ENSENADA VISITOR’S GUIDE
AS THE SCORE BAJA 500 APPROACHES, VISITORS TO ENSENADA CAN EXPERIENCE THE TRUE BEAUTY AND FLAVORS OF MEXICO.By Juan Tintos, SCORE Mexico Liaison
Over the years, the city of Ensenada, Mexico has been explored by many travelers including conquistadors, missionaries, tourist from all over the world, and of course, by famous off-road racers that have challenged Baja.
On any map, the Baja peninsula may only look as a long and narrow stretch of land, but those who have taken the time to travel through it have been awed by its unique combination of landscapes, including fertile valleys, huge deserts, majestic mountain ranges and an unending coastline along with a picturesque bay where this port city is nestled.
Ensenada is the largest municipality in the state of Baja California, and for over forty years it has also hosted the most famous off-road races including the SCORE Baja 500 and the SCORE Baja 1000.
Welcome to Ensenada, Baja California, México
Spanning over 20,263 square miles with close to one million inhabitants, the municipality of Ensenada houses an impressive array of sites and images that not too many places in the world can match. The city is one of the top five most important commercial ports, and the number two cruise ship port in México, besides being one of country’s most famous tourist destinations.
It has been voted one of the three cities in México with “better quality of life” and it is home to the largest community of scientists, average per inhabitant in Latin America, thanks to several astronomical and oceanic institutes that are headquartered in Ensenada. When you step outside the city, however, and go out to its incomparable garden, as many call it, it gets even more interesting.
To begin with you can’t find many places in the world where you can start your day by surfing 40-foot waves at Todos Santos island, located in front of the bay, and witness the yearly migration of grey whales. Before the end of the day, you could be kayaking or sports fishing in the calm waters of the Sea of Cortez which is only three-hours away. Famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez “The Aquarium of The World” as it boasts more than 600 miles of coastline when you combine the Pacific Ocean side and the shores of the gulf of California.
Letter From Ensenada Mayor,
MARCO ANTONIO NOVELÓ OSUNA,
ENSENADA’S OFF-ROAD RACING MAYOR
“We are honored to be a part of a historical year for Ensenada because of the celebration of both the 49th edition of the SCORE Baja 500 as well as the 50th edition of the SCORE Baja 1000.
Having grown up in a sports oriented family, I was honored to represent my city and country in various international tennis tournaments and especially in several SCORE races when I competed in Class 7 several years ago.
I know from our family tourism business the great value and importance that the SCORE events represent for the economy and the promotion of Ensenada.
So now as the Mayor of our great city, I feel honored to welcome the racers and their families, the sponsors and all of the fans to the SCORE Baja 500 which will take place from June 1st to the 4th.
Our city and our municipality, which stretches all the way down to the middle of the peninsula, offer many attractions and services that we hope everyone takes the time to enjoy.
We invite everyone to come and visit Ensenada.
Traveling Along The Peninsula
If you like breathtaking cliffs or long uncrowded beaches, you can drive of the Trans peninsular Highway and onto dirt roads along the Pacific side of Ensenada. This route has been used as the course for the SCORE Baja 500 and Baja 1000. Along the route, you can visit popular spots like Bocana Santo Tomas, Colonet, Camalu, or go out for great sports fishing at Erendira.
Another small community, but with a strategic economic impact not only for Ensenada but for Baja California as well, is San Quintin. This area is considered one of the most important agricultural regions in México, where much of the production is exported to the United States.
Along with its agriculture, San Quintin offers attractive beaches, historical sites like the English cemetery, or the Old Mill. There’s also an abundance of fresh seafood cuisine made from the local clams and oysters. In addition, comfortable and affordable accommodations are available for those who want to spend more time exploring the region.
As the Trans peninsular Highway finds its way inland at the town of El Rosario, many seasoned as well as first time Baja travelers, make sure to stop at the famous Mama Espinoza’s restaurant. Here you indulge in its famous crab or lobster burritos and admire the great history of the region hanging on the walls. You’ll see many photos and autographs of famous SCORE Baja 1000 and Baja 500 racers that have passed through over the last four decades.
If you’re looking for a desert region that meets-up with turquoise colored gulf waters, then you’re in for a treat when you head southeast down the paved road that now runs along on the Sea of Cortez shore of Ensenada. For many years this area has been considered one of the most treacherous dirt roads in all the peninsula. Now, however, one can comfortably drive a new paved highway south of Puertecitos and continue with spectacular views of the gulf islands all the way to San Luis Gonzaga bay and beyond.
The construction of the paved road ends several miles from Laguna Chapala, another well-known area by SCORE racers. Once you’re back on the main highway you can head south to the small town of Bahía de Los Angeles, a spot famous for its sport fishing, kayaking, and whale shark diving tours.
If height is what you’re looking for, you can always start by heading to the Sierra Juárez mountains where you can visit old mining sites like Real Del Castillo near Ojos Negros. It was once the capital of the then territory of Baja California. You can also explore Hansons Lake, which is surrounded by pine tree forests and winter snow.
If you continue south the elevation rises to the San Pedro Mártir mountains, making sure you give yourself enough time to visit famous sites along the way. This includes the iconic Mike’s Sky Ranch and Melling Ranch, both of which offer traditional area lodging and food.
