Exploring On The Punta Banda Peninsula

There is more than meets the casual look
BY: BART ALLEN BERRY

Baja has a lot of natural beauty and it’s still not spoiled.  The further off the road you are, the more chance there is that you will encounter something special without some big brother bureaucracy breathing down your neck telling you you can’t touch this or you need some kind of permit for that. Around every corner in Baja is what seems to be another adventure that is waiting for you. 

 Tough approach to the beach on the Punta Banda peninsula, especially if you have a picnic basket with you.  See story on pageI’m a rock climbing guide for many years and we tend to seek out these remote places where there is a cliff of solid rock and some magnificent views, but this hidden climbing area is actually a sea cliff on the ocean at land’s end on the Punta Banda/La Bufadora peninsula south of Ensenada.   A few years back some developers tried to get an exclusive residential and golf development going by buying up the entire end of the Punta Banda peninsula, (a spectacular piece of land best appreciated by seeing it from a boat), and they called this development Punta Brava.  Since our special hidden cirque and rock climbing wall was around the corner from this development, I aptly named it Brava Grande, which translates to something like Big Brave. 

It’s a 180 foot clean rock wall that towers over a secluded cove, where an upraised wall of coastal rocks holds back the sea for the most part.  I say for the most part because when a big wave hits, it flows over the rock wall and fills up a long Zen like pool of water that heats up in the sun, making a nice swimming pool.

This is actually an easy place to get to, and by following the beautiful road that leads through Camp 9, (which is a bunch of people living off the grid way out there just south of La Bufadora area), and around the end of the peninsula you come to the literal end of the road which overlooks the Brava Grande bowl.  Over the years an improved path and stairway have been etched into the side of this little canyon so you can get down to the bottom where you are sitting on a set of sun bleached basketball sized beach rocks. 

If you are a rock climber you can gear up and climb any number of moderate routes here, but if you are only there to do some fun rappelling on the main cliff face, then instead of going down the path to the canyon, you take a different path that parallels horizontally across the canyon and leads you straight to the top of the cliff which is a spectacular spot in its own right.  Here the narrow cliff summit drops off on all three sides for one of the most amazing vista points in Baja. 

If we’re not doing technical rock climbing there, we gather mussels and sea urchins and other edibles like octopus and cook them along with whatever wine and picnic items we have brought along. 

 If you are an accomplished climber or boulderer, another adventure awaits you as you traverse around the beautiful rock to the north and go around the corner entering the top of La Bufadora Bay.  These cliffs taper down into  deep tide pools which can also be swum in when its warmer, but which are choked with sea life, including star fish, mussels and as many sea urchins as you care to eat.  It’s full on beautiful and natural and the regular tide pool pickers never go there because of its perceived inaccessibility.

Again you don’t have to be hard core to enjoy this place, but it is such a clean and beautiful place to visit, be sure you leave it the way you found it and pack out all your trash.  Be ready to scramble, so wear good sneakers or hiking boots, not sandals for this adventure.   A small backpacking stove and a few pots and pans will add a lot to your adventure when you can gather, prepare and cook mussels and other sea life right there as part of your adventure picnic. Yes you can fish off the rocks there as well, with great results. 

To get there:  Go all the way through Ensenada and keep heading south.  At Maneadoero  you will see signs to take a right and follow the road towards La Bufadora.  Follow this road all the way through Cantu, Punta Banda etc. until you come to the top of the hill where it looks like you will be dropping down into the La Bufadora area proper.  Take a left at the major dirt road here which has a few signs for Punta Escondido and follow this dirt road south and then take the right split in the road.  It’s a pretty good dirt road and two wheel drive is fine.  Follow this road as it winds all the way over the crest of this part of the hill and then curves around to contour the outer edge of the peninsula facing the ocean.  Keep going and you will come to a sharp curve in the road - keep going and you will see a small parking area overlooking the bowl.  There are a couple houses there and a dome structure built by one of the local artists.   Look around in front for you for the path that leads down and just follow your nose.  The rest is quite obvious.