One of my best friends messaged me over the holidays with a flight deal to Los Cabos, Mexico, within the hour, I had booked the two week trip. My only other past experience in Mexico was a week in Cancun years ago, which was a resort experience which include lots of poolside lounging and parties at places like Señor Frogs. This time, I was hoping to do something a little bit more off the beaten path. Luckily my friend was that kind of traveller, no all-inclusive resort trip here. Here I’m going to share the three spots I visited and loved, San Jose del Cabo, Todos Santos and La Paz.
SAN JOSE DEL CABO The New York Times recently named San Jose del Cabo as one of the “52 Places to Go in 2015“. When you fly into the Los Cabo airport, you’re actually in San Jose del Cabo. There’s a strip of big resorts here (and they’re building a lot more), but you also get a small town feel (a colonial style charm) when you are in the downtown core.
Where to Stay… Drift I first heard of Drift in Travel + Leisure, and then saw it mentioned in the above New York Times article. After creeping on their Instagram thread – I was positive I wanted to stay at this 8-room concept hotel. Every little detail was on point. The rooms are minimal yet modern. There’s a communal kitchen where you can make fresh OJ every morning, store your groceries and cook if you wish. A mini-super on the honour system if you really need a beer, bottle of wine or late night chips. Oh – and the wifi is super fast (which isn’t always the case in Mexico). You can also borrow beach towels, snorkel gear and beach umbrellas for day trips. There’s a small rooftop with lounge chairs, I spent one morning doing yoga overlooking the city. The staff are super friendly and Stu, the owner is a native of Vancouver.
Where to Eat… Lolita’s After consulting a few travellers, Lolita’s sounded like a must-do. Head to the back for a super cute outdoor courtyard with mango trees. The menu is pretty extensive, breakfast, salads, sandwiches. After much pondering, I decided on the baked eggs with tomatoes and refried beans with whole wheat bread. Delish. My friend ordered the grilled vegetable sandwich, on fresh homemade crusty bread with grilled eggplants, zucchini drizzled with olive oil.
Mariscos El Chino… Cheap eats are needed when traveling and balancing a budget. Open during the day till 5pm, this little café served a variety of tacos – fish, shrimp and smoked marlin. An order of ceviche (it was huge) and a fish and shrimp taco (fried with all the fixin’s) will cost you around $10 all in.
Flora Farm… The owners of Flora Farm come from Sonoma. Sitting on ten acres of land, it’s a sprawling farm with a beautiful restaurant (the farm started in the 90’s, but the restaurant opened under fives years ago). You can book a tour to wander the grounds. They host event likes outdoors movies and weddings – Adam Levine married Behati Prislo here last year. There are meat dishes on the menu, but the vegetables are really the star. I pretty much spent the whole night raving after each bite of green bean, bulb onion, and kale. My order started with a watermelon mojito, followed by the burrata with housemade tapenade and bread and the pork trotter ravioli. And I obviously nibbled on my friend’s plate of seasonal salad and ricotta gnocchi. There’s also a small market at the restaurant where you can pick-up fresh produce, and homemade goodies like granola, pickled vegetables and moonshine!
Where to Play… Santa Maria Beach You’ll likely visit multiple beaches (I swear I must’ve visited 12 or so in the two weeks), but you’ll want to check out Santa Maria Beach (about a 15 minute drive from downtown San Jose del Cabo). Bring your own snorkel gear, cause it’s a quick swim to find the fishes. Since the hurricane, a lot of the signage has gone missing, so I suggest a quick Google Map at your hotel before your leave, so you have a good idea of where you’re going. It’s a quiet beach – great spot to get some snorkelling in (sans tour) and enjoy a book (minus the loud beaches of say Cabo San Lucas).
Art Walk… Earlier in the week, the evenings were rather quiet on the streets of San Jose del Cabo. Until we discovered the Art Walk – a weekly event on Thursdays from 5-9pm where the galleries open their doors and invite guests to discover the local artists and enjoy a glass or two of wine or tequila of course. San Jose del Cabo is a hub for artists.
TODOS SANTOS This is the place you head if you’re looking to relax and recharge. You’ll definitely still notice the tourists, but it’s much less commercialized and you won’t find big resorts here. There’s only ONE traffic light in the whole town. This was my favourite spot during the trip – I was lookin’ for a super chill spot where I could relax and recharge.
Where to Stay… I do love discovering a good AirBNB, especially when it looks better in person than in pictures. I stayed about 5 minutes from the downtown core, at a charming casita in the area called San Sebastian (with the sweetest AirBNB hosts). A consideration was also Hotel Casa Tota, which is super central downtown with an sweet looking pool. Todos Santos is also a hub for yoga retreats, these villa suites at Pachamama look super serene – good if you’re really looking to disconnect, cause they’re located further out from the downtown core. You may want to consider a 4×4 car if you’re driving in Todos Santos, there’s a lot of unpaved rocky roads.
