Baja California Sur, Mexico
Santiago is located about 35 miles from San José del Cabo in Baja California Sur. (23 miles north of the Los Cabos International Airport). You will cross the Tropic of Cancer at Km 81.5 on Highway 1. Turn at the Pemex station at Km 84. You will delight your eyes as you see the colorful agriculture farms and fruit orchards surrounded by thousands of majestic palm trees, which represent an important source of palm leaves for making palapa roofs throughout the Cape region. As we bypass the small plaza, there are the post and telegraph offices, a gas station, some stores, and a market selling local fruit and vegetables. The town was founded as “Misión de Santiago el Apóstol” in 1723 and the natives celebrate its patron saint day, the feast day of St. James, on the 25th of July. Santiago has a small rustic museum located next to the church with interesting exhibits such as colonial artifacts and local fossils. No visit to Santiago would be complete without a trip to the Santiago Zoo, which has a variety of animals endemic to the region. The animal exhibits are complemented by a masterfully cultivated decoration of gardens, featuring mango and avocado trees and a variety of cacti species and succulents endemic to the Southern Baja region. There is no better way to end this amazing adventure of a day, than with a delicious lunch sitting in the gardens of the Restaurant and Hotel Palomar in Santiago. October 2007 – Matthew B. Dexter and Arturo Ramos
Santiago is centered around a quaint town plaza shaded by ancient trees, and a dozen (some crumbling) colonial buildings. Upon entering the plaza, you sense you stepped out of a time-machine as life goes by very slowly here. Cowboys on horses and cattle share the roads in this tranquil farming community that is but 45 minutes north of San José del Cabo. Traditional subsistence farming has given way to organic produce farms that now supply Cabos restaurants, hotels and markets.
The Palomar hotel and restaurant is your only choice for dining or staying in this sleepy town. The rooms are a bargain compared to Los Cabos and the Mexican fare in the patio restaurant is pretty good. Decades ago the state governor had a zoo built in the town. Today, the free-to-the-public zoo is as much a botanical garden as a zoo. The small animal population is aging and lacking in numbers. Ostriches, some monkeys, a snake or two, some raccoons, birds, ducks and an elderly tiger make up most of the menagerie.
A walk through the zoo under canopies of flowering trees, palms and bushes while enjoying an ice cream treat makes for a pleasant diversion from riding about in the car. There’s a children’s play structure for the little ones and a nice palapa patio to relax in.
Agua Caliente, Santa Rita and El Chorro hot springs are a short drive away. North of town up in the hills are the incredible Fox Canyon waterfalls where one can swim under 40’ falls pouring off decomposed granite cliffs.
Nearby Santiago on the other side of the highway is a turn-off to Las Casitas. This dirt road will take you deep into the desert landscape filled with washes, dead-end canyons and humble ranches. After miles of dirt ruts and sandy washes you’ll pass by a church in the middle of nowhere, used by nobody, and built by a ranchero who wanted to thank his Savior for an intercession. Deeper on, you might discover the fossil grounds where the remains of mastodons, giant sharks, and other creatures lay about the surface and in eroded sub-strata canyon sidewalls. A local guide is necessary to find the fossil grounds and though its located on private property, the owners are happy to receive visitors in return for a small donation. Remember – it’s not allowed to remove archaeological findings from Mexico.