Huatulco and Las Palmas – A Match made in Heaven

By: Lisa Coleman

Santorini, Greece – Interlaken and Lucerne, Switzerland – Positano, Italy – The Himalayas – these are a few of the destinations that make my short list of “no matter how you imagined it, it’s better.” After my recent trip to Oaxaca for my 50th birthday, it’s time to add a couple more to the list: Huatulco and the ocean front villas and casitas at Las Palmas.

As a writer, I have the rare opportunity to travel through Mexico in search of paradise. I have found hundreds of amazing destinations throughout this marvelous country, but from the heart, I can tell you Huatulco is simply one of the best beach resorts in the entire country, and Las Palmas one of most perfect places where I’ve had a chance to stay… and that’s a tall order. There is a certain inexplicable magic here, a laid back sweetness if you will, all wrapped in the inviting smiles of the local people who are always happy you chose their charming, yet isolated, gem of a beach town on the Pacific.

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In the early 1970’s, the Mexican government embarked on an ambitious plan to develop tourism through a series of integrated master-planned beach resorts. FONATUR, which is the National Trust for Tourism Development (Fondo Nacional del Fomento al Turismo), was responsible for the blockbuster resorts of Cancun, Ixtapa and Los Cabos, as well as the lesser-known communities of Loreto and the Bahías de Huatulco (the Bays of Huatulco, which has been shortened to simply “Huatulco.”) Nonetheless, their loss is your gain. The very fact that it hasn’t exploded with tourism is exactly what makes it so very special. Huatulco is far different from its high profile companions. Considered and developed as an “ecotourism” resort, 70% of Huatulco is made up of ecological preserves. In 1988, then President Ernesto Zedillo converted most of Huatulco’s preserves into a giant national park (protecting both land and marine life).  They pride themselves in being a totally “green” resort. FONATUR still controls all local land sales within the development and ensures that all new projects meet certain standards in order to maintain Huatulco’s Green Globe status.

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    At the center of it all are a series of nine spectacular bays notched into 21 miles of shoreline hosting 36 beaches, countless inlets and coves, and arguably some of the most extraordinary coastline on the Pacific. The crystal clear water, and usually sparsely populated golden sand beaches, somehow don’t feel like a tourist destination. It all seems a bit more secluded and private. And since some of the bays and beaches are only accessible by boat, everything remains as nature intended. I wouldn’t usually recommend much snorkeling on some parts of the Pacific coast, but rest assured you won’t be disappointed here.

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In my opinion, there just aren’t a lot of places like this left in the world. There is just enough development here to give you anything and everything you want in a beach resort, and just enough off-the-beaten-path remoteness to keep it off most tourists’ radar. Of the nine bays that were slated for development, only six have “visitor facilities.” The main areas are: Tangolunda Bay, home to the big resorts, an 18-hole golf course, a smattering of nightlife and a little resort shopping. The bay of Santa Cruz, with a good-sized marina, an intimate little village with beachside restaurants and bars, plenty of shops and an often-deserted cruise ship dock. And, Chahue Bay (CHAH-way), located between the two above, sports another marina, lots of new high-end condo projects and a public beach. About a mile inland, the charming little town of La Crucecita is a slice of pure Mexico. With a colorful and quaint town square, plenty of inviting restaurants and bars, a few excellent fresh seafood stalls to pick up the daily catch, and a very well-stocked grocery store (the Súper Che) that takes U.S. dollars and gives change in pesos at a great rate… what more do you need?

Well, you need an amazing place to stay… and that’s the subtle, refined, and perfectly done Las Palmas. Since we were looking for a villa, my good friend Sylvie Laitre, who owns and operates Mexico Boutique Hotels, made the recommendation. A quick glance at the endless 5-star reviews on Trip Advisor and it was an easy sell. I was put in contact with the darling and incredibly efficient manager, Courtney Glassman. Her title, Director of Escapes, is very appropriate. She is the ideal hostess and makes sure everything is in perfect order before you arrive.

