Lonely Planet: Ensenada, Mexico
Ensenada, 108km south of the border, is hedonistic Tijuana’s cosmopolitan sister. The city has a quirky mix of just-off-the-boat cruise shippers, drive-by tourists from Cali, visitors from mainland Mexico and seen-it-all locals. In case you’ve forgotten you’re in Mexico (what with all those US dollars and English menus), just look up: a Mexican flag, so large it’s probably visible from space, flutters proudly over the tourist zone. Wander Avenida López Mateos (Calle 1a) and you’ll find almost anything ranging from tasteful ceramics to tasteless T-shirts. Nearby, Calle 2a – unlit and seedy – is worth avoiding after dark.
Ensenada was the capital of Baja territory from 1882 to 1915, but the capital shifted to Mexicali during the revolution. The city subsequently catered to ‘sin’ industries until the federal government outlawed gambling in the 1930s…but judging from the strip clubs, peep shows and bars, sin still goes on today as it did in days of old.
Enjoy Ensenada website: Visitor Information
Can’t decide where to go?
Expediciones de Turismo Ecológico y Aventura offers low impact, guided ecological tours for adventurers of all ability levels to rarely-visited natural and historical sites throughout the Baja peninsula.
San Miguel Arcangel De La Frontera: Protected adobe ruins of the Dominican mission established by Padre Luis Sales in 1787.
Nuestra Senora De Guadalupe Del Norte: A sign marks the original site of the Dominican mission founded in 1834.
Santo Tomas De Aquino: Adobe ruins of the second site of the mission founded by Dominicans in 1791. Located in Valle de Santo Tomás at El Palomar, 30 miles south of Ensenada on the Transpeninsular Highway.
San Vicente Ferrer: Protected adobe ruins of the Dominican mission established in 1780. Drive west .7 miles on the signed dirt road just north of San Vicente near Km. 88 on the Transpeninsular Highway.
Santo Domingo: Preserved adobe ruins of the mission dedicated in 1775 by Dominican padres Manuel García and Miguel Hidalgo. Turn east near the bridge before Col. Vicente Guerrero on the Transpeninsular Highway. Follow the scenic 4.5-mile dirt road (not recommended for large RVs) to the mission.
El Rosario De Vinadaco: Protected adobe ruins of the Dominican mission founded in 1774 in El Rosario de Arriba (near the Delegación Office), and its second site in 1802 overlooking the riverbed near the Community Museum in El Rosario de Abajo.
San Fernando De Velicata: Adobe ruins of the only Franciscan mission in Baja California, established by Padre Junípero Serra in 1769. Drive west 3.5 miles on the dirt road at Km. 114 on the Transpeninsular Highway
San Francisco De Borja Adac: Inaugurated by the Jesuits in 1762, San Borja is built of quarry stone and is one of Baja California’s two fully intact missions still in use. Best access is via the 23-mile dirt road off the Transpeninsular Highway, east of El Rosarito. (High clearance vehicle recommended.
Santa Gertrudis La Magna: Founded by the Jesuits in 1752, Santa Gertrudis features its original freestanding bell tower and is one of Baja California’s two fully intact missions still in use. Best access is via the 37-mile dirt road northeast at Km. 154 (Ejido Mújica) on the Transpeninsular Highway, north of Vizcaino in Baja California Sur.
Museums and Galleries
Museo De Historia (Museum of History): A creatively designed rupestrian pathway and exhibition rooms focus on the "Native People of Baja California" and "European Explorers and Missionaries." Open daily 9:30 am-2 pm & 3-5 pm. Donations. In the north end of the Riviera del Pacífico on Blvd. Costero.
Museo Historico Regional (Regional History Museum): A permanent display of "People and Cultures of Meso-America" plus temporary exhibitions in the 1886 military headquarters that served as the Ensenada jail until 1986. Open 10 am-5 pm, closed Mon. Donations. Av. Gastélum near Paseo Calle Primera.
Ex-Aduana Maritima: Intriguing temporary cultural and historical exhibits in one of the oldest buildings in town, the former Maritime Customs House, built in 1887. Open Mon.-Fri. 9 am-4 pm. Av. Ryerson #99.
"Caracol" Museo De Ciencias (Science Museum): Interesting exhibition halls dedicated to astronomy, physics, paleontology and marine sciences of Baja California. Open Tues.-Fri. 9 am-5 pm, Sat. & Sun. 12-5 pm, closed Mon. Donations. Av. Obregon #1463 between Calles 14 & 15.
Estero Beach Museum: An outstanding collection of folk art and artifacts entitled "40 Centuries of Mexican Culture" in chronological exhibition rooms. Open 9 am-1 pm & 2-5 pm, closed Tues. Donations. 6 miles south of town at Estero Beach Resort.
Museo Comunitario Del Valle De Guadalupe: A fascinating exhibition of Russian memorabilia and local Indian artifacts in a Russian home dating from 1905. Open 9 am-5 pm, closed Mon. Donations. Across from Monte Xanic Winery in Francisco Zarco, Valle de Guadalupe, just off Highway 3 to Tecate.
Galeria De Perez Meillon: Authentic native Paipai and Kumiai Indian crafts by local artisans, Tarahumara and Casas Grandes pottery. Open daily 10 am-6 pm. Blvd. Costero #1094-39 in Centro Artesanal.
Galeria De La Cuidad: Monthly exhibitions of Baja California artists. Open 9 am-6 pm, closed Sat. & Sun. In the north end of the Riviera del Pacífico on Blvd. Costero.
Galeria La Esquina De Bodegas: Monthly exhibitions of Mexican and international artists. Open 8 am-10 pm, closed Sun. Across from Bodegas de Santo Tomás on Av. Miramar & Calle 6.
Taller De Artesanos Indigenas: Indian Artists Workshop with authentic Paipai and Kumiai arts and crafts. Open Mon.-Fri. 9:30 am-1:30 pm. At Bodegas de Santo Tomás, Av. Miramar #666.
Art Gallery/Studio Los Arcos: Original paintings, sculptures, fine and decorative arts by Baja California artists. Open Mon.-Sat. 10 am-5 pm, Sun. 10 am-3 pm, closed Tues. In Ejido Esteban Cantú on the road to La Bufadora in Punta Banda.
La Bufadora: An amazing natural blowhole spouting seawater 70 feet into the air. Newly renovated with botanical gardens and various observation decks, several with handicapped access. 22 miles south of Ensenada near the tip of Punta Banda peninsula. Small parking fee.
Parque Nacional Constitucion De 1857 (Laguna Hanson): A national park in the Sierra de Juárez with Laguna Hanson, a scenic lake surrounded by pine forests, unusual rock formations and excellent primitive campsites on its western shore. Small entrance fee; no facilities; rustic cabin rentals. Best access is via the 20-mile dirt road just east of Km. 55 on Highway 3 to Ojos Negros/San Felipe.
Parque Nacional Sierra De San Pedro Martir: The larger of Baja California’s two national parks with the Mexican National Observatory located near the peninsula’s highest peak, the 10,154 ft. Picacho del Diablo. This unspoiled wilderness is an ideal setting for hiking, backpacking and primitive camping. Small entrance fee; no facilities. Access via a 65-mile dirt road from San Telmo de Abajo, 80 miles south of Ensenada on the Transpeninsular Highway.
Catavina Cave Paintings: The most easily accessible of Baja’s primitive rock art, thought to be 600 to 1000 years old. Vivid geometric and abstract pictographs cover the walls and ceiling of a small cave two miles north of Cataviña near Km. 170 on the Transpeninsular Highway.