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April 21, 2011
Mexico Travel Page 5
Visit a “Mystery Town” in
Mexico—Rich in Legends and Traditions
Guanajuato, a World Heritage city since 1988, is
already a big tourist draw
Tired of the same-old, same-old cultural tours of
museums and monuments? What about a visit to a
“mystery town,” rich in legends and traditions,
Mexico, you’ll soon be able to.
The state of Guanajuato, in Mexico’s Colonial
Highlands, plans to invest about US $6.2 million to
upgrade and promote three historic mining towns
under the label “mystery towns.”
The project, kicked off by Guanajuato’s state
governor on April 5, aims to leverage the tourism
that already visits the state, enticing visitors to
extend their stay. The state capital, Guanajuato, a
World Heritage city since 1988, is already a big
tourist draw. So is San Miguel de Allende, about 50
miles away. And about 1.2 million hiking enthusiasts
hit the area each year to climb the Cerro de
Cubilete, near the capital.
Mexico has a long track record of branding and
marketing its rich cultural heritage for upscale
tourism. The country has 31 UNESCO World Heritage
sites—more than any other country in the Western
Hemisphere—and 10 of these are Spanish-colonial
cities. It also has nearly 40 “magic villages,” a
label created by the Mexican government for towns of
historic or cultural importance.
Like the nation-wide “magic village” program, the
“mystery town” program aims to generate new revenue
sources for the villages involved: Sangre de Cristo,
Mineral de La Luz, and San Ignacio. The bulk of the
$6.2 million will be used to improve transportation
access to the towns, whose heyday was in the 18th
and 19th centuries, and to create a museum and
This part of Mexico, the Colonial Highlands, is
already a huge draw for cultural tourists. The
region is home to Mexico’s largest concentration of
Spanish-colonial cities, including Guanajuato,
Dolores Hidalgo and San Miguel de Allende, all in
the state of Guanajuato, as well as Querétaro,
Zacatecas, San Luis Potosí and others in the general
The Colonial Highlands are also one of the most
popular regions of Mexico for expats. They are drawn
to its rich colonial history, temperate climate, and
easy access from the U.S. and Canada. San Miguel de
Allende, the best-known expat haven in this region,
may have as many as 10,000 expats.
Editor’s note: Learn more about
Mexico and other countries in our daily postcard
Simply sign up for IL’s free postcards
and we’ll send you a FREE REPORT — Why Millions of
Americans Are Moving to Mexico.
Puerto Vallarta: A Great Gay Spring Getaway
Ed Walsh - Bay Area Reporter
Psst, don't tell anyone, but now is one of the best times of year to
visit Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The water is warmer, there is still
plenty of sun, and the hotel rates are lower than during the busy winter
months. Hotel rates drop even more by June 1, but that is the start of
the rainy season, although it generally rains in the evenings, so your
day at the beach probably won't be rained out.
Gay Puerto Vallarta is showing no signs of slowing down. More and
more tours, hotels, bars, and restaurants are actively courting the gay
community. That trend is backed by a recent survey. A 2010 poll by San
Francisco-based Community Marketing, a gay marketing firm, found that
Puerto Vallarta is the most popular gay foreign destination in the
Americas, narrowly beating Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal.
The gay scene in Puerto Vallarta is on the south side of the city in
an area known as Zona Romantica, or the Romantic Zone. Some also
call it the Old Town, but that is a misnomer since downtown Puerto
Vallarta is much older.
Zona Romantica is also where the city's public beach is located.
Los Muertos Beach starts near the Rio Cuale, which is the river that
separates downtown from the Romantic Zone. The unofficial gay section of
the beach is called Blue Chairs Beach. It is on the southern end of Los
Muertos Beach in front of the Blue Chairs Hotel. But immediately to the
south, the Green Chairs Beach is just as gay, and the section of the
beach to the north in front of the Lido Beach Club is nearly as gay.
One of the best features of Puerto Vallarta is that everything is
easily walkable. Don't think of renting a car here. There are a couple
of dozen gay bars and about a dozen gay hotels within easy walking
distance. And Puerto Vallarta is very safe. The city often gets painted
with a broad negative brush after reports surface on drug-related
violence mostly in border towns of Mexico.
