Get to know Todos Santos
Just south of the Tropic of Cancer and only one hour from Cabo San Lucas or La Paz, Todos Santos is nestled above a large palm grove on the Pacific coast of Baja California Sur. This colonial town has historic homes, fine art galleries, boutique hotels, bed and breakfast inns, unique vacation rentals and many dining options—from tasty tacos to haute cuisine.
Long known as a cultural, artistic and agricultural center, the town is a desert oasis, one kilometer from the Pacific Ocean at the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna mountains.There are many beautiful beaches within a 30 minute drive of Todos Santos. Playa San Pedro Las Palmas and Playa Los Cerritos are great beaches for swimming and shell collecting, and Playa Los Cerritos attracts surfers from around the world.The town has a friendly, bohemian feel, with lively cafes, contemporary art galleries, and a full calendar of local festivals and events.
Todos Santos History
After the mission period at Santa Rosa de las Palmas, for most of the 19th century, Todos Santos thrived as the Baja sugarcane capital, which is still evident by the ruins of sugar mills. Now the rich farmlands have been re-worked and the town prospers from an abundance of vegetable and chili farming; avocado, papaya and mango orchards,; as well as fishing and ranching.
The Mexican government designated Todos Santos a Pueblo Magico, (Magical Town), in 2006, to preserve its rich history and small-town charm as it grows as a tourist destination.
Places of interest
Todos Santos has relatively few must-see sights, but these historic and natural venues are worth a visit.
Historic District: Rows of colorful, colonial facades line the narrow cobblestone streets of the Todos Santos Historic District. Working galleries, boutique shops, and sidewalk cafes delight visitors and locals alike.
Mission Santa Rosa de las Palmas: The mission Nuestra Señora del Pilar de La Paz was founded by Padre Jaime Bravo in 1723. It is located across the street to the southwest from the small town plaza. This mission contains the statue of the Virgin of Pilar, which is the focus of Todos Santos main festival in October.
Cultural Centre – Centro Cultural Nestor Agundez: Located two blocks up Benito Juarez from the Hotel California, the center has a historical library, gallery, ongoing cultural activities, workshops and a museum of local history and anthropology. This large brick building was a former elementary school and contains faded murals from the mid-twentieth century. View artifacts from the indigenous people through the colonial and revolutionary times. La Coronela (the lady colonel) was a local revolutionary hero whose aged portrait appears here. A bar and hotel restaurant are named after her. Art demonstrations and exhibitions are held here during the annual art festival.
La Poza: A freshwater lagoon just steps away from the Pacific makes a great place for birdwatching and hiking.
Plan the perfect trip
By Sergio and Bryan Jáuregui of Todos Santos Eco Adventures
Many visitors come to Todos Santos for just one day, from a home base in Cabo San Lucas or La Paz. You can easily spend three days taking in the art and food scenes, along with an activity or two. Travelers with a full week or more can get immersed in the local scene, explore more remote beaches, and add an excursion to the Gulf Coast or the interior of the southern Baja peninsula.
The One-Day Conundrum
If you have only one day for Todos Santos – and you have to get back to Cabo or La Paz that night, how do you make that day perfect, for you? Todos Santos Eco Adventures recommends a variety of one-day options to suit many different types of travelers. The company will happily plan a guided day for your group, or you can explore on your own and choose the stops as you go.
Day Trip 1: City ‘N Surf
Start your day with a historical town tour to discover the fascinating stories of the global forces and colorful personalities that shaped Todos Santos’ rich and varied history. (Did you know that the Hotel California was founded by a Chinese guy?) Take in several artists’ galleries along the way, meeting the artists who live in and draw their inspiration from Todos Santos. Then enjoy a tasty lunch in one of Todos Santos’ charming restaurants and cafes, several of which feature beautiful gardens and lovely courtyards. All of them serve up terrific food created by a growing coterie of chefs – the town’s other artists, who are also inspired by the bounty that surrounds them.
After digesting with a stroll through some of the creative and fun shops and galleries in the historic district, head out to the beach for a surfing lesson and see why Todos Santos is considered one of the top surfing destinations on the Cape. No experience? No worries! Todos Santos has the experienced instructors, and they guarantee that you’ll ride the waves – at least for a moment – during that first hour of instruction.
