Traveling from Tijuana to Ensenada is pretty straightforward. The two cities sit just 65 miles apart. They are connected with two well-maintained highways. This guide explains how to travel from Tijuana to Ensenada, step-by-step. There are two ways to make this trip. You can take the bus or you can drive.
In the first section of this guide, I’ll outline how to take the bus from Tijuana to Ensenada. For most travelers, this is the more convenient option. I’ll cover how to buy tickets, travel times, bus station locations, ticket costs, bus departure times, safety, and more.
In the second part of this guide, I’ll outline how to drive from Tijuana to Ensenada. I’ll cover routes, travel times, safety, and more. I’ll also explain how to travel back to Tijuana from Ensenada and how to make the trip from San Diego. Hopefully, this guide makes your trip to Ensenada a bit smoother and easier.
About the Trip from Tijuana to Ensenada
Ensenada sits 65 miles (104 km) south of Tijuana and 84 miles south of San Diego (134 km). The trip from Tijuana to Ensenada takes around 1.5-2 hours depending on which mode of transport you use, which route you take, and traffic.
Tijuana and Ensenada are connected by two highways: Highway 1 and Highway 1D. Highway 1 is the free highway (via libre). Highway 1D is the toll road (cuota). Both are safe and well maintained. The toll to drive from Tijuana to Ensenada is around 124 pesos (about $6).
Ensenada is the third largest city in the state of Baja California with a population of around 500,000. The city is known for its large port. The port is used for commerce, fishing, and tourism. Many cruise ships dock here. Sportfishing and whale watching boats depart from here as well.
Ensenada has a Mediterranean climate with mild winters. Many visitors pair a visit to Ensenada with a trip to Valle de Guadalupe. This is Mexico’s largest and most famous wine region. The area is also known for its fantastic seafood. Fish tacos were invented in Ensenada.
Ensenada is also famous for its annual carnival celebration. The city is also the starting point for the famous Baja 1000 rally. The annual Newport to Ensenada Yacht Race also ends in Ensenada. A trip to Ensenada and the surrounding area makes for a great weekend trip from Southern California.
How to Take the Bus from Tijuana to Ensenada
The bus is the easiest and most convenient way for most visitors to travel from Tijuana to Ensenada. You can travel to the US-Mexico border by car or public transport, cross on foot, and walk directly to the bus station. Buses to Ensenada leave hourly all day long every day of the week.
Multiple companies offer bus services between Tijuana and Ensenada. Bus companies include ABC, Aguacaliente, Autobuses Elite, and ACN. Most visitors take the ABC Bus (Autobuses de Baja California) because the station conveniently is located near the border and downtown. The station is called Terminal la Linea.
Tijuana also has a large central bus station where you can catch buses to Ensenada as well as to the rest of Mexico. This station is called Central de Autobuses de Tijuana. It’s located outside of the city center in the southeast portion of the city. You’ll have to take a taxi, taxi de ruta, or Uber to get here.
Tijuana to Ensenada Bus Departure Times
From the Tijuana Linea Terminal, ABC buses to Ensenada leave every hour between 7:05 AM and 9:05 PM.
If you need to catch a bus to Ensenada outside of these times, you can catch a bus from the Tijuana Central Bus Station. Aguacaliente offers a 12:35 AM and 5:00 AM bus. Elite bus offers a 5:50 AM and 6:50 AM bus. These companies also offer service throughout the day with a bus leaving every couple of hours.
Departure times and bus frequency can change without notice. For example, ABC bus used to offer service every 45 minutes, now it’s every hour. Be sure to check the schedule online before you go to the bus station.
Tijuana to Ensenada Bus Ticket Prices
A one-way ticket from Tijuana to Ensenada costs 215 pesos (around $10). This is the regular price for ABC bus, Aguacaliente, and Elite. Occasionally, you can find a discounted fare for 10-20 pesos off if you shop around a bit. I have seen prices as low as 67 pesos for a ticket on ACN bus on busbud.com.
It’s important to note that ticket prices can change at any time. You can check the price online before heading to the station on the bus company websites linked above.
