Tag Archives: ensenada

Surfing along Baja: The Big Wave at Todos Santos

Let me begin by saying that I have not been to Todos Santos,  a pair of islands about 12 miles west of Ensenada, and that I don’t surf.

But surfing is a big part of Baja’s appeal  to sports-minded travelers. So I was glad to come across a recent travelogue posted by Nathan Gibbs on his blog – Nathangibbs.com –  of the  the Todos Santos Big Wave Event. Apparently, surfers wait out the appropriate wave conditions during the month of February until someone makes the call that the contest is on. In this case, the event took place Feb. 28 after forecasters predicted waves would get between 18-20 feet high.

I once interviewed some surfers (when I was a reporter) about what draws them to Baja California. Several told me it was the ruggedness and isolated atmosphere – the sense of what California must have been like before the urban sprawl and the knotted shoelace freeways.  The chance to have a wave all to themselves.

Or, as in this case, to simply ride some pretty impressive waves. To get a sense of the Todos Santos area’s alluring waves,  I’ve embedded a video (above) that Nathan made of his ocean excursion. But to get a more comprehensive sense of the event, do check out Nathangibbs.com to see some amazing shots of the surfers and waves that day.

And feel free in the comments section to suggest links to other videos or photos taken from that day.

YouTube video from NathanGibbs.com

Sonora/Baja Road Trip. Day Ten: The drive back to Tijuana

This is the final of a series of blog posts about a ten-day trip I recently took south of the border through the Mexican state of Sonora and then back up north (after a ferry trip across the Gulf of California) through the Baja Peninsula.

Actual travel date: Jan 3, 2010. Baja California North.

The border road trip was winding to a close. Over the past nine days we had seen and done a lot: Exploring the state of Sonora, crossing the Gulf of California in a ferry – and visiting islands and cave art sites along the Baja peninsula. It was Sunday, and time to head back to the Tijuana border. This would be an all-day drive along the Transpeninsular highway, but fortunately the Baja peninsula landscape is never boring.

We left Guerrero Negro at 8 a.m., which was actually 7 a.m. Tijuana time (the time zone switches once you cross into or out of Guerrero Negro). It was foggy, but eventually the shroud parted to reveal a flat stretch of desert with cactus bent in odd angles. Our second road-kill episode during the trip (after the previous night’s coyote hit) took place when a small bird impaled itself on the car antenna.

By 9:30, we had reached Catavina. We had foolishly forgotten to fill up on gasoline at Guerrero Negro or other places nearby, so this was our only hope for fuel. There isn’t a PEMEX gas station here, but there are other options like this guy on the side of the road who probably earns a pretty decent living from travelers like us.

Catavina is a good place to stretch your legs. It’s a speck along the road with a smattering of hotels and food place. It would be nicer if there weren’t so much graffiti on the rocks, but if you pull off the main road you can immerse yourself in a more authentic desert experience.

We left Catavinia around 10 a.m. and then pushed on to El Rosario, which is about an hour away. We reached the agricultural community of  San Quintin at noon and kept driving along the main road cuts through town, lost in indecision over where to go for lunch. After eating some unmemorable fish tacos, we continued north.
I lost track of the number of military checkpoints we went through during this one day. I think it must have been around eight.

Three hours later, we arrived in  Ensenada from San Quintin. For some reason, I was seized by a sudden urge for donuts. By the time we left Ensenada the sky was starting to darken.

It had been a long day on the road but we made good time. We reached Tijuana at 5 p.m. –  about nine hours after we left Guerrero Negro – and I was back in the LA area a few hours after that. When I look at this map below, I’m somewhat amazed at the ground that we managed to cover in just ten days. Sure, it would have been great to have just gone to one place or region and get to know it really well. A road trip can be somewhat superficial and cursory, especially when you have a limited time frame. But on the other hand, it is also a chance to get the bigger picture of things and to realize how much more there is to get to know.

Dotted lines on map represent north-bound part of trip.

A weekend marathon eating adventure in Tijuana and Ensenada


This past weekend I joined a group of food bloggers, writers and chefs from Los Angeles in what turned out to be a non-stop eating and drinking tour of Tijuana and Ensenada that was organized by cross-border food blogger Bill Esparza and other Tijuana associations (full credit in message from Kenn below).