Once at the top of the San Pedro Mártir mountains, at just over 10,000-feet, many visitors are surprised to find the San Pedro Mártir National Astronomical Observatory and Museum, also known as The Weatherman’s Baja getaway. Just in front of the five-story building that houses the largest telescope in the observatory, you will encounter a breathtaking view of the desert floor below, looking down at the city of San Felipe as well as the majestic Picacho del Diablo, the highest peak in all the Baja California peninsula. The region was studied and selected by NASA back in the seventies and it is considered the second “clearest” site in the world for astronomical studies, hosting scientists year-round from all over the world.
As you descend from the mountain ranges and continue south, you will encounter what perhaps is the most recognized landscape in Ensenada and the rest of the peninsula. The area is world renowned for its unique flora and fauna, impressive boulder formations, and historical sites.
The Missions of San Francisco Borja, near Bahía de Los Angeles and Santa Gertrudis, on the road to San Francisquito, offer the traveler an example of the period of the region’s colonization. You can also find the most accessible cave painting site in the peninsula, located near Catavina, just 300 meters from the highway.
Ensenada has gained more international notoriety due in great part to what you can find both in the city as well as just on its outskirts. This includes excellent accommodations, attractions and services, as well as the production of award winning wines, craft beer, and cuisine.
Before you head out for a taste of wine, however, consider visiting one of the most popular attractions in México, the famous La Bufadora Or “Blowhole”. This is one of three marine geysers of its kind in the world. Located just south of the city around the Todos Santos Bay, the blowhole splashes the Pacific Ocean waters up to 30 feet in the air, much to the delight of its thousands of yearly visitors.
Ensenada’s famed Wine Route is composed of eight valleys including Guadalupe, Ojos Negros, Santo Tomas and San Vicente, which are presently producing 90 percent of Mexico’s wines while achieving world-recognition and international awards. The route has been voted as one of Mexico’s most popular tourist attractions due to its over 75 wineries that offer tours, wine and even sometimes olive oil samplings, concerts and food festivals including the traditional Vendimia wine festivities in august.
When first visiting the area, famed American chef Anthony Bourdain described it as “Napa 25 years ago” and was impressed by the great quality of its wines. For those who like variety, Ensenada is also producing what many international critics have judged as the best craft beer in México, and in some cases, on both sides of the border.
With some of the most incredible brewing formulas you’ve ever heard of, including chocolate, lemon, chile, orange and other ingredients, Ensenada’s craft beer scene is booming. With neighboring southern California as one of the main craft beer consuming markets in the region, thousands of U.S. tourists are flocking all year long to any food or craft beer festival that takes place in Ensenada.
But while in Ensenada you should also consider a must visit to the historic Riviera Cultural Center, located on the beach front boulevard precisely where the SCORE Baja 500 and Baja 1000 races start and finish. It is also the place where the SCORE Contingency and Tech Inspection take place along with other race activities. This beautifully decorated building, with its well-kept gardens, used to be a casino back in the 1920’s and was once headed by famous world boxing champion Jack Dempsey, who would greet its famous visitors as they disembarked from their luxurious yachts. Once you’re at the Riviera, besides going through its famous ballroom and casino hall, a must stop for every visitor is its quaint bar. According to historians, the margarita cocktail was first served here.
Being a port city, Ensenada has always offered excellent sea food cuisine ranging from fish and shrimp tacos, to clam-cocktails and lobster, but in more recent years, it has also become an international reference because of the Baja Med” and Urban cuisine creations of local talented chefs; some of whom have gone on to become international celebrities.
Next time you’re in Ensenada be sure to visit La Guerrerense a small food cart and restaurant, where Doña Sabina, the owner, prepares incredible fish, shrimp and sea urchin ceviche combinations plus other treats with over 20 “salsas” that, as famous American chef Anthony Bourdain said, “will blow your mind!”
Still another famous cuisine spot in Ensenada is the Cheese Cellar, the only one of its kind in Latin America, located just east of the city in the Ojos Negros valley. Here one can take a tour of the colorful one-hundred-year-old ranch, highlighted by walking down to the cellar and sampling six month to two-year-aged craft cheeses, many of which are exported to other parts of México, Europe and Asia.
Still Ensenada is a city that offers something for everyone and that includes great shopping opportunities for fine Mexican arts and crafts, as well as a great nightlife and party scene at such famous watering holes as Hussong’s cantina and Papa’s And Beer, both located in the heart of the tourist district.
So, next time you’re looking for a place where you can find many options and opportunities to enjoy incredible adventures and travel while participating or just being a part of the upcoming SCORE Baja 500, (as well as the 50th anniversary of the SCORE Baja 1000), be sure and take the time to enjoy the many interesting sites of the city and municipality of Ensenada.
ENSENADA PROMOTIONAL VIDEO
Take in the scenery, sights, and activities in and around Ensenada that can make your visit to the SCORE Baja 500 a fantastic vacation.
BEST BETS FOR GREAT CUISINE WHILE VISITING ENSENADA.
Visitors to Ensenada rave about the quality of food and the service which provided them with an unforgettable culinary experience. SCORE International and the Ensenada Chapter of the National Chamber of Restaurants (CANIRAC) recommend these following establishments. : CLICK HERE TO REVIEW A COMPLETE LIST SJ
These Hotels In Ensenada Support The SCORE Baja 500
- VILLAMARINA HOTEL
•DEL VALLE HOTEL
•LAS DUNAS HOTEL
•LA PINTA HOTEL
•SAN NICOLÁS HOTEL
- ESTERO BEACH HOTEL
•EL REY SOL HOTEL
- CORONADO HOTEL
- LAS ROSAS HOTEL.