How to Buy a Bus Ticket from Tijuana to Ensenada
You must buy your ticket before you board the bus. You can buy your bus ticket either in person at the station or online. At the station, you can pay with cash or a card. You can pay with a card online.
For this trip, you don’t need to go to the station to buy a ticket in advance. You can simply show up 10-20 minutes before a scheduled departure and buy your ticket for the next bus. There are almost always seats available. Buses on this route rarely fill up.
The only exception is if you plan to travel during a major holiday. Some buses can fill up during these times. In this case, you may want to check for availability before you head to the station or buy your ticket in advance. Most bus companies tell you how many seats are available on their website. If you see that there are only a few seats left, consider booking in advance.
You can book your ticket online if you prefer. You can pay with a credit card or debit card. I have found that some Mexican bus companies don’t accept foreign cards. Some companies also require that you print your ticket out. You can’t just show your ticket on your phone. If you don’t have access to a printer, this can be a hassle.
Tijuana to Ensenada Bus Travel Time
The trip from Tijuana to Ensenada takes about 2 hours by bus. Some companies take a bit longer because they make more stops along the way. Worst case, the trip will take about 2.5 hours. Generally, the buses operate on time.
How to Get to the Bus Station in Tijuana
There are two bus stations in Tijuana where you can catch buses to Ensenada. You can catch the ABC bus from Terminal la Linea. You can catch Estrella Blanca buses from Tijuana Central Bus Station. In this section, I’ll outline how to get to both stations.
For most visitors, taking the ABC bus from Terminal La Linea is the most convenient option because it is located near the border and downtown. This station is located in Plaza Viva on Frontera Street. Here is the location on Google Maps.
The easiest way to get to the station from the border or downtown Tijuana is to simply walk. From the border crossing (PedEast or PedWest), it’s about a 5-8 minute walk to the ABC bus station. From downtown (Zona Centro), it’s about a 15 minute walk. You can also take a taxi or Uber to the ABC bus station from anywhere in the city. Every driver knows where it is.
The Linea station is pretty basic. Inside, you’ll find a few seats and a paid restroom. There are also a couple of shops where you can buy snacks and drinks. There are also some shops and restaurants in nearby Plaza Viva.
To walk to the bus station from the PedEast crossing (the main border crossing)
After exiting the border area, continue down the footpath until you reach a street called Frontera. This is the first street you’ll come to with traffic. Simply follow the path. You can’t miss this street.
Once you arrive at Frontera street, take a right and walk straight for about 2 blocks. First, you’ll cross a bridge that passes over the cars lined up to enter the U.S. then you’ll continue down an incline next to a parking garage.
Continue walking until you reach a big intersection with a roundabout. This is the intersection of Frontera and Avenida de la Amistad. Cross Avenida de la Amistad and continue walking down Frontera street. You should see a large sign advertising “Ensenada” in red letters. This is the Terminal La Linea station.
To walk to the bus station from the PedWest crossing (the western crossing)
After exiting the border area, continue walking down the footpath until you exit the border area and encounter a plaza area and a street with traffic. The street is called José María Larroque.
You’ll see a highway overpass and a crosswalk underneath. Walk across the crosswalk. Continue walking straight between the buildings and you’ll enter a plaza area. This is Plaza Viva. You’ll find a walking street through the plaza.
Take a left on this street and walk about a block to Avenida de la Amistad. Take a right on Avendia de la Amistad and walk to the corner. You’ll be at a big roundabout. Take a right down Frontera street. You’ll see the ABC bus station on the corner.
To walk to the bus station from downtown (Zona Centro)
Start by walking straight down Calle Primera. You’ll reach a bridge called El Chaparral. Cross the bridge and continue walking straight. This leads you to Plaza Viva.
Continue through the plaza and you’ll reach Avenida de la Amistad. Take a right and walk straight until you reach a large intersection of Frontera and Avenida de la Amistad. Take a right on Frontera and you’ll see the ABC bus station just down the street.
Safety note: You should only walk to the bus station during the day. It’s not safe to make this walk at night. If you’re arriving after dark take a taxi or Uber.
