Ensenada (Photo:alysta/Shutterstock)
3.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating

By Cruise Critic
Cruise Critic Staff

Port of Ensenada

Ensenada, known as Baja's "Love Boat" port, is no longer a sleepy resort town. Each year, some 4.5 million visitors descend on this seaside city 68 miles from the border, joining 325,000 residents. Fishing, processing and shipping have made Ensenada Mexico's second busiest port.

It's quite a change from 1542 when Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed into the sheltered bay in his quest for the mythical Northwest Passage, or sixty years later, when Sebastian Vizcaino named the area Ensenada de Todos los Santos after All Saints' Day. Over the centuries, many have left their mark here, from Spanish missionaries and Russian settlers to gold miners and gamblers.

The result is eclectic mix -- from Mexico's oldest winery and Baja's first cantina to a plaza featuring statues of national heroes. In addition to expected attractions like the large tourist shopping area and fish market, Ensenada also offers the unexpected - an elegant Prohibition-era casino and a blowhole that spews water sixty feet into the air.

About Ensenada


Pro

Ensenada offers a killer food scene if you know where to look, from ceviche carts to margarita joints

Con

Be wary: If you get dropped off at a local beach away from town, you might be walking back

Bottom Line

The port's main shopping and dining district is full of diversions, if you don't mind a hard sell


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Ensenada is an informal city dependent on fishing, shipping and tourism. Among the highlights are fresh seafood, cantinas, crafts shopping, sport fishing and winter whale watching. Beaches are located north and south of the city.

Where You're Docked

Cruise ships share an industrial harbor with commercial and sport fishing fleets, shipping containers and tankers.

Port Facilities

Ensenada's cruise dock features a market with numerous vendors. In addition to souvenirs, there's a pharmacy and liquor store.

Getting Around

The cruise ship pier is within easy walking distance of Avenida Lopez Mateos, the main tourist zone for shopping and dining. Alternatively, taxis and shuttles are available at the dock to take passengers on the short ride downtown. Taxis are also available at corner stands along Avenida Lopez Mateos.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Mexico's currency is the peso, divided into 100 centavos. In addition to the peso, US dollars are widely accepted in Baja, as are credit cards. ATM machines for withdrawing pesos are available in several downtown banks.

Language

Spanish is the official language, with English spoken throughout the tourist areas.

Food and Drink

Lunch is the biggest meal of the day, enjoyed between 1 - 4 p.m. Restaurants catering to tourists use menus printed in English; local eateries combine Spanish and English. No menus are necessary for the popular street vendors selling churros (deep fried dough dipped in sugar and cinnamon) and fish tacos.

Seafood: For fine seafood and dramatic ocean views, reserve a table at Punta Morro (1.5 miles north of the city at Punta Morro Hotel 800-526-6676).

Mexican: Hungry vaqueros head to Bronco's for breakfast, lunch and dinner where mesquite-grilled steaks are the specialty (Av Lopez Mateos 1525).

Happy Hour: Near Hussong's Cantina, Papas & Beer (Av Ruiz 102) attracts a rowdy college crowd and stays open until 3 am. For a quieter setting, visit the Bar Andaluz at the Riviera del Pacifico.

Brunch: The restaurant at Las Rosas Hotel is a local favorite, serving Mexican and international dishes (north of town on Highway 1, 174-4360).

Best Cocktail

Margarita: Hussong's Cantina (Avenida Ruiz 113), the landmark watering hole, serves small but potent margaritas from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. daily.