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Old 22-02-2021, 14:31   #1
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San Diego to Ensenada or La Paz

Weíre looking to take our 34 ft Chung Hwa Trawler down to anchorage or a marina in Mexico. Hopefully towards the end of April. Hoping to hear some of your experiences living aboard in Mexico. Iíve traveled through most of Mexico. I love it. But unfortunately havenít met any boaters as most trips I kept to hostels. I know we need a TIP. It looks like thatís available online. Also do you know if people register their car as well? Has anyone had issues with boats getting seized? From what Iíve seen online that was an issue a while back. Thanks for any information or advice!
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Old 02-03-2021, 16:54   #2
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Re: San Diego to Ensenada or La Paz

We have been in Ensenada for about six weeks. The process is easy. I assume you are an American citizen. Make copies of your USCG documentation, passports and US insurance. You should get a TIP for your boat, before you leave, online at the Banjercito website. If you have any fishing gear on board you will need a Mexican fishing license for every person on board, available online. Finally, you will need Mexican liability insurance, again online.
Ensenada is the first port in which you can check in to Mexico. I would recommend getting a slip at either Cruiseport Village Marina or Marina Coral. They both offer a free service (worth its weight in oro!) In which they will lead you through the checkin process for both your boat and your visas.
The boat confiscation deal was many years ago. Nothing but good vibes now (our experience).
Sorry, I don't know about cars. Lots of good seafood within walking distance.
If I missed anything, I'm sure someone will chime in.
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Old 02-03-2021, 17:05   #3
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Re: San Diego to Ensenada or La Paz

We kept and enjoyed our boat in La Paz for about 9 years. It was great, and eventually, we hope to get the boat back there. The Sea of Cortez is a wondeful place to explore and enjoy by boat.

Importing the boat in Ensenada was easy with the assistance of the marina staff. At the time (2009), it was a one-office process where all documents could be processed in one office (La Paz is more complicated).

We are Canadian and as per Mexican regulations, everybody (US included) needs to buy Mexican car insurance. This online publication is full of useful information and there are usually some insurance providers advertising in it: BajaInsider.com | The Original Baja Peninsula Travel and Living Online Magazine

We drove down twice and kept our car there for about 10 months on one occasion. Otherwise, we walked or used bicycles to do most of our shopping. Taxis and Uber are very modestly priced for more distant expeditions.

In La Paz, and perhaps elsewhere, you will see a lot of vehicles with South Dakota license plates. Very few of the owners are actually from South Dakota but that state will provide vehicle licenses at a distance, with no need to show up at an office in the US.



Good luck.
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Old 03-03-2021, 08:30   #4
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Re: San Diego to Ensenada or La Paz

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We kept and enjoyed our boat in La Paz for about 9 years. It was great, and eventually, we hope to get the boat back there. The Sea of Cortez is a wondeful place to explore and enjoy by boat.

Importing the boat in Ensenada was easy with the assistance of the marina staff. At the time (2009), it was a one-office process where all documents could be processed in one office (La Paz is more complicated).

We are Canadian and as per Mexican regulations, everybody (US included) needs to buy Mexican car insurance. This online publication is full of useful information and there are usually some insurance providers advertising in it: BajaInsider.com | The Original Baja Peninsula Travel and Living Online Magazine

We drove down twice and kept our car there for about 10 months on one occasion. Otherwise, we walked or used bicycles to do most of our shopping. Taxis and Uber are very modestly priced for more distant expeditions.

In La Paz, and perhaps elsewhere, you will see a lot of vehicles with South Dakota license plates. Very few of the owners are actually from South Dakota but that state will provide vehicle licenses at a distance, with no need to show up at an office in the US.



Good luck.
Ensenada is a great place to checkin. Cruiseport Marina and staff excellent. We stayed longer than planned because we liked Ensenada.

La Paz is wonderful. We based ourselves there (Marina Palmyra) for 2 cruising seasons. (Kept boat in Marina Mazatlan for hurricane season, but came back to La Paz because we loved it.). Note that marinas are a little pricey, charging in US$.

We prefer temperate climes, but Mexico was great, the people great. The food great. Too hot for us, but otherwise great.
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Old 16-01-2022, 13:22   #5
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Re: San Diego to Ensenada or La Paz

We are looking to have our boat shipped from FL to Ensenada next month (Feb) - and then stay there for several months starting in March. We would love any, advice, contacts for marina staff; things to be aware of if we're commuting there a couple of weeks a month rather than living aboard full-time. Interested in those of you who chose LaPaz over Ensenada as the long term stay as well. How is security at the marina's.
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Old 16-01-2022, 13:32   #6
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Re: San Diego to Ensenada or La Paz

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We are looking to have our boat shipped from FL to Ensenada next month (Feb) - and then stay there for several months starting in March. We would love any, advice, contacts for marina staff; things to be aware of if we're commuting there a couple of weeks a month rather than living aboard full-time. Interested in those of you who chose LaPaz over Ensenada as the long term stay as well. How is security at the marina's.
Really depends on your goals. Do you intend to sail north from Mexico? Do you wish to be within easy distance to USA? Well, then Ensenada is your place. But not much cruising near Ensenada. And the water not so warm, until the summer.

