So You’re Taking A Day Trip To Todos Santos

These are some don’t miss places

Pastries. Leave where ever you are early enough to get here by 9 a.m. Yes there are several bakeries/coffee shops/panaderias that will have delicious pastries all day but if fresh out of the oven French style pastry dough makes you salivate there is nothing better than the warm apple turnovers, cinnamon rolls and muffins awaiting you in a humble, plastic display case at the Todos Santos Cafe. Said pastries are usually devoured by devout locals by 9 a.m. If you’ve been outmaneuvered and are left empty handed simply walk one block west. The offerings from Taller 17—coffee shop recently started by rising culinary star Julyanna Ortega are equally delicious. (Check her Instagram for behind the scenes snaps of her training sessions with Javier Plasecnia in Valle de Guadalupe last Summer. Her cinnamon rolls are nearly guilt-free sized and softly sweet. Her blueberry scones, red velvet cupcakes and peanut butter cookie ice cream sandwiches aren’t bad either.

Finally if all those options fail, you might hit the Jazzmango bakery pastry case on the right day when their slightly more Mexican pastries are fresh. (These aren’t always same-day fresh though, which accounts for my ranking them 3rd.) By now you should have grabbed one of the free town maps available at each of these fine eateries.

Drive to the Pemex. Locate the road on the opposite side of the Pemex from the OXXO with an ATV mechanic across the target road from the Pemex. Follow this road past Pura Vida/El Molino Park which will be on your right. Then make a left in front of the baseball stadium. Go one block and make a right. Bear left to follow this road about one more block until you come to the JW’s outpost on your right. If you need to burn off some calories and have comfortable shoes, leave your car here and hoof your way to the La Posa Trail. (Otherwise you can drive most of the way.) Follow the signs on the electricity posts for “Posada La Poza” a hotel/restaurant that in three years of living here I’ve never seen open. But their directional signs are supremely useful when trying to find the Posa trail. If you follow the trail to the end you will have seen a bit of the local neighborhood, some fantastic architecture, and finally a fresh water lake buffered from the sea only by the beach and a gorgeous little trail up the side of the mesa jutting out into the sea before you. Warning: this will give you fantasies of moving to Todos Santos.

 If high-end is your thing, skip #2 and head right to the pool at Hotel San Cristobal. Reserve you day pass ahead of time as they are limited. They cost $50 plus tax and do not include tax. Rooms start at $300 a night.

If you didn’t find Benito Ortega’s gallery on your run to the TS Cafe for morning pastries, go back. There are some galleries you can’t miss even if you aren’t into art because they explain Todos Santos. Benito’s is the most. A walk by the church at this point isn’t a bad idea. The view of the ocean from behind the new gigantic Todos Santos sign may also induce visions of a U-Haul and a new visa in your passport. Then saunter your way directly past the Hotel California and please avoid the Instagram post with Eagles lyrics because literally millions of people have done this before you. Directly past HC and towards the ocean is Jill Logan’s Gallery. Enjoy this landmark gallery with varied works by one of the pioneers of the Todos Santos artist’s colony. If you’re lucky you may even find this ethereal angel working in her adjoining open air studio. Finally Michael’s gallery across Calle Topete from Plaza Antigua is my new favorite after falling for how he painted the T in the aforementioned Todos Santos sign. (Each letter was decorated by a local artist).

Head towards the pot holes and seemingly endless palm trees on Calle Topete’s west of town side. Follow this road through our lovely little Huerta (orchard) dotted with organic produce stands which occasionally have divine fresh sourdough loafs. Arrive at a stop sign (while this sign is visible and posted, most townies take it as only a suggestion—consider yourself warned.) Make a left, pass the mural wall, then make another quick left to park in front of La Esquina/Cuatro Vientos. Esquina is endlessly Instagram able, equal parts Mexican and Gringo, and shows your Parts Unknown skills. La Esquina boasts excellent coffee drinks both hot and cold, smoothies, green juices and tortilla soup you may never forget. Also, sweet potato fries. Marlin lettuce wraps, huevos and chiliquiles that will basically sign your new lease in TS. Just be aware that it’s illegal to sell marlin.

(A word about whichever dining establishment you choose. The service will be slower than you are comfortable with. Slow food service is a chance to relax, which is why you took a vacation. It’s not a personal insult or even disrespectful. It is evidence of the love and care taken with your meal preparation. Respecting the process of food preparation and time spent anticipating and enjoying a shared meal are as patriotic in Mexico as turkey and apple pie on Thanksgiving in the United States of America but every day and for every meal. Also, let’s be real, slow service is in fact a privilege 95% of the world will never get to experience, so yes, you still tip.)

Finally let’s talk about sunsets. If you are at this point exhausted by unfamiliar routes, just head back to town, park before Calle Topete ends, and walk up the three floors to the roof top of the Guaycura Hotel. Sunset makes me think drinks which reminds me you may have questions about water and ice. A limonada mineral is lime juice, sugar, and mineral water. Ask for no sugar (sin azucar) if are unfamiliar with the amount of sugar in a North Carolina sweet tea or if you are diabetic.

If you’ve found one of the free maps in town, I recommend the El Mirador via the dirt roads, not the highway. Dirt roads are your best bet for Baja street cred, unless of course you have a minimal tolerance for adventure, then the paved road will serve you better. (Note I’ve come to equate any paved road with highway. Be aware when finding your way that what looks like a path or a trail to you is likely to be called a road both on maps and colloquially in this desert context.

So, El Mirador means the view in Spanish, and it is a heck of a view from there. You are way, way high on the bluff, the place is a huge palapa out in the middle of nowhere, and the entire experience is amazing.

Be careful driving back to Cabo at night because there is the occasional cow or even a donkey. Nobody wants to kill Eeyore on vacation. I’ve seen both a donkey and horse as roadkill and it’s emotionally unsettling for folks who like me didn’t equate beef with Bossie the cow until much too late in life. If you stay overnight you will get a better impression of the realty of small town Baja life. It’s easy to think on a perfect day trip that we live in the perfect place. And we do live in a beautiful, kind-hearted place. But on an overnight, you’ll get more chances to eat (Briquetta! Pacifica Fish Market! Poblanos! Heirbabuena! Tres Galline!) and you’ll have a good chance of experiencing bad wi-fi, having the AC or power go out, or encountering a toilet that can’t handle your wet wipes in a bathroom stall with no hook for your purse. These small, seemingly annoying quirks of developing world travel are the medicine only travel can offer up. They are the vital ingredients for an alternate perspective. Somehow when you’ve witnessed all the varieties of life available just one hour outside of Cabo, the next time your boss jockeys for power at your expense it's a million times less impactful and perhaps even comical. If dirt roads, shaky Wi-Fi, and slow service aren’t for you, maybe don’t venture further afoot into Baja. But if relief is what you seek, or maybe it’s a new thought you’re after, risk the flat tire, the broken AC, and an inconsequential disagreement with your travel companions. It’s good medicine.