Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mexican Flavors Already in Your Pantry

Full of flavor, the sweet and nutty Mexican wedding cookie is easy to make and you probably have all the ingredients in your pantry. A cousin of the traditional sugar cookie, the Mexican wedding cookie dates back to a Medieval Arab cuisine where sugar was a prominent ingredient in dessert-like foods. When the Moors immigrated into Southern Spain they brought along their sugary delights. Some centuries later, in the 1600s, the New World was discovered and the sugar cookie was introduced to today’s Mexico. With time, the Mexican sugar cookie reincarnated into a nutty and sugary treat that utilized the abundant Pecan nuts, called nuez, native to the New World. Today the Mexican wedding cookie’s simple ingredients make it perfect for any occasion.

Check out a Mexican wedding cookie recipe below:
Photo taken from

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups finely ground pecans
4 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
3 cups sifted all purpose flour
1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar for rolling

1.  Preheat oven to 325* 

2.  Cream butter in a bowl, gradually add confectioner’s sugar and salt. Beat until light and fluffy. Add pecans and vanilla. Blend in flour gradually and mix well.

3.  Shape into balls using about 1 tsp for each cookie. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 15-20 minutes. Do not brown. Cool slightly, then roll in the extra confectioner’s sugar, roll again when cooled. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Culture, History and Food in Puerto Vallarta

Whether it’s your first time to Puerto Vallarta or your tenth, the Vallarta Food Tour is a must!  Not only will you experience some of Vallarta’s amazing local food, but you will also learn about the culture and history of Puerto Vallarta. 

The tour starts at Mole Rosa, a locally owned restaurant located in the Zona Romantica, off of the south end of the Malecon. I never thought I liked mole before, but apparently I was wrong. The owner served up 3 different types of mole: the traditional mole which tastes a little like chocolate, a green mole that is made with pumpkin seeds, and their specially, mole rosa, which is a pink mole infused with red beets. They were all delicious! 

From there, we strolled around the Zona Romantico down a well-known street called Basilio Badillo to Robles taco stand. There are countless taco stands around Vallarta, and it is amazing how different one can be from the next.  A taco is just a taco right? Not the case! You can spend a week here eating only at taco stands & never have the same meal twice. Robles is one of the best, serving their taco “dorado” style, basically meaning fried. They are a little greasy, but SO tasty. 

Enjoying Robles's fried tacos. Yum.

Our third tasting included ceviche at Marisco’s El Guero. To ensure the best quality, the owner of this hidden treasure buys his seafood fresh daily, dorado (also called mahi-mahi), straight from the Banderas Bay. Served on a crisp tostada, it was one of the best ceviches I have ever eaten. 

Our next delicacy was at Cesar’s Coconut Stand. Family owned for 3 generations, Cesar’s stand serves over 1000 coconuts a week during busy season. Serving both coconut juice and coconut meat, this was clearly a popular spot as there were several drive-up customers in just the few moments we were there. 

Hot off the presses were fresh tortillas for our fifth stop. La Gloria Tortilla Factory provides tortillas for the majority of the local restaurants. If you think the tortillas are delicious with your meal, you will love them freshly made.

After strolling across a couple of swinging bridges and through the local flea market into El Centro, my personal favorite stop was La Revolucion. The history behind this local cantina is fascinating. Evidently, this spot was frequented by Elizabeth Taylor & Richard Burton back in the day. Witnesses say they had some of their best lover’s spats right at the bar. La Revolucion served up 3 scrumptious soups: black bean, tortilla and Florida Calabasas. This was accompanied by local tequila (which you are supposed to SIP, not down in one gulp). 

Meandering through El Centro, we stopped by one of the town’s icons, the church of our Lady Guadalupe, and then down the famous Malecon. Conception, one of the local’s favorite vendors, was on the Malecon & offered up a refreshing cup of tuba water - water made from fermented coconut with little pieces of yellow or red apple, chunks of nuts and a little sugar added. This unique combination makes the water more refreshing than soft drinks or other waters that are prepared with fruit.

The day ended on a sweet note at La Azteca’s candy store. Another family owned business, the owner of La Azteca started out as a street vendor. His candied nuts were so popular that he moved into a small store front, and his business expanded numerous times over 30 years. Owned now by his children, La Azteca now has 9 storefronts and offers a plethora of homemade candy treats.

