Next time you think Los Cabo, consider the more secluded Todos Santos instead. And be prepared to ask yourself how this little paradise has been kept secret for so long.
TODOS SANTOS, Mexico – About 45 minutes north of Cabo San Lucas on Mexico's Baja Peninsula are the small town of Todos Santos and the adjacent hamlets of Pescadero and Cerritos. Settled in the 1700s, this primarily agricultural area has long been a haven for travelers, surfers, artists, and bohemians seeking tranquility away from the hustle of Cabo. Fiercely protective of the natural landscape that makes Todos Santos so special, the communities have managed to keep major development from permeating their corner of paradise. As a result, the streets are quiet, the beaches are pristine, the sunsets are magnificent, and the stargazing is spectacular. Looking for dry desert heat, ocean breeze, and pure relaxation? Look no further.
A new tolled highway that bypasses Cabo makes the drive to Todos Santos from the airport a breeze. Instead of traversing traffic and stoplights, the road winds along the foothills of the desolate Sierra de la Laguna Mountains and through the desert dotted with massive saguaro cacti. The empty toll road seems to dead end at the sea, where it connects with the highway that follows the coast up to Cerritos, Pescadero, and Todos Santos.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel San Cristóbal
The big news of the season is the opening of Hotel San Cristóbal, the first international outpost by Texas hotelier Liz Lambert 's Bunkhouse Group. The high-design boutique hotel brings relaxed sophistication to this otherwise deserted stretch of Punta Lobos Beach. The white and minimalist buildings are accented by bursts of color in the pool, the textiles, and the tiles. At just 32 rooms, the footprint is purposefully small, and the hotel has made every effort to minimize its negative impact on the surrounding natural environment. The staff are accommodating and anxious to help. The food is delicious and as local as can be, down to the seafood caught by fishermen who leave from the beach in front of the hotel.
Tip: The hotel welcomes children over the age of 12, but this isn't exactly the kind of place you want to bring the kids.
Read more on Fathom: Checking In/Checking Out of Hotel San Cristóbal.
Opened in 2009, Rancho Pescadero occupies a beautiful stretch of land just behind the dunes on Pescadero Beach, south of Todos Santos. With just 28 rooms spread over a series of two-story thatched roof buildings, Rancho is an adults-only hotel with a relaxed vibe and the very best Mexican hospitality. When dawn arrives at Rancho, don't be surprised to find coffee and pastries at your door. But as tempting as it is to sit out on the veranda sipping coffee all morning, a full Mexican breakfast awaits on the hotel's terrace, and the huevos rancheros are not to be missed. Then spend the day lounging by the pool or on a short stroll through the palm grove that leads to an endless golden beach. If surfing is on the agenda, the Rancho staff will happily arrange a lesson or make boards available. Early risers can attend daily yoga classes in the upstairs pavilion. If relaxing in the sun by the pool is all the day calls for, grab sunscreen from the bar and order an ice-cold margarita. Before long, the phrase "una más" will become a household refrain. (Good to know: There are no $20 margaritas here.) Lunch by the pool consists of the best Mexican cuisine has to offer. In addition to serving some of the most delicious ceviche and Baja fish tacos around, the burger is pretty outstanding. When it's time for dinner, have the staff prepare a meal on the beach. With toes in the sand, order the catch of the day. They'll wrap you in a Mexican serape to shield you from the gentle breeze coming off the ocean. As the sun begins to fade and dip into the Pacific, the fire pits and candles are lit, and a blanket of stars takes over as the main event. Don't be surprised if a sense of urgency about planning a return trip suddenly occupies the evening conversation. Rancho has that effect on everyone who visits.
Tip: Most of the rooms at Rancho Pescadero accommodate two guests, though the Cocina Suite, an expansive main-floor room, can comfortably sleep four. Swimming is not recommended at the beach in front of the hotel, as the surf is extremely strong. Calmer waves and a swimmable beach are just to the south in Cerritos.
