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Story by Jim Foreman
Located 75 miles south of the border, Ensenada is a fabulous place to spend an enjoyable and affordable weekend. The seaport city was founded in 1542 by Portuguese explorer Cabrillo. Later in the early 17th century Ensenada served as a port and harbor for Spanish treasure galleons headed to and from Manila, Philippines.
More recently in the 1930’s, this Baja entertainment gem gained its reputation as a party destination serving travelers escaping the US’s ill-conceived prohibition laws. Today, it serves as an important shipping port for goods throughout Baja California. Additionally, Ensenada is a major cruise ship port for several cruise lines including Carnival Cruises. With a population of over 500,000 the city is the third biggest by population in Baja California. The city is vibrant and diverse serving agriculture, mining, fishing, manufacturing, and tourism industries.
Tourism is what most Americans know Ensenada for and the city delivers the goods! Major celebrations such as Carnaval, Independence Day (September 16th), and Semana Santa bring Mexicans from all over to the perfect year-round climate of Ensenada. Other events such as it’s annual Beer Fest, held on St. Patrick’s Day weekend draws people from all over the US and Mexico.
Ensenada has a lovely Zona Touristica, one block in from the marina. It serves the thousands of cruise passengers that disembark. Party havens like Papas and Beer reel in the more waste-worthy crowd.
Across the street from these destinations is Hussong’s Cantina. It’s the oldest and certainly most renowned cantina in Baja California. The Margarita was famously invented at Hussong’s in 1941 by Don Carlos Orozco. Hussong’s has had many famous patrons including Ronald Reagan, Humphrey Bogart, Steve Mc Queen, Marilyn Monroe, along with more contemporary celebrities on any given night. Despite its patronage by famous names, Hussong’s hasn’t changed and does nothing to cater specifically to these people. It is and has always been a lively local’s cantina.
The nearby Valle de Guadalupe is an up and coming wine producing region that is becoming more respected and desired each and every day.
The famous Ruta del Vino easily brings people to this rich region and some excellent wineries. When visiting, be sure to stop at Encuentro , Deckman’s, La Esperanza BajaMed and dozens of other fabulous wine-tasting destinations.
Today this Baja town is also known as a premier craft brew destination with several non-touristic locations that must be visited if you are a lover of beer. Aguamala, Transpeninsular, and Baja Brews Beer collective offer unique and memorable experiences.
You’ll be amongst locals who take beer and good times very seriously. Don’t miss it!
Other attractions include La Bufadora and El Salto. These are also worth a visit.
One of Ensenada’s greatest gifts to the overland traveler is the Scenic Highway 1 from Tijuana to Ensenada. Particularly between Puerto Nuevo and Ensenada, this breathtaking road will have you believing you have been transported to Big Sur.
Ensenada is quite safe and makes for a perfect destination for those unsure about travel to Mexico. Its warm and welcoming atmosphere dispels any concerns within minutes. Stay for a weekend or a week and let the region enchant you.
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