We all left the tour pleasantly full with an enriched appreciation for the Mexican way of life. If it’s your first time to Puerto Vallarta, the Vallarta Food Tour is the best way to learn about the history of the area, experience some incredible local foods & learn your way around town. If you've been to Vallarta before, the Food Tour will show you tucked away treasures that you probably haven't yet experienced, adding to the rich culture that you already love so much. Don’t miss out!

For more information, 

-Stephanie Watts

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What our Destination Experts are saying about Cabo

Noelle and I spent a few days in Cabo San Lucas recently to tour some of our inventory and to learn more about the area so that we can be TRUE Destination Experts. If you were to ask me today, “What should we do while we’re in Cabo?” here are some ready responses for you:


Whether you want an all-inclusive hotel, condo or villa, we have inventory to suit all. One of my favorite hotels was Pueblo Bonito Pacifica. PB Pacifica is a tranquil retreat located about 5 minutes outside of downtown Cabo San Lucas, on the Pacific Ocean side of the peninsula. This full service property has 5 restaurants, 2 pools, an incredible spa and a secluded beach.  The rooms are top-notch and with a very professional staff. Our guide, Jesus, met us upon arrival with cool towels and a fresh glass of Jamaica (ha-MY-ka) juice. As we toured the guest rooms, we were greeted by a welcome message on the bed. We felt very special, but apparently ALL of their guests are treated the same way.

If you’re traveling with a family and need some more space, I’d recommend a condo at the Hacienda Beach Club in downtown Cabo San Lucas. Not only is the location convenient, but the property itself is exceptional. Situated on Medano Beach, Hacienda Beach Club is within walking distance to the marina and downtown. Our top choice, unit 501-C, is expansive with a gourmet kitchen, sizeable living space and terrace with three en-suite bedrooms. The property itself offers 5-star services including restaurants and room service, a top of the line spa including fitness center, fitness classes and an infinity pool overlooking Land’s End. Unfortunately, we did not have an opportunity to try out the restaurant, but rumor has it, it’s one of the best in town.
Our villa options are plentiful and diverse, ranging in size, location & amenities. It really is hard to pick just one favorite, so I chose three:  Villa de los Suenos de Pedregal, Villa Gran Vista and Villa Turquesa. All of these properties are located in Pedregal, just outside of downtown Cabo San Lucas, and overlook the Pacific. Villa de los Suenos de Pedregal is a luxurious home offering up to 8 bedrooms. The vaulted ceilings and elegant furnishings make this home feel grand, yet extremely cozy. Villa Gran Vista is a true home away from home, offering comfortable living spaces, a gaming room with pool table, media room, office space and 7 en-suite bedrooms. Five of the bedrooms could be used as masters, so no need to fight over whom gets the best room in the house. Villa Turquesa sits on the hilltop with amazing views of the Pacific. This home has some flexibility to be rented as either a 4 or 9 bedroom home. Some fun features of Villa Turquesa include a putting green, theater room, indoor shuffleboard, and kid’s room with bunk beds and a jungle gym.


If you’re looking for some good, not too fancy, fun places to eat, here are a few of my favorites:
Baja Cantina- Located at the marina, the Baja Cantina has a really fun atmosphere. It is definitely a popular spot and always hopping with tourists and locals alike. If you’re looking for a place to watch your favorite sport (it was a must for me to watch the Ravens vs. Steelers game), this is the place.  As for food, I had the pizza and it was delicious!

Sharkey’s- Of the beaten path a little, Sharkey’s is located about 2 blocks from the marina. Looking for some great authentic Mexican food? This is the place. And if you happen to catch a fish while you’re in town, Sharkey’s can prepare it for you.
Baja Brewing Company- If you’re tired of drinking Corona, head to the Baja Brewing Company. They have 3 locations: at the marina in Cabo San Lucas, in the historic art district in San Jose and rooftop at the Cabo Villas Resort on Medano Beach.  The beer was great and you have to try the arrachera burger…yum!

Drinks at The Office- The Office is an icon! Right on Medano Beach, The Office is great place to hang out day or night. The buckets of beer are CHEAP and the people watching couldn’t be better.

