By Debbie Hall
Opened as a lodge more than 80 years ago, Rosarito Beach Hotel is a Baja spa resort located in what was once part of the family mansion. The 500-room, full-service resort remains one of the most popular destination for the city’s more than 1 million visitors a year offering old world grandeur, world-class restaurants, entertainment, lodging options and activities. Its Casa Playa Spa is dedicated to pampering and nurturing hotel guests in an atmosphere of elegance and serenity.
The history of the Rosarito Beach Hotel has shaped the growth of west Baja California Norte with Rosarito Beach 30 miles south of San Diego.
“We are blessed with a coast line of white sandy beaches and inland areas of natural beauty. Our goal is to enhance the resources of Rosarito Beach, both for our residents and the visitors who enjoy our wonderful city,” said Hugo Torres Chabert, president and manager of the Rosarito Beach Hotel.
“Getting to the resort was simple for me,” said Tammy Shaw, publisher of Las Vegas Woman magazine. “I had to arrive later in the evening than my group, so I took a shuttle from San Diego to the resort. It was late at night and I felt safe in the shuttle. From San Diego, I was there in less than an hour. Upon arriving, the resort was beautiful, clean, and authentic and I instantly felt relaxed. My room was spacious and modern with hints of Mexican culture from the artwork hanging on the wall.”
“And the amenities of the resort are fabulous,” Shaw continued. “There are three pools to choose from. One of them is a lap pool if you want to get some exercise in. One pool is an infinity pool, surrounded by beautiful plants and flowers. The staff is there; ready to serve anything from mixed drinks to my personal favorite, fresh squeezed carrot juice.”
“Daniel Torres, Patricia Orozoo and the whole staff is so service oriented,” said Ruth Lauber, vice president of Las Vegas Woman magazine. “All of my wants and needs were taken care of by them.”
“On some nights, I spent on the balcony watching the sunset over the water. As the resort is right on the beach, my favorite activity was walking on the beach. During the weekday, the beach is quiet and serene. I went for runs and walks. On the weekends, the beach fills up with food vendors selling fresh mangos on a stick and churros, lots of families, locals and tourists. Walking on the beach during the weekend was so much fun!”
Shaw added, “I enjoyed sleeping with the balcony door open to hear the waves of the ocean. On some nights, I spent on the balcony watching the sunset over the water. As the resort is right on the beach, my favorite activity was walking on the beach. During the weekday, the beach is quiet and serene. I went for runs and walks. On the weekends, the beach fills up with food vendors selling fresh mangos on a stick and churros, lots of families, locals and tourists. Walking on the beach during the weekend was so much fun! There were mariachi bands everywhere you turn.”
The Casablanca Restaurant is located near the beach bringing the flavors of colorful, balanced and exquisite dishes. Visitors can also order unique cocktails and tapas in the restaurant’s lounge with a breathtaking view of the ocean. A traditional Mexican buffet at a folkloric ballet show is offered in the Salon Mexicano.
“There was a consensus among the group that the shrimp cocktail was the best we’ve ever tasted,” admitted Shaw. “The large shrimp, in avocado, parsley, onion, in tomato cocktail sauce concoction was addicting. We enjoyed it every day.”
To the right of the hotel entrance is the Rosa and Rita hacienda-style bar. This karaoke bar is decorated with wonderful historic photographs of the hotel from 1926 to the present. It provides guests with a trip of the grand history of the legendary Rosarito Beach Hotel. There is also the Adobe lounge with live music playing old time favorites creating an intimate ambiance.
Located just northeast of Ensenada, Guadalupe Valley offers great wine tasting. The Baja California Wine Country is blessed with some of the most ideal Mediterranean climate for grape growing and the valley is home to about 18 wineries. The different wines can also be enjoyed at the Rosarito Beach Hotel where once a month they host a wine tasting and dinner at Chabert’s restaurant featuring many of the local wineries.
Baja’s Gold Coast, the 60 scenic miles that stretch from just south of San Diego to Ensenada, offers some of the best recreational activities. Fishing is available right off Rosarito Beach Hotel’s quarter-mile wooden pier. Explore the beach in an ATV or ride a horse alongside the water at sunset. There is golfing, parasailing, shopping spree and a nightlife.
