The Surfer's Guide to Baja - Tijuana to Ensenada
Surfing from Tijuana to Ensenada
There’s nothing quite like crossing the border from the U.S. into
Tijuana. The first time you do it you’ll be shocked. After that, you’
ll simply feel joy. The shock comes from the most dramatic
cultural contrast found at any border crossing in the world. A
comparable experience can only be had by flying from country ll
experience comes from knowing that you’ve put crowded surf
and a downright stupid way of living behind you, while tons of
uncrowded surf and a much, much better way of living ahead.
While the contrast at the border is great, the area from Tijuana to
Ensenada is really a transition zone. It’s still crowded (Tijuana
itself has a population topping two million, more than the entire
remainder of Baja), most everyone speaks some English and
takes American dollars, everything you need is fairly convenient,
and the main road (toll road) is practically as good as a California
freeway. (There are even roadside call boxes installed on the Tijuana-Ensenada toll road. They are marked S.O.S. and
are located every two kilometers on alternating sides of the road, so emergency roadside help is no more than one
kilometer away.) In the Tijuana to Ensenada area you are likely to stay in hotels or condos; head south and you’re
probably camping. Here you’ll still meet other Gringos and tourists; beyond and let’s just say your Spanish improves
There’s a good quantity and variety of surf in this within-one-hour-of-the-U.S. zone. Probably 95 percent of the surf
trips to Baja fully take place in the border zone from Tijuana to Ensenada and last less than a week. There are waves
year-round, with good exposure to swells from south to north, depending on the break, and a full range of breaks for
all levels of experience.
This is one of the easiest surf trips you’ll ever do. The hardest part is planning lodging reservations in advance,
especially in the summer, because with its proximity to the U.S. this part of Baja Norte is a popular tourism destination.
Then again, with the recent crime wave finding a hotel room or condo has become a little easier.
How not to get lost in Tijuana (and quickly get to the surf)
Right after driving through the border crossing in Tijuana get in the far right lane and look for the “Rosarito/Ensenada 1”
sign followed by the “Playas de Tijuana/Rosarito cuota” sign, which is right on top of the turnoff. Watch carefully as
the road sign arrows over the lanes don’t always line up accurately, which is why most everyone gets lost eventually.
You’ll know you followed the signs correctly when you find yourself on the road with the U.S.-Mexico border fence on
your right. If you miss the turnoff entirely you can still recover and find your way to the inland free road that deposits
you near Rosarito, but it’s difficult for most and a whole lot slower. The good news is you’ll save a little toll money for
©1996-2012 SurfPress Publishing. All rights reserved.
“Cuota” or Toll Road
The quickest and safest way to travel between Tijuana and Ensenada is the Cuota, which is the correct term for the
toll road. As of this printing the price total cost for the three toll stops (Playas de Tijuana, Rosarito and Ensenada) is
$6.15, or $2.05 for each toll stop.
Tijuana through Ensenada Surf Spots
- Tijuana Sloughs
- Playas de Tijuana
- San Antonio del Mar
- Baja Malibu
- Playa Santa Monica
- Rosarito Beach
- Calafia Beach
- Calafia Point
- Urchins / Ricky's / Bus Stop / K-36
- El Morro / K-38
- K-38 1/2
- Las Gaviotas
- Puerto Nuevo / Lobster Village
- K-44 1/2 / New Port Beach
- Halfway House
- K-55 1/2 / Campo Lopez
- Alisitos / Plaza del Mar
- La Fonda / K-58
- Playa La Mision
- La Salina
- San Miguel
- The Cannery
- California Trailer Park
- Islas de Todos Santos
- Thor's Hammer
- Estero Beach
From The Surfer's Guide to Baja. Available at core surf shops, SurfTravelGear.com and other online retailers.
Look for the "Rosarito Ensenada 1" sign on the right. (Yep, it's not always easy to see, especially if you
don't get in the right lane after crossing the border.)
K38-1/2 on a not-too-crowded day with slight offshore winds.