17 Best Things to Do in Ensenada on a Cruise [Port Guide]

Ensenada cruise port guide

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If you’re visiting Ensenada Mexico on a cruise, you’re in luck. Ensenada, known for its delectable cuisine, warm climate, and friendly locals, is a popular cruise stop for both Mexican Riviera cruises as well as Hawaiian cruise itineraries.

This coastal city is located about 80 miles from San Diego in the northern part of the Mexican state of Baja California. It is Baja California’s only deep water port.

In this post, I’ll share the best things to do in Ensenada on a cruise, including shore excursions and inexpensive or free activities. You’ll also learn everything you need to know about visiting the Ensenada cruise port for the day and get answers to commonly asked questions.

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Ensenada Cruise Port  

Ensanada cruise port

Cruise ships dock at the Naval Cruise Terminal in Ensenada’s industrial area. The pier is located near the Malecon boardwalk avenue, putting you within a quick walk to the heart of the city.

Cruisers docking in Ensenada have the benefit of a massive 300-foot flagpole with a Mexican flag to give you bearings for navigating the town. You can’t miss it!

After you get off the ship, look for the flagpole. Take a right at the flagpole and then a left at the second intersection you come to, and you’ll be downtown on Avenida Lopez Mateos.

What Cruise Passengers Need to Know About Ensenada Cruise Port

Ensanada cruise port flagpole


Ensenada is located in Mexico, where the currency is the Mexican peso.

However, because it is a tourist destination, many vendors and small businesses will accept the United States dollar in small bills and debit or credit cards. There may be international transaction charge fees associated with debit or credit cards.

If you use USD instead of pesos, you might pay more overall because vendors have to exchange your dollars.


The official language spoken in Ensenada, Mexico is Spanish. However, many locals also speak English (at least enough to communicate with tourists).

Time Zone

Baja California, Mexico (including Ensenada) is in the Pacific Time Zone. The Eastern Time Zone is 3 hours ahead of Pacific Time Zone.


Ensenada weather is almost always delightful! During the hottest months (July and August), the average high is 84-85 degrees F, with lows in the upper 60s.

The rest of the year, high temperatures in Ensenada range from 68-69 degrees F (December through March) and the low to mid-70s (April-June, October-November). Lows can be as cool as the 50s in the wintertime but are comfortably in the 60s in the summer.

On Foot

Many Ensenada attractions including excellent souvenir shopping, food and museums are within comfortable walking distance of the cruise ship terminal.


Taxis and Uber will be your best bet for getting around beyond Ensenada downtown. If you want to head to farther away excursions like La Bufadora, wineries and Las Canadas adventure park you can easily grab a taxi or Uber.

Pro Tip: Taxis are supposed to be metered, but it is smart to negotiate your fare before you start your ride.

Best Ensenada Shore Excursions

Ensanada cruise port

There are many shore excursions available in Ensenada. From wildlife viewing, to nature and history excursions, to food and drink stops, you’ll wish you had more time at this cruise port.

Here are some of the best Ensenada shore excursions.

1. History Museum of Ensenada

If you want to learn about the town’s rich history from prehistoric times, during U.S. prohibition and to current days, this a great place to visit. The museum is housed in the old Rivera Del Pacifico building, which is an architectural monument in itself. 

Spend time touring the building, museum and the gardens and imagine the ghosts of yesteryear who came here when it was a casino. It was reportedly associated with Al Capone, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. 

2. Mexican Wine Tasting

The first vineyards in Ensenada were planted in 1703. The wine industry has continued to grow since then. The city of Valle De Guadalupe, a little over 12 miles from downtown, now boasts over 75 wineries. 

The best way to experience wine country is to take a full-day wine tour. Most excursions include a tour of several vineyards, snacks and a visit to the wine museum. You can learn about the evolution of Mexican wine country and taste the often riper and darker fruit flavor of Mexican wine. 

3. Whale Watching Tour

Between the months of December and April, gray whales migrate from the cold waters of Alaska to the warm waters of Baja California to give birth to their calves. This makes for excellent whale watching experience for visitors to Ensenada. 

Whale watching excursions depart from Mercado Negro and travel around Isla Todos Santos. Along the way you might see dolphins, sea lions and other whales including humpbacks, sperm whales, finbacks, pilot whales and occasionally orcas. 

Ensenada cruise port

4. Adventure at Las Canadas Campamento

If you’re up for an active excursion, you’ll find plenty of adventure about 30 minutes south of downtown Ensenada. Las Canadas Campamento is a popular destination with a zipline canopy tour with five ziplines, multiple suspension bridges, and other activities, including swimming, biking, paddleboats, horseback riding, and ATV rentals.

You’ll need to book an excursion with transportation or take a taxi to get to Las Canadas. The canopy tour is an outstanding choice.

Related: What to Pack for a Caribbean Cruise

5. Pai Pai Ecotourism Park

This excursion offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to touch and feed wild animals like big cats. Pai Pai offers 40 activities built around ecological and sustainable tourism. The biggest attractions here are wild animal feeding and interactions, but you can also participate in zip lining, tequila tasting, off-road Rzr driving, and Go-Kart Racing.

There are several different packages for animal experiences, so be sure you purchase the correct ticket for the animal experience you want to have. You can book a package from Pai Pai that includes transportation from the cruise terminal, but be prepared that it takes 35-40 minutes to get here.

Ensenada cruise port

6. Try Famous Local Dishes at La Guerrerense

Ensenada is known as the birthplace of fish tacos, so you won’t want to miss the chance to sample the famous local fare. There are food stands throughout Ensenada, but this street food stand, in particular, has the Anthony Bourdain seal of approval.

Try the sea urchin tostada, ceviche, and fish tacos for an unforgettable Ensenada experience.

