.

WiLDCOAST’s Baja Bash helps protect Baja’s coastline.

Tickets are now on sale for the Baja Bash! $75 per person, including food, drinks, and fun, to support our coast and ocean! Go to www.wildcoast.net or you can link here to purchase directly . Proceeds from the Baja efforts to conserve the most vulnerable coastal and marine habitats in San Diego and Baja California.

WiLDCOAST has spent more than a decade working in San Diego and Baja California to preserve the rich variety of plant and animal life that make it a natural setting for enchantment and exploration. The organization manages the 105,000-acre Bahia Concepcion Peninsula Preserve and has put together several successful public awareness campaigns, including a large-scale campaign to encourage people to abstain from eating turtle meat and turtle eggs, as well as campaigns to preserve threatened coastline and species.

Baja.com is proud to support WiLDCOAST in their ongoing efforts to protect Baja and its coastal treasures.  Please attend this important event, the Baja Bash.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about localrestaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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School’s Out Special Promotion: Have a Baja Moment! with Hotel El Ganzo and Bahia Hotel & Beach Club in Los Cabos

School’s Out Special Promotion:  It’s time to Have a Baja Moment!  with Hotel El Ganzo and Bahia Hotel & Beach Club in Los Cabos. And, to help you celebrate, here are two great offers.

Bahia Hotel and Beach Club photo

Choice of two packages, each for under $500 for 3 nights!

A vacation in Los Cabos is the perfect way to celebrate the end of the school year. You deserve to get away and unwind. Recent graduates, parents or teachers — surely, you’ve earned some time to yourself to celebrate the end of another busy school year.

School's Out!  Celebrate with a special offer at El Ganzo Hotel.

School’s Out! Celebrate with a special offer at El Ganzo Hotel.

At Hotel El Ganzo in Puerto Los Cabos, enjoy plush amenities at this chic, new, adults- only resort in the hot new marina in Puerto Los Cabos. This special promotional offer gives you the third night free when you pay for 2, including El Ganzo breakfast. Enjoy a 15% discount at the spa for even more indulgence!  Join us at Hotel El Ganzo for 3 nights for just $482 for two.

At boutique Bahia Hotel & Beach Club, enjoy and relax.

At boutique Bahia Hotel & Beach Club, enjoy and relax.

At the other end of the peninsula, in Cabo San Lucas, you can go to the heart of it all in Medano Beach. The Bahia Hotel and Beach Club offers a warm, friendly, welcoming environment for you to enjoy a 3 night getaway, including daily breakfast and one complimentary stand-up paddle session per person. And they’ll pick you up from the airport and take you back. So bring the family. Or bring your fraternity brothers. This package is $477 for the 3 nights for a party of two…Quad occupancy for as little as $717.

Want more information on these two fabulously indulgent retreats from school, stress and strain?  Read more about El Ganzo and Bahia Hotel & Beach Club! Want to book it?  Please call our Toll Free number for room rates and promotions at (855)Baja-411 (855)225-2411 to speak to Lisa Green, our Travel Savant.

SCHOOL’S OUT!

HOTEL EL GANZO, Puerto Los Cabos Marina (ADULTS-ONLY)

$482 for 3 nights for 2 people including daily breakfast

 THE BAHIA HOTEL AND BEACH CLUB, Medano Beach, Cabo San Lucas

$477 for 3 nights for 2 people including daily breakfast, airport transfers, and SUP session, $717 for quad occupancy

Offers expire July 31, 2013.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about localrestaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

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Tips for Visiting Baja in 2013

Tips for Visiting Baja in 2013

by Jessica Wray

Jessica Wray is a 24 year-old San Diegan traveling, teaching and eating her way around the world! She writes about it all in her blog Curiosity Travels.

My last two posts have all had to do with previous and current roamings around Baja California, and now I’d like to help others explore the area independently as well.  With the help of a “Baja Calfornia travel expert” (my Dad), I have compiled a post with current information for anyone planning to travel to Baja in 2013.  My Dad has traveled independently and extensively throughout the area for years, and has seen the region go through booming tourism to a slow trot, due to the influx of media reports on violence.  Now, we both agree people should stop being so scared of Baja and start going back.  Though the violence in Mexico has been devastating for the lives of thousands, business, and tourism, there is one silver lining — travel to Baja is now a completely local and authentic experience.

