No Wrong Turns: Skip Cabo and Head to Todos Santos for a Unique Baja Experience

About an hour north of the cruise ships, the huge gleaming hotels and the Cabo San Lucas party crowd lies the small town of Todos Santos. If you are looking for a place to relax and unwind, minus the deafening party beats found in Cabo, this little town is it. It offers everything from amazing surf breaks and great restaurants to a lively social scene made up of Mexicans, ex-pats, old school hippies and those who just came and never left. Todos Santos offers a much different “Baja” experience than Cabo.

Tom and I ended up stumbling onto Todos Santos accidentally. Fueled by the need to start the work project we brought with us, we released a flurry of emails to many vacation rentals places in the Baja area. We knew that we didn’t want to live in Cabo San Lucas but realized the benefits of being near a larger city. Considering most of the replies came from Todos Santos we figured it would be a great place to start looking.

Todos Santos was founded in 1723 and, in the late 19th century, it was a wealthy sugar town – you can still see remnants of the old mills in the area. Recently, the town has been dubbed a “Pueblo Magico” (Magic Town) by the Mexican Tourism Secretariat. This decree is given to certain towns “that are of particular historic or religious value.” With this new title the town receives support from the government to help to promote the cultural uniqueness of the town as well as to show those who visit that Mexico is more than just sand and sun.

About twenty years ago a few dedicated surfers ended up stopping here in search of waves. They discovered many great surf breaks and, in their own way, they brought tourists to Todos Santos. After the surf crowd put this village on the map, artists started to flock in from all over…looking for a quiet place to focus, work and create. I heard through the town’s grapevine that one of the founding artists here just turned 86.

Today this small town (the population is around 4400 – most of the locals are related) attracts a mix of those looking to escape the more regimented Western world, Cabo San Lucas day-trippers, tour groups, backpackers, yoga gurus, organic farmers, art lovers and those looking to invest in property.

In the last three months, Todos Santos has acquired a new, large road putting its paved road total to three. Due to all the traffic between Todos Santos and Cabo San Lucas this new road was built to provide an alternate route for the semi-trucks. With this new road they won’t need to drive straight through town anymore. As a visitor to the area it is not hard to see that the face of this Mexican town is changing quickly, much to the distress of many locals, so if you want to experience a more relaxed version of the Baja you might want to take a trip down here sooner rather than later before its fully gentrified.

Todos Santos does not have an airport which means you’ll have to negotiate a land route into town. Cabo San Lucas and La Paz both have regular buses arriving here all the time and tickets cost around $15 one way. Alternatively you can rent a car in either town and drive in yourself. Be warned that the highway from Cabo to Todos Santos is very dangerous and be wary of police officers looking to stop you for any minor traffic infraction in hopes of scaring you into paying a hefty bribe. Follow the rules of the road and stick to the speed limit….you’ll be fine.

Coming up next post I’ll let you know where to stay and where to enjoy amazing food in this vibrant pueblo.

“No Wrong Turns”
chronicles Kelsey and her husband’s road trip — in real time — from Canada to the southern tip of South America in their trusty red VW Golf named Marlin.