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Las Palmas has a prestigious location, perched on a cliff with incomparable views of Violin Bay on one side and Santa Cruz Bay on the other.  Just five minutes from La Crucecita and 15 minutes from the Tangolunda Golf Club, you won’t spend more than $6 USD to get anywhere in the area. (Taxis are plentiful and happy to wait for you at the grocery store.) With a total of five casitas and three villas, Las Palmas has the look and feel of an expertly designed Mexican estate. Owners, Ron and Jackie Williams, saw it as just that. Ron told me, “We came down here in 2001 with another couple. We had always wanted something tropical but had been leaning towards Hawaii. On our fourth day in Huatulco we saw the beach at Violin Bay from the road, looked up at the cliff and, even though it was all jungle, knew this was the place.”  Ron and Jackie tell their story with such love and passion that their energy can’t help but flow into the property.  “We took a boat around to the bay and looked at the property by sea. We wired the money as fast as we could.”

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Over the course of the next several months and years, the vision of Las Palmas began to develop. There was infrastructure in place with fresh water and electricity available at the street. They interviewed three different architects and finally decided on Gontran Orozco Canales, who Ron and Jackie affectionately call the “contractor from heaven.” The doors opened to the Turtle Bay and Dolphin Cove Villas in 2007, the casitas followed in 2008 and the House of the Rising Sun villa in 2009. And since the beginning, it’s been all about the guests. “We have so many repeat guests that are like family to us now,” Jackie says. “The same five couples come every year and we arrange our big bookings (which are weddings) around our regulars,” Ron boasts with a smile. “It’s just soulful here and we do our best to make it unforgettable for everyone.” From where I sit, I’d say they have certainly succeeded in doing just that.

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Even though there were only four of us, we went all out and opted for the Dolphin Cove Villa. As many times as I looked at the pictures on their website in the months before we left, it was even more breathtaking when we arrived. We kept staring at each other in disbelief. The open-air dining room and living room flowed seamlessly to the negative edge pool that seemed to connect to the Pacific horizon. The view… well, check out some of the photos and I think you’ll agree it’s quite breathtaking. Our concierge, Talina, was waiting for us at the villa to offer her services for anything we might need – excursions, private massages, restaurant reservations, etc.

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All three of the villas are gigantic and everything is wide open. Each has four suites, making them ideal for both couples and families. Daily housekeeping service and a grounds keeper ensure you feel completely spoiled. There is also the option of having your meals prepared daily – TAKE IT! DO IT! There are few things more decadent than waking up and having fresh squeezed orange juice, coffee and fruit waiting for you on your poolside terrace. Follow that with a ridiculously delicious traditional Mexican breakfast and every day is off to a superb start. There are countless options for things to do and see if you’re feeling ambitious, but I can promise you’ll be hard pressed to leave the glorious sanctuary of your own pool over the Pacific.

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To enjoy the beach on Violin Bay, it’s a short, and not particularly steep, hike down to the usually deserted shore. The snorkeling is great and you’ll feel as though you have the ocean all to yourself. There is another fantastic swimming and snorkeling beach, La Entrega, that is also an easy walk from the property. There are a number of little restaurants there so bring some pesos. Avid snorkelers can also take a bay tour that brings you into some remote beaches by boat.

I’d like to tell you we ventured out and explored more, but we are saving that for our return trip. This trip was dedicated to pure relaxation and soul rejuvenation. It was also about sleeping in, taking an hour and half to eat breakfast, cruising to the Súper Che to pick up wine and other goodies, napping, swimming, reading and stuffing ourselves with fresh ceviche prepared for us daily by the incomparable Margarita (our angelic and splendid cook, housekeeper and professional happy person).  They say a picture is worth a thousand words so I am quite sure after checking out some of these you’re already planning your trip here… and you should be!

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Ron also gave us a tour of a couple of the casitas. They were all full at the time, but the other guests welcomed us with open arms to take a peek. The five casitas all have one-bedroom suites with ocean views and share a pool and a cozy common area with tables where everyone meets, greets and enjoys breakfast and afternoon snacks (featuring the best homemade guacamole ever!).  If you must (and I did) check email, there is free WiFi there too. A lot of people we met had been coming for years, and it was just as Ron described, like being part of a family.  (And, if you’re considering planning your wedding in Mexico, look no further, as this would be an unforgettable spot.)

