Access + Resources
GETTING THERE: Avis, Budget, Hertz, and National rent cars at the Los Cabos airport. Buses run daily from both San José del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.
WHERE TO STAY: In town, the Todos Santos Inn (doubles, $95; 011-52-612-145-0040, www.todossantosinn.com) is a remodeled 19th-century hacienda with tropical gardens. At Pescadero Surf Camp (011-52-612-130-3032, www.pescaderosurf.com), seven miles south, stay in a poolside cabaña ($30 for the first person, $5 each additional person). On site is the area's most reliable surf shop (board rentals, $12 per day).
WHERE TO EAT: Café Todos Santos for coffee and great pastries, and Carnitas Barajas for classic street-stand fish tacos.
MY NINE-FOOT BEAR surfboard picked up speed as I dropped down the face, alone on a perfect Pacific wave at Los Cerritos Beach in Baja California Sur. The tube held for a tantalizing second, then it sectioned, crushing me into the water and breaking my leash. I found the Bear, washed up on the beach, with a nasty gash in its nose. I then did what so many before me had done when overwhelmed by Baja's wild side: I sought refuge in Todos Santos.
Nestled on the coast along the western watershed of the Sierra de la Laguna, Todos Santos has for centuries been an outlet for escapistsJesuit missionaries fleeing angry locals, the wealthy elite of La Paz seeking release from the blistering heat and humidity on the Gulf side. In Todos Santos, a crowd is two people you don't recognize, although the town now boasts Internet cafés, two surf shops, art galleries, and an English-language bookstore. Locals still use landmarks, not numbers, to give directions down dirt streets. Sea turtles lay their eggs on the beaches, gray whales cruise the shore, and a fishermen's cooperative sells its daily catch on the sand that fronts the town. It's that Baja.
Surfers have long been drawn by the half-dozen reliable breakslike Los Cerritos, La Pastora, and San Pedritothat begin a couple of miles north of town and extend south toward Cabo San Lucas. Now, as then, one-lane dirt tracks that angle off Mexico 19 and wind through palo verde, cacti, and mesquite spit you out on the beach. Large-scale development, however, never took hold in Todos Santos, and expat artists and writers began dribbling down newly paved Mexico 19 in the mid-eighties, attracted by the cheap hacienda rentals, the climate, the solitude, and the viewssunsets over the Pacific that radiate sky-wide; thick, briny mists that obscure the towering Sierra de la Laguna to the east; and deserted beaches stretching into the distance.
The 21st century has arrived in Todos Santosbarely. You can check your e-mail if you must, but it's still best to leave your watch at home.