Funded mostly by Tijuana tourism folks, my stomach had never experienced anything like this: Morsels of ostrich meat wrapped in organic green stuff at La Villa del Valle Bed & Breakfast in the Guadalupe Valley; Spicy baby octopus at Tijuana’s high-end Villa Saverios restaurant; and sea urchins served on tostadas with a zippy peanut sauce at an Ensenada taco stand called La Guerrerense. 

While I had already been to most of the Tijuana places on the itinerary – La Querencia, La Diferencia, Villa Saverios, L’Apricot, Cien An~os, Lorca, Tacos Los Salceados and Cheripan – I wasn’t familiar with all their offerings. A Saturday morning breakfast stop at the Barbacoa de la Ermita Tijuana, which is run out of a family home, was a surprising treat.

The Ensenada portion of the trip introduced me to the wide range of seafood offerings beyond the traditional fish taco. And Saverios chef/owner Javier Plascencia  – who I once interviewed for a story about Tijuana restaurants expanding north of the border – joined us in the wine country of Guadalupe Valley to cook us a picnic of swordfish and beef cheek tacos accompanied by unique sauces.

Ostensibly, the tour was to introduce these L.A.-based food experts to the wide variety of food options just south of the border, but it also was about relationship building and creating word-of-mouth buzz about the region’s more positive offerings. Several of the Los Angeles chefs expressed interest in participating in cross-border culinary reunions that Plascencia said he is involved in organizing.

Watching the food bloggers and freelancers snap photos of their food and scribble notes, I couldn’t help but feel a little envious of them. In my previous work as a reporter in Tijuana, I got to know the city’s darker side intimately, equating certain places and street corners with horrible crimes committed by the region’s drug groups. It’s a parallel universe, but one that is typically separate from the lives of ordinary tourists – and it certainly hasn’t stopped me from visiting the region regularly. Intently focused on the food, the visitors from L.A. couldn’t have cared less about such details.

And after a while, as my stomach became full with even more tasty morsels of foods, I started to understand why.


(Chef Javier Plascencia, who has a number of restaurants in Tijuana and Chula Vista, serves up some special tacos during a picnic outside a winery in the Guadalupe Valley).

Here are several posts from the 20+ food bloggers and writers who went on the trip:

Javier Cabral writes about his Baja experience  at teenageglutster.blogspot.com

Patty Berlin elaborates at eatingla.blogspot.com

Matt Kang provides his perspectives at his  blog, Mattatouille, http://www.mattatouille.com

Organizer Bill Esparza recaps the event at his blog, Street Gourmet LA @ streetgourmetla.blogspot.com

***I will post additional perspectives of the trip in future blog entries***

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Get a taste of Baja in Los Angeles this weekend

Picture 11

I usually get my taste of  Baja California south of the border, but this weekend  – Saturday, June 20 – the border is coming to those of us who live or work in the Los Angeles area.

Baja tourism officials are holding “El Sabor de Baja en LA,” which will feature food, music and artwork from the peninsula cities of Tijuana, Ensenada and Rosarito Beach. The event lasts from noon to 6 p.m. and it will take place at Plaza Mexico at 3100 E. Imperial Hwy, in Lynwood.

And, in case you didn’t know, some really good wine is produced in Baja that would be worth tasting.

Baja tourism officials did something like this in San Diego recently, too. I am all for promoting this event since it’s the yin to the yang of less savory subjects that make Baja such a fascinatingly complicated region. Thanks to Bill Esparza over at his blog, Street Gourmet LA, for the heads-up on this one.

Ensenada Carnaval this weekend

                   YouTube video of 2008 Ensenada Carnaval from TioSam

Ensenada throws its own version of Mardi Gras this weekend. Heads up to Luis Navarro over at gisluis.com for reminding me on his blog about the Ensenada Mardi Gras Carnaval, which is said to be the city’s largest and most popular annual event. In the past, more than half a million people have come here from California and Baja. It looks like there will be parades on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Watch out for the cumbia-dancing clowns.  The festivities last from Feb. 19-Feb. 24.

For more information, go here.

