The Baja Peninsula itself was a legendary land thought to be an island until sailors sent by Hernan Cortes, the conqueror of the Aztecs, landed there in the 1500s.
By the 17th century, Baja was well known to seafaring men. During the brisk trade between Manila and Europe, the famed Manila galleons carried silks, pearls and spices to be exchanged for Mexican silver, from Luzon in the Philippines to Acapulco. Their cargoes were carried overland to Mexico's east coast port of Veracruz and loaded on ships bound for Europe. After months at sea, their first sight of land and a fresh water estuary at the mouth of a river in San Jose were powerful lures to sailing ships bound for Acapulco after months at sea, and they stopped there for provisions from the local ranchers before sailing on—despite the English pirate ships lying in wait for them in coves and caves along the coast.
Alarmed by the growing number of sea battles and pillaging along the coast, the Spanish conquistadors who governed Mexico at the time, established a fort in San Jose, and sent the Spanish padre, Nicholas Tamaral, to establish a mission there. But the mission was burned and the Padre killed by the local Pericu Indians, who resisted the Padre's attempts to force them to cover their clotheless-ness and to change their polygamous ways. The fate of Padre Tamaral is graphically depicted in a mural in the present church in San Jose, which was built on the same spot as the old mission, in 1940. Later during the Mexican-American War, U.S. marines occupied the town. The Plaza Mijares in the heart of town is named for the victorious Mexican naval officer Jose Antonio Mijares, who defeated them.
San Jose went on to become a respectable commercial center in the l800s, doing a brisk trade with passing ships. Some of the one and two-story homes from the last two centuries are still owned by the original families. Several are beguiling settings for San Jose's small restaurants and shops.
Cabo San Lucas, on the other hand, had an impudent upstart, which could account for its casual makeup. Medano Beach was just a wild stretch of sand until the early 1900s when a few fishermen put up their palapas beside a fresh water lagoon near the Club Cascadas Resort. In 1919, Cabo's marine-rich waters attracted a fish cannery to San Lucas Bay. The now long abandoned cannery at the entrance to the inner harbor was at one time the third largest packer of tuna in the world.
Now enter the big game fishermen from the States. After World War II, a handful of sportsmen pilots discovered the 500-pound marlin in the Sea of Cortes and lit the fuse under one of the biggest tourist explosions in history. They flew down with their pals to hunt dove in the scrub-covered hills to wrestle fighting fish out of the sea. The simple fishing and hunting lodges they built for their buddies along the Baja coast are the forefathers of the grand resorts today. The pioneer was the Palmilla resort in the 1950s, and then, in the 60s, came the Cabo San Lucas and the Hacienda. Twin Dolphin, Solmar and Finisterra date from the 70s.
These early hostelries were small, but some had their own airstrips. Word soon got out that Los Cabos more than 1,000 miles from Hollywood - was the ultimate celebrity hideout, and before long the gleaming yachts of the rich and famous were mingling with the mingling fishing boats in the bay. The area invited celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Sophia Loren and Carlos Ponti, Lucille Ball and Dezi Arnaz, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Bing Crosby and John Wayne.
The Transpeninsular Highway from the Mexican border south of San Diego opened in the early 70s, bringing a handful of Southern California surfers with their boards strapped to their trucks. They were followed by a parade of snowbird campers and RVs. But it was only after the Mexican government agency, Fonatur, which invests in tourist development, put its weight behind a much needed resort infrastructure, that the present airport opened in 1984 and the developers moved in.
Stunning developments in the past twenty years have included the opening of seven new championship golf courses designed by such masters as Jack Nicklaus, Robert Trent Jones. These courses have made Los Cabos the golf capital of Latin America. Additionally, Los Cabos boasts a myraid of hotels, including many luxury reasons on the corridor alone. Los Cabos is also home to some of the most phenomenal master-planned (view-protected), amenity-rich communities in all the world: Palmilla, Villas Del Mar, Cabo del Sol, Espiritu Del Mar, Punta Ballena, Oasis Palmilla and more.