If you’re taking a taxi, tell the driver that you want to go to ABC bus station. The driver will know where it is. If you’re taking an Uber, input Tijuana Linea Terminal as your destination.
To get to the Tijuana Central Bus Station
You’ll need to take a taxi, Uber, or public transport. This is where you’ll catch Elite, Aguacaliente, and ACN buses. For most visitors, departing from this station is less convenient because it’s located away from the touristy zones. Here is the location of Tijuana Central Bus Station on Google Maps.
If you’re taking a taxi, tell the driver that you want to go to ‘el central de autobuses.’ Every driver knows where it is. Be sure to negotiate the fare first. Taxi drivers like to overcharge tourists. The taxi ride will cost around 200-250 pesos ($10-$12). If you’re taking an Uber, input ‘central de autobuses’ as your destination. The ride will cost around 200 pesos ($10).
You can also take public transport to the bus station. You can catch a minibus from downtown on the corner of 2nd or 3rd street and Avenida Constitución. I believe the fare is about 20 pesos (around $1). If you have trouble finding the correct bus, ask one of the drivers or attendants which bus is going to el central de autobuses and they’ll point you in the right direction.
Tijuana central bus station is organized, safe, and clean. There is plenty of seating inside. Restrooms are available for a fee. There are a couple of shops where you can buy snacks and drinks. There is also a paid parking lot at the station. This is a good option if you want to drive to Tijuana, park, and take the bus to Ensenada.
Most bus companies allow you to bring one carry-on bag and one checked bag. This is included in the price of the ticket. The carry-on bag can weigh up to 5 kg (about 11 lbs.) The checked bag can weigh up to 25 kg (around 55 lbs.)
If you’re traveling with a large piece of luggage that you need to check, the driver or attendant will give you a luggage tag when they take your bag and load it onto the bus. Be sure to keep the tag. You may need it when you collect your luggage. You can tip the luggage handler if you like.
In my experience, the bus companies aren’t too strict about luggage weight or size. The bags are usually not weighed. If your bag is particularly or heavy, an attendant could weigh it. If it’s overweight, you could be charged an overweight fee. The fee is charged per kilo. If you want to bring additional luggage, you’ll have to pay a separate fee.
Security tip: When packing your luggage before your bus trip, try to pack all of your fragile and valuable gear in your carry-on bag. The luggage handlers sometimes stack or toss checked bags around. Another bag could fall on yours. Fragile items could get broken. Your valuable gear is also safer if you have it with you in the bus. I have never heard of theft occurring on this trip but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Keep an eye on your carry-on so somebody doesn’t walk off with it.
Seating on the Bus
You will be assigned a seat when you purchase your bus ticket. You can request a seating location when you buy your ticket if you like. If you purchase your ticket online you can also choose a specific seat.
The bus companies aren’t strict about assigned seating. If there is a vacant seat that you prefer, you can move. You may get a full row to yourself. Oftentimes these buses run half full.
Tip: When choosing your seat, try to get a window seat on the right side of the bus. This way, you can enjoy spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean during your journey. The highway between Tijuana and Ensenada follows the coast most of the way. It’s a very scenic trip. On the return trip, try to sit on the left side of the bus to catch the same views in the opposite direction.
About the Bus
The buses that operate between Tijuana and Ensenada are modern coaches. They come with a number of amenities including reclining seats, restrooms, power outlets, window curtains, and reading lights. Some of the more premium buses offer entertainment systems and WiFi. There are two seats on either side of the aisle per row.
The buses also have heating and air conditioning. Oftentimes the driver keeps the bus a bit chilly. Bring a sweatshirt or blanket if you think you might get cold.
Arriving in Ensenada
The bus makes a couple of stops in Ensenada. For most visitors, the best stop to get off at is Centro. This stop is located on 6th street in central Ensenada. Here is the location on Google Maps. There is also another bus station a few blocks outside of the city center to the northeast.
Once you arrive in Ensenada, you can easily walk or catch a taxi or Uber to your destination. You’ll find taxi drivers waiting near the bus station. Central Ensenada is also fairly walkable. If you’re staying near the city center, you can most likely walk to your hotel.
