Todos Santos: Eclectic Artist Colony & Baja Fishing Village

When I was 19 years old, I crossed the border into Tijuana, Baja California for the first time on a surf trip. Young and Invincible but aware of the dangers, we were 4 surfers looking for good waves. At the time, I was living in San Diego studying for my undergraduate degree in anthropology while learning to surf. After a couple of weekend northern Baja trips, we decided to drive the entire length (732 miles) of the peninsula in search of waves.

Baja is a desert like no other desert I have visited. Some areas are so desolate that a crow's wings can be heard flying high above. Only tall Cardón cacti and maybe some scrub brush are visible but the encompassing night sky and silence are incredible. We felt like the only people on an alien planet.

 This is one of 3 photographs left from that epic trip in 1995.

When we reached the area of Todos Santos in southern Baja, we sped right by the sign post. A minute or two later an unmarked vehicle pulled along side us into the oncoming traffic lane hailing us down. We pulled over and the Mexican Police informed us that we ran a stop sign. Truth, we were unable to safely stop at our racing speed; so, we were exhorted for some pesos on the side of the road.

When I returned to Todos Santos in 2016, I was amazed to see the vibrant coastal community that has sprouted; art galleries, boutique hotels, funky shops, live music, international cuisine alongside taco stands and markets with local organic fruits, vegetables, and fresh fish from the Pacific Ocean. No longer a sign post, Todos Santos is a dynamic and festive coastal town spread across the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains only an hour drive from nearby crowded Cabo San Lucas. 

Colonial Streets of Todos Santos

The art galleries are filled with local desert landscapes, contemporary art and stylishly quirky paintings and sculptures made from skulls, bones, driftwood, fishing boat parts and other interesting reused items.

The history of Southern Baja is the familiar Spanish imperialistic tale of conquer and destroy. However, due to the harsh environment and hostile natives, it took nearly 150 years of repeated attempts to colonize. In 1532, after the destruction of the Aztec Empire, Hernan Cortés sent an expedition to explore Baja California. Thereafter, many expedition teams including Cortés himself tried to establish settlements in present-day La Paz, Loreto, and Cabo San Lucas but inhospitable conditions and the hostility of the indigenous people prevented any lasting colony. Even King Felipe II of Spain ordered Baja California to be colonized in 1569 and each attempt met with aggressive native tribes.

Not until 1697, when Jesuit missionaries arrived and established 16 missions did settlement finally occur. It is believed that previous contact with the Spanish killed many natives due to European illnesses, thus, weakening the resistance against colonization.

The mission in Todos Santos was established 1724. Although the mission still stands in town, most of the original building was destroyed during the rebellions of enslaved natives forced to farm the arable soil for sugar cane. Due to the abundant water sources of an underground aquifer and the seasonal arroyos from the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains, Todos Santos hosts an ideal environment for agriculture and unrivaled living conditions in all of Baja. 

Sierra de la Laguna Mountains, Cody and I hiked to the peaks behind the clouds.

Looking back to the Pacific Ocean along the hike to the peak and standing on the Tropic of Cancer.


During our visit, we surfed, hiked, camped by a mountain stream, attended dinner with a local rancher's family, played Lotería with the grandchildren, leisurely drank crafted cocktails poolside or at the beach and in the evenings we wandered the colonial streets enjoying authentic Baja cuisine and live local music. 

When the surf is good, photography is the last thing we are thinking about.


Touring the gardens of Rancho Pescadero, a 5-star resort that crafts cocktails and their exceptional restaurant menu from extensive gardens.

Todos Santos has been designated a 'Pueblo Mágico' or 'Magical Village' by the Mexican Tourist Board for its historical and cultural relevance as well as it's beautiful surroundings. It is the only town in the Baja Peninsula to receive the award. The locals are some of the most friendly and welcoming people I have ever met in all my travels. Visit the enchanting and sophisticated old-world town of Todos Santos for a true Baja experience.

 *The Botanical Journey is now partnered with Stay22 to provide you with easy access to lodging information at the best prices available for Hotels and Airbnb. The following map is interactive for the Todos Santos, Baja California Sur. We receive a small commission for booked reservations. Thank you for your support.


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