7. Drink It Up at Hussong’s Cantina 

Hang out with locals and drink at Hussong’s, the oldest cantina in Baja, California. Open since 1882, this busy cantina is an affordable Ensenada favorite.

The bar serves large bags of peanuts to patrons, resulting in a unique peanut shell floor. Enjoy their famous margarita, listen to a Mexican band, or watch your favorite sporting event on the cantina’s big screens.

8. See the Power of Nature at La Bufadora 

Ensanada cruise port

One unique natural wonder in Ensenada is the world’s largest underwater blowhole.  La Bufadora is located on the Punta Banda Peninsula and spits water 100 feet in the air. 

There are excursions that include kayaking to La Bufadora or you can take a 45 minute bus or taxi ride from the cruise port. Be aware that you will have to pay to park or use the bathrooms here, but on the plus side there is a flea market onsite with food and souvenirs. 

Ensenada cruise port

9. Relax or Learn to Surf on Playa Hermosa

If the beach is on your priority list, one of the closest options to port is Malecon de Playa Hermosa. A short 9 minute taxi ride away, you’ll have a great time here snorkeling, learning how to surf, or just relaxing in the sun.

Food vendors walk the beach here and there are public bathrooms available as well as chairs and umbrellas for rent.

Related: 12 Tourist Scams that Cruisers Need to Know

10. Sample Superfood at Maya Cacao

If you love chocolate, come learn about the superfood for the ancient Mayans at the “Bean to Belly” workshop. For $35 for adults and $17.50 for children under 12 years, during this delicious excursion you can learn the history and origins of chocolate from cacao trees to beans to tasty treat. You’ll also get to make your own healthy dark chocolate drink. 

11. Horseback riding at Rancho Los Bandidos 

Experience a taste of what it is like to be a Mexican cowboy at Rancho Los Bandidos. This excursion has amazing reviews and is located a short 20 minute ride from the cruise port.

Your 1.5 hour long horseback ride will give you lovely views of the ocean and the rugged beauty of Baja, California. The guides are kind and informative, the horses are well cared for and helmets are included. Plus, this shorter excursion means you’ll have time to shop or sightsee before or after your horseback ride. 

12. Fish Tacos at Mercado de Mariscos/Mercado Negro 

Cruisers will not want to miss Ensenada’s fresh and tasty seafood at budget prices. Mercado de Mariscos (also called Ensenada Mercado Negro) is located next door to the large seafood market on the waterfront.

The market has multiple restaurants and street vendors serving up delicious mariscos including shrimp and fish tacos, ceviche, tostadas, whole fried fish and shrimp or mixed seafood cocktails. 

One fun element of this street market are the variety of tasty sauces, salsas and condiments on each table. If you love seafood you should definitely add this location to your Ensenada plan. 

Mercado Negro is about a 20 minute walk through downtown. If you are in a hurry grab a taxi or Uber, which will get you there in about 8 minutes. 

Ensenada cruise port

13. Golf by the ocean in Bajamar

Golfers will love the chance to play 9 or 18 holes at this gorgeous oceanside golf course dubbed “The Pebble Beach of Mexico.” Just a 40-minute taxi or Uber ride north of the cruise port, Bajamar is an inspiring place to spend a port day and get in a round of golf. 

14. Caracol Museum

Science lovers will enjoy visiting this unique natural history museum in the shape of a ship located at the harbor. The Caracol features exhibitions on earth, sea and art. Most of the exhibits are in Spanish but tour guides are great at offering English explanations and hands-on learning opportunities. Entrance fees to Caracol are inexpensive (less than $5 per person, around 60 pesos). 

Free Excursions in Ensenada

Ensanada cruise port

15. El Parque de la Bandera

As we mentioned earlier in this post, you can’t miss the giant Mexican Flag in Ensenada. The “Banderas Monumentales Project” flag pole is over 300 feet tall and the flag measures 50 meters (164 feet)  long by 28 meters (92 feet) wide.

The park surrounding the flag is a wonderful place to visit. It hosts a playground, a band shell with live music events and a giant fountain. After 8 p.m. the fountain dances to music (think a smaller version of the Bellagio show in Las Vegas). 

16. Downtown Ensenada

Enjoying the streets of downtown Ensenada is a great way to spend time in this port. You can enjoy the atmosphere and spend as many (or few!) pesos as you’d like. 

First Street Market: One block inland from the huge Mexican flag you’ll find First Street, a main shopping street in Ensenada. An outdoor market with street vendors selling Mexican cuisine and colorful souvenirs, the First Street Market is open every day from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Ensenada cruise port

17. Plaza Civica Cultural Center

In Hispanic cultures, city plazas or town squares are a culturally significant place to gather. In the central area of Ensenada, the Plaza Civica Cultural Center has gorgeous ocean vistas and is a lovely place to people watch. 

A guided trip is a great option, where you can learn more about Mexico’s history as well as more information about three important figures honored in the plaza with golden busts: Benito Juarez, Miguel Hidalgo, and Venustiano Carranza. 

Ensenada cruise port

Ensenada Cruise Port Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best time of year to visit Ensenada? 

Weather wise the best time of year to visit Ensenada is Late May to mid-October. This will give you the most pleasant temperatures for outdoor excursions. 

How far is downtown Ensenada from the cruise port? 

The main downtown area of Ensenada is an easy 15 minute walk from the cruise port. There are many taxis near the port area if you want to catch a ride and save your legs for walking downtown. 

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Final Thoughts On Things to do in Ensenada Cruise Port

Ensenada is one of the best places to get a glimpse of the beautiful Mexican culture as well as eat tasty seafood tacos, drink refreshing margaritas and experience exciting excursions.

Have you been to Ensenada, Mexico? If so what do you enjoy most? Please let me know in the comments below.

Happy Cruising!


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