At Todos Santos Eco Adventures we run 4-day hiking trips in the mountains of Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve, a little-explored but fantastically beautiful area in Baja California Sur. We asked 6 former guests to share what they found most memorable about the trip. So here, in their own words, is each guest’s description of their Sierra trek:
Photo by Thea Thomas
“A few adventurous friends of mine in Baja had hiked to the Sierra de la Laguna and told me how amazing it was, but it was more wondrous than I imagined. At an elevation of 7,000 feet it is a world of its own, an “Island in the sky” as one friend described it. The forests of oak, pine and madrona are host to unique plants and animals. For me as a birder seeing the Yellow-eyed Junco, Oak Titmouse, Baja morph of the American Robin and Acorn Woodpecker was great fun. Our trip was lead by an incredible guide, Mauricio Durán, from Todos Santos Eco Adventures. His knowledge of the natural history of the area added greatly to our experience.”
Thea Thomas, Cordova, Alaska
Photo by John Valentine
“One of the highlights of the trip was meeting our guide Sergio. He is so knowledgeable about everything, a true renaissance guy. I learned so much about geography, birds and the natural world from him. I often think about that trip. The hike itself to the top was more difficult than I thought it would be but absolutely beautiful. What I couldn’t believe is the diversity of trees. There were parts of it that looked exactly like Colorado. The most exciting point was the freak electrical storm one night. I think we had a few snowflakes and our water bottles had ice in them. I have never seen or heard such an electrical display. I remember the beauty and serenity of the camping area and the hikes we took each day to the peak and waterfalls. The beauty and diversity of this area nestled between the Pacific and the Sea of Cortez—so different from the normal Baja tourist itinerary. People need to see the incredible beauty of Baja beyond the beaches.”
John Valentine, Kansas City, Missouri
“Your effort to get to the top will be well rewarded. Seeing both the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific at the same time was an extraordinary experience!”
Jon Dallman, Seattle, Washington
Photo by John Dallman
“I’m 58 years old, and consider myself in pretty good condition. I ride mountain bikes three times a week. Practice yoga in-between. But no matter how much you do, climbing to El Picacho in Southern Baja’s Sierra de la Laguna Mountain Range is a challenge, and our hike to base camp took about 6 hours. The most welcome sight at the end of our hike up was that picture-perfect camp, completely set up with pitched tents and snacks laid out on the table. I felt as if I was on a photo shoot for one of those Abercrombie and Fitch high-end tours of Africa. We spent the night enjoying delicious al dente pasta, and a choice of excellent wines by the light of a crackling fire. We camped along the shores of an ancient dry lakebed at an elevation of about 6,000 feet. Giant pine and oak trees sighed in the breeze. Vaqueros (cowboys) had carried all of our gear and food up on muleback. The mules, now hobbled, were happily munching the tawny grasses of this high mountain meadow. It was a scene straight out of the old west.”
Mike Brozda, Todos Santos, Mexico
“My greatest memory of the trip was the bells. The cowboys hobbled their horses and mules so they would not leave the meadow and each of the animals had a bell around its neck. The bells created a symphony under the starlit night, and it was spectacular.”
Patty Romanchek, New Buffalo, Michigan
“I went swimming on my birthday in a frigid mountain lake. Everyone was going to join me…but after I took the plunge, they all were still on the rocks
Photo by Craig Ligibel
laughing. That was the coldest birthday swim I have ever had. One of our group was a urologist. He assured me that a certain appendage that had almost disappeared would be sure to return the next day. I’m glad he was right!”
Craig Ligibel, Annapolis, Maryland
“Sergio led us on a 3 hour climb up the face of El Picacho itself, the literal and metaphorical high point of the trip. The trail winds through shady pine forests before emerging into oak-covered scree. We threaded along a razor’s edge portion of the trail, with a sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean on our left, and the Sea of Cortez on the right. We descended about 100 feet–down the distinctive notch you see in El Picacho–before scrambling up
Photo by John Valentine
huge granite boulders to the top. We spent about 90 minutes at the top of the world in Southern Baja, drinking in the view, munching on snacks, and snapping photos. That evening, back at camp, we had a meal of delicious fajitas, rice and beans, fresh hot tortillas with guacamole, fresh vegetables, and toasted our success.”
