By: Shilo Urban
There are two kinds of tourists: those who go to Cabo San Lucas and those who go to Todos Santos, Mexico. The Cabo tourists favor the beaten path, while those who venture to Todos Santos get off the grid. The Cabo tourists don’t mind cruise ships packing the harbor and monstrous resort hotels overlooking crowded beaches packed with sunbathers. Todos Santos tourists, on the other hand, escape the crowds and break free of all-inclusive resorts. They swap souvenir shops and nightclubs for art galleries, innovative eateries and handcrafted hotels. In fact, they don’t even consider themselves tourists. Instead, they are explorers. And Todos Santos was made for exploring.
On the Southern Baja peninsula, wedged between the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range to the east, this oasis of palm and fruit trees is just a 45-minute drive north of Cabo San Lucas along Highway 19. A once-prosperous sugar town in the late 19th century, Todos Santos is now a tiny haven for expats, artists, surfers and travelers looking to forgo the crowds for their own private slice of Baja where the landscape, the culture and even the beaches are all unspoiled.
Amid growing popularity, Todos Santos still maintains its historic charm while generating a rich, artistic allure. More than a dozen sophisticated art galleries featuring drawings, paintings, sculptures, stained glass and photography from local and regional artists surround the central cathedral plaza, offering travelers a unique gallery walk through the town’s peaceful colonial streets. Each February, the weeklong Todos Santos Art Festival embraces live music, dance and theatrical performances as well as craftsmen from all around Mexico.
Eating well in Todos Santos is a requirement for travelers, and eating organic is just part of the culture. Simply put, this is a foodie town. Whether it’s produce from the many local organic farms or the daily catch straight from the sea, the food here is unmatched anywhere in Baja. Local favorites include the region’s best fish tacos, al pastor, sushi and sashimi served all over town. And because Todos Santos restaurants are all owner-operated, don’t be surprised if the proprietor stops by the table to say hello.
In addition to great food and art, a trip to Todos Santos is packed with adventure, including lively festivals, miles of hiking in the Sierras and the Pacific bluffs, and remote beaches that are never crowded. Witness the gray and humpback whale migration from shore, or head out to fish for Dorado, red snapper and wahoo. Take a day trip up to the city of La Paz, kayak the Sea of Cortez or head down to Los Cerritos beach for surf lessons. With so much to do here, it’s clear that a brief jaunt up from Cabo won’t suffice. So unpack your suitcase and stay a few nights.
Amid fruit trees yielding mangoes, dragon fruit and pineapple, the whitewashed adobe walls of La Bohemia Baja Hotel Pequeño, just off the main street in downtown Todos Santos, offer travelers a stunning and unique base camp for the whole experience. The property abounds in authentic, century-old Mexican architecture topped off by a lush tropical garden, a relaxing outdoor pool and a scattering of hammocks and sun loungers. Each of the eight beautifully decorated guestrooms includes artistic touches like custom headboards, hand-painted bathroom tiles, Mexican sinks and local organic toiletries.
Well acquainted with the traveler spirit, La Bohemia Baja’s owners Erin and Andrew Wheelwright set out on a lengthy tour of South America in 2011. It was during their travels that an appreciation for the locals’ perspective on a region began to shape their idea of what a hotel should be. It’s this philosophy they bring to La Bohemia Baja’s guests, beginning the moment they arrive.
Upon check-in, it’s clear that Erin, a Fort Worth native, and her husband are in the business of not just renting rooms but lending guests the whole town of Todos Santos. La Bohemia Baja guests are made to feel like locals with a thorough understanding of the town’s layout, as well as the hidden gems that other travelers might miss. On-site hosts are always available to help plan excursions, suggest the best restaurants or remind guests of an upcoming yoga class or Mezcal-tasting on the hotel patio.
Another crucial part of the Wheelwright’s travel philosophy is the importance of a restful night’s sleep to restore the soul and energize the adventurer’s spirit. They impart this belief to their guests by way of top-of-the-line cool gel memory foam mattresses, luxury bed linens from Pillow Bar and down comforters from which to dream of the next day’s adventures. And at La Bohemia Baja, the next day always includes a hot artisanal breakfast complete with fresh coffee, homemade bread, and a local flare for freshness served on the palapa-shaded patio.
But as enticing as it is to lounge around La Bohemia Baja all day, the traveler that visits Todos Santos understands that adventure and exploration are at the heart of any great getaway. Luckily, Erin and Andrew subscribe to the same philosophy. That’s why they offer their guests an extensive menu of exciting tours, including swimming with whale sharks, snorkeling with sea lions, spearfishing excursions, horseback rides along the beach and scenic glamping trips.
So before booking a room at that overstuffed Cabo hotel where you’ll have to fight for a tiny plot on a congested beach, only to return home with an overpriced t-shirt and bad tan lines, consider traveling off the beaten path to a place with tastier margaritas, quieter nights and better adventure. Travel to Todos Santos and spend a week at La Bohemia Baja Hotel Pequeño, and learn what it means to travel like a local.
By: Shilo Urban