RESTAURANT WEEK RETURNS WITH RECORD PARTICIPATION

RESTAURANT WEEK RETURNS WITH RECORD PARTICIPATION

The Riviera Nayarit has confirmed its participation in Restaurant Week, a gourmet festival that will be held from May 15th through June 10th with the inclusion of 12 of the destination’s restaurants—double the number of registrants from 2018.

Generally speaking, this is the second year in a row the record for participating restaurants has been broken with 62 restaurants preparing for the 2019 event(the previous record was established in 2018 with 59 participants).

The event is organized by Vallarta Lifestyles Media Group with the support of the Riviera Nayarit Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Puerto VallartaTourism Trust. Restaurant week is one of several top culinary events held in the region.

Participants comprise a wide range of types of cuisine and are located all along Banderas Bay, providing local and foreign diners with the opportunity to taste the varied flavors of the destination at reduced prices.

Throughout the event, these venues will offer innovative, three-course menus (with three different options each) and will be grouped into three price categories: $289, $399 y $466 MXN per person, which in some cases represent a discount up to 50 %. Note that tips and beverages are not included in these prices.

This year’s 62 participating restaurants are: Amadeo’s Bistró, Archie’s Wok, Azafrán, Barcelona Tapas, Barrio Bistro, Bistro Limón, Bistro Teresa, Bistro Orgánico (Hotel Cielo Rojo), Blanca Blue, Boccon di Vino, Boquería Hidalgo, Café des Artistes, Coco Tropical, Daiquiri Dick’s, Di Vino Dante, Eclecticos, El Arrayán, El Dorado, El Patrón Viva Vallarta, Eugenia, Gaviotas, Hacienda San Ángel Gourmet, Joe Jack’s Fish Shack, Kaiser Maximilian, La Cappella, La Cigale, La Leche, La Palapa, Layla’s Restaurante, Le Bistro Café, Le Kliff, Lobster Paradise, Lupita Mexican & Seafood, Mark’s Bar & Grill, Mérida Grill, Mikado, Nicksan, No Way José!, Ocean Grill, Ookii Sushi, OPA Greek Bistro, Oso’s Fish Market Restaurant, Pal’Mar Sea Food & Grilled Garage, Pezlimon, Pizzeria La Dolce, Porto Bello, Restaurante Icú, River Café, Sapori di Sicilia, Seasons PV, Serrano’s Meat House, Si Señor Beach, Sonora House, Spice Market, The Blue Shrimp, The Iguana, Tintoque, Trio Mediterranean, Tuna Blanca, Umai, Venazu and Vitea.

The 16 restaurants joining Restaurant Week for the very first time are: Amadeo’s Bistro, Bistro Limon, Boquería Hidalgo, Eclécticos, El Patrón Viva Vallarta, Eugenia, Joe Jack’s Fish Shack, Lobster Paradise, Ocean Grill, Ookii Sushi, OPA Greek Bistro, Pal’Mar Sea Food & Grilled Garage, Sonora House, Spice Market, Umai and Venazu.

HOLY WEEK AND EASTER VACATIONS IN THE RIVIERA NAYARIT

HOLY WEEK AND EASTER VACATIONS IN THE RIVIERA NAYARIT

You have no excuse for staying home during Holy Week and Easter! The Riviera Nayarit wants your vacations to be unforgettable with Seasonal Offers that go live from Friday, April 5 through May 2, 2019 that include promotions from 23 hotels associated with the destination.

Participating hotels from Nuevo Vallarta, Flamingos, Bucerías, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Punta de Mita, and Rincón de Guayabitos are offering rates from $2,700 MXN and discounts from 20% up to 54%, free amenities, and much more.

This promotional event is organized by the Bahía de Banderas Hotel and Motel Association (AHMBB and the Riviera Nayarit Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) to incentivize tourism during this holiday period, one of most important for domestic travelers.

“These offers were created to make the luxury of the Riviera Nayarit accessible to more people,” said Marc Murphy, director of the Bahía de Banderas Hotel and Motel Association (AHMBB) and managing director of the Riviera Nayarit Hotel and Motel Association (CVB). “We have a great variety of hotels and resorts for everyone, and each time the properties are offering more discounts and incentives.”

