Ensenada is home to a thriving adventure subculture: Off-road racers, climbers, surfers, kayakers, and more flock to Ensenada in search of their adrenaline fix.
Fishing -- Ensenada, which bills itself as the yellowtail capital of the world, draws sportfishermen in search of the Pacific's albacore, halibut, marlin, rockfish, and sea bass. A wooden boardwalk parallel to Bulevar Lázaro Cárdenas (Costero) near the northern entrance to town provides access to the sportfishing piers and their charter-boat operators. Open-party boats leave early, often by 7am, and charge around $50 per person, plus an additional fee (around $12) for the mandatory fishing license. Nonfishing passengers must, by law, also be licensed. If you don't want to comparison shop, make advance arrangements with Sergio's Sportfishing Center (tel. 619/399-7224 in the U.S., or 646/178-2185; www.sergiosfishing.com). In addition to daily fishing excursions, it offers multiday trips to Colonet, San Martín, San Gerónimo, Sacramento Reef, and San Carlos.
Hiking -- Ensenada is the gateway city to the Parque Nacional Constitución de 1857. On the spine of the Sierra de Juárez, the park was once a heavily used mining area, but most of the mines are now defunct. In contrast to the dry and sometimes desolate surroundings of much of the northern peninsula, the 5,000-hectare (12,350-acre) forest preserve averages about 1,200m (3,936 ft.) in altitude and is covered in places with pine forests. To get to the park, take Hwy. 3 south from Ensenada and exit at the graded dirt access road at Km 55. The park entrance road (35km/22 miles to the park entrance) is gravel and generally well maintained but can be really rough after a rainy year. If the entrance is staffed, you'll be asked for a modest entrance fee. For more information, contact the Baja National Parks Service at tel. 646/176-0190 or visit www.conanp.gob.mx.
The Parque Nacional Sierra San Pedro Mártir is to Baja California what Yosemite is to Alta California. Almost 72,000 hectares (177,840 acres) of the highest mountains on the peninsula have been preserved here. The highest, Picacho del Diablo (Devil's Peak), rises to 3,095m (10,154 ft.) and draws hikers and backpackers to scale its two-pronged summit about 130km (80 miles) south of Ensenada. Views from the top encompass both oceans and an immense stretch of land. You'll find a high alpine realm of flower-speckled meadows, soaring granite peaks, and year-round creeks. Official trails are few and far between, so wander at your own risk, but anyone who's good with a map and compass can have a great time hiking. Cow trails (yes, cows in a national park) are numerous. Four year-round creeks drain the park and make great destinations. Picacho del Diablo is a difficult but rewarding overnight hike and long scramble. Always remember that you're in one of the most rugged and remote places in all of Baja, and with the lack of marked trails, it's quite likely that if you get lost or hurt, nobody will come looking for you. California Alpine Guides (tel. 877/686-2546; www.californiaalpineguides.com), out of Mammoth Lakes, California, is an adventure-tour operator with guides who know what they're doing in the unmarked Baja desert wilderness.
To get to the park, take the Carretera Transpeninsular south from Ensenada, to Km 140, soon after you pass the little town of Colonet. There's a sign for the park entrance; the sign also says OBSERVATORIO. (Fill up with gas in Colonet -- there is no more until you exit this way again -- and reset your trip odometer at the turnoff.) It's 76km (47 miles) to the park entrance.
For other adventure tours in the region, contact Mario's Tours, Bl. Costero 1094-14, Centro (tel. 646/178-3704; www.mexonline.com/ecotur.htm), which runs hiking, mountain-bike, ATV, and other adventure tours in the region.
Sea Kayaking -- The rocky coastline of Punta Banda is a favorite first trip for beginning ocean kayakers due to its several secluded beaches, sea caves, and terrific scenery. Many kayakers use La Bufadora as a launching point to head out the 11km (7 miles) to the Todos Santos Islands. Dale's La Bufadora Dive Shop (tel. 619/730-2903 in the U.S., or 646/154-2092; www.labufadoradive.com) has kayak rentals and is open weekends or by prior reservation; they can advise you on how to make the crossing. Ecotur, Bl. Costero 1094-14, Centro (tel. 646/178-3704; www.mexonline.com/ecotur.htm), offers guided kayak trips, including a full kayak expedition through the Bay of Los Angeles.
Scuba Diving & Snorkeling -- La Bufadora is a great dive spot with thick kelp and wonderful sea life. Get underwater and zoom through lovely kelp beds and rugged rock formations covered in strawberry anemones and gypsy shawl nudibranchs. You may also spot spiny lobsters and numerous large fish. It's possible to swim right over to the blowhole, but use caution in this area -- you don't want to end up like that mythical whale calf. Dale's La Bufadora Dive Shop is onshore at the best entry point.
Several Ensenada dive shops will arrange boat dives to the Todos Santos islands, which sit at the outer edge of Todos Santos Bay, and other local sites. The diving here is similar to the diving at Catalina or the other California Channel Islands -- lots of fish, big kelp, urchins, and jagged rock formations. It's $120 for a two-tank dive.
Surfing -- Only the best and boldest surfers challenge the waves off Islas de Todos Santos, two islands about 19km (12 miles) west of Ensenada, considered to be some of the best surf on the coast. Waves at the famous Killers break can reach 9m (30 ft.) in winter, and surfers must hire a panga to take them to the waves. You'll find gentler but still challenging waves at San Miguel and Salsipuedes. For local surf reports and gear rental, visit the San Miguel Surf Shop, on Avenida López Mateos between Gastelum and Miramar (tel. 646/178-1007). Longboards and shortboards rent for $25 a day, and for $5 extra, you get a wet suit.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.