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About Martina Dobesh

Martina Dobesh, is a freelance journalist writing for Baja Times and Baja News. She is the editor of her own online publication The Baja Sun Other published works can be read on Martina is passionate about conservation and honoring the original people of the Baja peninsula.

La Bocana, A Remote and Beautiful Cove with a History

by Martina Dobesh

La Bocana: A Remote and Beautiful Cove with a History (photo by Edgar Lima)

I’m bouncing along on a washboard road raising dust in great billowing clouds, wondering what the hey I am doing. My friend and I were struck by the Baja Adventure Bug at the same time and I talked her into taking a drive with me to a place I’d seen on the map, on the Pacific Ocean, south of Ensenada and west of the vineyards of Santo Tomas called La Bocana. I was actually hoping to get a story about early wine production and the shipping that was said to have happened there, predating the Russians in the Guadalupe Valley. But as sometimes happens, the adventure became the story — a tale about La Bocana, a remote and beautiful cove with a history.

We passed by great expanses of onion fields in a lush valley cut by the dark green mountains of Sierra Seca. I marveled at the production going on as workers sat with huge piles of green onions, the aroma reminding me I was hungry. I stopped to take a picture and waved. By the hearty response, you would have thought a party had just broken out.


The long off-road drive from the Santo Tomas valley takes you through the canyon of the Sierra Seca.

Still thinking  I was making a big mistake, we pushed on deeper into the valley toward the elusive Pacific. The hills became a mixture of red stone and golden sandstone. We stopped at a cattle crossing and the fence to the right had a sign that read Punta China. Later I would learn from Horacio Gonzales of Terra Peninsular that La Bocana (the mouth) was actually where in the early 1900s illegal Chinese immigrant were dropped to made their way to the fields of Mexicali.  Just south of La Bocana the point of land was named after the Chinese immigrants, uncountable numbers never made it to Mexicali.

Finally we arrived it to where the “mouth” (also “entrance” ) met the sea, and it was so foggy that we couldn’t see the ocean. I was really disappointed as I saw my “story” was turning into la basura (trash). The La Bocana store was closed and we wondered if it was actually ever open. A grassy area for camping was inviting with shade trees, a lagoon and bird sanctuary. At one time  this was a busy fish camp, but this day it appeared peaceful and quiet. Certainly La Bocana is ideal for fishermen and hardy campers who want to stay for awhile. We saw not a soul on the beach. Surfers, also a hardy breed, venture to La Bocana, because, as they say, an “exposed sandbar/point break has fairly consistent surf. Summer offers the favored conditions. The best wind direction is from the northeast. Tends to receive distant groundswells and the best swell direction is from south/southwest.  The beach breaks peel to the right, and there is a left hand point break, as well…and the beach is rarely crowded.


Romulo Gomez and LA Times columnist and author Jack Smith, whose book “God and Mr. Gomez” brought many chuckles and many Americans to Baja.

I didn’t get the collaboration I wanted about wine shipping by sea, but I happened upon a real find after I got home and did some research. As it turns out La Bocana is the location where a now famous book, God and Mr. Gomez, was set. Jack Smith, a LA Times columnist decided in 1969 to build a get-away home in Baja.  I had just driven the same 17 miles of dirt road (off the Transpeninsular Highway) that he had all those 43 years ago, and I realized it must have been even more of a nightmare then. I couldn’t imagine why he would have picked this spot to haul his materials to when the northern Baja Coastline was fairly untouched at that time. Jack met a man named Romulo Gomez, considered the patriarch of La Bocana. Together they built a house. Most who love Baja know the very humorous story, that originally appeared as columns in the LA Times. The legendary house still remains just north of La Bocana near Punta Santo Tomas. It represents Smith’s adventure of being in Baja and the surprises he stumbled upon along the way.

Find your own Baja map and go for it:  La Bocana, a remote and beautiful cove with a history.  It offers camping, good fishing, surfing, and even some literary fame and it is an adventure  on “a road less traveled.”

