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Ensenada Travel Guide

Everything you need to know about traveling to Ensenada, Mexico

ENSENADA TRAVEL GUIDE CONTENTS

Quick Info | Map | Getting Around | Budget | Blog | Things To Do | Restaurants | Hotels | Tips | FAQ


Ensenada is a coastal city located just south of the California border and offers a unique blend of Mexican culture, delicious cuisine, and breathtaking views. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, foodie, or beach bum, Ensenada has something for everyone.

One of the top activities in Ensenada is whale watching. Between December and April, hundreds of whales migrate through the waters surrounding the city. Take a boat tour with one of the local companies for an up-close encounter with these magnificent creatures. If you prefer your adventures on land, visit La Bufadora – a natural blowhole that shoots water 30 feet into the air. It’s located just 20 minutes from downtown Ensenada and provides stunning ocean views along the way.

In this Ensenada travel guide, you will find all the information you need, including safety tips.


🙋 Questions about Ensenada Mexico? Talk to a travel expert.

✈️ Ensenada Travel Guide: Quick Info

  • 🇲🇽 State: Baja California
  • ⏰ Timezone: Mountain Standard Time (GMT-7)
  • ✈️ Airport: Tijuana International Airport
  • 🚑 Travel Insurance: SafetyWing
  • 💲 Currency: Mexican pesos (MXN) with $ sign used. Don’t confuse it with US$ or USD. USD is widely accepted in Tijuana so you don’t even have to change to Mexican pesos.
  • 🔌 Power plug: Mexico uses a type A socket (US, Canada). For more information about power plugs in Mexico, see this link (with photos)
  • 📱 Mexico sim card: The best provider that works in Sayulita area and the Riviera Nayarit is Telcel. See our complete Mexico sim card guide for more information.
  • 📡 Wifi: The average Wifi speed in Ensenada is 25 Mbps with a fiber optic connection of up to 50 Mbps.
  • 🛃 Visa: Mexico is no longer giving 180 days visa to tourists, so make sure that you have proof of accommodation and outbound flight, so you’ll get the right visa.
  • 🤟 Language: Everyone can speak English very well in Ensenada so you don’t have to worry if you don’t speak Spanish. It is still advised to learn some basic Spanish when visiting Mexico.
  • 🌵 Culture: Ensenada is known to Americans to be a party town, so expect a vibrant atmosphere and night life culture in Ensenada. It is also a melting pot of Mexico where you will find all nationalities not just from Latin America but worldwide!

🗺️ Ensenada Map

☀️ Best time to visit Ensenada

Ensenada is beautiful year-round, but there are definitely certain times of the year that stand out. If you’re looking for sunny beach weather, the best time to visit Ensenada is during the summer months of June through August when temperatures average around 80°F (27°C). This is also peak tourist season, so expect crowds and higher prices.

Spring and fall are great shoulder seasons with comfortable temperatures in the mid-60s°F (around 18°C) and less crowded beaches. Winter may be cooler with highs in the low 60s°F (15°C), but it’s still a lovely time to visit if you enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and whale watching.

🚦 Ensenada Transportation Guide

  • ✈️ Ensenada Airport Transfer: Tijuana is the major airport in the state of Baja California so there are many taxi services to any point like Valle de Guadalupe and Ensenada. An airport transfer from Tijuana to Ensenada starts at $110 USD for groups of 3.
  • 🚕 Taxi: For short trips around town, expect to pay between $3-5 USD depending on your destination. Longer rides may cost a bit more, but you can always negotiate with your driver if necessary. Uber works in Ensenada, and it’s safe!
  • 🚌 Bus: From local buses that can take you around town for just a few pesos, to luxury coaches that will whisk you away on day trips or longer excursions, there’s something for everyone. One of the most popular bus companies in Ensenada is ABC Bus. They offer both local and long distance services, so whether you’re just looking to get around town or explore further afield, they’ve got you covered. Local fares start at just 10 pesos (around 50 cents USD), while longer trips can cost anywhere from 150-300 pesos (around $7-$15 USD).
  • 🚗 Rental cars: Expect to pay around $25-$30 USD daily for a standard sedan or compact car. For something more spacious like an SUV or minivan, prices generally start at around $50-$60 USD per day. If you plan on taking your rental across the border into the United States, be prepared to pay an additional fee of about $15-$20 USD per day.

