Remembering Don Johnson

By John Derby

This is a story about one man and his dream to bring people to Mulegé, Baja Sur, Mexico so they will know how special it is. His dream was to build the finest quality hotel and restaurant 600 miles south of the border.

His name is Don Johnson, an American who fell in love with a beautiful young Mexican woman called Nancy. She was the daughter of the Mayor of Mulegé when he tried to persuade her to marry him.

With much difficulty and bringing the Bishop all the way from La Paz, he was finally able to marry her and the couple brought three lovely daughters into the world, all of whom grew up and had a passion for the hotel and restaurant called Serenidad.

Don Johnson passed away at the age of 95 in September of 2020, however the Serenidad continues under the management of his three daughters: Sara Laura, Sandra, and Diana.

Recently, in grand traditional Mexican style, Don Johnson’s life was celebrated at the Serenidad.

People were invited to joint in the celebration from far and wide. There was a special service at the small chapel that Don Johnson built for his wife. There was also one of the famous Serenidad pig roasts, a mariachi band, more speeches, and a photo shoot.

Nothing was spared as they gave this man who made history in Mexico a royal send off. The daughters said their father was a man of joy and vitality and they wanted the celebration to be one which was a memory of the way he dedicated his life. Special guests flew in from all over landing at the airport next to Serenidad Hotel. The Serenidad was beautiful and reminded people of the early days when it was a very popular spot for tourists.

When Covid hit Mexico, it took its toll and forced the closure of the hotel and restaurant for four months. However, when the hotel re-opended, many new improvements had been made including new furnishings in the dining area as well as other areas.

A decision has been made by the three daughters to keep the legacy of their parents alive. While difficult, all three will participate in the running of the Serenidad. Sometimes that means only a few days or a week at a time by each of the daughters who have families to care for in Tijuana and Chula Vista.

They saw to it that they had an excellent chef at the restaurant with Juan Gabriel. Alma Meza manages the scheduling groups and reservations. Roman, who has served as bartender for 40 years is still serving customers at the bar. An excellent staff greets each and every guest.

There will be nights with music and about once a month they will keep the pig roast alive.

Service is a byword at the Serenidad following the tradition that Don Johnson set over 60 years ago. If we are any judge, the Hotel Serenidad and its restaurant will be here to serve its customers for many years to come.

hotel serenidad pool

You are invited to come and join this historic place which has such an excellent reputation of Mexican hospitality.

The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner from 6:30 am to 10 pm.

Reservations for the hotel can be made by emailing or by calling 615 153 0530 or going to WHATSAPP 615 109 9312.

8 thoughts on “Remembering Don Johnson

  1. Bruce Stock says:

    A wonderful host and one I would call friend. We always stopped to visit over the last 50 years or so. RIP Don.

  2. Vincent J. Flynn, MD says:

    Don was a special person, a good friend since I first met him in the mid ’60’s when he was just getting started. My late brother, Patrick, and I were both physicians and did what we could to help out. One night Patrick treated a car accident victim from the hiway by taking care of his injuries on the floor of the lobby of the Serenidad Hotel. I visited Don once at Scripps hospital, La Jolla where I worked. Once, when he was the American Consul representative for Baja Sur, he drove down to our house on Coyote Bay and informed me that my mother had just passed away. Memorable incidents with Don. There were many thru the years.

  3. Ron Watson says:

    I am very sorry I missed the celebration. I had known Don since 1966. I did know about it.
    Don his wife Nancy and daughters, very special.
    Roman still owes me a drink for a computer.
    I am looking forward to coming down to visit my good friends at Serenidad once again.
    All my love,
    Captain Ron Watson

  4. pat rains says:

    As a single woman driving up and down Baja 4 or 5 times a year, I always felt safe staying at Serenidad or camping there in my 1967 Combi. I was driving to and from my sailboat anchored in either Sta Rosalia, Concepcion, Pto Escondido or La Paz, so a safe overnight stop en route was always critical. Serenidad still feels like my safe refuge thanks to the great people.

  5. Sally Alves says:

    We visited the Serenidad several times in the late 1970’s, enjoyed the pig feed that was a huge celebration at that time with friends flying in, mariachi band etal. Big crowd. On one occasion we were unable to return to our campsite at Santispac due to weather and Don and Nancy offered us a lovely casa for free for the night. Such generosity from this wonderful couple.

  6. Eric Ritter says:

    He was a great help in my archaeological research in the area.

  7. Paul Boe says:

    Don was a great guy. About 30 years ago my friend lost his vacuum brake pump on his old Ford diesel. We all were parked in the camp area at the Serenidad. Don was making a run up to Tijuana and made a special trip across the border to get the new part for my buddy. Such a wonderful human being.

  8. Bruce R. Elworthy says:

    When I met Don in the 1980’s from the moment I shook his hand I knew he was my friend and I hoped that I would be his. We were around for some of the best times (in the bar with Don and Bert) and some of the worst (the Clinton appointment of Don’s successor who was totally unsuited to the job). Anne and I will always remember Don and Nancy and treasure the memories and the souvenirs from Nancy’s shop that cause us to remember them daily.

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