Mexico is sometimes a polarizing destination for people. Some picture sunny beaches, dynamic cities, and a rich cultural melting pot of people and food and ideas. Others conjure images of overcrowded streets, crime, and hazards for tourists that outweigh all other benefits to paying the country a visit. I have always thought of Mexico as a fascinating place, and even though I’ve been 3 times, I’m still hungry for more.
When I think of Mexico, I usually think of the bustling streets of Mexico City and Guadalajara, or the laidback vibe found in beach towns like Cozumel and Ensenada. It’s a country of culture and contrasts and I’ve found it to be an incredibly welcoming place.
But two things I had never heard used in the same sentence until recently? ‘Mexico,’ and ‘wine.’
Hidden away just an hour south of Tijuana and the California/Baja border, and 30 minutes inland from the coast of Ensenada, lies Valle de Guadalupe. Not just any Baja town, but a destination that prides itself specifically on its ability to produce delicious, locally made, small-batch wine.
Yep, that’s right. Move over, tequila! After visiting for myself, I’d even go as far as saying the wine found in Baja rivals a significant chunk of the wine you’ll find in California. Thanks to Baja’s unique Mediterranean-like microclimate, the region actually boasts conditions and soil quality similar to that of Northern California, France, Spain, and Italy. What’s more, Baja is actually particularly fruitful for a select variety of red wine grapes, specifically the kinds that don’t grow well in places like Napa or Sonoma. What this means is that even if you’ve been going to vineyards in California all your life, you’re bound to be in for an entirely different experience south of the border.
But, a good wine country isn’t great without an abundant variety of things to do, eat, see, and experience. And fortunately, Valle de Guadalupe ticks all those boxes. With its laid-back, unpretentious vibe, it’s the perfect recipe for a quick getaway. Read on for 5 things you absolutely have to do in Valle de Guadalupe for the ultimate weekend of relaxation.
5 Things To Do For A Relaxing Weekend in Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico
1. Chill Out in a Unique Accommodation
The first thing you need to consider – before you even hit the road for Guadalupe – is where you’re going to stay. Fortunately, the Valle isn’t lacking in options, with everything from Airbnbs to giant resorts to choose from along the region’s Ruta del Vino (the ‘Wine Route,’ AKA Guadalupe’s main road). If you’re looking for a peaceful escape without being too far removed from any of the action, consider staying at UvaUva Eco Retreat, a 4-room sustainably-focused boutique hotel in San Antonio de las Minas that boasts sweeping views of the Valle, has a communal fireplace and complimentary beer, and is a short walk or drive from several impressive food and wine options in the area. If a unique or unconventional look is more your style, the Lumi Hotel offers both cargo container suites (which are very spacious) and ‘glamping’ tents, both of which have access to the hotel’s free breakfast, jacuzzi, and sauna facilities.
RELATED: My Review of the UvaUva Eco Retreat
RELATED: My Review of the Lumi Hotel
2. Book a Massage, and Have It Delivered
Now that you have an epic place to stay, why leave? In fact, you don’t have to, because you can actually request a massage on-site, no matter where you’re staying in the Valle (or Ensenada) area. Valle Mobile Massage, which is based in Ensenada and run out of the Ensenada Massage Spa, provides solo, couple, and group on-site massage, facials, and hot stone treatments that can be set up wherever you’re staying.
Jacob and I were able to get one-hour massages at the UvaUva Eco Retreat, surrounded by vineyards on all sides. It was absolutely magical, and so nice to be able to disappear right back into the comfort of our room immediately after.
3. Sample Some World-Class Dining
It wouldn’t a true wine country experience without an impressive culinary scene, and Guadalupe is no exception. Forget any preconceived notions of bland burritos and mass-produced pico de gallo. We’re talking exquisitely fresh seafood, sustainable and innovative kitchens, and Michelin-starred menus for a fraction of what you’d pay in the US.
My Restaurant Picks:
Viñedo Don Tomas
Plus, Other Restaurants I Didn’t Visit Personally, But that Come Highly Recommended!
Corazon de Tierra
4. Try the Wine (Of Course!)
Today, Baja California produces nearly 70% of Mexico’s wine, and there is a pretty sizable variety of wineries in the Valle to choose from no matter what kind of vibe you’re looking for. In one day, we visited everything from family-owned hole-in-the-wall establishments to posh tasting rooms decorated the way my house would be if I had unlimited funds to spend at World Market and Restoration Hardware. Regardless of the decor, every single place we visited felt incredibly laid-back and unpretentious, which is a sharp and refreshing contrast from many of the world’s other famous, and maybe more traditional, wine-centric destinations. The energy in the Valle feels confident and exciting in an under-the-radar way, and the wines themselves are deliciously experimental and innovative.
Wander down the Ruta del Vino and see where it takes you, or plan a more organized exploration of the Valle by checking out these wineries!
My Winery Picks:
Lomita / Tras Lomita
Bodegas de Santo Tomas
Don Tomas Viñedo
Finca La Carrodilla
Plus Other Wineries I Didn’t Visit Personally, But that Come Highly Recommended!
Cava el Laurel
P.S. Uber is not necessarily reliable in the Valle. Uber does have a service called UberVALLE that offers full-day transportation with a dedicated driver, but I actually wasn’t able to use this service while I was there for whatever reason. If Uber doesn’t work for you, taxis also aren’t a thing here. Instead, ask your accommodation for a recommendation on how to get around safely. Our hotel recommended a local and trusted driver (his name is Tito!) who ended up taking us all over the Valle for $70 USD. Do not attempt to drive if you plan on spending the day sampling wine! In addition to that just generally being a bad idea, the roads in the Valle are incredibly bumpy and tricky to navigate.
Alternatively, you can book a wine tour so you don’t have to drive or worry about logistics. I haven’t tried these tours myself, but have heard that they’re fun:
San Diego Winery Tours
Baja Winery Tours
5. Go Where the Locals Go
I know, I know. You don’t want to go all the way to Mexico to eat pizza. I get it. But Ochentos Pizza is special. It has got a distinctly local vibe, and its vast open-air dining spaces mean that you’ll see this place packed with groups of friends, families, and coworkers gathering here for a slice and a pint almost every night. And to top it off, the pizzas are good. REALLY good (try the Tres Quesos and the Camarones!). In addition to the pizza, you’ll usually find live music and night markets here. And, there’s a brewery onsite too (El Chivo Gruñon), meaning that basically, you’ll never leave.