Puerto Vallarta as a tourist destination has a long gay legacy. The
1964 movie, The Night of the Iguana, first put Puerto Vallarta on
the map as a resort destination. That film was based on a story by gay
playwright Tennessee Williams. Elizabeth Taylor, who died last week, was
not in the movie but she tagged along with Richard Burton, with whom she
was having an affair. Both Taylor and Burton were married to other
people at the time and the paparazzi descended on the city, giving it
Gays helped fuel a second renewal in Puerto Vallarta just over 20
years ago. That's when the city's gay founding father, Paco Ruiz, first
opened his landmark gay bar Club Paco Paco. For a time, Club Paco Paco
and Balcones were the only gay bars in town.
Ruiz stood up to regulatory authorities and refused to pay them
bribes. He was eventually arrested after refusing to be closed by them
after two lesbians were seen kissing in his bar. He publicly talked
about his troubles during an international TV talk show that was
broadcasting from the city. The additional media attention and public
sympathy for Ruiz's plight eventually resulted in changes and more
acceptance of gays in the city.
Gays are now entrenched in Zona Romantica, where you will find the
rainbow flag everywhere. Olas Altas is Zona Romantica's main street and
gays played a huge part in the resurgence of the street and
A number of gay-focused tours are a must for any visitor to Puerto
Vallarta. It is a good idea to take a tour near the start of your
vacation. You will meet new friends that you will run into all week
For more than 10 years, Diana's Tours has developed a loyal
following. It is run by Diana DeCoste, a gay woman and a fixture in
Puerto Vallarta. Her daylong tour runs every Thursday and sometimes on
Fridays if there is a big demand. The cruise books up early in the busy
winter months, so book ahead if you are traveling then. Diana's Tours
has the distinction of being the number one ranked tour, gay or
straight, in Puerto Vallarta on
The tour includes a continental breakfast, a stop at a beachfront
restaurant and unlimited booze, soft drinks, and snacks. The first stop
is the landmark Los Arcos, the huge hollowed out rocks through which you
can snorkel. The tour guests are mostly gay male, but lesbians are
welcome and it is straight friendly.
The Wet and Wild gay cruise is another way to spend a fun gay day on
the bay. The eparts Puerto Vallarta twice a week with half-day sunset
cruises on Wednesday and half-day day cruises on Saturday. The tour is
almost exclusively gay male and although the staff maintains a fun
atmosphere, it tends to be very sexually charged. Near the start of the
cruise they announce that it is the goal for everyone to leave drunk and
having gotten laid. The cruise includes a full complement of friendly
strippers who work the crowd for tips.
For the more adventurous, several tour companies offer gay zip-line
and ATV tour days. For a complete list check out
GayGuideVallarta.com or when you get in town, visit the concierge
desk at the Blue Chairs Hotel for information and tickets to all gay
excursions. Jeff Scates usually works the concierge desk and is a great
resource for all things gay in Puerto Vallarta. Beware of timeshare
salesmen who promise free tours in exchange for viewing a presentation.
I had two friends who wound up spending most of the day in a
presentation that was supposed to take 90 minutes. In the end, they
never got the tour they were promised and wound up having to pay the
salesman $40 USD.
A new service called Gay Vallarta Bar-Hopping is a must for first
time visitors or for returning visitors who want to know what's new in
the city. The $40 USD tour includes five bars and two nightclubs with
free drinks at all stops. The tour starts out at 7 pm on Thursdays and
Fridays and begins with a stop at the Fuego Restaurant, where you can
grab a bite for 50 percent off. Another tour on Wednesdays includes a
longer restaurant stop and includes stops at gay local bars. The tour
also includes a package of coupons valued at $40.
