Dear DBTC Members,
I’m excited to share with you the arrival of my newest Moon guidebook focused on Northern Baja, Moon Tijuana, Ensenada, and Valle de Guadalupe. This is a special region to me as it’s a region I have been traveling to since I was six months old, a place I have called home, and a destination that my husband and I have led culinary and wine tours to for a number of years through our company Baja Test Kitchen. From street food to fine dining, the culinary scene in this region is unparalleled and that’s on top of the world-class wine and the excellent craft beers. In the book I share my insider tips for the best TJ street tacos, my favorite boutique wineries and B&Bs in Valle de Gudalupe, and the freshest seafood in Ensenada. On top of the cuisine, this is a region filled with cultural attractions, beautiful beaches, cave paintings, surfing, and more.
I’m sharing an excerpt from the book with four sample itineraries for short road trips in the region if you have a long weekend to do some exploring. The itineraries give you day-by-day breakdowns and highlight some of my favorite places to check out. If you have a few days, I hope you head south to discover all that Northern Baja has to offer.
If you are traveling during this time, please be sure to call ahead to all establishments as some places are currently closed, and many of those that are open are currently requiring reservations. Also, be sure to ask about current health protocol as regulations can be stricter than in the U.S.
Wishing you safe and happy travels!
The Best of Northern Baja
The northern coastal border region is one of the most fascinating and culturally interesting on the Baja peninsula. The beautiful beaches and countryside provide the perfect backdrop for an incredible culinary scene, world-class wine region, and bourgeoning craft beer industry.
Day 1: Tijuana
29 km (18 mi)
Get an early start to cross south at the San Ysidro border into Tijuana. Head to Mercado Hidalgo to explore the market’s stalls of fresh produce, regional spices, and local artisan goods. Tijuana has some of the best street food in the world, so get some birria at nearby Tacos Rio, or enjoy street tacos at Las Ahumaderas. After lunch, catch an exhibit at CECUT Cultural Center. For dinner, try out a nice restaurant like La Justina or Misión 19 to get a taste of Tijuana’s incredible culinary scene. If you like craft beer, cap off your night at Plaza Fiesta, Tijuana’s collection of craft beer tasting rooms.
Day 2: Ensenada
105 km (65 mi)
Head to breakfast at the original Foodgarden and then drive down the coast along Mexico 1 to Ensenada. Check out the Mercado de Mariscos and grab one of Ensenada’s famous fish tacos at one of the stalls outside the market, or walk over to Muelle 3 for incredible ceviche and fresh seafood. Spend the afternoon shopping and taking in the sights on Avenida López Mateos (Calle Primera). Enjoy dinner at one of Ensenada’s prime restaurants like Boules or Manzanilla. After dinner, stop in at the long-established Hussong’s Cantina for a beer or margarita.
Day 3: Valle de Guadalupe
29 km (18 mi)
Grab a breakfast featuring local cheeses and other products at Casa Marcelo before driving east to the Valle de Guadalupe. Stop in at the new Museo de la Vid y el Vino to learn about the history of winemaking and the valley. Enjoy lunch alfresco at the campestre Finca Altozano and visit a winery like Vinos Paoloni to enjoy your wine with beautiful views. Enjoy a gourmet six-course dinner while looking out at the garden at the famous Corazón de Tierra restaurant.
Day 4: Wine-Tasting
Enjoy a hearty breakfast of huevos con machaca at La Cocina de Doña Esthela before heading off for a day of wine-tasting at boutique wineries like Vena Cava, Pijoan, or Lechuza. Enjoy a Mexican-style late lunch/early dinner at Malva. Then catch sunset with incredible dramatic ocean views at the cliff-top Bar Bura at Cuatrocuatros.
Day 5: Tecate
79 km (49 mi)
Drive north on Mexico 3 to the Pueblo Mágico town of Tecate and grab some fresh-baked goods for breakfast at El Mejor Pan de Tecate. Head to the Museo Comunitario de Tecate to learn about the history and culture of the region. Grab a carne asada taco for a quick bite at Taqueria Los Amigos and enjoy a stroll around the town plaza, savoring the shade of the mature trees and listening to the mariachis. If you want to have a drink before dinner, head to the local’s spot Bar Diana, right on the plaza, for a beer or margarita. Then go to El Lugar de Nos to enjoy a memorable meal before crossing back to San Diego through the laid-back Tecate border crossing.
Weekend Trip to Tijuana
Tijuana is a gritty and vibrant city with an incredible culinary scene and plenty of cultural attractions to make it well worth a weekend getaway. From street tacos to fine dining, the city has been luring foodies for years, and with a new craft beer scene emerging, beer aficionados are now flocking to the city as well.
Drive or walk across the San Diego/Tijuana border at San Ysidro and head to the center of the action on Avenida Revolución in Zona Centro. Explore the pasajes, do some artisanal shopping, and get your photo take with one of the Tijuana’s famous zonkeys. Duck into Caesar’s Restaurante for lunch where you can have a Caesar salad prepared tableside in the very spot it was invented. After lunch, sample some craft beers at one of the many craft breweries on Revolución such as Norte Brewing Co. or Teorema/Lúdica Co-Tasting Room. Enjoy a delightful gourmet dinner nearby at Verde y Crema or La Justina, If you’re in the mood for a night cap, head to Dandy del Sur or La Mezcalera before heading back to your hotel.