Promotions and amenities:
• Free calls to the U.S. and Canada • Pet-friendly hotels • Up to 3 children stay free • $50 USD in resort credits • Free WiFi • Unlimited calls in Mexico and to the United States and Canada • Unlimited all-inclusive • Unlimited rounds of golf • Theme nights • Pillow menus • Free babysitting for 8 hours with a minimum stay of 5 nights • 3 and 6 months with no interest.

Stay in the best hotels:
In Nuevo Vallarta and Flamingos: Dreams Villamagna; Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit; Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta; Marina Banderas; Marival Residences; Marival Emotions Resort; Occidental Nuevo Vallarta; Ocean Breeze; Paradise Village; Riu Palace Pacífico; Riu Vallarta; Samba Vallarta; Las Palomas Nuevo Vallarta; Villa del Palmar Flamingos; Villa La Estancia.
Bucerías: Royal Decameron Complex; Vista Vallarta.
La Cruz de Huanacaxtle: B Nayar; Matlali; Vallarta Gardens.
Punta de Mita and Higuera Blanca: Rancho Banderas; Imanta Resort.
Rincón de Guayabitos: Las Cabañas del Capitán.

Vallarta is Planning Semana Santa Activities

Vallarta is Planning Semana Santa Activities

Semana Santa is fast approaching! The municipal government in Puerto Vallarta is busy preparing family friendly events to be enjoyed over the two-week holiday.

The city will set up four stages on the Malecón, where people will be able to enjoy free entertainment, including traditional Mexican dance, live music, circus shows and more.

Municipal tourism director Ramón González Lomelí says that the city’s two ‘Turicletos,’ pedal-powered by as many as 20 people at a time, as well as a train will be put on the Malecón during semana Santa.

To promote tourism and encourage visitors to check out the city centre, González Lomelí said that these are just some of the activities that the city has planned.

The celebrations will continue into the month of May with other events including the 13th Festival Vallarta Azteca del Folclor from April 28 through May 5 with a week of shows around the city, the Puerto Vallarta Open ATP Tennis Tournament from April 29 through May 5 held across from Villa del Palmar in the Hotel Zone, and the 2019 Down Puerto Vallarta Extreme Bike Race is on again on May 18 & 19.

If tequila is king, raicilla is the queen: a visit to a rustic distillery in Jalisco

Making raicilla at Rancho NuevoMaking raicilla at Rancho Nuevo: after heating the oven, the fire is extinguished and the piñas are thrown inside.

If tequila is king, raicilla is the queen: a visit to a rustic distillery in Jalisco

Dry-baked agave gives this mezcal a distinctive flavor

“Have you ever seen how they make raicilla, John?” asked my friend JP Mercado. Well, I had been told that raicilla was a kind of moonshine made in the mountains, but beyond that I knew nothing, so when JP offered to take me to a taberna (rustic distillery) where they make it, I signed up on the spot.

“And where is that taberna located?” I asked my friend.

“In a place called Rancho Nuevo, which is 70 kilometers east of Puerto Vallarta,” Mercado replied, but when he sent me the coordinates, I stared at my map of Jalisco in disbelief. Rancho Nuevo appeared to be situated right smack in the middle of a huge empty space — with no roads visible — identified only as Sierra Jolapa, a mountain range I had never heard of.

“Well, well,” I thought, “this already sounds interesting.”

Before heading for the taberna in the hills, I tried to learn what I could about raicilla.

JP Mercado with the Maximiliana agave.

JP Mercado with the Maximiliana agave.

I found out that the mezcal industry — according researchers Zizumbo and Colunga — was probably born in 1612 in the state of Colima when the conquistadores cut down all the coconut palms on the coast in an effort to eliminate the production of a distilled spirit called tuba or vino de cocos.

The thirsty population then turned to agaves. When the Spaniards eventually got around to taxing these spirits, local people came up with a tale to tell the tax collector: “We aren’t making our drink from the piña or agave heart (which was taxable) but from its root (raicilla)” — which, of course, is the very same thing.

