The old church Nuestra Señora del Pilar.

The old church Nuestra Señora del Pilar. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tips + Trends

Los Cabos Side Trips – Exploring the Pueblo Mágico of Todos Santos

What do you call a place that has everything you could possibly want from a travel destination, from rich history and culture to spectacular scenery, bountiful shopping and a thriving culinary scene?

In Mexico, you call it a Pueblo Mágico. Launched by the country’s Secretaría de Turismo in 2001, the Pueblo Mágico program aims to recognize and promote towns that offer visitors a memorably “magical” experience.

Such promotion, however, has never really been needed for the Pueblo Mágico of Todos Santos, which for decades has been a popular day trip excursion for Los Cabos visitors, as well as a destination attraction in its own right.

History & Location

Set between the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range and the Pacific Ocean, Todos Santos is less than one hour by car from Cabo San Lucas, the southernmost town on the Baja California peninsula.

This proximity has helped to fuel its popularity as a day trip destination, with the short journey made even more undemanding by the scenic and lightly traveled Highway 19, which connects the two coastal communities.

Todos Santos, like Cabo San Lucas’ sister city San José del Cabo, has for centuries been a cultural and commercial center of consequence. Jesuits founded the first mission settlement in 1733, but the golden age occurred during the 19th century, when Todos Santos rose to prominence as a major regional sugar producer.

The town’s water wells, source of its lush palm groves and fertile sugarcane fields, dried up in the 1950s. But the town’s fortunes revived in the 1980s, when expatriate artists first fell in love with the picturesque setting and the unique quality of its light. It has been home to a flourishing colony of artists ever since.


Artists aren’t the only group to fall in love with Todos Santos. Surfers, too, have long flocked to its shores, drawn by rippable surf breaks off beaches like Los Cerritos, San Pedrito and La Pastora.

Contemporary Todos Santos’ distinctive style is thus a charming blend of surfer chic and artsy bonhomie, the latter on display in colorful downtown art galleries like Galería Jill Logan, which showcases richly evocative paintings from the talented expatriate artist.

Joyería Brilanti is also worth a visit for art lovers, thanks to a family tradition of silver design started by Ana Brilanti, who began her career in the famed Mexican silver center of Taxco.

Architectural landmarks and attractions in Todos Santos include the old church Nuestra Señora del Pilar, which has moved from the site of the original mission, and now looks over the plaza principal towards the historic Teatro-Cine General Manuel Márquez de León, a magnificently renovated movie theater first constructed in 1944.

The must-visit historic building, however, is Centro Cultural Todosanteño. Housed in one of the many gorgeous brick buildings that are a legacy from Todos Santos’ heyday as a sugar capital, this cultural center also serves as the town’s museum, with vintage photos of notable families, and a superb trio of lobby murals painted during the 1930s.

Eating & Drinking

For a small town with only about 6,000 full-time residents, Todos Santos boasts a surprisingly sophisticated dining scene. Eclectic eateries proliferate throughout the downtown area, offering a range of diverse cuisines.

The Italian themed Café Santa Fe, for example, overlooks the town square and is a long-time favorite of both artists and visitors alike. Also beloved by locals is Los Adobes de Todos Santos, as much for the gorgeously manicured courtyard garden setting as its excellent traditional Mexican fare.

Miguel’s, meanwhile, remains unchallenged when it comes to serving up outstanding chiles rellenos. The New York Times article proclaiming them the best in Baja is now clipped and pinned behind the bar for posterity, but owner Miguel Torres backs up the claim daily with his flavorful lobster, shrimp and cheese stuffed chiles.

Best Times to Visit

Thanks to a temperate tropical climate and year-round sunshine, there is no bad time to visit Todos Santos. But to see the town at its magical best, try to visit during one of its signature annual cultural festivals: Serie de Conciertos Trópico de Cáncer in January; Todos Santos Writers Workshop, Festival del Arte and Open Studios Tour in February; and Festival de Cine in March.

The most iconic event of them all, however, is the Festival del Mango, which each summer salutes the region’s most abundant and succulently delicious fruit.