Mike Brozda, Todos Santos, Mexico
For more information about trekking in the Sierra de la Laguna Biosphere Reserve please visit our web site at www.tosea.net and/or email us at
Nature Lover’s Day One: Desert Triple Waterfall Adventure and Surfing/Stand Up Paddle Boarding
Start off the day with a lovely walk through a desert canyon with Todos Santos Eco Adventures that features the incredible sight of three waterfalls sending their waters down the hill, only to disappear entirely into the thirsty desert sands. The drought that gripped Baja California Sur had stripped the canyon of the falls for the last two years, so it’s a great time to celebrate their return. The water creates a mini-oasis in the canyon, so you can enjoy a great variety of Baja flora and fauna. If you’re game for a ladder climb you can enjoy your picnic lunch at the lovely third waterfall before heading back down to the coast for a surfing or stand up paddle boarding lesson at the incomparable Playa Los Cerritos. What makes Los Cerritos such a great spot for beginners is its smooth, sandy bottom (no coral or rocks to scrape you up if you fall), clean waters, and a wave dynamic that means there are always smaller waves closer to shore for beginners, while more advanced surfers can enjoy the larger waves further out.
After a shower and some relaxation at your hotel, head over to the rooftop bar of the Hotel Guaycura to enjoy a sunset drink while taking in the lovely view over the Todos Santos palm oasis. For a wonderful meal go down the street to the Caffe Todos Santos, and enjoy an after-dinner drink next door at La Copa Wine Bar of the Todos Santos Inn.
Nature Lover’s Day Two: Cliff Walk, Spa and Stars
Maybe limber up this morning with a yoga class, then head for the cliffs to enjoy Todos Santos Eco Adventures’ cliff walk, one of the most spectacular walks you’re likely to encounter in the Baja peninsula. Starting at Punta Lobos, the sweeping Pacific beach where the local fishermen of Todos Santos ply their trade, a quick walk up the hill brings you to breath-taking views of a different kind of coastline, with dramatic rocky outcroppings and crashing surf. Throughout the walk you’ll have the stunning vision of the desert landscape racing its way to the sea, and you’ll encounter a good deal of weird and wonderful flora and fauna along the way. The walk takes you past an active sea lion colony as well as the old shipping port of Los Algodones. During several months of the year you’re likely to spot both humpback and gray whales from this high vantage point. After about 3 hours of walking you’ll arrive at the idyllic beach of San Pedro where a picnic lunch will be waiting for you. San Pedro features a beautiful marsh filled with bird life and a protective cove ringed by towering palms. Here you can eat, relax, sunbathe, swim, read – just enjoy the bliss of being in Baja!
Now at this point of your stay you’ve completed a couple of walks, done some surfing, maybe a little yoga, so chances are it’s time to treat your muscles to a nice luxurious massage, and the perfect place to do that is Los Bules Day Spa. Los Bules is a true Baja institution where Maria and her sisters share their bountiful talent for deep tissue, hot stone and Swedish massage in simple, palapa-style huts, decorated with the incredibly imaginative and fun gourds that Maria’s husband Scott grows and turns into works of art. Maria also has a temezcal, an authentic Aztec sauna that you can take advantage of as well. Now if some in your party don’t want a massage or if you have to wait for your turn never fear, Scott can entertain you for hours in his gourd garden and gourd art gallery, and most visitors find it’s an excellent opportunity to buy some truly unique and fun gifts for family and friends back home. Tel: 612-118-1062
This evening branch out from all the incredible Mexican food you’ve been eating and take in a little something different. Korean-born Suki Lim of Suki’s Restaurant serves up absolutely delicious Korean, Thai and Japanese food in a very charming outdoor garden, while Italian Chef Angelo Dalbon serves up favorites from the old country at Tre Galline, his lovely restaurant on the main street with both indoor and garden dining. You’ll be extremely happy with whichever cuisine you choose. Then head over to our home for an evening of Champagne and Stars. We’ll grab a glass of champagne, get out the telescope, and settle in while Sergio outlines the constellations and tells not only the vivid Greco-Roman stories associated with them, but the Aztec and Mayan ones as well.