💲 Ensenada Travel Budget

If you are backpacking, you can spend $25 USD per day given that you’ll cook in your hostel or stay in a bed in a hostel dorm. Mid-range travelers can spend $75 USD per day (per person) which includes a stay in a boutique hotel. There aren’t all-inclusive resorts in Ensenada but more of 5-star and luxury hotels with pools and amenities like a resort.

Food Prices

For breakfast, start your day with chilaquiles – a classic Mexican dish made from tortilla chips smothered in salsa and topped with eggs and cheese. You can find it at many local eateries for around $5-$6 USD. If you’re feeling adventurous, try the fish ceviche – a refreshing mix of fresh seafood marinated in lime juice and spices. It’s perfect for a midday snack and costs around $8 USD.
For dinner, head to one of Ensenada’s famous taco stands.

Tour Prices

There are plenty of tours available in Ensenada, ranging from action-packed adventures to relaxing wine tastings. If you’re looking for an adventurous activity, try out the zipline tour at Las Canadas Campamento Ecoturistico or take a horseback riding tour through the rugged terrain. For a more laid-back experience, consider visiting one of the many wineries in the area and tasting some of Mexico’s finest wines.
Prices for tours in Ensenada range from $75 – $200 USD.

  • 💳 Use of credit cards: Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are widely recognized and should be accepted at most restaurants and shops in the city. You may also be able to use your Discover or Diners Club card. One thing to remember is that some places may charge an additional fee for using a credit card. This can range from 3-5% of your total purchase amount. While this may not seem like a lot, it can add up if you’re not careful. So, it’s always a good idea to bring some cash with you just in case. If you decide to use your credit card while visiting Ensenada, notify your bank beforehand so they don’t flag any transactions as fraudulent activity.
  • 🏧 Cash/ATMs: The best banks for ATM withdrawals in Ensenada are Bancomer and Banamex. Both banks have multiple locations throughout the city and offer competitive withdrawal fees. It’s always a good idea to check with your home bank before withdrawing cash abroad to ensure you know of any additional costs they may charge.
  • 💱 Money exchange: While many places in Ensenada accept US dollars, having some Mexican pesos on hand for smaller purchases is always a good idea to avoid confusion with exchange rates. Exchange rates can vary depending on the money exchange house or bank you choose. Some of the best options for exchanging money in Ensenada include Casa de Cambio La Monedita, Casa de Cambio Chuyin, and Banco Azteca. Casa de Cambio La Monedita is located in downtown Ensenada and offers competitive rates with no commission fees.
  • 💁🏻‍♀️ Tipping: Tipping 10-15% of the total bill is customary in restaurants. If the service was exceptional or you ordered a complex dish that required extra attention from the server, you can tip up to 20%. In bars, leaving 10-15% for bartenders. Leaving $1-$2 per day is generous and appreciated for hotel staff like housekeepers or bellhops.

🏄‍♀️  Things to do in Ensenada


Go on a scenic ride along the coast on a horse, taking in breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. Head inland and through picturesque ranches to enjoy delicious tacos and refreshing margaritas before continuing your journey.


Hop into a powerful Polaris RZR vehicle and start your engines as you embark on an exciting off-road ride through the rough terrain. Speed down dirt roads through narrow trails while taking in scenic views of the valley’s stunning landscapes.


La Bufadora is a natural blowhole that shoots water over 100 feet in the air. Here, you’ll witness this incredible sight from a safe distance before heading out on horseback to explore the rugged terrain. This is a must-do when in Ensenada so don’t miss this!


Begin your day with a thrilling zipline ride through the beautiful countryside. With multiple lines to choose from, fly above the treetops at top speeds.


Zipline through the lush greenery to experience marine geysers. this tour is perfect for those who love outdoor adventures and want to experience Baja California’s natural beauty firsthand.


This tour is perfect for groups of up to 14 people who want to explore the beautiful wine country of Mexico. The area boasts over 50 wineries and tasting rooms, each with their unique charm and flavor.

🧭 Ensenada tours

WE CUSTOMIZE TOURS IN ENSENADA! 🎉🥳

We live here and have traveled the Baja California Peninsula from Tijuana to Los Cabos. Contact us for a quote: no hidden costs, just simple prices. E-mail our office at [email protected] or call +52 473 171 5259.

