Exactly 30 days from today I will look over the Pacific from my private pool at the Dolphin Cove Villa at Las Palmas in Huatulco. It seems so cliché to use words like “amazing” or “breathtaking” to describe some of the places I’ve been in Mexico, but they do the job in a place like this. Two years ago, I celebrated my 50th birthday in Oaxaca City and Huatulco, and fell in love with Mexico all over again. It was my first time in Huatulco and it reminded me of why Mexico is part of who I am. Most of our readers (and all my friends) know that my heart has always belonged to Zihuatanejo. That town and its people have spent more than 20 years atop my list of favorites. Well, times are changing, maybe I’m changing (certainly getting older), but to be completely honest, my new crush is Huatulco. Simple, elegant in all the right places, laid back just enough, safe, warm and embracing – that sums it up. For me, this is the Mexico that soothes my soul. This is the Mexico that feels like home. It’s all here. Huatulco is that place you have to explain how to find on a map, and most of us are happy to keep it that way. It feels like Zihua did 25 years ago, and that’s a good thing. The energy is different here. Mexico savvy travelers know exactly what I’m talking about. The days are long and slow, the scenery is gorgeous, the water is perfect, the beer is cold and I can’t wait to get there!
Huatulco’s infrastructure was put in place by FONATUR (Trust for Tourism Development -Fondo Nacional del Fomento al Turismo), back in the 70’s. FONATUR is well known for creating and building Cancun, Ixtapa and Los Cabos, as well as the off-the-beaten path communities of Loreto and the Bahías de Huatulco (the Bays of Huatulco, which has been shortened to just Huatulco.) If you love the hustle and bustle of Cancun, this probably won’t do it for you. But if you like the pace of Zihuatanejo, and you’re charmed by Loreto, Huatulco will be right up your alley. It will remind you a little of Ixtapa in design, but with the coziness of Zihua. Huatulco dances to its own beat and it’s one special song.
I’d usually tell you all about the lodging along the coastline, but I’ve only stayed in one place, a perfect place to me: Las Palmas. With an extraordinary location, perched on a cliff with incomparable views of Violin Bay on one side and Santa Cruz on the other, it doesn’t get much better. Owned by Ron and Jackie Williams, who have become dear friends, Las Palmas is like your own private paradise. With only five casitas and three villas, you’ll be part of the family from the moment you arrive. (For more details read my previous post here: Huatulco and Las Palmas: A Match Made in Heaven.)
The countdown is on. I can almost feel the sand in my toes and the Pacific sunshine on my face. I know it won’t disappoint! See you soon Huatulco…
This post was previously published on Mexico Premiere. With Mexico travel season about to kick into gear, we have had several request to re-post it. Enjoy!
By: Lisa Coleman
I’m sure you’ve heard “when in Rome…. do as the Romans do,” but when stepping into a foreign country it’s really worth considering these words a bit more carefully. The saying originated in 387 A.D. when St. Augustine arrived in Milan and observed the Catholic Church did not fast on Saturday like it was done in Rome. He consulted the Bishop of Milan (St. Ambrose) about the matter who simply replied: “When I am in Rome I fast on Saturday; when I am in Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of where you are.” That sentiment has stood the test of time and can really make a difference when visiting Mexico, or any other country for that matter.
I have traveled the world and feel there is nothing more frustrating than watching “ugly Americans” (Canadians are guilty, too!) being rude or disrespectful to the local people. Regardless of whether it’s an all-inclusive in Cancun where everyone speaks English, or an eco-hotel in the remote jungle of Chiapas, you are still a guest in Mexico… you are still visiting someone’s home. As a citizen of the world, you owe it to yourself and your hosts to take the time to understand the basics of the Mexican culture and to embrace their hospitality with the respect it deserves. I have seen bad manners exhibited many times in Mexico, so I am hoping to shed a little light on some common courtesies that may change your travel experience. At the very least, it will bring a smile to your Mexican hosts!
First, let’s talk about changing your mindset when you plan a trip to Mexico and switch from being a tourist to being a traveler. What’s the difference? Plenty…
• A tourist expects (and insists) everyone speaks English. A traveler tries to use even the most basic high school Spanish to make an effort.
• A tourist is content to hang out at the swim-up bar getting lobster-red sunburn while becoming louder, drunker, and more obnoxious by the minute. The traveler heads into town, checks out the local markets, tries to make heads or tails of the menus at local restaurants and takes the time to stroll the streets, smile at the people and take in the flavor and color of the place they are visiting.
