Baja California Is the 'Cinderella of the Pacific'

Heather Steinberger
5/19/14

It’s called the “Cinderella of the Pacific,” this city of nearly 280,000 people nestled along Mexico’s Pacific coast just 78 miles south of San Diego. Ensenada is the Baja Peninsula’s third-largest city, after Tijuana and Mexicali, and it’s the first major port south of the U.S.-Mexico border.

​It’s also becoming powerful draw for tourists. Not only is the city home to myriad cultural attractions and recreational opportunities, it lies adjacent to the Valle de Guadalupe, a wine-growing region celebrated throughout Mexico and garnering increasing attention worldwide.​

​To reach Ensenada, you can fly into Tijuana International Airport or San Diego International Airport, and from there, rent a car, hop on a public bus, or investigate shuttle options with your hotel. (And don’t worry about finding accommodations; Ensenada has more than 3,500 rooms, from one- to five-star.)

​For example, Hotel Coral & Marina guests who fly into San Diego can meet a hotel shuttle at the airport or at the San Ysidro Port of Entry (an easy trolley ride from downtown San Diego), where U.S. Interstate Highway 5 crosses into Tijuana. The shuttle will take you right to the hotel’s front door.

​The border crossing is effortless from the U.S. side. A word of caution, however: This is the busiest land border crossing in the world, and lines can be long on the Mexico side as vehicles and pedestrians, including countless daily commuters, wait to cross into the United States. If you need to return to San Diego to catch a flight home, make sure to allot extra time for the wait. This writer was told that her hour-and-a-half-hour wait was “pretty good.” It can be two hours or longer.

​Once you’re there, make plans to visit Baja California’s Ruta del Vino, the renowned Valle de Guadalupe wine country. If you haven’t rented a car, fear not; major hotels like the Hotel Coral offer shuttle service so you can tour the new Vine and Wine Museum, which opened in 2012 and remains the only such facility in Mexico; enjoy a meal at one of the many diverse wine-country restaurants, such as the new farm-to-table Malva Cocina de Baja California; and of course sample the various wines in the valley, which is now home to more than 50 wineries.

​At the five-year-old Hacienda La Lomita winery, for example, you can taste signature Baja California wines such as the leggy, full-flavored 2011 Pagano (in its uber-cool square bottle), the bright, polished 2011 Tinto de la Hacienda and the smooth, buttery 2013 Espacio Blanco while cleansing your palate with locally made artisanal breads and marmalade and fresh Paloma cheese made by the owner’s mother.

​“Winemaking is getting to be a very big business,” said Fernando Pérez Castro, 37, Hacienda La Lomita’s proprietor. “It’s about 20 percent of our economy, and it’s growing 0.5 percent annually.

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