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Located approximately 75 miles south of the San Diego border, Ensenada is taking steps to emphasize its main tourist shopping district along Avenida Lopez Mateos. The shopping here is befitting a town actually on the border, but walk a few blocks further inland, and you'll find a small, bustling, somewhat typical (and pretty safe) Mexican town. Ensenada is unquestionably visitor-friendly.

Located on a protected bay, with few nice beaches, the emphasis here is on shopping, fishing, dining, off-road racing, and nightlife. Some of the nicer hotels are located north of town on rocky shores, and the views from there are wonderful.

Places to stay:

Caribe -- Av. L�pez Mateos 627-628, ph# 617.83481, clean, basic, off-street parking, across the street from Papas & Beer. Extra $5 for a room with TV. Budget

Bah�a Hotel -- Av. L�pez Mateos, ph# 888-308-9048 (U.S. toll-free); 617.82101 (direct). Nothing special, but a good value. Moderate

El Cid (Best Western) -- Av. L�pez Mateos 993, ph# 617.82401, refrigerators/wet bars in the rooms, balconies over the street, location close to the "action." Moderate

Las Dunas -- Caracoles 169, ph# 617.62771, very clean location slightly away from the action. More of a quiet, less-party going crowd here. Golfing packages available. Some rooms are full suites with kitchenettes and two king size beds. Budget (suites are priced in the 'Moderate' range)

Las Olas -- Av. Ryerson 43 (crawling distance from Papas & Beer), ph# 617.82314, clean, very basic, small amount of off-street parking, just a few rooms here. Budget

Las Palmas -- Calle 3a 326, ph# 617.82788, some kitchenettes, pool. Budget

San Nicol�s -- Av. L�pez Mateos & Av. Club Rotario, just east of the shopping district. This is likely the classiest location "in" town. Parking lot accommodates large vehicles. ph# 617.61901. Deluxe

Villa Marina -- Av. Blancarte, just off L�pez Mateos. Slightly newer high-rise location. Close to shopping/nightlife. ph# 617.83321. Moderate

Villa Fontana (Days Inn) -- Av. L�pez Mateos 1050, across the street from the El Cid. Rooms overlooking the street have cathedral ceilings (some with balconies). Good parking situation. Another location close to shopping/nightlife. Personal favorite. 800-4BAJA04, 800-DAYS-INN. Moderate

For the even more budget conscious, there are a handful of inexpensive motels east of the riverbed on (or just off of) Av. L�pez Mateos. The Motel America, Motel Colon, and Motel Bungalows Playa are among those most acceptable here.

Just outside of town:

Las Rosas Hotel & Spa -- On the highway, 6 km. north of town. Pool, spa, sauna, exercise equipment, racquetball, rooms all have ocean view. One of the nicest properties in Northwest Baja. ph# 617.44320. Ultra-Deluxe

Joya Mar -- Located about a mile and a half from town (south), and a block away from the beach, this is a nice little inexpensive place to retreat to for a weekend. You'll avoid the (U.S.) tourist crowds, and still be close to town for whatever it is you wish. ph# 617.67430 Budget to Moderate

Punta Morro -- Just off the highway, 5 km. north of town. Nice restaurant, pool. Excellent location on the ocean. ph# 617-83507. Deluxe

Estero Beach Hotel -- About five miles south of Ensenada, look for the turnoff to Estero Beach. This is a getaway destination all to itself. Estero Beach has just that, a semi-protected "bay" perfect for small watercraft, and fairly nice sandy beaches along side. ph# 617-66230, 66235, fax: 66925  Moderate

Places to eat:

The Fish Market -- Taco stands located behind Plaza Marina (where Sanborn's Cafe is), by the sportfishing piers. Eat fish or shrimp tacos a la carte, bring your own cold beverage if you want, otherwise buy a beer or soda there. The vendors themselves can get quite competitive trying to get you to eat at *their* place (as pictured). Breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Worth a visit to see the fish market alone.   As of 11/98 they've begun to charge a parking fee adjacent to the market which I find annoying.  Walk here if you can (although the fee is minimal). Ultra-Budget

Las Cazuelas de Kiki -- Located on Av. Sangines, just off Blvd. Costero, behind the Chevrolet dealership. This is a wonderful breakfast location. Usually excellent service as well. Budget

