Long Weekend Guide: Baja Getaway Made Cheap and Easy
Thinking about your SoCal weekend getaway plan and how to make it great? With rising airline prices, maybe the answer is NOT hopping on a plane. Instead, make your NxTSTOP a road trip that's a bit more picante and head south of the border to Baja.
Not only are there beautiful beaches and delicious food, but also all-around boho winery experiences that will blow you away.
Many Americans might be surprised to learn that only about an hour south of Tijuana (on a very nicely paved highway) lie the 1-2 combo of beach city Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe, a beautiful valley with wineries and boutique hotels everywhere.
If you're coming from San Diego, you'll cross the border quickly - they typically don't check you going into Mexico - and effectively follow signs to get on highway 1. This tollroad (don't worry, it's cheap and you can use dollars if you need) is a nice paved highway that runs down to the coast and takes you all the way to Ensenada. There's some cool spots to stop and eat with ocean views like K38 Surf House too. If you're heading straight to "The Valle" though, you'll end up splitting off and heading back northeast before you get all the way to Ensenada.
How To Dress
While you might think Baja = hot, it's not necessarily the case. During the day it's hot in the Valle, but nearer to the ocean it can be cooler with the wind. At night it gets downright cold at times once the sun goes down. So if you're popping around during the late afternoon, it's best to bring a sweatshirt or light jacket. If you end up doing a hike to the waterfall (see below), a pair of stretchy but comfortable pants would be a good call too.
What To Do
You've got two options here - stay in the valley and journey to Ensenada, or vice versa. Personally, I think the vineyards are pretty magical and should take the bulk of your time. There are many boutique hotels to choose from that are quite reasonable and right on the vineyards too. You can hop around to different ones very easily, so making an afternoon-evening wine tasting plan each day is a great plan. Here's a sample itinerary I've found to work very well
- Head down late Friday morning, stop in Ensenada for lunch
- Spend the early afternoon at the beach
- Plan to be checking into hotel in the Valle around 5
- Head to a nearby winery with a cool outdoor area (like Vinos LT) for sunset
- Grab breakfast in Ensenada at La Flor de la Calabaza
- Lunch at K38 for tunes and drinks
- Any mix of wineries in the afternoon
- Breakfast at Huevo Republic
- Waterfall hike/walk - Cascada Arroyo Guadalupe
- Lunch at Fauna (at Bruma) or La Esperanza Bajamed before heading home
Getting Back (Tips & Tricks for the Border)
In heading back to the US it's important to start taking into account where and when you'll cross the border. The main road running through the Valle actually heads back to the border near one of them, but they are all relatively close. There's three main access points into California - San Ysidro (Tijuana), Otay (east Tijuana), and Tecate. If you choose wrong, it could mean several hours waiting in line. Check current border wait times here.
My number one recommendation - if you've got Global Entry - is to register for the SENTRI pass, which effectively is a fast pass car lane for the border. It's usually 15-20 minutes on average at any time. If you've got Global Entry you must register your car (and pay a nominal fee). Also be aware that every person in the car must also have Global Entry, and should have their Global Entry Card (no passport needed). Technically you get three strikes on this though, so if you're just Global Entry, in a pinch you can still use the lane with non-SENTRI friends and get away with it.
Que tengas un buen viaje!