Finally came the day for me to visit the raicilla taberna. Early one morning JP and his wife Ana picked me up. As we drove, Ana, who had grown up in that mysterious Sierra Jolapa, told me that while traveling around Mexico and the world, she would present new friends with a gift of raicilla, knowing they would surely never have heard of it.

“But everyone who tried it was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted and would want more.”

Eventually the owners of bars and hotels also began to ask the Mercados about this “vino del cerro” and they began to look into the question of permits and regulations that might allow the raicilla of Rancho Nuevo to be marketed commercially, as is tequila.

“Wait a minute!” I interjected. “Exactly what is the difference between raicilla and tequila?”

The distillery is nestled in the hills of the Sierra Jolapa.

The distillery is nestled in the hills of the Sierra Jolapa.

JP told me I might as well add sotol, bacanora, tepemete and bingarrote to my list. All of these beverages, I found out, are distilled spirits made from the juice of a cooked agave, so all of them are mezcales (actually, this is incorrect. Sotol is made from a member of the asparagus family).

Tequila is made only from the blue agave, while raicilla can be made from any one of five agaves, and so on down the list.

To complicate things, territory comes into play here. The word tequila can only be used for blue agave spirits produced in Jalisco or parts of four other states. “The denomination of origin for raicilla was unclear up to very recently,” JP told me, “but now the product is protected and can only be made in Jalisco.

“Meanwhile, we have obtained federal, state and local permits to produce our own brand of raicilla, which is called La Reina, made only in Rancho Nuevo where we are now headed.”

From Guadalajara we drove west and then north, through ever higher hills covered with oaks and feathery pine trees, perhaps Lumholtz’s pine. Following steep, narrow dirt roads we skirted the edge of a deep valley bordered on the other side by gorgeous red cliffs.

At the end of a three-hour drive, we reached La Taberna de la Reina, situated alongside a brook bubbling with clear, clean, drinkable water.

Raicilla La Reina, “queen of mezcales.”

Raicilla La Reina, “queen of mezcales.”

Here we were welcomed by the maestro of the taberna, Don Julio Topete Becerra, who carries on a tradition passed from father to son. Right from the spot where we stood, we could see every stage in the raicilla-making process.

The hillside above us was covered with Maximiliana agaves, which have very broad leaves. To my surprise and delight, I learned that these agaves come from seeds, not clones (as do tequila agaves), so the flowers are fertilized by bats, suggesting that every bottle of raicilla deserves a “bat-friendly” sticker.

After six to eight years, the agave is mature. Its pencas are removed (often with an axe) and the root is broken into several pieces. The next stage is cooking, which turned out a bit different from what I had seen at tequila distilleries.

The oven is made of adobe with walls half a meter thick. A hot fire is started inside the oven and allowed to burn for six hours. Once the oven walls are hot, the coals are pulled out with a long-handled rake and the chunks of piña are thrown inside. Immediately, the two openings of the oven are closed with big blocks of adobe and sealed tightly with clay.

So the agave root is not steamed or smoked, but dry-baked, giving raicilla its own distinctive taste.

The most unusual procedure in making raicilla is the one that comes next. The sweet, juicy mezcal is not run through a crusher or under a stone wheel. Instead, it is placed in a long, hollowed-out tree trunk (oak) and mashed by hand using heavy wooden pounders with long handles.

This is back-breaking work and if you visit the place, they will dare you to try doing it for just five minutes.

Once the canoe-shaped trough is filled with juice, the gooey, fibrous mixture is removed using buckets and poured into wooden barrels for fermentation.

The next stage, as in tequila-making, is distillation. This is easy to understand at La Reina, where you can see the final product dripping from the end of a long copper tube, most of which is coiled inside a barrel filled with water.

The final stage of production is aging. Don Julio dipped into a barrel and I got my first taste of properly made raicilla. What a surprise!

“This is really good!” I exclaimed. “It can hold its own against any tequila, in my book.”