Returning from Ensenada to Tijuana by Bus
You can buy a ticket back to Tijuana from the same place where the bus drops you off. If you know your return date and time, you could buy your return ticket when you arrive in Ensenada. Otherwise, you’ll want to arrive at the station 10-15 minutes early on your departure day to buy your ticket. There is almost always space on the bus. You don’t have to buy your ticket in advance. The ride takes about 2 hours.
Consider checking the bus schedule before you leave the station. Currently, ABC buses to Tijuana leave Ensenada every hour from 7:30 AM to 8:30 PM. The schedule could change at any time.
If you’re departing from Ensenada Centro station, it’s important to note that the bus will pick you up around the corner and down the street from the kiosk where you bought your ticket.
The loading zone is around 50 meters away from the station. There are no signs indicating that this is the loading zone so it can get confusing. It would be easy to wait in the wrong spot and miss your bus.
If you’re unsure where to go, ask someone at the station or follow the crowd. You’ll see people standing around with their luggage near the loading zone. When the bus arrives, it should have a sign indicating that it’s going to Tijuana.
The ABC bus will drop you off at the Tijuana Linea station. I believe the ABC bus also makes a stop at the PedWest border crossing. If you plan to cross back into the U.S, you’ll want to get off there. If not, stay on the bus until you arrive at the station. When you take one of the other bus services, they will most likely drop you off at Tijuana’s central bus station.
From the ABC Linea station, you can easily walk to either the PedEast or PedWest border crossing and cross back into the U.S. You can also walk downtown. Alternatively, you could take a taxi or Uber to your destination in Tijuana.
From the main bus station in Tijuana, you’ll need to catch a taxi, taxi de ruta, or Uber to your destination. It’s located a bit outside of the city center.
Is it Safe to Take the Bus from Tijuana to Ensenada
Yes. Taking the bus from Tijuana to Ensenada is perfectly safe. The bus companies are professional. The drivers are safe. The buses are in good mechanical condition. Most are like new. The road between Tijuana and Ensenada is in excellent condition and is well policed. Security isn’t an issue. Dozens of buses make this trip every day without any problems.
To stay safe, you should only make the walk between downtown and the Tijuana bus station during the day. At night, the walk becomes a bit more dangerous. Police have a harder time patrolling the area after dark. There is a risk of getting pickpocketed or mugged. If you’re catching a bus after dark, just take a taxi or Uber to the station to be safe.
The same is true in Ensenada. If you have to walk outside of the city center after dark, take a taxi or Uber. It’s unlikely that you’ll encounter any problems but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
For more info on safety, check out my guide: Is Tijuana Safe? Avoiding Crime and Scams.
How to Drive from Tijuana to Ensenada
You can easily drive your own vehicle from Tijuana to Ensenada. Many travelers prefer this option because it allows for more freedom. When you have your own transportation, you can explore more easily. You don’t have to rely on buses and taxis.
There are two highways connecting Tijuana and Ensenada: Highway 1D and Highway 1. Highway 1D is the toll road (cuota in Spanish). This highway is smooth, fast, and extremely well maintained. Traffic is generally pretty light.
If you prefer not to pay a toll, you can take the free highway 1 (via libre in Spanish). This road is safe and generally well maintained but it is a bit slower. Highway 1 passes through Tijuana and several towns along the way where you’ll have to slow down and wait at traffic lights. The road is also a bit more narrow. There are some potholes here and there. Traffic is heavier as well.
How Much is the Toll to Drive from Tijuana to Ensenada?
The current toll to drive from Tijuana to Ensenada on highway 1D is about 118 pesos (around $6).
You’ll pass through 3 toll booths during the drive. The first one is located in Playas de Tijuana (38 pesos), the second one is located just south of Rosarito (38 pesos), and the third one is just north of Ensenada (42 pesos). You can pay the toll in cash in either pesos or dollars. You cannot mix currencies at the toll booths. At each booth, you must pay with a single currency.
How Long Does it Take to Drive from Tijuana to Ensenada?
The drive time depends on whether you take the toll road (highway 1D) or the free road (highway 1). If you take highway 1D, the drive typically takes 1:30-1:45 depending on traffic. If you take highway 1, the drive takes around 2 hours.