Boat tour of the harbor- We took a tour around sunset for just about an hour and I’d highly recommend it. Take out a bottle of wine (or 2), enjoy the sunset, the skyline and the views of Land’s End.
Spend a day in San Jose- San Jose is the epitome of “quaint.”Get away from the hubbub of Cabo, walk around, do a little shopping and be sure to stop for a beer at the Baja Brewing Company in the Historic Art district.

These are just a few insider tips, but our knowledge of Cabo San Lucas is comprehensive. So feel free to give us a call and we’d be happy to help you plan your next trip to the Baja Peninsula! To speak with a Destination Expert, call (844) 258-8144 or visit to plan your Cabo vacation!

- Stephanie W

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Where’s the best place to stay in Cabo and what’s the deal with San José?!

Before I got the opportunity to really spend time in and around Cabo San Lucas, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the lay of the land. How far is San José from downtown Cabo? Which homes are located on swimmable beaches? Where are said beaches, in relation to downtown? What’s the difference between homes on the “Pacific side” vs. homes on the “Marina side?” What the heck is the “Corridor?” Sound familiar? Well, I’m happy to say I finally mastered Cabo’s layout and am here to share my newly-acquired knowledge. And, yes, it is all that it’s cracked up to be (just in case you were wondering)!

Okay, so let’s get started. When you fly into Cabo, you fly into Los Cabos International airport, which is about 20 minutes inland from the coast. You have two choices once you enter into the heart of San José: you can continue straight through the roundabout into oldtown San José, or turn right onto the coastal highway to make your way up the coast to Cabo San Lucas. If you choose the former you will enter into San José‘s Hotel Row (beautiful hotels and condos that line the SWIMMABLE beach in SJ). This area has a more authentic “Mexican” feel than downtown Cabo, so if you’re looking for that experience, you should stay on Hotel Row (ex. Costa Azul Resort or Las Mananitas condominium) or at least make a day trip from Cabo to check it out. If you choose to go straight ahead into Cabo you will pass through the area between San José and downtown Cabo: the “Corridor.” You won’t see many homes because they are hidden on either side of the highway, however, this is where most of the SWIMMABLE beaches are located. You can stay along the Corridor and be anywhere from 10-30 minutes from downtown Cabo. Beaches are the Corridor‘s main attraction and is a great area for those looking for quiet and privacy.

Continuing past the Corridor is downtown Cabo. Downtown is not very large, about a 20 min walk from end to end, but it's full of shopping, bars, restaurants, and hotels (Pueblo Bonito Rose & Pueblo Bonito Blanco and the 5 star Hacienda Cabo condominiums are just behind the beach and great for a central location). Medano beach is the place to be if you are looking for water sports, day drinking or maybe interested in the singles scene. Also, if you are staying in downtown Cabo, Medano is really your only option for a SWIMMABLE beach. In addition, it has the best vantage point for viewing The Arches – unless you take a boat out to see them, which I highly recommend!

Now, if you continue along the waterfront (Bay of Cabo San Lucas), you will enter the Marina. This is where the fishing boats, charters and boat slips are located. There are also several restaurants ranging from Ruth’s Chris to local fare. Most gringos dine here at night and have a few drinks before hitting the clubs (i.e. Giggling Marlin, El Squid Roe – all located just behind the Marina, downtown). The food is good and all restaurants have outdoor seating. Two blocks inland from the Marina is Pedregal; a gated hill community comprised mostly of homes owned by the local gringo population. The homes on the lower side of the hill are only a couple of blocks from downtown, making it convenient to walk into town.

Now, here’s where it can get confusing: Pedregal is a hill with homes located on all sides. It is split up into two areas the “Pacific side” or “Marina side.” If your home is on the west side of the hill, you are on the Pacific side; if your home is on the east side, you are on the Marina side. Homes on the Pacific side have expansive views of the ocean and tend to have light later in the day. Anything facing the Marina or the east has views of the Sea of Cortez. The Pacific Ocean is not swimmable in this area. Should you stay in Pedregal, it’s easiest to catch cabs to and from town unless you choose to rent a car for day excursions. There are a few hotels on the Pacific side, such as Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach, Pueblo Bonito Pacifica and the Monte Cristo Estates. They are located just behind Pedregal and offer beautiful beach access (though not swimmable). This location is perfect for weddings, large groups or couples that wish to spend most days by the pool, enjoying one another’s company. The hotels are all full-service and the villas have private pools and kitchens, so the need to leave the premises is minimal. From here, you are about a 15 minute drive to downtown.

