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Surf the waves or stroll the galleries in arty, authentic Todos Santos, Baja California

Baja California is dotted with all-inclusive beach resorts, but if you know where to look you can find vibrant arts and culture as well as authentic food and drink. I found all that and more on my recent trip to Todos Santos. The town is so small you can walk across it in 15 minutes, but it's filled with art galleries and studios where you'll want to linger. The weeklong Todos Santos Art Festival (Feb. 6 to 13) showcases local and international artists. The proceeds from the Todos Santos Open Artist Studio Tour Feb. 6 and 7 benefit a children's art program. Amid all this, Todos Santos maintains a homey vibe. The tab: $410 for two nights at Rancho Pescadero and $40 for dinner for two at La Casita. It's just a 2 1/2- hour flight from LAX to Los Cabos International Airport (about $319 round trip), then an hour's drive from San José del Cabo.

The bed

Contemporary meets simplicity at the adults-only Rancho Pescadero (53 Parcela, El Pescadero; [910] 300-8891, www.ranchopescadero.com) just south of Todos Santos on a secluded two-mile stretch of beach. The hotel has 29 rooms and suites, many with views of the Pacific; they are spacious and modern, with nice touches that include yoga mats and beach bags with sarongs. All have a private patio, and morning coffee and a light breakfast are delivered daily. Weeks dedicated to surfing and yoga, or cooking are offered. Other on-property features include a spa, two pools, free morning yoga, surfing lessons, Wi-Fi around most of the property, and cooking and mixology classes at the resort's Garden Restaurant.

The meal

La Casita (Degollado y Calle Militar; 011-52-612-145-0192, www.lacasitatapaswinebar.com) is low on frills and high on quality, but you won't find a single burrito or taco here. Instead it's food that honors the local land and sea, with sushi made with fish caught offshore, and ingredients from local farmers as well as chef and owner Sergio Rivera's farm. I had incredibly fresh sea bass (about $12), featuring two long, succulent pieces of fish topped with a tequila-jalapeño cream sauce. Elsewhere, Todos Santos is lined with taquerías, most notably Mi Pueblito [Calle Miguel Hildago, 011-52-612-145-0173], just a couple of blocks down from La Casita, which I recommend for its shrimp mole enchiladas (about $5.75).

The find

The riptide at beaches near Todos Santos can be strong, including the one at Rancho Pescadero. But just a few miles south of town, Cerritos Beach is one of the best and most swimmable along this part of the Mexico coast. A dirt road, marked by a Cerritos Beach and Hacienda Cerritos sign, winds a mile down a cliff to the wide, sandy beach. Cerritos Beach Club, an open-air bar, has one of the best surf breaks in the area. Surf lessons start at $60.

The lesson learned

Rent a car. Todos Santos isn't like Los Cabos, where hotel transportation can shuttle you to the airport and town. Make sure your automobile insurance will cover your rental. The dirt roads in and around Todos Santos can take a toll on cars.

travel@latimes.com

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