The most popular gay bars in town are Paco's Ranch, Club Mañana, and
La Noche. La Noche recently expanded and took over the furniture store
next door, more than doubling its space. People tend to start at La
Noche or one of the smaller gay bars in Puerto Vallarta, before moving
on to Paco's Ranch or Club Mañana, which are open all night for dancing
(but you won't see anyone in there until after midnight and they don't
really get going until after 1 am.) Paco's Ranch is open seven nights a
week but Club Mañana is only open weekends, at least until the start of
the busy winter season, which gets under way around Thanksgiving. (The
smaller stripper bar, Tease, that is attached to Club Mañana, is still
open every night.) Club Mañana is the largest gay club in the city and
has an open-air dance floor, so if you are sensitive to cigarette smoke,
this is the place for you to breath free. Smoking is still allowed in
bars in the city.
There are no lesbian bars in Puerto Vallarta but both Club Mañana and
Paco's Ranch are women-friendly. The smaller lesbian-owned Apaches bar
on Olas Altas is always busy and is also women-friendly. The Chill Out
Lounge is also owned by a lesbian couple and is known for attracting a
very diverse crowd. Apaches and the nearby Sama martini bar are great
places to stop and people watch along Olas Altas. Sama is known for its
exotic cocktails, so check out the menu before ordering your same old.
The Palm is a cabaret space right next to Sama. It is the spot where
gay-friendly acts perform.
The bar on the roof of the Blue Chairs Hotel is a must-stop at
sunset. Check out the schedule of entertainment first. Every night
starts off with male strippers. Some nights also feature drag shows,
karaoke, or gay bingo.
Strippers are a big trend in gay Puerto Vallarta. The newest gay bar
in town is Wet Dreams. It features strippers who take it all off and
shower in a glass booth behind the main bar.
Casa Cupula, owned by San Franciscan Don Pickens, is a gay boutique
hotel and one of the finest hotels – gay or straight – in Puerto
Vallarta. It is on a hill just a short 10-minute walk from Olas Altas
and the heart of gay Puerto Vallarta. Amenities include a new gym, a
pool, and two hot tubs. Continental breakfast is included in the hotel's
Taste Restaurant. The restaurant is worth stopping by for cocktails
or for a meal anytime. It's easy to see why this place consistently gets
The Blue Chairs Hotel, under the direction of gay American sales
manager James Berryman, is getting better than ever. A second rooftop
deck and a new wading pool were added on top of the roof deck. Blue
Chairs also has a couple of lookout decks on top of the top floor,
complete with a replica Statue of Liberty. All the hotel's rooms have
been remodeled and the hotel is fighting to repair the damage to its
reputation during the rocky transition between the former owners, who
had leased the hotel to the current owners, who are the longtime owners
of the building.
Hotel Mercurio is a great choice in the heart of gay Puerto Vallarta,
just a half-block from Olas Altas street. Its budget rates include a
fabulous buffet breakfast. This is particularly a good place for anyone
traveling alone. You will easily make new friends at breakfast or during
the hotel's poolside daily cocktail hour.
The Hotel Amaca underwent a complete top-to-bottom renovation
following its previous incarnation as the Descanso del Sol. The hotel is
on a hill just a five-minute walk from the heart of gay Zona Romantica.
It prominently displays the rainbow flag at the top of its upper deck.
The Swedes Restaurant is owned by a Swedish couple who took over the
old space occupied by the Picnic Restaurant. The space is built into a
hillside on Olas Altas and features great street views and nice ocean
breezes. While everyone is welcome, the owners boast that they proudly
are a gay restaurant. The restaurant features dishes from different
parts of Europe and yes, even a Swedish dish or two.
The gay-owned El Mole de Jovita Restaurant is known for its gourmet
mole, the famous Mexican sauce.
The upscale beachfront Club Lido Restaurant opened in November and
has already drawn a loyal following. It's just north of the Blue Chairs
El Arrayan, in downtown Puerto Vallarta, makes it to the top of
everyone's list as one of the best Mexican restaurants in Mexico. It's
owned by Carmen Porras, an out lesbian originally from Mexico City.
Restaurant at Casa Cupula is a restaurant not to be missed for
gourmet food with great views but with moderate prices.
Getting there and around
Alaska Air and United fly nonstop to Puerta Vallarta from San
Francisco International. The flight is a little over three hours.
