The Total Family Vacation
By Beth Purcell
Do you hesitate to take the family to Todo Santos for more than an afternoon because you think there might not be enough to do for the kids? Or, because your young one’s curious hands aren’t a good match for the town’s gorgeous art galleries? Or, maybe you question whether your tribe will fit-in with the young lovers staying at the town’s romantic bed and breakfasts? Leave those worries behind, and plan to make Todos Santos more than a day trip from Los Cabos this year, because there is plenty to do to keep the whole family busy, and the Guaycura Boutique Hotel & Spa is the perfect place for a family stay. Unlike some of the other high-end properties in town, which have minimum stay ages of 16 or 18 years, Guaycura is family friendly. Get this, it’s even pet friendly too! Not only that, kids under 10 years old stay free when using existing bedding.
They offer rooms big enough for a family of four or even five, and they have a great rooftop deck where you’ll find the hotel’s small pool (which very few hotels in Todos Santos offer) and the Sky Lounge Bar. The Sky Lounge offers traditional Spanish tapas and Mexican appetizers and is an incredible place to take in a sunset over the palm trees and ocean in the distance. Let the kids splash around while you sip on a late afternoon cocktail. The red wines come slightly chilled when it’s hot, a nice surprise that you’ll quickly adjust to and appreciate. El Jardin, the courtyard restaurant on the entry level, is a good choice if you want a sit-down breakfast before you head out to explore.
And explore you should. There are a lot of worthwhile outdoor activities to choose from in the Todos Santos area. A crowd favorite is Cerritos Beach. Although my girls surf in San Diego, the waves at Cerritos were really large and the rip tide very strong the mornings we were there, so surfing was out. But boogie boarding and body surfing kept us plenty busy. Be sure to gauge whether it’s safe for your kids to swim solo. The water temperature is delightful most of the year, so you’ll likely want to play in the waves as long as they do anyway. You can rent both surf and boogie boards on the beach for a reasonable price, and surf lessons are also available. When you get tired of battling the surf? Head over to our very favorite of Guaycura’s offerings – El Faro Beach Club and Spa.
I cannot overstate how great it is to have this available to you while staying in Todos Santos with children. This is where you really get your family bang for your buck. We went to El Faro every day of our stay. It’s located only a short drive from town, and has a gorgeous pool with big swim up bar, plenty of luxurious chaise lounges and a large palapa-covered restaurant that features a variety of fresh seafood and ceviches. Do not miss the fish tacos here. They are some of the best you’ll find anywhere. The mojitos are worth exploring too. The staff is accommodating and although the beach here is not suitable for swimming, there are miles of coastline to explore and the sturdy hanging beds set half way to the waterline offer dreamy relaxation.
El Faro is also where the property’s main spa, Aena, is located. You may not opt to get services for the whole family, but it will be easy for you to slip away for a massage or other unique treatment highlighting organic local products while your children swim, swing and run along the shoreline. (But please don’t leave them unattended!)
In addition to swimming and surfing, depending on what time of year you’re visiting Todos Santos, there is also the opportunity to participate in Olive Ridley turtle releases and to watch migrating whales. La Poza beach is a good spot for whale watching (December – March), and thousands of turtles are released on the beaches from Todos Santos to south of Cerritos yearly. But don’t get the wrong idea, activities in Todos Santos and local environs are not limited to water activities. The hotel or other tour operators in town can arrange bike, star gazing, eco-guided trips to the Biosphere Reserve of Sierra de la Laguna, hiking, camping and horseback riding tours. There’s also a skateboard park off Highway 19 for those who are so inclined. And you definitely will want to reserve time to explore the myriad art galleries in the downtown Centro Histórico. Keep in mind, also, that there is an art walk the first Friday of every month. Misión de Nuestra Señora del Pilar church, Centro Cultural Prof Nestor Agúndez and the Teatro Cine Gral Manuel Márquez de Leon are all worth a stop as well. And again, depending on what time of the year you choose to visit, there are noteworthy events to attend, including a film festival in March that just keeps growing in popularity and stature, an art festival in February and Fiestas Tradicionales in October, which features ballet folklórico and other traditional dance groups, musicians, and horseback riding demonstrations.
Although it can’t be overstated that there are myriad outside and cultural activities to fill your days in Todos Santos and the surrounding area, there will invariably be down time – those late afternoon hours where you all need time to chill. Again, the Guaycura has you covered – all 14 individually decorated rooms provide free Wi-Fi, free wired Internet, Plasma TVs with satellite channels, DVD players and iPod speakers (although you may need an adapter). There are free newspapers in the lobby for those wanting to stay informed the old fashioned way. Some rooms offer a private terrace. I found this the perfect place to spend quite time reading while the kids were glued to their devices.
Invariably, the kids will be hungry (again). Not surprisingly, Todos Santos has many suitable dining possibilities. The restaurant La Santeña, at Hotel Casa Tota, is a good choice for families, as the menu has familiar Mexican standbys like quesadillas and burritos. La Coronela at Hotel California is also a great choice – Chef Dany Lamote will delight you with seafood, which reflects the Chefs’ French background, and locally-produced fruits and vegetables. Cafe Todos Santos, the Italian restaurant serving Todos Santos for more than 25 years now, is always a good option as well. It’s a beautiful setting and the food is fabulous, although not inexpensive. We opted for a more casual pizza place one night and found ourselves at La Paloma, a favorite local ice cream parlor, almost nightly. But, the biggest dining standout for us was Guaycura’s off-site restaurant, El Mirador. Full disclosure, it’s a bit of bumpy ride to get there, but your kids will love that, and the view once you do? Simply breathtaking vistas of the Pacific and the Sierra de la Laguna. Photo taking is a must, so be prepared to force the crew to gather together for some amazing shots. El Mirador is a palapa-style restaurant, to which you can sometimes climb to the top of for even more amazing views. Unfortunately it wasn’t open when we were last there, but the food is good enough (especially the flan) that it didn’t matter. A unique feature of El Mirador is its location on the Tropic of Cancer, so you can literally have one foot in North America and the other in Central America – providing a teachable geography lesson to boot. Although you’ll need to watch the little ones, El Mirador’s open design, incredible views and various art installations and rock sculptures scattered over the large property provide kids with quite a lot to do and see. Let them explore a bit while you sit back and sip your drink until the food arrives.
If I haven’t already convinced you that a trip to Todos Santos with your family is in order, and that Guaycura is the place to stay while there, let me add this, the property is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. I promise, it shows. From the L´Occitane bathroom amenities, to the old style copper bathtubs (in some rooms), to the 100% Egyptian cotton sheets, oversized towels and exquisite decor, you will feel well taken care of, all the while taking good care of your family and their vacation fun.