On average, the trip takes around 20 minutes longer when you take the free road. This is the case because you have to pass through a couple of towns where you have to slow down and stop at traffic lights. The road is also a bit more narrow and traffic is often heavier. You can’t drive quite as fast.
What is the Driving Distance Between Tijuana and Ensenada?
If you take highway 1D, the driving distance from Tijuana to Ensenada is about 64 miles (103 km). If you take the free highway 1, the driving distance is about 66 miles (106 km).
How to Take the Toll Road (Highway 1D) from Tijuana to Ensenada
To get on Highway 1D from the border, stay in the far right lane when crossing into Mexico. Continue merging right after you exit the border area. Take the exit marked ‘Highway 1D Rosarito/Ensenada Cuota.’ On some signs, it’s marked ‘scenic road.’
Be sure to keep an eye out because the exit comes up quickly after you cross the border. This exit leads you to a road that runs along the US-Mexico border called Vía Internacional.
Follow this road for a couple of miles. You’ll see the border wall to your right. The road will lead you up a hill then slope down and curve to the left. Near the end of the curve, you’ll see an exit to Highway 1D toward Rosarito/Ensenada. Take this exit.
The road takes you up another hill then drops back down. You’ll come to an intersection in Playas de Tijuana. You want to stay in the left lane on Highway 1. The road curves left away from the border here.
Shortly after the curve, you’ll come to the first toll booth. After paying the toll, stay on this highway all the way to Ensenada. You’ll pass through 2 more toll booths along the way. One is just south of Rosarito and another just north of Ensenada.
After you pass the final toll booth, you’ll pass through El Sauzal. This is a northern suburb of Ensenada. Here, Highway 3 merges with highway 1D. Continue straight through the junction. Highway 3 leads you straight to downtown Ensenada.
The road leads you along the waterfront past the port and into downtown. If you continue driving straight through Ensenada, you’ll encounter another junction where Highway 3 turns back into Highway 1 south.
How to Take the Free Road from Tijuana to Ensenada
If you want to take Highway 1 from Tijuana to Ensenada, continue driving straight after crossing the border. Follow the signs marked Highway 1. You’ll merge right and cross a bridge over the Tijuana River. This road will lead you to Avenida Via Rapida.
From there, continue driving straight with the river on your left. In a few blocks, you’ll take a right onto Highway 1. This road will lead you through Tijuana. You’ll pass through a roundabout and several large intersections. The road also curves around a bit. It’s not a straight shot and the signage is poor. The road can be a bit confusing. It’s not a highway. Keep an eye out for signs to help you navigate. GPS helps here.
Once you make it out of the city, continue on Highway 1 all the way to Ensenada. You’ll pass through several towns along the way including Rosarito and Puerto Nuevo. Highway 1 follows Highway 1D for much of the way. In Playa la Mision, Highway 1 veers inland for several miles.
Just north of Ensenada, Highway 1 and 1D merge together. Continue driving straight. This road turns into Highway 3, which leads you directly into downtown Ensenada.
Is it Safe to Drive from Tijuana to Ensenada?
Yes. It is safe to drive from Tijuana to Ensenada. Both Highway 1D and Highway 1 are well maintained and frequently traveled. After all, this is the main route down the Baja Peninsula. If you break down, you’re never far from services. This route is also heavily patrolled by police. You’re unlikely to encounter crime on the road.
It is best to avoid making this drive at night. There are a number of reasons for this. Parts of the road are not well-lit. The road is also pretty curvy. Much of the road is built on the side of a cliff next to the ocean. If you take Highway 1, there are a couple of narrow sections. Truck drivers can pass closely and get aggressive. Occasionally pedestrians walk on the road. You’ll also have to keep an eye out for livestock on the road in certain sections as well. It’s also easier to get lost at night if you haven’t made the drive before. Try to make the drive during the day if possible. If you have to make the drive at night, just be careful.
