On the southernmost point of the Baja California coast lies Los Cabos. Here, you’ll find the sixth busiest airport in Mexico, the famed el arco rock formation, the birthplace of Casamigos tequila (and George Clooney and Rande Gerber’s vacation compound with the same name), and plenty of spring breakers taking advantage of the weather, nightlife, and all-inclusive deals. For some travelers, it’s the epitome of a tropical getaway. Those looking for true escapism and relaxation without the crowds, however, will need to go a little further up the coast. More specifically, 50 miles further, where they’ll find themselves in Todos Santos — a destination known for its history, culinary contributions, and small-town feel.
The road from the Los Cabos International Airport is direct yet far from monotonous; expect unparalleled views of the Sierra Laguna mountains flanked by cacti in every direction. In about an hour, depending on your average speed, you’ll enter the rich cultural haven of Todos Santos. Todos Santos may only have 4 percent of the population of the neighboring city hub (roughly 7,000 residents), but it’s one of those vibrant places where travelers can easily become overwhelmed. The town’s unique position between the sea, desert, and mountains means it’s ripe with activities — swimming, surfing, hiking, bird watching, fishing — and dishes made from local ingredients you’ll dream about long after your trip has come to an end. How do travelers ever choose what to add to their itineraries?
For that, an expert guide comes in handy. Here, we turn to chef Javier Plascencia, ambassador of the Baja coast and owner of several restaurants in the region, including Todos Santos’ Jazamango. Chef Plascencia, like the town of Todos Santos itself, has a bit of a magical aura around him… that “X factor” you just can’t replicate. When he walks into a room, he’s as charismatic as he is impressive, as friendly as he is intimidating. And his knowledge of both the Mexican food world and the region of Todos Santos is exquisite (he was nominated for a James Beard Award in 2016 and has opened seven restaurants in the last 12 years).
For Plascencia, Todos Santos, in particular, has everything. “You can find extraordinary culinary moments, surrounded by the deep blue ocean, incredible views of the desert, tropical palm trees, and picturesque, colorful streets,” the all-star chef told Travel + Leisure. Those “culinary moments” include Plascencia’s newest brainchild, the Todos Santos & Pescadero Culinary Experiences, a food festival that took place in June 2021 and will return in 2022. Over the course of four days, Plascencia and his team hosted Mexico’s most well-regarded chefs, mixologists, and food critics for farm-to-table meals and demonstrations with the top talent. Through custom itineraries, the chef and his team were able to share the “unforgettable farms, beaches, and people” of the region.
This is exactly why he’s the perfect resource for those looking for an expert to weigh in on a perfect day in Todos Santos. Below, see chef Javier Plascencia’s recommendations for where to say and what to see, eat, and drink in Todos Santos, Mexico.
Where to Stay in Todos Santos
For Plascencia, all of the hotels in Todos Santos “offer a unique charm and service experience,” but just a couple made his list when planning out accommodations for 2021’s Todos Santos & Pescadero Culinary Experiences.
Hotel San Cristóbal
Situated directly to the right of a local fisherman’s landing and down a long dirt road, Hotel San Cristóbal mixes the culture of the region with the ultimate escapism. Directly behind the property, you’ll find steep trails to explore before the daily temperatures push you toward the pool. If you’re able to grab one of the chairs on the western side of the hotel, don’t give it up; the views of the waves, mixed with the descending position of the sun, will transfix any traveler.
Paradero Todos Santos
It’s all about the Todos Santos landscape at Paradero. It’s similar in size to Hotel San Cristóbal, but, sitting about 20 minutes away from the beach, it offers a completely different escape. While the former hotel is studded with bright colors, Paradero’s color palette is more muted. Think hammocks, floor pillows from Oaxaca, and outdoor tubs where you can soak in the peaceful nature of both the property and the area of Todos Santos itself.
What to See in Todos Santos
If you’re looking for an activity to work up a sweat, Plascencia directs visitors to Punta Lobos: “The hiking is amazing, with views that are absolutely to die for.” When you’re done, grab a bathing suit and towel and head to the beach. “I always enjoy surfing and spending time at one of the beaches in Todos Santos,” he says. As for which beaches to explore, Playa Pescadero, La Pastora, or Playa Los Cerritos are among favorites for locals. When you’ve had enough of the sand, head to the center of town. “Downtown Todos Santos has plenty of small stores offering handcrafted treasures from local Mexican artisans,” explains Plascencia.
Where to Eat and Drink in Todos Santos
If you’re looking for food outside of what your accommodations offer, Plascencia has a lineup of recommendations. For breakfast, head to Taller 17. “The pastry chef and the coffee are incredible. Order the banana biscuit or the salty bread.” Those in the mood to drive a bit further — about five miles outside of the town — will be rewarded with delicious, filling breakfast tacos. Carnitas Machin is a local darling; their homemade corn tortillas are worth the short drive from the center of Todos Santos.
Now for lunch. Options are varied, but there’s no better place than chef Plascencia’s farm-to-table restaurant, Jazamango. His professional recommendations? “I like to offer different kinds of options in our menu and get creative. Try the Baja oysters, one of my favorites, the wood-grilled chocolate clams, or the succulent grilled bone marrow.”
You can’t go to Todos Santos without enjoying one of the phenomenal sunsets, cold cocktail in hand. “La Copa Bar is a great place with an incredible story; you’ll truly feel the essence of a cantina as you sip the mixologist’s latest mezcal creation.”
Your third and final meal of the day should be, according to Chef Plascencia, “Dūm or Ristorante Tre Galline, hands down. Both offer a little something different, but still showcase what makes the Todos Santos food culture so unforgettable.”