Eccentric Ensenada to do list. My apologies to those visiting without a vehicle. But, if you are adventurous, an inexpensive cab or guide can be found via local hotels. I have included a few conspicuous sights, because I enjoy them. All of the listings can be found on the interactive map above. Just click the map to access the interactive version to play along.
North to South…mostly…
El Trailero is my favorite taco shop. That statement is certain to start an argument, but, the veggies available to add to your plate makes Trailero the best among thousands of taco stands in Baja. The adobado pork is full of flavor. Trailero is north of town approx 4 miles on east side of Mex Hwy 1. You will see lots of over the road truckers and construction trucks parked there. It is 1/4 mile north of the 16 story white condo tower.
Belio is my favorite waterfront and sunset view restaurant. Go sit at the bar or outside on the deck if weather cooperates. Order a beverage and share some appetizers to soak up the waves and sunshine. Occasional live jazz music is there on weekends. Food is mixed on quality and a bit pricey, but, I have enjoyed the appetizer menu on a handful of visits. Go to Trailero for tacos first, then hit Belio for your beverage fix. Belio is located approx at KM 104, waterside, 1/4 mile south of the large white condo tower.
Chapultepec Hill picnic a great hike up 2nd street or ez taxi ride 1/2 mile from downtown. The view of downtown Ensenada, the cruiseport, Punta Banda and the Islands are a must for any visitor. If this were in the USA, it would have a grand entrance with infrastructure and an entry fee. You will not see a sign and only a fence on the south side of the street give you a clue. Bring your camera. No restroom facility is the only downside.
Marineros Baseball during spring/summer is a great way to experience Mexican culture for a few pesos. This is not your grandfather’s baseball game, amigo. Stadium is at 9th and Guadalupe. Make a day/night out of it by visiting Monique’s Cafeteria , 2 blocks west of the stadium or Barra Azul on 11th, between the bridge and Espinoza(south side of 11th).
Los Globos segunda shopping is Ensenada’s flea market on 9th street, a handful of blocks east of Reforma. If you can’t find it here, you don’t need it. Most of the second hand stuff comes from SoCal and is “imported” to Baja. Clothing, household goods, musical instruments and art treasures can be found here if you know how to bargain. You will also find fresh fruit/veggies and taco stands to catch the local flavors.
Degaro Seafood , Hogaza Hogaza bakery and La Frommagerie(Miramar & 6th). This is a great place to put together your picnic to enjoy the great views around Ensenada. Degaro will run out of the fresh catch by late morning, so get there in time for the good stuff. Hogaza’s bakery is unique and La Frommagerie has loads of the local cheeses. These are separate shops in the Bodegas de Santo Tomas block, north side of Miramar. Covelli Pizza(thin, wood fired) is in the same block.
La Contra wine shop has a thorough selection of the local wines of the Valle de Guadalupe. If you have no knowledge of the local wines, be prepared to pay double for a similar value in California. Ask the staff for assistance to fit your taste and budget preference. Location is at 6th and Moctezuma, at the park.
Ensenada’s Waterfront Malecon [head to the water from the big flag and meander north] is a fun spot to people watch, talk to the sea lions and watch the boats. Sure, the cheesy curio shops are there, but grab a fish taco, seafood cocktail or ceviche at the Fish Market(Mercado Negro) and park your bunz at the waterfront. Stop in at La Alcoba(“alcove”) Cafe and Tatiana can be your concierge for activities, music, shopping and more. So many cruise ship tourists are herded to the shops on Lopez Mateos that they miss this little corner of Ensenada.
Muelles Tres and La Cocedora de Langosta give you a more formal seafood experience than the fish taco stands. Both restaurants are at the north end of the Malecon and offer unique seafood creations from the fresh fish. You will pay gringo prices at these two restaurants, but, the value and quality are solid.
Cerveceria Wendlandt is a new micro brewery/bar on Costero, featuring craft/micro brews. This place is full of locals with an occasional tourist thrown in.
3 Heads Park weekend fiestas are a big treat. Ethnic fiestas, restaurant promotions, wine events and others happen every weekend just north of the big flag.
Parking can be found on most streets. But the north side of downtown toward Papas&Beer and Hussong’s can be congested. The underground lot off Ryerson between 1st & 2nd is not expensive and secure. Take the stair or elevator back up to street level at the entry to Mango Mango on Lopez Mateos(1st street).
