Ensenada's huge Mexican flag.
Ensenada can be a party town.
Hussong's Cantina in the tourist zone.
Papas & Beer
One small stall in a fairly large fish market.
These guys have teeth!
Soriana, the local supermarket chain.
Frosted Flakes, Mexican style.
Hot sauces for every taste.
Get your chicken here!
Ensenada even has Starbucks!
Big box stores have moved in.
Views on our scenic walk to town.
The Pacific ocean lands right here.
A path runs along the waterfront.
More or less: "The cleanest city isn't the one that is
cleaned up the most but the one that is dirtied the least."
Valentine's Day photo op
Streetside dining, out of the elements.
A cozy spot for a bite.
Mexican heroes Juarez, Hidalgo and Carranza
A band poses before the parade.
Ready to march.
Ensenada, Mexico (1)
Early February, 2010 - After our voyage to Mexico, our first few days in Ensenada were a
whirlwind. Every time we set foot on the marina docks we met new people, both boaters and
marina staff, who were all unbelievably friendly and welcoming.
We caught a ride into town with new
friends and they gave us a wonderful
tour of the main city streets. Locating
good drinking water and restocking
the pantry were top on our lists, and
they graciously drove us around to
replenish our supplies.
Ensenada is a delicious mix of North Americans from all three
countries on the continent. Mexicans, Canadians and United
Statesians (as they so accurately refer to us in Spanish:
"estadounidenses") all fill the homes, streets, hotels and boats. As
we walked through town we heard snippets of English and Spanish
conversation float by. Scanning the street signs, we noticed many in
English, even the road signs and driving directions. Of the 400,000
or so residents, I've heard that some 20,000 are ex-pats from north of the border.
A university town, the arts are valued highly and a youthful air abounds.
The tourist zone is also party central, as cruise ships full of vacationers
make regular stops here and it is an easy weekend destination for San
Diegans looking for something a little different. Many locals speak
English extremely well, and we were shocked to find that American
dollars (and quarters, nickels and dimes) are all happily accepted, even
on the local buses. The exchange rate is currently just under 13 pesos
to one US dollar, but the banks we stopped at wouldn't exchange money
unless you had an account with them. So tourists are left to the ATMs
(and their fees) and the money changing vendors (whose exchange
rates are not as good as the banks) if they want to put a few pesos in
The main tourist area sports signs in both English and Spanish,
and we enjoyed strolling along the red brick sidewalks of the
area affectionately known as "Gringo Gulch." Two bars anchor
one end of Gringo Gulch: Papas & Beer and Hussong's
Cantina. These have been here for decades, offering tourists
tequila and beer in abundance every night. Outside their doors,
the once shabby streets of this part of Ensenada have steadily
cleaned up to the point of being just shy of trendy.
We stopped at the fish market and were amazed at the quantity and
variety of fish being sold. We heard from many sources that the fishing
is far better here than just a few miles north in California.
We bought a delicious, thick Ahi tuna
filet for $3.80/lb. That was the official
price, but we were still unfamiliar with
the Mexican coinage, and when we
studied our change a while later we
discovered we had paid a Gringo
price of $4.60/lb. Oh well. Still an
incredible bargain by US supermarket
One of our favorite travel activities is
to wander through the grocery
stores. Soriana is the local
supermarket chain, and fellow
cruisers made sure we knew about
the discount card they offer. Our
wallets are loaded with discount
cards from supermarkets all over the States, and now we have a
Mexican one in the collection.
Tony the Tiger is drawn just a little differently on the Mexican Frosted
Flakes boxes, and we found an aisle loaded with little bottles of hot
sauces that were all about a buck apiece.
The piled up "reach-in-and-
grab-it" chicken display was
quite a surprise. Some things
are very different here.
But other things are much the
same, including Starbucks on
the main drag.
McDonalds, Home Depot,
Costco and Walmart have
also taken up residence here.
Hotel Coral & Marina is a little over two miles from
town, a brief bus ride or easy walk. After walking to
town along the busy highway a few times, we discovered there is a
gorgeous path that runs along the waterfront instead. The trail is
mortared stone in places and dirt in other places, and it winds past
the fronts of all the homes.
The houses, many of them vacation rentals, have stunning views of
the bay. The surf comes in from the open Pacific here and crashes
relentlessly on the shore.
One of the thrills of this new lifestyle is being surrounded by the
Spanish language. I took some community college Spanish classes
before we started traveling in hopes that we would get to places
where I could use it. Deciphering signs keeps my head spinning,
and I've been grateful for the little electronic Spanish/English
dictionary Mark got me years ago. Some signs take a little longer
to figure out than others.
On Valentine's Day as
we strolled around Gringo
Gulch we saw at least six
or seven different Mariachi
bands walking around
carrying their instruments
on their way to work at the
restaurants. Mark stopped
one group to get a photo
with me. These guys love
a photo op, and the fellow
on the left who had been
straggling behind his
friends came running up to
make sure he got into the photo too.
Other guys begging for a photo
were the cartoon characters in the
Viagra billboards outside the
pharmacies. These guys weren't
shy, and Super Viagra Man's red
shorts were anatomically correct
(after taking the little pill).
My favorite was the old guy with the
cane. He was a little bent over but
obviously very happy.
Ensenada is a year-round destination but has many chilly months.
Lots of the streetside cafes have little enclosures around their tables
and chairs, making a cozy spot to share a bite on the streets.
The waterfront boardwalk lies two streets away from the tourist
shopping district, and the main plaza has three enormous
sculptures of the heads of the men who shaped Mexico.
Benito Juarez brought about democratic reforms in the mid-1800's
and reduced the political role of the Catholic church; Miguel
Hidalgo, "Father of the Nation," initiated the Mexican War of
Independence in 1810; and Venustiano Carranza was a leader of
the Mexican Revolution in 1910 and drafted the current Mexican
On a lighter note, Ensenada's largest event, the six day Carnaval
celebration, was getting underway. Similar to Mardi-Gras, this is a
huge festival in February that is the last chance for everyone to let
their hair down and get wild before they have to straighten up and fly
right for the forty days of Lent.
Many marching bands were gathering in the main plaza under
the enormous Mexican flag. Not wanting to let a photo op slip
by, one group quickly gathered around me so Mark could get
Another group was already in formation, ready for the festivities
to begin. Ensenada's Carnaval celebration includes all kinds of
merry-making, but the Carnaval Parade was the true highlight
Find Ensenada on Mexico Maps.