“Now you can see why Ana’s friends were always pestering her for more,” said JP. “In these hills, they say, if tequila is king, raicilla is the queen.”

    • 7—sm-Cuastecomate-Flavored-Raicilla
      Ana Mercado tastes raicilla flavored with cuastecomate gourds.
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  • 7—sm-Cuastecomate-Flavored-Raicilla
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  • 10—sm-Juice-Extraction-Machine
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  • 13—sm-The-Cooks

If you would like to know more, or to visit the taberna in Rancho Nuevo, just leave a message at Raicilla La Reina. You’ll discover that both JP Mercado and his wife Ana speak excellent English.

The writer has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco, for more than 30 years and is the author of A Guide to West Mexico’s Guachimontones and Surrounding Area and co-author of Outdoors in Western Mexico. More of his writing can be found on his website.

People of Vallarta: Francine Peters in Memory

People of Vallarta: Francine Peters in Memory

For ten years he was beaten; every single day kids slapped, kicked, punched and called him names. On the last day of school, while walking alone, six boys jumped out of bushes.  They were about to attack Fred. “This stops now!” Fred fumed and for the first time ever, he fought back.  His rage was furious and as a result, he pummelled all six boys.  The next year, when returning to school, Fred discovered that fighting back had garnered him a new level of respect.  No one bullied him and everyone left him alone.  Despite this new found peace, Fred was still angry.  He intuitively knew he was ‘different’ but could not pinpoint exactly why.

Carrying on with his life, Fred met and fell head over heels in love with his wife, selling his beloved pick-up truck to buy her an engagement ring. They married and had one child, a daughter.  Fred worked many jobs: he was a truck driver hauling logs, a cook/chef and a heavy-duty equipment operator.  Eventually, as he grew tired of his destructive lifestyle, he took up painting.

A friend displayed Fred’s paintings in his café where they sold very well (they were flying off the walls).  As he continued to paint, his work received glowing accolades and won several awards. During this time, Fred encountered some less than desirable people including his agent who robbed him of 10’s of thousands of dollars in an international art scandal that made the newspapers.  “When that news broke, I could walk into any art gallery. It was an awful time, but it put me on the map!”

But isn’t this a story about Francine, you might be wondering? Once, while his wife was out running errands, Fred was busy putting away the laundry.  He picked up a ‘delightful to the touch’ dress and decided to try it on.  As he pulled it over his head, he felt shivers run throughout his body.  “It was better than any drug for me,” he said.

When he finally summoned the courage to tell his wife, he found her to be initially supportive; she even taught him about makeup and showed him how to ‘not walk like a logger.’  However, two years later, the marriage ended; telling Francine, “I have never seen you happier, I love you but do not need a roommate.”

In her ‘coming out’ period, Francine was terrified to tell her mother (her father had already passed away).  Francine describes her mother as “a little old Scottish lady; five foot nothing with tissues stuffed in her sleeves.”

Francine’s worry was unfounded; in response to her news, Francine’s eighty-year-old mother said, “I don’t have one of those Google machines, but I’m going to learn everything I can about transgendered people!”  She cried and hugged Francine; “I will love you no matter what.”

With tears in her eyes, Francine recalls how several years later, her mother said in passing, “Finally, I have the daughter I always wanted.”

When she came out to her daughter she replied with: “Like I never saw that coming!”  When her daughter was engaged to be married, Francine told her: “I guess I will have to revert back to being Fred if I want to walk you down the aisle as father of the bride.”  The daughters’ response,  “What?!  NO!  You are now Francine and will walk with me as Francine!”  On the day of the wedding, both Francine and her daughter walked down the aisle with both faces beaming with happiness and pride.

In the coming years Francine moved to Puerto Vallarta and like many others, she describes it as a “magical place.” Prior to moving here, she had quit painting for six years; she was burned out—“for fifteen years I produced three hundred paintings per year and all the galleries wanted the same thing.”

Today at many charity fundraisers you will likely see a Francine Peters painting donated. Silent auctions for her paintings bring in a healthy amount of money; money which Francine admits she could most certainly use.  Despite living peso to peso and barely “making ends meet,” Francine prefers to help others; after all, people helped her and she wants to pay it forward.