La Paz has excellent nearby cruising (the islands) and the town is lovely. Overall, nicer and quieter than Ensenada (but Ensenada has those "best in the world" fish tacos...).

Both Ensenada and La Paz have great marinas (none are cheap!); La Paz has more choice. Ensenada essentially out of the hurricane zone; La Paz IS in the hurricane zone (and got hit badly in 2014). Hurricanes tend (but not always) to be later on the west coast, so October and even early Nov is still hurricane season. Then again, I was putting Pelagia on a freighter in La Paz in early June as a hurricane headed towards the Baja.

If you are "commuting" there from USA, then likely Ensenada best. You can fly to San Diego. La Paz usually involves Cabo flights. Nevertheless, both require road trip of 1.5-2 hrs. (La Paz and Tijuana have airports, but fewer international connections.)

We felt no concerns about safety/security while in Cruiseport Marina in Ensenada, nor while in Marina Palmira in La Paz. (Indeed, we never felt concern for security in any marina we were in in Mexico. Still, never hurts to be cautious with valuables. )

I assume you are shipping your boat on a freighter to Ensenada. Have you checked about shipping to La Paz? (Raven Yacht Shipping is excellent.) The sail down from Ensenada to Cabo then La Paz is 7-10 days with few facilities (so-so in Turtle Bay, otherwise none til Cabo) with borderline anchorages (but some are beautiful). Rough bash back north.
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Old 16-01-2022, 14:17   #7
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Re: San Diego to Ensenada or La Paz

A few additional comments to the previous post.

We sailed from Vancouver to La Paz about 12 years ago and stopped in Ensenada. We stayed at the Marina Coral, comfortable, secure and helpfully provided support for the check in process and acquisition of a Temporary Import Permit. We only stayed a few days but I wouldn't hesitate to stay again.

We had our boat in La Paz for 9 years before sailing to French Polynesia. We loved it and sailing in the Sea of Cortez is outstanding. And its only a few days to cross over the mainland or back, so sailing diversity is extensive. I am not sure that the same can be said of Ensenada.

Friends that we made in La Paz had lived on their boat for a period of time in Ensenada before heading to La Paz. They previously lived in California and gave away a lot of their warm clothing before heading to Ensenada which turned out to be a mistake. Ensenada is far enough north that there is an important winter temperature difference compared to La Paz. Of course it will be cooler than La Paz which does become very hot starting in about June and continuing until Octoberish.

Our boat survived Hurricane Odile in 2014. We were not there but we were lucky that good people were walking the docks (apparently a very challenging undertaking) and replacing docklines as they chafed through. Our dinghy was lightly damaged but the boat was otherwise ok. Marina Costa Baja is a "hurricane hole" and apparently did not suffer any damage. But it is a bit out of town and because not much wind gets in to the inner harbour, it can be hot. We don't have air conditioning.

If you are looking for a base to explore from, La Paz is better than Ensenada.

Also, it is likely that you could fly to Mexico City and take direct flights from there to the airport in La Paz. We did that when we lived near Toronto. Or as suggested above, flying to Cabo San Lucas (actually the airport is in San Jose del Cabo) is easy and its a 3 hour shuttle ride to La Paz. I would not want to fly to San Diego and drive to Ensenada via Tijuana and particularly in the reverse direction. Border wait times the few times that we drove across were eye watering - in the 3 to 4 hour range.

There is a large marina in Cabo but after a couple of nights there on the way to La Paz I wouldn't stay again. It is on a major party bar site and very noisy at night. The marina in San Jose del Cabo is quite good - we were stuck there for several weeks in March 2019 waiting for weather to cross to French Polynesia. It is very close to the airport and would be very convenient if you are going to commute from Florida. There are some good anchorages between there and La Paz which could make it a good home base as well.

I just noticed the size of your boat. Some friends still in La Paz indicate that dock space has become an issue. The Facebook Group "Sea of Cortez Sailors" has a recent thread on this problem. I suggest joining the group and reading the thread. Finding dockspace in La Paz at the moment is not straightforward. I also suggested contacting the marina in San Jose del Cabo - there were quite a few large sailboats there including several super yachts, in March 2019. They were waiting for weather and insurance.
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Old 16-01-2022, 14:24   #8
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Re: San Diego to Ensenada or La Paz

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There is a large marina in Cabo but after a couple of nights there on the way to La Paz I wouldn't stay again. It is on a major party bar site and very noisy at night. The marina in San Jose del Cabo is quite good - .
Agree with whole post, and I want to re-emphasize the negative note about Cabo San Lucas marinas. BYPASS and go to marina at San Jose del Cabo. much much better/nicer than Cabo!

