Claude Walker | Bicentennial-By-Buttons

Baja Norte's La Bufadora ("The Blowhole")

“Best-seen by kayak”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed March 26, 2015

We saw La Bufadora in the late '90s, before it became such a hook for tourists & cruise ship shore excursions. It was then possible to perch yourself at the observation deck above the blowhole with a dozen or so others for an intimate experience with a unique marine geyser.

What an experience it is! Air is trapped in a network of coves & underwater caves at the base of a cliff. Depending on the tide and size of the waves, water shoots up through a hole every minute or so. It is really loud, and can reach heights of 50'.

The twisting ride to La Bufadora - at the tip of the Punta Banda peninsula - is fantastic, with sweeping vistas of the ocean & nearby hills. Figure 45 minutes from downtown Ensenada. At the very end of the road, you see a arch welcoming you to La Bufadora. Parking can range from $2 to $10. There's an OXXO kwickie-mart at the entrance if you need anything.

Then you must walk a half-mile gauntlet of vendors hawking stuff you mostly don't need. Some of it is pretty colorful - the guy with the python, the farmacias hawking "Free Viagra with purchase of Prozac!", caged lion cubs, cocos frios, a sea of lucha libre wrestling masks - but it gets repetitive, cheesy. Some of the hawkers were too aggressive for my taste. A few restaurants & bars looked inviting, as did some of the stands selling nuts & sweets.

As you near the end, you hear the thunder of La Bufadora before you see it. There are several places to witness it (including climbing out over the railing onto the wet rocks right above it...not too bright). You can get pretty wet when the spray & wind conspire. I was there twice recently. At 9:45 a.m., the place was nearly empty. By 1 pm, it was 4-deep at the choice viewing spots, mostly turistas. Probably cruise ship shore excursions. Go early. Free admission; banos are 50 pesos.

Best way to experience La Bufadora? Kayak. During my recent trip, I rented a sit-atop sea kayak from Dale's Dive Shop. $25 for 2 hours, which was plenty of time to see this breath-taking natural wonder from an upclose & personal vantage point.

Not easy to find, Dale's is located to the south of the arch. I don't think he keeps regular hours, so make reservations. You can park by the campground for free. A concrete boat launch is down the hill.

The half-mile paddle across the bay was eye-popping, but tough due to the heavy seaweed. The water is super clear, considering its proximity to the Pacific's open water. I paddled out to a bird nesting area covered in guana which looked like snow.

Head around the point, and you hear, see and feel La Bufadora in all of its splendor. I approached it along the rocky foot of the hill to its north, and probed some of the coves & inlets seen by few. Crystal clear water, heavy turbulence.

I stroked right up to the base of La Bufadora. Amazing. You can better grasp how it works and how darned high the water goes. You see hundreds of visitors about 60' above you, many waving, filming, yelling. The thunder of La Bufadora is best felt right here.

After 30 minutes, I explored the area just south of the waterspout where the waves got really rough; a cauldron with jagged rocks. Not for beginners.

Then I headed out to open water, where the waves were really rockin'. I circled some rocky islands, then headed back across the seaweed-clogged bay, doing more sweeping with my paddle across the surface than stroking.

The exit was challenging, with a tough current & serious waves by the shore. The round rocks on the beach make a applauding sound each time a wave hits; they should have held their applause for my landing (took several tries).

Yeah, the area around La Bufadora is more touristy, parking isn't free and the view can by marred by cruise ship passengers wielding selfie-sticks, but La Bufadora is still a unique and memorable experience. See it by kayak.

Visited March 2015

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