• A tourist goes to the local McDonalds, American chain restaurant, or orders a hamburger at the hotel. A traveler will find out where the best local dishes are served and at the very least give them a try.
• A tourist is content to be part of a group and to take large tours to all the most famous spots. A traveler tends to rent a car with a few other people (or solo) and explore the area on their own.
That list could go on forever, but you get the idea.
Mexico is also far more formal than many would think. If you know anything about Mexican history, you know the Spanish had a tremendous influence on the people and culture of the country. The early Spanish overlords who came to Mexico in the 1500s brought the etiquette of the Royal Court of Spain, and many of those formalities still exist. As a rule, the Mexicans have maintained this cortesía, and it’s important that foreigners be aware and sensitive to not insulting the dignidad of the people they encounter.
• For starters, it helps to use Señor (Mr.) or Señora (Mrs.) with the men or women you encounter. Mexicans always address by social status and this immediately shows respect and will be a quick step in the right direction. (Señorita would be used to address a young, unmarried woman and is similar to Miss.)
• In a restaurant, if you wish to call the waiter, you generally use the term Joven (Ho-ven). Though it means “young person,” it is an accepted term for all waiters. If you have a waitress, Señorita is appropriate. Snapping your fingers? Never.
• “Please” (por favor) and “Thank You” (gracias) are a given if you’d like to ask an employee (or anyone for that matter) to do something. Look them in the eye and be sincere, it will take you a long way.
• Americans tend to enter a room of strangers and only say hello in passing, if at all. They are usually casual, self absorbed and miss the almost constant greetings by their Mexican counterparts. Whether it’s in a public place with strangers, or with people you already know, say buenos días (good morning), buenas tardes (good afternoon) or buenas noches (good evening) to those you see. You’ll notice smiles right away.
• Being humble is a cultural virtue often forgotten by visitors. Mexicans will always welcome you when you arrive to your destination and refer to their home or even your hotel as su casa (your house). They are modest and truly want you to feel at home in their country. Keep an eye out for that and be sure to thank them for their hospitality.
• If you can’t speak Spanish, don’t insult the local people by shouting louder and slower in English. It’s rude and it doesn’t change the fact that they don’t understand. They will appreciate any effort you make, regardless of your skill level.
• Come to a church just as you would at home. Be aware when entering and always take off sunglasses, baseball caps or hats. Wearing shorts is rarely an issue in the beach areas, but women should take care to wear a wrap or sweater to the waist to avoid showing too much skin, which could viewed disrespectful in such places.
• The beach is the beach, but away from the resort areas shorts are very rarely worn by Mexicans on the street. Be cognizant of how you look and avoid drawing too much attention to yourself as a foreigner. Never wear shorts to a business event or to a restaurant outside the immediate resort area.
The Mexican culture isn’t overly complex. It’s built on simplicity, humility and courtesy. The people are tremendously warm and inviting, and genuinely care about their guests. Whether you’re a tourist, a traveler, or a little of both, take an extra few minutes to embrace Mexico at its core and I think you’ll come away with a deeper appreciation of a country waiting to invite you home.
Flip through the pages of Architectural Digest or Robb Report and you’ll see that Mexico’s luxury villa market is making an impact. Quietly carving out a niche for distinguished buyers from around world, Mexico is on the move. Second home seekers and wealthy expats have discovered the beauty and perfection that can be found along some of most breathtaking beaches in the country. Ultra exclusive communities in Punta Mita (near Puerto Vallarta), Cabo San Lucas (Baja California), and Costa Careyes (between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo) are known worldwide by a discerning clientele. But it’s a small, unique development called Montecito in the beach town of Huatulco that is defining extraordinary.
Huatulco is far different from its high profile companions. Considered and developed as an “ecotourism” resort in the early 1970’s, 70% of Huatulco is made up of ecological preserves. In 1988, then President Ernesto Zedillo converted most of the area’s preserves into a giant national park (protecting both land and marine life). Huatulco prides itself in being a totally “green” resort. Mexico’s FONATUR (National Trust for Tourism Development), who built the resort town, still ensures that all new projects meet certain standards in order to maintain Huatulco’s Green Globe status.
