You’ll know you’ve arrived at this ghost town when you reach the only bend in the road lined with aging brick structures and a few small businesses hoping to catch travelers passing through.
Begin with a walk around the mining ruins on the southwest side of the highway. These and a few restored colonial homes are the only signs of the town’s glorious past. Browse the handicrafts, including handwoven baskets at El Mirador Artesanias (no tel.), which is two blocks west of the highway, at the south end of town. Then stop in for a bite to eat at
Café El Triunfo (one block west of the main road, tel. 612/157-1625, 8 A.M.–6 P.M. daily)—an unexpected find serving pizza, coffee drinks, and a tempting assortment of fresh breads.
Before you leave, visit the famed Piano Museum (Mexico 1, no tel., 9 A.M.–6 P.M. Mon.–Sat., US$2) to reflect on the town’s glorious past. During its most prosperous years, classical music came into vogue, and pianos were shipped from Europe. Pianist Francisca Mendoza entertained the well-to-do with weekend concerts, and many of the instruments are on display inside the museum with bilingual signs.
If you’re lucky, the curator, known among gringos as the Liberace of Baja, might play for you. Look for an orange and white brick building on the east side of the highway. A small blue Museo sign points the way, but it’s easy to miss.
Save time to explore the Santuario de Cactus (Cactus Sanctuary, Ejido El Rosario, Km. 167, Mexico 1, no tel., dawn till dusk daily, US$4) just outside town. This is the place to get acquainted with the flora of the desert. Bring along a copy of the Baja California Plant Field Guide, by Norman C. Roberts, for your stroll.
About two hectares in size, the park has a short interpretive path with signs to identify the different species. If your Spanish is up to it, the enthusiastic caretaker likes to chat. The turnoff is on the west side of Mexico 1 between Km. 167 and 168. Follow the dirt road about 10 minutes to the park entrance.
A few of the tour operators based in La Paz and Todos Santos lead guided trips here. Contact Todos Santos Eco Adventures (Cerro La Poza, Calle Guaycura, tel. 612/145-0780, www.tosea.net ) or Eduardo’s Tours in La Paz (tel. 612/166-1657 or 612/152-1213, www.eduardostours.com ).
At the junction of the paved road to Los Planes, a part-cobblestone, part-dirt road leads south into San Antonio, now a center of commerce for local ranchers with a few minisupers. Drive about a half mile and turn left at the T, and you will see an attractive town plaza on the left, followed by a large church. Tall palms and cobblestone streets border the plaza. Buy a cold drink at La Realeña (no tel.), a mini-market on the east side. There are public restrooms next to the school—oddly, three toilets in one open room. (Bring your own paper and hand sanitizer.)
San Antonio’s town festival, the feast of St. Anthony, takes place on June 13, and residents from both towns show up for the celebration.
If you’re driving south from La Paz , you’ll encounter El Triunfo (pop. 300) first, at Km. 163, 48 kilometers south of La Paz, and San Antonio seven kilometers farther south.
If you’re driving north along Mexico 1 from Los Barriles  and want to head over to the coast at Bahía de la Ventana  or Bahía de los Muertos , you can take a recently paved shortcut from San Antonio (btw Km. 158 and 159). The road is 22 kilometers long and meets state highway BCS 286 in San Juan de los Planes. The unsigned road is easy to miss. (Look for an intersection near the school zone.)
Once you reach BCS 286, turn left (north) for La Paz and La Ventana, or right (south) for Los Planes, Los Muertos, and the Sea of Cortez coast. There is a Pemex station at this intersection as well.