A taxi from the airport to Zona Romantica costs about $25 USD. It's
about $10 cheaper to get a taxi back to the airport because taxis are
accessed a fee to pick passengers up at the airport.
A much better way to go is to reserve a car through
It only costs $20 USD for the same ride and you will be treated like a
VIP with someone holding your name on a sign as soon as you exit
You can also walk the pedestrian bridge across the highway to the
yellow taxis on the other side. Fares are negotiable but expect to pay
$5-$10 less than you would pay for a taxi from the airport.
Once you get in town, cab fares are set at 40 pesos, or about $3.35,
for anywhere within the Romantic Zone or downtown. Taxi drivers don't
expect tips unless they give you extra service such as helping you with
luggage. As mentioned, Puerto Vallarta is very walkable but it's a good
idea to take a cab back to your hotel late at night if you are alone or
have had a lot to drink.
For more information, the excellent guide, "Gay Guide Vallarta," is
published by former Bay Area resident Mark Page, and is a great
resource. You can pick up a free hard copy in town or check it out
Spring Parade in La Penita
Photos by the Baron
Bill and Dot Bell
those who love ancient cultures and archeology sites, is extraordinary
as many of the original murals can be viewed close up and personal.
the modern day protective roof built above this site, visitors feel an
almost Indiana Jones experience walking through an actual archeological
the capital of region inhabited by the
people. The origins of the Olmeca-Xicalanca are not known with
certainty, but they are assumed to come from the
Gulf coast region, and were
Maya settlers who arrived in this part
of central Mexico around 400 CE.
The term "Olmeca-Xicalanca"
was first mentioned by Tlaxcalan historian
Diego Muñoz Camargo
at the end of the 16th century. This historian described Cacaxtla as the
principal settlement of the “Olmeca”,
although what we today refer to as the Olmec culture ended ~400
BCE, that is,
almost 800 years earlier.
After the fall
of the nearby city
(ca. 650 - 750) -- in which the Cacaxtlecas might have been
involved—Cacaxtla became the hegemonic power in this part of the
Tlaxcala–Puebla valley. Its ascendancy came to an end around 900 CE and,
by 1000, the city had been abandoned.
of the site
The site was
rediscovered in 1975 by looters, but quickly came to the
attention of archaeologists that same year.
The Centre of
the city of Cacaxtla was the 200-metre-long, 25-metre-high Gran
Basamento – a natural platform offering a fine defensive position
and commanding views over the surrounding terrain. The city's main
religious and civil buildings were located on this platform, as were the
residences of the priest class. Several other smaller pyramids and
temple bases stand in the vicinity of the main platform.
Cacaxtla's main basamento was not excavated until the 1980s, many
of the original coloured wall decorations have been preserved and can be
appreciated in situ by visitors to the site. Of particular
interest is the fact that most of the murals seem to combine the
Altiplano cultures with
influences from the
Maya, making Cacaxtla unique in this
The most famous
of Cacaxtla's preserved paintings is the "Battle Mural", or Mural de
la batalla, located in the northern plaza of the basamento.
Dating from prior to 700, it is placed on the sloping limestone wall of
a temple base and is split in two by a central staircase. It depicts two
groups of warriors locked in battle: on the one side are jaguar
warriors, armed with spears, obsidian knives, and round shields, who are
locked in battle with an army of bird warriors (some of whom are shown
naked and in various stages of dismemberment).
archaeological site is maintained by the government's
National Institute of Anthropology and History
(INAH) and is open Tuesday to Sunday, from 8:00 to 17:30. The admission
is $46 MXP.
