8 Hours in Ensenada, Mexico

Experience Ensenada, Mexico, and enjoy seafood, wine, kayaking and coastal bliss.
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Take in 90-mile mountain ranges in Ensenada, Mexico, as you drive along the coast.

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The city of Ensenada, Mexico, in Baja California is known for delicious food and wine (it’s called the wine capital and the seafood capital of Mexico), stunning flora and fauna, as well as a thriving arts and culture scene. The best part is that you can get away to this slice of paradise and other destinations on a cruise from Los Angeles with Royal Caribbean.

Whether a short three-, four- or five-night getaway on Navigator of the Seas—the first Royal Caribbean ship to sail from L.A. in more than a decade—you’re sure to get a taste of what makes Ensenada special. From a thrilling sea kayaking excursion that will get your adrenaline pumping to a relaxing afternoon spent at one of the city’s gorgeous vineyards, this lovely seaside gem has something for everyone.

Here are ways to make the most of your eight hours in Ensenada:

Explore the beautiful rolling landscapes of the vineyards in Baja California’s wine country, Guadalupe Valley.

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If you want to try new food and drink…

From Grape to Glass

Time it takes: 3.5 – 4 hours

Recommendation: Bring a notepad to take notes on your favorites.

Discover lush Calafia Valley, Baja California’s wine country—about 40 minutes outside Ensenada—and embark on a wine tour. Wine is an important part of the city’s culture and history, and a guided walk through the vineyards is a great way to immerse yourself in the tradition. And if you’re looking to indulge in a meal while you explore, there’s the Guadalupe Valley Wine Tasting excursion, complete with an authentic and delicious three-course meal paired with wine.

Pro tip: There’s more where that wine came from. Head to Hussong’s Cantina and Bar Andaluz for a drink, bars that each claim credit for inventing the margarita.


Taco Time

Time it takes: It’s up to you.

Recommendation: Make reservations to maximize your time.

As the seafood capital of Mexico, Ensenada has a lineup of restaurants that serve up a wide array of fresh seafood favorites, from ceviche to coconut shrimp. You’ll find incredible options when it comes to the catch of the day in this charming surf town, and one that stands out is the fish taco. The city is the birthplace of the classic Baja California-style fish taco: fried fish, cabbage, pico de gallo and creamy sauce. Head to hot spots like La Avioneta, Tacos Fenix and Tacos Lily in Mercado Negro (the local seafood market) to start—and check out one of the many taco tours.


Discover exhibitions in as many as eight different rooms at the Ensenada History Museum on the city promenade.

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If you want to experience culture…

For the Love of Art

Time it takes: It’s up to you.

Recommendation: Map out a route before you go.

Outside Ensenada’s Centro Estatal de las Artes (State Center for the Arts) sits an overturned yellow school bus, representing an intriguing example of “outsider art“—meaning art created from materials that aren’t typically used or that usually have another function. This contemporary (and free) art center features artists from northern Baja and beyond. Look out for experiential, interactive and modern art, and a cafe for a bite to eat after you’ve soaked it all in.


Take a Historic Walk or Bus Ride

Time it takes: Set your own pace.

Recommendation: Budget for shopping.

Explore Ensenada’s history on a walk, starting at the plaza known as Las Tres Cabezas (Three Heads) for its prominently displayed carved busts of three Mexican heroes and important figures in the Mexican Revolution—Benito Juarez, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla and Venustiano Carranza. Then meander to the malecon, a wide stone-built embankment along the waterfront. The boardwalk offers a lineup of taco stands and fishmongers, an open-air market and a view of fishing boats docking with the day’s catch. Keep an eye out for the Riviera del Pacifico (Pacific Riviera), a former luxury hotel and now a cultural center and museum. It is considered the city’s most beautiful building.

Or jump on the Ensenada Highlights and Mexican Fiesta bus tour through the historic district. A knowledgeable guide will take you on a vibrant and educational journey through sites like Plaza Civica (Civic Plaza) and ending at Riviera del Pacifico.

Pro tip: Curious about seeing anomalies and fun facts? Check out one of Mexico’s largest flags. At 164 feet long and 92 feet wide, this flag is impossible to miss. But to get a true sense of its scale, take it in from the malecon.


Hear the Beat and Move Your Feet

Time it takes: It’s up to you.

Recommendation: Wear dancing shoes.

Throughout Ensenada, there’s entertainment to be had. For those travelers ready to put on their dancing shoes, there are places like Ryerson 51, a disco club with delicious craft beer and savory Mexican cuisine; or Papas and Beer, known for holiday events like Halloween parties, tequila, and tons of dancing and drinks you won’t forget.


Discover the underwater wildlife in Ensenada on snorkeling, scuba and surfing excursions.

Credit: iStock

If you’re seeking adventure…

Scuba and Snorkeling

Time it takes: It’s up to you.

Recommendations: It’s a great time to invest in your own snorkeling mask.

Baja California’s clear blue water is perfect for activities like snorkeling and scuba diving. Check out unique experiences hosted by small businesses scattered along the coast. One of the best places to go is the La Bufadora area, where a deep submarine canyon extends from the bay into the continental shelf.


The Great Outdoors

Time it takes: It’s up to you.

Recommendations: Bring a water bottle.

If you want a breath of fresh air, look no further than the El Salto Canyon and Waterfall, about one hour from Ensenada. This hike takes you along a creek bed with its rainfed waterfall (its size varies based on the weather) and into El Salto Canyon, which is truly a sight to behold. Many people take the opportunity to rappel or rock climb down into the canyon, but the hike alone is an adventure worth experiencing. Also, check out the Baja National Park Service for more local parks that you can explore.


Kayaking Through the Crystal-clear Waters

Time it takes: It’s up to you.

Recommendations: Plot a course ahead of time.

Try sea kayaking—there are plenty of businesses along the coast that offer kayak rentals. You can either embark on a solo trip or take a guided tour along the shoreline. There are great beaches not far off from Ensenada within reach of a kayak. Pack a lunch and make a day of it!


Ready to experience Ensenada? Head here to book your vacation to this charming coastal town, Catalina Island, California, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and more destinations.