Hotel, Motel, Tour & Business Guide to:
P u n t a  B a n d a
  • Punta Banda
  • Hotelīs, Lodging 
  • Interesting local sites 
  • Malecon & Marinas
  • Museums & Galleries
  • Recreation, biking, surfing  
  • Real Estate 
  • Restaurants - Bars 
  • Shopping, 
  • Transportation,  
  • Wineries 

  • by  & Connie Ellig
    Were to?: eat, stay, shop, get service
    Ensenada-Net en espaņol
    City Map
    Area Map
    Calendar of Events
    Fishing report
    Punta Banda Scene

    Be sure to check out the most comprehensive, up-to-date
    English language Events Calendar for Ensenada County at

    By Connie Ellig
    Only 20-30 minutes south of Ensenada, Punta Banda and La Bufadora offer an ideal side trip and family excursion. After following Highway 1 through the "lower" section of the town of Maneadero, turn west at BCN23, the signed junction to "La Bufadora" (the Blowhole). The 14-mile, two-lane paved highway winds through fertile farmlands and scenic countryside as it leads onto the Punta Banda peninsula that forms the southern end of Todos Santos Bay. Roadside stands feature cured olives, honey, iced coconuts, firewood, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and delicious homemade tamales. Open during the summer, there are several recreation parks with pools, play areas and picnic grounds that cater to families.

    The tiny poblado of Esteban Cantu serves as the local business district with small grocery stores, eateries, Internet cafes, a pharmacy, laundromat, insurance and real estate offices, auto repair and tire shops, hardware and building supply stores, and the three-room Bay Shore Inn. Open 10am-4pm (closed Tues.), Galeria Berta Armas features exhibitions of fine and decorative art created by Baja California artists. Just past the poblado is the turnoff to the Punta Estero "sand spit" with unspoiled beaches and the currently defunct Baja Beach Resort.

    Located halfway to La Bufadora is Poblado Punta Banda with Campo Agua Caliente, La Jolla Beach Camp, and Villarino RV Park. Established in the 1950s/early 1960s, these trailer parks are the permanent home to a large number of retired Americans. (The latter two offer overnight camping, boat ramps and various amenities.) La Sociedad de Vecinos de Punta Banda, a social and service club comprised of local Mexicans and Americans, holds monthly meetings at the La Jolla Beach Camp Salon and sponsors many community projects including a thrift shop, scholarship program, folkloric dance troupe and theatrical productions at the Gertrude Pearlman Theatre. Nearby are the Punta Banda Fire Department and Post Office, and a half mile further, the dirt road to secluded Los Arbolitos and Campo Kennedy on the other side of the peninsula.

    It is important to drive with care as the highway curves along high cliffs with panoramic ocean views and continues past Rancho Packard and the turnoff to Puerto Escondido. After passing the rustic Ejido Coronel Esteban Cantu Campgrounds #7 and #5, the road descends and curves around Restaurant La Bufadora. Just past Celia’s Restaurant/Bar/Mini-Market and Los Gordos Restaurant/Bar is the entrance to Rancho La Bufadora and Bahia Papalote with Dale's Dive Shop, a boat ramp, rustic oceanview campsites and a large American resident community.

    There are several lots where visitors can park (small fee) and take a short stroll to the Blowhole while enjoying the colorful ambiance of curio and artisan shops, taco and churro stands, and restaurants/bars like Costa Azul, Alicia's and Los Panchos. When pedestrian traffic (or lack thereof) permits, drivers may park closer to the Blowhole at the two lots near Los Panchos for a small fee.

    The main attraction on the Punta Banda peninsula is La Bufadora, a mighty blowhole that spews water and foam into the air, often to heights of over 100 feet. The most dramatic activity occurs during incoming tides. Paved walkways, some with ramps to ease access for the handicapped, lead to various observation decks overlooking La Bufadora. The area has been renovated to include a botanical garden and electric lighting.