A quick shout out to a local restaurant we visited in Tangolunda: We did actually leave our private paradise to sample some local fare with Ron and Jackie. There are a lot of expats here and one of their favorite hangs is the exceptional Cafe Vienna. The colorful Austrian owners, Manfred and Helmut, serve an unusual and delectable fusion of Austrian and Thai cuisine. It was excellent food and service and the only time in my life I have eaten expertly prepared European schnitzel in Mexico!

Trust me when I tell you I could ramble on and on about this place… and I most likely will in some following posts. Suffice to say, you’ll love it here. I promise. There are few times in life when reality meets your expectations. A visit to Huatulco and a stay at Las Palmas may very well be one of them.

For more information visit their website at www.laspalmashuatulco.com or email Courtney at courtney@laspalmashuatulco.com

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* Professional photos courtesy of Las Palmas (Only the two of the bay from above and this last one are mine!)

U.S. News & World Report Ranks the Best Hotels in MexicoU.S. News & World Report has released its inaugural ranking of the Best Hotels in Mexico

U.S. News & World Report Logo.

Out of the 340 luxury hotels across Mexico evaluated for the 2013 rankings, 34 properties scored high enough to earn a place on the list of the Best Hotels in Mexico . The top five are:

  1. Las Ventanas al Paraiso, A Rosewood Resort; Cabo San Lucas
  2. Rosewood San Miguel De Allende; San Miguel de Allende
  3. The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort; Punta de Pita
  4. Capella Pedregal; Cabo San Lucas
  5. Banyan Tree Cabo Marques; Acapulco

See full list: Best Hotels in Mexico

About the Rankings

Luxury hotels in Mexico were ranked based on an unbiased methodology that includes the collective opinion of travel experts and guests, expressed through awards, recommendations and ratings. The U.S. News approach reflects the core goal of all of our rankings, which is to help take the guesswork out of choosing the right hotel by providing travelers with an impartial analysis of luxury hotels.

“Hotels that consistently meet the high expectations of experts and travelers are recognized in our rankings,” said Chad Smolinski, Senior Vice President at U.S. News. “Applying an unbiased approach to identifying these hotels lets us give travelers to Mexico recommendations they can count on.”

Awards

  • Best Hotels in Mexico : Top 10 percent of all ranked luxury hotels in Mexico
  • Best Hotels in [Destination]: Top 30 percent of all ranked luxury hotels within a Mexican destination (e.g., Puerto Vallarta)

About U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report is a multi-platform publisher of news and analysis, which includes the digital-only U.S. News Weekly magazine, www.usnews.com and www.rankingsandreviews.com. Focusing on Health, Personal Finance, Education, Travel, Cars and Public Service/Opinion, U.S. News has earned a reputation as the leading provider of service news and information that improves the quality of life of its readers. U.S. News & World Report’s signature franchise includes its News You Can Use® brand of journalism and its annual “Best” series of consumer Web guides and publications that include rankings of colleges, graduate schools, hospitals, mutual funds, health plans and more.

Puerto Vallarta Announces Dates for “Pride Vallarta 2013”

Puerto Vallarta Logo

Puerto Vallarta’s annual LGBT event “Vallarta Pride” will take place this year on the weekend of May 24th, 2013. Events will start with a cocktail kick-off at Puerto Vallarta’s Casa Cupula Hotel Boutique and continue for three days, celebrating LGBT culture and Puerto Vallarta’s welcoming community with music festivals, beach parties, fashion shows, mass commitment ceremony and activities in participating bars and clubs.

A member of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association, Puerto Vallarta has been a preferred LGBT friendly destination in the Americas for over 60 years and has an infrastructure that is frequently included on leading media as gay friendly destination lists, including TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet, Out Traveler, Passport Magazine, gay.com and is the only Mexican destination on the Huffington Post Gay Voice’s Top 10 LGBT Honeymoon Destinations.Puerto Vallarta offers an LGBT inclusive atmosphere in is Romantic Zone area which is home to many businesses that are LGBT-owned and/or target the consumer, including beaches, tours, activities and restaurants bars and clubs to choose from. LGBT travelers have the option of choosing from gay friendly resorts, hotels, lodges, bed and breakfasts and guest houses.