At the center of Huatulco’s allure 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 remarkable coastline on the Pacific. The main areas are: Tangolunda Bay, home to the big name resorts, an 18-hole golf course, and a smattering of nightlife. The bay of Santa Cruz has a bustling marina, an intimate village with beachside restaurants and bars, plenty of shops and a cruise ship dock. And, Chahue Bay (CHAH-way) located between the other two, with a marina, lots of new high-end condo projects and a public beach. About a mile inland, the charming hamlet 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 brand new grocery store, the infrastructure is solidly in place. It’s not unusual to see a jet or two parked at palapa-topped international airport.
Located at the east end of the resort on a private peninsula, Montecito Beach Village is an unforgettable collection of 2, 3 & 4 bedroom beach and oceanfront Villas. This low-density (only 30 Villas in total when complete) 12-acre masterpiece is quickly becoming one of the most notable developments in Mexico. Touching the shores of two beaches and hosting phenomenal views, Montecito is at home on an incredible piece of land. Designed by famed Mexican architect, Diego Villaseñor, whose past works include the Four Seasons in Punta Mita and the Four Seasons in the Dominican Republic (to name a couple), Montecito’s impeccable style was developed to promote sustainable, elegant coastal living.
Project Director and Managing Partner, Greg Glassman, describes the concept that makes Montecito so special, “We integrate the natural environment into the human habitat. We have created this development with minimal impact and we are fortunate to have the opportunity to develop such a unique community on this land. We are careful to protect and preserve all the flora and fauna on the property and create each Villa with nature in mind.” Glassman further describes, “We strive to not only integrate our Village into the natural environment but the cultural environment as well. This kind of living experience can’t be found anywhere else.”
And, I’d have to agree. There is an intrinsic perfection to everything here. “Architecture is about the art of living and the way to construct the human habitat,” says architect Diego Villaseñor. “I create spaces that resound in the soul and imagination, that give human beings a sense of protection, freedom and a place to be with themselves.” Having spent time at Montecito, I can confidently say it’s a one-of-a-kind development. It’s where I wander in awe and step into my own dream. This is the ultimate in beachside living. They haven’t missed a thing. Every detail is in place and every inch of the property is thought out. It’s among the best of the best. For me, Montecito is a probably just a dream I can visit when I’m in Huatulco, but for those who can make a place like this a reality, they shouldn’t miss the opportunity.
Montecito’s Phases 1 and 2 are in the process of completion. These phases will be comprised of 15 villas, two clubs (the Cala Beach Club and the hilltop Loma Lounge), and the management buildings. Lifestyle perks include daily housekeeping, gardening, maintenance, pool cleaning, concierge, and cooking services. Prices start at $1.2 million and they have already built and sold 5 villas in the past year. (If you just want a taste, some of the villas at Montecito are available for rent. You can get info on the website. )
The term “destination restaurant” was coined in France by the world famous Michelin Guide. This distinguished label was given to an establishment significant enough to reach beyond the borders of the community to draw in their customers. If the restaurant had two stars it was “worth a detour” and if it had three stars it was “worth a journey.” The nine restaurants that make up the unforgettable gourmet dining experience at the Camino Real Polanco in Mexico City indeed have enough stars to make them “worth a journey.”
I must admit when I first planned my layover in Mexico City to write this article, the idea was to focus on things to do and see within only 48 hours. However, after an unforgettable evening at this hotel, I knew I’d have to rethink things. I’m a big fan of the Camino Real chain and had always wanted to stay at the Polanco property, but I had no idea what was in store when we checked in.
First, if you’ve never been to this hotel, it’s in a central location to explore the city and every one of the 712 rooms and suites come with all the bells and whistles. The chain’s namesake originated from 16th century Spaniards who called the route that led into the capital of “New Spain” the “camino real.” In modern times, the Camino Real group has 20 properties throughout the country and symbolizes everything that’s “quality” about a stay in a Mexican hotel. The first Camino Real property was opened in Guadalajara in 1958. The Polanco location, showcasing the unique pyramid-esque architectural design of Ricardo Legorreta, opened in 1968. A number of reviews have called it a “hotel-museum” because of its unusual look and its world-class art collection. In addition to all of that, the Camino Real also boasts some of the finest dining in all of Mexico City.
Keeping in mind the city is filled with fabulous restaurants, I really didn’t know what to expect when I was invited to a “gourmet dine around” at the hotel. My husband and I were joined by two very good friends who have been residents of Mexico City for many years and are (what I would consider) extremely knowledgeable critics of what’s what about the dining scene around town. (Since one of those good friends is the world famous “foodie,” Cristina Potters, of the renowned blog Mexico Cooks! – I knew our little adventure would have to be pretty special to impress her.)
