A coastal city on Mexico’s Pacific Coast, Ensenada is the third largest city in the state of Baja and is famously revered as “the Cinderella of the Pacific” due to its popularity as a port for cruise ships. Founded in 1542, the city has a population today of 279,769 people and is roughly sixty-two miles south of the U.S. border. A vibrant port city, Ensenada is also home to naval and military bases and draws a myriad of tourists annually from around the world with its beautiful location in Baja and plethora of things to do.
Its position on a beautiful stretch of baja coastline boasting a fine harbor, Ensenada is an extraordinary sea town known for its great fishing, water sport, and historical attractions. The climate is Mediterranean-like and, interestingly, also supports many excellent vineyards. In fact, its winelands are often compared to those of Napa Valley in California and considered some of the best in the Western Hemisphere. While the city is situated on the coast, it backs up to various small mountains. Because its rainy season is often short, the city has been known to experience drought from time to time. The outlying areas of Ensenada and their hilly terrain are popular for hiking, camping, and off-roading.
Before the arrival of the Spanish, the indigenous people of the region lived semi-nomadic lives. Some agriculture was practiced like growing corn and herding some animals. When Ensenada was founded in 1542, Yuman Indian tribes still lived throughout the region. In fact, it would take centuries before Europeans would remain permanently in the area; the first people to do so were the Jesuits who were followed by the Dominicans. Settlement of the Baja Peninsula was slow due to the mountains, deserts, and sea that allowed it a longer period of isolation than most other regions of Mexico. Even while serving as the temporary capital of the state of Baja California before Mexicali was named capital city, Ensenada was slow to grow and retained a modest population until the twentieth century.
When Prohibition was passed in the U.S., Ensenada began to bloom as a tourist destination. While Tijuana, much closer to the border, experienced a greater population boom during Prohibition, Ensenada finally began to explode population-wise in the 1950s. Since this time, the city has developed substantially into an internationally recognized holiday hot spot. Today, much of the city’s economy is based on tourism as well as fishing and agriculture.
Ensenada is one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations. Its wide range of activities and venues attracts many outdoor enthusiasts seeking a holiday by the sea. From outlying islands to mountain terrain, Ensenada boasts many recreational activities and events; its cosmopolitan center is also home to world-hotels and luxury spas and resorts. Many visitors flock to Ensenada for shopping, scuba adventures, wildlife sightings, snorkeling excursions, off-roading races, and so much more.
Things to See and Do in and around Ensenada
Sport Fishing: With its thriving sport fishing industry, Ensenada is a popular destination for any fisherman hoping to catch mahi or yellow tail.
El Mirador: For majestic views of the city and port, be sure to make the climb up into the hills west of the downtown area for unsurpassed sightseeing.
Museo Historico Regional: Filled with Mesoamerican relics of the region’s ancient past, this museum is the ideal place to break from the sunny beaches for an afternoon.
Guadalupe Island: According to experts, this island is one of the best places in the world to catch a glimpse of Great White Sharks. Located about 250 miles from Ensenada, this is a famous wildlife sanctuary that is one of Mexico’s top eco-destinations.
Todos Santos Island: This acclaimed surfing paradise boasts some of the biggest waves of North America. Surfing contests like the Billabong XXL have been held here to worldwide acclaim.
Baja 500: This major off-roading race is one of the most celebrated of its kind. It usually begins and ends in Ensenada making the city the best place to witness this monster race!
Maritime Museum: Ensenada’s Maritime Museum is a fascinating place to visit and is situated in the city’s oldest public building. Its exhibits recount various segments of history of seafaring as well as life in Mexico near the sea.
Watch for Whales: Whales can often be seen from the beaches of Ensenada. For this reason, the city is a favorite destination for people hoping to see whales migrating. There are various boats that offer tours of the waters and to allow eco-tourists to see these ocean-going mammals.
Visit the Vineyards: Various celebrated wineries offer tours of the vineyards and wine-tasting events. Boasting many celebrated wines that are world famous, these wineries should not be missed by anyone even remotely interested in wine or viticulture.