Ensenada is a truly international city because of its proximity to the United States and its importance as a major port and cruise ship hub, a fact not lost on the thousands of expats who call the city their home. Many say Ensenada still has the feel of “old Mexico,” but with an international vibe.
The city itself is on the harbor, so you will need to drive north or south of Ensenada in order to enjoy beach activities like swimming, surfing, fishing and scuba diving. January to March is the best time for whale-watching, and a large variety of whale-watching tours are available. While several types of whales can be seen, gray whales tend to be the most social.
For those interested in the cultural scene, there are numerous art galleries and many opportunities to see live music. One notable musical event is the jazz festival, which is held the last weekend of every September.
As one might expect, fresh seafood is widely available. Try some fish tacos at an outdoor stand or make your own dinner after a trip to the Mercado de Mariscos, or fish market. Locals and tourists alike enjoy the wide variety of fresh seafood, whether from a 5-star restaurant or from a local food stand on the street.
A popular place for shopping is Calle Primera where many shops aimed at tourists can be found. You can buy souvenirs, artesanía and other gifts. Downtown, where most locals shop, is close by, and there are several shopping malls in the city.
The Guadalupe Valley – Mexico’s premier wine growing area where over 90 percent of Mexican wine is made – begins about a half hour’s drive northeast of the city and is a favorite getaway spot for locals and visitors. With over 100 wineries to choose from and resort hotels and restaurants, it is Mexico’s Napa Valley.
There are many possible tours you can take to walk among the vineyards, see how and where the wine is made, and of course, taste some wine. A wine festival runs all through the month of August and attracts visitors from all over the world.
If you enjoy hiking in the great outdoors, there are many opportunities around the city to explore. El Salto Waterfall Trail is an easy and popular choice, as is a trip to La Bufadora (Blow Hole), an underwater cave from which water spouts. For stargazing, try the observatory in the Sierra de San Pedro Mártir park.
While the harbor is filled with yachts, boats and cruise ships, a quick trip south of the city is where you will find the best beaches. Estero Beach is a popular choice for swimming, while Punta Banda is preferred by scuba divers.
Ensenada is an expat hub, so there are plenty of people who speak at least some English. If you want to get involved with the local community, there are volunteer opportunities and numerous social events.