One risk to be aware of when driving from Tijuana to Ensenada is police corruption. It is not uncommon for a corrupt officer to stop tourists to solicit a bribe. The officer may accuse you of committing a traffic violation then offer to settle the matter in cash. For example, they may tell you that you were speeding or that you weren’t wearing your seat belt and that the fine is $100.
It’s best to avoid paying bribes if at all possible. If you get stopped by the police, insist that the officer give you a written citation or take you to the police station to pay the fine in person. If you have to pay, you can usually negotiate down to 500-1000 pesos ($25-$50). For more info, check out my guide to Tijuana police corruption.
A Note About Mexican Auto Insurance
If you decide to make this drive from the U.S, you’ll want to be sure to get Mexican auto insurance so you’re covered in case you’re involved in an accident. Your regular auto insurance probably doesn’t cover you in Mexico.
You can purchase Mexican auto insurance online or at a kiosk near the border. You may also be able to buy it from your regular auto insurance provider. Geico offers it. On average, temporary Mexican auto insurance costs around $20 per day. Check out this guide for some more info.
One major benefit to taking the toll road is that insurance is included with the price of the toll. This insurance covers you if you’re involved in an accident while driving on the toll road. To use this insurance, you’ll need your toll receipt. Be sure to keep it somewhere safe.
The toll road insurance covers damage to your vehicle and your medical bills if you are involved in an accident and are not at fault. If you are at fault, the insurance covers damage to the road, damage to other vehicles, and the medical bills of other drivers.
It’s important to note that you do still need to buy temporary Mexican auto insurance, even if you’re taking the toll road. This is because the toll road insurance only covers you while you’re driving on the toll road.
A Note About the Temporary Import Permit (TIP)
If you’re only driving from Tijuana to Ensenada, you can skip this section. You do not need a temporary import permit.
If you plan to travel outside of the Baja Peninsula or Sonora Free Zone, you will need to get a temporary import permit (TIP) for your vehicle before you cross the border. This document allows you to drive your foreign plated Vehicle anywhere in Mexico. For more info, check out my guide to getting a temporary import permit.
Renting a Car and Driving from Tijuana to Ensenada
If you don’t want to drive your own vehicle across the border, you can rent a car in Tijuana and drive it to Ensenada. All of the major rental agencies have locations in Tijuana including Enterprise, Hertz Budget, Dollar, Alamo, etc. Renting a car in Tijuana costs around $50 per day.
There are several benefits to renting a car. You won’t have to deal with stopping to buy insurance. You can buy it from the rental agency. In addition, you don’t risk damaging your own car by driving over Tijuana’s potholes and speedbumps. This is nice if you drive an expensive vehicle. The rental vehicle will also come with Baja license plates. Having local plates reduces your likelihood of getting pulled over by a corrupt police officer.
Before renting a car in Mexico, it’s important that you understand all costs involved. Ask to see the final cost before signing the rental contract. This is important because some rental agencies in Tijuana like to advertise extremely low rates then surprise you with a big bill when you return the car. This is a common scam all over Mexico. If you rent from a reputable agency, you shouldn’t have to worry about this.
Returning to Tijuana from Ensenada
You can easily hop on Highway 1 or Highway 1D north and drive back to Tijuana the way you came. Remember, you’ll have to pay the three tolls again on the drive back if you take the toll road. The drive takes around 1.5-2 hours.
A Few Points of Interest Between Tijuana and Ensenada
One benefit of driving your own vehicle is that you can explore the area. A few attractions to check out during your trip to Ensenada include:
Valle de Guadalupe
Valle de Guadalupe is Mexico’s top wine region. It’s Mexico’s version of the Napa Valley. This area is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination.
Here, you can stay in a comfy bed and breakfast, sample the best Mexican wines, view the beautiful scenery, and enjoy delicious Baja Med cuisine. A visit here makes for an excellent weekend getaway.
Ensenada serves as a jumping-off point to Valle de Guadalupe. You can easily drive, take a taxi, or take the bus from Ensenada. The region sits 26 miles (43 km) north of Ensenada.
To drive there just catch Highway 3 north from Ensenada. The ABC bus also makes 4 trips per day from Ensenada. Valle de Guadalupe is a stop on the Ensenada to Mexicali bus. The drive or bus ride takes about 40 minutes. The bus ticket costs around $4.
