About forty-five miles north of Cabo San Lucas is an exquisite get-away, Todos Santos (“All Saints”), a cultural paradise nestled between the Pacific Coast and the Sierra Laguna mountain range.
The original settlement was founded in 1723 as a Spanish mission, which at that time assimilated the population of the La Paz mission as well. In the 1800’s, the village prospered from the cultivation of sugarcane; by 1850, there were eight sugar mills in the area. Sugar production was the main source of income for nearly 100 years, and from the resulting prosperity, the community grew, developing fine colonial-style and elegant ranch-style homes; unfortunately, most of that architecture fell into ruin in the middle of the 20th century, due to a series of droughts that caused massive crop failures. This, coupled with the rapid decline of sugar prices following WWII, caused an economic decline and an exodus of the population to more stable regions of Mexico.
More recently, the rich farmlands have been revived, and the sugarcane production has been substituted by avocado, mango, papaya and poblano chili orchards.
The town’s economy has also benefited by the paving of Mexico Highway 19 from La Paz, resulting in an influx of tourists from there, adding to those numbers already travelling up from Cabo San Lucas. Many artists and craftsmen have found Todos Santos an ideal locale for the development of cultural activities.
Hotels such as Colibris Cositas, Serendipity and Villa Santa Cruz, offer beautiful seaside views, breathtaking sunsets and relaxing boutique environments, plus ocean proximity for surfing and swimming.
Fine hotels, modest hotels, famous and lesser-known restaurants, all are easy to find on the internet or in the tourist guides. However, to fully appreciate the flavor of Todos Santos, it’s best to take the time to wander off the beaten path and explore the galleries and shops on the backstreets of this seaside community. Otherwise, visitors are denying themselves the richness and hospitality offered so generously by the locals.
The main street of town is Calle Juarez, which leads to the Hotel California. Once there, it’s easy to take the side streets to some of the lesser-known delights that abound here. When entering Todos Santos from Cabo, follow Calle Juarez and make a right turn on Calle Jose Morelos y Pavon, one block before reaching the Hotel California that has nothing to do with the Eagles’ song of the same name. It’s a hilly street, offering a roller-coaster ride, finally crossing Calle Cuahtemoc.
At that corner is located the Forrajeres de San Diego, a feed store, featuring neatly-stacked bales of hay, as well as huge bags of grains and feed for livestock. Its specialty, however, is a diverse collection of “rancho pots,” fashioned by local artist Marcos, who uses the unique clay from the nearby mountains to fashion each pot by hand. The pots are usually very large, decorative and very durable, and no two are alike.
Forrajeres de San Diego also offers a fine array of custom-made knives. The blades are forged from local steel and etched with intricate patterns, then bound by handles carved from steer horns, (the resulting handles have a slight resemblance to mother-of-pearl). Each knife is finished presented in a leather sheath, ready to be displayed.
For simpler tastes, sample a variety of local cheeses, as well as the regional chorizo. Chorizo is to Mexicans as hot dogs are to Americans and bratwurst is to Germans. There’s something for everyone here.
To resume the tour of Todos Santos, it is recommended to head back toward Hotel California on Calle Juarez, where a right turn takes the adventurist soul up a hill; at the top of the hill is Calle Hidalgo, and another right turn takes the tourist to LaRosa Galeria, identified by white porcelain vases bearing red roses.
Here, local artist Nicole Matta Santos, originally from Mexico City, crafts superb paintings, simple yet captivating, that feature traditional Mexican themes. Most of her work is rendered on canvas, but she also makes hand-painted prints on garments for children as well as adults. It’s not unusual to find her working in her gallery, which serves as her studio as well.
No visit to any city is complete without exploring the local museum. Again, on Calle Juarez, the Centro de Cultural provides an educational tour of the history, the culture, the ecology and environment of Todos Santos.
Finally, one destination in Todos Santos that isn’t so widely featured in the tourist guides is Bohemia, an aptly-named boutique hotel located on Calle Rangel. It’s one among several hotels that offer a more personal, homey ambience. This particular little gem features eight small rooms, tastefully appointed in the local style. Outdoor dining is available, as well as an intimate swimming pool and its very own waterfall.
Todos Santos is a fine destination for anyone seeking a not-so-jet-set location to relax and commiserate with neighborly people. Time seems to pass in a more casual way here.