Any Mexico specialist knows Acapulco and Los Cabos are two easy sells when pitching to clients seeking a relaxing, vacation for family or couples. But their transformation into two of the most popular regions in all of Mexico didn’t happen overnight.
These days, Acapulco is trying to restore the glitz-and-glamour reputation that attracted just about every A-list celebrity during the 1930s through ’50s while Los Cabos, which entered the tourism scene much later, continues to build from its original roots as a small fishing village.
As Travel Agent turns 80, we look back at how these two Mexico destinations became the vacation capitals they are today.
Acapulco began its transformation in the 1920s when the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VIII, visited the bay on a fishing expedition. Then, in 1931, the highway to Mexico City was completed.
Wealthy Mexicans, American writers, Hollywood stars and European jet-setters soon flocked to Acapulco. It was here that Elizabeth Taylor married Mike Todd; John and Jackie Kennedy honeymooned; and Frank Sinatra (who sings Acapulco’s praises in his classic Come Fly With Me), Judy Garland, Johnny Weissmuller (of Tarzan fame), Harry Belafonte and Baron de Rothschild became regulars.
Since 1934, the La Quebrada Cliff Divers have performed their impressive jumps in the shallow sea. The cliff divers of Acapulco were seen regularly on weekend sports programs in the U. S. during the 1970s. The 1968 Summer Olympics yachting (now sailing) regatta was hosted by the city.
A 1966 issue of Travel Agent described Acapulco as “active, colorful, cosmopolitan.” The article further stated: “An internationally famous seaside resort, Acapulco is best known for its spectacular beaches with year-round warm waters and the daring high-divers at La Quebrada…Acapulco has luxurious hotels atop rocky cliffs and along the seashore, glittering nightclubs, fashionable boutiques, relaxing cruises and top-name entertainment.”
For the last 50 years, the city has been a popular resort for those from the U. S., the Mexican interior and countries in South America taking long holiday weekends and cruises. And in the past three decades, airfares have become increasingly affordable, with international airlines adding flights and infrastructure to support the influx. The “new” Acapulco has a great appeal and is a featured destination for many Pacific cruise ship packages and international air carriers.
One thing, though, has remained unchanged: Its pleasant climate and 360 days of sunshine still draws in many domestic and international travelers year round (9 million), providing the volume to support the numerous bars and clubs dotting the bay shores.
Shortly after World War II, Americans (particularly Southern Californians) learned they could fly to La Paz and then head to the pristine beaches of the Sea of Cortes.
Experienced fishermen knew of the area that was rumored to have perfect weather and waters teeming with fish. There were no roads in this region of Baja California Sur—only long-range pleasure yachts and private aircraft. In 1948, Bing Crosby, Phil Harris, Desi Arnaz and John Wayne pooled their money to build Las Cruces Hotel on the East Cape. Ten years later, the La Palmilla Hotel was built near San Jose del Cabo. Shortly afterward, W. Matt “Bud” Parr set up Cabo San Lucas Hotel. He eventually built the Hacienda and doubled its size.
Ex-U.S. Air Force pilot Luis Coppola came up with Hotel Finisterra near the far end of the cape and Luis Bulnes quickly countered with Solmar Hotel.
In 1974, the peninsular highway opened up the Baja Peninsula to Middle America. When, in 1986, Los Cabos International Airport was expanded, a steady growth in tourism began.
Los Cabos has also emerged as one of Mexico’s top wedding destinations. The resort towns and cities of Mexico have plenty of destination wedding and honeymoon spots, but Los Cabos is for the crème de la crème. From the traditional to casual to adventurous, the packages on offer cover every theme. Couples can have their ceremonies on the beach, in luxurious private villas, on yachts, in golf clubhouses and even under the sea while scuba diving!