Let’s get ready with these things to do in Ensenada, Mexico during a cruise ship vacation in the Baja California with excursions and tips.
Love wine, outdoor adventures, or gorging yourself on mouthwatering dishes? Then a visit to Ensenada, Mexico will be the highlight of your Baja California Cruise.
Ensenada, a beach town on the California peninsula, is to the United States; what Napa is to Italy. Wine lovers will enjoy the wine country in Valle de Guadalupe. While adrenaline junkies enjoy exploring the rugged outdoors.
A land of many record-breaking attractions, Ensenada is a thrill to explore. It will be a shame to remain onboard your ship while in Ensenada. As you will miss out on these 30 things to enjoy in Ensenada, Mexico. But first, some port information…
Ensenada Port Information
Your cruise ship will dock at the industrial Harbor marked by the larger-than-life Mexican flag pole (one of the many record-breaking attractions).
Shared by cargo and commercial ships, the dock is home to all manner of boats. A walk along the pier will welcome you to scenic views of the Bay of Saints. There are many fishermen boats docked at the harbor too.
1. Stroll Along Avenida Lopez Mateos
A short distance away from the pier is Avenida Lopez Mateos, the main shopping street. Here is where you can get straw hats, those pretty embroidered Mexican dresses, ponchos, blankets, crafts, and, lots of jewelry.
The street also hosts plenty of restaurants and street side cafés. These are good for coffee, drinks or lunch. However, it’s believed that the better restaurants in the south. The truth, go with your gut, it can’t fail you.
But don’t spend your whole day here, there is plenty more to see. To exit the port area, board a taxi or shuttle found at the exit of the pier. A shuttle will cost you $2 one way or $4 round trip. Kids ride for free.
2. Wander at the Malecon
Lining Ensenada’s Bay of All Saints is a short but lovely boardwalk. The Malecon starts at the fish market and ends at the park. A walk here treats you to stunning views of sunrises or sunsets. You can enjoy this, while you sip on a cool drink or munch on a delicious taco.
One thing bound to capture your attention here is the huge Mexican flag in the area. Part of the Banderas monumentales project, this flag pole stands over 300 feet tall. The flag itself measures 50meters long by 28meters wide. Tour guides claim it’s one of the world’s largest but almost all Mexican states have one of a similar size or larger.
This Malecon is characteristic of the energetic Mexican vibe we have all come to love. Wafts of live mariachi music float in the air as they entertain onlookers at the place. All this, while sea lions bark, pelicans call, and fishermen bring in their catch. You will simply love this laid back fishing town.
3. Check Out the Prohibition Era Casino
Next, check out the Rivera del Pacifico building located on the main stretch. This grand building was a casino back in the 1930s to 1950s. The detail that went into designing Rivera del Pacifico makes it an architectural monument today.
Built during the prohibition period. This casino was frequented by Holly wood stars such as Lucy and Desi Arnaz. It is also rumored to have been associated with Al Capone. This is where party people from California came to get their alcohol and entertainment fix.
Today, it’s a cultural center with a History Museum, open-air theater, eatery, and a souvenir shop. The sculpture garden outside the Rivera alone is worth the visit.
The inside is beautifully decorated to bear remarkable tile work, grand murals, paintings, and beautiful ceilings.
Learn about the history and culture of the land by taking a guided tour of the place. Afterward, grab a souvenir or two at the gift shop. A tour of the site comes with a complimentary margarita to celebrate the rumored fact that Margarita was born there.
For an entry charge of $2, this place is affordable and interesting enough to visit.
4. Learn at the History Museum of Ensenada
The old Rivera del Pacifico casino hosts the history museum of Ensenada. This is the best place to learn about the town’s history. The history presented here showcases the history of Baja California from the pre-historic times, European arrival to date.
The exhibits tell history through recovered beads, pots, baskets, religious objects, and photo exhibits. The museum showcases the exhibits in English and Spanish descriptions. A quaint gift shop is also located in the museum. The gardens around this cultural center are worth just the visit. The museum charges a $2 entry fee.
