A cactus and agave-strewn botanical amphitheatre is the focal point at Paradero Todos Santos, a community-minded, eco-centric desert resort offering a distinctly different flavour of escapism to what is typically found in Baja California Sur. Its Brutalist architecture blends into the arid desert, and plays with light and shadow in ever more intriguing ways that enhance the cleverly landscaped setting. Guests are encouraged to connect with nature; there’s no room service and no televisions, but there are plentiful nooks for stargazing, an infinity lap pool, a free roster of daily experiences that show off the region’s assets (including rare butterflies and other wildlife) and a farm-to-table restaurant notable for bringing people together.
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A traditional Mexican cleansing experience and a welcome drink
Check-in is from 3pm, and check-out is at 12 noon. The hotel will attempt to accommodate requests outside of these times if possible.
Double rooms from £404.52 ($507), including tax at 16 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of 3% per room per night on check-out and an additional service charge of 12% per room per night on check-out.
Room rates include a traditional Mexican breakfast of burritos, eggs, fruits, juices, and tea and coffee. The hotel is for guests aged 18-years and over.
The centrepiece of the Botanical Amphitheatre is El Abuelo (the Grandpa), a protected 200-year old cactus. La Abuela (the Grandma) is similarly aged and marks the entrance to the spa, and the Lovers are an intertwined cactus-thorntree couple.
At the hotel
Open-air lounge and performance space, spa with a temazcal (steam lodge). In rooms: Air-conditioning, free WiFi, USB charging stations.
Our favourite rooms
With minimal light pollution in its desert setting and typically clear weather, Paradero has some phenomenal stargazing opportunities, and the Farm Sky Suite takes full advantage. Thick netting is strung across a void between two elements of the rooftop terrace – grab a few cushions and a favourite companion, and spot shooting stars and far-away constellations ‘till the wee hours.
Paradero’s pool brings a Slim Aarons photograph to life. The omnipresent sun makes the white foreground of the half-moon sun terrace gleam, as champagne-sipping guests in wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses recline before a broad infinity lap-pool, which spills over to arid desert views through Mojave yucca and lanky cacti. There’s no dive-bombing or inflatable flotsam in sight – this is water as healing. Abscond the midday heat, cool your feet on its river-pebble floor and every once in a while paddle over to the triangular hole-in-the-wall bar for a mezcal martini. Swim, sip, lounge, nap, repeat.
Using the word ‘oasis’ to describe a spa is a tired crutch of the unimaginative, but no, this spa is a literal oasis in the desert. A dense foliage of palms and succulents surround an ojo de agua (watering hole), and the welcome desk of the namesake spa (Ojo de Agua Spa and Wellness Centre) is marked by little more than a centuries-old cactus named Grandma. Treatments are based around Mexican healing traditions such as the temazcal (a steam lodge for sound-healing ceremonies) and chakra balancing. There’s a menu of facials, skin treatments, and more traditional massages including Swedish, deep tissue, sports and reflexology, that can be delivered to singles or couples in the outdoor treatment spaces or in-suite. Heaven – or, indeed, an oasis – we’ll allow it, just this once…
Don’t bother bringing your surfboard – Paradero has its own line of custom-shaped boards available.
The hotel has its own cars and drivers to provide transfers (at a cost) to ensure guests are able to experience the local area.
It was the mission of founders Pablo Carmona and Joshua Kremer to preserve the last remaining family-owned farming communities in Todos Santos without further developing untouched wilderness, so community mindedness and sustainability is at the core of everything Paradero does. Through the Paradero 360 program the hotel supports the local community, it is expanding its green program and sources produce locally, and the hotel offers farming courses as part of its extensive guest experiences. The hotel has banned single-use plastics and non-biodegradable products.
Middle of the bar, where you’re best placed to observe and marvel at Chef Eduardo in full flight.
For the gentlemen, a pressed white shirt – unbuttoned to the sternum, naturally. Vivid colours for the ladies. All guests may want a patterned woollen poncho once the sun sets and the Pacific breeze blows fresh.
