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Driving to Ensenada, Baja California with Brent & Rob
Brent, Rob Olden, and I went to Ensenada for the weekend of Jan 19-20, before Martin Luther King Junior Day. It was a rare long weekend for Brent.
It takes about four hours to get into Ensenada from the Los Angeles area. That includes time for stopping, getting gas, and crossing the border going south.
Here's a picture of Ensenada. They have huge flag in the park by the harbor. The main tourist area is two block away.
We were driving along the coast as the sun set. It was a beautiful sunset because of the clouds.
Saturday night, we went out to dinner, then hung out in our hotel room and talked and played cards and watched MTV some. We played hearts and I won, so it was a lot of fun for me. It's always more fun when you're winning :)
The next day, we slept in, checked out of our hotel (El Cid, Best Western), and went shopping for tourist stuff. The only thing I got was a $10 pair of (probably fake) Ray-ban sunglasses.
Later that afternoon, we drove out to "La Bufadora" to see the famous blow hole. There are only four in the world. You have to walk through about two blocks of solid tourist shops. My uncle says it didn't used to be like that. He remembers when there wasn't anything out there but the blow hole.
The coastline near "La Bufadora"
"La Bufadora", from above
La Bufadora is about 45 minutes outside of Ensenada. We drove back to the harbor, and paid a guy $17 to give us a 30-minute boat ride around the harbor in a little boat. That was a lot of fun. We saw the half-sunken SS Catalina, some big tuna fishing boats, and some Navy boats.
Since it was a Sunday, there weren't any cruceros (cruise ships) in port. I think there are only one or two a week.
For Sunday dinner, we stopped to eat at Las Rosas. It's a really nice hotel right on the ocean, about 2 miles north of Ensenada. We sat by the beach and had steak and lobster as the sun set over the ocean. Very nice. After I become wealthy, I'll come back and stay at that hotel some day.
Ensenada is a nice place to go on a driving trip for a weekend. I recommend it. Or better yet, go on a Thursday/Friday trip, if you can. The hotel rates are about 20% cheaper during the week.
I really like the Las Rosas Hotel, even though we didn't stay there. It's out of town a ways, so it's quieter, and it's very nice. It's kind of expensive ($89 is the cheapest room during the weekday). They have a good web site: lasrosas.com.
I also recommend going on a harbor tour. There are guys with boats waiting to take people on all-day fishing tours. If you get to the harbor about an hour before sunset, the guys who didn't get any all-day business are willing to take you out just for a short ride for a little money.
I don't know what to recommend about crossing the border. If you go at a bad time, you'll just have to wait hours in line. So try to plan your trip for a weekday if possible. Also, if you cross between 11pm and 6am, there will be less traffic.
We took the toll road both ways. There are three toll booths between Tijuana and Ensenada. They cost 22 pesos or $2.45 each time. The toll road is really nice. The free road isn't that bad. It may take you 30 minutes longer, but you'll get to see more towns along the way.
What you Need to go to Mexico
Bring your passport if you have one. Otherwise, a birth certificate and a driver's license will do. If you stay north of San Quintin (about 100 miles), you don't need to pay for a $18 tourist card.
You won't need pesos anywhere in Tijuana or Ensenada, so don't bother buying any.
American car insurance isn't any good south of the border, and by law, you have to have insurance to drive in Mexico. There are places to buy insurance the last couple exits on the 5 Freeway south before the border. I bought insurance through bajabound.com. You give them all your info online, and print out your policy at home before you go. That saves time while you're on your trip. I didn't compare prices at all, though, so I don't know if they're cheaper or more expensive than buying it at the border.
While I was looking around the Internet for information, I came across several useful web sites:
- http://www.lasrosas.com/ Las Rosas -- Fancy Hotel
- http://www.villafontana.com.mx/ -- Days Inn downtown Ensenada
- http://www.bajabound.com/ -- Buy car insurance online -- $6 policy fee plus $4/day (minimum liability) plus $2/day for optional Traveler's Aid.
- http://www.baja-web.com/ensenada/locator-en.htm -- The Auto Club map of Ensenada area
- http://www.bajasi.com/ -- A general Baja site, with more links
Travel Times (Updated April 3, 2002)
Jan 21: We left Las Rosas at 7:00pm. It took about 3 hours 45 minutes to drive back to L.A. plus the time to cross the border. It took us 2 hours and 12 minutes to go the last 1 mile before the San Yisidro border crossing. We got back to La Mirada around 1:00am.
April 3: We (Shaun Martin, Ken Chiang) went on another trip today. This time, I measured distance, too. Driving from Ensenada to La Mirada was a total of 196 miles, and took us 3 hours 50 minutes. That's 72 miles and 1:25 time from Ensenada to The Border. Only 25 minutes at the border, then 2 hours even driving 124 miles from the border to my house in La Mirada. We crossed the border around 9:30pm on a weeknight, so that's why it took less than my January trip. Also, there were no traffic delays anywhere. We drove the toll road the whole way between Ensenada and the border, too. Total Costs: About $30 gas, $12 one day of insurance, $15 toll road round trip. Not bad when you split it three ways.
Created and maintained by Matthew Weathers. Last updated Sep 11, 2006.