Hotel Serenidad, Forty Five Years Later

Timeless and Charming

By Guia Hiegert

I first visited Mulegé forty-five years ago as a young girl. I fell in love with the people and the Hotel Serenidad. Back then, one could walk into town. There were no houses along the dirt road along Río Mulegé. The town was a sleepy village. I remember watching women washing their clothing in the river.

The town and the hotel made such an impression on me that I never forgot them. I always wanted to return. Finally at the ripe old age of 74, I found myself this year heading back.

I talked my husband into visiting. We were so sick of being cooped up during Covid that he was as excited as I was to get out into the world again. Fortunately, I found the Discover Baja Travel Club website before we left. After downloading information on a myriad of things, we flew to Loreto, rented a car, and drove up to Mulegé. It was a one-and-a-half-hour drive over surprisingly good roads with only one police stop. They were nice to us—and even though we spoke no Spanish we had no problems.

Down a dusty road just south of town, Gary, my husband, told me later he was truly worried about where I was taking him. You see, back then, Mexicali Airlines landed on the dirt airstrip next to the hotel. I never had a car and walked everywhere. I had never walked the road to the highway.

The hotel was amazingly similar. Little has changed. I was so relieved to see the same charming courtyard and entry. With the one English-speaking desk clerk out of the office, I had some difficulty getting set up with our room but soon, we were in a beautiful river front room.

There is a beautiful pool in an enclosed part of the courtyard. It has a swim up bar which I am looking forward to visiting next year when we return (oh yes, we ARE going back!). It was being resurfaced while we were there.

Food was freshly made and certainly the best food I have had in Baja. The rooms were sparkling clean.

What has changed is that the owner, Don Johnson, has passed away as has his wife, Nancy. Nancy died first, and Don erected a small memorial chapel in the center of the property. I was crying as I left. The love letters to each other that are preserved inside are worthy of a visit.

What also has changed is the beach! Where once stood a row of thatch-roofed huts along the sandy beach is now a rocky strip of uninviting beach where occasional scallop divers venture in.

There was a great flood of the river several years ago and everything washed away. No matter. The Bahía Concepción beaches are a mere ten minutes’ drive from the property.

This time I learned more about the property. The Hotel Serenidad was one of the first “fly-in” fishing lodges. Back in the 40s and 50s, famous movie stars like John Wayne and other celebrities frequented its restaurant, rooms, and bar. (Best margaritas ever!) Their photographs are still featured in parts of the main building.

And now the Hotel boasts some RV hook ups as well. Those were being installed as we left.

Prices – one-third that of Loreto or any other touristy place.

The Town – as charming as I remembered. Under 3,500 people live here so it’s small and quaint. Prices are very reasonable for everything from rooms to food. Our breakfasts were under $10 for the two of us and featured fresh papayas and other delights. Rooms ranged from $65 to $75 a night and as I stated, were extremely comfortable.

The old mission of Santa Rosalia is here, as is an incredible river. It is as beautiful as I remember. Many birds live here because of the river and because of the Bahía Concepción and the mouth of the river, fishing is amazing.

If it weren’t for the Discover Baja Travel Club, I wouldn’t have probably gone to Baja. We don’t speak Spanish and we are old now. But you gave us the information we needed. We were able to download info on what to do in case of an accident, what to say to the police, how to make international phone calls, and a host of other things like road signs and information on beaches that made everything a breeze.

We are planning our next trip down next winter. It will become, we hope, an annual visit for the remainder of our lives (or at least that part where we able to travel!).

3 thoughts on “Hotel Serenidad, Forty Five Years Later

  1. larry bender says:

    Thank you for the memories of visiting the Hotel Serenidad. We are similar in age (75) and my last visit was some 55 years ago. My folks would pull a trailer down for a month on the beach in Mulege and I and a buddy would fly down from TJ for a week. Great fishing, shrimp boats offshore and the twice weekly Fiesta BBQs at the Hotel. Oh my, I can see it as if it was yesterday. I need to go back. My buddy has since passed on, but my son is a Baja nut like me. I have a house build ministry serving primarily the La Mision area of Baja. Blessings.

  2. Linda Stanfield Adams says:

    How well I remember Mulege and The Serenidad. So many wonderful memories, the Saturday night pig roast,the welcome from Don and his staff and of course the margaritas. Starting in 1972 I’ve driven every off road I could find in Baja from one end to the other and loved every bit of it. Never had a problem. I belonged to Mexico West (now Discover Baja), vagabonds del Mar, S.C.O.R.E and others. Like many others I hated to see all the changes in Baja. I liked it like it was, but that won’t keep me away.

  3. Bruce R. Elworthy says:

    My wife and I knew Nancy and Don and were privileged to know them. I met Don and Bert (a Hollywood transplant) one night in the Bar many, many years ago and we stayed with them many times. Unfortunately, we did not see them as often as we wanted due to medical issues on our part. We were there on what was perhaps the saddest day in the history of Baja del Sur when Clinton replaced Don as the local counsel with a thoroughly objectionable single mother who spoke no Spanish and was set to move her headquarters to Cabo San Lucas (more action there). We missed the opportunity to spend time with Don and Nancy in their later years, a fact that we will always regret.

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