So, that pretty much sums it up, from San José to Cabo, the ins and outs. I hope that this was helpful!

- Noelle M

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Villa Estrella Mar in Destination Weddings & Honeymoons Magazine

For an unrivaled visit to Puerto Vallarta, Villa Estrella Mar is the obvious choice. Located in the upscale neighborhood of Conchas Chinas, Villa Estrella Mar is the most luxurious place to rest your head. Besides being the epitome of Mexican style and architecture, the hillside villa overlooks the ocean and white sand of Olas Altas beach. The open, no-glass windows allow the ocean breeze to warm and refresh the entire villa. Also, getting to downtown is only a short stroll away. The villa has six suites, nine bathrooms, a workout room, elevator, fireplace, heated pool, and private terraces.

The experience is comparable to having a hotel and its staff all focused on you. The friendly and professional staff of fourteen --including an English speaking houseman, maid, chef, security, and gardener-- ensures your stay is absolute perfection. The staff is attentive but works without drawing too much attention.

The villa is featured or mentioned regularly in travel magazines, most recently in the Nov-Dec 2011 issue of Destination Weddings & Honeymoons magazine. Its size and space makes it perfect for a wedding, family getaway, or other special occasion.

Some people have made Estrella Mar their yearly winter vacation spot and it’s not hard to understand why. Estrella Mar is one of the most unique places you’ll ever stay in the world. Mexican Destinations creates unforgettable vacation experiences with the romance and magic of Mexico. This starts with providing the finest professionally managed vacation rentals. Our travel experts have an in-depth knowledge of the rental options and , local restaurants, shopping, tours, and other recreation.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Luxury in Colonial Mexico: San Miguel de Allende

A quick flight from Mexico City to Leon or Queretaro, followed by a 1.5 hour drive through small towns and beautiful countryside, you know that you’ve arrived in heaven when you hit the cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende.

It’s been a little over a year and I’m itching to be back in the mountains of Mexico. At 90+ degrees, it’s no wonder that I’m craving an escape from Salt Lake City to the temperate climate of San Miguel. When you think of Mexico, you probably think of a wintertime escape to the beach. But, that’s not nearly all that this diverse country has to offer. San Miguel, widely known as a refuge for American expats, is a small town in the middle of Mexico, boasting an expansive population of artists and thinkers from around the world. The colonial and peaceful charm of San Miguel proves an ideal environment for inspiration and relaxation alike. It’s for this reason that so many people have chosen to build beautiful homes and retreats within its borders.

Most of my time in town is spent out and about, admiring the enchanting villas that I’m lucky enough to represent as a part of Mexican Destinations. If you get the opportunity, be sure to participate in the Home and Garden tour offered by the historical society. It’s the most curious thing: these cobblestone roads, you will see, are interspersed with quaint antique shops, restaurants, churches. But, between them all, walls with doors: some ordinary doors, some ornate. It’s anyone’s guess what lies beyond. Trust me, it’s worth further exploration. The Home and Garden tours will provide entrance to these otherwise inaccessible properties. Behind these walls, you will find the most unexpected elegance. Often, the doors open to extravagant gardens and some of the most original, luxurious homes that you have ever seen. Though the culture and history of colonial Mexico are preserved, each home has its own unique style and appeal. Additionally, you can actually rent these homes through Mexican Destinations and experience what it’s like to live the fairytale life that lies “behind the walls.”

Other “must do” activities: take an art class- everything from pottery to painting is available. Hit the links- San Miguel offers some of the best golf in Mexico. Go Antiquing and bring some extra luggage for the trip home- you can thank me later. Eat delicious, authentic cuisine at La Posadita. Or, just relax in your own private garden with a good book and a margarita, taking in the peace that is San Miguel de Allende.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

2011 Pan American Games

Need another reason to visit Puerto Vallarta this October? Do you just want something else to add to your activity list while you’re already there? How about the watching part of the 16th Pan American Games live?

The Pan American games are second only in size and stature to the Summer Olympic Games. They are only held every four years and the year prior to the Olympic games. The 46-sport alphabet of events goes from archery to wrestling.

Puerto Vallarta will host the sailing, open water swimming, triathlon, and beach volleyball events. The events are spread across dates from October 16th to the 23rd.

