Travel Destinations

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Relaxing Ensenada Weekend Getaway

Hotel Coral & Marina Balcony View Ensenada Baja California Mexico
The view of the marina and Pacific Ocean from our Hotel Coral & Marina guestroom's private balcony.
Life has been a little crazy in the full-time non-travel work sector, so I was ready to spend a weekend of relaxation away from it all.  The beautiful thing about having a destination like Ensenada so close to us is that while there are many things to do in Ensenada, there’s no pressure to experience them all in one trip.  So for this weekend trip to Ensenada we decided to take things slow, something we rarely do.  Our little Baja weekend getaway over the Valentine’s Day weekend included good wine, good food, a lot of relaxation, and a tiny bit of activity just so we didn’t feel like complete lumps. 

Pacific Coast View Road to Ensenada Baja California Mexico
The coastal views on the way to Ensenada.
We stayed at Ensenada’s Hotel Coral & Marina, a beautiful place right on the ocean that makes it easy to just sit back and relax.  Every single one of Hotel Coral & Marina’s recently renovated 147 guestrooms and suites has a balcony and a splendid ocean view.  

Hotel Coral & Marina Suite and Balcony Ensenada Baja California Mexico Hotel Coral & Marina Suite Living Room Ensenada Baja California Mexico
Hotel Coral & Marina Hotel and Pool Ensenada Baja California Mexico Hotel Coral & Marina Ensenada Baja California Mexico
Hotel Coral & Marina Pool Ensenada Baja California Mexico Hotel Coral & Marina Grill Ensenada Baja California Mexico

If you’re able to tear yourself away from the spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean, an entire Ensenada weekend getaway can be planned just based on the offerings of Hotel Coral & Marina.  Here are some of the things you can get up to during a weekend trip to Ensenada.

Exploring Ensenada

After soaking in the view from our balcony while sipping on a complimentary beverage from the mini-fridge (I chose the sparkling water but there were also a couple beers available), we decided to head into town so we didn’t become people that never leave the resort (something that would be very easy to do). 

Ensenada Baja California Mexico
A colorful street in Ensenada.
Eddy, who had driven us from our home in San Diego to Hotel Coral & Marina, suggested a couple places in town for us to try if we liked fresh seafood and craft beer.  We followed one of his suggestions and visited Ultramarino Oyster Bar

Ultramarino Oyster Bar Ensenada Baja California Mexico
Ultramarino Oyster Bar.
Just a half-block away from the pounding sounds of Papas & Beer, Ultramarino Oyster Bar is a small and quiet little place with a river rock floor, long bar held up by bottles, a few tables with blue pleather stools, and a chef cranking out some amazing seafood.  We had an early Valentine’s Day dinner planned but still managed to stuff ourselves with marlin burritos, oysters on the half-shell, and fresh shrimp ceviche, along with bottles of Cucapa beer.  Rome was pretty proud of himself when he discovered the new taste sensation of spooning the citrusy ceviche on top of his oysters.  Through the narrow window between the bar and kitchen we could see the chef’s hands fly as she deftly squeezed limes and stirred up the perfectly balanced mixture of citrus and heat, tasting a drop on the back of her hand each time to ensure perfection. 

Ultramarino Oyster Bar Oysters and Shrimp Ceviche Ensenada Baja California Mexico
Ultramarino Oyster Bar Marlin Burritos Ensenada Baja California Mexico

While assisting us to our room with our luggage, Rubén clued us in on a special celebration happening in town that day, the Mardi Gras parade.  Having recently been to New Orleans and learning so much about Mardi Gras traditions, we were very excited to be able to join a Mardi Gras celebration.  Tourists and locals alike lined the street, cheering when each new float passed by.  The parade participants ranged in age from under 10 to over 70, all having a great time dancing to the music and tossing their throw, mostly baggies of colored confetti.  Within the first half hour the streets, as well as everyone’s hair and clothing, were covered in pink, blue, white, and yellow confetti. 

Ensenada Mardi Gras Parade Float Baja California Mexico Ensenada Mardi Gras Parade Float Baja California Mexico

Hotel Coral & Marina provides shuttle service into Ensenada.  The taxi fare from Ensenada back to the hotel cost us $7.00.  Be sure to ask Hotel Coral & Marina’s drivers for suggestions as they are all certified tour guides ready to provide recommendations.

Pampering at the C Spa

Hotel Coral & Marina C Spa Ensenada Baja California Mexico
C Spa relaxation room.
While we could have spent more time exploring the town of Ensenada, we had a romantic evening planned which started with a couples massage at Hotel Coral & Marina’s C Spa.  How I talked Rome into getting a massage with me remains a mystery, probably mostly having to do with me not giving him much of a choice.  Luckily the end result is he enjoyed the massage and, while not planning on seeking them out, is not opposed to future massage possibilities.  For a first-timer this was the perfect opportunity, as the couples massage obviously happens at the same time in the same room, and it also only lasts half an hour.  Upon arrival we were led into the his and hers locker rooms to change into robes and slippers before lounging, beverages in hand, in the waiting area, dimly lit with votive candles and sprinkled with rose petals in honor of Valentine’s Day.  Our massage therapists Margarita and Magdalena then took us to the couples massage room where we found more rose petals decorating the floor and massage tables.

Wine Tasting in the Valle de Guadalupe

One of Ensenada’s great draws is the Valle de Guadalupe.  This is where Baja California’s best wines are being created. We took a Valle de Guadalupe wine country tour offered by Hotel Coral & Marina, guided by another of the hotel’s drivers, Israel, to visit some of Baja’s exciting wineries. 

