Jim Budd’s News From D.F.

Tides crowned as Viceroy

The Tides in Zihuatanejo, on Mexico’s Pacific coast, soon will be known as the Viceroy Zihuatanejo. The Tides began as Villa del Sol and helped convert  Zihuatanejo into a haven of luxury boutique resorts, in contrast to the bigger, more flashier places in neighboring Ixtapa. The Viceroy Hotel Group also operates a Viceroy at Mayakoba along the Riviera Maya on the Mexican Caribbean.

Alerts alert

Mexico’s Home Secretary or Secretario de Gobernación claims that U.S. State Department warnings cautioning Americans to avoid travel in nearly half of Mexico’s states is “ridiculous” and “out of proportion.”  Alejandro Poiré says million of tourists visit Mexico without incident. Adding that he

believes “these alerts overstate or misstate the standards and security situation that exists in our country. An updated travel warning on Feb. 8 urges travelers to “defer nonessential travel” to 14 of Mexico’s 31 states due to drug-related violence that has cost more than 47,500 lives since 2006. However,  warning also notes that “millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year” and that resort areas are generally safer.

Mexicana mess

This week a bankruptcy court was expected to declare Mexicana Airlines legally dead and order that its assets be sold to satisfy creditors. Last minute offers to revive the carrier – grounded since August of 2010 – failed when required funds could not be produced. Nonetheless, the presiding judge ruled that the case will remain open indefinitely and ordered that slots being used provisionally by other airlines be returned. Volaris filed for an injunction against the ruling and Interjet has asked that the judge be replaced.

Love ya, babe!

DIN Interiorism has announced plans to refurbish what had been known as hoteles de paso into what it will call hoteles de amor, that is to say, love hotels. Although managers of more plush establishments long ago declared that they no longer were supervising morals and suggested a weekend in Cancun was more romantic than a box of candy, less posh places still offered enclosed garages – to shield couples from prying eyes — for rooms rented by the hour, attitudes have changed in the 21st Century. Love hotels will feature toys for adults, games and swimming pools with waterfalls. At the outset, some 35 inns with a total of more than 2,000 rooms are planned. All will be remodeled hot pillow joints.

Franchises thriving

According to the Mexican Hotel Association, 90 percent of all chain hotels in the country are franchises. And expansion is planned. InterContinental, which includes Holiday Inn, expects to add 47 more properties to its list in the next few months. Mexico’s own Posadas is looking at 50 while Grupo Santa Fe, which operates Hilton hotels in Mexico, has plans for Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara and more.

Tequila choo-choo

Vacationers in Guadalajara now have a choice of two trains that will take them to where tequila is made. New is the José Cuervo Express, which makes an evening run starting on Fridays at 5:30 and returning shortly after midnight. On Saturdays and Sundays, the train leaves at 11, bound for the José Cuervo Center in the town of Tequila. Another choice is the Tequila Express, which has been operating for several years now. It goes to th Herradura distillery. Fare includes drinks, food and entertainment that are featured on both runs. With the exception of the Chihuahua-Pacific train running by the Copper Canyon, Mexico has no passenger train service.


PLAYA DEL CARMEN, México — Tournament officials announced today that past major champions David Duval, Lucas Glover and Mike Weir will be coming to compete in the Mayakoba Golf Classic February 22-26 at the Mayakoba Resort on the Greg Norman-designed El Camaleón Golf Club.

Officials also announced today that Jhonattan Vegas, the first Venezuelan to win on the PGA TOUR and a 2011 Rookie of the Year candidate, will attend this year’s tournament.

So far, the tournament has received commitments from seven major championship winners—Duval, Glover, Tom Lehman, Greg Norman, Jose Maria Olazabal, Nick Price and Weir. Prior to this year, the tournament has attracted a total of 20 major championship winners in the first five years.

