It may only be a 90-minute drive south of border town Tijuana, but Ensenada is much more than another stop on Baja California’s road-trip trail. It’s been a popular Mexican resort for years, thanks to a golden stretch of Pacific coastline, busy cruise port and buzzing nightlife scene. It’s this hedonistic streak that also attracts many weekend thrillseekers, especially from the US, during spring break. The city’s best drinking dens? Read on for our picks.
This big, brash party bar is always a hit with spring breakers, and it’s not hard to see why. Expect an up-for-it crowd at this Zona Centro nightspot, with live music and DJs spinning Latino floorfillers. There’s an open-air patio if you need a breather, as well as a decent menu of Mexican favorites to line the stomach. Cocktails are top notch, with the super-zingy lemon mojitos and mango shots being two top picks.
Just along from Papas & Beer, Hussong’s is renowned as the oldest cantina bar in Baja California – and it feels like little has changed since it opened in 1892. The venerable landmark has Wild West character in spades, and legend suggests it’s the birthplace of the margarita. Drinks are cheap, the cocktails are punchy, and the lack of a dancefloor doesn’t stop people cutting a rug and singing along to the mariachi and norteño bands who play here regularly.
This hole-in-the-wall bar couldn’t be further from the bigger, boisterous ones that characterize much of Ensenada’s nightlife. It’s an atmospheric, cozy space, all moody lighting, rough concrete walls and knowledgeable staff. Mezcal is the star of the show, with a broad selection of the smoky spirit to sample and savor (tequila’s more refined sibling is about sipping rather than shooting). You can even arrange a private tasting session.
A place to kick the night off in style, Shots Factory delivers on the promise of its name. Expect pyrotechnics aplenty, with skilled bar staff dealing out flaming shots to delighted revelers. While there are certainly some potent options – including several with absinthe – you needn’t leave completely pie-eyed, as some mellower fruity shooters and a good choice of beers are also available.
Once named the best brewery in Mexico – their brews sell nationwide – this is a must-do for beer enthusiasts. You can either visit their tasting rooms, part of the brewery just out of town, or their pub in the marina district. There you can sample their many prizewinners, from creamy stout to crisp Mexican beer. They serve great bar food, too, including pulled pork sliders and fried pickles.
Another one on the main party drag, Ultramarino stands out for great seafood, especially its spicy oyster shots. You can knock them back straight from the shell, or tempura-style, for the less adventurous. They serve one of the best mojitos in town, as well as great craft beers, while its live music draws the weekend crowd, who fill the dancefloor until the small hours.
A microbrewery in the mostly residential Playa Ensenada neighborhood, this hip, industrial-chic bar offers top-notch home-brewed ales. There’s always at least lager, IPA and stout on tap, with the owner on hand to offer tastings and talk you through them. If you fancy a nibble, they also offer seriously well-made izakaya-style sushi, which pairs perfectly with the right ale.
Book a beautiful resort stay overlooking All Saints Bay or a romantic boutique hotel to complete your trip to Ensenada, all bookable through Culture Trip. If you’re looking for more adventure, try surfing on the dreamy beaches of Baja California or sample some local delicacies throughout the region.
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