Family Christmas Road-trip to Ensenada in Baja Mexico

Day 1

For the second year in a row, we did a family road-trip to Ensenada in Baja Mexico for Christmas. Spending holidays in Mexico is something that I have wanted to do for a while, so it is exciting that we have made it a tradition for Christmas. Spending time down there allows us to step away from our normal routine, takes a lot of the pressure off someone hosting everyone, and allows us to explore a beautiful country filled with wonderful people.

This year, we headed down on a Saturday. Traffic was mellow and even with Mexico’s oddly structured new border entrance, it was an easy drive. First stop was Puerto Nuevo.

I have been going to Puerto Nuevo since I was a little kid. It is a tourist stop for sure, but it is still a fun place to go. We went to the same restaurant as last year and each enjoyed a lobster meal. I haven’t had lobster in 5-10 years, so it was a treat. Paired with a cold beer and fresh tortillas, I was in heaven.

After lunch and some quick shopping, we headed south to our rental house.

We found a cool rental property right on the beach, just south of Ensenada. It isn’t fancy, but it meets all of our needs. It has 3 bedrooms, a functional kitchen, and we are steps away from the beach.

Day 2

The beach was covered in sand dollars. Not huge ones, but a bunch of small to medium size ones. There was hardly anyone else on the beach, other than the occasional person walking by or locals leading a group on a horseback ride.

It is usually cloudy this time of the year in Ensenada which makes is easy to stay inside with a book, enjoying the fireplace.

panoramic of beach view from airbnb

Day 3

We woke up, had breakfast, and hit the road to Guadalupe Valle. It had rained a lot the night before, which always highlights the poor infrastructure that Baja is built on. The roads were flooded, the smell of sewer was strong, and it can affect the power as well. But locals are used to it and just push through.

One our way to the Valle, we drove through many flooded streets and traffic jams. Water was flowing down from the hills and creating quite the driving experience for everyone. But once we got through downtown Ensenada, we were in the clear.

Guadalupe Valle is really something special. The wine is great, the people are fun, and it has been great seeing the individual wineries grow. 

Our first winery stop was supposed to be Adobe Guadalupe. We followed Google Maps directions, but it led us down a dirt road that turned into mud in the rain. Liz’s Camry was handling the deep pot holes and mud like a champ though. I was enjoying the off-roading. Mom was a bit nervous in the back seat. We eventually turned a corner to find a puddle the size of an Olympic size pool. Given the quantity of water, unknown depth, and locals not driving through it themselves, we decided to turn back.

We turned around and headed back to a great winery called Magoni. We were the only people in there and had a great time tasting the delicious wine and talking with the wine tender.

With only about 45 minutes before our reservation, we fit in one more wine tasting over at Lechuza. There was another group in the winery and the staff were very friendly. 

Running a few minutes late, we arrived for our early dinner reservation at Deckmans. Sitting outside is our favorite, even with the cold weather and potential for more rain.

panoramic of vineyard in front of deckmans

Eating at Deckmans is a true pleasure. The location, food, staff, all combined make a truly enjoyable experience.

To start we had: oysters, pork belly, pumpkin soup, and hominy corn ceviche.

For our mains, we had: quail, short ribs, and ribeye.

One of the underrated, but arguably best parts of Deckmans are the desserts. Even though we were absolutely stuffed, we ordered one of each.

Beverages included mezcal, wine, and warm ponche with mezcal.

The drive back to the house from Deckmans was long, dark, and wet. But we had a belly full of good food and some tasty bottles of wine in the trunk.

Day 4

Sleeping in and having nothing to do all day is such a treat. We didn’t even leave the house except to let Diesel outside to go the bathroom. The house has a some great DVDs to watch and after a couple hours of the fireplace roaring, it was the perfect ambiance to stay inside and do nothing.

Day 5

Waking up in Mexico for Christmas is a dream come true. Even with a long drive back to San Diego, it is exactly where I want to be.

We had coffee and hit the road early. No one was on the road and we were able to make it to the border in about 2 hours. With a border wait of only an hour, it was about 4 hours total from Ensenada to Cardiff.

Keeping with tradition, we had a delicious Christmas dinner at Uncle Joe’s. He made a ton of delicious food, which resulted in some tasty leftovers to be enjoyed in our second part of our Baja adventure.