Ensenada: Mexico’s Metropolitan Beach Town Ensenada, Mexico is a thriving Mexican city located just 90 minutes from San Diego. This border city has a metropolitan vibe and has been called the “Cinderella of the Pacific” because of its raw beauty […]
Ensenada, Mexico is a thriving Mexican city located just 90 minutes from San Diego. This border city has a metropolitan vibe and has been called the “Cinderella of the Pacific” because of its raw beauty and popularity for cruise ships. It also has a large expat community because of its proximity to the United States. Here, locals and expats can drive to the states for the day or for a quick getaway.
Living in Ensenada is exquisite and a favorite for wine enthusiasts. Its wine country in Valle de Guadalupe produces 90 percent of the country’s wines and is the true Napa Valley of Mexico. From vineyard dining to epic surfing, there is no shortage of things to do in Ensenada.
If you are considering retiring in Ensenada or even just visiting, here is what you need to know about this exciting Mexican city.
The region was initially inhabited by the Yuman people. In the 1880s, the city of Ensenada was designated as the capital of Baja California. The area struggled after the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) but began to thrive during prohibition because of its close proximity to the border. Hotels opened and tourism began to flourish as more people visited the beautiful beach community to relax with the waves and the libations. Now, it is now primarily a mid-rise beach town with a modern flare and more than 522,000 residents. Cruise ships frequently visit Ensenada taking passengers on a variety of cultural activities and outdoor excursions.
When traveling to Ensenada, you must fly into the Abelardo Rodriguez International (TIJ) airport in Tijuana. It is the closest airport that accepts international flights. From Tijuana to Ensenada, it is an approximate 70 minute drive on the Hwy. 1 South toll road. You can choose to grab an Uber or rent a car at the airport. You can also take a taxi from the airport.
Once you are in the city, you can easily get around Ensenada’s downtown and the tourist zone on foot. However, if you are considering a trip out to wine country or La Bufadora, you will need to rent a car or take a taxi. A round trip taxi ride to La Bufadora is about $15 per person.
Small buses known as “micros” comprise 90% of the public transport in Ensenada. The basic fee to travel on “micro” is less than .80 cents USD. However, be cautious. It’s not advised that tourists ride “micros” alone late at night.
There are no shortages of activities in Ensenada, which is why it is such a popular tourist destination. When visiting, be sure to head towards the Riviera of Ensenada, a historic cultural center where margarita tastings abound. Then head over to the Ventana al Mar, a large harborside park with beautiful views and live music. If it’s outdoor fun you’re after, take a trip to San Miguel Beach or Lighthouse Beach to catch some sand and sun. You can even learn to surf along the Playa Hermosa. Other outdoor activities in Ensenada include water sports, camping, skydiving, hiking, cycling, ATVing, and other recreational opportunities for all ages.
History buffs will want to visit the Museo de Historia or the Civic Plaza de la Patria. The history museum showcases Baja’s regional history from the paleolithic era to today. Civic Plaza is Ensenada’s central square. Here you can see some of Mexico’s most important historical figures scattered across the plaza.
Dining is an exceptional experience in Ensenada. In 2015, Ensenada was even named a UNESCO Creative City for gastronomy. Because it is a beach community with a city vibe, street food vendors often feature eclectic and authentic seafood dishes. Seafood markets and restaurants line the city streets and boardwalk where you can eat a variety of award-winning fish, shrimp and sea urchin dishes. If seafood isn’t your favorite, you can enjoy a wide range of craft beers, wines, and Mexican cuisine.
Nightlife in Ensenada is fun for everyone. Live music, dance clubs, laidback cantinas, and restaurants are open until the wee hours of the morning. Whether you want to dance the night away or sip margaritas in the moonlight on the beach, you can find your own slice of heaven in Ensenada. Fun is guaranteed!
Ensenada is situated on Todos Santos Bay of the Pacific Ocean. This beautiful beach city boasts some of the best weather in Mexico. In Ensenada, the summers are short, warm, and arid. Temperatures rarely get above 92°F with the average temperature close to 85°F. This is far different from Mexican cities that are not on the water.
