Correction to This Article
An article on Baja California, Mexico, in the April 25 Travel section gave an incorrect e-mail address for event planner Alvaro Colindres. It is alvaro@eldharma.com.

I Do, You Do, They Do Baja

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By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 25, 2004

I would have traveled to the ends of the Earth for my best friend Nina's wedding.

Conveniently, she opted for Baja California, Mexico, making it a "destination wedding" that would combine a vacation and a celebration. She and her bride, Carina, picked the small artist's colony of Todos Santos, an hour and a half north of Cabo San Lucas, for their commitment ceremony.

At first glance, Todos Santos is an unassuming town, with a dusty smattering of restaurants, art galleries and local crafts stores. Located in the desert about a mile inland, it's wedged between the coast and the Sierra de la Laguna mountain range, a virtual dot in a vast landscape. Soon, though, it becomes the kind of place where every hour provides a new experience, whether it's sitting on a beach, hiking a mountain trail or visiting a silversmith who has worked for generations on his craft.

And for a week in February it hosted the celebration of one couple from New York City, who had dragged their nearest and dearest across the border for a no-holds-barred wedding.

The ceremony took place on Valentine's Day at a local inn that Nina's family had commandeered. A salsa band played next to a vivid green lagoon. It was, clearly, not a traditional wedding, although a Louisiana judge presided and it took place beneath a chuppa, the traditional Jewish tent that represents the home of the new family. Even the vows were a break from the ordinary, mixing misty-eyed pledges of fidelity with Nina vowing not to play hip-hop in the same room as Carina, and Carina pledging to see at least one WNBA basketball game a year.

But it was as romantic as any nuptials I've attended, with the two brides decked out in what Nina called their "fabulous wedding finery." They had two first dances, of course, so each of them could take a turn leading and wouldn't have to choose between showing off their salsa moves and swaying to their favorite Aretha Franklin ballad. The wine and margaritas flowed freely, and the cake was just as tasty as the mahi mahi with strawberry salsa.

It's hard to envision a more romantic setting than Todos Santos for a couple to declare their devotion, in an idyllic retreat complete with palm trees and floating lotus blossoms.

Getting to Todos Santos had been a serious trek -- a connection through Atlanta to Cabos San Lucas, Mexico, then a 90-minute drive on rustic roads into town.

The Alegria Inn, where the wedding party was staying, was near a spectacular beach from which we could walk and see the sunset. Although it wasn't safe for swimming, we found another beach a few miles from town, Las Palmas, that offered swimming and an almost intimate coastline (that is, after you navigate a pothole-covered road and then walk across the swampy marshland leading to it). The weather was a bit chillier than we had expected -- it was 60 degrees our first day -- but got increasingly warmer as time passed, creeping up to the high 70s by week's end.

Because the town is so close to the ocean, it has become a mecca for water sports enthusiasts. My friends and I were not exactly skilled in that department, but we decided to take advantage of what Todos Santos had to offer.

The first morning we opted for a sea kayaking expedition with a local guide named Francesca. I was a bit wary of the venture, but the water was relatively smooth, and my friend Whitney was an able paddler and partner. We saw plenty of sea otters and even a whale -- plus, we got a chance to snorkel, which gave us an opportunity to see fish and lobsters.

A day after kayaking, I was ready to be truly daring. Joined by my friends Sarah and Sonja, I decided to partake in what Baja is known for: surfing. Once again, Francesca would be our guide, only this time she had some help -- Juan, her business partner. After donning wetsuits and doing a few pushups on the beach, we took to the ocean.


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© 2004 The Washington Post Company

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