5. Shopping in Ensenada
First street, located left of the cruise pier, is the main tourist shopping strip. It’s lined with cute quaint stalls and stands selling all manner of Mexican Souvenirs. You can buy hand-made items, curios, jewelry, clothing, and handcrafted sculptures.
Find all your Ensenada Souvenirs from Amazon right here.
Calle Ruiz is another shopping street located at the end of First Street. It has more authentic crafts and better prices. However, it hosts more local shops for items such as sports goods, wedding dresses, wine, and travel items.
For high-end gifts, you can visit Macro Plaza del Mar. For luxurious items of fashion, jewelry, perfumes, and more.
6. Water Show at El Parque De La Bandera
While wandering along the Malecon, ensure you check out El Parque De La Bandera, the park at the huge Flag Pole. It features a playground, fountain, and a band shell that hosts live music events. The kids will enjoy splashing around at the playground.
If you visit from 8 p.m you will enjoy the dancing fountain. The lit water is synced to the beat of the music playing. It’s a lovely place to relax and watch the magnificent views of the port area, especially at night.
7. Caracol Museum
Caracol is the recently opened modern science museum found right at the harbor. You can’t miss it, it’s a unique building designed in the shape of a ship.
Caracol features earth, sea, and art exhibitions. Of interest is the exhibition that details Ensenada’s source of quality drinking water. Another is about global warming and the polar ice caps. Find out how the world’s largest geothermal station works. Or discover dinosaur remains in an excavation adventure. It’s a great place for kids to learn science and for adults to explore.
8. Stop by Plaza Civica
Learn a bit about Ensenada’s founding history at Plaza Civica. Located in the central area of Ensenada, this plaza hosts three of the most important historical figures of Mexico. Check out the golden head busts of Benito Juarez, Miguel Hidalgo, and Venustiano Carranza.
A plaque on each head describes the person’s significance in Mexico’s history. Take a guided trip, this way you will learn interesting facts you might have otherwise missed. Enjoy remarkable ocean vistas and take advantage of the photo ops available at the place. A visit here is an eye-opener on Mexico’s history.
9. Visit the Regional Museum
The Regional Historical Museum of Ensenada located on Gastelum street is one of the oldest building in Baja California. Built in 1886, this museum has been used for many government and public institutions. It was once a court, fortress, military barracks, school, jail, and now a historic Museum.
The museum showcases the history and development of Ensenada from the original inhabitants of Baja California. Housed in prison cells, the history exhibitions are tools, utensils, and ornaments used during the Mesoamerican era. At the museum, you will see things such as pipes made of stone, sticks for making fire, hooks in bones, and religious objects.
Other exhibits present baskets, beads, and, pots used in ancient times. Photos showcase the history and development of the region. The narrative at the Museum is translated in both English and Spanish.
10. Stop by the Supposed Birthplace of Margaritas
Hussong’s Cantina is the oldest cantina in Baja California. Open since 1882, this is the place that locals and tourists alike, visit for drinks. Known for its margaritas and affordable prices. The place is always busy and great for meeting locals.
One of its unique characteristics is the peanut shells on the floor of the bar. The bar is known to serve large bags of peanuts and patrons are allowed to drop peanut shells on the floor. Pigeons love this, so don’t be surprised to see these feathery friends swing by from time to time. On certain days, you will find Mexican bands performing live. You can enjoy these shows or even catch up with the latest sports events on their screens.
11. Eat the Best Tostadas Ever
Ensenada is famously known as the birthplace of fish tacos. You can’t miss out on an opportunity to try out these mouthwatering delicacies when in town. Luckily, there are food stands and eateries offering this delicious dish everywhere.
One of the best places to get tostadas, ceviche, and tacos is at El Guerrerense. It is the world’s largest and busiest street food stand. Approved by Anthony Bourdain, the tostadas made at this place are out of this world. The best being the sea urchin tostada. The owner, Dona Sabina has been called the queen of ceviche. You have to try her ceviche to understand why.
