“I’m not getting off the ship.” Our cruise ship dinner tablemates opined when asked if they were going to spend the one day in Ensenada, Mexico.
The older woman smeared butter onto a roll. “No need. There’s not much there to do. I’d much rather have a drink by the pool.”
Hmm. I deftly fed my distracted daughter some soup. I sensed a challenge. How could we spend our one day in Ensenada off the ship?
Initially, when my mom and I planned a girls getaway on the Carnival Imagination in fall 2017, I also had not planned to get off the ship. I almost always do on cruise ships, but I was apprehensive with the US State Department warnings about travel to Mexico. Plus, all of the shore excursions touted by the cruise line seemed geared toward alcohol or shopping. Neither of which I was keen to do with my kid in tow.
So if you find yourself in a similar quandary, let me share with you some of the best things I did not know existed in Ensenada. Now I know they’re there, I would definitely go back.
In the Morning
Don’t get off the ship right away. Have a leisurely breakfast with your family, maybe play a round of mini golf or giant chess set. In the mornings, all of the planned shore excursions leave, so there are some lines getting off at the dock.
Once you’re ready, put on some sunscreen and just set out down the cruise ship pier. There are some small shops right off the ship, but if you head towards town, there are a lot more interesting things to see.
On your right, you will see the Caracol Science Museum. They have a variety of movies and other hands-on activities which are great for kids of all ages. It’s a great place to spend an hour or two.
Then turn left and walk down the Malecon.
Along the harbor in Ensenada runs the Malecon. Shortly after you turn left from the cruise ship dock, you will encounter a pretty wonderful playground. There is also a fountain/splash pad where you and your kids can run and cool off in the Mexican sun. Around the playground, they have a number of small food vendors, and a few tour operators as well in case you’ve changed your mind about seeing the famous La Bufadora.
After you’ve worked up an appetite playing at the Caracol Museum and the playground, keep walking down the Malecon. Pass the hawkers trying to get you to go on a fishing tour, try to ignore the people holding laminated menus advertising margaritas the size of your head. Once you’ve gone almost to the end of the pier, you will find the perfect restaurant for your port day in Ensenada: Muelle 3. Have a glass of wine and some delicious pescado. Your kids will love the papas and lemonade.
In the Afternoon
Once you have eaten your fill, head back along the wharf to the cruise ship dock. If your kid is like mine (or if you just happen to like sleep), go back and have a nap.
After you’re well-rested, put on your swimsuits and enjoy the pool, which won’t be too crowded for another hour or so.
You’ve just spent a lovely, inexpensive one day in Ensenada with your kids.
Final Thoughts on One Day in Ensenada with Kids
A few things to keep in mind about Ensenada:
- There’s no beach within walking distance. You need to take a cab or tour.
- There are plenty of tour operators off the ship if you do decide you’d like to see La Bufadora with your little ones.
- Though the Mexican peso is obviously the currency of the area, the places we visited all accepted American dollars. Keep in mind a lot of places don’t take credit cards.
- We do speak a little Spanish, which I like to imagine made our lives easier. Still, if you’re playing on a playground and visiting museums, you don’t really need a lot of Spanish. I just think it’s respectful.
- I think next time we go we will try to find more street tacos, though the food at Muelle 3 really was exceptional.
- I found the Malecon and area directly around the cruise ship terminal to be fairly safe. There are hawkers, but nothing too aggressive. I’m not sure about the area beyond this, as this is as far as we ventured. Use your own best judgment,
How would you spend one day in Ensenada with your kids?