How to get to La Bocana:  Drive south on the Transpeninsular Highway, past Maneadero, on the road towards San Quintin.  You will drop down a steep mountain grade into the Santo Tomas valley (where you will see the Santo Tomas winery on your left) and you will take a right hand turn onto a road that heads due west.  This will quickly become a dirt road — not good after the rains, but not too deadly in dry times.  High vehicle clearance is a good idea.

What to expect:  A beautiful drive (especially in spring time) and maybe some rather questionable-looking fishermen who might ask what you want them to pull out of the water for you.  There is a small store for campers, and there is a restaurant further down the dirt road that parallels the ocean. Take a picnic, and take water.  

La Bocana is just about 75 minutes south of Ensenada, and near the famous Santo Tomas winery.  Why not visit both? is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.

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The Blue Moon at Playa Saldamando Campground

by Martina Dobesh

Below me, the Pacific Ocean is blazing with sunshine; light is bouncing off of everything. The wind has whipped up frothy waves, forcing the pelicans to fly its currents. I and a few hearty women friends have come to Playa Saldamando to ‘get away’…although we laugh, because we live in Baja, and really there isn’t anything to get away from.

Playa Saldamando is 15 minutes north of Ensenada, and just an hour and a half from the US/Mexico border. The toll road clings to the side of the mountain, curving around the shimmering bay hundreds of feet below. This area is known as Salsipuedes, or “leave if you can.” It got its name before the toll road was built, when fishermen would risk the nearly vertical descent to go fishing. Going down was scary, but the trek back up gave it its name.
This is the greatest place for a safe family holiday, for guys that like to surf or ocean fish, and for women (like my group) to retreat to, as the location has a perfect safety factor: Although it is right off the highway, it is below the road, and there are security gates that are locked at 10 p.m.


Photo courtesy of Playa Saldamando

The campground stretches out along the shoreline for several miles. Instead, we have chosen a little comfort for our two-day stay: A 24-foot trailer which has a large enclosed front room, and a covered patio providing shade. It’s August, and the ocean breeze is delightful. We are all experienced campers, but this saves us from having to pack and unpack all the camping equipment. In the travel trailer off the living area, there is a tiny kitchen with propane stove, and most importantly an indoor bathroom.
Most of the time we spend out on the covered patio with the endless expanse of ocean and talk about non-ordinary things, things that we don’t often talk about with others. One woman took a long hike to discover a fresh water spring where fox are known to den. Others of us laugh a lot about how life had brought us here to Baja, and why we have no intentions of leaving. Our desire for tonight is to be far away from ambient light so we can see the rising of the Blue Moon (a reference to the third full moon in a season that has four full moons, instead of the usual three).

We dine on bountiful food, and suddenly the sun is setting and we have enjoyed a totally timeless day.

We light the campfire and wait. One woman is singing and playing her box drum. Her voice and presence is worthy of a stage and a much bigger audience. Now, the top of the luminescent orb is peaking up over the mountain top. Sounds of appreciation issue from us all. Very soon the Blue Moon is hanging suspended, bathing all of us in its glow.

All night long we follow its transit overhead, no obstruction gets in the way. Predawn, the moonlight sends a path all the way to the beach. Just before sunrise, I am up in time to see it glowing pink on the horizon, and then disappear into the sea.

As we are packing up in the morning we are already making plans to return. We feel like we have been on a week’s vacation in another part of the world called the ‘Paradise of Baja California’.



How to get to Playa Saldamando: It is an easy access place, at kilometer 94, approximately 50 minutes south of Tijuana, and just 10 minutes from Ensenada.
What does it cost?: Car and Day use is $13 per day and $15 car camping overnight. Tent Trailer and motor homes rates $17 per night for 4 people. Trailer rentals $35 to $55. (To maintain peace and quiet, there are no motorcycles or ATVs allowed. No firecrackers. Dogs are to be kept on a leash).
How can I stay there:  Advanced reservations are suggested for summer weekends. Off season there is no problem with finding a spot. For reservations, from the U.S., call 619-857-9242.

Camping is a great way to enjoy the Pacific Ocean.  But so is staying in a hotel or vacation rental!  Check it out… is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about localrestaurants,hotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at

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