We started out at the Blue Bar just off the main entrance to the hotel. Our hostess, the wonderful Diana Miller of Grupo Real Turismo, welcomed us with a tasty Pear Bellini (pear nectar, pear brandy and some chilled extra dry champagne) and only a hint of how the evening was to unfold. The Blue Bar is slick and modern with a portion of the seating built on a translucent floor over a shimmering blue pool. The ambiance is a mix of modern and eclectic, but it’s a true lounge atmosphere and the drink menu reflects the same, with its variety of signature cocktails and martinis that will tempt even the most discerning sippers. We also sampled some fine tequila before moving on to the food fest that was ready to unfold.
It’s surprising that all the restaurants are tucked away from the lobby, so when you’re checking in at the front desk their location isn’t easily discernible. What a treat to have such a gastronomic extravaganza under one roof… and all only a few steps apart. Our first stop was the María Bonita restaurant. The namesake of this seductive looking eatery comes from Mexico’s most iconic actress and movie star, María Félix. María was the quintessential diva and was known worldwide for her beauty and elegance. The restaurant is bathed in deep colors and has an intimate feel. We sampled the mini tostaditas de aguachile which is made with raw shrimp cooked in lime juice. (If you’re a shrimp lover it’s a MUST!) The menu is comprised of an unusual blend of traditional Mexican favorites interwoven with some modern and innovative recipes. The fifteen different kinds of tacos along with entrees featuring fresh fish, shrimp, beef and “all you can eat” Pozole (a well known Mexican stew made with pork) will be sure to satisfy your cravings.
Next on the tour were the flavors of Spain at the Centro Castellano. The restaurant itself has been in Mexico City since 1949 and has had a location at the hotel since 2001. The simple, yet colorful and inviting décor resembles that of a local “hostería” (inn) that might be found along La Rambla in Barcelona. Our treat was perfectly prepared roasted octopus, ham croquettes and a nice glass of the tasty house wine. The menu here is authentic Spanish fare with hearty seafood paella and fresh huachinango (red snapper) along with plenty of roasted goat, veal, lamb and pork entrée selections. The portions are generous and the atmosphere is bright and lively. Next time I visit, I’ll need to try the sangria!
It’s not often that I’m totally awed by a restaurant, but that’s what happened at the Beefbar. Sleek and sassy, it’s easy to see why this place is packed all the time. One look at the menu proves that it would rank amongst the finest steak houses in the world. We started with a quick tour of the open kitchen, which was incredible to say the least. Massive stainless steel ovens were custom designed for the restaurant to cook the beef at extreme temperatures. This method sears the outside of the cut while leaving the inside tender and juicy. A seemingly endless array of carpaccios, tartares, ceviches and tiraditos are prepared to order behind the ice-cold raw bar. (FYI: A tiradito is a raw fish dish similar to ceviche, but in a spicy sauce. It originated in Peru and reflects the influence of Japanese immigrants on Peruvian cooking.) Beefbar’s Executive Chef, Eduardo Morali, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York and brings his sophistication to the menu. In addition to every cut of meat imaginable, including corn-fed aged (22 months) American Black Angus Premium beef and Kobe Style aged (30 months) beef, there is also fresh fish (Róbalo, Chilean Sea Bass and Red Snapper) and exceptional pasta entrees (think Foie Gras Ravioli with a port reduction and Wild Mushroom Risotto). The menu also boasts such originals as Churros with Truffle Oil followed by a Praline and Caramelized Banana Soufflé for dessert. It could take years to try it all! My chef husband said this place makes “Ruth’s Chris look like fast food.” On a side note, check out the bathroom… it might be one of the coolest I’ve ever seen!
