“Art walk (four hours). Hiking (two hours). Learn to farm (two hours). Eighty-minute Mayan ritual.” Hmm . . . how to pack for a farming session and a Mayan ritual? This was a delightful challenge posed by my itinerary for a four-day trip to Paradero Todos Santos, a Baja California–based hotel that’s designed to immerse you in the destination. Unlike the Cabo resorts an hour away, Paradero is less a pool party and more a cultural retreat, set at the intersection of blinding-sun desert, mountains, and Pacific coast, with a working farm onsite and the art-and-surf community of Todos Santos a 10-minute drive away. It’s practically a sampler platter of what the region has to offer, with experiences included in every stay.
Sustainability is also front of mind for Paradero, where the hotel itself is an indoor/outdoor retreat—35 suites “designed to blend in with the desert landscape, with rough concrete walls and handcrafted Mexican furnishings,” writes Jennifer Flowers in the 2021 Best New Sustainable Hotels list. To wit: A tiny desert frog gave new meaning to “bellhop” as it snuck through our guest room door and led us inside.
The lobby is more of an open-air living room, with hammocks, overstuffed cushions, and a half-dozen other ways to take a nap in public. A frequent breeze keeps the front-desk staff in heavy woolen ponchos despite the summer heat. All meals, prepped by a chef who came from acclaimed restaurant Pujol in Mexico City, are served simply at wooden tables beneath sunshades—and the flame-grilled octopus tacos are so good, they draw travelers all the way from Cabo.
Plus that aforementioned Mayan ritual? It was probably the most memorable massage I’ve had to date. But that’s kind of the point of Paradero Todos Santos: “Pablo Carmona and Joshua Kremer, the Mexico City–based founders, have gone to great lengths to offer experiences that go beyond the ocean,” says Flowers. All visitors can book complimentary yoga and fitness classes; a (vigorous) guided nature hike overlooking the ocean; a guided art walk through nearby village Todos Santos, which has drawn artists from across the U.S. and Mexico for decades; and even learn to garden or farm (or both) onsite.
Surf lessons, taco tours, beach setups, and outdoor massages come at an additional cost, but once you see the daily board of activities, it’s hard to say no. Look how charming it is!
Truthfully, you could laze by the infinity pool and swim-up bar (note: bring lots of sunscreen), eat shrimp with freshly made tortillas every day while sipping all-natural Jalisco tequila, and that would be a pretty delightful trip. But you would miss out on the people who make Paradero so special. I am thankful for Regina, our 27-year-old art-walk guide, a Mexico City transplant who shared lessons on Talavera ceramics and her passion for deejaying and sustainability; Diego, who patiently taught us how to transplant papaya seedlings into pots and discussed philosophy on our hike (in multiple languages, no less); and Alejandra, who personified sunshine and led the Mayan ritual.
“I want to share my medicine,” she said. “I believe we all have our own medicine.” Hers was composed of “kindness, gratitude, love, and happiness,” which—after the year we’ve all had—I wholeheartedly accepted and planned to pass along to those around me. After pointing out hallmarks of the land we occupied, including a 100-year-old cactus that towered over us, she performed a sound ritual beneath a palm tree and then walked me barefoot to the outdoor changing room and deep-tissue massage. If I wasn’t already feeling peaceful, the relaxation “room” in a palm grove nearly put me in a stupor. With white tea in hand and a serape blanket wrapped around my shoulders, I sat blissed out at the intersection of culture and renewal.