10 Curious Facts About Los Cabos You May Not Know

10 Curious Facts About Los Cabos You May Not Know

Renowned for its magnificent stretch of coastline, legendary deep-sea fishing and romantic hideaway allure, Los Cabos has a fascinating history as a Spanish frontier in a no-man’s land.

Here are 10 curious facts you may not know about what has become, against all odds, the most glamorous resort destination in Latin America.

  1. The region was originally inhabited by the Pericue Indians, who were likely descended from Polynesian or Asian sea explorers. Taller and stronger than average mainland Mexicans, their society possessed sophisticated maritime technology, making use of wooden rafts and double-bladed paddles. They also cultivated pearl-bearing oysters in the coastal waters. 
  1. The tip of the Baja California peninsula was reputedly “discovered” by Spanish mutineers in the early 1500s. Hernan Cortes was the first conquistador to lead an expedition to the area, exploring the peninsula and surveying the gulf between it and Mexico in 1535.
  1. For a period of time in the late 16th century, British buccaneers and privateers such as John Cavendish and Sir Francis Drake ambushed treasure-laden Spanish galleons returning from the Philippines. The pirate attacks likely took place in the Rio San Jose estuary, where passing ships often watered.
  1. In 1730, Jesuit priest Nicolas Tamaral founded the mission at San Jose del Cabo, only to be murdered in a Pericue uprising four years later. (The mural over the entrance to the landmark church in the town square depicts this scene). During the late 18th century, Spanish colonizers bound for Alta (or Nueva) California, now part of the U.S., vacated the area. The southern tip of the peninsula remained sparsely populated for nearly two centuries. 
  1. According to local writer and historian Chris Sands, the middle decades of the 19th century were a time of intense conflict in Baja California during the Mexican-American War. Interestingly, the battles fought on the Baja California peninsula took place after the fall of the country’s capital. And while these engagements had little to do with the war’s ultimate outcome, they had a profound impact on the future of the peninsula. Although their territory was considered little more than a backwater, many residents of what is now Baja California Sur fought valiantly for México, battling even after a truce was reached between the U.S. and México. (The final skirmish at Todos Santos took place three weeks after the U.S. Congress had ratified the Treaty of Guadalupe). Because of the fierce local resistance, only one of the Californias was ceded to the U.S. FYI, many of the streets and squares in San Jose del Cabo are named for revered military leaders who fought during this time.  
  1. By the 1930’s, a small fishing village and tuna cannery occupied the north end of the Cabo San Lucas harbor. In the post-war 1940s, larger-than-life celebrities like John Wayne and Bing Crosby arrived by private plane for the world-class deep-sea fishing. The Cape region experienced a sport-fishing craze in the 1950s and ‘60s due to the prolific bill fishing. By then, the waters off the Baja peninsula’s tip, where the Sea of Cortes and the Pacific Ocean meet, earned the nickname “Marlin Alley.” 
  1. The construction of Los Cabos International Airport north of San Jose del Cabo in the 1980s brought the area within reach of vacationers who could not fathom the long, multi-day drive from the U.S. border to the Cape. Tourism infrastructure began to take shape as the region molded an image as an elite getaway unlike any other in Mexico. 
  1. While long revered for its fishing and water sports, golf legend Jack Nicklaus single-handedly put Los Cabos on the international golf map with the opening of Palmilla in 1992 and, two years later, the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol. These were the first courses in the hemisphere to partake of the region’s ocean, mountain and desert environments. As increasingly higher-quality hotels and facilities were built to accommodate upscale travelers, growth soared throughout the 1990s. (NOTE: Quivira was Nicklaus’ sixth design project in Los Cabos. He will begin construction on the club’s second course later this year).   
  1. Los Cabos today is currently one of the most popular tourist destinations in Mexico and also one of the nation’s fastest growing resort communities. The region’s estimated population of 350,000 is far outnumbered by visitors and part-time residents during the peak winter season. 

Beyond Los Cabos are small communities of farmers, ranchers and fishermen. In these few remaining enclaves of the “Old Baja,” a wondrous timelessness exists far removed from the 21st century.