She tells me about one summer when Danny Mininni of Act II Stages suggested she display her work on the walls of his theatre; he told her, “I want to see you make it.” She smiles when sharing this story and tells me that “now, every night, hundreds of people can see, and walk by, my work!”

This story began with Fred and ends with Francine.  In being true to herself and becoming who she was always meant to be, Francine found herself with “more family and friends than I ever had in my whole life.”  “I may be alone,” she says “but I am never lonely.”

 

Francine Peters passed away this past weekend. A memorial celebration is arranged for Thursday, April 4 at 6:30 pm at Langostino’s in Old Town.

More and more Baby Boomers are moving to Mexico for retirement

More and more Baby Boomers are moving to Mexico for retirement

(Photo: Google)

Morgan Hill, California – A new “Expats In Mexico” online survey of people who are considering moving to Mexico found that 81 percent of Baby Boomer respondents said they will retire in Mexico, nearly 52 percent within two years.

“It’s not surprising that so many Baby Boomers, primarily from the U.S. and Canada, are considering retiring in Mexico,” said Robert Nelson, Expats In Mexico co-founder and author of Boomers in Paradise – Living in Puerto Vallarta. “I discovered this trend 11 years ago while researching my book and it has just continued to pick up steam.”

The Mexican government reported over 1.2 million expats were living in Mexico through 2017, the latest figure available. The 2000 Mexican census data showed just under 540,000 expats in Mexico. Americans represented over 80 percent of all expats living in Mexico two years ago, nearly 900,000.

Retirement is the main reason why Boomers and all respondents want to move to Mexico. Both groups also rated cost of living and better climate as top reasons to move.

“Mexico as a retirement destination for Baby Boomers makes sense,” Nelson said. “According to a recent report by the Stanford Center on Longevity, U.S. Baby Boomers hold less wealth, are deeper in debt and will face higher expenses than retirees a decade older than them. Why not live better in a nicer climate?”

But all is not perfect south of the border. About 45 percent of all respondents and Boomers say security issues in Mexico might be a concern for them. Lack of Spanish language skills and quality of healthcare were less important considerations.

Both Baby Boomers and all respondents selected Puerto Vallarta as their destination of choice, followed by the Lake Chapala area and Los Cabos. About 38 percent of all respondents and Boomers chose a wide variety of other locations in Mexico.

The self-selected online survey was completed by 337 respondents in January and February 2019. Respondents were primarily Americans and Canadians.

You can find more survey results at ExpatsInMexico.com, an online magazine designed for both expats currently living in Mexico and aspiring expats considering moving to Mexico.

Source: ExpatsInMexico.com

International tourist numbers up 5.5% last year and they spent more, To Mexico

The beach umbrellas are ready for more growth in tourism.The beach umbrellas are ready for more growth in tourism.

International tourist numbers up 5.5% last year and they spent more

There were 41.4 million international tourists and they spent 6% more

The Secretariat of Tourism (Sectur) said in a statement that 41,447,000 foreign tourists visited Mexico in 2018 compared to 39.3 million the year before.

The tourists spent just over US $20.3 billion while here, 6% more than in 2017. Each international tourist spent on average US $490 in the country.

The top 10 source countries for tourists who arrived by air were the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Spain, Germany, France and Peru.

Once daytrippers from the three countries with which Mexico shares a border are added, a total of just under 96.8 million foreign visitors entered the country last year.

That figure represents a 2.6% decline on total visitor numbers in 2017, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi).

The 55.3 million daytrippers spent just under US $2.2 billion or an average of $39 each, taking total tourism expenditure to just over $22.5 billion, 5.5% more than 2017.

For this year, Sectur predicts that international numbers could hit 43.6 million, which would represent a 5.2% increase on last year’s figures. Total tourism expenditure is forecast to reach jut under US $23.7 billion, which would also be 5.2% higher than in 2018.

Tourism Secretary Miguel Torruco Marqués described the outlook in both areas as positive.