Shaw explained, “We enjoyed waking the shopping stores and marketplace during the day. There were wonderful hand crafted pottery, jewelry stores and lunch restaurants to enjoy. We stopped into El Nino for fresh made tortillas and delicious local quail. One evening, we took a taxi 20 minutes away to a town called Puerto Nuevo, otherwise known as the ‘Lobster Capital of Baja.’ There were over 30 restaurants serving, you guessed it, lobster. Fresh caught lobster for amazing prices. This was some of the sweetest lobster I’ve ever tasted.”
Having a day at the spa at the Casa Playa Spa completes a relaxing vacation. When it originally opened in 1925, the Rosarito Beach Hotel was considered a vacation and health destination because the sea swept air was both preservative and restorative. Early visitors appreciated the therapeutic effects of saltwater bathing and fresh ocean air. People were also drawn to the soul satisfying aesthetics the seascape provided. The hotel’s oceanfront location gave early visitors the chance to enjoy one of nature’s most inherently beautiful landscapes: sun, sand and the sea.
Casa Playa Spa has put together a variety of body services that can help achieve smooth and nourished skin. Natural products are used from the sea and earth. They are specially combined to restore and improve the condition of the skin as well as to detoxify and rehydrate creating an all-over body glow. The staff consists of registered and highly trained massage therapists. They are educated on how to effectively relax muscles, increase circulation and improve joint mobility using light and deep tissue techniques.
“I enjoyed The Casa Playa Spa at Rosarito Beach Hotel,” said Shaw. “The spa is a mansion-like ornate building nestled next to the main hotel building and towers. Walking into the spa, you can feel the history in this building of the roaring 20s until now. Many celebrities enjoyed what it had to offer over the years, and now it continues to serve as a place of relaxation.”
Special guests Marilyn Monroe, Lana Turner, Joan Bennett and Kim Novak inspired the sign above the entrance that reads, “Through this door pass the most beautiful women in the world.”
In the 1920s, people from all over the world traveled to hunt the quail, ducks, deer and mountain lions that inhabited the area. The lodge was then purchased by Manuel P. Barbachano, which began the historic journey of what is now known as the Rosarito Beach Hotel.
Wanting to expand the eight rooms and one bath lodge, Barbachano began drawing up plans and working on developing the area as a whole. To design the elaborate hotel lobby with 20-foot-high ceilings, he worked with an engineer. He also added more guest rooms and a large dining room that included a bar running the entire length of the room.
Barbachano hired people that lived on nearby ranches to work on the hotel’s construction. After the completion of the hotel, many of them stayed on as staff and today, a number of the hotel workers are children and grandchildren of the original families who built and worked at the facility.
Barbachano continued to expand the beautiful hotel. He had special murals made to decorate the lobby walls and placed replicas of important Aztec and Mayan art throughout the hotel. The grand hotel foyer was constructed, including the addition of 50 rooms, the Salon Mexicano Ballroom and the Azteca restaurant and the decoration of extraordinary chandeliers and furniture from Mexico City. He wanted the hotel to emphasize gracious Mexican living but also appeal to the U.S. tourist.
In 1937, Barbachano married Maria Luisa Chabert, an aspiring actress from Mexico City, and built a gorgeous 19-room mansion next to his hotel. In 1940, he expanded the Rosarito Beach Hotel again by putting in an Olympic-sized tiled swimming pool, casual Beachcomber bar and more guest rooms. The World War II and post-war years continued to see popularity of the hotel grow.
Barbachano died in 1954 and his wife Maria remarried in 1957 to a U.S. Navy Pilot, James Shaw. The couple moved to Washington state and Maria Shaw leased the hotel. In 1974, Hugo Torres Chabert, Maria Shaw’s nephew, became president and manager of the Rosarito Beach Hotel and continues to manage the operation.
In the early 1980s, a wing of ocean-view rooms were added to the hotel and in 1992, an eight-story tower to the north opened with 147 more oceanfront rooms. The elegant, 19-room Barbachano estate has been transformed into the hotel’s spa, Casa Playa, as well as housing the Mediterranean specialty restaurant, Chaberts, in the elaborate former living room.
According to Chabert, Rosarito Beach Hotel will keep its traditions while upgrading for the 21st century and beyond. For more information, visit rosaritobeachhotel.com or call 1.866.ROSARITO (76727486).