The story of Punta Banda
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By Tom Gatch
Situated adjacent to the peaceful southern shore of Ensenada’s Bahia de Todos Santos, the narrow, mostly barren finger of land known as Punta Banda assertively juts out into the Pacific Ocean, helping to form one of northern Baja’s most picturesque bays.
At the very tip, the churning waters near the La Bufadora blowhole surge up through the rugged, guano covered outcroppings and, after reaching their apex, dissipate into a cool mist of salty rain. In spite of a few scattered housing developments the peninsula remains predominantly covered by wild chaparral, cactus and sage.
In 1885, Punta Banda was established as the southernmost sector of what was originally referred to as Colonia Carlos Pacheco, a region that was also comprised of San Carlos and Ensenada. It was distinguished by the presence of a natural hot spring that surfaced near the sandy shore, and a few years after that a hotel and spa was built as an attraction to bring in visitors. But, because of its rural locale during times when most transportation was literally provided by horsepower, it only had a permanent population of fewer than 100 residents by the time World War I had ended.
The land at the Punta Banda’s outermost point is haphazardly strewn with rocky grottos and coves that were created by volcanic upheavals eons ago; and the clear water that invades their shallows often turns a mesmerizing turquoise color under the bright Baja sun.
During the middle of the 19th century, it has been said that bands of pirates would hide in the secluded coves along the southern shores of the Punta Banda peninsula, and then sail out unexpectedly to take over freighters that were bringing gold and other valuables down the California coast toward their eventual ports of call on the east coast.
In the early 1930s, Charles Nordhoff, author of the book, Mutiny on the Bounty, owned a rancho near Punta Banda and hosted many Hollywood celebrities who enjoyed coming down to Baja for hunting and fishing, as well as the scenic beauty of the area. One of them was Clark Gable, who just a few years later won an Oscar for his performance as Fletcher Christian in the popular movie version of the story.
In a recent attempt to domesticate yet another portion of this wild land, Tiger Woods proposed the building of a massive golf course and residential complex that would sprawl over most of the primitive acreage north of La Bufadora cove. But, despite the fact that there were significant concerns and protests raised by environmental entities, it was declining economic conditions north of the border that ultimately spelled doom for the proposed luxury development.
Today, Punta Banda draws increasing throngs of new visitors who enjoy basking in the sun, lying in the sand, catching a few fish or getting a gander at the world’s second largest blowhole. But whatever the reason, it is nice to know that a pastoral playground like this is less than a one hour drive south of Ensenada’s downtown business district.
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.
Tom Gatch and renowned Punta Banda artist and resident Scott O. Kennedy might have had a tot of rum one evening, when they created the legend of the Corsair, a jewel of a ditty that will now reside in the Baja.com treasure trove.
Punta Banda is an easy day-trip from Ensenada, and offers a chance to visit Estero Beach Hotel on one of Baja’s most beautiful estuaries and, of course, the famous blowhole. If you do it, post your photos on the Baja.com Facebook page!
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