Earlier this month, Torruco said that the government is aiming to increase expenditure by tourists in Mexico by focusing more on attracting big spenders.

Among the nationalities that spend the most while visiting Mexico, the Japanese were in first place, spending an average of $2,008, not including airfare.

However, in terms of visitor numbers, Japan was only in 17th place with 140,363 visitors.

Source: Notimex (sp) 

A week on the Sea of Cortez, ‘the world’s aquarium’.

The tiny island of San Francisquito.The tiny island of San Francisquito. CHRIS LLOYD

A week on the Sea of Cortez, ‘the world’s aquarium’

Myriad species of marine life, from sea lions to needlefish

Day 1, Los Islotes Island, Baja California Sur

We are anchored at the sea lion rookery of Los Islotes, 1,300 kilometers northwest of Mexico City. I am a guest of my friend Richard Gresham aboard his 51-foot sloop, the good ship God’s Way.

We set out from La Paz for this point early this morning, passing Steven Spielberg’s huge yacht, Seven Seas, along the way. The other two crew members are geologist Chris Lloyd and tarantula expert Rodrigo Orozco.

At the moment, I am the only person on board, as the other three are 29 meters away, hobnobbing with a bunch of very curious sea lion pups they found in a tiny inlet, a hopefully safe distance away from the enormous males sprawled over nearby rocks and creating a great stir with their loud, raucous calls.

“The babies kept nibbling at my fins . . . they nibble at everything, just to see what it is,” Rodrigo Orozco told me later. “They seemed to be having a lot of fun.”

Heading for shore in a kayak to explore the beach.

Heading for shore in a kayak to explore the beach.

Jacques Cousteau called the Sea of Cortez “the world’s aquarium,” and no wonder. During just a few hours we have spotted parrotfish, butterflyfish, triggerfish, billfish, surgeonfish, groupers, mackerel and sardines. As for birds, we have seen pelicans, cormorants, boobies, sandpipers, great blue herons, ravens and, of course, seagulls.

With reluctance we raise anchor and head for our next destination, La Partida.

“It’s a nice, quiet place with a high, sloping wall that blocks the wind,” says the captain. “You’ll enjoy walking along the shore: it’s just teeming with marine life.”

Although our destination is nice and quiet, getting there is something else because the sea is choppy today. As soon as the engine is turned on, the boat begins to crash over the waves: Bang! Bang! Bang!

Everything inside the cockpit begins first to swing, then to rise and fall. Anything that wasn’t properly stored then slides off whatever surface it was on and crashes to the floor, rolling, bouncing, shattering or splashing in every direction.

Bang! Bang! Bang! As the spray washes over the deck, every window in the boat begins to leak, including the one above my bed.

Pelican at Los Islotes.

Pelican at Los Islotes. CHRIS LLOYD

“Captain! The windows are leaking!”

The reply is barely audible over the commotion of a ship under way: “John, in a boat, everything leaks. Better get used to it.”

With the ship in motion, we crew members now have a choice: stay in the cockpit and get seasick or go on deck and get blasted by icy spray that hits you every time the boat crashes into a wave.

Well, on the deck it’s windy, wet and cold, guaranteeing that if you are up there during phase one you won’t be passing those four hours reading or writing, so I opt for the cockpit and, fortunately, my stomach quickly learns how to adjust to the wild thrashing of the boat.

Then the captain shouts, “Land ho!” The engine is shut off and there is a sudden hush as we glide into the sheltered bay. We have arrived.

God’s Way, my floating home for a week, is owned by “semi-retired” mining engineer Richard Gresham, who says he’s always dreamed of sailing and bought God’s Way from a very religious man living in the Bible Belt “who was no good at repairing anything, so I was able to buy the boat for a song because it was in a terrible state when I got it.

Pelicans and sea lion at Los Islotes rookery.

Pelicans and sea lion at Los Islotes rookery.

