Search the Ensenada directory for activities or learn more about one of the highlights below.
- Walking and hiking
- Beaches and surfing
- Boating and sportfishing
- Camping and RVs
- Diving and snorkeling
- Horseback riding
- Wine Tasting
Hiking in Ensenada
As Mexico’s largest municipality with a land area of more than 20,200 square miles, Ensenada offers scores of venues for walkers and hikers at all levels of ability. Here are a few stand-outs for those who want to walk the walk! For die-hard explorers, the 170,000 acre Parque Nacional Sierra San Pedro Mártir presents challenges in its rugged wilderness but there are rewards – for example, finding the observatory and taking in spectacular vistas from there that can encompass both the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean, at once. There are also mellower walking pursuits, such as strolling the miles of beaches that fringe Ensenada’s coast or wandering through the tall grasses of the Estero Beach Estuary south of town. To learn about legging it elsewhere in the Ensenada area, check out the Ensenada directory of activities.
Diving and Snorkeling
Off the coast of Ensenada is one of the West Coast’s largest kelp beds, making the region a fascinating place for divers and snorkelers intent on exploring the area’s aquaculture. It is not unusual to see bass, barracuda, and sometimes schools of yellowtail. Some dive and snorkel trips take place close to the mainland shore south of town, near the Punta Banda area, and tours can be arranged from here. The eastern shore of Islas de Todos Santos – about a 30-minute boat ride – is also excellent for snorkeling and diving. Many visitors prefer to find their own pangero, boat man, who will take them on personal trips in his small but seaworthy panga boat. To learn about diving and snorkeling in the Ensenada area, check out the Ensenada directory of activities.
Because the coastline around Ensenada is rugged and often austere with huge rocky bluffs and inaccessible beaches, one of the best ways to experience and view it is by kayaking. South of Ensenada (about an hour drive), is La Bufadora and near here begins some of Baja’s most best kayaking. Although it is possible to do-it-yourself, the best plan is to find a tour that will take you to the starting point for your coastal kayak journey. This begins in a tiny cove on the far-southern side of an isolated bluff, reachable by dirt roads that can be confusing. Once there, though, you will feel like you are embarking on a true adventure: Waves crash and spit foam into the air; craggy rocky outcroppings jut into the ocean and seabirds gather there to watch your every move, and you wonder how this amazing environment has remain so untouched by development! On a calmer note, there is also kayaking around the Estero Beach estuary (kayaks are available there for rent), and in Ensenada’s harbor, but watch out for the yachts and cruiseships. To find out about kayaking and kayak rentals, visit the Ensenada directory of activities.
Horseback riding comes in two different categories in Ensenada: the basic beach ride that can be had along the shores the city’s main municipal playa or at La Mision Beach, or the more boutique form of the activity that can be enjoyed at either Pretty Horses of Baja Rescue and Ride near La Mision about 25 minutes north of Ensenada, or at Rancho Los Bandidos, about 10 minutes north of downtown. Pretty Horses features rides through the local hills, with a stop for a wine tasting, along the way. Rancho Los Bandidos, that also caters to cruise ship tours, runs guided trips through the hills that edge the Ensenada wine country. To learn about equine exploration, visit the Ensenada directory of activities.
Beaches and Surfing
Ensenada is not known for swimming – just like those along the Southern California coast, Ensenada’s Pacific Ocean beaches are beautiful to stroll and play on, but the water is cold and much of the coastline is rocky. That said, the La Mision Beach in north Ensenada near La Fonda is extremely popular, especially so on holiday weekends. Families come in force to play in the estuary or surf area, and to camp. There is also an extensive stretch of beach near downtown, along Costero Blvd., that has recently been rehabilitated and graded. From here, sunbathers are treated to full views of the crescent-shaped Ensenada harbor, and Todos Santos Island. There is also a groomed beach at the famous Estero Beach Hotel that is at the edge of a natural estuary. Sea lions, seals and other marine creatures abound here.
As chilly as the water might be, it is no deterrent to surfers. Ensenada is famous for having some of the great surf locales south of the border. Driving down Highway 1 from Rosarito, surfers should look for Salsipuedes (just south of El Mirador, the view point), known for great camping and ‘gnarly’ access off a dirt road. San Miguel surf point is just south of the Ensenada toll booth and is both popular and very local. (Be sure to check out Boules restaurant, and the San Miguel bar, that used to be a hangout for rocker Jim Morrison). Isla Todos Santos – Todos Santos Island — inaccessible for most surfers, given its distance from shore, is home to some of the largest waves in the world and part of the surfing Big Wave World Tour itinerary.
