68km (42 miles) N of Cabo San Lucas; 74km (46 miles) SW of La Paz; 1,200km (745 miles) SE of Tijuana.
Todos Santos is an oasis in the true sense of the word -- in this desert landscape, Todos Santos enjoys an almost continuous water supply from the peaks of the Sierra de la Laguna mountains. It's just over an hour's drive up the Pacific coast from Cabo San Lucas and an hour southwest across the desert from La Paz; you'll know you've arrived when the arid coastal scenery suddenly gives way to verdant groves of palms, mangos, avocados, and papayas. But it's also an oasis of culture in an otherwise barren landscape: With dozens of galleries and restaurants, cultural events, and a growing contingent of wealthy, aging counterculture expats on the voter rolls, it's built its identity and staked its future on being Baja's art town -- and it's paying off.
During the Mission Period of Baja, this oasis valley was deemed the only area south and west of La Paz worth settling because it had the only reliable water supply. In 1723, an outpost mission was established, followed by the full-fledged Misión Santa Rosa de Las Palmas in 1733. At the time, the town was known as Santa Rosa de Todos Santos; eventually shortened to its current name, it translates as "All Saints."
Over the next 200 years, the town alternated between prosperity and difficulty. Its most recent boom lasted from the mid-19th century until the 1950s, when the town flourished as a sugar-cane production center and began to develop a strong cultural core. The local history museum, La Casa de La Cultura (no phone), on Avenida Juárez, charts much of the history of Todos Santos and exhibits artwork from local artists, past and present. Many of the buildings now being restored and converted into galleries, studios, shops, and restaurants were built during this era. It wasn't until the 1980s that a paved road connected Todos Santos with La Paz, and road-trip tourism began to draw new attention to this tranquil town.
The last ten years have seen winter surfers squeezed out in favor of a better-paying clientele, and although it would be pushing it to say "Todos" has gone chic, it is an undeniable fact that with more than 20 art galleries, at least that many restaurants, a film festival, and a wine bar, the dusty town has put on some polish. While a number of farms are still in the palm oasis and taco stands sit on Hwy. 19 as it continues south of town, Todos Santos has embraced its official designation as a Mexican "Magical Town" and oriented its future surely toward tourism, albeit of an arty, elite sort. Artists, entrepreneurs, and foreign residents have snapped up many of the town's colonial-style buildings for galleries and restaurants; there are several places that serve sushi, and there seems to be an espresso machine on every corner. High-quality art and jewelry on offer, very good hotels, excellent restaurants, and live music and arts events have now made Todos Santos a destination in its own right. Whether that's a good thing, depends on who you ask.