Ensenada – A Vibrant Mexican Town

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

their pockets.

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

a picture.

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

for us.

Find Ensenada on Mexico Maps.