The Rosarito Beach Hotel

The iconic Rosarito Beach Hotel is the most prominent landmark in Rosarito and also one of the most recognized hotels in Baja. The story of the Rosarito Beach Hotel began in the 1920s when Rosarito was a small, sleepy fishing village.

The grand opening of the hotel was publicized in an ad in the San Diego Union Tribune on July 27, 1924 proclaiming it the “sensation of the season.” Then named the El Rosarito Beach Resort and Country Club House, it was owned by Jay Danziger and Daisy Moreno, and had only 10 rooms at the time.

The ad proclaimed that people could “enjoy a real day at a Mexican beach resort, only 16 miles south of Tijuana Mexico.” It promised amusements such as fishing, bathing, hunting and horseback riding and legal alcoholic drinks (unlike in the U.S. where prohibition was in effect).

In 1929 Manuel Barbachano bought the Rosarito Beach Hotel. He was a visionary who also brought electricity and phone service to northern Baja. Barbachano had the goal of making the Rosarito Beach Hotel a world-class resort, in part to please his future wife, actress Maria Luisa Chabert, who was accustomed to the more glamorous life of Mexico City.

In 1932 Barbachano added more rooms and the hotel’s grand foyer which featured 20-foot ceilings, murals by Matias Santoyo, and replicas of Mayan and Aztec art. The lobby murals still remain today with some having been restored. The famous entrance to the Rosarito Beach Hotel features Maria Luisa’s elegant image in stained glass along with the words: “Though This Door Pass the Most Beautiful Women in the World.”

Barbachano  also began construction on a luxurious family mansion. Furnishings and fine materials were imported from throughout the world. Parts of the family mansion today comprise Chabert’s Restaurant and the Casa Playa Spa.

The alluring seaside resort soon became a favorite of the rich and famous, including the Hollywood crowd, some looking for a break from U.S. Prohibition. Guests throughout the years have included many Mexican presidents as well as Hollywood elite such as Orson Wells, Kirk Douglas, John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Spencer Tracy, Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Kim Novak, and Robert Redford. The resort had a landing strip between the buildings and beach, and sometimes there were more private planes than cars in the guest parking lots.

For decades, the hotel has served as a cultural hub for the community and the hotel’s elegant ballrooms and beautiful gardens provided the perfect setting for many prestigious gatherings and events including the Miss Universe pageant in 1974.

The founder’s nephew, Hugo Torres, took over the hotel in 1974. Torres was the first mayor of Rosarito and was integral in growing the town of Rosarito and turning it into a tourist destination. His entire family is actively involved in local politics and the Rosarito community.

The hotel has undergone several renovations and expansions over the years, adding modern amenities while preserving its historic charm. The traditional Mexican ambience, old-world charm, and history of the hotel continue to attract most of the visitors who come to Rosarito today, whether they stay as guests or come to eat or drink in any of the restaurants or bars. The hotel is sure to remain a beloved landmark and a testament to the enduring allure of Rosarito for years to come.

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