Cataviña, located 76 miles south of El Rosario, is another one of those special places in Baja. Hardly more than a few motels and a couple of simple restaurants, Cataviña receives more than its fair share of conversation whenever the topic of driving in Baja comes up. Cataviña, it seems, is easily remembered by almost all who drive the peninsula.
If you didn’t know where you were and woke up 200 yards from the highway anywhere in Cataviña, you would probably think that you were on another planet. The thousands of magnificent, building-sized boulders and gigantic rock formations will absolutely blow you away. This area is known as Baja’s rock garden and you will certainly know why, if your eyes are open.
There is not a whole lot to do in Cataviña, the desert and the giant rocks are what make Cataviña unique. There are some minor cave paintings a half-mile north of Cataviña. That and maybe an early morning desert walk are about it unless you happen to have a dirt bike or ATV. This is a great area for riding (with care and a portable GPS) with many trails into the surrounding desert. Those staying overnight here who like to gaze at the stars will be hard-pressed to find a better place until you get much further south.
The real Pemex station here has been closed for years, although they added a gas pump with a Pemex sign at the hotel, across the street. I can’t remember the last time they sold any gas from that pump.
So, back across the street, you go, where you will find numerous vendors selling gas out of barrels, bottles, drums, and almost anything else that will hold gas. The gas isn’t cheap and the vendors can be rather messy, but what other choice do you have if you need gas…none!
For some unknown reason, it seems like more folks arrive in Cataviña running on fumes (out of gas) than any other place in Baja. The next gas station to the north is almost 2 hours away in El Rosario. To the south, the next station is in Villa Jesús Maria about 120 miles, over 2 hours away.
The best accommodations are definitely at the Hotel Misión (which used to be the La Pinta Desert Inn). This hotel has 56 rooms, a pool, and a fair-to-good restaurant. They sell cold soft drinks and snacks, offer (satellite) long-distance calls (it’s expensive) and normally they accept credit cards. You can inquire at the hotel about a tour of the cave paintings. There are a couple of other small motels nearby (of questionable quality). On a recent trip, I had to try one of the “other” motels (the Desert Inn was full) and I ended up getting my money back and driving on because there were so many mosquitoes in the room and they had no bug spray in the office.
A lot of drivers seem to end up spending the night here after a really long drive in either direction. Because the Hotel Misión can easily become full around dusk (remember driving rule #1), this is one of those remote locations that I do recommend you make reservations for. Driving north or south from Cataviña, after dark, is definitely not on the highly recommended list of things to do in Baja.
Cataviña is a fairly easy first-day destination from the border (7-8 hrs). It’s a really long day of driving from Cabo (15 hrs) or La Paz (13 hrs) if you are going north.