By this time, we were all overwhelmed with the extraordinary quality of each of the restaurants… it was only getting better. Dipping into the Japanese side of things, we arrived at Morimoto. Multi-level and visually stunning (modern meets traditional Japanese), this restaurant was meticulously designed by world renowned Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Morimoto, who grew to fame on Iron Chef America, spent a year making sure every element of the restaurant was perfect. (We would soon discover the food was equally as impressive.) The main floor is covered in an elegant marble while the remaining levels are done in French oak. The 75-foot glass ceiling is truly unique. Morimoto’s culinary vision began in 1980 when he opened his first restaurant in Hiroshima. His first venture outside of Japan was in Philadelphia in 2001. Morimoto now has locations in Napa Valley, Boca Raton, inside the Taj Hotels in Mumbai and Delhi, Waikiki and in 2014 he will open locations in Chicago and South Beach. Morimoto is notorious for using the most sophisticated kitchen equipment to ensure the fish served is always completely fresh, including two medical-grade “super freezers” that keep fragile and seasonal cuts like toro (tuna belly) at -112 degrees Fahrenheit (- 80ºC) so the fish can be frozen without the cells being damaged. All of that said… the food is brilliant. Chef Pablo Peñalosa Najera runs the open expo kitchen and expertly executes all of Morimoto’s signature dishes. The Buri Bop (yellow tail over rice prepared tableside and served in a stone bowl) is amazing. All the finest fish makes the menu and there’s always something a little unexpected in the ingredients. Where else would foie gras and wasabi share the same plate? My suggestion: try it all!
The adventure continued at Bice Bistro. Bice is global chain with humble roots. Started in Milan, Italy in 1926, by Beatrice “Bice” Ruggeri, the restaurant boasts the same traditional Italian favorites that have been in her kitchen for decades. The goal of the Bice brand is to maintain the neighborhood feel of a “trattoria” while always remaining true to the inspired recipes of its master chef. After running a successful restaurant in New York for many years, Bice began to expand and now has locations worldwide, all with same style and menu basics. The décor at the Camino Real location is modern, inviting and minimally decorated. Open 24/7, Bice gathers Mexico City’s late night dinner crowd who enjoy the house specialties with a Mediterranean flare, fine Italian standards and pizzas prepared in a wood burning oven. We tried a trio of pastas (Ravioli di Granchio, Fetuccini Alfredo and Spaghettoni Emilia); each was al dente to perfection and the flavors weren’t overpowered by heavy sauce. I have eaten at the Bice Bistro in Scottsdale, Arizona as well and can attest to the consistency of their quality from location to location.
With stomachs almost full and taste buds overwhelmed, we finally made it to our last stop. The China Grill is a busy, seen-to-be-seen kind of restaurant. Full of beautiful people to highlight the beautiful, sleek décor, it’s no surprise the menu is top notch as well. The original China Grill opened in New York in 1987 and was an immediate hit. More than 25 years later the legend lives on in both New York and Mexico City. The name can be a bit deceptive because even though there are plenty of Asian dishes on the menu, it fancies itself a restaurant with “global cuisine.” You’ll find a hint of Italian, Japanese, French, American and Chinese blended into a very special menu. Inventive selections range from Tempura Tuna Sashimi in hot mustard champagne sauce and Merguez Lamb Sausage Pot Stickers with curry and lemon oil drizzle to Black Tea Smoked Sea Bass with grapefruit and Thai basil salad, Papaya Marinated Rib-eye and an Australian Rack of Lamb in a Lotus Leaf. Since this was the end of our extravaganza, we were greeted with a fantastic dessert. Our Bananas in a Box (caramelized bananas atop caramel rum ice cream) was decadent, delightful and the perfect end to a perfect evening.
Our “destination dining” experience was extraordinary and will be another in a long list of unforgettable evenings in Mexico. My foodie friends and chef husband had been rendered speechless… and that’s a tall order! It’s no secret you eat well in Mexico City and I can promise you won’t be disappointed if you add any of the restaurants at the Camino Real to your list. ¡Buen provecho!
The Best Spirit Company S.A. de C.V. announces that it is producing whisky in Mexico.
AGUASCALIENTES, Mexico, Oct. 07, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — The Best Spirit Company S.A. de C.V. announces that it is producing whisky in Mexico and have obtained all permits and certification from the local government and the Ministry of Economy of Mexico.
“Our leading Brand ‘Williamson 18’ will be retailing at $8.00 per bottle in liquor stores in Mexico, and will be priced 20% cheaper than whiskies that are imported from the USA or Europe,” says Jose Luis Perez, General Manager of The Best Spirit company S.A. de C.V.
Williamson 18 is the answer to a very high demand that whiskies in general are having around the world, but at a very affordable price for the same quality as imported whiskies.
“Our Mexican Whisky ‘Williamson 18’ will also be exported to many countries around the world through a distribution network of class A liquor distributors who will take advantage of this novelty product.”
