South of Ensenada
About halfway between Ensenada and the turnoff to Punta Banda, Estero Beach Resort (hotelesterobeach.com) provides a comfortable retreat for Mexican and foreign families alike. “Estero” means estuary, and the wide beach and estuary here are conducive to swimming and sandcastles, as well as launching a kayak, windsurfer, or boat. In high season the resort rents some motorized water toys. Enjoy the pool, indoor-outdoor restaurant, and tennis courts. Rooms are comfortable, although some guests report that they are looking a bit worn.
South of Estero Beach, Highway 1 continues south to the tip of the peninsula and Los Cabos, while a turnoff to the right will take you to Punta Banda. The southern arm of the bay en route to the point (Punta Banda) and La Bufadora waterspout has a totally different vibe than the more tourist-oriented northern portion of the bay, where hotels like Hotel Coral y Marina, with a private yacht marina, and Las Rosas, a pink hotel with good restaurant and spa, draw visiting foreigners looking for a more upscale Ensenada beach experience.
Following the Punta Banda road, you’ll see mud flats at low tide and a series of ramshackle homes, some doubling as inexpensive eateries that spring to life on weekends and holidays. This is a fine place to mingle with the locals and save money, too.
Several trailer parks offer camping, RV sites, and even little cabanas. The best know options are Villarino Campamento Vacacional (Km. 13, Carretera Maneadero—La Bufadora; tel. 646 154 2045, www.villarinopark.com) and La Jolla Campamento Turistico (Km. 12.5 Carretera Maneadero—La Bufadora; tel. 646 154 2005, www.lajollabeachcamp.com). Villarino has a restaurant (open in high season only); both have bathrooms and showers and can arrange boating and fishing tours.
Around Maneadero, farmers grow garlic, chiles, tomatoes, and other table crops as the secondary road hugs enormous Todos Santos Bay en route to Punta Banda (48 km/30 miles south of Ensenada) and its famous blowhole, La Bufadora. Along the side of the road, folks sell jars of green olives, olive oil, pickled vegetables, imported coconuts and homemade tamales.
After parking (or hopping of the bus) at Punta Banda, you’ll need to walk through a gauntlet of vendors to get to the edge of the cliffs and observe the sea spout. Salesmen loudly hawk souvenirs, T-shirts with unsavory sayings, and pharmaceuticals; women offer hair braiding and samples of cinnamon-and-sugar-coated fried churros. Loud music emanating from several bars adds to the cacophony.
Rocky Punta Banda is beautiful, with dramatic vistas and clear blue-green waves hitting the cliffs and swirling around submerged rocks. The inlet to the left of the viewpoint is a popular kayaking spot. Depending on conditions, the sea spout ranges from amazing to anemic. If the tide (the higher the better), wind, direction of the waves, and other factors co-operate, the waves shooting through an underground sea tunnel produce grand geysers of water several stories high. On a hot day, there’s nothing better than getting soaked by the spray every couple of minutes as you stand on the observation platform. Other times water simply puffs up in mild bursts of mist. The phenomenon is usually somewhere in between the two extremes, but the old man singing throaty ranchero tunes for spare change is a constant.
PUNTA BANDA LOCAL LISTINGS