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I’m dreaming of a place where I can get fish tacos with homemade corn tortillas and a refreshing margarita on the rocks for lunch, then dine on wood-fired pizza and a yummy glass of locally made red wine in the evening. A place where I can wake up to sunshine and go surfing in the morning, visit wine country in the afternoon, and go sailing in the evening (and on most occasions spot sea lions, seals, dolphins or maybe even a whale!). And let’s not forget fishing and shopping as a must, just to keep everyone satisfied.

I found my happy place in Ensenada, Mexico - a perfect balance of everything I like: beauty, good cuisine, culture and fun all rolled into one. And do I need to mention the convenience? I’d travel the world to find this balance, but alas, there’s no need, it’s right at my doorstep.

The best way to get there is to arrive in San Diego first (oh darn, there’s nothing to do there), and then travel by land two hours south to Ensenada. Might I recommend Hotel Coral & Marina as a place to crash: five-star quality without paying five-star prices. Best of all, they have a convenient, inexpensive shuttle that will pick you up in San Diego, take you through customs in Tijuana (don’t worry, it’s not scary, it’s very easy) and drop you and your bags at the door of Hotel Coral & Marina.

Beautiful views and facilities, including pool, gym and spa, await you. Ensenada is not your typical destination hotspot like Cancun or Puerto Vallarta; you won’t see throngs of tourists, Carlos-n-Charlies or Senor Frogs. But you’ll find a nice mix of cultural events: an international food fair, sightseeing (such as a trip along the scenic road to La Bufadora (The Blowhole), and yes, your choice of touristy stores with handmade blankets and pottery.

The culinary cuisine...well, that’s a story on its own, but let’s just say that your palate (and wallet) will be pleased, whether your choice is queso fundido and fajitas with an occasional (or frequent) song from a passing mariachi band, a steaming bowl of clams, mussels, calamari, octopus and scallops with a beautiful ocean view, or an abundant assortment of cheese and raw nuts enjoyed in a romantic “cave” setting. And a staple and always-delicious choice anywhere is a bowl of good ‘ole guacamole (never shorten to “guac,” advice from a local), served with the usual Ensenada hospitality and charm.

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