This Couple’s Open Air Home is the Coolest Hangout in Baja

What it looks like to live life #likeyoumeanit.

By Jenn Rose Smith

I met Juan Carlos and Diane, like so many things that happen in Todos Santos, by some sort of magical chance. I was looking for a realtor to show me a few properties in the area, and only after meeting him in person did I realize I’d already been following Juan Carlos on instagram for months. He and his wife, Diane, are the owners of Same Same but Different — a small hotel with a big vision in Baja. They built the property together from the ground up, and it currently consists of 4 rooms for rent, an outdoor palapa kitchen, and fire pit all in cozy proximity to Playa de Cerritos.

When they invited me over for a drink and ceviche, it was again pure luck that I brought my camera. We were joined by a few local friends, and two guests of the hotel from Germany. All in all, there were five different languages being spoken around the campfire that night. And yet everyone seemed to be on the exact same page. It’s typical of any night at Same Same but Different, where pioneer spirits and out-of-the-box creatives come together under the stars to slow down and go with the flow. Scroll down for a taste of what life can look like when you do what you love.

Juan Carlos and Diane at Same Same but Different

Juan Carlos, you’re from Guadalajara. And Diane, you grew up in Paris, France. How did the two of you meet?

Diane: We met at college in Guadalajara. I was 20 years old at the time and doing a one year program as an exchange student. I’ll always remember my mum at the airport telling me, “Have fun in Mexico! Travel a lot, learn Spanish, met tons of friends but please… please… don’t come back with a Mexican boyfriend!”

After one year , the “Mexican Flu” sent me back to France earlier than expected. I was so sad and cried nonstop for the 17 hour trip back to France. But that wasn’t the end of our story. We had a long distance relationship for four years, we met up in different parts of the world and I finally moved back to Mexico — in Baja this time — in 2012.

Diane at Same Same but Different

Same Same but Different in Cerritos

Juan Carlos at Same Same but Different

Tell us a little about your hotel, Same Same but Different. What gave you the idea to start the business?

Juan Carlos: At the moment we have four different rooms to rent and a large common palapa where people from all over the world meet and exchange ideas, projects or just have a good time. The script is written by all our guests. Then we are working on a surf shop/restaurant/gallery/work shop that will be ready by Nov 2019. 

Same Same but Different

Juan Carlos: The original idea was to start a collective that would mix projects of people who are doing things they love to do. We have a manifesto that says: 

We look for those who have turned their passion into their way of living, those who quit their jobs, who stood up and who didn’t listen to “you can’t do it”, those who persist, and those who have the pride to say #HagoLoQueMeGusta. (#IdoWhatILove)”

Same Same but Different

Juan Carlos: The name comes from a very popular phrase people say in South East Asia — it’s very concise but it doesn’t say anything at the same time — it’s like having two opposite poles in the same place. 

Juan Carlos at Same Same but Different

Same Same but Different in Todos Santos

What do you love most about running a small hotel? 

Diane: Here at Same Same But Different,  I don’t feel I am working… it’s just about meeting new friends and sharing experiences! We are super laid back and easy going. We just want to make our guests super comfortable and enjoy Baja as much as we do.

Making ceviche in Baja

What makes the Todos Santos area a special place to visit?

Juan Carlos:

On any given day, unexpected things happen here. This place teaches you to flow and let go. Once you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore, and you have to release some of the control you’re used to having, something just clicks. And that’s what people love about this place. We’re just a bunch of misfits meeting more misfit people doing things we love.

Same Same but Different

Making ceviche in Baja

Same Same but Different

Your property is right here on Cerritos beach, just 15 minutes away from Todos Santos. Why did you choose this beach?

Diane: Cerritos is very special for many reasons. First, it’s the only swimming beach of the Baja South Pacific because it’s a south facing beach, with a very consistent wave. It offers surf year round. But more than just being a surf beach it can be considered a family beach as well.

Besides surfing, what other activities do you love doing in the Baja area?

Diane: We love to go exploring in our van. There is world class mountain biking, hiking in the Sierra de la Laguna, kayaking in the Sea of Cortez, scuba diving, and lately we’ve been doing a lot of farming in an “agrihood” in Pescadero.

Ceviche at Same Same but Different

This looks amazing! What’s your secret for perfect ceviche?

Juan Carlos: To be honest, I just pulled the rabbit out of the hat. I had fresh tuna in my fridge from a fisherman friend of ours. We did a tuna sashimi with sesame oil, orange, lime juice, sesame seeds, serrano chilli, purple onion with basil as garnish to perfume it. Every ingredient can be purchased locally because this area is huge on organic farming. In fact, this little town of Pescadero is one of the biggest exporters of fresh organic basil in the world.

What’s always in the fridge at Same Same but Different? 

Diane: A few Pacificos and a good selection of cheese… a perfect Mexican-French combination!

Juan Carlos and Diane at Same Same but Different

Describe your perfect dinner party playlist: 

Juan Carlos: Fat Freddy’s Drop, album: Based on a True Story.

Drinks around the fire at Same Same but Different in Todos Santos, Mexico

Fill in the blank: “It’s not a party without _________.”

Diane: salsa music for dancing

Juan Carlos: GUACAMOLE!