Don’t be surprised to find a queue of both locals and tourists at this joint. Luckily, though, they serve the crowds very fast. Enjoy different types of tostadas, ceviche, and salsas. Topping them with a wide variety of sauces available at the cart.
To add to this, enjoy amazingly affordable prices of it all.
12. Explore Canon Parque Ecologico
Canon Parque Ecologico is a lush beautiful ecological park a short distance away from Ensenada town. Hiking, climbing, and biking are the main activities here. The park features a 10 km trail that takes you to the top of the hill. At the top are incredible views of the city and Baja California’s coastline.
Apart, from hiking, you can also do birdwatching. There are several interesting bird species that can be seen from the place. Or carry a good book and get some quality reading time. The price of visiting the park varies with the season and crowd. Don’t forget to try local food and quick bites while you are there.
13. Go Horseback Riding at Rancho Los Bandidos, Ensenada
Baja Bandidos horse riding excursion is another incredible experience that you can try out in Ensenada. At the horse ranch located in Domicilo, Conocido, cruisers are paired with healthy horses according to the rider’s experience.
After a short safety briefing, the adventure begins. The trail to the San Miguel hills opens up to some of the most fantastic views of Ensenada. You will enjoy views of the golden coast, Salsipuedes Bay, Ensenada Bay, and the Pacific Ocean.
What makes this ride even more fun are the professional, friendly guides and owner. Their service is simply incredible. Once back at the ranch, you will be treated to snacks such as chips, salsa, tacos, and drinks. Tacos and drinks are payable.
Located some 20 minutes away from the cruise terminal. Rancho Bandidos is easily accessible by bus. This excursion takes about 1-2 hours. Giving you enough time to go for other adventures. Charges for Baja Bandido Horse Riding excursion range from $71.99 for adults (13 and above) to $ 61.99 for children (age 8-6).
14. Go Whale Watching
Go whale watching in Ensenada between the months of December and April. Grey whales, one of the friendliest whale species, migrate to Baja California from Alaska. The whales migrate here to escape the harsh winter of the north and to give birth to calves.
You can see these mighty creatures swim and play at the Bay of Todos Los Santos. Grey whales love to show off their young ones. They will swim up to your boat, sometimes even allowing you to touch and pet them. You can book a whale watching excursion to meet them up close.
15. Visit La Bufadora
Visit La Bufadora, the world’s largest underwater blowhole. The marine geyser works when incoming tide is sucked in an underground cave and spit out when releasing air. It’s located on the Punta Banda Peninsula in Ensenada.
Go see the geyser spit sea water up to 100 ft in the air and soak in the sprays. Enjoy the gorgeous view of the ocean and the rocky cliffs and take advantage of the photo op. Afterward, enjoy shopping, sightseeing and eating at the flea market found at the site. Be sure to try the tacos and Pina Coladas served in pineapples.
You can enjoy the geyser by kayaking or taking a 45-minute bus/taxi ride from the cruise port. This is done by booking an excursion with your cruise line or doing a DIY trip. While it’s free to access the site, parking and washrooms are chargeable.
16. Soar High at Las Canadas
Visit the Las Canadas adventure park for some of the best fun in Ensenada. Las Canadas is located 30 minutes south of Ensenada town. Go soar high above the canopy on a Zipline adventure.
The park has five Ziplines and several suspension bridges. Taking the Zipline package allows you to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding park, lake, and campgrounds. The suspension bridges, though, scary gives you an adrenaline rush.
Other attractions at Las Canadas include paddle boats, swimming, biking, horse-riding, and off-roading on ATVs.
17. Visit the Wine Country
Ensenada, Mexico is popularly known by wine connoisseurs for its wine country in Valle de Guadalupe. Located 20 km north of the city, Valle De Guadalupe features over 75 wineries.
More and more people are discovering this region for its excellent wines and fine dining. Excite your taste buds with samples of velvety red wine, cheese, and gourmet dishes.
You can visit the wineries by booking an excursion with your ship or reputable local tour operators. This full-day getaway will amaze you with scenic views, blissful atmosphere, and sampling of nicely aged wines.
