Picture this: You fly into the Los Cabos airport and then don’t go to one of the many, many luxury resorts in Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo. Instead you lovebirds ride north along the coast. After one and a half cactus-strewn hours, you see it: Todos Santos, a so-called Pueblo Mágico, named for its natural beauty and cultural or historical relevance. This one is beyond charming and carries with it a lively spirit, enthralling design (the architecture cannot be changed thanks to its designation) and sweet, hospitable locals.
There’s the Hotel California, which may or may not be the inspiration for The Eagles’s song. Either way it’s a lovely place for a margarita or michelada (Pacifico beer with clamato juice and a salted rim)—at the colorful bar or outside on the idyllic patio—with a side of live tunes by a local musician. Down the streets of low, sometimes aquamarine-painted buildings dotted with massive and impressive succulents are more reasons to stroll: art galleries, shops like Besame Mucho and Nomad Chic, bougainvillea-lined courtyards, and even a fairly new artisanal brewery.
But as great as the proper town is, some of the best parts of it are on the outskirts.
Rancho Pescadero is the prime example. The adults-only boutique hotel feels as if it were designed for romance, but really the female owner first came to surf, camping on the beach and buying land to build her own place and later adding rooms for friends as word spread. It’s where the area’s first farm-to-table food was served, by a former French Laundry chef, and where 28 villa-like rooms (with candles scattered about, the dreamiest beds ever and endless places to lounge) now draw couples seeking luxury and relaxation on an intimate scale.
When not tucked comfortably in your private space, there are daybeds that seem to float atop the turquoise pool, hammocks in a dreamy palm grove, and palapas on the nearly deserted beach (you’ll likely not see anyone else on the sand unless it’s sunset) in which to hang. There is no excuse not to spend time being pampered in a pair at the spa, especially after a flowy morning yoga class with resident surfing yogi Teddi. (Watch for Rancho Pescadero to amp up the wellness quotient even higher in coming months.)
Activities abound, like surfing in nearby Cerritos—take the scenic drive there, over the hills with an ocean view, for beautiful scenery, vivid bougainvillea and perspective on the coastline. From October to March you may spot whales breeching, too. Mario Surf School can help beginners learn to ride the long, rolling waves out front, which gain in size as the paddle-out grows longer, and rents boards as well, for more experienced surfers. (San Pedrito is a more challenging break also close by.)
By night, bonfires beside beach beds prove the best situation for cuddling in privacy while watching the blazing sunset, while steep crystalline waves crash at the edge of the sand dramatically. If fishing is your or your SO’s thing, the new Hotel San Cristóbal, situated on a popular public fishing beach where families pull right up on the sand with their rigs and rods, might be the place for you. (Rancho Pescadero’s lobby also has fishing poles for guests to take to the beach.) The design-forward new bolthole does allow children aged 12 years and over, but is so chic and perfectly curated you’d never know it.
The opening has invited more comparisons of the area to Tulum, but for now, at least, it’s much, much sleepier—there’s always Los Cabos if you need a party night.
In Todos Santos, so-called “Baja midnight” is about 10 p.m. But that doesn’t mean you can’t sip mezcal or Valle de Guadalupe reds long into the night, and it’s certainly no indication that the town’s dining scene is boring. Try lunch at Hierbabuena, a farm-to-table restaurant down the road from Rancho Pescadero, which has a guest series that, along with a pair of eateries, keeps things lively. The Garden restaurant is, appropriately, encircled by organic gardens (whose produce is used in dishes, naturally) and features an outdoor grill and wood-fired pizza oven, which produce incredible flavors from around the globe and Mexico.
Start with a tiquitita (mezcal, passion fruit and basil) and the mouthwatering queso fundido before moving on to bites of ceviche, tacos, and the freshest of fresh fish that will add to the list of reasons to return to this Eden annually. (They’ll also set up incredibly romantic meals around the property for even more of a seductive vibe.)
Coffee addicts shouldn’t miss Baja Beans, where they brew their own java and make pastries and sandwiches. On high-season Sundays there’s an organic fair with delicious things to nibble, as well as tarot card and angel readers, live music and artisans selling wares. Paleteria la Paloma in town is the stop for creatively conceived ice creams and popsicles—think avocado and basil, or bacon and tequila. And in the nearby Tres Santos development (where shops and a cafe are also worth a browse), a must-have dining experience is had at the new open-air eatery Jazamango, by acclaimed chef Javier Plascencia whose Valle de Guadalupe restaurant Finca Altozano is always a hit.
The decor and dishes are not just photo-worthy—they’ll without a doubt turn up in your dreams, like the whole of Todos Santos.