The City’s Tourism Department at City Hall, led by Director Carlos Gerard and Sub-Director Enrique Tovar, aims to increase tourism to the city. The 3-day event was created to celebrate the unique and all-inclusive culture that has flourished in Puerto Vallarta, successfully integrating the rich traditions of the Mexican culture with the varied ideas that have been introduced to the local community from its large expatriate community from all corners of the world including the US and Canada, and as far afield as Asia, Russia and Europe. The LGBT community is just one of the many communities that thrives in Vallarta organizers explained.

Confirmed events for Vallarta Pride 2013

• Opening Reception Vallarta Pride 2013
Friday May 24, 2013 at 9:00 pm
Taste Restaurant at Casa Cupula

• Commitment Ceremony
Saturday May 25, 2013 at 11:00 am
Lido – Beach Club

• Vallarta Pride Fashion Show
Saturday May 25, 2013 at 2:00 pm
Blue Chairs Beach Club

• “HEAT” – Tea Dance
Saturday May 25, 2013 from 4:00 pm
Lido / Blue Chairs

• Vallarta Pride 2013 @Night
Themed Nights at participating bars/lounges/clubs
Saturday May 25, 2013 at 8:00 pm

• Vallarta Pride Parade 2013
Sunday May 26, 2013 from 4:00 pm
Romantic Zone

• Vallarta Pride Festival 2013
Sunday May 26, 2013 from 5:00 pm
Lazaro Cardenas Park / Romantic Zone

For more information visit media partner www.gaypv.mx or the official Puerto Vallarta website www.visitpuertovallarta.com

To win a trip to Puerto Vallarta, please visit: www.winatriptopuertovallarta.com/lgbt
For Pueto Vallarta’s LGBT destination brochure, please click here.
For packages and hotel information, please click here.
For Images of Puerto Vallarta, please click here.
Additional information on Puerto Vallarta is available at www.visitpuertovallarta.com.

Meeting with His Majesty Akihito, Emperor of Japan

 

By Enrique Peña Nieto

Tokyo, Japan

Today we began a working trip to Japan: an example of productivity and competitiveness. This official visit allows me to seek further exchanges in areas such as tourism, information, automotive and auto parts, electrical-electronics and renewable energy technologies.

At the Imperial Palace, I had the opportunity to hold a private meeting with His Majesty Akihito, Emperor of Japan and Empress Michiko.

The year 2014 will mark the 400 years since the first contact between Mexico and Japan, and forty-nine years ago, Their Majesties visited our country. Since I think it is important to commemorate this link, I invited the Emperor and Empress to visit Mexico next January.

During these four months of my administration, we have witnessed Japanese investment in Mexico, an example of which is JATCO, which announced an investment of $220 million USD in February.

Mexico is Japan’s largest trading partner in Latin America and Japan is the leading Asia-Pacific investor in Mexico. Japanese and Mexicans are strategic partners; we have great economic opportunities to exploit.

Mar de Cortes International Airport Announces Addition of AeroMexico National and International Flights

GRUPO VIDANTA AEROMEXICONewly expanded service to include two flights per week from Las Vegas, Nevada to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico beginning June 2013

Grupo Vidanta, the leading developer of luxury resort properties in Latin America, is proud to announce the addition of national and international AeroMexico flights to its Mar de Cortes International Airport located in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico. Beginning on June 20, 2013, AeroMexico will begin scheduling national and international flights for the first time through Mar de Cortes, the first of which will be a Hermosillo-Puerto Peñasco-Las Vegas connection.

The specific flight numbers and times are as follows:

AeroMexico (AM 2674) Hermosillo 9:24am to Puerto Peñasco 11:14am to Las Vegas 1:15pm

AeroMexico (AM 2675) Las Vegas 2:15pm to Puerto Peñasco 4:23pm to Hermosillo 6:13pm

Flights will be twice per week, Sundays and Thursdays.