Ultra Marino Oyster Bar is Ensenada’s best live music venue. You will find it one black west of the Hussong’s/Papas&Beer crowd. Ultra Marino usually has Cucapa beer, on tap.
Mango Mango has the best dance floor in Ensenada. Local and national bands pump the music while eye candy for all tastes bumps their booties on the floor.
Lopez Mateos(1st street) is the central tourist area to shop and wander. My two favorite shops are Bazaar Ramirez(Gastelum) on the north end and Herradura(Riveroll).
El Fenix Tacos are in the argument for best fish tacos. 5th(Benito Juarez) and Espinoza is where you will find the locals gathered for angel shark filets. I prefer cokteles and ceviche to the simple fish tacos. But, if you are a new Ensenada visitor, you have to have a fish taco.
La Guerrense Mariscos, 1st & Alvarado, provides the most unique seafood and ceviche selection in Ensenada. They are closed on Tuesday. Sabina’s Mariscos “off-the-beaten-track” cart got famous in 2012, due to celebs Tony Bourdain and Rick Bayless visits.
Mi Kaza is my favorite breakfast. Owner Les is also a wine maker, so engage him about his vino. He is also an excellent concierge for your entertainment needs. This cafe has mexican and american breakfasts that I love, but, is also open for lunch and dinner. No alcohol, but, you will find the locals gathered here.
Maristaco Japone at 2nd & Alvarado is Ensenada’s hidden Japanese gem. Sushi, udon, seafood specialties and the maristaco special are a treat. Tommy and Laura are only open 2PM – 8pm, Wed-Sat. 16 is my estimate on the seating capacity at this mom & pop shop.
Cafe with locals at Cafe Arabiga or Zu Taza. Both cafes are located at 2nd and Blancarte, just one block away from the tourist crowds on Lopez Mateos(1st street). Desserts, cold drinks and wifi are also available at both. Zu Taza is the larger of the two. Arabiga often has the owners on the floor providing service and also has an art studio and garden area.
El Navegante Bar on the 11th floor at the Hotel Villa del Mar provides a sweeping view of the city. As a bar, it needs something to soften its hotel meeting room atmosphere. But, order a beverage and your eyes will be drawn to the city, the cruiseport and the people below. The view is especially stunning at night. Only problem is that they don’t open until 6PM, missing winter sunsets. Stop in at Ensenada Vinos to take in the local wine without having to haul up to Valle de Guadalupe. Check out the ceviche or cokteles de mariscos at Alejandra’s cart. Both are located at the southwestern corner of Castillo and Lopez Mateos(1st street).
El Primo Nava is just a few blocks east of centro on Lopez Mateos. This place started as a stand, like Guerrerense, but now occupies a big space that was once a roller skating rink. Get the fresh shellfish and seafood at this local’s hangout. I have never seen another gringo in this restaurant, unless they were my guests.
CEARTE/Hotel Riviera festivals and music are fun spots. The bigger events, like Vendimia(wine harvest in August) require advance ticket purchases through ProVino. CEARTE has a very good and always changing art gallery, cafe and wifi. Hotel Riviera has the historic Andaluz Bar where you can enjoy a beverage. The History Museum at the north end of the hotel is fun tour for a small donation.
Teatro Benito Juarez hosts classical, rock and other music events regularly. Ask locals about performances in this historic theater. http://www.ensenadahoy.com/eventos/
Muncipal Beach picnic and people watching. Some cleanup, structure and money have been invested in the muni beach, 2 miles south of centro Ensenada. Music events are plentiful during summer weekends.
Tacos El Original is the best carne taco shop on the south end of Ensenada. I have neighbors who have driven there at 2AM for their taco fix. They are open until 5AM! So, don’t go there before noon. Location is just south of the airport on Mex Hwy 1(Reforma), west side.
Lunch/Happy Hour at Estero Beach resort. Catch a taxi 7 miles south for a great view of the bay with cocktails and appetizers. I don’t consider Estero Beach an upscale culinary destination. But, stick to the simple items on the menu and you won’t go wrong. This is a fabulous spot for sunset. Check out the very unique art store, just before the entry to Estero.