Los Cabos’ stark desert landscape and striking azure waters started gaining international attention after World War II, when Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Sophia Loren, Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Bing Crosby and John Wayne made it their vacation spot. Though its main resort towns, Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, really transformed into a tourism destination after more infrastructure was added in the ’80s and ’90s.
Perched at southern tip of Mexico’s 1,000-mile-long Baja Peninsula, Los Cabos is experiencing another tourism boom. In February 2018, Hakkasan Group and Grupo Vidanta christened the area with four new venues: the new Omnia Dayclub and restaurants Herringbone, Casa Calavera and Shorebar.
Then, in May, Montage Los Cabos — the company’s first property outside of the United States — debuted with the largest spa in the peninsula, and minimalist-chic Viceroy Los Cabos launched in the former Mar Adentro space. Solaz, A Luxury Collection Resort will open in September. And more luxury hotels are on the way, including Nobu (the first in Mexico); Four Seasons Resort Los Cabos at Costa Palmas; Zadún, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve (Mexico’s inaugural Reserve outpost); Amanvari; and Park Hyatt.
Plus, a new $50 million terminal will open at Los Cabos International Airport later this year.
Yet despite the flurry of development, Los Cabos suffered a blow when the U.S. State Department’s new travel warning system gave it a Level 2 advisory in January that implores travelers to “exercise increased caution.” The State Department updated its Mexico advisories on August 22, leaving Los Cabos’ warning intact.
“Criminal activity and violence, including homicide, remain an issue throughout the state,” the advisory said. “While most of these homicides appeared to be targeted, criminal organization assassinations, turf battles between criminal groups have resulted in violent crime in areas frequented by U.S. citizens.” Though it does say there are no U.S. government restrictions for travel in Baja California Sur, which includes the tourist areas of Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo and La Paz.
The advisory seems at odds with the seemingly thriving area that attracts close to 3 million visitors each year. So, is it safe to travel to Los Cabos?
“Today, Los Cabos is safer than ever,” said Rodrigo Esponda, managing director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board. “In the past year alone, the public and private sector have invested close to $50 million to upgrade security infrastructure, equipment and personnel. There has never been such a united and intensified effort to ensure safety.”
To address security concerns, Los Cabos launched a five-point action plan in 2017 that Esponda called “swift, aggressive and multipronged.” It includes a robust, rapid response system that connects all local businesses and hotels to each other and law enforcement authorities, expansions of our surveillance camera network, new security training and protocols aligned with U.S. Embassy standards, a new state-of-the-art intelligence center built for the elite Mexican marines and a hotel security committee that meets biweekly to ensure the plan is continually optimized.
“In the nine months since its implementation, we have seen a dramatic 90 percent decrease in security-related incidents,” he said.
The warning did not stop Hakkasan from rolling out its first Mexican properties. “We are aware of the travel advisory in Los Cabos and always take every precaution to ensure the safety of our guests,” said Gert Kopera, executive vice president of global restaurants for Hakkasan. “Baja California Sur and Mexico are currently categorized as Level 2 by the State Department, which is the same travel advisory level as the United Kingdom and France. As a result, we were not deterred from Cabo as we remain confident that the destination is safe and secure.”
Kopera emphasized that the area was the right fit for Hakkasan. “Cabo is more accessible from the United States than ever before, and we saw huge potential for Hakkasan Group’s brand of experiential entertainment in Mexico,” he said. “Cabo is known worldwide for its pristine beaches and panoramic ocean views, which create the perfect backdrop for an Omnia Dayclub. We also wanted to augment the dayclub with refined dining options and introduced three of our culinary concepts to Mexico. Herringbone’s focus on beachy vibes and California coastal cuisine proved perfect for Cabo, and Casa Calavera, a brand-new culinary concept with a colorful Dia de los Muertos theme, complements the locale sublimely.”
Montage Los Cabos also opened as scheduled. “The hotel has been well-received by both national and international guests,” said Montage marketing manager Carmen Paredes. “We have received many media and travel agents in the destination that can confirm that Los Cabos is a safe place to travel.”
In fact, Esponda said that Los Cabos is the fastest-growing destination in Mexico. “Seventy percent of our visitors are repeat guests and 20 percent have come more than four times. Many of them have been visiting the destination for several years and even own houses in the destination. As a result, the travel advisory’s impact was blunted by the destination’s built-in resilience,” he said. “In 2017, Los Cabos recorded its strongest growth year since 2010.”
Before this growth spurt, the region already was a draw with Forbes Travel Guide Five-Stars Esperanza, An Auberge Resort, The Resort at Pedregal and Las Ventanas al Paraíso, A Rosewood Resort; Four-Star One&Only Palmilla; and superior all-inclusives like Grand Fiesta Americana Los Cabos and Grand Velas Los Cabos.
Open since 1997, stalwart hotel Las Ventanas al Paraíso hasn’t seen business drop as a result of the advisory.
“There have been some isolated incidents in Mexico, which have occurred far from Los Cabos. It is safe to visit Los Cabos, and at Las Ventanas, we continue to take every precaution to ensure that our guests’ safety and privacy is protected throughout their stay,” said Frederic Vidal, managing director of Las Ventanas al Paraiso. “We are fortunate that Las Ventanas is one of the most secluded, private resorts in the world, allowing even the most high-profile of guests to feel safe and protected throughout their stay. Las Ventanas continues to experience a busy summer, and we encourage all travelers to enjoy the paradise that is Los Cabos.”