Ensenada, a picture-perfect port of call on a Disney Cruise Line Mexican Riviera vacation, is the third largest city in the Mexican state of Baja California. Located along the Todos Santos Bay of the Pacific Ocean approximately 70 miles south of Tijuana, Ensenada is a sun-soaked paradise of pristine beaches, turquoise blue water and rugged mountainous terrain.
Things to See and Do
Known as the "Cinderella of the Pacific," Ensenada boasts something for everyone. For Guests looking to uncover the cultural roots of the region, both the Museo De Historia and the Estero Beach Museum delve into the fascinating history of the Mexican people through a variety of age-old artifacts and wondrous folk art. San Miguel Arcangel De La Frontera and Santo Tomas De Aquino are 2 of a handful of peaceful 18th-century missions founded by the Dominicans. And the Plaza Civica, also known as "Three Heads Park" is a beautifully landscaped park that features giant golden busts of 3 of Mexico's most beloved heroes—Miguel Hidalgo, Benito Juarez and Venustiano Carranza.
Located approximately 20 miles south of Ensenada and situated on a rocky inlet near the top of Punta Banda peninsula, La Bufadora is second largest of 3 natural marine geysers in the world where you can gaze upon (and possibly be drenched by) huge spouts of water that jet out of the ocean and reach up to 80 feet high in the air. Swimmers and sun worshippers will want to spend time at one of Ensenada's many family-friendly beaches including San Miguel Beach, El Faro Beach and Estero Beach.
For treasure hunters, Avenida Lopez Mateos and Boulevar Costero—2 parallel streets near the waterfront—offer approximately 8 blocks of stores, boutiques, bazaars, galleries and roadside vendors selling all sorts of handmade goods. Additionally, the bustling boulevard known as La Primera is home to a myriad restaurants, bars and shops including the 19th-century Hussong's Cantina and Papas & Beer.
Local Culture and Flavor
Ensenada is a city known for celebration and the locals are very friendly and welcoming to visitors. Unbeknownst to some, Ensenada is well known for its many wineries. In fact, 90% of the very best Mexican wines are produced in Ensenada, which is home to the oldest winery in Mexico, Bodegas de Santo Thomas, established in 1888.
A mainstay at many a restaurant in Ensenada is seafood. Not surprisingly, commercial fishing is a big industry in town, and the majority of all catches—including tuna, shrimp, lobster and sardine—is exported to the Far East.
For surfing aficionados, Ensenada is home to several famous surfing spots—including San Miguel Beach and California Trailer Park—and has hosted various worldwide competitions.
Past and Present
Ensenada was first discovered in 1542 by Portuguese navigator Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. Sixty years later, General Sebastián Vizcaíno arrived at the bay and named it "Ensenada de Todos los Santos" in honor of All Saint's Day. Remarkably, reports of indigenous inhabitants went unnoticed until 1769.
The first European settlement in Ensenada was established in 1804, but it was during the 1870s that the area began to prosper due to the discovery of gold at Real del Castillo. In 1882, Ensenada was officially incorporated and named the capital of the Baja territory. In the 1940s, Ensenada developed into one of Mexico's leading Pacific ports for exports in support of the agricultural expansion in the nearby Mexicali Valley.
Today, Ensenada is a popular tourist destination brimming with museums, missions, wineries, parks, beaches, bars and unique shops, and was recently named Baja Norte's weekend hotspot.
Fun Facts & Tips
Every year during the month of August, the beginning of wine harvest season is celebrated in the Guadalupe Valley and in the city of Ensenada with a 2-week-long series of cultural and culinary events, all under the title banner of Fiestas de la Vendimia (Wine Harvest Festival).
The Newport to Ensenada International Yacht Race, named the world's largest international sailing event, finishes in Ensenada.
The Ensenada Carnaval is one of Mexico's largest, as thousands of people gather in the streets to celebrate for 6 days and nights.