Most wine tours will include a tour of four of the top vineyards, snacks and a visit to the Wine Museum. At the wine museum, you will learn how the Mexican wine country evolved and current events.
18. Visit the Oldest Winery in Baja California
Bodegas de Santo Tomas located a short distance from Ensenada town was the oldest winery in town. Started in 1888 after immigrants from European countries came to Ensenada, the winery had been producing wine for over a century until it relocated due to urbanization.
Luckily, they left the bodega there to give wine tours and sell high-quality wines. Having had 27 good harvests with some earning double gold medal, the wines at Bodega de Santos are of the highest quality. A trip to this bodega will have you sampling wine, olive oils, bread, cheeses, and chocolates. If you are looking to purchase wine, then this is the place to do so
19. Go Cheese Tasting at La Cava de Marcelo
You will enjoy a visit to La Cava de Marcelo, the main cheese producer in Ensenada. Here is where you’ll learn about livestock keeping, crop production, and sample cheese paired with wine. Later you can enjoy lunch at the restaurant which offers a modern twist to traditional Mexican cuisines. The food there is fresh, ingredients are sourced from Ojos Negros valley.
20. Go on an ATV Adventure
The best way to explore Mexico’s rugged terrain is on an ATV. Board one and explore Ensenada’s golden coastline, La Bufadora, the Wine Country, and the hot springs.
ATV Ensenada, a local tour operator, offers this type of ATV excursions. Their ATV adventures take visitors to La Bufadora(blowhole), the wine country, and to the hot springs. You can even go on an ATV/Horseback riding combo.
Packaged in different interests such as action, adventure, and wine tasting, these ATV tours are created to suit your interests perfectly. The team at ATV Ensenada led by Emilio has been praised widely for their professional and friendly services.
21. See Sea Lions at La Lobera
La Lobera is a sea cave with an open rooftop on Ensenada’s rugged south coast, found between the town of San Quintin and Rosario. The beautiful crater the shape and size of a stadium opens up to a beach 20 feet below that is home to Sea lions. Mysterious circular rock outcrops can be seen around the crater.
While it’s a little bit far, this attraction is truly unique and beautiful. It’s somewhere you can visit just to enjoy the incredible views and land formations while checking out Sea Lion’s everyday life. A restaurant found near the site serves the best food on the highway, all under 100 pesos.
You can get to this attraction by driving 3 hours out of Ensenada on the Carretera Transpeninsular highway. You will come across a small blue sign to your right between the town of San Quintin and El Rosario. Branch off at this sign and take a sandy dirt road to the site.
4x4s are essentially the right vehicles for this adventure. Carry your camera.
22. Play with Cat Cubs at Pai Pai
On your way to La Bufadora stop by the Paipai Eco Tourism center located at Carretera Bufadora Km 6, left of the Oxxo curve.
Pai Pai is a rehabilitation center for big cat cubs, who are sick, injured, orphaned or abandoned. These cats are divided into three groups according to their ages. Tours are grouped by the age of the cats. Pick a tour of the age group you wish to see most. You can’t go wrong with the baby cubs.
Other than the cats, the center also has lemurs, parrots, and a petting zoo with all kinds of domestic animals.
It’s an incredible place to visit especially with kids. The views along the road to the center alone are worth the trip. You will be charged a small fee which goes to the care and maintenance of the center.
23. Go Spot Fishing
Baja is popular for big game fishing. One of the reasons people visit Baja is to fish and explore its varied marine life. Ensenada is no exception, book a sport fishing trip out on the azure waters of the Baja California. Try your hand at catching such species as Tuna, Grouper, Dorado, Cods, and Striped Marlin.
There are plenty of fish charters you can book here. Enjoy the beautiful coastlines of Ensenada, Mexico as you sail out.
24. Skydiving in Baja California
Where better to go skydiving than in Baja California, the views from thousands of feet in the air are amazing. Check off skydiving from your bucket list in Ensenada. There are professionals such as Skydive Baja whose top priority is your safety then fun.