La Bohemia is an eight-room boutique hideaway with all the creature comforts of a great bed-and-breakfast. Expat owners Erin and Andrew Wheelwright had been looking for property to open a small hotel when they stumbled on this haven in the center of Todos Santos. After a year of renovations, they opened in 2015 and have been welcoming guests ever since. The rooms at La Bohemia are bright, spacious, and comfortable. Beds are outfitted with beautiful headboards upholstered in bright Otomi fabrics and accented by wool blankets the couple imports from Peru. Bathrooms feature hand-painted tiles, beautiful Mexican sinks, and locally sourced bath products. The lush tropical garden is a great place to unwind. Snooze in a hammock or help yourself to a beer from the honor bar and cool off in the small but lovely swimming pool. Erin and Andrew are not your typical hotel operators: They are your hosts, your friends, and your inside connection to everything that Todos Santos has to offer. Whether you need directions to the surf beach, want to swim with whale sharks, or just need to know where to go for the best fish tacos in town, they have you covered. This type of genuine hospitality is why La Bohemia feels like home when you walk through the gate at the end of the day.
Tip: Guests have free access to El Faro Beach Club, a lovely spot on the beach with a large pool, cabanas, and a bar. The Wheelwrights recently purchased the land adjacent to La Bohemia and plan to build a pavilion to accommodate large gatherings and yoga retreats. For extended Baja adventures, the Wheelwrights rent out their Chevy Tahoe, which is completely outfitted for camping on the beach. Since La Bohemia is located right in town, there is ambient noise at night (i.e. the neighbor's dogs). If you are a light sleeper, plan accordingly.
WHERE TO EAT
Set within a lush vegetable garden down a dirt road in Pescadero, Hierbabuena is a lovely spot for a delicious farm-to-table dinner. The menu features excellent salads based on garden's daily bounty, wood-fired pizzas and meats, and a delicious eggplant parmesan.
Renowned Mexican chef Javier Plascencia has just opened what will no doubt become a hotspot just outside Todos Santos. Having won accolades for his restaurants in San Diego, Plascencia is returning to his Mexican roots with the opening of Jazamango and two other restaurants in Tijuana and the Valle de Guadalupe. He hopes to bring a new kind of high-end dining experience to the area by introducing recipes and dishes that unite the land and ocean that surround Todos Santos.
Restaurant Bar Bahia
A super casual corner spot in Todos Santos with awesome fish tacos and ceviche. Cash only.
Café Santa Fe
A Todos Santos institution established in 1990, with a reputation for some of the best Italian food outside Italy. A meal here is a must.
Delicious fresh sushi and seafood abound at this local spot with an expansive back patio. Order coconut shrimp and gazpacho salad.
WHAT TO DO
There is excellent surfing in Todos Santos. Playa Cerritos is an especially great spot to hit the waves. Rent a board or arrange a lesson from Mario Surf School.
Playa Cerritos is also the best beach for swimming, surfing, and snorkeling. For solitude, sunning, strolling, and shell collecting, pitch an umbrella into the sand at Pescadero or Punta Lobos, but don't plan on swimming at these beaches, as the undertow is strong. Between Pescadero and Punta Lobos, Playa Las Palmas (a.k.a. Playa San Pedro) is a small, crescent-shaped beach protected by rocks and lined with palm trees.
WHERE TO SHOP
A tiny boutique in downtown Todos Santos with a wonderful selection of embroidered Mexican caftans and blouses.
Load up on organic lotions, potions, and soaps made from locally sourced ingredients.
IF I HAD ONE MORE DAY
I would drive an hour and a half north to La Paz and visit Playa Balandra on the Sea of Cortez. This incredibly stunning cove is shallow, calm, and perfect for paddle boarding, swimming, and snorkeling.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
How to Get There
Most major airlines fly directly into San Jose del Cabo (SJD). Todos Santos is an hour's drive from the airport. You'll need to arrange private transportation or rent a car. All major rental car agencies have offices at the airport. The new toll highway makes the drive from the airport to Todos Santos very straightforward.
While the peso is the currency of Mexico, dollars are accepted by most businesses. Just be prepared to receive change in pesos. Service is included in most hotel bills, so an additional tip at dinner is only expected if the service is exceptional. Small local restaurants and tourists shops usually operate on a cash basis. While there are banks in Todos Santos, plan accordingly.
Hold onto the bottom portion of your immigration card after you go through customs: The Mexican government won't let you leave the country without it and will require you to pay a cash fine at the time of departure if you lose it.