La Embotelladora Vieja -- In the Santo Tom�s Winery building, Av. Miramar and Calle 7a (SW corner). Enter through the doors here and step into another world. The food, the candlelight, the wine-cellar feel. This is spectacular, and an unbelievable value. When you want great food, great ambiance, and a very romantic evening in Ensenada without badly pinching your wallet, this is the spot! Excellent wine list of local and imported wine. No beer. ph# 617.40807 (fax: 81660). Moderate

Mariscos Playa Azul -- Av. Riveroll, just off L�pez Mateos. Seafood is the specialty, and the food, good before, has now improved considerably. Mostly locals dining here, and the prices can't be beat. A personal favorite. Budget

Mariscos de Bah�a Ensenada -- Next to Mariscos Playa Azul. There's a little more "ambiance" here and the menu is more extensive than next door at Playa Azul. You'll find the clientele to here to be mostly "locals" as well. ph# 617.81015. Budget to Moderate

La Hacienda del Charro -- Av. L�pez Mateos 454. Chickens on rotisseries in the window, and competent food in a pleasing, clean atmosphere in the middle of the action in town. Moderate

Haliotis -- The house specialty is Abalone, which is priced extremely high.  Other menu items include:  fish, calamari, salmon, and steaks.  Weekly specials are also available.  Budget to Moderate

Ac�mbero -- Serving breakfast from 8am-1pm, with items such as antojitos and meat, poultry and fish dishes available.  Also an inexpensive comida corrida of the chef's choosing each day.  Excellent decor in this slightly side-street located restaurant, with handmade chairs of wood and leather, coupled with matching tables that also have purple tabletops.  Nice find away from the tourist area.  Budget

Things to do/see:

The Fish Market -- Mentioned above. 

fshmkt05.JPG (25912 bytes) Images from the Fish Market.

Cafe Cafe -- Av. Lopez Mateos 496 (not far from Papas & Beer), shop with eclectic items, and a coffee/tea bar. Guillermo there finds it funny that so many of the U.S. tourists exclaim how his coffee's "better than Starbucks." Unusual hours of operation (sporadic).

La Bufadora -- Sometimes thought of as an over-hyped tourist trap for Ensenada visitors with kitschy merchandise shops surrounding the entry to the namesake feature of the area, there is more to "The Buffalo Snort" (English translation) once one has settled down and taken further inspection of the surrounding area.  The tourist attraction itself has been lit up, the vendor areas cleaned up, and children walking the street (big kids too) are handed free churros (essentially a dough stick dipped in sugar) from various shops.   If one ignores all of the above, and simply takes in the beauty of this small scalloped bay with rocky shores, reminiscent of mediterranean destinations, one can't help bun envy those who've chosen to make this small community their home.  Some of the best diving and snorkeling to be found along the northern peninsula is here as well.   La Bufadora is on Punta Banda, about a half-hour drive from central Ensenada (and 12 miles from the transpeninsular highway in Maneadero).  For more information on the area from one of the lucky locals, see

Parque Nacional Constituci�n de 1857 -- Best known for Laguna Hanson within the boundaries of the park. 20 miles off Highway 3 from Ojos Negros (km.55). Located in the high plateau country of the Sierra de Ju�rez, above Guadalupe Canyon. The lake is surrounded by pine forests, unusual rock formations and has great campsites on its western side. A small entrance fee is usually charged.

Riviera del Pacifico -- Hard to miss on Blvd. Costero. Once a gambling casino in the 30's, now a cultural center for events, and a museum. A good place to wander about.

Aduana Maritima -- Av. Ryerson 1. Built in 1887, this former customs house is the oldest public building in Baja and also the site of the National Institute of Anthropology and History.

Hussong's Cantina -- The oldest bar in the Californias. Go in, sit down, order a drink, listen to the mariachi's and try to imagine the history that has passed through the doors here.

Papas & Beer -- For the dancing crowd, this is the place to be, bar none. When cruise ships are in town, this place is packed wall-to-wall in the middle of the day. Location was expanded in late-1997.

Baja 1000 -- Historically a race from Tijuana to La Paz, this race has started, more often than not, in Ensenada over the past two decades (First week of November).  The organization SCORE puts on this event and the Baja 500 (First week of June) each year.  Check their website to make sure they haven't changed the locale (Tijuana and Mexicali have each benefited from political --and $$$-- issues over the location of the start of this race in the past few years).  The vehicles leave in the early a.m. (from Blvd. Costero) and race down the city streets and river beds to get out of town (a course is marked, it's not a free-for-all).

baja1000.jpg (20782 bytes) Ensenada locals line a river bank to watch vehicles racing out of town at the start of the Baja 1000.


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