The Best 12 Hours You’ll Ever Spend
About 45 minutes north of the hustle and bustle of Cabo is an oasis of calm, a hidden gem on the Mexican Riviera that’s overflowing with pristine beaches, fringy palms, fruit trees, and breath-stealing natural beauty. It’s a slice of heaven where the desert meets the Sierra Laguna mountains with a view of the cerulean sea, where a quirky mash-up of artisans, surfers, hikers, wild-life junkies, fisherman, snorkelers, scuba-divers and fisherman find their Zen. This magical place? Todos Santos. Come, let us take you there.
9:00 a.m. Morning in Todos Santos. One of the best ways to get your bearings in a new beach town is to grab a coffee, select a beach and head in that direction.
A few good places for non-Starbuckian joe are Baja Beans and Cafeflix. The best beaches to check out in Todos Santos are Playa Los Cerritos, Playa San Pedro/Las Palmas, Playa Pescadero, Punta Lobos, Old Port/Los Algodones. The cool waves dousing your ankles, your toes in the sand, the fresh ocean breeze and a caffeinated beverage – this the perfect way to get grounded in this wondersand land. During your stroll, you can figure out what, if any, excursions you want to do in the afternoon. After a short walk, you might want to head downtown late morning to check out some of the cool buildings, shop around and get a feel for the place.
11:00 p.m. Near Noon Walkabout in Downtown. Once a dusty town on the Mexican frontier then later the sugar capital of Baja, Todos Santos is a laid-back village that is a refuge for artists and a mecca for surfers with a little commerce sprinkled on the top, one that you’ll love exploring. Sophisticated art galleries and funky boutiques are nestled amidst colorful colonial buildings adorned with art and flanked by flora, which creates a new/old world vibe. There are even nooks, sidewalk benches and intimate cafes, where you can hideaway.
Todos Santos has the vibe of a more traditional Mexico, sort of like Santa Fe on the beach with annual film, art and wine festivals. Joan Osborne has played here during the Tropic of Cancer Concert Series and Peter Buck of REM launched the Todos Santos Music Festival. Not too shabby for a sleepy beach town.
Least you think Todos Santos is too remote, you’ll be happy to know that it has all the modern conveniences that travelers require like Wi-Fi, ATMs, banks and hospitals, but it’s still not a place that’s overrun with tourists and rabid partiers.
While you’re in town, other locales you’ll definitely want to check out are the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Pilar (church), Teatro Marquez de Leon (theater) and the Centro Cultural Nestor Agundez Martinez (cultural center), where you can see the famous murals that were painted in 1933, a couple of decades after the Mexican Revolution. They depict Baja’s history, the original Indian inhabitants, a ship of the Conquistadors and the Franciscan monks of the missionary period.
12:30 p.m. Lunching in Todos Santos. First stop should be Tequila’s Sunrise to try out their award-winning margaritas. But don’t miss the food: it’s off-the-charts amazing. Try the chicken quesadillas and tortilla soup.
If you want to lunch al fresco, Cafe Todos Santos has a lovely patio. One of the best things there are the Chilaquiles – they’re the best. Other great lunch spots to try are Carnitas Barajas where the pork tacos rock and La Casita Tapas and Wine Bar, where you can get sushi, steak and fresh seafood.
2:00 p.m. Outdoorsy, Exercise-y Afternoon Stuff To Do. There’s an eclectic menu of activities to do here in paradise, though not surprisingly, surfing is big here. If you want to take lessons or brush up, the top place to go is Justin Quirk’s Surf School, where you can learn in Todos Santos, Cerritos and El Pescadero areas of Baja California Sur. Other options for your afternoon include fishing, hiking, and horseback riding. You can find yoga and aerobic classes, along with Aikido, a Japanese form of self-defense and Tai Chi, a Chinese internal martial art. There are even cooking seminars, book groups and West African drumming. If you’re here in December, you can watch whales migrate along the coastline of these exquisite beaches.
6:00 p.m. Cocktails, Dinner and Sunset Gazing. Using fresh local ingredients and organic produce, the restaurants in Todos Santos create taste bud-slaying cuisine and the fisherman provide fresh seafood daily. For happy hour and watching the incredible sunsets, along with spectacular food, El Faro Beach Club and Spa are where you’ll want to plant yourself. Start with the guac and a margarita, take in the view, then try the sea bass for your main course.
Another spot that is uniquely Todos, is Jazamango. At the helm is renowned Mexican chef Javier Plascencia. He has created a knock-out culinary experience inspired by his love for Baja.
The epitome of farm-to-table cuisine, the cuisine at Jazamango is based on a mixture of local products and organic ingredients to create dishes that please and satisfy the senses. You’ll love it. For more casual fare, La Garra is a sports bar with live music. In the same vein, at Cerritos Beach Club and Surf, you can kick back with a refreshing margarita, catch some jazz and watch the surfers fresh in from hangin’ ten bounce in and out.
Miguel’s, El Mirador (great view of the ocean) and the Garden Restaurant (they have an organic garden) all have superb menus and out-of-sight food. Finally, if you want to blend art viewing with dining, you’ll love Michael’s at the Gallery, a restaurant in the back of an art gallery.
9:00 p.m. Beachin’ Bars. If you’re not ready to call it a night, then there are a few night spots you’ll want to check out. First up is The Distillery. It’s the first artisan distillery in the Baja Sur region. Don’t miss the Baja Midnight vodka, chocolate moonshine, and their house blends of tequila. While you’re there, you can also learn about how alcohol is fermented, distilled, and bottled. The moonshine is made from sweet white corn, and sugarcane is used to make their vodka. You can also enjoy traditional and local wines. Try the house favorite, Jamica. Another great place is The Desert Moon Riptide Bar. It’s owned by Jaime Dobies, a surfer also the owner of the Pescadero Surf Camp. If you’re into vino, inside The Hotel California, which is not the one the Eagles’ sing about, is the Santo Vino Bistro and Wine Bar. For a place that will satisfy everyone, Fonda El Zaguan has it all: everything from a super wine list and tequilas to fresh fruit cocktails and smoothies.
After 12 hours in Todos Santos, we knew it will be hard to leave. All that meant is that we’d have to come back for more beach goodness.