Williamson 18 is produced in the city of Aguascalientes Mexico in a brand new 5,000 square meters bottling plant equipped with brand new state of the art maceration tanks, distillation equipment and fully automatic bottling machines.
“Our plant is able to produce up to 200,000 cases per year of 700, 750 & 1,000 ml glass bottles; we anticipate the production to increase to 500,000 cases by the end of 2015 and 1 million cases of whisky in a can 355 ml.”
Whisky in a can is very affordable and will be exported all over the world, it is 100% recyclable and very light comparing to the glass bottle.
There was Scotch Whisky, American Whisky, Japanese whisky, now there is Mexican Whisky which is the new kid on the block. “This is a genuine MEXICAN WHISKY and it is a perfect product for mass market consumption,” says Jose Luis Perez.
You can contact us at: The Best Spirits Company S.A. de C.V. Municipio de Tepezala # 113 Parque Industrial del Valle de Aguascalientes.
San Francisco de los Romo, Aguascalientes. C.P. 20355 MEXICO
TORONTO, Ontario, Oct. 7, 2013 – A real tropical adventure for adults that’s also kid-friendly? One Canadian mountain bike adventure company has come to rescue fat tire fanatics who love their kids – and their passion for an active escape.
Frustrated by a fruitless search for such adventure, Mike Brcic, president of Sacred Rides Mountain Bike Adventures and a father of three young children, decided to take matters into his own hands and develop an adventure that he could take his own family on – and not get bored. The result is the company’s new Ultimate Family Adventure on the sunny Pacific Coast of Mexico.
Every morning mom and dad can get their adrenaline kicks on local jungle and mountain trails while kids aged 4 and up are supervised by trained ‘childminders’ in age-based, fun-infused activities. Afternoons target family togetherness and fun: ocean safaris, surfing lessons, horseback riding, cultural interactions through volunteer opportunities and more.
The trip includes accommodation (kids stay in parents’ room), meals, guided daily mountain biking, child minding, family activities, a horseback adventure, a panga (fishing boat) journey to Marietas Islands National Park (see dolphins, turtles, manta rays and grey whales), and all transfers including airport pick-up and dropoff at Puerto Vallarta airport.
The adult rate is $2195 CAD per adult; this includes a mountain biking package for one of the adults (to allow flexibility for families with only one mountain biking parent) and one child for every 2 adults booked. Additional children cost $899 CAD, including accommodation, meals, transport and activities.
One 2014 date has been set, March 1 to 7 with more to come. Custom group departures are available December through April for groups of 4 or more. Interested parties are asked to contact the Sacred Rides office at email@example.com or 1-888-423-7849.
The adventure is all based out of the spectacular Playa Escondida hideaway resort on a jungle-fringed private beach one hour north of Puerto Vallarta, just outside of the friendly and fun town of Sayulita.
Later in the week, after spending the afternoon in the chilled-out town of San Pancho, the families will head into Sayulita for dinner and a salsa lesson for the whole family at one of the local restaurants – learning to swing their hips like the locals do.
Following lunch on Day 5 in the town of Los Ayala, participants will take a short drive to a nearby village where the afternoon will be spent volunteering with a local community project. It’s a wonderful opportunity to introduce kids to some of the challenges that communities face in Mexico and how making a small contribution can make a big difference.
For those new to mountain biking, Sacred Rides has posted a video on YouTube called “This is why we ride — a celebration of mountain biking.”
Ranked “#1 mountain bike tour operator on Earth” by National Geographic editors, Sacred Rides offers small-group, single-track mountain bike adventures and skills camps in 13 destinations worldwide. Historically known as the company for serious fat-tire fanatics, in 2013 the company has launched a new line of trips focusing on novice bikers who have little or no experience with mountain biking, with an infusion of region-dependent multi-sport activities. In all of its destinations Sacred Rides emphasizes responsible tourism that makes direct, meaningful contributions to local communities.
For More Information, Tour Itineraries and Reservations Contact:
One of my all time favorite Mariachi songs is called “Volver, Volver.” Loosely translated the title means “Come back, Come back,” and it symbolizes what I feel every time I leave Mexico. My heart always aches a bit and the words to that song run through my head. There is something remarkable about returning to a place that touches your soul. It’s never like the first time; it’s better. There’s a touch of familiarity that gives the impression of being welcomed back home. That’s how I felt about coming back to Oaxaca and Hacienda Los Laureles.
