Highway 19 – Road to adventure on the West Cape of Baja California Sur (BCS)

2020 September 2020

By Dan and Lisa Goy on the September 2020 Edition

It took 20 years after our 1st trip to Baja Peninsula before we ventured onto Hwy 19 and the west cape of BCS. About 20 minutes west of La Paz, Hwy 19 forks with all roads leading to Cabo San Lucas. In 2005, both roads were basically the original narrow 2-lane highway, southwest, through Todos Santos, and southeast through Los Barriles. Today, Hwy 19 is unrecognizable from that road we drove on in 2005, from beginning to end.

Todos Santos has been well established for decades, including small in-town campground (El Litro) which works for tenting and very small RVs. Our first camping experience on Hwy 19 was in 2008 at the former government campground abandoned at Los Cerritos, built in 1974, and abandoned shortly after. We did not know it at the time, but we were the last campers at this location. Following our departure after a few days, access to this location was blocked and later developed. We learned later that this campground had been the most popular dry camping location on the west cape since its construction.

We moved to a location called the “golf course”, a couple of minutes south and father away from the Pacific. This is where the bulk of campers had moved to following the closure of the old Los Cerritos campground. In 2008, the Hacienda Cerritos, perched on the point overlooking the beach, was in construction, as was the Sol Pacífico Cerritos, a large condo residential/ rental project on the beach that included the largest infinity pool on all of Baja. The Los Cerritos Surf Club had been established but was still in its infancy. Yet to come was the Los Cerritos Surf Colony (renamed Surf Town) and the Mayan Village.

In 2008, the San Pedrito RV Park, located on the beach north of El Pescadero, had been long since washed away (built in an arroyo). In years to come, Baja Serena located on Hwy 19, was established in Pescadero, 20 minutes south of Todos Santos, which offered 8 sites and a mini-super Los Arcos.

Later the Mountain Shadow RV Park was built by BC resident, Kenny Sewell. This is a full service campground and includes a pool and a high secure fence all around.

Around 2014, it burnt to the ground and, when rebuilt, was re-named the Pescadero RV Park. Our stay in 2008 is also when we were introduced to La Pasadita, a family owned Taquería in El Pescadero, located at a residence. José and his family offer hamburgers, tacos, burritos and more, probably the best on Baja, at a reasonable price. A hosted dinner visit to “La Pasadita” was a staple feature of our tours for years.

In 2011, our tours included a stop in El Pescadero on the west cape. We found Bobby and Wendy Cain who owned a number of rental casitas, Las Palmas Tropicales, on the beach adjacent to the San Pedrito beach and decided to develop some proper-ty nearby as a campground. We were the first RVs to stay at this newly opened campground, which included water that worked occasionally, and was within walking distance of the beach.

Baja  Amigos  promises “Fun  and  Adventure”  on  all  out  tours and, as we explain, these are two (2) different words! The drive in and out of the Las Palmas Tropicales Campground was an adventure navigating locked gates and farmers’ fields led by Bobby. We have many great memories of our many stays over a couple of seasons.

In 2013, heading to Bobby’s campground, we were informed at our arrival at our Hwy 19 rendezvous location that the gates were locked and our route no longer accessible. Unfortunately, the alternate route was not an option for our large RVs.

Turning challenge into achievement, we headed to the Los Cerritos RV Park, which had opened in 2012, located beside the Cerritos Surf Colony. Although the sign out front said, “RV Park”, this was nothing more than a gravel parking lot, some-what landscaped with vegetation, some of which was alive, at first blush not very appealing.

Granted the ground was solid, level and flat;  however, there were no amenities, none. No power, water, dump stations, not even a garbage can. What worked was full access to all the amenities of the Surf Colony, which included a large pool, out-side shower, a private beach access, restaurant and bar, Wi-Fi, washrooms and satellite TV. Our guests loved it once they were able to experience all the bells and whistles. Good thing, as this cost us $30 USD per RV per day to park here.

Unfortunately, the ownership of the Cerritos Surf Colony changed hands and the adjacent Los Cerritos RV Park was not part of the sale in the 2016/2017 season. Our Baja Amigos fall tour had a wonderful 4-day stay in December. We were stunned when our first January tour arrived to find access to Surf Colony no longer available and closed with a barbed wire fence where the gate entrance was.

In typical Mexican style, we were never notified about the change, even though we had been making and confirming res-ervations for 3 seasons. In addition, the owners of the Los Cerritos RV Park continued to demand $30 USD per RV per day. We scrambled to find other accommodation for our group and eventually ended up in the Pescedaro Soccer field, an easy 2-block walk from La Pasadita. We kept Hwy 19 and a 1-evening stop in the schedule until our 2018/2019 season. Even though we made reservations for the soccer field, and it was easy in and out, flat, level and secure, it was too much “adventure” for many of our guests.

 

The blanket factory operated by Efrén and Vivián Bautista, just south of Los Cerritos, also became a familiar and regular stop. Always happy to see our groups, they offer a great selection of products at great prices. We even visited their family on the mainland near Puebla, in 2016, on our 90-day Mexico RV ad-venture. On average, our groups would purchase $500 – $750 USD every time we stopped. Sadly, family pressures sent Efrén’s prices through the roof and our groups no longer enjoyed this stop.