In addition to the ruins, there is a small but well presented museum
containing models of how the city appeared in its heyday and a
collection of artifacts found on the site. If you ever find yourself at
the archaeological site of Cacaxtla, take a walk around the Great
Platform. This partially artificial summit contains layers upon layers
of prehistoric occupations. There is more to Cacaxtla than just the
beautiful murals. Here archaeologists have found rabbit pens, proof of
the diet which was available to the elite who lived at the hill's
Due to heavy
hail storms on May 21, 2007, the archaeological site was closed until
April 2008The site was to re-open on April 30, 2008.
site associated with Cacaxtla is Xochitecatl which was a more public
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Photography by Bill and Dot Bell
was the capital city of the Toltec Indian Empire. The ruins can still be
found forty miles northwest of present day Mexico City which is located
on the northern edge of Mesoamerica. It is situated in the Mexican state
of Hidalgo and is placed near the modern town of Tula de Allende. The
area is in the Valley of Aahuac or what is now called the Valley of
Mexico. It is one of the most arid regions where little can be grown,
with the exception of maguey, an intrinsic supplier of needles, sap and
other products used by the Toltecs. In addition, the city is located on
a natural promontory with steep slopes surrounding the city on three
The city rose to power after the collapse of Teotihuacan to take
control of the basin of Mexico at approximately 968 AD. Even though the
city attempted to fill the political shoes of Teotihuacan, the evidence
shows that the city was much smaller. The
city is laid out on a grid pattern with a ceremonial core and surrounded
by pyramids. The city was organized into households which are
approximately 1,970 feet (600 meters) square. Inside of these formal
households were square or rectangular flat-roofed houses which were
grouped into as many as five dwellings which all shared a shrine. The
city ruins are characterized by giant stone warriors placed at the
temples by the Toltecs.
It's maximum size and power was achieved between 950 and 1150 AD and
its largest population was between 40,000 and 60,000 people. Its largest
geographic size was between 13 and 16 square kilometers. There is much
archeological evidence that shows that Tula had lost much of its power
and was at least partially abandoned by the year 1200 AD. Many experts
think this phenomenon occurred due to a drought and famine which ravaged
the city. With the collapse of the city, the temples and pyramids of
Tula were razed by other Indian tribes.
¨House of rocks¨
Photography by Bill and dot Bell
Located in Chiapas Mexico and near Palenque, Toniná may have been built
as early as 350 A.D. but one of its distinctions is having the last
recorded date of the Maya long count.
The building technique here is interesting for the use of small rocks
verses the larger type stones of the other nearby sites.
One of the features at the ruins at Toniná is its maze-like building of
rooms. It is the number of rooms and the buildings position with the
night heavens that help the archeologists determine the building´s
Toniná was a separate dynastic center and has the prized distinction of
defeating Palenque in war as well as the capture and ten year
humiliation of Pakal´s son King Kan-Xul, the younger brother of Chan-Bahlum.
A frieze shows the captured king Kan-Xul with a rope around his arm
sitting in the pose of the captured.
This is a great site for taking your time to study the details of the
different friezes and the stories they tell. A sarcophagus is carved out
of one large stone on the third tier of this site. The missing carved
lid probably told the story of the entombed.
Mayan House Yucatan Photograph by Bill Bell
Valley of the The Throat Cutters
Photography by Bill Bell and Larry Baron
Bill, Dylan and Dot Bell in the Valley of the Throat cutters, on the
road to Alta Vista, Nayarit,Larry Baron Photograph
The Altavista petroglyph complex is located near the village
and beach-town of
south of the Compostela Municipality, in
Click on any small photograph to see in a larger format
The area is known as "La Pila del Rey", "Chacalán", "El Santuario",
"The Petroglyphs” or "the Altavista petroglyphs", near the Jaltemba Bay,
in the Pacific Ocean of Nayarit
This region was originally home to the largely unstudied
Tecoxquin (Tequectequi) native culture dating from approximately
2000 BC to
2300 BCE. It contains 56 petroglyphs whose antiquity cannot be
accurately determined. Aside from its cultural and archeological
importance, the site remains an important religious center for the
who still leave offerings and perform ceremonies here.
In prehispanic times, the Compostela municipality area was inhabited
by the Mazatán peoples, tributary of Xalisco-Zacualpan Kingdom
To read an indepth article on this wonderful historical site
Church Bells on the Yucatan Photograph by Bill Bell
Photos by Bill Bell
Olmec Head Photograph by Bill Bell
Puerto Vallarta - On The Road
Laura Gelezunas - VideoDivaProductions.com
They can't wait to get on the road again,
especially those driving motor homes to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
|In this edition of Simply Puerto Vallarta,
Laura talks with Canadian RVers who cross two international
borders to get to their winter home in Mexico. (Video
"We stick to the highways and with our rigs we have to," says Richard
Chenier from Quebec, "And we just roll along." His wife Mado Babin says
she enjoys the road because they travel with good friends, take their
time and she sites having a good driver as part of the experience.