    What To Do: Go horseback riding (horses for rent near Campo Agua Caliente). Enjoy hiking or mountain biking. Swim in clean ocean waters or a  recreation park pool. Fish for seabass, halibut, rock cod, ling cod or yellowtail. Discover the hot springs on the beach in front of Agua Caliente and La Jolla Camps (a walkway with public access is between La Jolla and Villarino camps). Enjoy kayaking, diving and seasonal whale watching at Rancho La Bufadora. Shop for arts and crafts at the Blowhole or browse the weekend swap meet in "lower" Maneadero. Get splashed by ocean spray at the magnificent Bufadora. Sip an ice cold beer or tangy margarita while savoring fresh seafood or tasty Mexican fare on an oceanview restaurant terrace. Camp under clear, starry skies.

    What NOT To Expect: Gas stations or liquor stores (the closest are in Maneadero). Except for the tiny Bay Shore Inn, there are no hotel or motel accommodations (although vacation home rentals are available through Cruz International). There are no public phones past Poblado Punta Banda.

    Punta Banda history, 1887 to now
    Compiled by Tillie Foster (a longtime resident of P.B.)

    ENSENADA, PUNTA BAND- EARLY HISTORY 1887 - 1890 (A brief history with portions of notes taken from articles in the Overland Tours monthly in the year 1890 and Terra Vol 29 by D.Chaput in 1990)

    The wonderful progress made, in the late 1800's, in the settlements of Southern California, US, actually directed attention to the lower California, without much regards four boundary lines. The investigative report was so encouraging that a Company of capitalists was formed, comprised of leading citizens of both the US and Mexico. They proceeded to acquire title to 18 million acres of land in Lower California (Baja)

    The Association was called The International Company of Mexico, who in building railroads and steamship line along the coast and opening several ports of entry, directed attention to a region of land that has been isolated for ages. The Mexican Steamship line runs to Ensenada, leaving San Diego Monday Wed & Friday at 7 PM, returning the following day. Fares $5.00 one way , round trip $7.50.

    The vast region of country included many lovely valleys and climate, equal to any portion of the Pacific slope.

    Ensenada was the first town laid out and colonized and in 1887 had a 1400 population, one half of them were Americans. T he town is situated on the coast at the northern end of the crescent shaped bay of Todos Santos.

    PUNTA BANDA was another new place - It is situated on the south end of the Todos Santos bay. The promontory is 5 miles in length and from 1 to 4 miles wide. Its maximum height is about 2000 ft, gradually sloping to the bay on the north, but has perpendicular cliffs on the south side.

    That old veteran, Major Gabriel Erb, of the Walker House, Salt Lake City, and his associates, in 1887, owned about 5.000 acres of land on which was Punta Banda, including the famous hot springs.

    In 1887, a pier was build in front of the town of Ensenada which was to be called on by a regular steamship line from San Diego to Ensenada. The "Hotel Erb", planed to be build, near the Hot springs, would be a marvel in Architecture. Out of the 600 rooms, all were to be outside rooms.

    The country in the vicinity of Punta Banda, was claimed to be the richest and most productive on the pacific coast. The hot springs, near the planed site of the Hotel would add to the value as a tourist attraction, as well, as the famous water blowhole, know as "La Bufadora"

    Major Erb did start his hotel in the Spring of 1887. To bolster the tourism health angle the major hired a. prominent Chicago chemist to test the waters of Punta Banda's hot Springs. With newspaper advertisements of the Gloria of the hot springs were extolled to all the world as loaded with calcium, various sodium's and declared as exceeding richness and one of the strongest waters ever analyzed.

    Erb's dream was to make his hotel the finest on the pacific coast and possibly the continent. His enthusiasm grew from the belief among the Investors of the INTERNATIONAL COMPANY, that there was an ideal coming together of the many political, financial and transportation developments.

    With all the natural advantages of a good harbor, ideal climate, healthy hot springs. The abundance of fish in the bay. PLUS the plans for a railroad, meant that the Punta Banda Project would actually be a major tourist development.

    The Major started his hotel, but soon found that Local resources were inadequate for this tremendous structure of 600 rooms. He turned to San Francisco for the plans and to Oregon for the lumber, but the year 1888 provided a series of serious setbacks to Major Erb as well as to the entire Baja California development.

    The 'International Company' collapsed and was reborn as the 'Mexican Land Colonization' under the direction of Captain Buchanan Scott who tried to save the corporation. Another extreme setback in 1888 was the publications from Mexico City by an opposition Politician, who saw the entire International Company, as anty Mexican, to populate all of Baja with Yankees in preparation for annexation to the U.S.

