Just 70 miles south from San Diego is a weekend getaway often overlooked by Southern California boaters, but one that’s been a favorite for those in the know: Ensenada, Mexico on the Baja peninsula. Ensenada aficionados remember the town as as sleepy fishing village and the home of Hussongs Cantina and renting pangas at Juanito’s. But new marine facilities, a revitalized downtown and more choices make the new Ensenada a great escape.
From San Diego Harbor, boaters travel south past Point Loma and the Coronado Islands and later the Todos Santos Islands before sighting Punta Banda. Ensenada Harbor is at the northeast end of the bay, protected by a mile-long breakwater, with the entrance at its southern end. The southeastern shore offers many small marinas and an anchorage.
The primera, the main street in downtown (formally known as Avenida Lopez Mateos), was recently done over with cobblestone sidewalks and now features outdoor cafes, street vendors, many and many new shops. The malecon (waterfront promenade) is also renovated and landscaped, perfect for a stroll to the Ventana Del Mar Plaza. The fish market in town is authentic and a fun way to be part of the town’s true heritage.
While summer is the busy season here, there’s plenty do year round. Offshore fishing is, of course, one of the best activities. January to March is whale-watching season. In the middle of it is February’s Carnaval, a huge party throughout the town. And late April is the traditional Newport-Ensenada Regatta, which has been going on since 1947. The rugged terrain surround this area offers up many options for outdoor enthusiasts, including mountain biking, hiking, off-roading and more. For those that want to do nothing, Estero beach, 6 miles south of downtown at the Estero Beach Resort, is the closest sandy strand, but there are dozens more in the local area.
While you can still get great fish tacos from local vendors, there are now plenty of restaurants to choose from here. You can also get excellent Mexican wines in Ensenada, since 90 percent of the country’s wine grapes are grown in the hills surrounding the village. El Rey Sol restaurant, which has been around for more than 50 years, is better than ever. Hussong’s is still a great cantina and Bronco’s Steak House will get you personal attention.
Baja Naval marina offers 50 slips for boats up to 100 ft long on the Malecon on the south side of the harbor. Cruiseport Village Marina is one of the harbor’s newest facilities, with 200 boat slips from 36 to 60 feet. The Marina Coral resort complex includes a lavish hotel and a 350-slip marina. Club Nautico provides 210 slips and Sergio’s Marina 30 slips. Of course, Juanito’s is still going strong, offering slips, charters and more.