See a slideshow of last year’s carnaval from SignonSanDiego.

Seniors find cheaper assisted living facilities in Mexico


                                       Click screenshot for ABC webpage and video

It’s not just the sun, sand and cultural offerings of Mexico that draw people here. ABC World News ran a spot this week about elderly Americans who are moving south of the border to stay in affordable “assisted living” homes. The program profiled a couple called Margie and Homer, who have moved to such a place in the town of  San Miguel de Allende.

The issue is timely since many retirees are being forced to modify their future plans as their retirement portfolios take a heavy hit from the economic downturn. The report notes that in Sayulita (of Nayarit state), 10 projects for assisted living homes are being built. One place in Ensenada, Residencia Lourdes, serves patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Costs for assisted living programs in Mexico seem to range between $500 and $1,500 a month. 

I couldn’t find any recent independent media reports on retirement communities in Baja California, though there are plenty that are put out by realtors. A 2007 article by Chris Hawley in USAToday noted that Tijuana’s Economic Development Council was at that time seeking funding from the Mexican government to build more retirement homes for U.S. baby boomers

As these news reports note, however, there are no systemic regulations in place to monitor the newly-developing  industry. Hawley also writes that Medicare, Medicaid, the Department of Veterans Affairs and most U.S. insurance companies won’t cover health costs for patients outside the United States.

Marg(i)e and Homer seem to be pleased with their place, though I had to wonder what it must be like to go through life with the same name as The Simpsons couple.

The Dallas Morning News ran an article by Laurence Iliff about the growth of assisted living homes in Mexico that was published November, 2008.

 David Warner, a public affairs professor at the University of Texas has also studied the issue.

Screenshot of retirees living in Mexico from ABC World News

Tiger Woods golf project south of Ensenada

The Port of Ensenada    

Image via Wikipedia

The U.S. economy may be tanking and Mexico struggling with drug trafficking violence, but that doesn’t seem to have stopped Tiger Woods and a development group from moving forward with an oceanfront golf course just south of Ensenada.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the project in Punta Brava will include about 125 homes with prices starting at $3 million. Woods told the Journal that “It’s so beautiful there. You see the ocean from all the 18 holes. That’s something we didn’t ever want to lose.” Read the rest of the Journal article here.

Golfbaja.com lists 15 golfing facilities along the entire Baja peninsula. I’m not a golfer, but I am familiar with the Club Campestre Golf Resort in Tijuana, and I have a friend who has done some golfing south of Tijuana and seemed to like it. (Another Baja golf site to check out is bajacaliforniagolf.com)

The Journal reports the latest project won’t open until 2011, which gives a fair amount time for things to cool off both north and south of the border. In the meantime, you can listen to the sound of ocean waves rolling onto shore at the project’s website here.

Woods is the latest U.S. celebrity to attach his name to a Baja California project. Donald Trump lent his name to a high-end coastal condo-hotel project just south of Tijuana that’s supposed to be completed in 2009, according to an article in The San Diego Union-Tribune. These kinds of developments in Baja California are typically marketed to residents north of the border.

Picture of Ensenada port by Cesar Bojorquez via Wikipedia, Creative Commons

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Rosarito-Ensenada bike ride’s last lap?

The Rosarito Beach-Ensenada coastal road is typically populated by speeding and chortling cars,  but twice a year it shuts down and the roadway is taken over by the swooshing hum of bicycles. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports that this may be the event’s last year because of declining attendance. An organizer tells the newspaper that they need to have at least 7,000 to possibly keep the event going after 28 years. So far they are expecting just 5,000 for the Sept. 27 Saturday event (go to the article to learn more about why).

Doesn’t that sound like a challenge? Maybe it’s time for all of us to dust off our rusty two-wheelers. I know people who have done this 50-mile ride and they say it’s not about being the fastest or having the most sophisticated bike, or sporting the most Lycra; It’s more of a communal event with the highlight being the chance to see the stunning Baja California peninsula up front and close without the fear of being rear-ended.

For more information about registering, go here.

For a first-person account of what the Rosarito-Ensenada ride is like (two guys who start it off in Tijuana) , go here.

YouTube video of the ride from BajaGeoff.