by Meghan Fitzpatrick
Nestled in the desert, right in the middle of Baja and just south of El Rosario, lies Cataviña, referred to by many as “Magical Cataviña.” Why?
What is known is that Cataviña is the point where the north and south portions of Highway 1 — the Transpeninsular Highway –finally met during its epic construction back in 1973. However, this special place is also the home to numerous cave paintings, giant cacti that look as though they were plucked from Dr. Seuss’ imagination, boulders the size of SUV’s, prehistoric blue palm trees, and beautiful and rare breeds of mixed desert vegetation.
Cataviña has also inspired countless beautiful, panoramic photos and vistas, and is thus an incredibly popular destination for any nature-loving tourist.
The residents of Cataviña make their living, generally, from tourism. While camping is a popular choice for many tourists visiting Cataviña, the town also boasts the well-known hotel, the Hotel Mision Santa Maria, which has a swimming pool, an excellent restaurant serving traditional Mexican fare, and is definitely the most famous (and the nicest) place to stay in Cataviña.
Located in and around Cataviña are a number of cave paintings (rupestres) – most around 1,000 years old. These paintings hail from the Yumano and Cochimí indians that have inhabited the Baja peninsula for many generations. (While, today, cave paintings are few and quite literally far between, they can still be found in remote parts of Baja).
Extreme climate conditions in this part of Baja have been largely responsible for the fact that most of the cave paintings have not survived. Frequent wind, combined with hot and cold temperatures, have led to the erosion of most. Fortunately, due to the protection of deep caves and rather tortured rock formations found in the Cataviña area, there are considerably more paintings remaining here than in most places in Baja. Today, the lure of these cave paintings, along with Cataviña’s amazing landscapes, make hiking and ATV-riding very popular activities for tourists exploring this beautiful desert landscape.
The blue palm trees of Cataviña are another rarity of the region. After a huge earthquake split the Baja peninsula from the rest of Mexico millions of years ago, these palms remained in Baja, alone. They died out on the mainland of Mexico, but are especially prevalent in Cataviña. Now, the unusual collage of giant rock formations (in fact, the Catavina Boulder Field) and some highly odd-looking cacti (including the famous cirio cactus) make Cataviña’s environs look like something out of a Salvador Dali painting.
Perhaps the most magical part of Cataviña is its “La Poza de Escuadra,” a naturally occurring oasis in the middle of Cataviña’s desert. This oasis is said to possess actual magical qualities – but whether that is the water source or the air or something entirely different remains to be seen…or, perhaps, experienced!
Where is Cataviña? Cataviña, Baja California is a small town on Highway 1, located at km 118, south of El Rosario and 66 miles north of the junction that takes visitors to Bahia de Los Angeles.
What is there to do in Cataviña? It is a great place to hike in the desert, visit the Boulder Field, and explore caves and rock formations.
Why would I stop in Cataviña? Because it makes a perfect stopping place on the road from northern Baja to Baja Sur (southern Baja). It offers respite for weary travelers who are on the road to Guerrero Negro, to the south, or to Ensenada, to the north.
Have you been to Cataviñia? We would love to hear your thoughts and experiences about the area if you have, and see any pictures you may have!
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