Originally built by Grupo Vidanta in 2009, the Mar de Cortes Airport provides easy access to the stunning beachfront properties along the Sea of Cortes and the spectacular recreational offerings of this highly desirable vacation destination. The Mar de Cortes International Airport — the first privately built airport in all of Mexico — has welcomed private flights since November of 2009, when it was inaugurated in an opening ceremony by President Felipe Calderon.

“We are thrilled to announce the addition of AeroMexico national and international flights,” said Fernando Antillon, Director of the Mar de Cortes International Airport. “The Puerto Peñasco area offers guests an incredible combination of magnificent natural beauty and deluxe resort accommodations. We welcome future visitors and look forward to providing them with the finest travel-related services available.”

Puerto Peñasco’s popularity is in part thanks to its proximity to the Arizona border. Only 60 miles away, its nickname of “Arizona’s beach” is accurate, making it the coast closest to the major cities of Phoenix and Tucson. Along with the Mar de Cortes International Airport, a new stretch of highway shortens the drive from California by 100 miles. All this has led to Puerto Peñasco being the fastest growing tourism destination in Mexico since 2006.

Puerto Peñasco is blessed with boundless beaches, natural beauty, wildlife and recreational offerings and also boasts the best opportunities for big catches; fishers will delight in the bounty of red snapper, whitefish, halibut, goldspotted bass and black sea bass in the beautiful Sea of Cortez. also known as “The World’s Aquarium” and the “Galapagos of North America.”

The initial and future flights will provide access to many more vacationers, giving them the opportunity to experience firsthand the deluxe accommodations of Grupo Vidanta’s Mayan Palace resort in Puerto Peñasco. This lavish vacation property offers guests everything they could hope for in a luxury resort: miles of pristine beaches; gourmet restaurants; intimate lounges; a spa and fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment; a Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole, 72-par professional golf course; multiple tennis courts; indoor and outdoor swimming pools; and fully appointed grand suites that create a truly welcoming environment for member guests.

In addition to its Mayan Palace Resort in Puerto Peñasco, Grupo Vidanta also welcomes member guests to enjoy their other fine vacation properties in some of the most desirable beachfront locations in Mexico, including Nuevo Vallarta, Riviera Maya, Acapulco and Mazatlan.

Book a flight today on AeroMexico at: http://www.aeromexico.com.

Learn more about Mar de Cortes International Airport at http://www.aeropuertomardecortes.com/.

About Grupo Vidanta

Grupo Vidanta is an award-winning company known worldwide for its leadership in hotels and luxury resorts, championship quality golf courses, and tourism infrastructure, including Mexico’s first privately built international airport at Puerto Penasco. The company was founded in 1974 by Daniel Chavez Moran and now boasts an impressive portfolio of resort brands located among the most coveted coastal beach resorts in Mexico. These include Grand Luxxe, The Grand Bliss, The Bliss, The Grand Mayan, Mayan Palace, Ocean Breeze and Sea Garden, with more under development. In addition, Grupo Vidanta’s real estate division, Mayan Island, has built and sold more than 2,000 vacation homes. The company has resort properties operating in Los Cabos, Nuevo Vallarta, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, Riviera Maya, Puerto Penasco, Riviera Nayarit, and Mazatlan. For more information, please visit www.grupovidanta.com.

Turning 50 in Oaxaca – A Celebration of the Senses

By: Lisa Coleman

20 years ago I sat on the shores of Playa la Ropa in Zihuatanejo celebrating my 30th birthday. My dear friend from Switzerland told me she had planned a party on the beach. It sounded great, but since this was a new destination for me, turns out she was the only person I knew when I arrived at my own fiesta. A gorgeous table covered with plates of fresh fish, flowers and gifts came courtesy of the locals – people I’d never met, friends I didn’t even know I had.  A trio of musicians stood in the sand and serenaded me with song after song. By the time the evening was over, I had fallen even more in love with Mexico and the extraordinary people that embraced this stranger with smiles, laughter and kindness. It was pure magic. It was pure Mexico.

