Todos Santos is just a 1.5 hour drive from popular Los Cabos in Mexico’s Baja California Sur, but it’s small-town, laidback vibe feels a world away. Enjoy a quaint old town, boutique hotels, incredible food, and beautiful beaches in Todos Santos, Mexico.
It’s rare to find a beach side town with near-perfect weather, white sand beaches, amazing food and friendly local residents where the laidback, small-town vibe still remains. No one comes back from Cabo San Lucas or Tulum to tell you how quaint and charming it is; as beautiful as these places can be, massive beachside resorts that lead to more tourists than residents have a way of sucking out the area’s original magic.
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A Quick History of Todos Santos
Todos Santos was established in 1723 when the Jesuits established a Mission in the area. The Jesuits were preaching Christianity and trying to convert the native people that lived in the nearby mountains. The people that settled here took advantage of the area’s fertile soil and began to plant crops, and the area eventually became a major sugar cane producing area. You can still see a few of the five “molinos” or sugar can processing plants that operated in this area for over 100 years.
In the 1950s there was a drought that caused the water table to dry up, which led to the molinos closing. Todos Santos was basically off the grid until 1984, when the road between Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos was paved. Todos Santos became a popular place among artist sand other creatives, drawn to the quiet lifestyle of a traditional Mexican village.
Todos Santos has continued to grow in popularity, but hasn’t hit a major boom yet. In 2006, Todos Santos was designated as a Pueblo Mágico by the Mexican government for its historical relevance, cultural riches and natural beauty.
Todos Santos is only 1.5 hours away from Los Cabos, but it feels like you’ve been transported back to a slower, simpler time. While visitor and residents are still enjoying its under-the-radar vibe, Todos Santos is edging toward the limelight. I wonder how long Todos Santos will remain one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets. While Todos Santos residents don’t want to be the next Cabo or the next Tulum, there are some ongoing battles with developers that may result in a much different landscape in the near future.
How to get to Todos Santos
Todos Santos is located in the southern part of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, on the Pacific Ocean in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains.
Most people fly into Los Cabos airport (SJD), which is about 110 km or 1.5 hours away. La Paz also has an airport that is slightly closer, but you’ll most likely find the best deals into Los Cabos.
We took a direct flight with Southwest from LAX to Los Cabos, and used our Southwest companion pass, a perk of signing up for the Southwest Rapid Rewards credit card. This offer isn’t always available, but it’s definitely worth signing up for the card if you get the companion pass.
From the airport, I highly recommend renting a car. There’s not much public transit around Todos Santos, and a car rental gives you the freedom to take a few day trips around Baja California Sur and explore places off the beaten path. Check RentalCars.com to compare prices of the world’s biggest car rental services, including Hertz, Avis, and Budget.
Hotels in Todos Santos
The hotels are small and full of character in Todos Santos. We’ve got you covered with the list below, from luxury to budget-friendly options.
Hotel San Cristobal – this is a beachfront hotel near Punta Lobos and one of the main reasons Todos Santos has ended up on some high-profile travel destination lists recently. This made-for-Instagram boutique hotel was designed by Bunkhouse hotelier Liz Lambert, with swirling pastel tiles, cactus-lined walkways, and rainbow-striped robes to wear down to the pool. San Cristobal is an adults-only hotel (12 and up), and room rates start around $350. If you don’t book a night here, stop by for a meal at Benno, the hotel restaurant.
The Todos Santos Inn – This hotel occupies a brick-and-adobe hacienda built by a sugar baron back in the 1800s. Walking through the hotels feels like a flashback to the sugar cane boom of Todos Santos, and the wealth garnered by the barons is evident in the fading frescoes and tall wooden-beamed ceilings. The Inn is located near the center of the old town, and room rates start around $200 per night.
Hotelito – This four-suite hotel values peace and privacy – each room is its own standalone home. The bright colors pay homage to local architecture, and the furniture and décor was carefully selected by the owner for each room. Two-night minimum, room rates start around $150 per night.
