135km (84 miles) S of San Diego; 110km (68 miles) S of Tijuana

After the buzz of Tijuana and the city-beach hustle of Rosarito, Ensenada feels different: more relaxed, more genuine. This classic port town, situated on a rocky bay flanked by sheltering mountains, has an unmistakable sincerity. Despite a bilingual, bicultural population, Ensenada has more Mexican charm than any of its neighbors to the north, evoking the dual culture of a border town without the chaos. About 40 minutes from Rosarito, it's the kind of place that loves a celebration. Almost anytime you choose to visit, the city is festive -- be it for a bicycle race or a seafood festival.

One of Mexico's principal ports of call, Ensenada welcomes half a million visitors a year who are attracted to its beaches, excellent sportfishing, nearby wineries, and surrounding natural attractions. And the last few years have brought a new and delicious reason to visit: Ensenada is the standard-bearer for a new generation of Mexican culinary culture, the cradle of the Baja Med movement and home to some of the finest restaurants in the country. With a focus on ingeniously simple preparations of ultra-fresh Baja specialties -- mariscos, cactus, wine -- and organically produced local products, Ensenada's restaurants are making international news, but still charging Mexican prices. Get 'em while they're hot.