There is no better time to lay out your wish list of travel destinations than now, locked down at home for weeks. This COVID-19 house arrest is the time to reflect on your travel goals and contemplate the best time to go to the destination of your dreams – when it is safe to travel again.
Mexico is a place we visited six times in 2019. Two places we strongly feel you should put on your Travel Hot List are La Paz, the gateway to the Sea of Cortez and the small town of Todos Santos, just an hour drive from Cabo San Lucas – both on the Baja Peninsula.
Admire the cardon cacti desert landscape en route to Todos Santos, an authentic Mexican town and thriving artist colony that has seen an upswing of tourists and ex-pats in recent years. On the Mexican Pacific, Todos Santos is known as a “pueblo mágico” (magic town), one of just 100 or so small towns honored for its natural beauty, culture, and history.
In our nonstop traipsing of the globe, we have found that the best discoveries are often not the destination itself or what you might be looking for that particular day, but in the unexpected surprises along the way. Some of our favorite memories were pitstops en route to lesser-known Todos Santos.
While Cabo offers many luxurious resort properties, gain a deeper appreciation and understanding of Mexican culture by considering time in Todos Santos. Browse the art galleries, shops, cathedral, and local coffee and taco stands.
PRO-TIP: Remember, drive during daylight and reach your destination before dusk. Stay on the main roads and always make sure you have pesos with you because many places outside Cabo do not take credit cards. We recommend having your hotel hire transportation. Our ride ended up being more than just a van driver but provided exciting information along the way and a local’s perspective of what we shouldn’t miss while in Todos Santos.
But before settling into the town of Todos Santos, consider stopping at these 3 pitstops to not only stretch your legs but to satiate your senses.
Three pitstops you should make time for on your journey to Todos Santos:
Art + Beer
Even though I was told it was closed, I made the driver peel over to the side of the road since I had heard about this hippy artist sanctuary. I peered through the gate in awe after passing by the majestic desert landscape filled with abstract sculptures. The gate was locked, but sure enough, someone saw me peeping (the driver said later he must have liked me to let me in) and we were successfully led into this artist enclave bar-restaurant oasis.
A few people were already inside enjoying drinks at the circular bar with a rooftop area of artwork. In the distance, I could smell the ocean air and since this landscape is cacti-studded I could see clear to the sea. An older man with long grey beard let my husband and me in while we eagerly stared wide-eyed at the size of the drinks being made in the circular palapa bar area.
As we found a place to perch in astonishment of the views, a cheerful older man brought us our drinks, who we learned had been here running this place with his wife for 22 years. Fresh-squeezed margaritas 4 times the size of a normal glass were concocted. We opted for the grand citrus margarita spilling over with citrus fruits along the rim and a tiny umbrella to remind us we were somewhere in paradise.
As we meandered the ground via a wooden plank walkway, we almost needed two hands to carry our drinks. We could easily see how this place must get packed when open. Various seating arrangements popped up throughout the walkway and photos of the owner from what looked like 30 years or more hung faded and pinned here and there.
Dusk was a mesmerizing time to discover this dreamscape as the sunlight glow cast a sparkling haze all around us with abstract sculptural designs popping in their fun stances in sharp contrast with the unusually green desert land, often barren and brown.
To our good fortune, the cheerful older man returned with a complimentary heaping portion of fresh ceviche and chips. This breathtaking romp is a must. You can even buy their own Art + Beer tequila.
No phone or internet access makes this place even more appealing. No website to tout their amazing-ness, just pay attention as this Shangri-La comes up right before you hit Todos Santos. I found the location on my iPhone maps but the owner online states the address is “somewhere in the desert.”
This website I found says the venue is run by Lourdes Campos and her partner Alfredo Ruiz and is best known for its “chocolate clams”—marinated in 17 ingredients and served raw in their brown shells. They also serve seafood dishes and a vegetarian special.
Obviously, due to the price point, this is not a local spot but is a worthy jaunt for any vacation. When I close my eyes and think about one of the most memorable culinary experiences I’ve enjoyed while traveling, this is one of the first to come to mind. Thank you, Jazamango, which means arugula in Spanish.
If you decide you can’t leave Todos Santos and want to spend a night or more, sleep at 11-room Hotel California in town after surfing at Los Cerritos or exploring the town’s galleries and shops.
Our personal favorite up above the ocean is the rustic luxury Los Colibris Casitas at the end of a dirt road with sprawling views of the land and sea. Run by an American woman who fell in love with a Mexican man over 20 years ago, they not only built their home here but a hotel surrounded by native plants teaming with bird species and otherworldly views above the Pacific Ocean.
At Los Colibris we participated in a cooking class, had meals prepared for us, and watched the sunset blaze across the ocean and palm grove oasis. Early one morning their resident yoga instructor taught a class perched above the property where ‘mindfulness’ stretches were coupled with whales jumping out of the sea.
The couple also own and operate Camp Cecil, a glamping beachside experience on Isla Espiritu Santo in the Sea of Cortez thanks to permission from the government. Guests can kayak or paddleboard right from the unspoiled beaches thanks to their Todos Santos Eco Adventures where excursions can be arranged for hiking, kayaking, surfing, bird watching, horseback riding, rock climbing, fishing, whale watching, snorkeling with sea lions, swimming with whale sharks, sea turtle camp, visits to mountain potters – and more! Read about our adventure swimming with whale sharks.
To learn more about how to make the most of a Baja road trip, one of our favorite articles with a detailed map can be found on National Geographic.