    But the most disastrous series of event, that killed Erb's dream, was the collapse of the land railroad, The Baja California peninsular could not escape from the fallout. The period from 1888 1890 was a time of survival and not development. The gold rush at 'El Alamo', 60 miles Inland from Ensenada, saved that community from ruin, but the population decreased greatly and most of the foreigners left the peninsular.

    PUNTA BANDA eventually did get telegraph connections and a fairly good wagon road from Maneadero to the Hot Srings, and once in a while a visitor would come to soak in the hot springs and drink the local calcium drinks in the interest of health.


    .PUNTA BANDA in the 2000's, is still relatively untouched, and is one of the most beautiful regions in Baja California. The bay is still a fisherman's paradise. The unpolluted calm waters have made Todos Santos Bay and the Punta Banda area one of the most desirable areas for recreation and retirement. To date there are over 500 families from various parts of the US. and Canada who call Punta Banda home.

    Contrary to the belief of that politician in 1888, Punta Banda was not annexed to the US. The entire Peninsular is similar to the Bay of Monterey, and to some it reminds them of the Mediterranean coast and to others it reminds than of Maui Hawaii.

    There still is almost of 9,000 acres of habitable land, some of which faces the bay and on the other side the Pacific Ocean.

    There are several family owned and run beach camps that are perennial favorites for the many foreign visitors that are attracted to the area for its serenity and beauty. The hot Springs on the beach are easily accessible at low tide, and a delight to find. Digging only an inch down let the thermal waters rise. Your own private hot tub (a little sandy) but for at least 4 hours, until the Incoming tide slowly fills in the hole. Lie there, look at the sky and enjoy the peace and serenity that surrounds you in Punta Banda until the next time. If you look really hard, walking on the beach you may find a trace of the railroad line from 1880. 2 rusty tracks hidden under the sands of time.

    The "Blowhole" is still a popular tourist destination as a half day trip for the cruise ship passengers that come to Ensenada and to others who have just driven down the coast to spend one or two days to "get away from it all" Its too bad that Major Erb didn't get to complete his hotel, but it is still so nice to know that there is still a place like this. A little corner of this busy world where time stands still and the beauty of nature prevails.



    Beaches, Punta Banda and the associated Sandspit, offers miles of nice beaches

    Campgrounds & R V Parks ,There are probably more camping and R.V. areas near Ensenada than any other area on the west coast of Baja.  Close proximity to the U.S. border makes this a fun destination.

    Fishing - Boating , Offshore fishing can be arranged at several locations in Punta Banda & Ensenada. If you are staying in a hotel, your first inquiry might be the front desk. If they cannot recommend a  skipper or a charter operation, try the shops on Ensenada's two main streets, or the pier at the end of Lazaro Cardenas.

    Hotels - Lodging, nearby Ensenada offers every type of hotel and lodging Baja travelers will need. There are several ocean front Lodgings but only 2 have true sandy beaches, Baja Seasons Resort and Estero Beach Resort. The larger hotels cater to English speaking Baja travelers, as do some of the smaller operations. Like most big towns, securing your vehicle during an overnight stay is a good idea.

    Local Interest, The
    Gertrude Pearlman Theatre, click for there site.
    In Punta Bandas Puerto Escondido Bay, is the first Tuna Farming operation of Mexico, ' Maricultura del Norte', there, Mr. Charat runs an unusual aquaculture business - an underwater feedlot for the creatures that he calls "the kings of the sea": Thunnus thynnus orientalis, or Pacific bluefin tuna. Click here for the story

    Malecon, The new, mile long Ensenada Malecon is home to several Marinas, Sport-fishing outfits and 3 Boat Haul-out facilities, 1 by Crane, 1 by wheeled cradle and the one at Baja Naval by Travel lift.

    Museums & Galleries  . No visit to nearby Ensenada is complete without touring at least one of the Museums & Galleries in town or in the surrounding area.
    Recreation,   Even though Ensenada is a working town, there are many recreationa 
    opportunities in the area for Baja travelers. Just a few of the more popular include: 
           BIKES, The Rosarito - Ensenada 50 Mile Bike Race is one of the biggest annual events in the city! See 'Rosarito - Local Interest' for more information.