Where to Play… Cerritos Beach, El Pescadero This is the beach you want to go if you’re looking to surf – it’s about a 15 minute highway drive from Todos Santos in an area called El Pescadero. I took a two-hour lesson (it’ll go for around $50 USD – feel free to bargain) where an instructor took me into the water as I tried my best to catch wave after wave. Despite more than a few wipe outs, I managed to get up onto the board! For those not seeking the surf, a masseuse table was set-up on the beach and I caught myself an half an hour deep tissue massage. Life can be rough sometimes. Hotel Guaycura You’ll want to watch the sunset every single night in Todos Santos. Just. So. Beautiful. Head to the rooftop of the Hotel Guaycura for a margarita and perfect sunset view.
Where to Eat… La Casita Looks can be deceiving. On the outside, this little resto may not receive a second look, especially with a sign that reads “Steak, Wine & Tapas, Sushi”? The menu is indeed eclectic, Mexican favourites, along with steaks and pastas and yes, sushi. It was a favourite of my AirBNB hosts. I opted for a rib eye steak with a coffee and herb rub. It was solid. I didn’t have any sushi, but peeked the table next to us – it looked legit.
Hierbabuena, El Pescadero… This restaurant was top rated on Trip Advisor. After a morning of surfing at Cerritos Beach, I drove up a dirt road to find Hierbabuena. Walking up the pathway to the open-air restaurant, you’ll find rows and rows of gardens – it was the first time I’ve seen a pomegranate tree. You’ll find on the menu, juices, salads, soups, pizzas and pastas – it all tasted super fresh. You can also purchase some of the fresh vegetables they grow here, I spied a tiny stand with bunches of kale, beets, carrots and green onions.
Baja Beans, El Pescadero… Hunting down the best coffee in a city is very important for me. A friend recommended Baja Beans, located in a little nook off the highway, the coffee shop itself is small but there’s a lot of outdoor seating. A good spot if you’re tired of the beach and want to spend a few hours reading or just chilling. I sipped a nice strong Americano and picked-up a bag of beans as a gift for my Dad. There’s also a yoga spot right next door if you’re looking for a session.
La Esquina…Fresh tasty juices, a serious breakfast menu and super fast Wifi. This was the spot for me to catch-up on my emails and enjoy a lazy morning. Omelettes, breakfast sandwiches, banana flax pancakes and green juices.
LA PAZ La Paz is the capital city of Baja California Sur, so you can expect it to be busier than San Jose del Cabo and Todos Santos, although still rather quiet in the evenings.
Where to Stay… One Hotel Located about six blocks from the Malecon (the main waterfront), the One is your traditional North American hotel. New, modern, affordable (scored a deal for about $70 CAD on Bookings.com), centrally located, super fast WiFi, free American breakfast and a beautiful rooftop pool – where I enjoyed a quiet morning swim.
Where to Play Swimming with the Whale Sharks… Whale sharks are the largest known fish species. Book a tour (through your hotel or you’ll find a tour on the Malecon), for around $30 CAD, you can get on a two hour tour with a wetsuit included. Averaging around 25 feet, the whale sharks can be found swimming the waters of La Paz from October to February. Once spotted, you swim over in your snorkel gear to see the sheer size of these fish! It’s quite magnificent seeing a whale shark close-up – and I did have a moment of “are you sure you don’t eat humans?”
Balandra Beach… This beach is located about a 30-minute drive from downtown La Paz. I rented a kayak and felt like I was in a scene from National Geographic. Hundreds of pelicans and doves were flying and diving into the water in sequence. Taking a look at the aqua blue water and you’ll see hundreds and hundreds of tiny fish. The water was pretty shallow (knee high), so you can walk out quite far, but watch out for stingrays. The water is also really calm, so it’s a good place for standup paddle boarding.
Tamal Gallery… The gallery itself is closed (boo), but the graffiti art remains. Head down to Zaragoza street to see the brightly coloured art line the streets.
Where to Eat… El Bismarksito Located on the Malecon, the large restaurant is a spot for some serious seafood like chocolate clams (a Baja delicacy) and lobster.
Esperanzas Yakiniku Ramen in La Paz? I needed a break from all the fish, seafood and tacos. I stumbled upon this place my first night in La Paz. Met the owner, she’s originally from Japan and relocated to La Paz (where her husband, who also works at the restaurant is from) – they met in the US. The bowl of ramen was cozy and filling, with a slice of pork belly and egg. You’ll also find standard Japanese fare like gyozas and gyu-dons. I did also venture out to Cabo San Lucas, but only stayed for one night. It’s a spot you may venture to if you’re looking for an all-inclusive type vacay, but trust me, you may want to go off the beaten path and venture out to San Jose del Cabo, Todos Santos and La Paz for a more authentic experience.