Contact a Destination Expert at Mexican Destinations to book a villa close to the action. Check out Puerto Vallarta's destination information page.

Monday, September 26, 2011

I LOVE Rainy Season!

You heard me…I love it! Since we moved to Puerto Vallarta almost a year ago, we have heard nothing but how horrible rainy season can be. Of course, this mostly comes from locals who have been here a long time and who thrive on the warm, much less humid, winters here. Don’t get me wrong, the winters here are truly superb. But rainy season may be my favorite time of year. Here’s why:

SUNNY DURING THE DAY, RAINY AT NIGHT- That’s how it happens 99% of the time. It is extremely rare for it to rain all day every day, especially for a few days at a time. Instead, it’s actually blue skies and sunshine during the day. You would never even know that it’s rainy season until late afternoon. That’s when the clouds roll in. Which leads me to…

SUNSETS- In the summer, the sunsets are stunning. The clouds roll in just in time to create a heavenly tropical sky. Picture your favorite sunset postcard photo and that’s what it looks like every day. You are also more likely to see the infamous ‘green flash’ during the rainy season, or so they say.

THUNDERSTORMS- If you like thunderstorms, there is no better place. Once the sun sets and you’re settling in for your evening cocktail, you can catch a spectacular thunderstorm almost every night. You know how you see the lightning, then count the seconds until the thunder? Well, it’s not uncommon for the lightning and thunder to occur simultaneously here. The sound is almost deafening!

SLEEPING IN THE RAIN- When I was a kid, we used to sit in the screened porch at my grandmother’s house, listening to the raindrops hit the tin roof. Maybe I’m just nostalgic, but there’s something about the sound of rain at night. Now, there are a lot of times when the thunderstorms go on into the wee hours, but usually it’s just the rain that continues on through the night. And, MAN, can it rain here!

IT’S SO GREEN- Puerto Vallarta is beautiful all year round, but during rainy season, the colors from the mountainside and the flowers are so vibrant they just pop! The colors are so brilliant that they almost seem fake.

WARM WATER- If you’re like me, and most women are, the ocean is there just to cool off after lying in the sun too long. The only time I go further than just sticking my toes in the water is when I’m hot. In the winter, I don’t get very far because the water is so cold! In the summer, the water is so warm I never want to get out. I could float around and play in the waves for hours.

HAVING THE TOWN TO YOURSELF- Rainy season tends to discourage tourists from visiting this time of year. Clearly, the businesses would love to see the streets full 365 days a year. The truth is it isn’t very busy in the summer, so the beaches, the shops, the restaurants, and the bars are pretty quiet. If you think you like Vallarta during the height of tourist season, just imagine having it all to yourself.

So, the next time you’re considering a trip to a tropical destination like Puerto Vallarta, don’t let the words rainy season dampen your spirits (pun intended). You will be pleasantly surprised.

Posted by Stephanie Watts, Destinations Expert.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Luxury in Colonial Mexico: San Miguel de Allende

A quick flight from Mexico City to Leon or Queretaro, followed by a 1.5 hour drive through small towns and beautiful countryside, you know that you’ve arrived in heaven when you hit the cobblestone streets of San Miguel de Allende.

It’s been a little over a year and I’m itching to be back in the mountains of Mexico. At 90+ degrees, it’s no wonder that I’m craving an escape from Salt Lake City to the temperate climate of San Miguel. When you think of Mexico, you probably think of a wintertime escape to the beach. But, that’s not nearly all that this diverse country has to offer. San Miguel, widely known as a refuge for American expats, is a small town in the middle of Mexico, boasting an expansive population of artists and thinkers from around the world. The colonial and peaceful charm of San Miguel proves an ideal environment for inspiration and relaxation alike. It’s for this reason that so many people have chosen to build beautiful homes and retreats within its borders.

Most of my time in town is spent out and about, admiring the enchanting villas that I’m lucky enough to represent as a part of Mexican Destinations. If you get the opportunity, be sure to participate in the Home and Garden tour offered by the historical society. It’s the most curious thing: these cobblestone roads, you will see, are interspersed with quaint antique shops, restaurants, churches. But, between them all, walls with doors: some ordinary doors, some ornate. It’s anyone’s guess what lies beyond. Trust me, it’s worth further exploration. The Home and Garden tours will provide entrance to these otherwise inaccessible properties. Behind these walls, you will find the most unexpected elegance. Often, the doors open to extravagant gardens and some of the most original, luxurious homes that you have ever seen. Though the culture and history of colonial Mexico are preserved, each home has its own unique style and appeal. Additionally, you can actually rent these homes through Mexican Destinations and experience what it’s like to live the fairytale life that lies “behind the walls.”