We eliminated Hwy 19 from our 2019/2020 Baja RV tour schedule and have added an excursion, using hired transport, into Todos Santos, from the Campestre Maranatha campground in La Paz. For those interested in RVing Hwy 19, and checking out the sites, there is always lots of RV parking in Todos Santos and the Pescadero RV Park (formally Mountain Shadow) can be an option although they do not allow dogs or short-term stays. You can take in Hwy 19 and Todos Santos in a day as a bypass has now been added from Hwy 19 to the north side of San José del Cabo.

Whenever possible, we will drop into “La Pasadita” and have dinner. You should too!

Todos Santos (Spanish: All Saints) is a small coastal town in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains, on the Pacific coast side of the Baja California Peninsula, about an hour’s drive north of Cabo San Lucas, on Highway 19, and an hour’s drive southwest from La Paz. Todos Santos is a natural paradise, located at the Tropic of Cancer, and has a population of approximately 7,000 residents. Many Canadians and Americans own winter homes in this town and the population swells from October through March.

 

History

The mission at what is now Todos Santos, Misión Santa Rosa de las Palmas, was founded by father Jaime Bravo in 1723. In 1724, it was renamed Nuestra Señora del Pilar de La Paz. Located across the street, to the southwest, from the small town plaza, this mission contains the statue of the Virgin of Pilar, which is the focus of Todos Santos’ main festival in November.

During the Mexican American War, the “Skirmish of Todos Santos” was the last battle of the war, fought near the town on March 30, 1848.

During the 19th century, following the secularization of the missions, Todos Santos thrived as the Baja sugarcane capital, supporting eight sugar mills at the end of the 19th Century. Only one existed by the time the town’s freshwater spring dried up in 1950 and that last mill closed in 1965.

Todos Santos faced a bleak future until the spring came back to life in 1981 and the Mexican Government paved Highway 19 in the mid-1980s. The highway brought tourists and the rich farmlands have been revived. The town now prospers from farming vegetables, chilies, avocados, papayas and mangoes; as well as from fishing and ranching.

Contemporary Todos Santos

More recently, there has been a gradual increase in tourist activity and a boom in real estate development. Handicraft shops, owner-operated art galleries featuring landscape paintings of local scenes (some artists from Guadalajara and other parts of Mexico also exhibit works in Todos Santos), upscale restaurants, boutique hotels and restored colonial buildings have contributed to the gentrification and redevelopment of the town. There are a few annual festivals including the Festival de Cine and the Todos Santos Music Festival.

The Hotel California is a favorite stop because of the name association with the song made famous by the Eagles, even though the song does not specifically reference this particular hotel, nor any other existing hotel. On May 1, 2017, the band, The Eagles, filed a lawsuit against the Hotel California in United States District Court for the District of Central California alleging Trademark Infringement. The Eagles were seeking relief and damages. The lawsuit was settled in 2018: the hotel continues to use the name, abandoned efforts to apply for a trademark in the United States, and now expressly denies any connection with the song or the Eagles.

There are many beautiful beaches within a 15-minute drive of Todos Santos. However, some of the area’s beaches, with rip tides, undertows, and fairly steep drop offs close to shore, are not considered safe for swimming. Playa Las Palmas and Playa Los Cerritos are great beaches for swimming and shell collecting. San Pedrito Point, Los Cerritos and other local surf breaks attract surfers from around the world.

There are many accommodations, both at San Pedrito and at Cerritos beach. This town attracts beach aficionados, bird-watchers, hikers, wild-life enthusiasts, kayakers, surfers, snorkelers, scuba divers, fishermen, the list is truly endless. The cli-mate around Todos Santos has allowed hundreds of species of flora and fauna to flourish in dozens of microclimates. So unique is the area that UNESCO has designated it as a Bio-sphere Reserve.

Todos Santos was named a “Pueblo Mágico” in 2006 and its most famous resident is Peter Buck, co-founder of R.E.M.

El Pescadero, Baja California Sur is a small village in the mu-nicipality of La Paz, in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. It is located at km 64 on Federal Highway 19 on the Pacific Ocean, about 8 kilometers south of Todos Santos, which is about a one-hour drive north of Cabo San Lucas. The village has around 3,000 residents, not counting expats who reside here during the winter months.

Climate

The climate is heavily influenced by the Pacific Ocean, which moderates the temperatures year round. Pescadero is bordered by the Sierra de la Laguna mountains to the East. In the huerta (orchard) area of Pescadero (the farmland area,) palm-lined roads and farms co-exist with low-density private residences. A common sight in the huerta are the chili and basil fields. Most of these crops are grown for export. Commercial farming in Pescadero flourishes because of an ample supply of under-ground water funneled down from the mountains. Air from the Pacific Ocean is pushed up the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range and is met with hotter air from the Gulf of California, resulting in frequent mountain rain storms that persist through the summer and fall.

Surfing

Surf breaks punctuate the length of the peninsula’s Pacific coast. Two of the best are located in El Pescadero: Los Cerritos and San Pedrito. Both beaches have right breaks. Los Cerritos is better for beginner and intermediate surfers, while San Pedrito is considered an advanced surfer’s break because of its rocky bottom, abundance of sea urchins and strong currents.

Festivals

Each March, the pueblo hosts the Chili and Strawberry Festival, celebrating and promoting the area’s agriculture. Organic pro-duce and plants are offered for sale, food is available to sample, and agricultural products and tools are on display from vendors. The festival includes a dance, crowning of a queen, and a cabalgante a procession of horse and riders from Todos Santos to the festival in Pescadero.

 

 




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