On a map, the state of Oaxaca (wah-HAH-kah) can be found about 300 miles southeast of Mexico City. The entire region is filled with both natural and cultural beauty, 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 a 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 city is widely considered one of the finest displays of Spanish colonial architecture in the entire country and was designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1987. A total of 1,200 historic monuments remain throughout the city and surrounding areas.
The charming and elegant Hacienda Los Laureles is located a quick 8 to 10 minutes from the zócalo (city center). Tucked away in the foothills, this hotel is a real gem. Built in the early 1800s, the property maintains its grand colonial style, while offering all the modern amenities. My first visit to the hacienda was back in 2001, and I was happy to discover it was even more beautiful upon my return. The lush and manicured gardens had matured even more and are now filled with blooming flowers along with huge cypress and mango trees. To add to the natural peacefulness of the grounds, a symphony of singing birds can be heard throughout the foliage.
From the moment you arrive, it will feel as though you are in your own private hacienda. With a total of only 23 guest rooms (including four master suites and presidential suite), the service is very personal. Owner, Peter Kaiser, tells me, “We want our guests to have a unique experience here so the staff is always available to cater to their needs.” Peter has built his reputation on attention to detail and understands the importance of “the little things” that make a hotel experience memorable. Los Laureles is a member of the exclusive Mexico Boutique Hotels group, and received Four Diamonds from AAA. In addition, the hacienda was bestowed with the Tesoro (Treasure) Award from the Oaxaca State Government and an “M” from the Tourism Ministry presented by the previous Secretary of Tourism, Gloria Guevarra. The “M” is for “Modern,” but obtaining it requires exhaustive training and inspection.
Each room and suite has its own look and feel. Keeping true to its historical roots, heavy wood furniture is accented with Mexican handicrafts, bursts of color and fresh flowers. The suites have big, comfortable beds and plenty of space. Everything feels special here. We were in Oaxaca celebrating my 50th birthday, so when we checked in, our bed was adorned with rose petals spelling out “Feliz Cumpleaños” (Happy Birthday). It was such a nice touch. There are small tables and chairs just outside your door are the ideal place to sip some coffee and take in the beauty of the garden and grounds. If you need a bit more pampering, stop into the Le Petit Spa for a memorable massage or refreshing facial. Or, take a spiritual journey in the temazcal. A “temazcal” is a traditional Mexican steam bath similar to the Native American sweat lodge. Los Laureles has a small one on the property that will fit three people. Ask at the spa for details.
Though there are plenty of wonderful restaurants in Oaxaca, I must say that one of the finest in town can be found at the hotel – Los Cipreses. Upon our arrival, we were greeted with a candlelit table set in the garden and treated to an extraordinary meal. In fact, we were so impressed with the service and the food that we ate dinner on the property two out of the three nights of our stay. Chef Horacio Reyes is brilliant. Offerings range from the tasty Camarones a la Oaxaqueña (Oaxacan style shrimp with onion, garlic, mushrooms, tomato, mezcal and white wine) and an expertly prepared Filete de Res del Bosque (Filet mignon with mushrooms and herbs) to the amazing Ensalada de Nopales (sliced cactus with peeled tomatoes, onions and avocado) and the Canasta de Chapulines al Cilantro (basket of grasshoppers with coriander, garlic, onion tomato with guacamole and tortillas). Yes, I said “grasshoppers.” They are a very famous dish in Oaxaca and a “must try.” Don’t worry, you will be pleasantly surprised! In addition, the Chef offers cooking classes that will give you insight into these unforgettable dishes.
During our stay, their was a private birthday party being set up. The tent and tables were festive and flawless. The hacienda is well known for hosting special events, meetings and gorgeous weddings. If you’re looking for an intimate and off-the-beaten-path place for your ceremony, you might want to add Los Laureles to your consideration list.
The hacienda is also a premiere location to use as a jumping off spot to explore the region. The front desk can call for a taxi for trips in and out of the city and arrange any kind of tour (private or group) with an English-speaking driver/guide. Be sure to study up on the area so you know what you’d like to see, but I would certainly recommend the archeological sites of Monte Albán and Mitla, and the artisan village of San Martin Tilcajete.
My return trip to Oaxaca and Hacienda Los Laureles was outstanding. The service was brilliant, the room was perfect and I felt as if I was coming home. This is a place I know I will return to again and again and I know it will always be magical. For more information contact Sylvie Laitre at Mexico Boutique Hotels (firstname.lastname@example.org ).