Day Trip 2: Hike ‘N History
Take three to four hours to treat yourself to one of the most spectacular walks in Baja, hiking along the cliffs connecting the two beaches of Punta Lobos and San Pedro de las Palmas. Enjoy the breathtaking views of dramatic rocky outcroppings and crashing surf, and be sure to look for whales during several months of the year. The walk goes past an active sea lion colony, encompasses a terrific variety of flora and fauna, and features fascinating local history at the ruins of Todos Santos’ old shipping port, Los Algodones. Take your reward of a picnic lunch at the beautiful, palm-ringed beach of San Pedro de las Palmas where you can eat, relax, and enjoy the bliss of being in Baja. If you can tear yourself away from the beach, head into Todos Santos for the historical town tour, or just stroll around taking in the many wonderful artists galleries, shops, and cafes that make Todos Santos such a delight.
Day Trip 3: Water Wonders
Start the day exploring a beautiful canyon that features the incredible sight of three falls spilling their waters into the thirsty desert sand. It’s an easy walk and a wonderful introduction to the stark, natural beauty of Baja. After a picnic lunch at the third waterfall, head to the beach to enjoy a surfing master class and a relaxing afternoon in the sun and sand, or take a horseback ride along some of Todos Santos’ 70 miles of pristine, undeveloped beach. This is a wonderful day for active outdoor-oriented visitors who love being near the water.
If you are planning to stay overnight, find a boutique inn in the Historic District, or an ocean view vacation rental on the north side of town, called El Otro Lado. Take a surf lesson on Day 1 and then relax at the beach for the rest of the day. Browse the art galleries, El Tecolote bookstore, and other gift shops on Day 2. And explore El Pescadero or plan a day hike or nature walk for Day 3. Here is another idea for a three-day escape with Todos Santos Eco Adventures:
- Day One: Historical town tour and visits to artists’ galleries in the morning and surfing/stand up paddle boarding lessons or horseback riding in the afternoon. Mexican cooking class in the evening.
- Day Two: Swimming with the sea lions at Los Islotes, followed by dinner in town afterwards.
- Day Three: Cliff walk and beach picnic in the morning, volunteering as an English-language mentor in the afternoon. Baja wine-pairing dinner in town that evening.
If you are fortunate enough to have a full week in Todos Santos, you might plan a surf safari, yoga retreat, Spanish language course, or backcountry adventure. Volunteer to teach English to local children, help with sea turtle conservation, or try to master the surf breaks up and down the coast. Don’t limit yourself to one activity – you can mix and match each day to take advantage of weather conditions, people you meet, and how your trip evolves. Take side trips to El Triunfo, a silver mining ghost town in the mountains, and the East Cape, near Los Barriles, or head to La Paz for a taste of mainland Mexico.
Todos Santos Eco Adventures has put together the following week-long itinerary that features some of the best of the natural, cultural and culinary delights of the area.
Sunday. Arrive in Todos Santos and settle in.
Monday. Start the day with a yoga class at one of the many venues in town – or invite an instructor to your hotel or vacation rental. Then head out for a hearty breakfast at one of the town’s many charming breakfast cafes, all of which feature great coffee, sinfully enticing baked goods and delicious breakfast entrees. Then when you’re stretched out and revved up, head to Los Cerritos Beach for a surfing or stand up paddle boarding lesson. The smooth, sandy bottom and gentle wave dynamic make Los Cerritos a perfect spot for learning to ride the waves. Afterwards just enjoy the beach, take in some lunch, then mosey back into town to volunteer as a language mentor with the Palapa Society’s Bridge-to-English program. This is an after-school English-language instruction class for the local kids of Todos Santos. No teaching experience required – just your enthusiasm! This evening relax and take in a great meal in one of the many incredible restaurants of Todos Santos.
Tuesday. Head over to the other side of the peninsula for a fantastic bike ride through the mountains and history of Baja. Start the ride in the historic mining town of El Triunfo, once the region’s largest city teeming with gold and silver prospectors. While it is now a sleepy village, the bike ride will take you through the fascinating remnants of the town’s glory days, including a chimney built by Gustave Eiffel, the architect of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Visit the English and Chinese cemeteries, mine ruins, and an incredible museum that houses a collection of rare pianos from around the world – you’ll learn why on your visit! Finish your ride at the Cactus Sanctuary, where you’ll enjoy a wonderful forest of cacti of every description and learn how these intrepid plants survive and prosper in the deserts of Baja. Mountain biking not your thing? Not to worry. All these places can be explored on foot with some vehicular assistance. Return to Todos Santos in the afternoon to relax, and maybe take in a sunset drink at one of the town’s delightful rooftop bars before dinner.