“The field is really shaping up to be one of the most diverse we have seen in our first six years,” said Tournament Director Larson Segerdahl. “So far, we have a great mix of major championship winners, young players, international players and active players on the Champions Tour. This should certainly create a great competition and an exciting Sunday finish.”

Weir, the 2003 Masters champion and eight-time winner on TOUR, will be making his first appearance at the Mayakoba Golf Classic.

“I’m excited about the chance to play the Mayakoba Golf Classic and in front of the fans in Mexico,” said Weir. “I have some fond memories of playing in Mexico representing Canada in the World Cup.  I’m looking forward to a great week in the Riviera Maya.”

It will also mark the first time Glover has played. Glover won the 2009 U.S. Open and last year won the Wells Fargo Championship for his third career victory.

Duval has accumulated 13 career titles, including the 2001 British Open. In 1999 he won four times and was ranked No.1 in the world. This will be Duval’s second start in the Mayakoba Golf Classic. In 2010, he failed to make the 36-hole cut.

Vegas will be making his second consecutive appearance. Last year, he finished tied for 19th.

The Mayakoba Golf Classic has traditionally hosted a strong international field. In the tournament’s first five years an average of 16 different countries have been represented each year.
With a purse of $3.7 million USD, Mexico’s only PGA TOUR event boasts the largest amount of prize money of any golf tournament in Latin America.

Daily and weekly ticket packages can be purchased by visiting the tournament website www.MayakobaGolfClassic.com or by calling 01 (800) 212-8969 in Mexico or (855) MAYAKOBA in the U.S.

Weekly general admission tickets are $40 USD while daily ticket prices are $10 USD (or $100 pesos)  per person Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. As is now tradition at the Mayakoba Golf Classic, children ages 17 and under will be admitted free when accompanied by a ticketed adult.

Like in years past, the Mayakoba Golf Classic™ will offer two upgraded hospitality ticket options to fans.  The Heineken® El Camino and Nextel Fiesta Club will again be available to the general public for purchase.

Heineken® El Camino passes offer access to three exclusive venues strategically located at prime viewing locations throughout the golf course, the Heineken® El Camino ticket includes food as well as wine and Heineken® beer.  Tickets for the Heineken® El Camino venues are $75 USD per day or $275 USD for weekly passes.

The Nextel Fiesta Club provides spectators access to a private skybox on the 18th green of El Camaleón Golf Club, as well as including a complete buffet and full bar.  Nextel Fiesta Club ticketholders also receive access to the three Heineken® El Camino venues.  Nextel Fiesta Club tickets are $150 USD per day or $550 USD for a weekly pass.

Once again, the Mayakoba Golf Classic will provide a complimentary spectator shuttle from the Cancun Hotel Zone to the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Details about the spectator shuttle will be available on www.MayakobaGolfClassic.com.
For more information on the Mayakoba Golf Classic, please contact the tournament office by calling 01 (800) 212-8969 from Mexico or  (855) MAYAKOBA from the U.S. or by visiting www.MayakobaGolfClassic.com.

The Mayakoba Golf Classic made golf history when it became the first PGA TOUR event to ever be contested outside of the United States and Canada in February 2007. Today, the Mayakoba Golf Classic remains “Mexico’s Only PGA TOUR Event” as it prepares to enter its sixth year.  The event is regarded as one of the finest on the PGA TOUR by players, their families, sponsors and the TOUR itself.  With a purse of $3.7 million USD, the Mayakoba Golf Classic boasts the largest amount of prize money of any golf tournament in Latin America.  Held annually in February, the tournament features 132 professional golfers participating in four rounds of stroke play competition at the Greg Norman-designed El Camaleón Golf Club at Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, in the Riviera Maya-Cancún regions of Mexico.  Johnson Wagner, a five-year veteran of the PGA TOUR, claimed the title in 2011, winning $666,000 USD.  Other past champions include: Fred Funk (2007), Brian Gay (2008), Mark Wilson (2009) and Cameron Beckman (2010).