Paradero makes a point of not offering room service. They take very seriously the idea that a meal is a chance to come together, meet and laugh and exchange ideas and embrace community, and a meal in solitary can’t compare. There is no traditional kitchen at Paradero, instead, a large communal bar encircles an open-air preparation and cooking space where guests are encouraged to interact and learn about food and culture, or they can choose a bench in the sand and dine under candle and moonlight. Chef Eduardo Ríos, alumni of Michelin-starred restaurant Pujol (the best place to eat in all of Mexico City according to the Wall Street Journal), draws on the bounty of the nearby Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez for fresh seafood, the adjacent farms for produce, and the community for local influence, to craft a continuously evolving menu of simple yet sophisticated Mexican coastal cuisine. A wood-fired Oaxacan clay oven cooks hand-spun corn or flour tortillas that accompany clams, soft-shell crab tacos, and a secret salsa made from 12 different peppers grown on the property.
The same theme of embracing local terroir and building vibrant community that drives Paradero’s restaurant also underpins its bar. Located in the same open-air space (but with a swim-up hole-in-the-wall option for a poolside sip), the drinks list is heavy on margaritas and mezcal-based cocktails made almost exclusively with – you guessed it – more ingredients and garnishes sourced from the on-site farm.
The kitchen opens for breakfast at 7am, and serves continuously until dinner concludes at 9.30pm.
La Mesa Km 59 +3100, Carretera Todos Santos - Cabo San Lucas
El Pescadero Bcs
Paradero is 10 minutes south of arty Todos Santos, near the southernmost tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula.
Baja’s two largest international airports are equidistant, and the hotel offers transfers for US$191 (tax inclusive) each way, which take a little over an hour. San José del Cabo Airport, to the south, is Baja’s busiest and best-connected airport, with routes stretching all over the US and Canada. La Paz International, to the north, is typically a little quieter and more expensive.
Travellers already in the United States may be tempted to use the Amtrak network to reach San Diego, from where the city’s Tijuana Trolley has a line running to the Mexican border crossing, but there is no rail network in Baja California itself.
Paradero is some 780 miles south of the US border, and connected by the surprisingly smooth Highway 1. It is relatively simple to bring an American-registered vehicle into Baja California and a road trip south is a standout adventure, but allow a few days to make the journey. For those arriving by plane, rental cars are plentiful in Los Cabos and La Paz, and the hotel offers free secure parking. Note that toll roads are required to reach Paradero and they are cash only (Pesos or USD).
The mellow waters of the Baja peninsula and its countless secluded beaches were seemingly dreamed up for yacht cruising. Holler ‘Land Ahoy!’ in Cabo San Lucas’ marina, and spend a few days ashore inland.
Worth getting out of bed for
In an arid desert amid fields of tomatillos and poblanos, with the Sierra La Laguna mountain range as backdrop and the salty winds blowing in from the Pacific nearby, there’s loads to discover here in Baja California Sur. The quintessence of Paradero is to share the region and its people’s culture with guests, and the roster of experiences are so intrinsic to a stay that the majority are included in your room rate. As home to some of the first Spanish missions in Baja California, poetic Todos Santos is a dazzling colour wheel of adobe and colonial buildings, full of murals and galleries, and is best discovered on Paradero’s Art Walk. Gastronomes may prefer the Taco Tour, which samples a laundry list of the region’s best tacos, and guests can meet the local chefs who are reinventing these traditional recipes with energising new flavours. Dusty trails sinuously trace the surrounding farming land, deserts, hidden subtropical oases, coastal regions and mountains, and these are best explored by guided bike rides or hikes, as either a morning kick-start or sunset sundowner. Budding green thumbs can take a two-hour sustainable-farming course from the La Mesa farming community who supply the hotel’s fresh produce, and there are gardening courses too, where guests are taught the basics of ecologically responsible garden care and design. Beachgoers can decamp to nearby Playa Las Palmas for the day and take a surf lesson; more experienced surfers may want to ride the stronger swell at Playa Los Cerritos and sip cerveza in the adjacent laidback town of El Pescadero. Outside of Paradero’s experiences, Todos Santos is reputedly home to the Hotel California, the mysterious subject of the 1977 hit album by the Eagles. Don Henley remains resolute that the Hotel California is nothing more than a non-existent metaphor for the myth of the American Dream, but the building in Todos Santos does bear a striking similarity to the one described in the lyrics – you be the judge. For a hedonistic night out, there’s the infamous bars and clubs of Cabo San Lucas, not that Mrs Smith knows anything about those… Be sure to arrange a pre-booked rendezvous with Paradero’s driver before the first round of tequila is ordered.