Other “must do” activities: take an art class- everything from pottery to painting is available. Hit the links- San Miguel offers some of the best golf in Mexico. Go Antiquing and bring some extra luggage for the trip home- you can thank me later. Eat delicious, authentic cuisine at La Posadita. Or, just relax in your own private garden with a good book and a margarita, taking in the peace that is San Miguel de Allende.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Falling in Love with Puerto Vallarta

My first visit to Puerto Vallarta was about 15 years ago. Quite honestly, I don’t remember much about it other than Senor Frog’s and Carlos O’Briens (which is probably why I don’t remember the rest of the trip). It wasn’t until I met my now husband four years ago that I really got to experience Vallarta for the amazing place that it is.

We stayed with my husband’s family friends who own Villa la Casita. Walking in the door of their villa for the first time was a WOW moment. I had never seen anything like it: spectacular views, private infinity pool, all rooms facing the ocean with open windows/walls…true living on the outside. We spent our long weekend there lounging in and by the pool, eating out at some of the local favorites and being tourists. One of my favorite activities was the canopy tours through Los Veranos. I am a little bit scared of heights, but zip lining through the jungle was really exhilarating!

We visited Vallarta one more time the following year, and again, had an amazing time. When we got in engaged in the fall of 2008, we debated about our wedding venue. We were living in Park City, Utah at the time and had each been there most of our lives. We looked at venues around Park City, but nothing really felt like “us.” Then it dawned on us…what about a destination wedding to Puerto Vallarta?

Before long, we had a date set, a Puerto Vallarta wedding planner and catering company contracted and all we needed was a venue. We booked another trip to Mexico so we could tour the possibilities. Our wedding planner, Zac from EM Vallarta, set up several site tours of villas for us to consider. All of them were beautiful, but when we arrived at our last destination, I knew it was the place before we even walked in the door.

Villa Estrella Mar was simply breath-taking. With 6 bedrooms and more than 20,000 square feet, it was large enough to accommodate both of our immediate families. The beach cove in front of the villa was small and fairly private. And best of all, talk about WOW factor upon entering…we knew our guests would be astounded.

Our wedding took place on the beach at Villa Estrella Mar on October 10, 2009. We were joined by 55 of our closest friends and family. Estrella Mar proved to be not only a beautiful spot for our ceremony on the beach, but the perfect place for our reception in the living area. Early October is the end of rainy season, so it was plenty humid. But our guests didn’t mind, especially by the end of the night when we all ended up in the pool…in our wedding clothes.

We spent a few weeks in Vallarta that fall and wondered what it would be like to live in such an incredible place. Little did we know then that we would be spending our first anniversary back on the beach at Estrella Mar…as residents of Puerto Vallarta.


Friday, July 29, 2011

Surf San Pancho

Sunny San Pancho may not stand at the forefront of Mexican tourist hotspots, but once you've discovered the charm of this beautiful hideaway, you'll know why visitors continue to pour into the little seaside town. San Pancho is renowned for its incredible surf, which is ideal for serious wave riders and also provides great place for new adventure seekers to splash down. Christina Famiglietti recently highlighted some of the little-known beaches and surf locales that make San Pancho special. Here is some of what she had to say:

If you love to hit the waves, then this town is another great surfing spot in the Riviera Nayarit. Located along popular Banderas Bay on Mexico's Pacific Coast, this small town is more appealing to surfers because unlike other surf spots, San Pancho is still relatively undiscovered. That means no crowds, so you pretty much have the ocean to yourself. Even though it's relatively unknown, it's still easily accessible to tourists - only about a 45-minute drive north of Puerto Vallarta.

Read the entire article here, and be sure to speak to a knowledgeable Destination Expert if you'd like to find out more about planning a surf excursion to San Pancho.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Avoid Money Hassles During Your Visit to Mexico

While visiting the sunny beaches and historical sites of Mexico, you're thinking about the outstanding food, the beautiful shorelines and which activities you're going to try next. But what do you do when the funding for your fun is stalled? Even a minor hiccup with your bank card can cause major pains and put the brakes on your travel adventures.

