What to do in Todos Santos
Mexico’s Baja California Sur is best known for its beautiful stretch of coast, closely followed by its reputation as a spring break destination for college students looking to escape the cold weather in March. But not far from the famous — and at times rowdy — resort town of Cabo San Lucas lies Todos Santos, one of the 111 Pueblos Mágicos ('Magical towns') of Mexico. Hidden in the shadows of other nearby towns, Todos Santos managed to remain under the radar from the swarm of tourists its neighbors attracted. However, with the opening of a brand new hotel by Austin-based Bunkhouse Group, the hospitality team that’s responsible for some of North America’s most unique and highly coveted lodging experiences, the town of ‘All Saints’ has now found itself in the spotlight and on many traveler’s bucket list.
Popular with artists, surfers and local fishermen, Todos Santos offers guests a little bit of everything. If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush this holiday, take on what’s widely regarded as the country’s best breaks and rent out a surfboard at Playa Cerritos, an 18-minute drive from Todos Santos. If you’re craving some downtime, you can always spend the afternoon wandering the sleepy town’s cobblestoned streets and checking out the art galleries. And last but not least, if you’re feeling especially adventurous, make sure to include a day at sea with whale sharks and sea lions on your to-do list. In short, no matter who you are or what you like, you’ll never find yourself bored in this Baja paradise. This post will give you the lowdown on all things you need to know before you book your next dream vacation. Read on!
Explore the Sea of Cortez
The best part about Todos Santos may very well be its geography. Located at the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains, you’re greeted with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean on one side and the granite mountain ranges on the other. But if you choose to venture outside of Todos Santos, you’ll also enjoy its proximity to other attractions, such as the capital city of Baja California Sur, La Paz.
The reason why a trip to La Paz is worth blocking out an entire day for is because there’s nowhere else quite like it. While Thailand has its fair share of crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches, national marine park Isla Espiritu Santo, 20 miles from mainland, boasts all these things minus the rows of long tail boats accompanied by dozens of tourists. Book a full-day tour and be prepared to have the entire ocean to yourself. Depending on how much you want to dish out, you can find yourself sharing the experience with other tourists or have the entire boat and a personal tour guide to yourself. Tour companies’ offerings will also vary between each other, but expect to find activities such as snorkeling with sea lion puppies, kayaking the bays, swimming with whale sharks and dolphin watching (Note: I booked a tour with Baja California Co., which went above and beyond my expectations). As the sun starts to set, head to Balandra Beach for some fresh ceviche before calling it a day. It’s a guarantee that even just one afternoon in the Sea of Cortez will make you understand what French explorer Jacques Cousteau meant when he deemed the region “The Aquarium of the World.”
Soak up the beach culture of Playa Cerritos
Playa Cerritos may only be a short 18-minute drive from Todos Santos, but it’s a world of difference when it comes to the waves. There are very few beaches in Cabo that are safe for swimming or surfing in; you’ll notice signs along the shores of Todos Santos cautioning inexperienced swimmers not to go too far out into sea. Playa Cerritos, on the other hand, offers a gentle beach break and a more adventurous rocky point break that allows both newbies and seasoned wave riders to experience Baja’s surf culture. If this will be your first time on a surfboard, fear not. There are plenty of surf schools and instructors out on the beach ready to rent you boards and wetsuits, and give you one-on-one lessons.
Hike the Sierra de la Laguna mountains
If you prefer to stay dry on your holiday, the surrounding Sierra de la Laguna mountain range offers its own variety of dry land adventures. One of Baja California Sur’s most beautiful but least explored areas, the Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve is home to an incredible diversity of plant and animal life. As a microclimate, the mountain ranges receive more rainfall than any other part of the peninsula, resulting in a drastic change of scenery from the dessert below. I definitely recommend hiring a tour guide to take you on to the mountains. Not only will a professional guide help keep you on the trail, but can also give you a lot of great information about the local flora and fauna, more than 20 percent of which are endemic to the peninsula.
Release baby sea turtles
The beaches of Todos Santos are nesting grounds for three species of marine sea turtles: the Leatherback, the Olive Ridley and the Black. Along the shorelines, baby sea turtles have minuscule chance of making it out to sea and living for long in the water. The volunteers at Tortugueros Las Playitas, a non-profit sea turtle sanctuary, help protect the eggs until it’s time for them to hatch, before assisting with the release. What’s more, they’re always happy to have more hands on deck. Go early in the evening and enjoy the sunset before getting a quick lesson on the turtles from one of the staff members. By the end of the night, the sight of the baby turtles shuffling toward the water will leave you warm inside.
Visit Bunkhouse Group’s Hotel San Cristobal
Perhaps the primary reason Todos Santos has recently been thrown into the spotlight is because of the opening of Bunkhouse Group’s Hotel San Cristobal. Famed hotelier Liz Lambert’s Bunkhouse Group is known for its highly Instagram-friendly boutique properties whose aesthetic is a combination of bohemian-chic and nomadic glam. Every facet of every hotel the group is responsible for has been thoughtfully planned, details perfected to ensure the most beautiful stay. Hotel San Cristobal and its shop are no exceptions. Next to the swimming pool, The shop at Hotel San Cristobal offers a mix of beautiful, one-of-a-kind artisan goods and necessities. Though the shop is quite small, the carefully curated collection of apparel, beachwear, jewelry and souvenirs make up for it in every way. Did I mention the hotel has its own line of Mezcal that can also be purchased at the shop? ¡Salud!
Wander the streets of Todos Santos
The local artisan shops and owner-operated galleries that dot the streets of Todos Santos make wandering around town a joy. Treat yourself or grab some souvenirs for your friends back home at some of my favorite stops. With an outpost in Sonoma, California, and Todos Santos, Nomad Chic hopes to uncover new brands from all over the world to share with its customers. You’ll find dresses, caftans, swimsuits and even home decor you’ll want to take home with you. Etnica, on the other hand, is the perfect place if you’re looking for some traditional, handmade items to buy for keepsakes. The clothes and leather goods the store sells are made using traditional techniques but are modern enough to pair with your day-to-day outfits. Last but not least, visit La Casa del Opalo, even if it’s just to window shop. The sunset-hued Mexican fire opals from the mines in Jalisco are a wonder of its own.
TO EAT AND DRINK
Tacos y Mariscos El Sinaloense
Baja California Sur is known for its seafood, and luckily for those visiting Todos Santos, there’s Tacos y Mariscos El Sinaloense, a no-fuss, wallet-friendly spot serving up some of the best and freshest tacos you can find. The Trip Advisor reviews don’t lie; order the ceviche, smoked marlin tacos and shrimp tacos, to be enjoyed with the restaurant’s signature salsa — a blend of soy, jalapeño, garlic and honey — along with a glass of margarita.
Sky Lounge Bar
The bar at the top of Guaycura Boutique Hotel has a panoramic view of the entire town, plus a killer mango mojito. Lounge on the rooftop and soak in the sun, or take a dip in the pool while you wait for your drink. This is the place to cool down at after an entire day of gallery hopping in Todos Santos.
What I love about Benno, the Mexican and Mediterranean restaurant at Hotel San Cristobal, is the special dinner the hotel arranges every now and then, welcoming famous chefs from all over the country to host a one-night-only meal at the restaurant. But even on regular nights, it’s hard to beat the catch-of-the-day dish at Benno. Chef Edgar Palau makes a point of using locally sourced ingredients. For example, the seafood at Benno is caught by the local fishermen on that day, and I promise you will be able to taste the difference in freshness.