When you want to go where everyone doesn’t know your name
Words by: Maxx Rifkin & Alyssa Eurell
There’s much more to Mexico than group yoga retreats, majestic Mayan ruins and spring break.T
here are those things, of course. But there are also the small towns, the nooks and crannies, and the still-barely-under-the-radar surf spots. Like Montauk, each of these places is made what it is by the people who call it home. You didn’t think we were going to just tell you about our favorite hotels and beach bars in Tulum, did you? Tulum is a nice place, and we’re not throwing shade by any means, but consider this the guide to places where you probably won’t run into anyone you know.
Head toward Los Cabos, but leave the glowsticks at home and keep going. Instead of forgetting who you are at El Squid Roe, head right on through Cabo an hour north to a quieter town called, Todos Santos.
Sleep: Hotel San Cristobal is named for Saint Christopher, patron saint of sailors, travelers and maybe expatriate ’70s surfers and you just need to stay here, trust us. Authentic doesn’t even begin to cover Todos Santos Inn. You’re stepping into a 19th-century hacienda.
Eat: Bar Bahia is your perfect mid-day taqueria, cevicheria, and cold beeraria. Hierbabuena and Jazzamango are two beautiful open-air restaurants that take farm-to-table very literally. They’re both a bit hard to find as they are in the middle of farm fields. The bartenders pick the fruits they use in their cocktails; the juice is worth the squeeze.
Drink: The rich, wood-paneled bar over at Todos Santos Inn is a moody little thing.
Do: Really, what’s there to do in any beach town? Cruise the streets, grab coffee, go surf, grab lunch, take a nap, go surf again, head to happy hour, have dinner, fall asleep at 9 p.m. You know the drill.
Surf: Head towards the tiny town of El Pescadero, make a right (towards the ocean) at the Gas Station and drive until you hit the beach. You’re in Baja, drive north, drive south, drive wherever.
You’ll know nobody on Isla Holbox, we guarantee it. This small island is as low-key as it gets. It’s pronounced “hol-bosh,” but we also guarantee you’ll pronounce it that way after a couple of cold ones. This little island is where you go when you want to do nothing, absolutely nothing. Just make sure to pack the mosquito repellent.
Sleep: Stay at Hotel Punta Caliza. You can basically swim back to your hotel room.
Eat: No menu, no problem. Pop into El Chapulim for one of four daily specials.
Drink: Angeles y Diablitos should do the trick. They offer house-made ice cream and Mexican craft beer. Not together. Unless you’re into that.
Do: You could do nothing or cruise over to Mosquito Beach, littered with structures about to topple into the sea, and the lagoon, to catch a glimpse of the elusive flamingos. If you’re there between May and September, you’ll spy whale sharks.
We’re hesitant to mention this and show you the way to get here, but that way is not that easy and that’s why Mazunte is the embodiment of the word “unspoiled.” The winding roads, multiple motion sickness tablets, and pounding headaches might have you cursing us, rather than thanking us, but it will be worth it once you get there. Waiting for you at the end of the mud-brick road is turquoise water, golden sand, and pizza. Yep, pizza.
Sleep: Forget the “It’s a small town, we might need to slum it.” Head straight to the ZOA Hotel for a coastal paradise you thought probably only existed this side of Hollywood sound stages.
Eat: Just go with it. La Pizzeria’s owner is from central Italy and rolls out from-scratch pizza dough with a Corona bottle before tossing them in his wood-burning oven. Chances are he won’t be wearing a shirt while he prepares your pizza. When you see the blue surfboard at the front gate that says “pizza” on it—you know what to do.
Do: Right at the main road in Mazunte, on the east side of town, is where you’ll find the National Turtle Centre of Mexico. Being that this town is on the coast, there’s a ton of beaches to explore: Playa Estacahuite, Playa del Amor, and Punta Cometa.
Drink: Anywhere with a view of the ocean and cold beer.
Surf: San Agustinillo breaks if there’s a big enough south swell. This beach is in the middle of a cove with an outer island to complicate things. If you feel like watching the ocean explode, (you’re crazy if you don’t) “Mexi Pipe” is an hour’s drive north.
San Miguel de Allende
You’ve likely never heard of it. That’s a good thing. Located smack-dab in the middle of the country, San Miguel de Allende, might just be the town we’ve all been sleeping on. There is a whole lot of Mexico between the coasts, and this colonial town, with its 64-block historic center, might have a legitimate claim to being the most beautiful city between the Pacific and the Gulf. Home to the “Sistine Chapel of Mexico,” maybe one of Mexico’s best chefs, and endless brightly colored, colonial architecture, San Miguel de Allende packs a punch, all without a single traffic light.
Sleep: Antigua Capilla: This eight-room B&B, built around an old chapel, is authentic and affordable. Hotel Matilda: There’s something special about staying in a stunning modern hotel (with modern showers) and looking out the window at such a historic view.
Eat: We weren’t lying. One of Mexico’s best chefs, Enrique Olvera, can be found over at his Moxi Restaurant. Enrique is the brains behind Pujol, one of the 20-best restaurants in the world.
Do: Wandering and lots of it.
When you read one of those stories about somebody who quit their job to live in paradise and be a blogger, you are usually reading about somebody who moved to Sayulita. Sure, Sayulita is just this side of discovered (see the aforementioned influx of “living-the-dream”-grammers), but it lays claim to being a Montauk of Mexico because it’s true to its small-town vibes.
If you are really serious about this not running into anybody you’ve wolfed down a breakfast burrito next to at the Ditch Witch thing, you can head over to nearby San Pancho, or even further north up the coast to La Ticla, which has been called “the Trestles of Mexico.” It’s where to go when you’re looking to get away from the people who are looking to get away from the crowds.
Eat: Everybody stops at Mary’s for epic Mexican meals. Bichos has killer tacos. For the best al pastor in town, it’s the incongruously named Tacos Ivan, comrade. Conejo is for the cool kids, hidden in downtown Sayulita. Shimmy into Don Pedro’s for salsa night on Mondays. Our friend Kalle Carranza told us “Mar Plata is the best restaurant in the Sayulita-San Pancho area to take your girl out to dinner.”
Do: While we’re on the subject of Kalle Carranza, you should absolutely take a lesson with him at Lunazul Surf School if you’re looking to learn (or rent your board there if you haven’t lugged one).