Valle De Guadalupe remains one of our favorite travel destinations. We’ve come here over the past 5 years, and it truly gets better every time (check out our past blog posts here). But what’s most shocking to us is just how many of our friends in Los Angeles have never been (or have even heard of it for that matter!). So listen up trendsetters, it’s time to get on it!
What makes Valle De Guadalupe so incredible? Well, obviously you can’t go wrong with the wine. But it doesn’t stop there. You’ll also find fresh farm-to-table restaurants as well as top-end hotels where you’ll feel like a celeb (though, pay about a third of the cost of what you’ll find equivalent in Napa). Plus, it’s only a 3.5 hour drive from Los Angeles (or 90 minutes from San Diego). To put it in context, it takes 4 hours to drive to Las Vegas from Los Angeles (and is certainly more scenic).
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there isn’t a better time for a romantic get-away. Below is our latest 3 day itinerary — perfect for any 3 day weekend. If you’re in Los Angeles, we recommend breaking up the trip and staying in San Diego on Friday night. That way, you can maximize your time and avoid the notorious LA gridlock.
DAY 1 – SATURDAY:
- 9:30 AM, Depart San Diego and drive towards Ensenada.
- We recommend crossing through Tijuana. It’s quick getting into Mexico. And more than likely you won’t even be stopped.
- If driving your own car, you’ll need to get special car insurance that you can purchase online (and typically about $20 a day).
- 11:30 AM, Arrive at Bar Bura at Cuatro Cuatros – just north of Ensenada. This seaside bar will make you never want to go back home! It is associated with a high-end “glamping” Cuatro Cuatros hotel. They also offer zip lining adventures, which we’ll cover later in the the itinerary.
- 1:30 PM, Depart Cuatro Cuatros and drive 30 minutes to Valle De Guadalupe. The road will turn off just before Ensenada.
- We recommend making a stop at Tortilla Flats Cafe, at the very beginning of the wine route. Besides delicious coffee, they sell these caramel-filled empanadas (that I could have eaten a half dozen of easily!)
- 2:30-3:30 PM, Check out the animals at Valle De Guadalupe’s Zoo.
- Okay, keep your expectations in check. You’re not at the San Diego Zoo here. But for just $5 USD, you’ll get up close to a variety of animals from Asia to Mexico to Africa. We really enjoyed just roaming around. Plus you can’t beat vanilla ice cream for 50 cents.
- 4 PM, Wine tasting at one of the valley’s best at Vena Cava (located on the grounds of the hotel Villa De Valle).
- The road here is rough (like crazy rough). I drive a compact Hyundai Elantra, which makes it every time. Though you’ll have your doubts. Just keep on going!
- 5 PM, Check into La Villa De Valle Hotel, located just minutes from Vena Cava.
- This hotel is reminiscent of a Tuscan villa and will make you want to completely disconnect.
- Owners Eileen and Phil live on the grounds and will make you feel like their personal guest of honor.
- Be sure to get the complimentary “Botanas” or snack each day at 5 PM with a glass of wine.
- 8 PM, Dinner at Laja, considered one of the top restaurants in Latin America.
- Often referred to as Mexico’s version of the French Laundry, Laja is a multi-course meal at the fraction of the cost.
- We enjoyed the food, though the night we visited the service was off. We’ve eaten at the French Laundry, and it was difficult for us to see the comparison.
DAY 2 – SUNDAY
- 8 AM, Breakfast at La Cocina de Dona Esthela
- Seriously, you need to just go here! But arrive when it opens at 8 AM. Otherwise you’ll wait more than 1 hour for a table.
- We’ve been told that families from Tijuana will drive here just to chow down on their signature corn pancakes and machaca, a dried beef that has been written about by multiple publications as the best breakfast in the world. We agree!
- 10 AM, Visit Xecue Winery (pronounced “Shay Quay”), a family-owned vineyard with a laid back tasting room
- You’ll find dogs roaming around and owner Jose Luis, who is welcoming and will share all his insight on living in the valley and working on the vineyard.
- The winery has been in the valley for over 13 years and produces 12,000 cases a year.
- Tastings are about $11 USD each (or 200 pesos each)
- 12 PM, Depart for La Cava de Marcelo in the town of Ojos Negros
- Since 1911, the Ramonetti family has been making cheese on this large dairy farm.
- You’ll have some serious doubts as you make the journey through the remote farmlands – but trust us. It’s worth the 90-minute drive from wine country.
- 2-5 PM, Tour of La Cava (the cheese cave tour)
- This is the only cheese cave in Mexico. Load your Google Map before leaving Ensenada (it won’t work out here).
- The cheese cave is part of “Rancho Ramona” (which can be confusing when following Google Maps). We loved our tour, which lasted over 2 hours with wine, cheese and ice cream tastings.
- 5 PM, Drive 1 hour to Ensenada and stop at Starbucks for a caffeine pick you up!
- 8 PM, Dinner at Corazon de Tierra
- We eat here every year and think it’s one of the best restaurants in the valley (and located on the grounds of La Villa De Guadalupe)
- It is a fix-prixe menu ($45 USD per person), and you can’t beat the proximity to your room if you’re staying at the hotel for the night.
DAY 3 – MONDAY
- 9:30 AM, La Villa De Valle offers morning yoga at their studio on the grounds. The 1-hour class is the best way to wake up and enjoy a guilt-free breakfast. You’ve earned that extra slice of corn bread!
- 10:30 AM, Breakfast included in your stay at La Villa De Valle.
- 12 – 1 PM, Visit Lechuza Winery
- Some seriously good wine. You’ll understand why it’s the only wine you’ll find at the famed French Laundry
- With each tasting, you’ll also get a plate of cheese. You’ve just gotten Kevin’s vote as his favorite winery in the valley! Advanced reservations are essential. Your hotel can help arrange (or you can call the winery directly). The winery is run by an American and Colombian couple.
- 2 PM, Zip line tour with Desert’s Nest (located at the same site as the resort Cuatro Cuatros on day 1)
- They offer tours each day at 10 AM and 2 PM
- Each course runs about 1-2 hours (depending on group size) and is $80 USD per person. You can just show up.
- It’s a painful 20 minute bouncy ride up to the top, but the views are worth it. If you’re afraid of heights, beware!
- 4 PM, Head back to the US and deal with the painful border crossing. It’s always a chore each year.
- 8 PM, Quick dinner stop along the way back to Los Angeles in Little Arabia near Anaheim — where you’ll enjoy some of the best hummus you’ve ever had at Little Arabia Lebanese Bakery & Cuisine and desserts at Sarkis Bakery just down the road.
- 10:30 PM, Home sweet home. Arrive back in LA.
Looking for more travel tips? Check out Notas Del Valle, a fantastic resource with all the latest happenings in Valle De Guadalupe.