Almost everyone in an RV park just outside of downtown Puerto Vallarta
is from Canada so they cross two international borders. Richard says
it's pretty standard entering the United States from Canada and usually
takes a very short time.
There are 42 places where you can cross the almost 2000 mile border
between the US and Mexico. This year travelers were thinking ahead
because of all the media hype. "Of course we heard on the news
everything about it, just like everybody else, it was a concern to us
but we decided to contact friends that we would meet at the border and
cross as a big group," says Richard, "We thought it would be safer that
way and we decided that we were going to come down anyway."
"We spent about a week in Pharr, Texas close to the border," says
Richard, "We formed a line and we crossed the border. There was ten of
us, and actually that was the smoothest border crossing ever. I have
been down here five years in a row, and it was my easiest, I guess they
were waiting for us, but there was nothing wrong, usually there are a
lot of check points, and stuff like that from either the police or
military, but we just had one spot where they checked us."
"I've been coming down here for 12 years and we've never had an incident
on the highway," says Dirk Miller of Kentucky, "And crossing the border
there was no difficulties and this year was just as easy as any other
year and the only thing I noticed this year, closer to the border,
within a 100 miles, was a lot of Federales, but that's just different
this year, I noticed there was less military in the interior of Mexico
this year, too, but everything else was the same."
According to these experts, driving through Mexico is a breeze and the
locals are very friendly.
"It's great as far as I'm concerned," says Richard, The roads are 80
percent A1, and last year we had an experience, if you break down on the
toll highways, they have what they call the Green Angels, and geez they
are right there and they take you anywhere you have to get fixed, and
it's usually at ridiculously low prices, too, it's really great."
"I've had breakdowns with my coach in Mexico and all the Mexican people
would come out to help me with whatever it was," says Dirk, "Whether it
was a fire or a blown tire, or had any kind of a problem, they would
practically come out in great numbers to help us."
"I was near Patzcuaro and I made a wrong turn one time with my motor
home and my car got hung up on a curb," says Dirk, "And about 12 guys
came out of this village and lifted my car up on to the curb for me so I
could get it unhitched so I could get it around the corner. And then I
didn't know where the auto pista (highway) was and so I asked a fella to
show me the autopista and all of a sudden he showed up on a
bicycle with his daughter on the cross bar and he peddled up over hills
for about three kilometers to show me where the autopista was and I was
kinda going slowly behind him and he kept waving for me to hurry up
because he wanted to go faster, but that was a good experience and it
was most helpful. We gave him some candy and some money and everybody
These RV snowbirds say they would not miss a season in Puerto Vallarta
and hope others do not curtail their plans for a winter in paradise.
Simply Puerto Vallarta is a multi-media promotion campaign that
highlights the richness and diversity of Mexico's premier coastal
tourist town. Unlike traditional PR efforts, the video series was
designed to put the media message back into the hands of those it most
affects - area residents.
Click HERE for more Simply Puerto Vallarta videos.
San Cristobal de las Casas
Slide Show - Bill Bell Photos
San Cristobal de las Casas
by Bill & Dorothy Bell
High in the Chiapas mountains lies the picturesque City of San
Cristobal de las Casas. Known throughout the world as the home of the
Zapatista rebels and the Indian uprising, this city is an uneasy mix of
two distinct and opposed cultures.
