Driving to Ensenada is easy. Crossing the international border or coming from Tijuana in the North, take the Playas de Tijuana exit or Rosarito/Ensenada Toll Road exit. The Playas de Tijuana road turns into the Tijuana-Ensenada Toll Road. After a 70 minute scenic route overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean, you'll arrive in Ensenada. Be prepared to pay the toll (currently in the $2.10 per toll) which also doubles for insurance while on the toll road (however, you are still required to have insurance by Mexican law). There are three toll stations on your way.
There is also a "Free Road" or Carretera Libre which runs from downtown Tijuana to Ensenada avoiding all tolls. The route is longer, but is also a nice scenic drive. You can even drive part of the way on the toll road & part of the way on the free road.
You'll find gas stations in Rosarito, Cantamar and El Sauzal. Ensenada and Tijuana also have gas stations throughout each town that are open daily.
Buses are also available from Tijuana to Ensenada. The main station or Central de Autobuses in Tijuana is at Ave. Lazaro Cardenas & Blvd. Arroyo Alamar, near the airport east of downtown. An easier way is to catch a bus from the regional station at the start of Tijuana's tourist district. Walking across the border, passing the taxi stands on your left, follow the sidewalk until you come to a crosswalk street crossing. Look to your left and you will see the small bus station.
The bus station (Tel: 6-178-6680) in Ensenada is located at Riveroll and Calle 10. You can grab a taxi for the short ride to your hotel.
The city with a regular commercial airport nearest to Ensenada is Tijuana. Commercial flights arrive at Abelardo Rodriguez International (TIJ) airport daily . From Tijuana to Ensenada it is an approximate 70 minutes on the Hwy. 1 toll road.
Ensenada also has a small commercial airport, Aeropuerto El Ciprés just south of downtown (Tel: (6) 176-6301). There aren't any regular commercial flights unless you want to fly south to Guerrero Negro, but a company has plans in the works to fly in and out 3 times a week. The tower number is Unicom 119.75.
To fly (international airports), you will need a valid passport or your original birth certificate (US and Canada). It must be presented at the airline check-in. Once on the plane you will be given a form to fill out - for customs. Tourist cards are not necessary for Tijuana or Ensenada, unless you stay more than 72 hours. There are restrictions as to what you can bring to Mexico......Some of these restrictions are limits for "duty free" and some are absolute, such as firearms without a permit (not to mention drugs).
Most commonly encountered restrictions are:
- Most food items - especially plants, fruits and seeds.
- Cigars and cigarettes - over 20 packs per person may be subject to duty.
- Liquor and wine - over 2 bottles per person may be subject to duty.
- Controlled substances and drugs - a no no!
- Firearms - only for hunting and a permit must be obtained from the Mexican Consulate in advance.
The Immigration counter is your first stop after you disembark the plane. Here you will have to present your passport (or birth certificate). Your passport will be stamped to make your arrival official. (You will need to keep your passport with you at all times while in Mexico) Next you'll proceed to the baggage claim area for your luggage.
Customs is the last step, here you will need to have your Customs Declaration Form handy (the form you were given on the plane). Recently Mexico adopted a "Red Light - Green Light" system for customs. If you have put "Nothing to declare" on this form, you will be asked to push a button....... If the light is green you can exit without inspection; if the light is red you will be subject to inspection. This is a random system, and therefore there is no way to know whether you will get a green or red light. Consequently you need to be honest on your Customs Declaration and declare anything over and above what is allowed, paying all applicable duties. If you do not, and are caught by a red light, the fines may be very steep.
Since Ensenada is one of the premier ports on the Pacific coast of Mexico, sailing or motoring (boating) is a popular way to get here. You can either sail directly into the port and pay an anchorage or sail to one of the fine private marinas such as the Hotel Coral & Marina. Please contact them directly for docking information (see Hotels & Resorts). If you sail into the port, you'll need to show your paper work to the Captain of the Port and pay any applicable fees.
Cruise ships also make Ensenada a port-of-call. Ships usually arrive on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays with hundreds of day tourists. Shuttles transfer visitors back and forth from the ship to the tourist areas. You can also catch a taxi back to the boat for $1 US from Ave. Lopez Mateos. If you decide to walk, it's only a couple blocks between the terminal and the tourist areas.