First Impressions of Todos Santos

By Faizan Bhat
Feb 17, 2020

“Every explorer names his island Formosa, beautiful. To him it is beautiful because, being first, he has access to it and can see it for what it is. But to no one else is it ever as beautiful— except the rare man who manages to recover it.” – Walker Percy.

When I was in college I read an essay that shaped my perspective on travel for years to come. Buried in a long philosophical exploration by Walker Percy was a simple idea: you cannot discover what you go looking for, you can only find it. To discover a place, you don't have to be first. You just have to show up without expectations.

I carried this idea with me years later when I went traveling. But it was much easier said than done. Try researching a trip and you'll quickly find picture perfect itineraries, literary recommendations and even tailor-made playlists. Try disconnecting and going off the beaten path and you're setting too high a bar.

Todos Santos is different. Nothing you hear prepares you for what to expect. Even the car rental agents at Cabo airport have only a vague idea of where it is or why anyone would go there. The expressway to La Paz gets you there in an hour. Rolling green hills lead into an endless desert alongside the ocean. The few cars that accompany you quickly vanish and leave you wondering whether you are going anywhere at all.

Todos Santos is a Pueblo Mágico, and like a magician, it doesn’t easily reveals its secrets. There’s no vibe to seek out, and no scene to be a part of. There are no beaten paths to avoid. Follow its slow rhythm and it might let you in on a few things. You could leave wondering how a tropical oasis can exist in the desert. You may learn about the culinary secrets of Baja from an Argentinian surfer. You might even lose yourself in the mountains and reluctantly navigate home with a satellite phone. Whatever you experience will be uniquely yours.

Todos Santos is not a destination, it's a small oasis in the expansive wilderness of Baja. You don’t need a city guide, just time to explore. Take a playlist you haven’t heard and be prepared to feel comfortably lost. Find somewhere to be at sunset but don’t try too hard to get there. Flow with the rhythm of Baja and see what it reveals. Do go with someone you love or make friends along the way. Wherever you find your Formosa, it will only be as beautiful as who you discover it with.