Recently Roma Luciw of The Globe and Mail wrote an excellent piece on protecting your travel budget and ensuring you have cash available when you need it. Here are just a few tips to follow to safeguard your spending cash and to make sure you don't have any money woes while abroad:

  • Always protect your PIN (personal identification number) when you enter it at an ATM or for debit or credit card purchases by covering the PIN pad with your free hand.

  • Treat your debit and credit cards like cash and protect them in the same way. Always keep your cards and identification with you or lock them in a secure hotel safe. Don’t leave them behind in the hotel room or leave them in the car.

  • Only bring the cards and personal identification that you’ll need with you for your trip and leave the rest at home.

  • If you have a chip card, insert the chip first, rather than swipe it. If the point-of-sale device is not chip-capable, it will prompt you to swipe your card. Avoiding any unnecessary swipe of the card will reduce the potential of the card information being skimmed.

  • Don’t take a vacation from checking your accounts online. If you have your own laptop, a smart phone or access to a trusted computer, check your bank and credit card transactions and make sure that they match your actual purchases. If there are transactions that you didn’t make, contact your financial institution and report it as soon as possible.

  • If you want to check your bank or credit card information online while you’re away and don’t have your own computer with you, it is wise to avoid public computers. Consider telephone or mobile banking instead. If you must use a public computer, be sure to clear the cache memory and delete the cookies in the Internet browser before you log off. This will ensure that your account numbers and passwords do not remain accessible to others.

  • Remember to take your card when the transaction is complete. Some ATMs will pull the card back into the machine if the customer does not take it back within a certain amount of time. This keeps the card from ending up in a criminal’s hands, but depending on where you are, the time and the day of the week, it may be hard to get your card back or a replacement.

To read the complete article from The Globe and Mail, click here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ricki's Grill Heats Up Punta Mita

Punta Mita hotspot Casa Teresa Trattoria Italiana has closed its doors for their annual summer hiatus, but a new laid-back eatery has popped up in its place. Ricki's Grill is serving up a tantalizing selection of summer delights, from fresh seafood and pineapple to barbeque ribs. The Paparazzi Special, which can include steak, spaghetti or baby back ribs, is a highlight of the restaurants, and is not to be missed.

The owners, Nadia and Martin, are known to be one of the most colorful couples in town and their energy and vivacious style is embodied in the establishment's lively atmosphere. But be sure to catch Ricki's soon — this fun eatery is only open through the summer!

Read more about Ricki's here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

2011 Dining Guide from Virtual Vallarta

Virtual Vallarta recently released their list of best eats in town. This annual collection of great Puerto Vallarta cafés, taquerías, ethnic cuisine and bakeries is selected by the readers of Virtual Vallarta and represents the absolute best the city has to offer. Among great restaurants and eateries, you'll also find the best places for:

  • Margaritas

  • Ice cream

  • Fresh seafood

  • Inexpensive dining

  • Outdoor dining

  • Drinks and cocktails

See the complete list here.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

International Travelers Make Up for Flagging US Tourists

There's an interesting trend arising in travel to Mexico. The rise in negative press regarding border cities has caused a dip in American tourists traveling south, but international travelers have picked up the slack. In order to entice prospective travelers, the Mexico Tourism industry has offered a number of deals and special offers, and a number of foreign travelers have taken notice.

According to recent reports by the Washington Post and San Diego Red, interest for Mexico resort towns and historical sites has risen among a number of European countries, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, and others. Mexican President Felipe Calderón has stated that he would like his country to reach the top five worldwide tourism destinations by 2020 (it is currently number 10).

The reality is that despite a few negative incidents, travel to Mexico is very safe. Read more about this story from Banderas News, and be sure to check out just a few of the great deals offered by Mexican Destinations on our deals page.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Punta Mita is Mexico's Malibu

Punta Mita was in the spotlight in a recent piece that ran in the Orange County Register. The article highlights how this relaxed tourist destinations grew from a quaint fishing village to become a hotspot for surfers and adventure seekers. Here's just a little of what they had to say about beautiful Punta Mita:

Needing a break from reality, and a relief from the chilly waters in Orange County that were causing near-hypothermia if you didn't put on a full wetsuit, I wanted somewhere warm with a flight close enough to take just a few days away from work. I talked my travel partner Jen into joining the adventure, and we booked our trip to Punta de Mita.