Quick check on flights from San Francisco: easy to Cabo (3-4 hrs); long to La Paz (6.5 to mostly 10 hrs, and much longer) ; equally long to TJ.

So perhaps actually easier to commute via Cabo to La Paz (I did it several times Vancouver to/from Cabo). Marinas in Ensenada have a van shuttle to/from San Diego.
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Old 16-01-2022, 14:27   #9
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Re: San Diego to Ensenada or La Paz

Thank you so much @sv_Pelagia and @Marathon1150 for your quick replies. This is very helpful. We are shipping to Ensenada from FL. And while LaPaz sounds great- we want to steer clear of another Hurricane watch location. We were on pins and needles in while doing our refit last summer in West Palm Beach. We just need to get hours under our belt sailing; and an easy commute from Northern CA. So it sounds like Ensenada may be our best bet for now. If we can weather until after hurricane season, maybe we'll spend the winter in LaPaz in 22/23. Thank you again. We hope to meet you on the water!

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Old 16-01-2022, 14:33   #10
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Re: San Diego to Ensenada or La Paz

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Originally Posted by MrsMeltemiWind View Post
Thank you so much @sv_Pelagia and @Marathon1150 for your quick replies. This is very helpful. We are shipping to Ensenada from FL. And while LaPaz sounds great- we want to steer clear of another Hurricane watch location. We were on pins and needles in while doing our refit last summer in West Palm Beach. We just need to get hours under our belt sailing; and an easy commute from Northern CA. So it sounds like Ensenada may be our best bet for now. If we can weather until after hurricane season, maybe we'll spend the winter in LaPaz in 22/23. Thank you again. We hope to meet you on the water!

Lisa and Bill
Costa Baja in La Paz IS very safe from hurricanes. But it is out of town and windless. Boats in the main marinas in La Paz fared well in Hurricane Odile. It was the anchored outs (who were offered emergency space in marinas; sadly not all took it) and the boats on the "hard" (dirt...) at Atalanta yard that didn't do so well.
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Old 16-01-2022, 14:58   #11
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Re: San Diego to Ensenada or La Paz

There are three marinas in Ensenada, though one is attached with Baja Naval boatyard and is not really tenable due to surge and wakes from commercial boats.

That leaves Cruiseport Village and Marina Coral. Cruiseport is near downtown, Coral is about 3-miles north and part of a resort hotel complex with use of a pool. Both are safe - Coral is a bit fancier and more gringo. I prefer Cruiseport as it's walking distance to more places. Cruiseport is around $12-$13/ft/mo, Coral is closer to $15. Uber is easy to use and inexpensive. Ensenada is a large town and fairly industrial feeling. Not a lot of charm but food is good. It's near Valle de Guadeloupe, the Napa Valley of Mexico. Theres also a decent craft beer scene - best ceviche in town is at the craft brew pubs. The only fuel dock is at Marina Coral. Diesel is about what you'd pay in US. Coral also has a shuttle to San Diego for about $125-$150 per person. There is a bus to the border (very nice bus) for about $11/person.

Checking in is easy though a bit time consuming. Either marina will assist for either free or a nominal fee.

Rentsl cars are widely available but not as cheap as elsewhere in Mexico. Last time I rented was about $55/day including insurance, though that was pre Covid.

Happy to answer other questions of ocirse

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Old 16-01-2022, 15:41   #12
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Re: San Diego to Ensenada or La Paz

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Old 20-02-2022, 18:41   #13
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Re: San Diego to Ensenada or La Paz

Thanks to all who commented before; as one final option as we explore where to keep Meltemi for the summer we wonder if we should also be considering #San Carlos, Mexico.
Our shipper can offload Meltemi in LaPaz and we would sail up. Does anyone have experience in the marinaís in San Carlos. I understand that too is out of the hurricane zone. I watched one YouTube that talked about an 8+ hour taxi ride to Tuscon as the day to get to the states. If thatís the case - we have our answer- Ensenada. Welcome any insights.
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Old 20-02-2022, 19:21   #14
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Re: San Diego to Ensenada or La Paz

There is only one place to sail to, from Ensenada, Islas Todos Santos, a group of small islands a little ways offshore. Otherwise, you have to sail up to San Diego and further north, including crossing an international border. So, if getting acclimated to cruising is the goal, Ensenada, for all the tacos and convenience, has nothing to offer. La Paz does, as does San Carlos, which, however, is still vulnerable to hurricanes.
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