The deep yellow cathedral near the zocalo is a perfect place to people
watch. Indians from the area come daily to sell their handiwork. Kids
nag you for a peso or two, sometimes with the lure of some Chiclets or
other candy. Tourists from throughout the world come to photograph and
capture a lifestyle of the past
Nayarit, Where Whales Leave a Trail
go to original
Marco squints his eyes and then points his finger towards
an extremely smooth patch shaped as a giant foot on the surface of the
ocean. "There's the trail", he points out. This could be the trail of a
Yeti, only on the surface of the waters of Bahia de Banderas. Everybody
onboard the Isis sailboat knows exactly what they're about to experience
and can barely contain their excitement.
|The yearly official whale
watching season opens between December and March in Riviera
Nayarit. This year, these cetaceans are already starting to
They've been looking for these whales for over two hours with no luck,
and the crowd is now completely silent. Suddenly, a small whale calf
emerges, followed by its mother, and a common sigh can be heard before
everyone exclaims in amazement.
Every year thousands of humpback whales, the largest mammals in the
world, visit Riviera Nayarit, offering an overwhelming show for those
who have the chance to experience it.
The official 2011 sighting season begins on December 8 and ends on March
23. The Environment and Wildlife Secretariat (SEMARNAT by its initials
in Spanish) will grant 200 permits to vessels that offer whale watching
tours. Every crewmember has been trained to offer the best possible
experience to visitors without affecting the natural habitat of the
For a seasoned sailor like Marco, whale watching is much more than a
pastime. The captain of the Isis is used to following them like an
experienced hunter "although the only thing that's being fired here are
the visitor's cameras" he says with a smile.
The humpbacks are already here; Marco knows it and even though he is
currently offering a tour to the Marietas Islands, he doesn't miss the
opportunity of showing tourists this pair of whales that are visiting
Bahia de Banderas. All he has to do is follow their trail.
When a whale swims underwater, the movement of its tail creates
turbulence in the water, which then eases off in the surface above,
creating an almost perfect "footprint". "The footprint appears
gradually, first here and then over there... and then a little more to
the right. This is how we follow the whale wherever it goes until it
comes out to the surface to breathe. It's just a matter of being
patient", says Marco.
There are countless spots where one can enjoy whale watching in Riviera
Nayarit, from San Blas to Nuevo Vallarta, sometimes close to the coast
and sometimes by following them on an authorized vessel.
In San Blas and Rincon de Guayabitos it's common to find pods of young
whales fighting over a female by doing spectacular leaps over the water
and by clashing their bodies to impress her. In Bahia de Banderas,
females protect their calves and teach them how to dive.
Marco's occupation is relatively new, because even though whale watching
is as old as the region itself, the tourist industry has only exploited
the activity in the last 15 years.
"Previously, day cruises were all about partying and drinking. If we saw
any whales, it was nice as they've always offered a great show, but it
wasn't until recent times that whale watching tours became a specific
tourist activity", says Marco.
He isn't mistaken; whales have always offered a beautiful display,
especially in the waters of Bahia de Banderas, which at some point in
the XVI and XVII centuries of the colonial rule was known as the Bahia
del Jorobado (Humpback Bay), precisely because of the large number of
whales that visit the bay during the winter.
However, humpback whales aren't the only ones that visit our bay;
occasionally one can find gray whales and the main predator of
humpbacks: killer whales. If you're lucky enough you can come across all
three species in the same trip.
The reward finally comes when the mother flaps her tail on the water and
then disappears for a couple of minutes. Marco tightens his lip and
doesn't utter a word, as he knows what's about to happen. The mother has
submerged to generate thrust and suddenly she leaps out of the water,
concluding the exhibition.
About Riviera Nayarit: Mexico’s newest destination, Riviera Nayarit,
stretches along 192 miles of pristine Pacific coast framed by the
majestic Sierra Madre Mountains just ten minutes north of accessible
Puerto Vallarta International Airport. The region extends along the
entire coast of the Pacific state of Nayarit including the resorts of
Nuevo Vallarta, the historic colonial town of San Blas, exclusive Punta
Mita, picturesque fishing villages, miles of serene beaches and
spectacular Banderas Bay. Riviera Nayarit offers countless activities,
all pleasantly affordable, such as: PGA golf courses, luxury spas, whale
watching, turtle release, zip lining, surfing, record deep sea fishing,
bird watching, international cuisine, and shopping for local artwork and
traditional Huichol handicrafts. The region attracts and satisfies
vacationers of all tastes and budgets with its wide range of
accommodations including chic luxury resorts, eco-tourism boutique
hotels and quaint B&B inns. Visit the website at
Expect the Unexpected in San Blas
Vic Pittman - PVNN
December 01, 2010
Hamburguesas ...the signs
are everywhere. I was surprised when I first came to San Blas to see so
many hamburger stands. I love Mexican food, but every so often a taste
of home is the cat's meow. Nothing says taste of home to me like a good
cheeseburger. So I was comforted to find that even down here in San
Blas, I could get a hamburger... or so I thought.
|How a quest for a cheeseburger led me to one
of the coolest bars ever and so much more...
