Beach scenery and a small-town vibe make Todos Santos a calming Mexico getaway

A volunteer releases a hatchling sea turtle on the beach in Todos Santos, Mexico.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Todos Santos, a small town on Baja’s Pacific coast about 50 miles north of Los Cabos, is the destination for people who don’t plan to haul in marlin or get rowdy in Cabo San Lucas or San José del Cabo. Many hotels, restaurants and shops have opened in recent years, so it’s not as quiet as it once was. But it’s calmer than Los Cabos and has plenty of good food, greenery, beach scenery and more than a few American expats. On a three-night stay in October I ate well; browsed several art galleries; and watched hatchling sea turtles creep into the sea. I also savored big views from Los Colibris Casitas, the hillside lodging where I stayed two nights. The tab: about $645 for a round-trip flight to Los Cabos and rental car; about $180 for one night at the Todos Santos Inn; $270 for two nights at Los Colibris Casitas; and $250 for meals.

The pool at Los Colibris Casitas in Todos Santos overlooks the sea.
The pool at Los Colibris Casitas in Todos Santos overlooks the sea.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

You might bounce a bit on the mile of unpaved road leading to Los Colibris Casitas, but the payoff is spectacular: a verdant hillside property with ocean views, a handsome pool, attentive hosts, a menagerie of resident cats and dogs, and six guest units with kitchens. If you’d rather sleep in the center of town (as I did the first night), the brick-walled Todos Santos Inn is a pleasant, atmospheric choice.

Diners have a panoramic view from El Mirador restaurant in Todos Santos, Mexico.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

I tried two of the town’s biggest splurges, beginning with Jazamango, operated by popular Baja chef Javier Plascencia. My dinner there was good, but I was happier at El Mirador, a towering, oceanfront palapa where my arrachera (skirt steak) was much zestier than you might expect from a view-dominated restaurant. The couple two tables over got engaged while I sipped my beer and the palms rustled in the breeze.

In fall and winter, volunteers release hatchling sea turtles often on a beach in Todos Santos, Mexico.
(Christopher Reynolds/Los Angeles Times)

Three species of embattled sea turtles lay eggs on the area’s beaches. In fall and winter, the charity Grupo Tortuguero collects and incubates eggs. Most evenings at sunset from early December through late February, volunteer leader Enedino Castillo, his son Dario, and their comrades set free hatchling sea turtles and invite visitors to watch and perhaps contribute to the cause. Most of the turtles will die young, Dario Castillo told me, but the hardiest will live decades (nobody is sure exactly how long) and grow to 100 pounds. The hatchling releases happen at Las Playitas, the beach at the foot of Camino Internacional.

Il Giardino restaurant, Todos Santos, Mexico.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

There’s no substitute for local cash. On my last night, I tried dinner at Il Giardino atop a hill at the edge of town. My meal (prosciutto pizza) was tremendous, but neither the menu nor my waitress warned me that Il Giardino accepts no credit cards. When the bill came, I was 40 pesos (about $2) short and had to beg the waitress to accept a few dollars. Though most tourist-oriented businesses in and around Todos Santos accept plastic (and some take dollars), it’s risky to assume. Next time I’ll ask before ordering and keep more pesos in my pocket.

Los Colibris Casitas, 88 Calle Guaycura, Colonia La Poza, Todos Santos; (619) 446-6827; Eleven rooms $115-$265 nightly. Four rooms wheelchair accessible.

Todos Santos Inn, 33 Avenida Legaspy, Todos Santos; 011-52-612-145-0040; From $145 a night. Four rooms are wheelchair accessible.

Jazamango, Calle Naranjos, Plaza Principal, Fraccionamiento La Huerta, Tres Santos; 011-52-612-688-1501, Wheelchair accessible.

El Mirador, 1 Camino al Mirador Restaurant, Todos Santos; 011-52 612-175-0800, Wheelchair accessible.

Il Giardino, Calle del Huerto, Todos Santos; (011) 52 612-145-0237; Pizzas and pastas, $9-$13; main dishes $13-$20. Limited wheelchair accessibility.

Grupo Tortuguero, The group’s Facebook page has more information, including directions to its hatchling release site.