Baja's Valle de Guadalupe Wine Region Ensenada Baja California Mexico
The Valle de Guadalupe, Baja's wine country.
We visited three wineries during our Valle de Guadalupe tour.  Vena Cava is one of the valley’s most popular wineries.  The tasting room is within a cave-like structure under an overturned boat.  Finca La Carrodilla has only been open to the public for six months.  This new winery is surrounded by 35-year-old vines and gardens that extend all the way to the upstairs patio which provides views of the valley.  We also visited Hacienda La Lomita, the sister winery to Finca La Carrodilla, which has been open for five years.

Related: A Winery Tour Through Baja's Valle de Guadalupe

Finca La Carrodilla's Garden Balcony Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico
Finca La Carrodilla's garden balcony with Valle de Guadalupe views.
In the midst of all our wine tasting we experienced one of the best meals we’ve ever had at Malva, the restaurant of Chef Roberto Alcocer.  But don’t just take our word for it.  Travel + Leisure Mexico agrees and awarded Malva the title of best new restaurant of Mexico for 2014.  While menu items unmistakably have Baja influence, they could be served anywhere in the world to great acclaim.  

Malva Octopus Sopes Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico Malva Beet Salad Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico
Malva's Escolar Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico Malva's Braised Ox Tail Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico
Malva's Marshmallow Ropes and Malva Ice Cream Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico Malva's Pressed Coffee Valle de Guadalupe Baja California Mexico

The name Malva comes from a simple herb which makes a cameo in all of Malva’s dishes.  Our meal started simply enough with octopus sopes, but rather than the traditional green sauce, these were served with a tangy green sauce created with carrot leaves and green herbs.  Next came a salad which was slightly reminiscent of food we had in Scandinavia with pickled carrots adding an interesting layer of flavor to the beet and goat cheese salad.  Then our meal got really interesting, with a serving of grilled escolar, also known as white tuna, rarely served in restaurants other than sushi restaurants.  Next was oxtail, beautifully braised until it was falling apart and yet also with a crispy texture from being seared.  The oxtail was served with mole sauce, baby carrots, tomato, yellow squash, onion ash, malva, and peanuts.  The pièce de résistance came as dessert, a marshmallow chain perfectly flamed to a crispy melty texture accompanied by malva sorbeet and dots of yogurt.  If you want to impress your significant other, take them for a meal at Malva.

Stuffing Your Face at Brunch

Speaking of food, Hotel Coral & Marina has two restaurants from which to choose: BC Bistro & Cava and Marina Grill.  BC Bistro & Cava is the hotel’s fine dining restaurant, serving Baja-Med cuisine including seafood and steaks paired with wines from the Valle de Guadalupe.  The Marina Grill is the hotel’s more casual restaurant located on the Marina waterfront serving items like fresh shrimp cocktail and ribs.  The food served at both of these restaurants is very good, but where the hotel’s food really shines is at the breakfast buffet, especially for Sunday brunch.

BC Bistro & Cava Salad Hotel Coral & Marina Ensenada Baja California Mexico BC Bistro & Cava Entree Hotel Coral & Marina Ensenada Baja California Mexico BC Bistro & Cava Dessert Hotel Coral & Marina Ensenada Baja California Mexico

What we didn’t know before that weekend is what a big deal Sunday brunch is at Baja hotels.  If we had known, we would have arrived at breakfast far hungrier.  The spread is unbelievable, and at an incredibly reasonable price.  In addition to the items that are always available at the breakfast buffet like omelets, chilaquiles, moles, tamales, fruit, yogurt, etc., at Sunday brunch there are delectable extras like quesadillas made with freshly made tortillas, crepes, raw oysters, chocolate clams, ceviche, and so much more.

Hotel Coral & Marina Brunch Seafood Ensenada Baja California Mexico Hotel Coral & Marina Brunch Lamb Tacos Ensenada Baja California Mexico Hotel Coral & Marina Breakfast Buffet Ensenada Baja California Mexico

Learn from our mistake, head down to Sunday brunch early and hungry!

Pedaling the Marina on a Hydrobike

After all that food you might want to do something active to assuage some of the food guilt.  Down at the marina Hotel Coral & Marina rents paddle boards, kayaks, and hydrobikes.  We’ve been doing a lot of kayaking lately, so we decided to try something new and test the hydrobikes.  Talk about fun!  Apparently the hydrobikes are the most popular rental because of how easy they are to manage.  They are very stable, easy to propel and navigate, and a fun way to tool around the marina and look at all the boats and yachts. 

Hotel Coral & Marina Hydrobike Ensenada Baja California Mexico
Exploring the marina on hydrobikes.
If you are looking for a weekend getaway, either romantic or relaxing, Hotel Coral & Marina in Baja’s Ensenada is a perfect choice.  If you want to just sit back and relax and enjoy the amenities like the view, the spa, the pool, and the restaurants, you can.  If you want a little more to do like exploring Baja’s wine country, visiting the town of Ensenada, or even trying more active pursuits, those can all be booked through the hotel, making your Baja weekend getaway easy and stress-free.

Thank you to Hotel Coral & Marina for hosting our weekend in Ensenada and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.

Travel the World: Hotel Coral & Marina in Ensenada is a relaxing Baja weekend getaway destination and the perfect starting point for exploring Ensenada and the Valle de Guadalupe.

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Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.