One of the many reasons why I enjoyed my first sailing experience with Crystal Cruises was thanks to the emphasis they place on the destinations. After all, we travel to see and experience new places and meet new people, and that was of primary importance throughout my voyage. Every day brought new sights and adventures, but one in particular was especially memorable – a day spent in Todos Santos, Mexico.
Before leaving home, I booked the Todos Santos Crystal Adventures Shore Excursion for our day at the port city of La Paz. Although I’d never been there, and still would like to see La Paz, the promise of the Bohemian oasis town in the desert was too irresistible for me to ignore. It’s an easy 1-hour drive from La Paz and for me the journey itself through the rough and tumble terrain of Baja California was certainly an important part of the day; a great way to better understand this unique part of Mexico. Almost as soon as we arrived into this colorful town though, I began to understand its unusual appeal among those in the know.
Settled as a mission town in the 1720s, Todos Santos developed like so many other small communities in Mexico, gradually secularizing and evolving into a town in its own right. Honestly, Todos Santos has a fairly quiet history, enjoying economic success in the 19th century as a sugarcane capital and supporting several mills in the area. In the 1950s though the town’s freshwater spring dried up, and with it the sugar industry. Although the spring came back to life 30 years later, the town had already nearly died. Luckily for Todos Santos a new industry developed that would eventually lead to even greater fame and fortune, tourism.
For a quiet little village in the middle of the Mexican desert, Todos Santos has a strangely large number of devoted fans. Walking around the old historic core, the vibrant colors of the buildings and the incredibly temperate wintertime weather all left me completely entranced. Turns out I’m not alone, Todos Santos has been quietly gaining a lot of attention by curious tourists and even the Mexican government named it a Pueblo Magico, one of just 100 or so communities around Mexico recognized for its natural beauty, cultural richness and history.
Part of this newfound attention is thanks to the inherent charm of the town itself. Many of the old-style buildings have been preserved, adding pops of color and colonial design where one least expects to find it. That could be what has also attracted so many artists and designers. The town’s streets are dotted with small mom and pop shops selling handmade items, as well as high-end art galleries showcasing the best talent from local artists. The vibe is decidedly Bohemian, laid back and certainly creative. It also has a beach vibe that’s hard to ignore, thanks to the popular surf destination just a few miles away. The breaks here are so legendary that surfers flock to this part of Baja California from around the world, many of whom hang out in Todos Santos for a few months, further contributing to that easy-going attitude the city enjoys.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the major draws for tourists, especially day-trippers like myself, the Hotel California. There’s a lot of folklore associated with this boutique hotel in the middle of town, and for years locals swore that it was the inspiration for that oh so famous song by the Eagles. Band members deny it, sort of, and there’s been a lot of dispute over the years, but it’s honestly more fun to just assume that it really is the same hotel mentioned in the song and to enjoy spending time there. We opted for a quick lunch in the hotel’s bar-restaurant, a tasty spread of local delicacies that showcased the cuisine for which Baja is so very well known.
Leaving that afternoon I couldn’t help but feel privileged. It’s not often that I find such remarkable places as Todos Santos and, in all honesty, I would never have had that opportunity had I need been cruising along the Mexican Riviera. That’s one of many reasons why I like to take cruises from time to time, for the chance encounters with special destinations that I would never had otherwise discovered.