Head east to Playas de Tijuana and enjoy a fresh breakfast with the locals at El Yogurt Place. Spend some time walking along the expansive Playas boardwalk and check out Friendship Park before heading back to Zona Rio to grab some gourmet tacos for lunch at Tras/Horizonte. Spend the afternoon checking out an IMAX movie or the current exhibits at CECUT Cultural Center. Don’t miss your reservation for dinner at Misión 19, one of Tijuana’s top restaurants. After dinner, head right upstairs to Bar 20 for cocktails or go to Plaza Fiesta if you’re looking for a boisterous beer scene.
Head to Tijuana’s famous market, Mercado Hidalgo. Take in the sights and smells of the produce, spices, and artisanal goods before checking out some of the awesome street food right around the market such as Tacos el Franc or Los Perrones. Head toward the border to Estación Federal to grab a coffee or drink before getting in line at the border to cross back to the U.S.
Three Days in Wine Country
Valle de Guadalupe is Mexico’s premier wine country and is home to unique boutique hotels, incredible campestre restaurants, and over 150 wineries. The area is perfect for a tranquil or romantic getaway and is drawing visitors from all around the world who are starting to hear about the award-winning wines and fantastic food.
121 km (75 mi)
Drive across the San Diego/Tijuana border at San Ysidro and keep going two hours south to arrive at the Valle de Guadalupe. Check into your intimate B&B at La Villa del Valle or Casa Mayoral. Start your explorations in the valley with a quick visit to the Museo de la Vid y el Vino to learn about wine and the history of the region. Check out a few boutique wineries like Vinícola 3 Mujeres, Vena Cava, or Alximia. Enjoy a six-course gourmet meal at Chef Diego Hernandez’s Corazón de Tierra.
Have breakfast at your B&B before heading out to your first winery such as Lechuza or Bodegas F. Rubio. Then enjoy a lunch of octopus, Brussels sprouts, or lamb birria at Javier Plascencia’s campestre restaurant, Finca Altozano. Leave yourself enough time before or after your lunch reservation to enjoy a glass of wine atop one of the giant wine barrel lookouts perched around the property. After lunch, enjoy another wine-tasting at a boutique winery like Pijoan or Vinos Paoloni. For sunset, head to the cliff-top Bar Bura at Cuatrocuatros where you’ll bask in stunning Pacific Ocean views. Finish off the day with a memorable dinner at Fauna.
80 km (50 mi)
For your last morning, enjoy a delicious homemade Mexican breakfast like corn pancakes or huevos con machaca at the famous La Cocina de Doña Esthela. Enjoy one last wine-tasting at Viña de Frannes or Torres Alegre y Familia on your way up Mexico 3 heading to Tecate. Grab some baked goods at El Mejor Pan de Tecate before crossing back over the border to the United States.
Four-Day Getaway to Ensenada
Two hours south of the U.S. border, the town of Ensenada is a prime getaway with a lot to offer visitors from beautiful beaches, delicious seafood, craft beer, and a lively downtown area.
Drive across the San Diego/Tijuana border at San Ysidro and keep going two hours south on toll road Mexico 1 to arrive at Ensenada. Along the way, stop at El Mirador a half hour north of Ensenada, to take in the impressive Pacific views. Once you get into Ensenada, head downtown to the Mercado Negro fish market to see the day’s catch and walk along the malecón. Walk a few blocks inland to Avenida López Mateos (Calle Primera) and grab a ceviche tostada at the famous La Guerrerense food cart. Check into your hotel just north of town at Torre Lucerna or Las Rosas and take some time to enjoy the pool area and the beautiful sunset over the Pacific. Enjoy craft cocktails and dinner at Manzanilla restaurant.
Spend the morning catching waves. Experienced surfers will enjoy the break at San Miguel while beginners can take a lesson with Surf Ensenada. Post surf, grab some fish tacos at Tacos El Fenix for lunch. Then spend some time discovering some of Ensenada’s craft breweries like Agua Mala and Wendlandt. When you get hungry, head to El Trailero, one of Ensenada’s most popular taco stands, open 24/7.
Get an early start and drive south out of Ensenada to the Antigua Ruta del Vino in Valle de la Grulla. Savor wine-tastings at MD Vinos and Palafox. Then head to the Valle de Santo Tomás to visit the first winery in Baja California, Bodegas de Santo Tomás, established in 1888. Return to Ensenada to have a memorable dinner at Madre.
Have an early breakfast at Casa Marcelo before driving one hour south of town to check out Ensenada’s natural sea geyser, La Bufadora. Enjoy the beautiful drive along the way, and when you get there, enjoy some artisanal shopping at the stalls that line the street out to the geyser. Then drive north on Mexico 1 back up to the border.