By Carla White
With the authentic charm of old Mexico and the coastal beauty of the Pacific Ocean, Ensenada (Spanish for ‘cove’ or ‘inlet’) is one of Baja’s warmest and friendliest places. Don’t get me wrong…it is a BIG town, with nearly 300,000 people (in fact, the municipality of Ensenada is the largest in all of Mexico and the Americas, more than 20,000 square miles!). There’s a Costco, a Walmart, a Home Depot and so on, so for people like me, there’s no lack of easy and familiar day-to-day shopping options.
But, overall, there is a pervasive small town feeling here; Ensenada has rightfully earned its moniker as the ‘friendly’ city.
Spanish, of course, is the primary language, but a little ‘Spanglish’ goes a long way; kindly locals are willing to torture themselves by listening to people like me slaughter their language before they politely ask if it wouldn’t be easier for us to speak in English. They also exhibit a real enthusiasm for visitors who come to Ensenada ready to enjoy its bounties. It doesn’t take long for an appreciative visitor to make friends with winemakers, store owners and restaurateurs in this city that is so proud of what it has to offer. Heck, I’ve even made friends with the militarios, the guys at the routine military checkpoint, who have taken to asking me how my 23 year-old little white dog is, because they see me coming and going from the vet’s office all the time.
An hour south of San Diego, on the Tijuana-Ensenada Transpeninsular Highway toll road, Ensenada is set on the shores of the expansive Bahía de Todos Santos (All Saints Bay). It’s a spectacular drive, especially the part south from Rosarito. Stop at El Mirador, at km. 84, for a tremendous view of the coastline. At this point, you are at one end of the bay. Continuing through Ensenada and southward (a drive of perhaps an hour), you could reach the other end of the bay at the famous La Bufadora, the blowhole. More on that in another blog! But even if you just stay in town, you can cruise the shopping district, dine at top eateries, buy handcrafted goods and enjoy the feeling of Mexico for a few hours, or a few days. The point is that, even though Ensenada is one of Mexico’s famous tourist destinations, it is also a ‘user-friendly’, comfortable place to live or visit.