Catavina, the rock garden of Baja, is a small town located midway through Baja California Norte and approximately 75 miles (120 km) south of El Rosario. The landscape changes drastically when you enter Catavina. Volcanic boulders stack on top of each other with enormous cacti to create a surreal visual experience as though you were on another planet.

Catavina is more of a rest area for travelers and truck drivers than it is a multi-day destination. It is around 7 to 8 hours away from US/Mexico border, which makes it an excellent stop if you’re scrambling north or south. 

The town has only 150-200 residents and you will not find many restaurants and hotels. There are a couple of restaurants, rustic motels, one RV park and a proper hotel called Hotel Mision with dining and a pool. 

One thing to note before planning a trip to Catavina is the scarcity of fuel in this stretch of Highway 1. You won’t find any formal gas station nearby and locals will sell gas out of drums as the nearest gas stations are either 2 hours to the north in El Rosario or to the south in Villa Jesus Maria. 

The gas is expensive, and the quality is questionable. But if you don’t plan accordingly, you have to bear that because it’s the only option.

Things to do in Catavina

There is not much to do in Catavina outside of exploring the desert landscape filled with unique rocks and cacti. You can enjoy ATV rides along the enormous boulders or can camp under the beautiful milky way.

Here are the top things to do in Catavina.

Walk Among the Giant Cardon

Catavina is a very fertile area for cacti. There are over 80 types of cacti growing in the region, including agave, nopal, pitahaya, yucca, and cholla. But the unique one is Giant Caradon or Elephant Cactus. 

The Cardon is native to the Baja California peninsula, can grow up to 60 feet and weighs up to 10 tons. Moreover, they can live for more than 200 years. Some of the Giant Cardons in Catavina are over 300 years old.

Explore the Catavina Boulder Field

The Catavina Boulder Fields, or the rock garden, is fantastic and strange at the same time. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. The field has thousands of building-sized boulders and granite rocks coexisting with beautiful flora and lovely natural freshwater pools 

The stunning landscape is a must-visit whenever you are traveling through Baja.

Visit The Colonial Missions

There are ruins of two colonial missions in Catavina. The San Fernando Velicata and Santa Maria de Los Angles Missions were built in the late 18th Century to convert Cochimi Indians. But they were abandoned in 1818 after failing. 

The San Fernando de Velicata mission is accessible without 4WD but does require a guide. While the Santa Maria de Los Angeles Mission is located approximately 15 miles down a road with extreme 4-wheel drive conditions.

Cave Paintings

Cave paintings are located just a half mile north of Catavina. The paintings and pictographs are believed to be up to 10,000 years old and are believed to be drawn by Cochimi Indians. 

No one exactly knows what the paintings are. Several theories go from witchery and religious purposes to important events. They are relatively easily accessible just off the highway. 

Go On An ATV/Dirt Bike

The rugged town has the perfect terrain for ATVs and dirt bike rides. If you’re traveling with ATVs or other 4×4 vehicles you can get off-road and feel as though you are on an adventure on another planet! 

Remember to always carry a portable GPS to easily follow the trail because getting lost in the Catavina desert is relatively easy.


Rancho Santa Yenz

Rancho Santa Yenz is your only option for formal camping in or around Catavina. It is a rustic campground located 1 mile off Highway 1. With around 40 campsites, there is almost always room available and at modest prices. 

But keep in mind you will be dry camping. It does not have any hookups. You will get water in buckets and the bathroom is a part of the owner’s house.