Coming up: my online travel writing class for Catapult in mid-April.

Todos Santos, Mexico

A few years back, I spent New Year’s Eve with friends in Los Cabos, Mexico, on the southern Baja peninsula. While it was a lovely gathering and a relaxing beach holiday, I wasn’t so taken with the area’s touristy development. Sure, there’s something nice about sitting on the beach and drinking cocktails by the pool all day but after a brief taster of that, I usually want to move on and see something “real”.

This time, it was Todos Santos, a magical little town about 45 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, a place that a Los Angeles-based friend of mine had raved about. What I heard was – artsy vibe, laid-back energy and great surfing waves. And all was true.

Todos Santos is where the desert meets the Sierra Laguna mountain range meets the Pacific Ocean. Arriving to town felt like entering a time warp. Founded by missionaries in the 18th century and known later for its sugar mills with booming cane production, the town remains a dusty outpost of unpaved roads, adobe haciendas, pristine white-sand beaches and thriving tropical orchards.

It may be the supposedly special energy that has drawn artists from all over the world to this pretty little town. After all, Todos Santos does straddle the Tropic of Cancer. Maybe that explains the creative spark in the air? You won’t find chain restaurants, all-inclusive resorts, or glitzy shops. Everything is one-off, earthy and real.

Accommodations range from stylish old haciendas (Todos Santos Inn) to funky bohemian hideaways (Hotel California) and beachside tropical enclaves (Posada La Poza). As for food, you can find anything from terrific taco stands, where you can fill up for a song, to gourmet restaurants that serve locally-grown organic food. One such find was La Coronela Restaurant at Hotel California, with a great garden and delicious meals. El Gusto! at Posada La Poza also gets great reviews.

Outside town extends a maze of dirt roads leading through lush palm tree groves and orchards of mangos, papayas and avocados. At one end stretch miles of unspoiled beaches, backed by the desert beyond. You can spend days exploring the surroundings on foot, horseback, bicycle or – in a kayak.

One of the things I loved the most about Todos Santos was the profusion of art galleries. Admittedly, I am quite picky about my art so I wasn’t all that impressed with most of the work on display. I did, however, have a great encounter with a local art celebrity, an eccentric artist called Gabo. Somebody told us to look for the man in his studio on the edge of town but with a warning – we may be either sent away brusquely or engaged in a lively conversation, depending on his mood.

We were lucky – Gabo had just woken up from a siesta and, in a great mood, welcomed us with open arms. We spent the entire afternoon checking out his colorful often bizarre artwork on a private tour of his atelier. We talked of art, love, sex, politics, and other meaty subjects. Time just whizzed past in the company of this flamboyant man. I still remember Gabo’s engaging conversation and the unique ambiance of his studio – it felt like being in a parallel universe. For more about Gabo’s work and where to find him if you happen to be in Todos Santos, see TodosSantosGuide.com.

All that said, undiscovered it is not, Todos Santos. This eternally sunny town does get its fair share of mainly North American tourists year-round. You certainly won’t feel like you’ve stumbled upon an oasis untouched by tourism. Still, it’s delightful and captivating. So if you’re in Los Cabos and fed up with flashy nondescript tourism, you know where to come. For more information about Todos Santos, visit www.todossantos.com.

Blog Comments

I’m going. Period.

Hi Anja,

Thanks for the wonderful tip. As we are experiencing an economic downturn here in Canada, we are contemplating a trip somewhere “closer” to home. Mexico keeps coming up on our list. While we are not big fans of touristy resorts, it seems like we might have a back up in Todos Santos if ever we end up in Los Cabos.

Certainly, chance encounters with locals always enrich a stay / visit to a certain place. I’m glad to hear you had a good time with Gabo.

By the way, my blog was nominated for the 2008 Weblog Awards in the Best Travel Blog category. If you feel like I deserve a vote, please check out the link above. Voting limited to 1 per day until Jan. 13, 2009.

Thanks for your support!

-Jen Laceda

Remember I read about Todos Santos in a surfing magazine a couple of years ago. Apart from it being a great spot for surfers I knew nothing about the place, so it was interesting to learn more about this Mexican town.

I’m coming along, Hoji.

Jen, yes, trips “closer to home” are certainly on the rise, for obvious economic reasons. I’d highly recommend Todos Santos, if you’re in Los Cabos, as well as a visit to Gabo’s studio. By the way, I cast my vote for your blog. Good luck!

Yes, Erica, not many people have heard of Todos Santos. It’s still blissfully off the mainstream tourist radar, which is exactly what makes it so lovely.

hi there. Just came across your blog – like it a lot, will be back! Just wanted to say I LOVE that photograph!!
kristine

This sounds like my kind of place! I’ve also found that a lot of the popular Mexican spots like Cozumel and Cancun are unbearably touristy and it’s hard to get a feel for the reel culture. Just the chance to visit a lot of art galleries can make up for a touristy place.

Thanks for stopping by, Kristine! Glad you liked that photo.

Yes, Fly Girl, I agree – the real culture is so often lost in the touristy destinations. I was glad to find a glimpse of it in Todos Santos.

Having travelled solo last year by public bus ( when everyone else was in huge groups in huge vehicles) from Tijuana to Los Cabos, and visiting Todos Santos.. I agree with your comments but still much prefer more unspoilt places in Baja.. Loreto, around La Paz, San Ignacio etc

Thanks for stopping by, Catherine! I wish I had a chance to explore more of Baja. I’m sure I would have unearthed gems even more unspoiled than Todos Santos. Next time. 🙂

Sounds like a wonderful trip. I absolutely love Mexico, and its people. Thumbed you up and subscribed.

Add a comment

*Please complete all fields correctly

Related posts

Happy 2014