If you’re all-too-familiar with chaotic Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, or the allure of Señor Frog’s is not for you, a Todos Santos shore excursion might be the perfect solution.
Read on to find out what our shore excursion from Cabo San Lucas was like and if it was worth the time and expense.
Todos Santos Shore Excursion Review
Cabo San Lucas, where cruise ships dock, is located in Mexico’s state of Baja California Sur. Cabo is a magnet for spring breakers, resort vacationers, and West Coast short breakers.
Millions of tourists fill hotel rooms in Cabo during high season, plus there’s cruise ship passengers on Mexican Riviera itineraries. So if you want to avoid the chaos and throngs of tourists, head over to Todos Santos.
What to Expect on a Todos Santos Shore Excursion
Our tour of Todos Santos was a full-day excursion. We had priority disembarkation early in the morning and a late return to the ship.
This is primarily because the small town of Todos Santos, which means “all saints,” is an hour away from the dock in Cabo.
At $99 per person, the excursion lasted five hours. The tour included two hours of travel time and three hours of a guided walk, lunch, and some free time.
Going from Cabo San Lucas to the Tour Bus
First, there was the cruise ship’s tender boat ride into Cabo San Lucas. We were met at the dock and led to our tour bus.
Our guide, Betty, started our tour as soon as we boarded our coach. She extolled facts about the region in which she was born, raised, and now lives.
Pointing along her forearm, Betty drew a “map” of the long landmass of Baja California Sur. She showed how the area juts into the Pacific Ocean, and marked off La Paz, the state’s capital, and other notable sites.
Once we arrived in Todos Santos, we visited the cultural center, the oldest building in town. It was once used for the military, then elementary school, then reopened by the community.
Our group toured the small museum where we learned that there are no ancient buildings or pyramids in this part of Mexico. Why? Because the indigenous tribes were migratory and never stayed in one place long.
Touring the grounds, we also saw a replica of a local, traditional home. Planted nearby were bushels of aloe, a plant believed to scare away bad spirits in Mexican culture.
Visiting Mexico During Dia de Los Muertos Festival
Our visit in late October was during Mexico’s festive week of celebrating Dia de Los Muertos. On a short walking tour through town, we strolled under colorful flags, papel picado, that lead us to the old Jesuit mission, also known as Pilar de la Paz.
Painted and restored many times since it was founded in 1733, the mission is still luminous and open to the public.
We paused here briefly to learn about the mission’s history, and its relic, an idol of the Virgin Mary once buried in La Paz for safekeeping.
Just around the block is the Hotel California (not that Hotel California, but more on that in a bit). Lunch was served here for our tour group. Included was a sampling of different local dishes, including a burrito, tamale, and of course rice and beans.
Refreshments were included, but not alcohol. After an enjoyable break, it was free time to explore until we boarded the coach to return to the ship.
The town is small, and we felt like the 45 minutes or so was just enough to browse and buy a quick souvenir. There was still time to stop for a sparkling cold brew coffee and a cookie at Taller 17, a local café.
Of course, there’s never enough time to see it all, but you’ll get an idea of the place and its surf-chic atmosphere.
Why is Todos Santos Called “Magic Town?”
Located on the Tropic of Cancer, it’s said that Todos Santos has a magical feeling about it. So much so, it’s been given the designation of “pueblo magico” or magic town.
Todos Santos is one of 36 towns in Mexico highlighted for its natural, cultural, and historical significance.
This small town of about 6,500 residents, feels almost like an artist commune. Galleries line the sandy streets, as well as craftspeople expertly carving wood or working leather.
Tied to Todos Santos, though superficially, is the band The Eagles. Hotel California is in the middle of downtown and has been in one form or another since 1950.
However, the band has confirmed that the name and the hotel’s location on a “dusty desert highway,” is merely a coincidence, and not the inspiration for the song, “Hotel California.”
The real story behind the hotel is even more interesting. The hotel’s original owner was a Chinese immigrant who built the property and lived there with his family in the ‘50s.
Still, a margarita at the hotel bar is a good idea. So much grows in the region — mangoes, papayas, pitaya, you name it — so tequila with the flavor of fresh fruit is always a possibility.
Final Thoughts: Todos Santos Shore Excursion from Cabo
A day out of town gives you a better feel for the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, passing desert landscapes with the bright blue of the Pacific Ocean peeking out just from behind.
For the equivalent of $20 an hour, the excursion is a good value considering that arranging your own transportation to and from the cruise port in Cabo San Lucas, about 50 miles away, could be a hassle.
More than that, traffic into Cabo could mean a late arrival from Todos Santos. As we were booked through the cruise line, the ship waited for us and we departed about an hour late.
Had we booked independently, there is a strong chance we could have been left behind if we didn’t make on-ship time.
What to Know Before You Go
Todos Santos is becoming well known for its local artists, and you’ll want to browse the local art galleries and workshops during your visit.
While credit cards are widely accepted, it’s always a smart idea to have some cash on you, either in dollars or pesos; many establishments have credit card minimums.
The day in Todos Santos was a nice break from the crowds in Cabo. The Todos Santos shore excursion was a really good chance to see different scenery, historic architecture and have an authentic meal. Something to consider for your next cruise to Cabo.
Brittany Chrusciel has covered the cruise industry for many years, formerly as Cruise Critic’s Destinations Editor, and has been quoted in publications such as Skift, USA Today, and the LA Times. She is a proud alumnus of Semester at Sea, where she circumnavigated the globe while studying writing, Spanish, and political science. Her favorite river cruise experiences so far have been visiting the Christmas markets with her German grandmother, and Portugal’s Douro River.