Wednesday. In the morning enjoy one of the many beautiful hikes around the Todos Santos area. Want to gain some altitude? Head into the Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve and hike your way up through the spiny desert forests, then on into lush preserves of oak and pine. This day will be challenging and beautiful, with many endemic plant and bird species.
Prefer more of a leisurely stroll? Check out one of the desert canyon loop walks that feature a vast array of strange and wonderful plant life, accompanied by a curious and delightful variety of mammal, amphibian and bird residents. Feeling like some dramatic scenery, a little bouldering and the opportunity to spot marine mammals like whales and sea lions? Then strike out for the cliff walk, and when you’re done enjoy a picnic lunch on a pristine beach that features a marsh filled with bird life.
Like the sound of all those birds but not the walking? Then enjoy a morning of bird watching instead. Todos Santos’ unique tropical setting between desert and ocean means it has a fantastic range of birds; nearly 138 species have been spotted in the area and most avid birders add to their lifetime lists in Todos Santos.
In the afternoon head to the beach to see if there is a turtle release or possibly some humpback or gray whales cavorting just offshore. Listen for the flap, flap, flap sound of schools of rays skipping long the ocean. Enjoy a fun dinner at one of the town’s many great killer local joints or taco stands. (From roughly late January through mid-March, whale watching tours are available both in Todos Santos, and as overnight trips from Todos Santos to Magdalena Bay. The whales can be very playful and interactive, making for a thrilling wildlife encounter.)
Thursday. Whales, Sea Lions, Whale Sharks, Dolphins! Head to La Paz today for the incredible fun of snorkeling and playing with the sea lion pups at the permanent sea lion colony of Los Islotes. It’s an incredible life experience. And along the way, don’t be surprised if you see schools of playful dolphins guiding the boat and maybe even whales breaching off the bow. And if you’re really lucky, the largest fish in the world – the whale shark – may be visiting the shallows of the Bay of La Paz during your visit. If they are, you can make a special detour to snorkel alongside these gentle giants. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget. In the evening, celebrate this fantastic day at another one of Todos Santos’ wonderful restaurants.
Friday. Relax! You’re on vacation! Take a yoga class, enjoy a long walk on the beach, have a three-margarita lunch, enjoy an afternoon massage, soak in the rays poolside…. Can’t do that? Then head into the mountains to visit the mountain potters. This is a fantastic opportunity to experience the traditional way of life of the mountain ranchers in Baja. You’ll meet local potters in a true mountain oasis and learn how Baja Californians have carved their homes and livings out the mountains for centuries. There are options for pottery demonstrations, tortilla-making classes and lunch with a ranch family. This evening enjoy a Mexican cooking class with one of the town’s master chefs. Learning to make the perfect margarita is most certainly the first order of business.
Saturday. Been dying to go fishing the whole time? Now’s the time to do it. Unlike Los Cabos and La Paz, the waters of Todos Santos have not been over-fished, and are full of sierra (mackerel), dorado (mahi mahi), tuna, bonito (skipjack), red snapper, squid, cabrilla (bass), amberjack and others. Fish with the captains in the local fishing cooperatives who know all the hot spots.
If you’re not so keen on fishing, then take this morning to tie together all the pieces of your week in Todos Santos with a historical town tour. Discover the town’s rich and varied history, from the early missionaries, through the booming sugar years, through its current incarnation as an artists’ colony, agricultural center and surfing hotspot. Meet many of the local artists in their studios, and perhaps even arrange for a plein aire art class with one. Stroll to the edge of town and check out the town’s famous dulcerias or sweet shops. Then after a terrific lunch in town, head out for a horseback ride on some of the town’s 70 miles of pristine, undeveloped beach. It’s an absolutely beautiful ride and the type of opportunity that’s not available in most parts of the world.