The winters in Ensenada are long and cool and mostly clear all year long. In winter, the temperatures rarely get below 43°F and are typically in the 50s. Average weather typically varies from 50°F to 85°F the rest of the year – rarely reaching below 43°F or above 92°F. This makes it a perfect spot for retirees looking for comfortable weather all year round.
According to Forbes, thousands of U.S. expats call Ensenada home. It’s an attractive expat oasis due to its low cost of living and laid-back beach culture. How low exactly is the cost of living in Ensenada? Below are some comparisons to consider.
When you compare the cost of living in Ensenada to the closest large U.S. city of San Diego, consumer prices in San Diego are 221% higher than in Ensenada – and rent prices are a whopping 789% higher.
But living in Ensenada is not only cheaper than living in the United States. It’s also less expensive than living in other parts of Mexico. Assuming you rent, you would need around $2,239.54 a month in Mexico City to maintain the same standard of living that you can have with $1,607.06 in Ensenada. Rent prices in Mexico City are 187% higher than in Ensenada.
The cost of living compared to the U.S. is even more telling.
We use consumer provided data from Numbeo.com to generate the following cost of living information. Numbeo ranks New York City as the U.S. city with the highest cost of living. Towards the bottom is El Paso, Texas, with one of the lowest costs of living. Somewhere in the middle is Denver, Colorado. We’ve chosen to compare our Ensenada cost of living data to Denver, Colorado, as Denver represents something closest to the average cost of living in a United States city.
If you are looking to rent a house in Ensenada, head over to VRBO to browse the local rentals. There are long-term rentals available, as well as short-term rentals. If you wish to purchase a home there, you can check out a variety of realtors in the area including Ensenada Real Estate, Novelo Baja Realtors, and Ensenada Baja Realty.
Many expats in the area choose to live in communities a few miles away from downtown Ensenada, such as Bajamar to the north and Punta Banda to the south. Bajamar is a seaside resort community that is just forty minutes south of San Diego-Tijuana.
You can meet up with other expats in Ensenada by visiting the Facebook group – EnsenadaExpats.
Healthcare in Mexico is on par with healthcare you find in the states and Ensenada is no exception. If you need medical care while living or visiting Ensenada, head over to Hino Medical Center. This center is a leading research treatment center for cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s and other life-threatening diseases. They offer proven alternative treatments for a variety of conditions.
If you are seeking to advance your education, you can take classes at a number of colleges and centers for higher learning, including:
You can also brush up on your Spanish or become fluent by taking classes at the Pacific Spanish Institute in Ensenada. Or you can pick up a number of books at Libromar Bookstore in Ensenada.
The Numbeo Crime Index (which relies on resident surveys and self-reporting, and not necessarily official crime data) gives Ensenada a score of 30. This means that there are low levels of crime reported in Ensenada.
However, the Mexico News Daily reported that higher incidences of homicide made Ensenada one of the 50 most violent municipalities in Mexico.
The United States Department of State Travel Warning has a travel advisory for the entire Baja California region. However, Ensenada is not specifically mentioned as a city to avoid.
Ensenada has a strong police presence, which has resulted in a lower incidence of drug trafficking activities – a major source of crime and criminal behavior.
Residents and visitors are still urged to use caution when traveling through Ensenada. Remain vigilant, avoid bad neighborhoods, and travel in groups – especially at night.
If you are looking for a beach town city-vibe community with incredible ocean views and activities, Ensenada is for you. There is a reason so many expats choose Ensenada to spend their years. Since the American dollar stretches further here, you can retire for a fraction of what you would spend in the states. With its high standard of living, affordable healthcare, and perfect weather virtually year round, it is a favorite pick for retirement, as well as daily living.
Travis Scott Luther is the best selling Author of The Fun Side of the Wall: Baby Boomer Retirement in Mexico. Luther is also a former Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at MSU Denver. He received his Masters Degree in Sociology from the University of Colorado Denver where he later served as Entrepreneur in Residence.
Luther first became interested in Baby Boomers retiring in Mexico during graduate school. His Masters Thesis research contributed to the content of this book. He continues to be interested in U.S. expatriates retiring all over the world and continues to monitor those who have retired in Mexico.
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