A few years back, I spent New Year's Eve with friends in Los Cabos, Mexico, on the southern Baja peninsula. While it was a lovely gathering and a relaxing beach holiday, I wasn't so taken with the area's touristy development. Sure, there's something nice about sitting on the beach and drinking cocktails by the pool all day but after a brief taster of that, I usually want to move on and see something "real".
This time, it was Todos Santos, a magical little town about 45 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, a place that a Los Angeles-based friend of mine had raved about. What I heard was - artsy vibe, laid-back energy and great surfing waves. And all was true.
Todos Santos is where the desert meets the Sierra Laguna mountain range meets the Pacific Ocean. Arriving to town felt like entering a time warp. Founded by missionaries in the 18th century and known later for its sugar mills with booming cane production, the town remains a dusty outpost of unpaved roads, adobe haciendas, pristine white-sand beaches and thriving tropical orchards.
It may be the supposedly special energy that has drawn artists from all over the world to this pretty little town. After all, Todos Santos does straddle the Tropic of Cancer. Maybe that explains the creative spark in the air? You won't find chain restaurants, all-inclusive resorts, or glitzy shops. Everything is one-off, earthy and real.
Accommodations range from stylish old haciendas (Todos Santos Inn) to funky bohemian hideaways (Hotel California) and beachside tropical enclaves (Posada La Poza). As for food, you can find anything from terrific taco stands, where you can fill up for a song, to gourmet restaurants that serve locally-grown organic food. One such find was La Coronela Restaurant at Hotel California, with a great garden and delicious meals. El Gusto! at Posada La Poza also gets great reviews.
Outside town extends a maze of dirt roads leading through lush palm tree groves and orchards of mangos, papayas and avocados. At one end stretch miles of unspoiled beaches, backed by the desert beyond. You can spend days exploring the surroundings on foot, horseback, bicycle or - in a kayak.
One of the things I loved the most about Todos Santos was the profusion of art galleries. Admittedly, I am quite picky about my art so I wasn't all that impressed with most of the work on display. I did, however, have a great encounter with a local art celebrity, an eccentric artist called Gabo. Somebody told us to look for the man in his studio on the edge of town but with a warning - we may be either sent away brusquely or engaged in a lively conversation, depending on his mood.
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