Rosarito vs. Ensenada

Where should you vacation while living in San Diego? Many San Diegans like to vacation in Mexico, both in Rosarito and Ensenda. The differences between the two cities are striking. Both offer plenty of Mexican cuisine and culture, but let’s get you to the big picture of which will be better for you or your family. 

Rosarito is smaller and closer to the border, which you can see as either a negative or positive. Rosarito has a “party time” atmosphere. Rents and home prices are higher than Ensenada because of its proximity to the border. Many people even commute San Diego to Rosarito for work, but Ensenada is so far it’s not practical on a daily basis.

Ensenada is a big, working city, whereas Rosarito is more more of a tourist town. Ensenada is farther from San Diego, and won’t have the party-vibes that Rosarito does. If you want something quiet and near the ocean, Ensenada is just the place for you. The south of Ensenada is an area known as Punta Banda and is quite quiet and small.

If you want to drive from San Diego to Mexico, crossing the border is easy and fast. You will need Mexican auto-insurance however, so do not drive across the border without auto-insurance from Mexico. Insurance by the day is available. It’s about $20. You can purchase auto-insurance online from 1 of 2 authorized companies. If you drive to Mexico, you might get pulled over and you might have to pay off authorities to get going. This is a concern of many regular travelers between San Diego and Mexico. Most recommend NOT driving yourself and to always hail an Uber. 

If you want to walk across the border, you can easily do so. You can drive to San Ysidro at the border and find a parking lot with long term parking. Better yet, get dropped off there by a friend or Uber or Taxi. Or take the blue line to the border. Have your passport ready and be prepared to tell the border agents in Mexico what you will be doing. For example, “I am going to dinner with friends.” But if you are staying a few weeks for vacation, you will go through a bit of questioning. 

As a rule of thumb in any city or place — don’t walk around alone at night! Don’t walk around late at night — this is when most violent crimes happen. Be vigilant throughout your stay. Don’t walk down the street staring at your phone (this includes living in San Diego) because being alert is part of deterring would-be criminals. Don’t draw attention to yourself as wide-eyed tourist with a big wallet bulging out your back pocket.  

Whether you head to Rosarito or Ensenada, be safe and enjoy the sunny weather Mexico offers to San Diegans who need a little break from their daily grind.