Hotel Casa Tota – Casa Tota is another hotel near the center of town. Its aesthetic is minimalist and modern, with a roof-top deck and rooms wrapping around a central courtyard with a pool. Room rates start at $130.
Villa Bugambilias – This small hotel is only a few minutes from the center of town, with clean, simple rooms, a pool, and free parking at a great rate. Doubles start around $75 per night. This hotel also has larger apartments that feature a kitchen and living room.
For a longer stay, consider booking an Airbnb with more room and amenities like a fully stocked kitchen. This condo includes a pool and an ocean view, while this modern loft apartment is near the center of town, close to restaurants and coffee shops. If you’re new to Airbnb, use our referral link here for $40 off your first home booking.
Where to Eat in Todos Santos
Hierbabuena – Hierbabuena was the restaurant mentioned most when we were reading up about Todos Santos, so we knew we had to try it out. It did not disappoint! Drive down a dusty dirt road a bit out of town, and you’ll eventually run into this beautiful al fresco restaurant that’s surrounded by their kitchen garden. Hierbabuena has an extensive menu using herbs and vegetables from their own farm. I ordered the enchiladas with red sauce – the sauce tasted so fresh, rich, and flavorful. If it’s cold out, all the chairs are draped with Mexican blankets so you can cozy up.
La Copa Cocina – Stop here for delicious Baja-style fish tacos served with mango salsa. It’s located right behind the Todos Santos Inn.
Café Santa Fe – Though you may not think to go for Italian while in Mexico, Café Santa Fe is one of the town’s oldest establishments, and has long held the reputation for being one of the best restaurants on the whole Baja peninsula. The Italian owner and chef serves up generous portions of handmade pastas, lobster ravioli, pizza, and fish.
Things to do in Todos Santos
1 Go Surfing in Todos Santos
The best surfing around Todos Santos is at Playa Los Cerritos and Playa San Pedrito. Playa Los Cerritos is about 20 minutes south of Todos Santos and has a gentle beach break. You can rent a surfboard and wetsuit from a few vendors along the beach, and some even offer lessons. We were here in May and there were only a few other surfers at the beach.
Playa San Pedrito is nearby, and it’s a mix of sandy beach break plus some rocky parts. There’s also a spot to camp.
2 Hike to the top of Punta Lobos
Turn down the same dirt road that takes you by Hotel San Cristobal, and you’ll get to Punta Lobos. This is the spot where all the local fisherman launch their panga boats, so the corner of the beach can smell pretty strongly of fish. I’ve read that you can hire a guide to take you fishing from here, but we went to Punta Lobos for a short hike.
At the very edge of Punta Lobos is a hill you can climb up for an amazing view. The trail is not marked, narrow and kind of hard to see at first, but we just started climbing up the rocks on the south side of the beach. We found the little trail that goes straight up the hill. You’ll reach a small part that levels out before the trails starts going around the back side of the hill. The trail is still narrow and you’re basically on the edge of a cliff, so I wouldn’t recommend taking small children on this hike (this trip was for our anniversary, so it was just me and Aaron).
We did a little scrambling to get to the very top. The views were absolutely incredible! But beware, there are tons of spider webs up here with huge spiders, so every time I took a step I felt like I was about to walk through a web!
3 Hang by the pool with ocean views at Hotel San Cristobal
Even if you don’t book a night at Hotel San Cristobal, it’s fun to spend some time lounging by their pool or grabbing some brunch at the hotel restaurant, Benno. You can walk the grounds after your meal, but you’re technically not allowed pool access just by dining there. For pool access, you must reserve and purchase a day pass in advance for $75 a day. Hotel San Cristobal is located at Punta Lobos with views right out to the beach.
4 Walk the downtown streets of Todos Santos to see its colonial architecture
Most of Todos Santos’ downtown and cobblestone streets were built in the 1800s during its sugar cane boom. While the insides may have been remodeled, the colorful colonial facades are still intact. You can also tour the Misión Nuestra Señora del Pilar de Todos Santos that was built in 1733.