           BOATING, The Ensenada Marina is located right at the entrance to town. Service and fuel are available, and this is a great place to provision before heading further south. The next good harbor is over 400 miles south at Bahia Tortugas.

           PUNTA BANDA,  Head south of town 12 miles, right at Punta Banda signal, then drive to the end. Easy parking, easy water access, fairly protected, dive shop sometimes open. Main bay Bahia Papalote / next bay Puerto Escondido / Punta Banda at tip.
           ISLA TODOS SANTOS, 4 miles off of Punta Band Good visibility, some currents, boat access only.

           OFF-ROAD RACING, 
           TECATE BAJA 500 & 1000, The title 'The most prestigious off road race in the world' is well deserved.
           SAN MIGUEL, 7 miles north of town, just before the toll gate.  Good rights on a rocky beach, some shoulder hopping lefts with a south swell. For more information on SURFING NORTHERN BAJA, check out this article by Mark  Johnson. 

           TODOS SANTOS, 5 miles off shore, due west of town.These waves come in uninterrupted from the ocean, and really pump. Boat access.

    WATERSPORTS, Estero Beach is the perfect calm bay for all types of water sports, including water skiing, boardsailing, and personal watercraft.

    Wineries, No visit to nearby Ensenada is complete without touring at least one of the wineries in town or in the surrounding area. Although some wineries offer scheduled tours and wine tastings, others open by appointment only. Be sure to plan accordingly.

    Realestate, With the well designed 4 lane highway stretching from the border all the way to Ensenada, more  Baja aficionados are becoming interested in buying real estate in this fast growing seaport town.  There are many vacation homes near town, however each year more and more folks choose the  coastal areas south of town as the perfect location for their Baja hideaway. The road south west of town heading towards Punta Banda has gotten a lot of attention over the last few years, and the settlement of Punta Banda itself continues to attract Baja lovers looking to get away from the big city. Ensenada tends to mark the southern end of Baja's popular 'Gold Coast' tourist area, which begins just below the border and runs for over 70 miles to Punta Banda. 

    >Transportation, Getting to Ensenada from US or TJ   

       From the Plaza Viva (Tijuana, Pueblo Mexico), If visiting Ensenada by Bus from the San Diego area, the best option is to take the San Diego Trolley to San Ysidro, then walk across the border to the small Plaza Viva bus station. ABC buses depart for Ensenada every half hour from 6a.m. until 9:30p.m. (tel. (664) 683-5681). ABC buses arrive in Ensenada at the Ensenada Central Terminal (Central Camionera on Av. Riveroll & Calle 11. ABC buses depart from Ensenada to the Tijuana border ( la linea. ) every half hour from 6a.m. until 8p.m. (tel. (646)178-6680 or (664)178-1323). One-way fare is about $6.50dlls.
        Also at Plaza Viva, Aragon buses depart for Ensenada every hour from 6a.m. until 10p.m. (tel. (664)683-5622). They arrive in Ensenada at their own terminal on Av. Riveroll & Calle 8. Aragon buses depart from Ensenada to the Tijuana border (. la linea. ) every hour from 5a.m. until 9:30p.m. (tel. (646)178-8521 or (646)174-0717). One-way fare is about $6.50dlls.

        From the Tijuana Central Terminal, ( You can get there by taxi or Greyhound Bus, see below)
    ABC (Autotransportes Baja California) buses depart for Ensenada every half hour from 6a.m. until midnight (tel. (664) 621-2982). One-way fare is about $8dlls.
        Both ABC and Aragon offer service to other points in Baja California, Baja California Sur and the Mexican mainland. For times and prices for Mexican Bus lines operating in Baja click here.

       Greyhound Bus Lines (U.S. toll free: 800-231-2222) connect with major Mexican Bus lines at Tijuana's Central Bus Terminal (Central Camionera) in La Mesa (Tijuana) on the road to the airport. Greyhound Lines will take you to Tijuana's Central Bus Terminal (Central Camionera) from anywere in the US via San Ysidro, also depart from Tijuana for various U.S. destinations, but be sure to check prices since fares are significantly higher when departing from Tijuana rather than San Diego (see (You will find Tijuana, Mx, as a Destination under California but not as a departure, in the Greyhound time schedule. The Bus just turns around a few minutes later to go back to San Ysidro.).

