Saturday, July 20, 2024

Why celebrities love Los Cabos

No, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez didn’t make Los Cabos famous as a celebrity vacation getaway. Nor did Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt, or George Clooney, or Kim Kardashian

Los Cabos has been a haven for celebrities since the very beginning. The first “tourists” didn’t arrive until the 1950s when the region’s first hotel was built. Because the couple behind it, Abelardo “Rod” Rodriguez Jr. and Lucille Bremer, had ties to Los Angeles and the film industry, celebrities were among the first to stay at the 15-room Las Cruces Palmilla (since renovated and rebranded as One&Only Palmilla). 

Hollywood superstars like Will Smith are easy to spot in Los Cabos. (Los Cabos Tourism Board)

Los Cabos’ pioneer hoteliers had celebrity credentials

Lucille Bremer was a celebrity herself, having starred with Fred Astaire in “Yolanda and the Thief” in 1945. She played Yolanda. It was one of 10 films she acted in between 1942 and 1948 when she retired to marry the son of the former President of México. Such connections made him a celebrity, too. However, Rod had also burnished the family legacy by setting a speed record for flying from Los Angeles to Mexico City during his days as a test pilot.

But the people who came to visit, first at Rancho Las Cruces, their first resort near La Paz, and later at Palmilla, were some of the biggest film and television stars of the era, including John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Lucille Ball, and Desi Arnaz. U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower also visited. 

Why were these A-listers in their respective fields so eager to vacation in an undeveloped coastal area on the southern rim of the Baja California peninsula? The promise of privacy, proximity to Los Angeles, and access to private planes certainly helped. After all, the Transpeninsular Highway wouldn’t be completed until 1973, and the international airport wouldn’t open until 1977. In those days, the Baja California Sur was famed for its “fly-in” resorts featuring small landing strips, with fishing the primary lure.

But it helped that their hosts were also prominent, albeit to a lesser degree. 

Los Cabos is good for your love life … mostly

Sammy Hagar at Cabo Wabo.
Van Halen’s Sammy Hagar playing at the Cabo Wabo Cantina. (Los Cabos Tourism Board)

Los Cabos would eventually become known for romantic getaways, thanks to amenities like couples spa treatments and oceanfront dining. But the reputation was established before any of those things existed. The reason was the celebrity wedding between Rolling Stones’ lead guitarist Keith Richards and model/actress Patti Hansen, which took place at the Hotel Finisterra (now Sandos Finisterra) in Cabo San Lucas in 1983. Mick Jagger was the best man at the ceremony, which took place in the hotel’s Whale Watcher’s bar. A reception with mariachis was held later at a local trailer park.

This event had far-reaching implications. After hearing about it, Rock star Sammy Hagar was inspired to visit. Seven years later, he opened Cabo Wabo Cantina in Cabo San Lucas with his then Van Halen bandmates. Hagar still holds annual birthday bash concerts at Cabo Wabo, and in the years since, countless rock and country music stars have performed there, discovering and falling in love with Los Cabos for the first time.

Marriages and romantic getaways have continued, too. Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez came to Los Cabos for a wedding in 2011. It wasn’t their own, but the paparazzi treated it as an event anyway. Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine famously married model Behati Prinsloo at Flora Farms (home to Michelin Guide tabbed Flora’s Field Kitchen) in San José del Cabo in 2014. Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston, formerly married, “rekindled” their love during a Cabo trip in 2019. This time it didn’t take, though, and they soon returned in the company of others.

Love, meanwhile, probably wasn’t the primary motivation for the most famous pop culture moment to take place in Los Cabos, although there was plenty of sex involved. That was the infamous leaked sex tape featuring Kim Kardashian and then-boyfriend Ray J, filmed at Esperanza, Auberge Resorts Collection in 2007. 

Los Cabos is a good place to rest up before the big game … mostly

Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods likes to work and play in Los Cabos, with his new venture, The Woods, opening in Cabo San Lucas. (The Woods Cabo)

So rock stars and movie stars love Los Cabos. Turns out professional athletes do, too. Dallas Cowboys star quarterback Tony Romo got in trouble for visiting with girlfriend Jessica Simpson in 2008, but that was because it was before a big playoff game with the rival New York Giants, which his team lost. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones probably didn’t criticize him, though. He was in Cabo when he discovered he could buy the team in 1989. 

That was a successful Los Cabos vacation, as was the trip when Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay met then-Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford. The two hit it off, a trade was arranged, and the Rams won the Super Bowl the next year. Also, a winning move was Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott’s decision to hold out for more money while “training” in Cabo in 2019. He subsequently received a six-year, US $90 million contract extension after his luxury sojourn at Diamante, the residential development in Cabo San Lucas where Tiger Woods has a home.

Woods also has a business relationship with Diamante, having designed two golf courses and opened a restaurant there. He’s currently working on a third course for Diamante’s Legacy Club. 

Yes, NBA stars past and present, from Michael Jordan to Lebron James, also like to spend time in Los Cabos. The latter loves it so much that he launched a Cabo inspired tequila brand, a celebrity vacation pastime in which he is not alone.

Los Cabos can be a lucrative investment

Sammy Hagar may have initially come to Los Cabos on vacation. However, between his Cabo Wabo nightclub and eponymous house tequila brand, the destination also proved lucrative from a business perspective. He sold a controlling interest in the tequila brand for US $80 million to Gruppo Campari back in 2007.

Actor George Clooney and his neighbor at the exclusive El Dorado development in Los Cabos, Rande Gerber, also turned a shared love of tequila into a commercial brand: Casamigos. They sold it for one billion dollars to Diageo in 2017.

Los Cabos remains better as a vacation destination than a business proposition. However, given the recent rise in luxury hotel and resort rates, and the skyrocketing cost of living – Los Cabos is now the most expensive place to live in Mexico – maybe Hagar and Clooney had the right idea.

Chris Sands is the Cabo San Lucas local expert for the USA Today travel website 10 Best, writer of Fodor’s Los Cabos travel guidebook, and a contributor to numerous websites and publications, including Tasting Table, Marriott Bonvoy Traveler, Forbes Travel Guide, Porthole Cruise, Cabo Living and Mexico News Daily. His specialty is travel-related content and lifestyle features focused on food, wine and golf.

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