🍲 Ensenada Restaurants

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El Restaurante en Punta Morro

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Restaurant Alebrije Ensenada

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El Meson de Don Fernando

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Cocina Madre

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Hacienda de San Ángel

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La Ensenada

🛏️ Ensenada Hotels

Ensenada has many hotel types, with luxury hotels (no resorts) from $150 USD per night (2 people). Backpackers can stay in hostels for as low as $18 USD per night. Boutique hotels start from $55 USD and are the best option if you’re looking for a simpler accommodation. Below are the best hotels in Tijuana (with prices) that we highly recommend:

✨ Ensenada travel and safety tips

  • Be mindful of your surroundings at all time: Avoid wandering around alone or in unfamiliar areas after dark. Stick to well-lit streets and busy areas where there are plenty of people around. If you’re not sure about the safety of a particular area or activity, ask locals or your hotel staff for advice.
  • Keep an eye on your belongings: Don’t carry large amounts of cash or expensive items with you when you’re out and about.
  • Local police are always present: don’t hesitate to approach police in Ensenada. Both local law enforcement and private security companies are available 24/7.
  • Stay in well-lit areas at night, especially if you’re exploring on foot. Stick to busy streets and avoid poorly lit alleyways.
  • ATM withdrawals: Be cautious when using ATMs and only withdraw money from trusted locations during daylight hours.
  • Get a Sentri pass: This fast lane makes it quick and easy for pre-approved travelers to cross the U.S.-Mexico border quickly and hassle-free. With this particular pass, there’s no waiting in line at immigration or customs – all you have to do is drive up, flash your card, and voila: you’re on your way! Plus, since the Sentri lanes are dedicated only to those with the official pass, traffic moves quickly through these lanes – so no more sitting in gridlock for hours!
  • A day trip to Ensenada is easy from San Diego: Located just 20 miles south of San Diego, this vibrant Mexican border town is bursting with history, culture, and fantastic food – all ready for you to explore. Ensenada offers travelers a huge variety of activities to choose from – shop ’til you drop at one of the many open-air markets or get some inspiration from its buzzing art scene.
  • The Baja California wine region is near Ensenada: There are hundreds of vineyards spread all throughout Baja California Norte, all within 1-3 hours drive from Ensenada. Discover the most significant wine regions in Ensenada when you visit Ensenada!

⁉️ Ensenada FAQ

ABSOLUTELY! Ensenada boasts some of the most stunning shorelines stretches you’ll ever see. Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot to relax or an action-packed day of surfing or kayaking, there’s something here for everyone. And when you need a break from the sun and sand, check out the local food scene – seafood lovers will enjoy Ensenada!

But Ensenada isn’t just about beaches and cuisine. There are also plenty of opportunities to immerse yourself in Mexican culture here.

If you plan on flying into (or driving to) Ensenada or taking a cruise ship that stops at multiple countries, including Mexico, you will need a valid passport. Ensenada is Mexico and is not part of the United States, so technically if you enter another country, a valid passport is required for all citizenships.

The answer is both yes and no! Here’s the deal: while US dollars are widely accepted in most tourist areas, having local currency on hand for those off-the-beaten-path spots is always a good idea.

Don’t worry about exchanging your dollars if you’re sticking to popular restaurants, bars, and souvenir shops in Ensenada’s city center or along its scenic coastal highway. Many hotels and resorts accept US currency for room charges and other services.

However, carrying some pesos with you might be wise if you’re heading out on day trips to nearby towns like Valle de Guadalupe or La Bufadora.

Nestled on the coast of Baja California, Ensenada offers visitors a unique blend of culture, history, and natural beauty. Whether you’re seeking relaxation or adventure, this vibrant city has something for everyone.

Ensenada is famous for its delicious seafood cuisine and world-renowned wineries. Stroll along the Malecón boardwalk to experience the local street vendors selling fresh ceviche and tacos.

For wine lovers, there are over 100 wineries in the area to discover. Don’t miss out on visiting La Ruta del Vino (The Wine Route) where you can taste some of Mexico’s finest wines while enjoying breathtaking views of the valley.

Like any city, there are some neighborhoods and areas that you might want to avoid. First on our list is Zona Norte. This neighborhood is known for its nightlife scene and has many strip clubs and adult entertainment establishments. While some visitors may enjoy this atmosphere, it’s not for everyone – especially families with children or those looking for a more relaxed vacation experience.

