ENSENADA, Mexico — The next time you head to sea and want to pair a glass of white wine with the fish you reeled aboard your boat, consider a visit to Mexico’s Napa Valley-equivalent – Ensenada, which is home to dozens of local wineries. Meaning boaters can reel in a yellowtail from All Saints Bay, dock at Marina Coral and visit a vineyard to find that perfect wine to pair with any catch.
The Log’s reporter experienced the marina and city’s attractions on a recent trip to Baja California’s third-largest city. The city experiences moderate, Mediterranean-style weather almost all year long, making Ensenada a desirable destination for boaters from January to December.
Marina Coral is one of three marinas in Ensenada, but it is the only one attached to a hotel and resort.
Hotel Coral and Marina is located near the northwestern edge of town and minutes away from the city center. It features 350 boat slips and 147 ocean view suites with private balconies. The concrete slips are available for boats between 30 and 65 feet, while vessels between 64 and 109 feet have access to end ties.
Marina Coral has its own fuel dock and provides visiting boaters with security, water, electricity, laundry, showers, restrooms and vessel maintenance, repair and service packages. The marina’s staff can also assist boaters who have proper registration, insurance, permits and passports with obtaining the proper paperwork to visit Mexico by sea. A 24-hour launch ramp is also available.
One boater who frequents the marina and hotel is Lee Madding. He spends three weeks per month in Ensenada with his 44-foot Mikelson, Tin-Man.
“In my opinion, the Coral Marina is the best marina in Ensenada. It is a little more expensive than the other marinas but they have a lot of amenities available to their tenants,” Madding said. “The people here are very helpful, very nice.”
Mark Dix, who usually visits Ensenada aboard his 43-foot Mikelson, Fish Tank, two weekends per month, echoed similar sentiments.
“We really like the Hotel Coral Marina because we get to use all the amenities of the hotel as if we were staying there,” Dix said. “The marina also has tight security and very friendly staff. Unlike other marinas where fuel is brought in 30 gallon barrels and siphoned into your tank, the Coral Marina has a full service fuel dock.”
Wine, Dine or Rest at Hotel Coral
Boaters who disembark from their vessels and venture into the hotel can enjoy a meal at Bistro & Cava or Marina Grill, watch a sporting event during happy hour at Arrecife Lobby Bar, relax at the pool bar, unwind at C Spa or take a swim in the indoor or outdoor pool.
Beyond the Hotel Coral property are several attractions, including the largest seafood market in Baja California (Mercado Negro), the state’s oldest cantina (Hussong Cantina) and nearly 100 local vineyards in nearby Guadalupe Valley.
For those who wish to rent a room, the hotel offers one-room suites with one or two beds to three-room apartment-style suites with a dining area, foyer and bar. Each room comes with a stocked Mexican wine cellar.
Hotel Coral’s staff provided The Log with the “Honeymooner,” a one-bedroom suite almost 900 square feet in size and complete with a king-sized bed, dining room and massage table. The large balcony offered views of the pool area, marina, city and ocean.
Madding was kind enough to invite The Log aboard his boat during the marina’s first-ever yellowtail derby held April 18 in All Saints Bay. The water was a little rough and the bite was almost absent; we reeled in one barracuda and one yellowtail.
Still, Madding loves fishing in Ensenada and frequents Marina Coral during his many visits south of the border.
“I stay in Ensenada because I love the people and the culture and the fishing is good all year long,” Madding said. “The fishing has been very good for the past couple of years, but last year was, I would consider, great.”
Also aboard Tin-Man during the yellowtail derby was Dix.
“The main reason Ensenada is such a great fishing destination is because there is fishing year around. There is a coldwater current that pushes up the coast and creates a shallow water rock cod fishing that is unparalleled to any other,” Dix said. “The yellowtail fishing is pretty much year-round with the home guards inside the bay in the colder months, and the pelagic yellowtail under kelp paddies in the warmer months just a short distance (18 to 25 miles) from the marinas.”
Dix predicted the bite for bluefin tuna will be as good in 2015 as it was in 2014.
“The yellowtail fishing has been good so far this year with a fairly consistent bite starting in January. The water temperature this year has come up higher a little earlier than usual. Some friends of mine have even caught bluefin tuna already, about 18 miles out,” Dix said. “If this trend continues, we may have another great bluefin tuna year like last year.”
Fishing Licenses and Visas
The anglers added the fishing license process allowing them to drop a pole in Mexican waters was pretty easy.
“The fishing license is real easy, you can go online and buy one and it is good for one year,” Dix said.
Anglers can easily obtain a fishing license once they dock in Ensenada.
“The fishing licenses are easy to obtain at the port captains office or at a store in town. I think you can also get them online,” Madding said.
Boaters traveling from the United States to Mexico must also secure a visa.
“The boats out of the USA have to have a visa to go into Mexico and fish,” Dix said. “It is different for me, because my boat is in Mexico fulltime, I can stop and buy the visa in Tijuana on the way down.”
Madding, who is one year shy of earning a permanent visa to travel to and from Mexico, added boaters should be able to obtain a tourist visa at the border.
“If you get the tourist visa at the border it is very easy and the migration workers are very helpful. All you need is a passport and … $27,” Madding said.