At the time, I had only been working in Mexico for a few years and had yet to discover the many gifts this magnificent country would continue to give me.  Nonetheless, I knew immediately I was drawn to the country’s more off-the-beaten path places:  the more intimate locales filled with culture and beauty, and the towns and villages enjoyed by the traveler rather than the tourist.  As my 50th birthday loomed on the horizon (and I don’t say that lightly!), I knew in my heart the only place to celebrate this milestone would be my favorite place on earth: Mexico. But where? So many choices, so many memories…  it was difficult to pin such an occasion on a single destination. After much contemplating, I decided to make it a combo adventure – my favorite colonial city and a beach town I’d always wanted to see. And so the wheels were in motion for a trip to the state of Oaxaca.

Photo by Josh Slocum
Photo by Josh Slocum

If you’ve spent much time traveling Mexico, you know this country is a chameleon. Every state shows a different color, every region a unique energy, and every local culture a special tradition. The only constant is diversity… And so it is with the Mexican state of Oaxaca. As intriguing as its name, Oaxaca (wah-HAH-kah) is one of the most unusual and dynamic places in all of Mexico. On a map, the state of Oaxaca can be found about 300 miles southeast of Mexico City. Its stunning Pacific coastline is home to the remarkable beach resort of Huatulco (more on that later), but the centerpiece of the state is the magical Oaxaca City. Founded in 1532, the city is surrounded by the Sierra Madre del Sur mountain range and sits atop an arid highland plateau some 5,000 feet above sea level. And though the city is densely populated, it remains unusually intimate. Easily explored on foot, it has the warm and inviting pace of a village. There is a certain energy that radiates from the people and buildings, almost as if the past remains in the present. The streets resemble a brightly colored painting, enticing aromas fill the air and music abounds… everything looks and feels like a celebration.

When it came down to planning, I reached out to my good friend, Sylvie Laitre, who owns and operates Mexico Boutique Hotels. For me, MBH is simply the best of the best. Sylvie personally chooses each property in the collection and there is something enchanting about staying in a boutique setting rather than a big chain hotel. The service is unprecedented and the feel and experience are completely different.  Over the years, as I have become a savvier traveler, I completely embrace “small property” hospitality, attention to detail and personal touch – especially in Mexico.

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My birthday digs in Oaxaca City would be at the exquisite Hacienda Los Laureles located just a few minutes (five to eight at most and about $4 USD) by taxi outside the center of town. I had stayed here once before (on one of my first trips to Mexico with my husband), so the property holds special meaning for me. With a total of only 23 rooms and suites, Los Laureles is the ideal combination of traditional Mexican style and classic colonial elegance. You feel as though you are in your own private hacienda, complete with lush gardens, towering cypress trees, outstanding service and one of the best restaurants in town. Nestled in the mountain foothills, the hotel maintains its 19th century charm. The owner, Peter Kaiser, makes it his personal goal to ensure every guest feels at home. The evening we arrived, a “Feliz Cumpleaños” was written in flower petals on our bed, and a candlelit dinner was planned for us in the garden. It was a wonderful beginning to my birthday adventure, and the rest of our stay was equally as flawless. (Stay tuned for a more detailed feature story on Hacienda Los Laureles coming soon.)

Monte Alban
Monte Alban

The highlight of any trip to Oaxaca is going to be a visit to the majestic archeological site of Monte Albán.  Indigenous tribes of Zapotec and Mixtec inhabited the area for centuries and built mighty stone cities that flourished for thousands of years. Over 2,500 years ago, the Zapotecs built the holy city of Monte Albán on a hilltop overlooking the Valley of Oaxaca. The view is nothing short of spectacular and whether you’re an archeological buff or not, this will be well worth the visit. We had a fantastic guide, Suzanne Barbezat, from Discover Oaxaca Tours . She and her husband, Benito Hernández, offer six different day trips around the area, and will also customize excursions to fit your personal needs. Benito is Zapotec and has lived most of his life in Oaxaca City so he offers prolific knowledge on culture, tradition and history. Suzanne comes to Oaxaca via Canada. She first visited in 1997 and fell in love with Benito (and Oaxaca!). She is completely bilingual, holds a degree in anthropology, and is the writer and editor for About.com’s Mexico Travel website . They are quite the impassioned pair about anything and everything Oaxaca, and I recommend them highly.  (If you love bird watching, Benito also does birding tours—visit www.birdingoaxaca.com)