But then it cost me a fortune to get it up to where it is today. I bought this sloop with the intention of sailing it through the Panama Canal, up through the Caribbean and on to Boston . . . but projects got in the way and, in the meantime, I fell in love with the Sea of Cortez, which I have toured eight times so far and which I expect to tour several times more, as there is so much to see in this wonderful sea . . . life is good!”

Day 3, San Francisco Island

This island is notable for its high, barren, rocky walls “with a trail going up to the top.” Yesterday we had arrived here through a very choppy sea, but this morning the surface is as smooth as glass and I get what I hope will be a magnificent picture of sunrise — dawn, actually — through my porthole.

After breakfast we find our boat totally surrounded by sardines. The schools swirl like clouds of underwater starlings. Among them we can occasionally see needlefish which are truly long, thin and pointy, at least a foot long.

“They are only dangerous if you happen to get in their way,” I am told. Richard and Chris go snorkeling and once again see an astounding variety of exotic fish.

We raise anchor and glide across the mirror-smooth surface a couple of kilometers to Bahía Amortajada — ”Chopped-up Bay.” Now and again a manta ray leaps into the air alongside the boat.

Happy sailors relaxing.

Happy sailors relaxing. RODRIGO OROZCO

We anchor off a shore covered with a forest of giant cardon cacti, said to be the tallest in the world. Here there is a river filled with mangroves leading to a small lake. We spot a turkey vulture, kingfisher, white ibis, night heron, snowy egret and gulls.

Day 4

We are on our way to San José. This is part of the mainland connected by a long, rough road to La Paz. We drop anchor at a place called Nopaló, where there’s a very rocky beach and an isolated house — from which the wind wafts music to us over the waves. It’s Shakira singing! Binoculars reveal a little girl doing cartwheels to the music, on the porch.

To go ashore, we put on swimsuits, stuff clothing into a dry bag, carefully slide on to plastic “kayaks” that resemble no kayak I have ever seen, and paddle ashore.

We stroll down the beach to the home of Señora León, a jolly lady who immediately says, “Sí sí” when we ask whether she might be able to fry us some fish for which we would be happy to pay her.

While waiting for our dinner, we wander along a path paralleling a rough wall of volcanic rock dotted with shelter caves. The trail takes us to the local cemetery where we find only the graves of people named León, some with very large and impressive tombstones. It seems amazing that generations of the same family have lived in this isolated place.

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    Wandering tattler about to land at Los Islotes. (Photo: Chris Lloyd)
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Setting foot on land reveals that we are no longer landlubbers. The salt cedars along the trail all seem to be swaying — but there’s no wind! And later, when we sit down in Señora León’s kitchen we all remark how curiously the walls are dancing and how amazing it is that nothing is rolling across the table.

Our ebullient hostess serves us a delicious meal of rice, broccoli and truly exquisite fried dorado (mahi mahi). We return to the boat stuffed and happy and spend the night anchored in the same bay.

To be continued

The writer has lived near Guadalajara, Jalisco, for more than 30 years and is the author of A Guide to West Mexico’s Guachimontones and Surrounding Area and co-author of Outdoors in Western Mexico. More of his writing can be found on his website.

Editor’s Note: Roadtrip Otra Vez!

 

 

Editor’s Note: Roadtrip Otra Vez!

This past weekend I took to the road (again) under the guise of research and headed north to the small town of Chacala, the last beach town before you drive into the mountains, on your way to Compostela. It’s a fishing village that has grown in recent years to become a lively tourist destination. On the weekends the beachfront restaurants are packed with families enjoying freshly caught seafood and playing in the surf.

The beach is flat and the gentle waves shallow, perfect for small kids and those who don’t want to get their hair wet. The water is so calm that there are paddleboarders in the bay, even in the later afternoon. A couple of sailboats are moored offshore, and colourful fishing pangas line the pier just off the main beach. It’s ridiculously idyllic. And affordable.

Looking like a scene out of an advertisement for a tropical dream vacation, the palapa roofs and swaying palm trees inspire you to imagine a simpler life. And by the looks of the crowd, there are a fair number of people who have settled in Chacala, at least for the winter, living exactly this life.