For true farm-to-table dining, book a table at hilltop Jazamango Restaurante in Todos Santos, where celebrated Tijuanan Chef Javier Plascencia brings his hard-fought Baja Norte style to Baja Sur. Ingredients are sourced from the onsite garden, and still-fighting seafood is hoisted out of the Pacific just a few miles away and served in dishes such as the passionfruit aguachile (shrimp ceviche). Hierbabuena, in El Pescadero, partners with local merchants in the community to build a constantly changing menu driven by the day’s harvest, which caters especially well for vegetarians. For a boozy knees-up turned dinner, a few rounds of margaritas and a spread of fish tacos at the beach-bar-style Barracuda Cantina on Playa Los Cerritos will have your SO grinning at the mere idea.
Baja California isn’t typically known for its hipster-driven coffee scene, but the café culture in Todos Santos is surprisingly well developed. Knock the hipsters at your peril – they demand outstanding espresso, cold brew and kombucha, and when you need respite from your tequila-induced trauma or rejuvenation after a sunrise yoga session, you will too. Taller 17 feels like it’s straight out of Williamsburg, and Doce Cuarenta Café not only roasts its own beans, but has a line of bottled experimental cold brews, too.
When someone mentions Mexican beer, thoughts often jump to confused teenagers swilling discount cervezas at illicit house parties, but Todos Santos Brewing is here to dispel that notion entirely. A 14-strong menu of craft beers, brewed entirely by hand on site, includes warm-weather-friendly sippers, blondes, and sours, runs through black IPAs and a brown ale, and culminates in the Ginja Ninja – an experimental brew using local agave to sweeten the fermentation. There are any number of bars in the area serving a dizzying array of debatably noxious Mexican distilled spirits, and the offbeat Art & Beer, on highway 19 leading out of El Pescadero, is a curious peek inside the wild imagination of proprietor Alfredo.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this revitalising retreat in Baja California Sur and unpacked their sun hats and gardening gloves, a full account of their barefooted break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Paradero in Todos Santos…
Let’s be honest here, we’ve all guiltily binged at least an episode or two of a trashy ‘spring break’ reality show set in Cancun or Cabo, and the resorts of Mexico’s Baja peninsula have an equally shady reputation, especially in the south. But Paradero, just outside of the intriguing town of Todos Santos, couldn’t be further from this stereotype.
The hotel’s driver met us at the airport in Cabo, and we drove past all of the tacky package resorts and out to the desert on the billiard-smooth highway 19. After about an hour the car slowed and we turned down what is little more than a dusty farm track, bouncing through fields of peppers and tomatillos. Soon, an imposing concrete structure appears as if it’s part of the desert itself – we have arrived.
There is no traditional carpark or lobby. We walk through desert sands to an opening in the wall, cleverly designed by architect Yektajo Valdez taking full advantage of the bright sun to create imposingly contrasting shadows and dark spaces, which evoke the coolness of a cave as you escape the midday heat. Triangular openings in the walls and roof pay homage to Mayan culture, and create intense bright flashes on the dusty ground.
The space is quite accurately described by Paradero as a ‘high-design landscaping project with luxurious suites’ and it’s quite unlike any hotel I’ve ever visited. There are few buildings in the public areas, just a series of open-air community spaces where guests spend their time. There’s a lap pool with big-sky views and a smooth river pebble floor, plus an actual desert oasis with hundreds of palms, and little trails that disappear into the 1,000-square-foot endemic botanical garden, encouraging you to wander off with a special someone.
While we’re kept physically busy during our stay with daily experiences, most of which are included in the room price, mentally we’re really rather relaxed. The idea is to show us what the local community has to offer, be that a surf lesson on the local break, a morning hike through the trails, a tour of Todos Santos’ street art, or a sustainable gardening lesson from the farmers who grow the produce used in the kitchen. We finish each day feeling fulfilled and relaxed, and it’s not until we’re back at home that it occurs to us that there wasn’t a single television or screen on the entire premises. And, above and beyond giveing us the ability to watch those salacious reality shows, TVs and streaming devices certainly weren’t missed.