IS IT SAFE?
Some of you might immediately be thinking, “Girls trip to Mexico? Are ya sure that’s a good idea?”. Honestly, while Ensenada isn’t the safest place in the world to travel, I feel like you have the same odds of being kidnapped walking around Downtown San Diego as you do walking around certain parts of Mexico. But, that’s just my opinion. I’ll talk about some great things that make the trip more convenient and a lot safer.
HOW DO I GET THERE?
Your question about safety brings me to my second point. Ensenada is a great place for a weekend trip because it is so accessible from San Diego. By accessible, you can like, accidentally end up in Mexico if you miss your exit, and it’s about a 2 hour drive from the border. While Mexico is relatively safe if you’re not stupid, driving down there can be a whole different story. If you plan on driving, it’s not that bad. You’ll see some craziness in TJ, but once you get on the Federal Highway 1 it’s a pretty, peaceful coastal drive.
TIP: Bring pesos for the toll roads and just don’t drive at night. And there’s places to stop before the border if you want daily insurance.
What I recommend for a safer, more convenient, and more bougie experience all around is to hire a driver. There’s plenty of shuttle services, but I found a private driver that lives in Mexico who will meet you on the Mexico side once you walk across the border. They will provide a private shuttle (different size cars available) to take you from the border to your hotel, into the valle, from winery to winery, and back to the border. We had someone for 2 days and paid around $400- WORTH IT. Highly recommend Francisco at Kiko Tours.
WHERE DO I STAY?
Here’s where you have 2 options that can totally change the vibe of the trip.
Option 1: Stay at a hotel on the coast of Ensenada, Punta Morro being my favorite. They have ocean/pool view rooms, breakfast overlooking the water, and an amazing restaurant all around.
Option 2: Stay at a boutique hotel in the Valle de Guadalupe. I have always found the best options on http://www.booking.com. There aren’t any large hotels in the Valle, and most of the “hotels” are on small private properties or vineyards with stand alone rooms, almost like cabins or cabanas.
WHICH WINERIES DO I NEED TO TRY?
This is of course the most important part! So, how do you say “all of them” in español? While I have loved every single winery I’ve tried, I will narrow down the MUST SEES if this is your first trip to the Valle.
- Decantos Vinicola – If you go to any winery in the Valle de Guadalupe, go to Decantos. It is on the top of a hill and the view is phenomenal. Not only is this a beautiful spot, but they have a great selection of wine and small bites. If it’s your first time here, do the tour of the winery. They’re the first (one of the first?) to incorporate the use of gravity to make the wine and the tour is fascinating and worth the $. This is definitely a spot you will want to hang out for a couple hours. Also, don’t sleep on the hats they sell in the front. Best souvenir you can buy and you will get compliments every time you wear it and you can say, “I got it at a winery in Mexico. Thank yewww.”
- La Justina – Being one of the newer wineries, La Justina isn’t like a normal winery, it’s a cool winery. Neon signs, cute bathrooms, hanging plants, craft cocktails, and DJ, this place checks all the boxes for your girls outing. This place has all the vibes, and also a full menu, which is a plus.
- Cuatro Cuatros – However long you are staying in the Valle, save this stop for your grand finale. While most of the wineries in the valle are located around the um, valley, Cuatro Cuatros is perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. Make reservations in advance, pay extra for the nicer table, and prepare to pay a cover to take the shuttle to the top of the cliff and actual restaurant. Have your moment to be like, “is this really worth it?” then get over yourself and prepare to have your breath taken away by the view of the Baja coast.
WHERE DO I EAT?
Not all of the wineries have full restaurants so I would plan to have breakfast, snack at the wineries, and go hard for dinner.
- Finca Altozano – RUN. DO NOT WALK. Get the octopus and one of every taco and thank me later. You will eat like a QUEEN without the menu prices of a downtown San Diego restaurant. Located in the Valle de Guadalupe, the atmosphere is a rural, rustic, relaxing restaurant with amazing views. My favorite restaurant in all of Ensenada.
- Deckman’s – Ran by Michelin Star rated chef, Drew Deckman, this will be the nicest dinner you have during your stay. Also an outdoor restaurant located in the Valle with romantic lighting.
- La Cocina de Dona Esthela– THE BREAKFAST PLACE if you are in the Valle. Homestyle Mexican breakfast with homemade tortillas.
- Tacos El Franc – Located in Tijuana, whether you are stopping here on your way in or on your way home, you need to stop and get the best al pastor tacos of your life.
- Gorditas La Tia – Stopping in Playas de Rosarito on your way home is also a must to walk through the flea markets. But, more important than the shopping, is the gorditas. They say you are what you eat, and gordita just happens to translate to “little chubby one”. Think of that while you’re enjoying the chorizo con papas or frijoles con queso and just enjoy and have no regrets.
Being from Southern California, la Valle de Guadalupe is TOP 3 weekend getaways. If you want wine tasting, great food, ocean views, and you want to get your mula’s worth- skip Temecula, pass on San Diego, and just keep driving yourself right across that international border.
Did I leave out one of your favorite spots? Is there anything else you’re dying to know? Please leave me a comment below; I would love to meet you!