Suzanne and Benito
Suzanne and Benito

After a memorable day at Monte Albán, it was time for the main event: a birthday dinner at the famous Casa Oaxaca Restaurant. I selected this restaurant based on the location (just steps from the Santo Domingo church in the city center), the ambiance (simple and romantic with wood tables and towering white stucco ceiling), the awesome rooftop bar, and of course, the exceptional cuisine provided by world-renowned chef, Alejandro Ruiz Olmeda. Known for his creative dishes, Chef Alejandro has populated the menu with everything from expertly prepared rack of lamb, duck in green agave sauce and venison in yellow mole, to traditional Oaxacan specialties and fresh herbed octopus and grilled fish.Our party of eight enjoyed bottle after bottle of Mexican and Spanish selections from the extensive wine list while listening to a trio of musicians playing Mexican favorites. All was as it should be in Mexico – great friends, great food, and great wine, all wrapped up in cozy restaurant.

All too soon it was time to head south to the beach for the last leg of the celebration. We hopped on Aerotucan’s 8-seater commuter for our 45-minute flight to Huatulco (wah-TOOL-co). You can take a bus or rent a car, but you’re in for six to eight hours of winding roads. Despite the steep price tag, it’s certainly the fastest and best way to connect the cities. Of all the resorts in Mexico, I had never been to Huatulco; lucky for me it looks like I saved the best for last. This 21-mile stretch of coastline with nine pristine bays and beaches was one of the most striking beach destinations in Mexico that I’d ever seen. Anchored by the charming little town of La Crucecita, Huatulco was developed by Mexico’s tourism fund (FONATUR) and was designed to be a major Pacific coast resort community. Nonetheless, it has remained small and almost undiscovered… which, to me, is a good thing.

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I had also worked with Sylvie from Mexico Boutique Hotels on a location in Huatulco and she recommended Hotel Las Palmas. After a quick look at their website, and some communications with their amazing staff, it was an easy choice. We were met at Huatulco’s “palapa-topped” airport and were greeted by hotel transportation. The service was spot on from the instant we arrived. When we got to the Dolphin Cove Villa at Las Palmas, it was nothing short of astonishing. I don’t use that word often, but that’s the only description that really sums it up. Our massive 4-bedroom/4-bath villa had an open-air living area, huge kitchen and negative-edge pool overlooking the picturesque Violina Bay and beach. Even though we were there in the dry season it was incredibly beautiful. Owners Ron and Jackie Williams came to Huatulco on a trip from Lake Tahoe in 2001. They took one look at the area and knew they had to realize their dream and build a hotel overlooking the Pacific. Well, their dream turned out to be my dream come true too, as you won’t find many places in Mexico as breathtaking as this. With a total of five casitas and three villas, Las Palmas feels more like a giant private home rather than a hotel. At the risk of overstating the obvious, it was perfect.  (Stay tuned for a full feature story on Las Palmas and Huatulco coming up as well.)023

Truth be told, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about turning 50. But, I can tell you this: turning 50 in Oaxaca is the way to go. Thank you, Mexico. Thank you for reaching into my soul and giving me so many gifts of so many memories. I look forward to the next 50 and continuing to discover your treasures.

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A Great Read About the Sierra Madre

God's Middle Finger

Discover a part of Mexico that you probably have no idea about. Author Richard Grant takes you on his wild journey into the Sierra Madre to areas unfamiliar to most travelers. It is a land far removed from the sunny beaches and fine-dining of Cancun and Cabo. Go to the Amazon page here to look inside the book for a sample

http://www.amazon.com/Gods-Middle-Finger-Lawless-Sierra/dp/B001OW5N0U/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364852363&sr=1-1&keywords=god%27s+middle+finger