At the point where Highway 1 makes a dramatic left turn entering El Rosario is the historic Mama Espinoza's and Motel La Cabaña. Its history began in 1769 with a muleteer named Carlos Espinoza, who rode with Junipero Serra’s expedition and was subsequently gifted a land grant in the area of the Arroyo El Rosario near where the hotel is now.
His ancestors continued to live and raise cattle in this lovely valley near the Pacific. Much later a beautiful young woman came to the little settlement known as El Rosario. Her name was Anita Grosso and she fell in love with Santiago Espinoza, “a dashing figure on horseback.” Santiago Espinoza and Anita married in 1931. A picture shows her pumping gas from the vintage 1917 pump. Anyone that has driven the road this far south would wonder how on earth the old model T Ford ever made it this far through the steep mountain passes. Up to 1971 the paved road stopped here and 800 miles of dirt road took you all the way to Cabo San Lucas. But before human history great dinosaurs roamed, leaving behind their bones, making El Rosario famous with paleontologists.
The rooms are very basic with two double beds and bath. TV reception is limited, but internet and cell phones work just fine. A great gift shop featuring handmade items, of cactus wood, hand carved alabaster figures and even a big selection of shark jaws, sporting very sharp teeth in a gaping grin. The giant mollusks known as ammonites, looking like giant sea snails, were found here and are on display. The restaurant in the same building is famous for the crab burritos and omelettes. The walls of the restaurant are covered with hundreds of pictures of off-road racers, who have used this as a way station for many years.
Mama Espinoza passed away at the age of 109, but her legacy lives on in this popular stop where the rustic accommodations offer the internet paired with a rich history. It is usually a brief stop, but travelers find it is the beginning of the most beautiful part of northern Baja. It is literally the entrance to the Valle de los Cirios, a protected area and where the Boojum Tree is found nowhere else except in parts of the Sonoran Desert. The change is abrupt and thrilling. Some say that the real Baja California begins here.