By Tom Gatch
The Punta Banda Estero at the southernmost end of Ensenada’s Bahia de Todos Santos represents perhaps one of the most vibrant and unspoiled such ecosystems on the Pacific coast of North America. This timeless intertidal zone plays host to a plethora of organisms, which include numerous invertebrates, mollusks, marine worms and fish species. It is also habitat for a wide variety sea birds and has become a vital rookery for many of them, which include the spotted sandpiper, western grebe, osprey and blue-winged teal.
Protected by a thinly sprawling, sand dune studded barrier peninsula, this placid intertidal waterway is also the home of the Estero de Punta Banda wildlife preserve. It also offers a near perfect venue for amateur and professional photographers alike. Not far from the end of the paved road, visitors can follow the narrow trail through a seemingly endless carpet of salt tolerant grasses and succulents that tend to blend in on one another until the come to signs that describe the a few of the gulls, terns and shorebirds that normally inhabit the fertile marshland.
Situated at the very entrance to this picturesque haven, the Estero Beach Resort long ago established itself as one of Ensenada’s most fashionable guest properties. In addition to their tennis courts, swim-up bar, a tasty Sunday Brunch and RV hookups, the resort features upscale suites and residential housing for those who would like to extend their stay in the comfortable surroundings. The property also boasts a uniquely fascinating display of Mexican cultural art that ranks among the finest and most historical accurate found in all of Baja Califoria. This colorful museum has an outstanding collection of folk art and artifacts celebrating 40 centuries of Aztec, Inca, Maya and Mexican history.
Over the years, the hotel has done an outstanding job of collecting, preserving and interpreting the diverse art, history, and culture of Mexico from ancient times to the present. Those who miss the chance to view this intriguing display firsthand are truly doing themselves a disservice, because once inside the resort complex, admission to the exhibit is absolutely free.
The onsite Estero Beach Convention Center can accommodate up to 300 attendees, and has all of the necessary services to adeptly cater to meetings, weddings, concerts and a variety of other special events. They even offer a banquet hall, which is available for small gatherings and parties of up to 60 people. The hotel’s launch ramp provides a gateway to the adjoining Punta Banda estuary that is home to a host marine and avian species, which can turn a simple kayak outing into a relaxing tutorial in the region’s natural history. And even though it is located in a bucolic coastal venue that is a world away from urban gridlock, the Estero Beach Resort is still located just over a 15 minute drive away from the many shops, restaurants and tourist attractions that are available in downtown Ensenada.
There are several great places to stay when visiting the Ensenada area, but few offer such a relaxing and inclusive setting; it hearkens to past times when the sand, sea and a warm sun hanging in a blue sky festooned with flocks of soaring sea birds were at the heart of the Baja experience.
How to get there: Estero Beach Resort and the Estero estuary and its lagoons are south of Ensenada. The resort is in Playas de Chapultepec, west of Transpeninsular Highway 1, a few minutes south of Costco. The lagoons can be accessed from there, or from the south side of the estuary near Punta Banda.
What to do: Visit the resort for a weekend, or for lunch or dinner. Be sure to drive to the Punta Banda side (about a 20 minute additional southward journey) and find little byways that will take you to edges of the estuary, where you can watch seabirds, enjoy a sunset, or have a beer at any of the area’s beachy restaurants.
Hooked on Baja author & columnist, Tom Gatch, is one of Baja’s foremost writers with a focus upon outdoor and recreational topics in Baja and southern California.
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