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Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Travel Tips: Wheelchair Accessibility in Ensenada, Mexico



 
Mexico is not the most wheelchair-friendly place on earth. It can be daunting and I have to say that my trepidation over what kind of wheelchair access we'd find far outpaced any concerns we’d have over Baja’s violent reputation in our recent visit.
Ensenada has made strides and still needs a long way to go before we can call it a truly accessible destination. However, if you’d like to visit this fun destination and use a wheelchair, here’s what we found when we recently went, power chair and all…



GETTING THERE

A wheelchair user has three viable options for getting to Ensenada.

a.       Driving your personal vehicle. This was what we did. Since we live within a 4-hour drive, it was the easiest and most practical option. There is a modern, four-lane, high-speed highway from the border between San Ysidro/Tijuana and Ensenada. There are three toll stations and the toll, as of December, 2014, was $2.25 US at each toll station. You can pay with either US or Mexican currency but you cannot mix the two to pay your toll.

There are occasional rest areas with very clean and free accessible bathrooms along the road. Make use of the last one on your way back before crossing the border. Crossings can take hours.

b.      Cruise ship – most tourists these days come to Ensenada on cruise ships where the city is a port stop on many west coast and Hawaiian cruises. The two most popular departure ports are Los Angeles and San Diego. 3 or 4 day cruises start at under $300.  

It’s about a ½ mile, accessible walk from the ship dock to downtown Ensenada where 90% of the tourists head to.

c.       Van rental – Wheelchair Getaways of San Diego rents wheelchair accessible vans starting at $100 per day, plus gas and mileage, that you can drive down to Ensenada

Note that at this time, there are no wheelchair accessible buses or commercial flights to the city from the U.S., though you may be able to arrange an (expensive) option with Baja Tours (see below).



GETTING AROUND

Most of the places in town that tourists want to see are in a half-mile stretch along the waterfront and a couple of blocks in from there. It is very easy to navigate on foot and just about every corner has a curb cut.

You’ll want to access the fish market from the waterfront (the malecon) if you’re a chair user because you’d have stretches where you’d have to go in the busy, narrow street with your chair if you come in from the town side. The malecon can be accessed easily via wheelchair at either end and in the middle through Plaza Marina Mall and the park where the giant Mexican flag is.


About half the shops downtown have steps that block access for chairs but most vendors are also happy to do business on the sidewalk in front of their store.  A few corners have steep curb cuts that can be tricky if wet.  You will find some utility hatch covers on the sidewalk missing, leaving gaping holes that can swallow a wheelchair tire. Be on high awareness for those.

Some buses in the local transit system have wheelchair lifts but we could not find any reliable route or access information on them. We could find no taxis equipped with lifts…better to have your own accessible vehicle.



HOTELS

We stayed at the Estero Beach Resort, six miles south of town, which has large rooms with step-free access but little else as far as accessible features in the room (i.e., grab bars, roll-in shower). Most places here don’t even have that much. Estero also has ramped access into the pool and step free access to all of the resort, except for their museum. Note that the ramp to the bar is steep.

Casa Del Sol, in the heart of downtown, also has step-free access to rooms.

RESTROOMS

Most public restrooms here can be described as serviceable at best and most charge a small fee to use them. The rest area bathrooms on the toll road are top-notch, accessible, and free. In town, we found the restrooms at the bar of the San Nicolas Hotel (two blocks south of the river that marks the end of the tourist zone) to be very nice, accessible, clean, and free.

WINERY TOUR


Five Star Tours offers wheelchair accessible van tours to Ensenada’s up-and-coming wine country from San Diego (http://sdsuntours.com/home) and shuttles between San Diege and Ensenada. You can also arrange a custom tour with them of the area.

Darryl
Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

6 comments:

  1. I really appreciate the kind of topics you post here. Thanks for sharing information that is actually helpful.

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  2. Our wheelchair Travel Tips section is where
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    Replies
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  4. Wow, after reading your first paragraph, I'm completely impressed with Mexico and their level of accessibility for people in wheelchairs! That's actually really marvelous that they even have a wheelchair accessible winery tour that you can go on. We'll have to watch out for those cracks and potholes you mentioned in your "getting around" section on the sidewalks. Would you recommend to get a wheelchair restraint or strap for those type of things?
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