Do you enjoy the sensation of biting down through the different layers
of toasted bread, tomato, onion, bacon, cheese and lettuce? Forget
it...it isn't going to happen. The "hamburgers" here are a different
animal entirely. They usually are comprised of a slice of ham lunch meat
("ham" is in the name, right?) an equally thin patty of ground beef,
lots of runny whitish cheese and if tomato, onion or lettuce are
involved, it is chopped up finely like salsa.
I was lamenting (bitching) about this to a friend of mine who seemed
surprised that I had not heard about Billy Bob's Roadhouse and Honky
Tonk right here in San Blas. He told me that the burgers, chicken club
sandwiches and salads there were incredible, so I decided to check it
My first impression of the place was great... eclectic-retro decor, a
nice big bar and plenty of room. The incredible smell of chicken fried
steak, potatoes and gravy filled the place that day, making me think
about changing my dinner plans, but I was on a quest for what I was told
would be an awesome cheeseburger.
I ordered the cheeseburger basket and Glenda the chef (tall, beautiful
and with a smile that will make you forget your first name, I might add)
got right on it. Having been here a while, I am used to waiting... much
more than I like to, but my meal was on my table in no time at all.
You know in the cartoons when someone is in love and you can see their
heart thumping through their chest? That was me when I saw and picked up
that cheeseburger. It had all the bells and whistles... a nice sized
beef patty, YELLOW cheese, nice thick slices of lettuce tomato and
onion, and even bacon! I have to say that it was the best cheeseburger I
may have ever eaten... anywhere.
I was back the next day and got the chicken club sandwich that made me
seriously consider proposing to Glenda, but I needed to get my nerve up
so I ordered a White Russian from the barmaid Layla whose great smile
and infectious laugh make the place very pleasant.
It was a huge drink, was delicious and like all the drinks at Billy
Bob's, had double shots. I had another then decided I shouldn't propose
while inebriated (been there-done that), so Glenda was off the hook...
that day. Her menu is versatile and her Chef's Specials are fantastic!
The ever-increasing dinner and lunch crowd attests to her skills.
Billy Bob's is a most interesting establishment. It is named after the
owner, Billy Bob Bosen, who is as unique and interesting as his name
suggests. He originally hails from Idaho, and while he enjoys the local
cuisine and the abundant seafood here in San Blas, he loves homestyle
American food. He and Glenda have created an oasis of Comida
Americana here on the beautiful Riviera Nayarit.
On weekends, a variety of local musicians perform at Billy Bob's...
classic rock, country, blues, jazz and Mexican folk music can sometimes
be heard all in the same evening. So far there has never been a cover
And if great food, generous drinks and good music were not enough, there
is a live crocodile in the bar! "Fluffy" is a 15 foot long crocodile
that "came with the bar." The experts at the nearby crocodile preserve
said that since she is old and has been in captivity for most of her 65
years, to move her would not be good at this point. She lives in a
"lagoon" in the courtyard just outside the bar.
I went to the Halloween party this year and saw everything from horses
in the bar (two of them), to a Mariachi band, to heavy metal that night
with most of the music provided by Warren and John, the house musicians.
Their easy listening style of music is great with most of their original
songs written by singer-guitarist Warren who also plays a mean piano.
Do yourself a favor and when you are in San Blas, stop by Billy Bobs. It
is located one and a half blocks past (West) the main plaza on Calle
Juarez. Bring an open mind and an empty stomach! By the way, I did
indeed propose to Glenda and we are now happily married and living in
San Blas with our dog, cat, and our raccoon, Santiago.