Nature Lover’s Day Three: Fishing ‘n Whale Watching in Todos Santos, Horseback Riding
Today it’s time to head out to sea with the local fishermen of Todos Santos but you have a tough choice to make before doing so: do you go fishing for some of the many species that inhabit the waters around Todos Santos including dorado, tuna and sierra? Or do you go whale watching to get up close and personal with the humpback and gray whales that come around town to do a little people watching? That’s a trick question because you can do both when the whales are in town! And no matter whether you focus more on the whales or the fishing, half the fun of the trip will be in the surf launch and landing. With no natural harbor in town, the fishermen of Todos Santos launch their boats directly from the shore, a process that involves being pushed by a pick-up truck from the beach while being pulled by another boat from the sea. And when it’s time to land? The captains circle until they catch the perfect wave, slam the motor into high gear, then race for the beach at top speed. Fishing in Todos Santos is a lot of fun; interacting with the whales is an indescribably thrilling experience; a surf landing on the beach in Todos Santos is more exhilarating than anything they could come up with in the theme parks in California! You can watch the video here.
Whether you choose the fishing or whale watching option, you definitely shouldn’t leave the fishermen’s beach without some fresh fish because this evening you can take it over to Erik Castellanos’ Fonda El Zaguan, a tiny restaurant on the main street of Todos Santos that serves up some of the best seafood in town, and have them cook up it for you on the spot. They’ll include a nice organic salad and some rice in their fee, and of course you can order wine and other accompaniments from the menu. It’s another delightful Todos Santos experience.
This afternoon finish up your vacation with a lovelyhorseback ride along some of Todos Santos seemingly endless miles of pristine, undeveloped beach. If you’re lucky perhaps there will be a turtle release as the sun slips below the horizon, and you can help some of the Olive-Ridley or Leatherback hatchlings make their first foray safely into the sea.
Celebrate all the wonderful things you’ve seen and done with a margarita at the roof-top bar at Hotel Posada La Poza, where you can look out over the freshwater lagoon and its attendant bird life, as well as the ocean. Then head downstairs to one of the most elegant dining venues in Todos Santos, El Gusto! The restaurant features floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides, essentially placing diners in the spectacular gardens that the owners created from scratch a decade ago. Swiss owner Juerg Wiesendanger mans the kitchen with Mexican and German sous chefs, producing a delightful “Swissmex” cuisine that combines the Italian, French and German sensibilities of Swiss cooking, with the ingredients and culinary concepts of Mexico. A very pleasing result for all!
About 50 miles north of Cabo on the Pacific side of the Baja peninsula is a pueblo magico called Todos Santos – All Saints. And truly, the handiwork of all the saints seems to be reflected everywhere in our home town. It’s easy to imagine that St. Anthony (San Antonio), the Patron Saint of the Desert, had his hand in the underground springs that make the town a true desert oasis, thick with palms, lush with lagoons and filled with the birds they attract. St. Francis (San Francisco), Patron Saint of the Environment, seems like a sure bet for the town’s seemingly endless miles of pristine beach – home to 5 of the 7 turtle species found in the world, host to surf breaks that make the town one of the best surfing destinations on the Cape, and favored people watching spot of gray whales on their annual trip to Baja because they can get so close to shore. St. Isidore (San Isidro), Patron Saint of Agriculture, almost certainly got in on the act with the vast orchards of mango trees and fields filled with strawberries, chilies and herbs, while St. Peter (San Pedro), Patron Saint of Fishermen, could easily be the wily soul who ensured no natural harbor in the town to keep the waters from being overfished and therefore full of bounty for the intrepid local fishermen, masters of the surf launch and landing.
But perhaps the saint who most shaped the town with his piece of manna was St. Aaron (San Aron), the Patron Saint of anyone who lives a passionate life. Todos Santos may be a tiny town but it is filled with Mexican and expatriate artists, chefs, musicians, fishermen, photographers, philanthropists, surfers, sculptors, farmers, film-makers, potters, spiritualists, naturalists, adventurers, entrepreneurs, explorers, yogis and more, all pursuing their passions in this paradise that draws, inspires and drives them. The result is one heckuva place to indulge your passions for travel and adventure so grab your St. Christopher (the Patron Saint of Travelers) and head to Todos Santos for (at least) three perfect days.
Now perfection, like beauty, is really in the eye of beholder, so we’ve created 3 sets of 3 perfect days, each of which shows off a particular aspect of the town and the surrounding environment.