La Bufadora is a natural blowhole. Here, you’ll see seawater shoot up out of the rocks up to 100 feet in the air. This phenomenon is caused by air being forced into an underwater cave by waves. When the waves recede, water spouts up. You’ll see the water spout and hear a thundering sound every 15 seconds or so. There is also a small touristy town built around the blowhole. You’ll find souvenir shops and several restaurants and bars. A visit here makes for a great day trip.
La Bufadora is located on the Punta Banda Peninsula, 24 miles (38 km) south of Ensenada. You can drive, take a taxi, or take a tourist bus there. This route is not served by public transport, as far as I know. The drive or taxi ride takes about an hour. Some tour companies also operate shuttle buses along this route. A day tour to La Bufadora costs around $30. This includes a guide.
Rosarito is a small resort town that is located 12 miles (20 km) south of Tijuana. This is a great place to stay in a resort-style hotel and relax on the beach. The area also has a number of bars and dance clubs in town. Rosarito is a spring break, Memorial Day, and Labor Day destination for American tourists.
You’ll pass through Rosarito on your drive or bus ride to Ensenada. Most buses make a stop here. If you want to make a stopover in Rosarito, you’ll need to buy two separate bus tickets. One from Tijuana to Rosarito then another from Rosarito to Ensenada. You could save a bit of money by taking public transport from downtown Tijuana to Rosarito. There are local buses leaving frequently from Avenida Constitucion.
If you’re driving, you can simply exit the highway in Rosarito. There are four exits from Highway 1D. The main road passing through Rosarito is Highway 1.
For more info, check out my guide to traveling from Tijuana to Rosarito.
What to do in Ensenada
A visit to Ensenada makes for an excellent weekend trip. The city has a pleasant harbor and downtown area to walk around. There are plenty of shops, restaurants, taco stands, and bars to enjoy. Ensenada is a phenomenal seafood city. Be sure to try the fish tacos. They were invented there. Sportfishing and whale watching are also popular seasonal activities. Boats leave from the main port.
There are no beaches in Ensenada proper. The large port takes up much of the city’s waterfront. To the north and south of Ensenada, you’ll find a number of pleasant beaches to relax on. You can easily access these beaches by car or taxi.
How to Travel from San Diego to Ensenada
If you’re starting your trip in San Diego, first you’ll need to make your way to the border and cross into Mexico. From there, you can travel to Ensenada using one of the methods outlined above. There are a few ways to get to the border.
The most convenient option is to drive to San Ysidro and park your car in one of the border parking lots on the U.S. side of the border then walk across the border on foot.
There are a number of parking lots within walking distance of the border. The drive from San Diego to the border is around 17 miles. After crossing, you can walk or take a taxi to the ABC bus station, where you can catch a bus to Ensenada.
The drawback to this option is that parking is pretty expensive. Expect to spend $25-$40 per day on parking. Prices increase on weekends and holidays. For more info, check out my guide to Tijuana border parking.
Another option is to take the San Diego trolley to the border. The Blue Line trolley takes you all the way to San Ysidro. The San Ysidro trolley station sits just 1 block from the PedEast border crossing.
You can board the blue line trolley in downtown San Diego. Stops include American Plaza, Civic Center, City College, and 12th & Imperial. The ride from downtown to the border takes about 45 minutes depending on where you board. Trolleys leave every 15 minutes or so during the day and less frequently at night.
If you’re staying outside of downtown, you can transfer to the blue line trolley from one of the other trolley lines or from a San Diego public bus. The public transport network is all connected. A one-way ticket costs $2.50. Bus and trolley transfers are included. You can view San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System map here to help you plan your route.
If you’re traveling from outside of the San Diego area, you can take the Greyhound bus to the border. The bus drops you off near the San Ysidro trolley station, steps away from the PedEast border crossing. You can also catch a return bus around a block away. For more info, check out my guide to traveling to Tijuana by Greyhound bus.
Of course, you can also drive from San Diego to Ensenada. It’s about an 84 mile or 134 km drive between the two cities. You can take I5 or I805 from San Diego to the border then continue south to Ensenada on Highway 1 or 1D.