Mazatlan’s 114th Carnaval Kicks Off This Week

Election of this year's Carnaval Queen in Mazatlan

Mazatlan, Mexico – February 15th, 2012. Mazatlan will once again bask in music, dance and color for the most important fiesta of the year. The 114th edition of the Mazatlan International Carnaval takes place from February 16th to the 21st. This year’s theme is Fiesta of the Empires. Mexico’s Colonial City on the Beach will charm hundreds of thousands of people with parades, queens, cultural events, and live music on its streets. Mazatlan’s Carnaval is recognized as the third largest in the world and is included in Forbes Travel Guide as one of the Three Hot Carnival Celebrations to Hit in February.

Though Carnaval is only about to begin, festivities have long been underway. The Queens of Carnaval were elected on February 4th with great fanfare. Karla Álvarez was elected Queen of Carnaval while Astrid Tirado was named Queen of the Floral Games. The election took place at Mazatlan’s famed Angela Peralta theater in Old Mazatlan. The evening’s tone was set by music and dance. The Municipal Center for the Arts Folkloric Ballet pushed away all pretense to the beat of German, French, American, Cuban and Mexican Cabaret.

Highlights of the Mazatlan International Carnaval schedule include:

February 16th
· Coronation of the King of Joy – Olas Altas.

February 17th
· Coronation of the Queen of Floral Games – Teodoro Mariscal Stadium.
· Live music and dancing on the streets – Olas Altas.

February 18th
· Coronation of the Queen of Carnaval – Teodoro Mariscal Stadium.
· Burning of Bad Mood and the Naval Battle Festival of Lights – Olas Altas.

February 19th
· First Carnaval parade – Fishermen’s monument.

February 20th
· Coronation of the Child Queen – Teodoro Mariscal Stadium.

February 21st
· Second Carnaval Parade – Fishermen’s monument.

For further information please visit www.gomazatlan.com or contact Carolina Ibarra: 1-866-836-8797 Ext. 4

Thinking Pink in Celestún

By: Lisa Coleman

The entire state of Yucatán is magical to me.  Whether it’s exploring the mystical ruins left behind by the Mayas, swimming in a cenote or strolling the streets of Mérida, there seems to be an adventure around every corner. And when it comes to an adventure in nature, there are few places in Mexico that compare to Celestún. Located 60 miles south west of Mérida, Celestún (meaning “painted stone”) is a colorful coastal town known for its sandy beaches, excellent seafood… and its famous “pink” residents.

The charming town of Celestún is surrounded by the breathtaking 147,000-acre Parque Natural del Flamenco Mexicano, better known as the Celestún Biosphere Preserve. This massive wetland reserve is an extraordinary and unique ecosystem that combines fresh water from the estuary (ría) and salt water from Gulf of Mexico. More than 300 species of birds call this region home… most notably the huge population of brilliantly pink flamingos.  The Nature Conservancy has said that “nearly 90 percent of all the world’s pink flamingos migrate to two breeding and nesting grounds: Celestún and Ría Lagartos (also in the state of Yucatan).”

This is the ultimate destination not only for bird-watchers, but for anyone who wants to get up close and personal with nature. In addition to the parade of pink, you’ll also see plenty of herons, egrets, frigate birds, ospreys, hawks and countless others. (Keep an eye out for the occasional alligator, too!) Though the flamingos can be seen year round, the population swells to its largest numbers in the winter months (primarily December)  with as many as 20,000 of the feathered phenomenon posing for perfect pictures. Since flamingos are social birds, you’ll being seeing them in large groups, usually dining on algae, insects and small crustaceans. All of these “flamingo favorites” contain beta-carotene, which is the same pigment that gives carrots their orange coloring. Flamingos are actually born white, and as they eat these beta-carotene rich foods, it tints their feathers pink.