Camping and RVs
With its cool coastal climate, Ensenada camping is most popular in the summer and even then, temperatures generally do not climb past the mid-80 degree mark. La Mision Beach and the nearby kilometer 38 campground are popular then, as well as over holiday weekends. There are always vendors and nearby restaurants (and a newly constructed Pemex/Oxxo gas station-convenience store) to keep campers fully stocked. There is also camping in area mountains, including Parque Nacional Sierra San Pedro Mártir, that is about a 1.5-2 hour drive from Ensenada. About 20 minutes south of downtown is one of the region’s newest and most popular attractions, Campamento Las Canadas, which is both a campground and a waterpark. Private ranchos in the area also offer campgrounds and even small cabins for rent.
RVs are a common site in Ensenada, especially when the ‘snowbird’ migration – people from the northern United States who flee cold climates in search of warmth and sun — begins in the fall. Some options include Campamento Las Canadas, that provides hook-ups for RVs and offers the advantage of being great for families. Baja Seasons Resort is right off of Highway 1 at kilometer 72.5, and has full-service for RVers, with hook-ups, a spectacular beachfront location, a restaurant, tennis courts and more. The Estero Beach Hotel, a landmark in the Ensenada area, is a truly unique hide-away locale for RVers, positioned right at the mouth of the Estero Beach Estuary in a peaceful and out-of-the-way setting.
For more information about RV-friendly locations, visit the Ensenada directory.
There are few towns in Baja that provide more shopping fun and diversity than Ensenada. The main shopping street is Ave. Lopez Mateos, and it is packed with curio stores, clothes and leather goods stores, and more. (Happily, tired visitors have numerous opportunities to refresh their stamina at little bars and cafes, or even at the famous Hussong’s or Mango Mango). Some of the stand-out tiendas (stores) include Fausto Polanco for hacienda-style art and furniture, Los Castillos for silver jewelry and copper from mainland Mexico, the duty free stores for perfumes and cosmetics, Arte Mexico for folk art, and there are numerous outlets for knock-off purses and wallets. Be sure to look for authentic hand-tooled leather wares ranging from saddles, to belts and hats, at hole-in-the-wall shops along Lopez Mateos. Additionally, today, there are wine bars popping up near the downtown area. Wine is a bit tricky to take back to the United States (see FAQs), but usually these bars feature artisan olive oils and other regional products.
Boating and Sport-fishing
Ensenada is all about the water (okay, the water and the wine). The area is studded with marinas and, of course, the jewel of the city is its famous harbor that welcomes cruise ships and shipping vessels. The annual Newport-Ensenada sailing regatta, held in the spring, sees the waters off of Ensenada come alive with sleek boats and colorful masts. Many owners have taken up full-time residence on their boats, including an group comprised primarily of expatriates who call themselves the ‘Ensenada Cruisers’ and dock in the lovely Hotel Coral and Marina just north of downtown.
Sport-fishing is the real magnet, though. As sports-fisher-people happily note, there is ‘action’ year-round. Even those who don’t own their own fishing boats come to Ensenada not only because it is only an hour from San Diego, California, but because they can easily and affordably take fishing charters into the region’s waters to catch yellowtail, sea bass, halibut and, in season, Bluefin tuna. There are many outfits with fleets ready at short notice to take visitors on day-trips or even longer excursions.
Ready to set sail for fun and fish? Visit the Ensenada activity guide to find out more.
Ensenada is home to Mexico’s wine country. More than 90 percent of all of Mexico’s wine is produced in this region. Not everyone thinks of wine tasting as a hobby or an ‘activity,’ but in Ensenada, it is both. Just northeast of the city is the Valle de Guadalupe (and south of the city is the Santo Tomas valley, also home to vineyards), which boasts an ever-growing number of top-notch wineries. Like Napa Valley, the Valle de Guadalupe is framed by two roads: Highway 3, Ensenada-Tecate, runs on the south side, and what is referred to as the ‘free road’ runs along the north side of the valley. Within this region are numerous vineyards, cavas, boutique tasting rooms (some requiring appointments for tastings) and even large operations that offer tours of their facilities. A trip to the wine country can involve a day or many…and should involve a variety of wines: Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Syrah, Cabernet and Merlot are specialties of the region.