At the border, you’ll have to park your car and go into the Mexican immigration building to get an FMM visitor’s permit. To do this, you’ll need to follow the ‘something to declare’ signs to the parking area. You can walk to immigration from there. With traffic and the stop at the border, this trip will take around 2.5-3 hours. For more info, check out my guide to driving to Tijuana.
Crossing the Border
After arriving at the border, simply follow the signs toward Mexican immigration. There is no exit procedure for the U.S. You just proceed straight to the Mexican immigration line.
There are two lines at immigration. One for Mexican citizens and residents and one for foreign visitors. If you don’t have Mexican citizenship or residency, wait in the foreigner visitor’s line. When you get to the front of the line, a Mexican immigration official with check your passport. Both book and card-style passports are accepted. These days, you do need a passport to travel to Ensenada.
You’ll also have to fill out an FMM visitor’s permit form. This travel document allows you to enter Mexico without a visa. In most cases, the immigration official will fill out the FMM document for you. They will ask you where you’re going, the purpose of your trip, and how long you’re staying.
Passport holders from the U.S, U.K, Canada, Australia, Japan, European Schengen area countries, and a number of other countries are eligible for an FMM. If you are not eligible for an FMM, you’ll have to apply for a Mexican visa in advance at your nearest Mexican embassy. For more info on eligibility, check out my guide to the FMM visitor’s permit.
You have to stop and get an FMM even if you’re only traveling to Ensenada for a couple of days. If you’re staying in Mexico for less than a week, there is no charge for the FMM. If you’re staying for more than a week and up to 180 days, the FMM costs 595 pesos (around $30).
When driving to Ensenada, you’ll have to park your car at the border to get an FMM. When driving across the border, follow the signs to the declaration area. You’ll find a parking lot here. You can walk to immigration from here to get an FMM. If you already got an FMM visitor’s permit online before your trip, you’ll still have to go into the building to get it stamped.
Crossing Back into the U.S. After Visiting Ensenada
When returning to San Diego from Ensenada, it’s important to be aware that there is often a long wait at the border. Before your trip, you can check the border wait time on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website here. You can check both pedestrian and vehicle wait times at each of the border crossings including San Ysidro, Otay Mesa, and Tecate. Sometimes you can save time by driving to another crossing.
On average, the wait is around 1.5 hours. During busy times like weekends and holidays, the wait can be well over 2 hours. To avoid having to wait so long, you can cross late at night or early in the morning. During these times the wait is often less than 15 minutes. You can also try crossing at a smaller crossing.
Money Tip: During your trip to Ensenada, it’s best to pay for everything with pesos, even though US dollars are accepted almost everywhere. The reason is that you’ll get a much better exchange rate if you pay in pesos. You’ll end up overpaying if you pay in dollars.
Before crossing the border, consider converting some dollars to pesos. You’ll find a number of currency conversion kiosks near the border on the U.S. side. You can also convert your money at a currency exchange in Tijuana or Ensenada.
You can also withdraw pesos from an ATM in Mexico with your debit card. It is also possible to pay for some things with your credit card. Before your trip, remember to call your bank to let them know that you’re going to be using your card in Mexico so they don’t shut it off.
Final Thoughts About Traveling from Tijuana to Ensenada
This trip is a pretty easy trip to make. After crossing into Tijuana, you’re just a couple of blocks from the bus station. Buses to Ensenada depart every hour all day long.
If you’re driving, you can easily hop on Highway 1 or 1D after crossing the border and drive directly to Ensenada. You don’t have to spend any time in Tijuana if you don’t want to. You can travel from Tijuana to Ensenada in under 2 hours. If you’re driving, it’s a good idea to look at the route on a map first and use your GPS as the roads can get a bit confusing. Signage is poor in places.
A visit to Ensenada makes for an excellent weekend trip from Southern California. The area offers excellent food and wine, fishing, whale watching, hiking, off-roading, beaches, and general sightseeing.
Have you traveled from Tijuana to Ensenada? Share your experience in the comments below!
More from Where The Road Forks