5 Shop for local treasures
Todos Santos has your typical tourists shops with brightly colored tchotchkes and ornaments, but there’s a few shops with beautiful, high quality goods.
Nomad Chic – Women’s clothing boutique with hats, caftans, swimsuits, dresses, and one-of-a-kind jewlery.
Etnica – Full of beautiful, locally-made clothes for men and women, plus leather goods like purses and boots.
La Katrina Surf Shop – Stop in here if you forgot to pack anything for the beach, or want to rent a surfboard.
La Casa del Opalo – Handcrafted jewelry featuring unique gems.
6 Stop by Hotel California
While you’re walking downtown, don’t miss a stop at hotel California. While the Eagles’ lead singer Don Henley has denied the urban legend that this is where he got inspired to write the hit song Hotel California, it still is such a lovely place. Walk through the arches, up on the rooftop for a view over town, or grab lunch at the restaurant La Coronela.
7 Enjoy a paleta or ice cream cone
A paleta is a Mexican ice pop, and there are a few paleterias and heladerias in town, so you can pick up a treat while you’re wandering the streets. These are the best paleterias and heladerias in Todos Santos:
La Paloma Heladeria y Paleteria – This shop makes their ice cream and paleterias in house. They have over 30 flavors to choose from, including some unique ones like corn, bacon, avocado and rose petals. If you’re not feeling adventurous, they have plenty of traditional flavors that are delicious.
Nevería Rocco – This little ice cream shop has tons of flavors too! We opted for paletas dipped in chocolate and nuts.
Baja Tasty – This place is located right across the street from Hotel California. In addition to paletas and ice cream, they also serve shakes, frappes, and coffee.
8 Release baby sea turtles
It was such a cool experience to released hatchling sea turtles on our trip to Lombok, Indonesia a few years ago, so I always look up other places where you can help these little guys make it to the ocean safely for their first swim. The beaches around Todos Santos are nesting grounds for three different species of sea turtles: Olive Ridleys, Leatherbacks, and Blacks.
Hatching releases take place most evenings at sunset from December through February, and more sporadically during March and April. The turtle releases are run by Tortugueros Las Playitas, a non-profit sea turtle sanctuary. They are free and open to the public. For more information, check out this website here.
9 Watch for Whales in the Winter
Todos Santos is a great spot to see migrating humpback whales and gray whales during the winter. The best time to see gray whales is between January and March. They migrate from Alaska every year to the warm, calm waters of sheltered bays and lagoons along peninsula.
Humpback whales can usually be spotted around Todos Santos from October through January, and then again in April.
10 Take a Yoga Class
Yoga retreats are becoming more popular in Todos Santos, but even if you don’t have time for a multi-day event, you can still drop in for a class at Cuatro Vientos.
11 Day trips from Todos Santos
Cabo San Lucas – If you’ve opted to stay in Todos Santos to avoid the crazier scene in Cabo, it still is worth taking a day trip here. We enjoyed a boat ride out to El Arco, and a sunset sail around the bay. Check out this post.
Balandra Beach – Balandra Beach is an easy pick for the most beautiful beach in Mexico. Its crystal-clear turquoise waters and white sand dunes are set to a desert backdrop of red-hued hills and prickly cardón cactus that dot Baja California, making it feel like a remote, deserted beach even though it’s only 30 minutes from the busy city of La Paz. We opted to stay a few nights in La Paz to explore the area, but it’s only about 1.5 hours from Todos Santos, so totally doable as a day trip. We went SUP boarding through the mangrove forest, then across the shallow bay to a beach that was completely empty. Don’t miss Balandra when you’re visiting Baja California Sur!
Isla Espiritu Santo – Isla Espíritu Santo, often called the Jewel of the Sea of Cortez, is a small, rocky island with over a dozen white sand beaches and crystal clear water. Most boat trips out to the island launch around Playa Plinguiche, which is about 1.5 hours drive from Todos Santos.