Todos Santos Baja
Todos Santos is pretty famous, the world over, as an artist’s colony but Todos Santos means much more to many knowledgeable Baja travelers.
Todos Santos lies halfway between La Paz and Cabo San Lucas (approx. 1 hour from each, by car) almost directly on the Tropic of Cancer. The outlying edges of Todos Santos touch the shores of the Pacific Ocean but the main part of town is inland, a few miles away from the water.
The surrounding area is very fertile and blessed with an abundant water supply from the nearby mountains. The town is definitely an oasis, one of the few in all of Baja, and the local palm groves and the multicolored residential gardens give the town a peaceful, easy-going feeling.
Todos Santos was once known as the sugar cane capital of Baja, supporting up to eight sugar processing mills. Today, the main products of Todos Santos are tourism, art, real estate, locally-made home decor, (even locally-made furniture) delicious fruit, and organic vegetables (though not necessarily in that order). The delicious mangos, avocados, chilies, and organic vegetables that are grown in the area are mostly for export, but there always seems to be a plentiful supply for local consumption.
Todos Santos is best known as an artist’s colony, which is not a bad thing. There is an abundance of art galleries in and around town, and there are even a few that offer some very nice original art at reasonable prices. There are also a few high-end galleries with prices that will shock many visitors. But, there is much more to this small town than just art galleries, restaurants, lush vegetation, and local handicraft.
The downtown area is easily covered on foot and is full of distinctive shops, cafes, gourmet restaurants, and, of course, some great taco stands. There is a nice town square, that is usually close to empty. It is situated directly across from the oversized church and a nicely restored theatre from the 1940s that occasionally features musical or folkloric dance performances. This whole central area could easily be pictured as being straight out of a time in the distant past. Sitting in the square, it is pretty easy to imagine that the town could be filled with saddled horses, buckboards, and even a stagecoach or two, if it weren’t for all the cars and ATVs on the streets.
Todos Santos has long been known to surfers looking for the elusive perfect wave at surf spots to the north and south of town, but Todos Santos does not really feel like a beach town. For surfers, Todos Santos is more of a place to go after a day of surfing the nearby beaches to get filled up with the incredibly tasty fish tacos, have a few cold beers, and then get a good night’s sleep. Great fish taco stands are abundant in Todos Santos, there are also many excellent restaurants and hotels to go along with them. Fresh fish, from the nearby beaches, is usually available, something to keep in mind while looking at the local menus.
Local activities include surfing, kayaking, surf fishing or fishing from pangas at nearby Punta Lobos, and cliff walk tours. Hiking tours into the Sierra Laguna mountains are very popular with residents and visitors alike. Horseback riding tours and mountain bike rentals are also easily arranged. Several nearby surf schools are available to beginners who want to learn this fantastic sport. Bus or van tours to the nearby resorts of Los Cabos or La Paz are also easily arranged in Todos Santos.
There are several nice hotels in town, one with a famous name that is really not connected to any famous song. The Hotel California sits right next to the church, in the middle of town, and is definitely worthy of a visit. The hotel restaurant and bar are pretty unique and usually busy. The colorful decor and the vividly colored outdoor areas will surely stay in your mind long after your visit. There are more small hotels, bed & breakfast inns, and guest houses spread around the town. A few of the newer hotels are located some distance from the town center, out near the beach.
Todos Santos is still very small, by anyone’s standards, but the town is definitely in growth mode. Accommodations have steadily improved and many people are forgoing (completely) the lively and busier tourist areas of Los Cabos and La Paz to enjoy the peace and tranquility that Todos Santos has to offer. Many tourists first discover Todos Santos on day tours from Los Cabos or La Paz, with many of those vowing to return on a later vacation.
There is an ever-growing expatriate community, so English is widely spoken here and there is even an English-language bookstore with a great supply of novels and informational books. Wireless Internet service is now available in many of the hotels, cafes, and restaurants so that visitors are not completely cut off from the outside world. Cellular service is readily available.
The Todos Santos cultural center, located in the town center, often features displays of local art, handicrafts, and interesting local history. Todos Santos plays host to a popular art festival in late January, featuring (of course) local artists and an annual film festival in March is just preparing for its eighth successful event. There is also a well-organized tour of historical homes usually held in late February and, of course, the local presentation of the traditional festival celebrated in mid-October. These local presentations are complemented by numerous local seminars, book groups, and workshops, with far-reaching subjects, that are ever-present in this town with a very active local community.
You can easily see all of downtown Todos Santos in one day. However, if you wish to really enjoy the relaxing ambiance, the wonderful food, a more rewarding shopping experience, and the friendly locals, you should really plan to stay a few days, minimum. After a first visit, Todos Santos will surely stay in your mind.
To many Baja travelers, Todos Santo represents the perfect getaway, not too glitzy – unless you want to seek out the few high-end spa-type hotels. Todos Santos represents what, pretty much, all of Baja used to be like. Todos Santos is a laid-back community that still places a great deal of importance on siesta hour. Many of the local residents are still in tune with the basic cultural values, leftover from the sugarcane days, which isn’t a bad thing compared to what is going on in the rest of the world.
Todos Santos is a pleasant drive from either La Paz or Los Cabos. New four-lane highways, from the north and south, have turned what was once a rather hazardous drive into pleasant motoring for those with their own car or a rental car.