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Mexican Riviera

Ensenada Cruise Port Guide

Ensenada Bay; credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Ensenada Bay; credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license
Ensenada cruise port is popular in part because it is convenient to reach for ships from San Diego. But it is mostly popular with short-term cruises.

Where is Ensenada? It is only 70 miles south of the U.S. border on the Baja California peninsula in Mexico and 81 miles south of San Diego. It also is 900 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, a major cruise port on the Mexican Riviera.

But unlike Cabo San Lucas, Ensenada is mostly popular with short-term cruises out of San Diego as well as Los Angeles. These shorter cruises may last only three to five days and visit just Ensenada or Ensenada and Catalina Island.

Seven-day cruises along the Mexican Riviera, the stretch of cruise ports along Mexico's western coast, usually skip Ensenada and head for Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlán.

Quick Travel Tips


  • Ensenada is known for culinary arts -- food and wine.
  • Grey whale watching is one of its most well-known attractions.
  • Cruise visitors can walk right off the ship and into town.

Attractions and Shore Excursions


Walking Around Attractions


Cruise visitors will likely disembark at Cruiseport Village, which is a marina with shops, restaurants, plaza and craft market.

Avenida Lopez Mateos is the main tourist street of Ensenada. It is about a mile long between Avenida Ruiz and Avenida Blancarte with shops, restaurants and smaller points of interest.

Several streets also branch off the main featuring various variety shops, restaurants, etc. Trinkets to be bought in the area include crafts, postcards, beach gear and t-shirts to paintings.

Visitors who walk into town should look for Riviera del Pacifico, which is a little less than one mile north of Cruiseport Village. Riviera del Pacifico was a famous casino during the 1930s because of visiting Hollywood stars such as Lana Turner.

Shore Excursions


La Bufadora
Tourists watch the La Bufadora blowhole. Credit: Wikimedia public domain
Cruise visitors can see Riviera del Pacifico on a guided city tour along with the photographic central plaza, the fish and seafood market and other city sites. These city excursions have a starting cost of $35 per person depending on the operator, sailing date and other factors.

A popular shore excursion is La Bufadora on the Punta Banda peninsula. La Bufadora is a blowhole that releases everything from small snorts of air to large spouts of seawater. Some of the water sprays can go as high as 20 feet depending on the swell. Prices start at $40 per person.

LasCañadas Camp is an extensive recreational facility 30 miles south of Ensenada. It offers tubing, a water park, zip lining, hanging bridges and more. This tour costs $100 or more per person depending on the program.

The area is also known for other water activities such as diving, surfing, fishing and kayaking. Land tours include exploring the area on horses and jeeps. Ensenada also is known for its wineries.

Prices for wine tours start at about $50 per person. Land adventure tours start at $70 and go higher depending on the length and type.

Grey Whale watching is a common attraction in Ensenada during the winter and spring. Every year Grey Whales come to the warm waters in the area to give birth to calves. The typical whale-watching excursion takes about four hours.

Shopping and Restaurants


Like many cruise ports, Ensenada has a bustling shopping and dining district for tourists. Here it is Avenida López Mateos, a tourist zone that is filled with many souvenir shops and handmade arts and crafts.

Ensenada is known for its food, especially the freshly caught seafood that tourists can see at the city's famous fish market at the northern corner of the marina.

Quite a few wineries fill the area and are accessible via local shop offerings or a wine country route. There is even a local wine museum.

Beaches Near the Port


Ensenada has its share of beaches, but the best and most popular may require a taxi or other form of transportation to get there.

The most popular beach in the area is El Sauzal, located north of town. San Miguel beach, also north of Ensenada, is especially popular with surfers.

Two beaches lying south include El Faro and Baja Beach. El Faro is only eight miles from Ensenada and a convenient choice for cruise visitors. Others include:

• Estero Beach
• La Misión
• La Joya at Maneadero
• Bahía de los Ángeles
• Bahía de San Luis Gonzaga

Transportation


Some of the beaches and other popular attractions require transportation to reach them from the cruise docks if an excursion bus is not available.

Note that some taxis are metered and some are not. It is important to ask for the fare before getting in the cab and have exact change to pay for the trip.

Car rental companies in Ensenada include Hertz and Fiesta Rent a Car.

The city does not have a local bus system.

Cruise Weather


Ensenada's climate is similar to San Diego. The summers are sunny with little rain and steady breezes.

The fact that it lies along the northern part of Baja means that weather will not always be hot, especially during the winter. But unlike the Caribbean, the odds of rain are fairly low for most of the year.

As a result, Ensenada is a dry location with desert-like shore excursions for adventurous outdoor tourists while others can take advantage of the beaches, shopping, nightlife and restaurants.

Throughout the year, the city is one of the driest cruise ports on the Mexican Riviera. Rainfall averages about one to two inches a month from November through March and less than one inch from April through October.

It rains on average less than one day a month from June through August and about five to seven days a month from December through March.

Average high temperatures hover in the upper 60s Fahrenheit during the winter, mid to upper 70s during spring and fall, and the low 80s in the summer.
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