Day Trip: Todos Santos

Driving two hours up the western coastline of the Baja peninsula on Highway 19 from Montage Los Cabos, fields of saguaro cacti give way to stretches of pristine beaches and the cobblestone streets of Todos Santos, one of 111 small Mexican towns honored by the government as a Pueblo Mágico—culturally or historically significant towns that transport travelers to a magical realm of refurbished haciendas, colonial churches, local cuisine, surrealist gardens, artisan craft shops, art galleries and mountaintop sanctuaries. Here you’ll find some of the country’s best surf breaks, yoga retreats, chef-owned farm-to-table restaurants and shopping.

For an insider’s advice on off-the-beaten-path gems to not miss during a visit here, Montage Magazine turned to curator of cool and Todos Santos local Linda Knight Hamilton, the owner of Nomad Chic, a boutique with a line of apparel, jewelry, furniture and accessories from around the globe, inspired by Hamilton’s nomadic lifestyle as a traveler, entrepreneur, philanthropist and designer of goods bearing the Nomad Chic label. Here, she shares her favorite way to spend a day in the town The New York Times named in 2016 as one of its top 52 travel destinations in the world.

Linda Knight Hamilton, owner of Nomad Chic boutique (Photo courtesy of Nomad Chic)

Just two hours from Montage Los Cabos, Hamilton suggests starting your day in El Pescadero on the way to Cerritos Beach, where a couple of blocks off of the highway in an old field of mango trees you can grab coffee and baked goods at Baja Beans Cafe. Open daily, the cafe serves Mexican-grown coffee and has become a meeting place for the local community. Each Sunday during the high season, the cafe hosts a weekly farmers market where local artisans, farmers and craftsmen sell fresh produce, jewelry, paintings, locally made clothing and much more.

Because Todos Santos is a culinary mecca for foodies, work up an appetite surfing at Cerritos Beach, where a gentle sandy bottom and more challenging rocky breaks are perfect for all levels. Rent boards and wetsuits or try a lesson at Mario Surf School, located on the north end of the beach. Hamilton recommends eating at Barracuda Cantina, the beach bar and taco truck serving farm-to-glass cocktails, cold beer, tacos and ceviche. “Go see Danny Sanchez at his new restaurant—he’s everyone’s favorite,” she says. “He was the mixologist at Rancho Pescadero and he’s taken his amazing cocktail skills and combined them with delicious food from his Baja roots. It’s a total win-win.”

Danny Sanchez mixing cocktails at Barracuda Cantina (Photo courtesy of Barracuda Cantina)

Closer to town, Playa Punta Lobos, marked by the ruins of an old stone wall cannery and a lighthouse, is a scenic beach and point named after the colony of sea lions that live there. Local fisherman launch their pangas from this beach and return with fresh fish around 3 p.m., so this is not a great beach for swimming because of all the fishing vessels. Better is the privately-owned Playa Las Palmas, located just south of town. Gates are open to the public until 6 p.m. and beachgoers can enjoy groves of palm trees and a calm lagoon protected on both sides by rock formations.

Playa Punta Lobos, marked by the ruins of an old stone wall cannery and fishing boats, is a scenic beach and point. (Photo by Hturner/shutterstock.com)

If you’re antsy to get into historic downtown Todos Santos, save your meal at Barracuda Cantina for the way back to Montage and enjoy lunch at Cafe Santa Fe, considered one of the best Italian restaurants in North America (the owner is from Milan). Housed in a restored adobe from the 1850s with long tables and black-and-pink tiled floors, the building, Hamilton says, “is stunning and the restaurant put Todos Santos on the map. Rumor has it that this might be their last year open, so go while you can and savor every minute (and bite).” December is also an excellent time to visit, as you’ll be able to see whales migrating south on the nearby shoreline.

The bar at Hierbabuena (Photo courtesy of Hierbabuena)

After lunch, shoppers can spend the entire afternoon exploring the shops of Todos Santos, where everything from handwoven textiles to bohemian caftans to leather and silver jewelry made by local designers line the cobblestone streets. Visitors can stop by the iconic Hotel California, whose Emporia Gallery and Store is full of trinkets, garments and what it refers to as “extravagant curiosities from around the world.”

Todos Santos’ real treasures are in the local artisan shops. El Tecolote Bookstore, probably the best bookstore in the Los Cabos area, offers a trove of Latin American literature, poetry, children’s books and beautiful coffee table books about Baja. Then walk over to Mixtica, a quirky flea market-like boutique filled with one-of-a-kind handwoven textiles, antique jewelry, vintage clothing and more and ask for the owner, Euva, a petite Oaxacan woman who will probably be decked out in one of the shop’s finds. Another unique gallery is Joyería Brilanti, a showcase for the jewelry and design works of famed Taxco silversmith Ana Brilanti. Here you’ll also find other contemporary jewelry artists such as Ana’s son and the store’s proprietor, José, stone carvings and bronzes from local artists, as well as silver tea services and other functional pieces.

And then there is Nomad Chic, Hamilton’s boho-style boutique full of textiles, caftans, kimonos, home accessories, footwear and jewelry that provides shoppers with the opportunity to discover global designers while giving back to charitable causes internationally. “We believe designers deserve the opportunity to expand their businesses and simultaneously support philanthropic causes within their own local communities,” Hamilton says. “Fashion has the power to link global communities and we aim to co-create a significant impact in the world.”

Chumash skull cashmere poncho from Nomad Chic (Photo courtesy Nomad Chic)

Before dinner, Hamilton suggests stopping by Jardín Alquimia, a bar specializing in signature cocktails, tapas and pizzas cooked in a wood oven, all inside a beautiful hidden garden. “It’s the perfect place for an evening cocktail. It just opened in April and is a definite hot spot in town and the outdoor space is vibe-y and gorgeous. The passion of the staff and owners shows up in every detail, and in every sip of their very special drinks.”

A signature cocktail from Jardín Alquimia (Photo courtesy of Jardin Alquimia)

If the sun hasn’t set, on the road back to Montage Los Cabos, turn toward San Pedrito Beach, where you’ll find Hierbabuena, a charming veg-centric restaurant located within an organic farm whose menu changes depending on the harvest. Sit in the open-air garden and try the catch of the day, or quinoa stuffed chile relleno and chia seed pudding with a craft cocktail featuring fresh homegrown fruit and herbs. Or make a reservation at Jazzamango, a culinary experience created by renowned Mexican chef Javier Plascencia, with a mixture of local products and organic ingredients straight from the orchard. Try the wood-fired pizza or pressed pig with vegetables. The charming nature of both of these restaurants, surrounded by the natural landscape and their own farms, prove why this town is one of the magic ones.

Aguachile de chile guero from Jazamango (Photo courtesy of Jazamango)

By Justine Amodeo

Feature image: Cerritos Beach (Photo by Hturner/shutterstock.com)