In the late afternoon, enjoy one last, easy walk through the desert down to the ocean, circling back around the lagoon to enjoy the sight of the birds coming down their flight paths to settle into the palms and rushes for the evening. Head up the hill to the astronomer’s house for a glass of champagne and, when it’s dark, settle in for a night of star-gazing, enjoying Aztec and Mayan mythology, as well as the Greco-Roman stories. Finish up your stay in Todos Santos with one last magnificent meal at one of the town’s truly delectable dining establishments.
Sunday. Say Adios but not good-bye, and start planning your next trip to Todos Santos.
Todos Santos FAQs
Where is Todos Santos located in Baja?
Todos Santos is a small town on the Pacific coast in the southern part of the Baja peninsula. The closest major cities are La Paz to the north east and Cabo San Lucas to the south.
What is the weather like in Todos Santos?
Todos Santos is in the tropics and enjoys a warm climate year-round. Temperatures soar in the summer, but the Pacific Ocean tends to moderate the temperatures most other times of the year. In winter, nights can be windy and unexpectedly chilly.
What’s the best way to get there?
Most visitors reach Todos Santos by car from Cabo San Lucas or La Paz, but it is possible to travel by bus from either direction.
What kind of transportation is available once I arrive?
If you do not have your own car or bike, taxi cabs are available in town.
How expensive is it to travel to Todos Santos?
Todos Santos has options for all budgets, from economical rooms to luxury boutique experiences. Groceries are readily available from several markets.
What is the cost of living in Todos Santos?
Expats from the U.S., Canada, and European countries enjoy a higher standard of living for relatively lower cost, but Todos Santos is upscale relative to the rest of Baja.
Where to stay
What kind of accommodations does have?
Most of the lodging in this area is small inns or casitas for rent. There are a few boutique hotels and one larger-scale resort.
Where’s the best place to stay in my price range?
Budget travelers may choose to camp or stay in a simple hotel like the Maria Bonita. Those with more resources
Do I need reservations before I arrive?
Reservations are essential for peak holiday periods; other times of year, you can usually find availability on the spot.
What local foods should I try in Todos Santos?
Whether you order it at a restaurant, but it from the local fishermen, or catch it yourself, be sure to try huachinango (red snapper cooked whole) and cabrilla if it’s in season; also sample the wide variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables, available at several weekly farmers markets, and seek out tacos al pastor.
Where do I buy groceries in Todos Santos?
There are several small markets and “mini-supers” scattered about the town. For a larger-scale supermarket, you’ll need to head to La Paz or Cabo San Lucas.
What kind of restaurants are there in Todos Santos?
Todos Santos has a little of everything–from traditional Mexican fare to Italian, tapas, sushi, curries, seafood, and more. Most are casual affairs, and many offer outdoor dining on the patio or sidewalk.
How do I avoid getting sick?
Drink lots of bottled water, wash all produce in bottled water, and go easy on the spicy foods at first.
Can I drink the water?
Bottled water is recommended throughout Baja.
What to do?
What are the most popular activities in Todos Santos?
Surfing, fishing, shopping, eco-tours, and hiking top the list for most visitors.
When is the best time to do these activities in Todos Santos?
Surf conditions are best (biggest) in winter months. Coastal nature walks are a possibility all year round. Backcountry hiking in the Sierra de la Laguna is great in the fall. Fishing is possible year-round, though the catch varies by season.
Keeping in touch
Will my cell phone work in Todos Santos?
Yes, as long as you have activated it for use in Mexico with your carrier. Be sure to turn off all data activity on your smartphone or tablet to avoid unexpected charges when you get home.
Is there internet access in Todos Santos?
Yes, many businesses now offer Wi-Fi, and a few internet cafes still have computers available for those travelers who do not have their own device.
Is it safe to travel in Todos Santos? Yes, as a small and thriving town, Todos Santos is extremely safe; however, travelers should take common sense precautions anywhere in Baja.
Will my ATM card work at banks in Todos Santos?
Yes, most foreign-issued cards work at the ATMs around town.
Will businesses accept my credit card in Todos Santos?
Some places do accept credit cards, but many take only cash, in MXN or USD.
How do I get Mexican pesos?
You can withdraw MXN with your debit card, or exchange currency at a local bank.
Can I pay in US dollars?
Most places do accept US currency.
Planning for your trip
What should I pack for a trip to Todos Santos?
Beachwear, suncreen, sunhat, surf/fishing gear, hiking shoes, camera