The best adventures in Mexico are usually at the ends of dirt roads. And while it's been a while since the road to Todos Santos was pure dirt, adventures can still be found there.
Just two hours north of Cabo San Lucas, Todos Santos was founded as a mission in 1724 and eventually became known for sugar cane production. Over the decades, the dusty dirt roads that led to this town on the Pacific attracted bohemians and backpackers, artists and believers in magic. Today, however, Todos Santos is nothing if not a vibrant center of boutique luxury -- the kind that juxtaposes elegant design hotels alongside beach palapas still slinging fresh ceviche for next to nothing.
This is not uncommon in the development of Mexico's most eclectic (and luxurious) beach towns. Just look at Tulum, Sayulita and Puerto Escondido. What starts out as sleepy seaside villages in Mexico often don't stay that way for long. First come the backpackers. Then come the artists. Then the boutique hotels and art galleries. Then the investors. Before you know it, these once-secret beach towns are suddenly splashed across the pages of international travel magazines and haute travelers flock there in droves.
Todos Santos has been growing its reputation for some time. Baja devotees are already well-versed on the subject. It had often been the secret escape for those in the know, who wanted a change of pace from the Los Cabos scene for a night or two. Now it is well on its way to being a destination in its own right, with plenty to see, do, eat and explore for a standalone vacation.
Where to stay in Todos Santos
Paradero Todos Santos
Open as of this year, the Paradero Todos Santos is a luxury all-inclusive hotel with 35 suites that sits on five acres. The hotel is all about that boho Mexico aesthetic -- linens, wood, rattan, clay and stone. The suites range in size from 780 square feet to 2,674 square feet and combine indoor and outdoor living. Picture hammocks and outdoor soaking tubs, rooftop suites with views of the mountains and a Master Casita with three floors, a plunge pool and dining area.
Hotel San Cristobal Baja
This 32-room boutique hotel has a splash of the Greek islands. Washed in white, with billowing curtains and pops of colorful tiles, this beachfront boutique hotel is simple but elegant, and each room offers an ocean view from the bed. Despite the Greek island undertones, it is decidedly Mexican, with walls strewn with Mexican art, local textiles and a menu that focuses entirely on what can be found locally in Baja California.
Villa Santa Cruz
This traditional Mexican hacienda hotel is all about historic, elegant architecture, with terra cotta tile floors, exposed wooden beams and a sunbaked, warm color palette. The oceanview bungalows are the rooms to beat here; they each feature private balconies that face west for those glowing Mexican sunsets.
Guaycura Boutique Hotel Beach Club and Spa
This boutique hotel is walking distance to the energy of "downtown" Todos Santos, but far enough removed to be completely blissed out and quiet. It's located inside an old art academy and has plenty of rustic, yet chic, accents, from exposed brick and high ceilings to high thread count bedding. El Faro Beach Club and Spa, part of the hotel, is a five-minute drive away.
Where to eat in Todos Santos
One of the supreme highlights of discovering Todos Santos was the introduction to Santa Terra. From the remains of an old sugar factory comes an airy, lofty haven for relaxed fine dining, exquisite seafood, wine, art and culture. With plans to expand to include glamping, outdoor event space, a wine patio and much more, today it is still the place to gather in Todos Santos, especially if you enjoy a cocktail and a plate of fresh, beautifully prepared crudo. Grab something to drink and walk around the art gallery or do some boutique shopping. Or simply relax outside in the garden, where you can still find the brick bones and other remnants of the property's past.
Tostadas at Santa Terra in Todos Santos. Photo Credit: Meagan Drillinger
Another wonderful option is El Mirador Oceanview Restaurant. Up an bumpy dirt road, the restaurant enjoys an enviable perch on a cliff overlooking one of the most beautiful beaches in Baja. Diners sit underneath a massive thatch-roofed palapa and enjoy a menu that focuses on what is grown in the kitchen garden. It classifies itself as Mediterranean with an emphasis on fresh vegetables, herbs and seafood. This may be one of the best places in Mexico to enjoy a fabulous meal with a sunset view, which, if you know Mexico, is really saying something.
Of course, you can still harken back to Todos Santos' roots with a visit to Los Adobes. The historic restaurant and garden offers views of the Mission de Nuestra Senora del Pilar and serves traditional Mexican cuisine with a focus on local and organic ingredients. Dine alfresco overlooking the century-old adobe kitchen.
Things to do in Todos Santos
In the past, Todos Santos was the place to go to escape everyone else. That's why it was so popular with surfers and hippies. But today, the destination is nothing short of glamorous, though understatedly so. You'll find much more to do in Todos Santos today than ever before.
A chimney from the old sugar mill, now a focal point at Santa Terra. Photo Credit: Meagan Drillinger
Start with a visit to Playa Los Cerritos to get a glimpse of Todos Santos in its heyday. This beautiful beach is one of the most powerful in Baja and it still retains its surf culture. You'll find locals and visitors alike relaxing on the sugary shores, enjoying a barbecue, having a drink and, of course, surfing.
The art gallery scene in Todos Santos is thriving. Artists have been drawn to the stark desert landscape that tumbles directly to the Pacific. Still, today artists and designers are hypnotized by the raw and rugged beauty of Todos Santos, and the galleries that display their work are top-notch. Galeria de Todos Santos, for example, shows the work of both Mexican and American artists, featuring paintings and sculpture. Jill Logan Galeria is another top gallery, and one that has been open since 1998. Today, the large and welcoming gallery displays the work of Jill Logan herself in both an indoor space and a large garden.
Outdoor and eco adventures are among the many things to do in Todos Santos, as well. Like La Sirena Eco Adventures that take visitors to catch dorado and marlin. Or there is The Hub, a massive brick building from which visitors can arrange mountain biking tours.