This group trains you how to do this and ensures your safety is double checked. Then off you go skydiving. This thrilling adventure happens at the valley of Ojos Negros, just 4 minutes from Ensenada. If you are looking for an adrenaline rush during your cruise visit to Ensenada then don’t miss this activity.
25. Visit the Opal Mine
Opal is a popular gemstone in Mexico. It was discovered by the Aztecs back in 1200 CE. It fascinates by reflecting different colors. Visit the Opal Mine which is actually a jewelry store at the corner of Costero Blvd and Alvarado. It’s at this store where you can buy the Fire Opal, the most unique and popular of the opals.
The store designed to look like a real mine showcases jewelry of different shapes and sizes. Here you can buy some locally made jewelry, pieces that feature national stone of Mexico and resizing of the rings.
26. Beach Bum at Rosarito Beach
If you are looking for some sand, sun, and sea during your cruise vacation to Ensenada, then the best place to experience this is at Rosarito Beach. The beach is 45 minutes south of Ensenada, Mexico. It’s a wide white sandy beach in the resort area of Rosarito. It’s perfect for swimming, snorkeling, and surfing.
Tryout these beach foot pads during your visit.
27. Learn to Surf at Playa Hermosa
However, if you are looking for a closer beach, then Playa Hermosa beach just near the cruise port is the place to go. This is a quiet beach that begins at the edge of the Malecon and stretches 12 miles along the Bay of Saints in Ensenada. You can take a taxi to the beach which costs roughly $5 per person.
Playa Hermosa offers surf lessons for beginners. It has the right elements for surfing, so it’s the best place to learn to surf.
Those not interested in surfing can relax on the beach as you enjoy the sun, ocean view, and the sea breeze. In the right weather, it can be fun to play in the water too.
28. Check out EL Salto Canyon and Waterfall
Explore El Salto Canyon which means the jump. This canyon located some 20 minutes off the Tijuana Ensenada Libra highway on KM 76 at La Mision, bears incredible nature and waterfalls. This is a great place to go picnicking, rock climbing, and rappelling.
The views here are incredible, the atmosphere tranquil and inviting. Besides you can also fish in the inland lake. A half a mile easy hike will lead you to the canyon. Entrance fee is about $2 for the day and camping fee is about $4.
29. Enjoy the Bean to Belly Experience
Visit Maya Cacao located on Alvarado Avenue opposite El Guero food stand. Learn the history of Cacao that dates back to 3500 years ago. Cacao was a superfood for ancient Mayans.
For a more immersive experience book the bean to belly workshop. A 60-minute workshop, where you will be taught the history of chocolate, cacao trees, taste raw cocoa beans, participate in hands-on chocolate making, sample traditional chocolate and a healthy dark chocolate drink.
The workshop costs about $35 for adults and $17.50 for children below 12 years. For those who love chocolates, this is the place to visit. You will enjoy incredible flavors of chocolate like sea salt, orange, and coconut. Enjoy the macaroons, dark chocolate, and hot chocolate drinks or Frappuccinos.
30. Taste Ensenada
Ensenada might not be known for many things but its famously known for its food. Epicureans from all over the world make their way to this port city just for the amazing gastronomical adventures.
On your next cruise visit to the port ensure you visit the town and try out its food. You can start this by getting a scrumptious breakfast at El Rey Sol just a short distance from the cruise port on Avenida Lopez Mateos.
For Coffee, stop over at Barre De Café, located 15 minutes away from the cruise port on 6th street and Miramar at Bodega Santo Thomas Winery. Here you will get the best coffee in
Ensenada Baja California. They roast their own beans and the atmosphere just brings good vibes.
For lunch, ensure to stop at Taco Fenix for the best Baja style fish and shrimp tacos. Then head over to La Guerrerense or El Guero for ceviche and tostadas. If you are looking for fine dining, then visit Manzanilla or the many restaurants found over in Valle de Guadalupe.
Conclusion on Ensenada, Mexico
There you have it 30 things to enjoy in Ensenada, Mexico. Enjoy this beautiful coastal city and all it has to offer. Visit with a positive attitude and you are bound to enjoy yourself more than you expect. That’s all from us here. Happy cruising!!