Ensenada and Rosarito are two of the most popular travel destinations in Baja California, Mexico. Both cities offer a wide range of attractions that will make a great weekend getaway from California, USA

Ensenada is a charming coastal city that boasts beautiful scenery, delicious food, and plenty of outdoor activities. You can stroll along the Malecón boardwalk, visit the famous La Bufadora blowhole, or relax on one of Ensenada’s many stunning beaches. And if you’re a wine lover, check out Valle de Guadalupe – Mexico’s answer to Napa Valley – just a short drive from Ensenada.

On the other hand, the beaches in Rosarito are stunning. The town boasts miles of pristine coastline with crystal-clear waters and soft sand that’s perfect for sunbathing or swimming.

Plenty of water sports are available, including surfing, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. If you’re looking for something more low-key, head to one of the many beachfront bars or restaurants for a margarita and some fresh seafood while taking in breathtaking ocean views.

YES! ABSOLUTELY! The crystal-clear waters of Ensenada’s beaches are perfect for swimming, snorkeling and even surfing. Whether you’re looking to catch some waves or just enjoy a leisurely swim, there are plenty of options. Some of the most popular spots include Playa Hermosa and La Misión Beach.

It’s important to note that while Ensenada’s beaches are generally safe for swimming, always be aware of any posted warnings or advisories. Strong currents can sometimes pose a danger to swimmers, so exercise caution and never swim alone.

If you’re coming from San Diego, the closest border crossing is Tijuana. From there, it’s about an hour and a half drive south on scenic Highway 1 to Ensenada. Another famous border crossing is at Tecate, about an hour east of San Diego. From Tecate, it’s a little over two hours drive south to get to Ensenada.

If you want to take a less-traveled route, consider crossing into Mexico through Mexicali.

YES, IT IS SAFE! This is one of the busiest border crossings in the world and it is highly monitored. Make sure your car is in good condition before hitting the road. Check your brakes, tires, fluids, and lights to ensure everything is working correctly. You don’t want any surprises on the way down! It’s also essential to bring all the necessary documents, such as your passport and insurance information. Pay attention to speed limits and signs along the way.

Ensenada is located in the Free Zone, meaning you can take advantage of some serious tax benefits when shopping and doing business here.

A Free Zone is a designated area within Mexico where certain products can be imported and exported without paying taxes or customs duties. This includes things like electronics, textiles, and even vehicles. And because Ensenada falls within this zone, it’s become a popular destination for shoppers looking to save some money.

YES, you do! If you’re a US citizen on a closed-loop cruise (meaning the trip starts and ends in the same US port), you must bring your US passport. The same goes for non-US citizens.

YES, IT IS! ±±Taxis are a perfectly safe and reliable way to get around town. Of course, there are some precautions that you should take when using taxis anywhere in the world – but these tips apply equally in Ensenada as they would anywhere else.

First and foremost, make sure only to use licensed taxis. These will have official markings or logos, which should give you peace of mind knowing that they meet certain safety standards. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to agree on a fare before getting into the taxi so there aren’t any surprises later on.

ABSOLUTELY! Millions of people safely drive this route every year without incident. But, like any drive, some precautions should be taken to ensure a smooth ride.

Firstly, ensure your car is in good condition before embarking on any long journey. Check your brakes, tires, and lights to ensure they function correctly. Secondly, plan your route ahead of time and stick to it. Make sure you have adequate fuel before setting off because gas stations can be few and far between.

It’s also important to note that there may be military checkpoints along the way where they will ask for identification and check your vehicle for drugs or weapons.

Ensenada is known for many things that make it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Ensenada boasts stunning beaches, delicious cuisine, and world-renowned wineries.

If you’re into outdoor activities, Ensenada has plenty to offer. Surfing is a favorite pastime amongst visitors and locals alike, with some of the best waves at San Miguel Beach. If water sports aren’t your thing, plenty of hiking trails offer breathtaking views of the ocean and surrounding landscape.

When it comes to food and drink, Ensenada will not disappoint. The city is famous for its fresh seafood tacos that are served up at countless street vendors throughout town.

YES and NO. In some areas, you can. The city has significantly improved its water treatment facilities in recent years, and tap water quality is now up to international standards.

But just because it’s safe doesn’t mean it will taste great. Depending on where you are staying in Ensenada, the tap water may have a slightly different flavor than what you’re used to. Some people find that it has a slightly chlorinated taste or smell.

To be safe, it is better to buy bottled water as all of us have different reactions with water.