The best way to see this pink spectacle is to hire a boat and travel up and down the ría, explore the mangroves, and take a dip in fresh water springs that bubble up into the estuary at Ojo de Agua. Boats can be rented at the main entrance for around $50 USD an hour, but you can negotiate a price to stay out as long as you’d like. There are 90 minute excursions as well, which gives you plenty of time really get into the feel of things. The captain will most likely speak only Spanish, so ask around if there is an English speaking guide that you can hire to go with you…It’s worth it if you need the translation. The boats are comfortable and shaded, but it won’t hurt to bring some sun screen just in case. (You may also want to put on some bug spray for when the boat slows down and takes you deep into the mangroves.) Even though you might get tempted to get really close to the birds, the boats will keep at a reasonable distance not to disturb the feeding grounds. Be sure to have your zoom lens handy and it wouldn’t hurt to bring some good binoculars.

Celestún can be done as a long day trip from Mérida, but this laid back gem of a town is worth a little exploring so you may want to spend a night or two. Long stretches of white sand beaches are lined with great restaurants offering some of the best fresh seafood you’ll ever taste. My husband and I spent an afternoon at the incredible La Palapa restaurant and had maybe the best ceviche I’ve ever tasted in Mexico… and that is a very tall order! Open air with great views of the rolling shoreline, it’s easy to pass the hours sipping cold beer and sampling everything from lobster and octopus to fish fillets and shrimp. And no matter how you like your seafood favorites prepared (breaded, in garlic, raw, etc.), it will be a memorable meal. The owner, Rodrigo Solis, is from Mérida and knows the importance of a good meal. We were told that he often travels to Europe and always returns with a new idea for the menu.

There are a few hotel options in town, but your best bet is a few miles away at the Hotel Eco Paraíso Xixim (who has recently changed their name to simply the Xixim Hotel). This eco-friendly, luxury property is for those who truly want to disconnect from civilization.  With 32 bungalows designed to be a part of the landscape, Eco Paraíso is one of more unique properties I have visited in Mexico. At home on a pristine and deserted stretch of beach, Paraíso appeals to the adventure traveler who also enjoys the perks of a fine hotel. You won’t find air conditioning or television in the rooms, but you will find two beautiful pools, a wellness center, an excellent bar and restaurant (complete with vegan and vegetarian menu items), and top notch service. Don’t panic about the lack of air conditioning! The palapa-style rooms have multiple ceiling fans and screens to the patio that allow for cross ventilation and cooling. We found the days comfortable and the nights perfectly cool. (If you stay June – September, it might be a bit warmer, but comfortable nonetheless).

We visited before the hotel was busy so we had the place almost to ourselves, which was a real treat! Our morning coffee was delivered to the room and it was easy to spend the day lounging in our hammock and searching for shells on the beach as another perfect sunset gets swallowed into the horizon. We also ventured to one of the pools and enjoyed wonderful appetizers in oversized chairs in the comfort of a steady ocean breeze. A couple of notes when you visit the hotel: Because the Paraíso is built in harmony with nature, you will want to bring your bug spray. They provide bug repellent bracelets in the room, but I would recommend bringing some extra for your legs and feet. There is a good Internet connection in the lobby if you need it, and be sure to try the “Cauliflower Ceviche” on the vegetarian menu, it’s out of this world good! Check out their website for more information (www.ecoparaiso.com) but it’s certainly worth a night or two to really get away from it all.

In my opinion, no trip to Mérida or the state of Yucatán is complete without a stop in Celestún. This is nature at its finest, Mexico at its best and an experience not to be missed.

COMING SOON: First Annual Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival

Join us March 15-18, 2012 for the First Annual Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival. Alternating yearly between Cancun and the Riviera Maya, we will delight our guests on two great beach and resort destinations.

The Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival 2012 will hold over 30 innovative events for lovers of wine, food, music and culture in Cancun:

  • Celebrity Chef and Winemaker Dinners
    Including two tributes dinners:
    One to Mexico, designated by UNESCO as “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”
    The other to world-celebrated chef Ferran Adrià
  • Luxury Catamaran Cruise and Private Beach Club Dinner
    Join Master Mixologist Junior Merino on a luxurious catamaran cruise followed by a private beach club dinner lunch
  • Exclusive 90+ Wines and Spirits Tastings
    The best wines and spirits from Spain, USA, Mexico, Argentina, and Chile
  • Exciting Cooking Demonstrations
    Given by celebrity chefs from Canada, the USA, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru
  • American Express Gourmet Tasting Village
    Walk through our Village and taste signature dishes from some of the best restaurant Chefs, paired with wines and spirits. Delight your palate with gourmet company products including coffees, ice creams, chocolates and more…
  • Closing Latin Grill Fiesta
    Meet the best Argentinian & Brazilian Grill Chefs “Parrilladas” and enjoy a fiesta featuring surprise entertainment and fireworks.
  • Cancun After-Dark Parties
    Sample the best tequilas, vodkas, martinis, tapas and sinful desserts; all while moving to the rhythms created by a top DJ, to take you late into the night

To enhance your personal experience, we are limiting the number of participants at each event, facilitating interaction between guests and celebrity chefs.

Combine the Cancun-Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival with a travel destination that no other festival can match: World class beaches, awesome Mayan sites, Spanish haciendas and colonial villages, magical underground pools “cenotes”, snorkeling or diving at the world’s second largest barrier reef, high seas fishing, ecological parks and pristine islands, fun adventure tours for all ages, an easily accessible airport, and a wide variety of hotels for all budgets.

The Festival is committed to giving back to our community. The beneficiary for year one is the Ciudad de la Alegria – The City of Joy. We will be supporting its goal to empower disadvantaged children, victims of violence and care for the elderly.

Join us in Paradise March 15-18, 2012!

The Nick Gallo Award – Travel Writers Submit Now

David Simmonds

Our old friend and colleague Nick Gallo tragically died just over four years ago. Please read about that here. The following year we at Mexico Premiere started the Nick Gallo Award, dedicated to Nick’s memory and the lofty standards he brought, yes, demanded, to travel writing.  The Gallo Award fills the void left when, at that same time, the yearly Pluma de Plata Award, presented every year at Tianguis by the Mexican government, was discontinued. Nick, by the way, was a two-time winner of the Pluma de Plata. The dude was good. Hell, he probably could have won every year. Internet search some of his articles and you’ll see what I mean.

So here we are again and it’s time for all of you travel writers who have written about Mexico in 2011 to send us one or more submissions for this year’s award.  The guidelines can be found here.

Please note that we have opened it up to print and web entries this year, with a minimum of 500 words – although longer is probably better. Nick’s artist wife Laurie designs and makes the beautiful plaque awarded to the winner. And thanks to our good friend Sylvie Laitre of our co-sponsor Mexico Boutique Hotels, we are also offering – drum roll here –  three nights at the incomparable Casa de Mita hotel, near Puerto Vallarta! This is a very exclusive, high-end resort and we are very thankful to them for this generous gift with a monetary value of about $2,000. Yes, I thought that might get your attention.

Casa de Mita is an ultra-chic beachfront pad, and an ode to good taste and effortless elegance. Owner Marc Lindskog has elevated all-inclusive to a new level, where service is as five-star as the meals, and the only place you’ll need your wallet is at the tiny—but irresistible—boutique shop. Their “all-inclusive exclusive” menus vary daily to celebrate the catch of the day, and local specialties are tweaked to haute cuisine. Plus, it’s all served al fresco with ocean views. Its intimate size (six guestrooms and two suites), excellent service and sense of place make it the very definition of a “Mexico Boutique Hotel.”

So, amigos, get those entries in to us now. Lisa Coleman, Lydia Gregory and I look forward to reading each submission, and we really appreciate helping to keep Nick’s legacy alive.