todos santos baja california sur mexico
Todos Santos A Gentle Sanctuary Brimming With Creative Souls
Article from Los Cabos Magazine - Issue #7 - By: Sabrina Lear - December 15, 2000

Historic Todos Santos is an easy hour’s drive on the scenic Pacific coast highway from Cabo San Lucas. A palm-fringed oasis brimming with creative souls, this gentle sanctuary has captivated many with its peaceful, laid-back flavor. Set back several miles from the Pacific ocean and nestled under the towering Sierra de la Laguna mountains, this small, intimate town boasts chilly, enervating nights in the winter months and cooler weather than Los Cabos for much of the year.

From Cabo San Lucas, Highway 19 swings uphill into town, becoming Degollado for four blocks, then turns right at the only light on Colegio Militar. To explore the "centro historico," follow Degollado a block further, where it terminates at the main street of Calle Benito Juarez. Park in this area and wander the pueblo on foot. To the left, Juarez dead ends. In the other direction, towards the center of town, you’ll stroll up the street, passing an abandoned red brick sugar mill stack, a reminder of the town’s previous life as an affluent sugar-cane growing center.

As you walk, artsy shops will catch your eye, interspersed between modest stores with simple necessities. Fenix features refreshingly different women’s wear, gifts, and accessories. Up the street, Casa Franco specializes in crafts, ceramics and handmade furniture. Next door is Galeria Logan, one of the finest galleries in town, showing the work of painter, Jill Logan.

Continuing northwest a block you’ll find the 1928, 15-room Hotel California, rumored to be that of the famous Eagles song, but it’s only wishful thinking. Tecolote Books, further up Juarez at Hidalgo, is one of only a few bookstores in the Cape Region, and the best by far. It’s chock full of books on Baja subjects as well as fictional works by both Spanish and English speaking authors, magazines and new and used paperbacks. Stop in and pick up a free copy of El Calendario de Todos Santos, a monthly publication with excellent maps, entertaining stories and useful information about the town.

A block further, across the street, is the Centro Cultural Siglo XXI. A converted school, the red brick 21st Century Cultural Center houses the museum, regional art collection, historic photographs and public library. If you’re at all curious about this town founded by Jesuits in the 1730’s and steeped in history, pay a visit. Director Nestor Agundez will proudly show you around, in Spanish of course. Take note of the provocative, Socialist inspired murals, painted by students in 1933.

Across the street are Amerimex Real Estate and Bancrecer bank (with an ATM should you need it). Turn left here and head down Obregon a block. At Centenario, stop at the studio home of artist Charles Stewart and his wife Mary Lou, who arrived from Taos, New México in 1986. For many years Stewart, now in his late-seventies, was the only foreign artist around. Next door is Caffé Todos Santos, a very comfortable respite with a street-side covered patio, indoor seating and a lovely hacienda-style courtyard in the rear. If you’ve dawdled away the morning by now, this is a perfect place for lunch.

Nearby, at Topete, in Caffé Todos Santos’ old location, Manos Mexicanas (Mexican Hands) has crafts and rustic furniture. Across the way in another restored building, Perico Azul (Blue Parrot) has a very appealing collection of comfortable and stylish women’s clothing. Down Topete a block, away from town, at Legaspi, Michael and Pat Cope opened Galeria Todos Santos in mid-1995. The Copes hold regular shows throughout the season for regional artists including Derek Bruckner, Gloria Marie V. and Cope’s own work, among others. An eclectic and inspired collection of representational, contemporary and abstract art, this space is a must for art lovers.

Hyped as an artist colony, Todos Santos does have a number of galleries featuring everything from emerging artists looking to make a name to established, seasoned professionals. Others feature fine work in iron, arts and crafts and three-dimensional decorative forms. In addition to Galeria Todos Santos and Galeria Logan, you’ll want to browse Galeria Santa Fe, Galeria de Fidencio, Galeria N.E. Hayles (out behind the Pemex, call first), Agua y Sol, El Guayabate, Luz de Luna, La Sonrisa and Galeria Orsay. All are featured on the map in El Calendario.

Next door to Galeria Todos Santos, Bostonian Robert Whiting has created the Todos Santos Inn, an intimate, upscale three-room bed and breakfast in a lovingly restored, stately 1880’s building. With a covered terraza overlooking an enchanting garden area, one envies guests their peace and solitude. In the 1930’s, Mexican artist Carlos Zamora painted the entrance murals; a reminder of Todos Santos’ past affluence.

From here, walk back up to Centenario and continue several blocks south to the main plaza. The church towers protectively over the square, like a mother over a small child. While it’s impressive, it’s not the 1730’s original but an adobe reconstruction. The 1944 Teatro Marquez de Leon on the west side of the square is where Chris Isaak recorded part of his television special, "Baja Sessions" a few years back. This area of distinctive architecture, bordered by streets Calle Marquez de Leon, Benito Juarez, Ocampo and Pilar, was recently designated as a historic site by the Mexican Anthropological Institute (INAH). Made of fired red brick with flat parapet roofs, these buildings feature spacious windows and doors, with Andalusian-style molded lintels (horizontal timber or stone over doorways). Many date from the mid to late-1800’s and have been carefully restored to house galleries and shops.

After a day of shopping, you may want to venture to Café Santa Fé for a bite to eat. In late 1990, Paula and Ezio Colombo opened this gastronomic jewel across from the Teatro de Marquéz on the main square. A first-rate, authentic northern Italian restaurant in a beautifully renovated 1850’s heritage building, this bistro-style eatery has an international following, and has received raves from the L.A. Times and Travel and Leisure magazine. Next door, Paula’s Galeria Santa Fé is an original mix of fine local crafts, furniture and original art. Both are closed Tuesday.

Most of the other restaurants in Todos Santos are back near the highway coming from Cabo San Lucas. Moderately priced Restaurant Bar Las Fuentes and Santa Monica, both at the stoplight, serve traditional Mexican fare and seafood. For fish tacos, try economical Pilar’s, across from the park on Colegio Militar. Further up the street is Carlos Amador’s El Pariente, a great place to enjoy good fresh fish and simple cuisine from local sources at budget prices. Shut Up Franks is a popular sports bar and restaurant near the Pemex gas station serving ice-cold cervezas, hamburgers and burritos. This joint is about as rambunctious as Todos Santos gets.

If you’ve been captivated by Todos Santos and you want to stay longer, there’s Las Casitas, a colorfully painted bed and breakfast nestled in a garden setting on Calle Rangel, between Hidalgo and Obregón. Owner and glass artist Wendy Faith also serves a mean breakfast. On the "other side", an area northwest of town towards the Pacific, are several more lovely guest accommodations including Las Puertas and Los Bouganvillea. Both are close to the beach in lush tropical settings. In the south end of town, The Garden Casita is a palapa roofed guesthouse in a quiet neighborhood. Trying to find a room at any of the mentioned hostelries or bed and breakfasts can be difficult during winter months, book ahead if it’s at all possible.

Only an hour away from Cabo San Lucas, the difference in mood is extraordinary. Some may want to believe it’s Todos Santos’ special quality of light, the gentle climate or the proximity to the Tropic of Cancer. Others will swear it’s metaphysical - call it magic if you will.

Article from Los Cabos Magazine - Issue #7 - By: Sabrina Lear - December 15, 2000

Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico - Last Revision - 30 April 2007 - jat