YES!! A tourist card is essentially a piece of paper that allows you entry into Mexico as a visitor. It’s not the same thing as a visa (which is required for longer stays), but it’s still important to have if you’re planning on staying in the country for up to 180 days. So, the short answer is yes – if you’re visiting Ensenada from another country or flying there from within Mexico, you will need a tourist card.

You can either obtain one online before your trip or get one at the border when crossing by land. Just make sure to bring your passport and any other necessary documents with you.

YES, you do need a car permit to go from the USA to Ensenada. But don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

To get started, head over to the Banjercito’s website and fill out the necessary paperwork for your vehicle permit. You’ll also need some documentation such as your driver’s license and registration information. Once everything is submitted online and approved, you’ll receive a confirmation code that allows you to pick up your car permit at one of their offices.

It’s important to note that getting stopped without a valid permit could lead to hefty fines or even having your vehicle impounded.

While crime can happen anywhere in the world, Ensenada has a relatively low crime rate compared to other major cities in Mexico. The local authorities have implemented various measures to ensure the safety of visitors, including increased police presence and surveillance cameras in public areas. Plus, the town’s residents are known for being welcoming and friendly towards tourists.

ABSOLUTELY! Many businesses in Ensenada accept American currency. However, don’t assume that every establishment will take your greenbacks.

While US dollars may be accepted in some places, it’s still best to bring Mexican pesos for smaller purchases or when visiting local markets. Some vendors may give you a better deal if you pay with pesos rather than dollars. Plus, using the local currency shows respect for the culture and economy of Mexico.

YES, it is! It is so easy to walk around Ensenada. The cars always stop for you and prioritize pedestrians. Ensenada is a hilly city, so you’ll also be on uphill streets. There are also many view decks where you can see the whole city and you can walk to the top from the city center.

The bus ride from Tijuana to Ensenada is about 1 hour and 30 minutes long, depending on traffic conditions.

If you’re traveling during rush hour or on weekends, giving yourself some extra time is best. But don’t worry – the bus ride is comfortable and scenic, so you won’t even notice the time passing. Plus, there are plenty of things to see and do in Tijuana and Ensenada, so your journey will be worth it.

And if you’re not too keen on taking a bus, other transportation options are also available. You could rent a car and drive along the beautiful coastal highway between these cities.

Yes, it does! The Malecon in Ensenada is a beautiful boardwalk stretching miles along the coast. It’s not just any ordinary boardwalk – it’s packed with restaurants, bars, shops, and street performers. The Malecon attracts locals and tourists who enjoy its unique charm. You don’t want to miss strolling down the Malecon at sunset.

YES! Head to Playa Hermosa, a beach known for its crystal-clear waters and golden sand. It’s perfect for swimming and sunbathing. But what about cleanliness? The good news is that Playa Hermosa has been awarded the Blue Flag Certification since 2011, which means it meets international water quality and environmental management standards.

Next up is La Bufadora Beach. This beach is famous for its natural blowhole that shoots water up into the air like a geyser.

Still have questions about this Ensenada travel guide?

If you cannot find an answer to your question in our FAQ, you can always contact us
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Clarice

Monday 31st of July 2023

A trip to La Bufadora sounds exciting. I have never seen a natural blowhole and it would be fascinating to see it personally. Thank you for sharing this super detailed post about Ensanada. Very helpful for first time visitors like me.

Umiko

Sunday 30th of July 2023

I think the number one thing to do in Ensenada is whale watching, follow by the blowhole. The hotels' prices seem affordable and the restaurants' suggestions look wonderful. I like that you give links to tour operators, hotels, restaurants, and more, so your readers will have less to think about when planning a trip to Ensenada.

Natascha

Sunday 30th of July 2023

The Baja California is a place I always wanted to travel. Ensenada sounds like a good base. One of the reasons I would like to go there is for the whale watching. Nice that there are some vineyards to explore nearby. And Mexican food is always a delight.

Ambica Gulati

Saturday 29th of July 2023

That is surely a detailed guide. And you have given some good pointers, especially about tipping in restaurants. It was good to know that it's a walkable city and friendly to tourists. All these factors make it fun to explore. And to know that you need a tourist card here. I would like to do the wine tour for sure.

Jan

Saturday 29th of July 2023

Ensenada sounds like fun! I love blowholes. I would love to visit this place and enjoy La Bufadora blowhole view. 30 ft is quite high. I have not done any whale watching so this might be a good place to do that. In addition, I could enjoy some of my mexican favourite foods such as Tostadas and quesedillas. I am bookmarking this blog post for future reference.

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