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In my Dad’s opinion, “Baja Mexico (and not Cabo, that’s  not the real Baja) is a magical place. You can drive, or better yet ride a motorcycle, for a 1000 miles through a beautiful desert void of crowds or development.  Each day you can eat fresh inexpensive seafood, or authentic Mexican cuisine , camp or or get a hotel right on the beach, kayak in the ocean, get close to the grey whales, golf on the coastline, party at a real cantina or just sit back and be part of authentic Mexico.  For those of us who continue to go south regardless of the northern media bashing (yes, there is crime along the border) Baja is special because it has barely changed, even since the highway was completed in 1972.”

Crossing the border and methods of transportation

By car: Crossing the U.S. border into Baja Mexico is fast and easy. You can cross at Tijuana or Mexicali, and visit several villages and towns with only a passport, a U.S. drivers license, vehicle registration and Mexican liability insurance for your vehicle. Be sure to purchase Mexican liability insurance at the border, or better yet from the internet and print a copy before you leave. If you are in an accident, regardless of fault, you will need this policy or go to jail until fault is determined. You can also purchase full coverage for your vehicle that includes Mexican legal service.  You pay for each day of travel but it’s well advised.

If you plan to visit Baja for more than 72 hours, or travel farther south than Ensenada or San Felipe, you also need a tourist card (FMM). Tourist cards can be obtained quickly, usually within minutes, at the Mexican immigration offices at the border. Simply park right past the border check and the officers will point you the way. However, my Dad has made several trips through Baja and has never been asked for the card.

To get to most coastal Baja destinations: From the San Ysidro border crossing, follow the signs to “Rosarito/Beach Cities” and take the toll roads down Coastal Highway One.

Highway One along the coast of Baja California Mexico

Highway One along the coast

By bus: One easy and non-threatening way to see some of Baja is by taking the Mexicoach bus from the border parking in San Ysidro. These red  Mexicoach buses go into Tijuana and also Rosarito.

To travel further south, Ensenada and down the Baja Peninsula, you can take an ABC bus from Tijuana.  Walk across the border at San Ysidro to the Plaza Viva.  Buses for Ensenada depart every half hour from 6 am to 9:30pm and cost about $15 U.S. dollars.

Tip: Sit on the right side of the bus for ocean views.

All of these bus options above should lead to a safe, hassle free option of exploring a bit of Baja.

Safety in Baja

Though drug related crime has been a serious problem in Mexico in the last 7 years, still the question of safety is often debated on the internet. Everyone traveling into Mexico for the first time should do their own research, but take media reports of violence with a grain of salt.  Sometimes, the U.S. media reports on violent crime in Mexico more than the crime in our own cities.  From some various articles I’ve read around the internet, Tijuana could be considered a success story in fighting drug-related crime in the last few years. Research will also show that Baja is currently the safest area of Mexico. As reports of violent crime have gone up in the last few years in other parts of Mexico, reports of violent crime in Tijuana has been going down.   To get a first hand view, you can read about my recent experience in Mexico.  Gadling also has a great article about safety in Baja, and some local’s personal experiences, here

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There are a few simple safety rules for Baja, but most involve just using common sense and being aware of your surroundings.  Not being out past dark in Tijuana or Rosarito is one way to avoid problems.  The farther south you go, the safer you will be.  Also, do not drive on the highways  after dark– black cows on a dark and black highway is a sure recipe for disaster.  Taking just a few precautions will go far.  Don’t flash money or jewelry, cause attention to yourself, or get too drunk.  If you look easy to take advantage of, the higher the risk you will be.

Police safety

There is no doubting the presence of corrupt police officers in Mexico. If trouble arises with one, don’t be afraid to go to the police station (or tell them you will meet them there later) to settle the issue. If you have not broken a law, it is unlikely that you will pay a fine. Most likely, the officer will tell you to go on your way or hold your license and give it to you when you go to the police station. Some use an expired license for this issue and never go back to claim it. Most officers will want a small bribe to quickly settle the issue, and while it is illegal to take or offer a bribe, it is still done frequently.  Try not to take this route, as you are only making the situation worse for others in the future, making it easy for police officers to expect bribes.

To do your best to avoid these situations, don’t break laws on the road or do anything to attract attention to yourself.  Tip:  A family friend was pulled over in Mexico while talking on a cell phone while driving.  Whether it is technically illegal or not, best avoid it.  

Health Safety

Street food in Mexico is delicious and filling, but use the same cautions as you would when traveling to other countries.  Eat street tacos from busy taco carts or shops where the food turnover is fast and nothing is sitting out.  Only drink bottled water, and be careful with juices or ice made without filtered water.  Coffee in upscale areas is usually safe but when in doubt, opt for bottled water… or better yet a Corona.  