If you know me, you know I gauge how much I like a place by how much I want to pack everything and move immediately. I loved Chacala so much I messaged a friend and asked her to help find me a long term rental… maybe this is the big move my horoscope is warning me about.

If you have a chance to visit this village, I highly recommend it. There are many rooms on Airbnb and a dozen or so hotels with rooms that start at $400 pesos for double occupancy (I suggest splurging on the 800 peso rooms). There were vacancies in most places I enquired at, so as long as it’s not a major holiday or a long weekend, you can probably show up and find a room easily. There are plenty of restaurants and a couple of small grocery stores. Pack a bathing suit, and you’re good to go!

Now, if you’re not up for a road trip this weekend, there are plenty of great events happening around the bay including all the live music venues which you can check out here.

This week is also the 8th Annual International Charro Championship in Arena Vallarta. This high-energy 5-day event is the highlight of rodeo aficionados and features some of the best horsemen (and women) from Mexico and the United States. Charro is recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO and is an intrinsic part of Jalisco and Mexican culture. You can learn more about the events at www.arenavallarta.com. Look for details on how to travel by bus from Vallarta and Nayarit to the arena in these pages.

This past week was the final week of voting for the 2nd Annual Best of Vallarta Reader’s Choice Awards. 1000’s of votes were cast and will now be compiled, and the winners for 2019 will be announced in a couple weeks. Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to vote and to read the ‘Best of’ guide we published this month. Copies have been distributed to over 100 points around the bay – be sure to pick up yours before they’re all gone! Stay tuned for more info. Thank you to everyone who has participated this year – it is much appreciated!

Safe travels and giddyup,

Madeline

GRUPO VIDANTA ANNOUNCES NEW LUXURY DEVELOPMENT

GRUPO VIDANTA ANNOUNCES NEW LUXURY DEVELOPMENT

Grupo Vidanta, the leading resort and tourism developer in Mexico and Latin America, announced today the introduction of The Estates, a one-of-its-kind luxury development to debut at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta and Vidanta Riviera Maya, two of the company’s seven resort portfolio destinations. Formerly under the name of ‘Jungle Estates,’ The Estates plays a significant role in Grupo Vidanta’s ongoing goal to offer the most exclusive and high-end tourism projects in all Latin America.

With an initial presence in Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta and Vidanta Riviera Maya, The Estates will be Vidanta’s -Grupo Vidanta’s luxury vacationing brand- premier resort offering, boasting ultra-luxury opulence thanks to high-end details, plush amenities and lavish vacation experiences. One of the key distinguishing factors of these sumptuous new units is that they offer a private sanctuary designed to honor and reflect the sweeping beauty of the natural landscapes that surround them.

“The introduction of The Estates represents our continued commitment to transforming the hospitality industry and cementing Mexico’s position as one of the world’s premier tourist destinations,” said Iván Chávez, Executive Vice President of Grupo Vidanta. “The Estates are bold and innovative, revolutionizing the concept of luxury, and will go above and beyond in style, personalization, comfort and service, even for the most discerning traveler.”

The Estates will be located in picturesque, nature-filled settings at Nuevo Vallarta and Riviera Maya resorts, and will be available in sumptuous one-, two- and four-bedroom surpassing space configurations. Boasting an indoor-outdoor al fresco design to take full advantage of the breathtaking surrounding landscape at each location, all three of The Estates accommodations will be thoughtfully designed with modern touches while embracing the unique cultures of both coastal destinations. Guests will enjoy spacious living and dining room spaces, elegant spa-inspired bathrooms, secluded terraces and a private outdoor pool and lounge area. Model units will be available for guests to tour later this year.

This spectacular, new class of luxury accommodations perfectly complements the markedly unique and high-end experiences and offerings of both locations, including the renowned Norman Signature Golf Course, Almaverde farm, and Santuario entertainment plaza at Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta and the acclaimed Cirque du Soleil show, JOYÀ, The Beach Club, and Salum Beachside Eateries and Market at Vidanta Riviera Maya. The Estates will provide an exclusive paradise for those who crave personalized, curated and extravagant travel experiences.