    There are plans to have a commercial Airport in the Future. The only other public way to come to Ensenada is by Cruise Ship for a very short visit.

    Getting Around inEnsenada
        Taxi service is readily available at stands along Ensenada's main streets, or through hotels. Be sure to agree upon fares in advance. 

             CARLOS FIESTA'S HOT TIP: Don't miss a walking tour of the fish market, located near the entrance of town on the harbor. Fresh fish are delivered here daily from the fishing cooperatives throughout Baja, and it's a well organized show. After your visit, you may want to submit to a fresh fish or shrimp taco at one of the many small seafood stands surrounding the fish market. Delicious!
    T i l l i e' s   P e a r l s


    Living the Baja has been and still is a great adventure. I have been really trying to find a subject for a new pearl and finally decided on todays's topic: THE MICRO (pronounced Meecro)

    If you don't know what a Micro is, its time you learned. This word refers to one of the many transportation systems that most cities in Mexico still utilize. This particular system consists of privately owned mini buses that will seat maybe 20-27 people. It is utilized by many. Students, farmers, and just about anyone that diesn't have a car or means of transportation and they need to get from one point to another. Most Mexican people, when you tell them you had to take the Micro shudder! This means of transportation is avoided by most inhabitants of Ensenada, but sometimes it becomes a necessity. In my case, in my 23 years in Baja I had never used public bus transportation within the city. My first experience with "The Meecro" was a necessity. I was unfortunate enough a few years ago to have an accident involving a group of horses one evening going home. My 88 ranger pickup was a bit out of whack after colliding with 2 of the horses (who later died) and I was without transportation for almost 2 months. So as a last resort, what else is there to do when you need to get from one point to another?? You Take the Micro. "WHAT AN ADVENTURE!!" From My home in Punta Banda, I needed to get to Ensenada 16 miles away. The trip entails taking 2 buses. So a little bit timid because I was going to try something a little bit out of the normal, I started out early one morning on the first leg of my great adventure. I waited on the side of the road and flagged down the little blue bus heading to Maneadero. Cost minimum only about 25 cents.

    Here Its o.k. to talk to the driver, and being a very friendly person told him of my accident with the horses. Right away I was affectionately given the name of "Senora Mata Caballos" (Mrs. Horse Killer) That REALLY made me feel good!!. Reaching Maneadero, jumped off the blue bus and waited for the yellow bus. After a few minutes, boarded the 2nd bus paid 35 cents and headed for Ensenada. By now I'm thinking "This isn't so bad". I am really getting into the total experience of living in Mexico.

    The bus makes a zillion stops for passengers flagging them down. Some carrying baskets of vegetables, some with covered buckets filled with hot mouth watering tamales that smelled SO GOOD. There were students on their way to school and many mothers with small children, some NOT smelling so good. The bus weaves in and out of traffic, making some close heart stopping moves that didn't seem to concern any one but me. As we are getting closer to Ensenada, I start looking for a way to signal the driver when I want off. WHAT?? No wire to pull? Oh Well, what do all these other guys do?

    Observing, I got my answer when at several intervals someone would yell out "Bajo" and "La Esquina" Basic interpretation, "Let me Down and At the Corner" . In those days, my Spanish Language skills not so good, so the first time I had to disembark, I barely squeaked out my "BAJO"!! After a few trips, I got really brave and soon as my voice was as loud as the rest of the passengers. Anyhow, I got pretty accustomed to my exciting daily ride on the micro, but after a couple months I had my truck back and went back to the old boring way of going to work in Ensenada. Well , here it is 4 years later, my truck is in for repairs and I am back toThe Micro, BUT this time I am very brave, and I enjoy watching the different walks of life around me. The cost has gone up a bit, there are new drivers that STILL make those hair raising close moves when passing other vehicles. but all in all its a fun way to get around. The Motto of this story: Don't be afraid to try something different!! Live a bit of Mexico.

    On your next visit to Ensenada, DON"T drive to La Bufadora, TAKE THE MICRO!! I DARE YOU !!!