Other tips

  • Know some  Spanish:  Before the war on drugs, tourism in Baja was huge and the use of English was widespread.  Nowadays, most tourists are not coming from the U.S., but mostly Europe and other parts of Mexico, therefore English is used less often.  Learn some basic phrases to not only to make your time in Baja a bit easier, but to also be respectful of the local culture.
  • Currency: Most parts of northern Baja still accept U.S. dollars and you can also use U.S. currency on the toll roads.  If planning to travel more extensively throughout Baja, it is best to find a “casa de cambio” or use my preferred method for getting currency in a foreign country– just withdraw from an ATM.
  • Souvenirs:  Shopping in Mexico is fun, and haggling is encouraged.  For the best deal, walk away and wait for the person to shout a lower price to you.  Don’t always haggle too hard, remember that many of these people have gone through rough times with the decline in tourism.  Spending a little extra money on a souvenir will probably help them more than it will hurt your wallet.  Also, try and buy souvenirs or items made by local artists.
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Some shot glasses we bought that were painted by a local artist

 

Best of:
For great fresh seafood try: Ensenada, San Felipe, Loreto and La Paz.
Best beach camping: Bahia Concepcion, South of Mulege.
For whale watching: Scammon’s Lagoon
Must do’s: Lobster in Puerto Nuevo, hanging out in downtown Mulege, golfing in Loreto, visiting the old Spanish missions of San Ignacio, Mulege and Loreto.

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With crime levels down, more Americans should be taking advantage of the foreign country we have so close. But visit soon, it won’t feel untouched and authentic forever…

Jessica Wray is a 24 year-old San Diegan traveling, teaching and eating her way around the world! She writes about it all in her blog Curiosity Travels.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals(our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about localrestaurants,hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles aboutevents, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

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Your Photo Can Win Two Tickets to the New Wine & Seafood Festival in Ensenada

Your Photo Can Win Two Tickets to the New Wine & Seafood Festival in Ensenada! Enter by April 14, 2013.

The New Wine  and Seafood Festival is being held from April 19-21.  It is a chance for you to be part of winemaking, food and aquaculture in Baja California!

Mexico’s wine country is just an hour south of the US border, in Ensenada. With the number of cavas and wineries guesstimated to be between 70-90, this wine region – the Valle de Guadalupe and the Santo Tomas Valley to the south – offers endless possibilities for travel and amazing gastronomical experiences (there are even some wineries in town…here, wine is ubiquitous!).

guys in vineyard

Will your picture win 2 tickets to the New Wine and Seafood Festival?

Verdant vineyards provide the romantic settings for wine tastings; old gnarled oak trees and tender lavender gardens offer venues for outdoor dining and enjoying the bounties of Baja.  And, there are also abundant opportunities, also known as photo opps, to capture these magical moments.

 wine glass in the valle

From now until October, Ensenada and its world-renowned Valle de Guadalupe come alive with the sights, sounds, tastes and experiences of the wine season.  One of the opening events of the year, and a highlight to the entire wine season, is the New Wine and Seafood Festival coming up on April, 19, 20 and 21st.  There are any number of activities associated with this event that looks at the sustainability of seafood, the evolution of culinary products and the revolution that is happening in Mexico’s wines.

Tickets to the culminating event that features tastings and pairings, on Sunday, April 21, at the Hotel Coral, are prized.  How can you get hold of a couple of them?  Baja.com and sponsor Provino have an idea…

Win two tickets to the New Wine & Seafood Festival in Ensenada!

(Tickets are for the grand finale event at the luxurious Hotel Coral on Sunday April 21.  Transporation/accommodation costs are not included.)

 How to Enter

Upload a photo of any of the following:

–Baja Wine Country (Valle de Guadalupe or Santo Tomas Valley)

–You or a group of friends or a loved one (we will need to verify their consent to be in the photo) enjoying a Baja Wine.

–Baja Wine Festivities or Vendimia (obviously from years past)

–A Baja Wine paired with the perfect meal or food.

Your photo must be uploaded to the Baja.com Facebook Page  (https://www.facebook.com/bajacom)  by 10 p.m., Sunday, April 14, 2013. The picture that receives the most ‘likes’ by Monday, April 15, at 10 a.m. will win the two tickets to the New Wine & Seafood Festival on April 21.  Please provide your email address, so that we can contact you if you are the winner!!  

Even if you are not the grand winner of this contest, there will be more, so stay tuned.  And, of course, visit Baja.com to find out about tours to Baja!

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 

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