Forget about the bad you've heard about other parts of Mexico.

There are no gun-toting druglords out to get you on this peninsula. There's no swine flu lingering. In all of my travels, this is among the most luxurious places I've ever laid eyes upon.

You can find the complete article here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Travel Safety in Perspective: USA vs. Mexico

Tim Liffel's Cheapest Destinations Blog recently gathered some statistics of crime rates in Mexico and the U.S. that give a revealing look at tourism in Mexio. Although this is no large shock to those with an intimate knowledge of the country, traveling in Mexico is much safer than you might expect. A spate of bad press will often highlight homicides in border cities, but doesn't shed much light on crime rates in popular tourist destinations.

For example, the murder rate in the Yucatan is on par with Evansville, Indiana or Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Even Mexico City is relatively safe, with a homicide rate equal to Albuquerque, New Mexico.

See Tim Liffel's complete post by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Puerto Vallarta Meets Safety Expectations

Recently the US investigative and security firm Thomas Dale & Associates issued a comprehenisve report on the safety of Puerto Vallarta, a resort town on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Here's what they had to say:

The international security company visited the destination between April 6 to April 13 to conduct interviews and a through security and safety risk assessment on the ground. It has now published a comprehensive report in relation to all aspects of tourist security in the destination. In it, the firm concludes that Puerto Vallarta is one of the safest tourist destinations for international and national tourists.
Puerto Vallarta has long been a haven for American expatriots and international tourists, and this new study confirms that the town is among the safest places for a tropical getaway.

To read the full report, click here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The New York Times travel blog recently posted some great surfers' tips on what to check out while visiting a few of hot spots along Mexico's Pacific coast. Included in this post are some popular hangouts in Sayulita and Punta Mita, as well as some ideas of where to check in if you're looking for surfing lessons.

To check out the complete article, click here.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bright Spots In Mexico's Desert

Are the beaches not quite your speed? Maybe you're just looking for something a little different in your tropical retreat. GQ recently did a piece on few Mexican hot spots without the waterfront locale, and San Miguel de Allende was their first recommendation. Here's what they had to say about this bustling haven for artists, expats, and those simply looking for a change of pace for their next Mexican getaway:
Wander through the Mercado de Artesanías, packed with jewelry and artwork instead of tourist-baiting trinkets, or Mercado Ignacio Ramírez, with its mountains of produce, and tacos made with the kind of fresh tortillas you won't find in the States. There are also some outstanding imports, like Ristorante da Andrea, an ace Italian joint hidden in a 300-year-old house on the outskirts of town. San Miguel's most famous landmark is La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel— a pink, whimsical Gothic church. Have a look inside and then take in the striking facade from La Posadita, a nearby rooftop bar that happens to serve the best margaritas in town.

Be sure to check out the full article here.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Why You Should Go to Mexico

Globetrotter and travel expert Robert Reid just wrote a piece for CNN on why you should consider Mexico for your next vacation getaway. Reid debunks the unsavory rumors about tourists' saftey, and outlines a number of great reasons Mexico still offers an unforgettable travel experience. Most notably, he says, is the people:

A couple years ago, I informally polled various innkeepers and tour operators worldwide to find out who are the world's friendliest travelers. Guess who won. "Mexicans are such a joy to have here," one Bulgarian guesthouse owner e-mailed back. "They make everyone feel happier."

And it's often better in Mexico, where locals show particular gusto in love of life. Once I saw fireworks go off in Mexico City, before sunset, and asked a local why. He was surprised I didn't know. "It's Friday," he explained.

Read the entire CNN piece here, and be sure to check out Reid's travel blog where he highlights eight places in Mexico you really need to experience.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Dancers Take to the Streets of Puerto Vallarta

The streets of Puerto Vallarta became a stage when a crew of covert dancers surprised locals and tourists with an impromptu dance number. This flash mod, or large-scale choreographed but unannounced dance number, grabbed unsuspecting onlookers attention, and even got them moving. Take a look at the fun as it unfolds in Puerto Vallarta:

Flash Mob Puerto Vallarta by pvrflashmob

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

San Miguel Designer Featured in Utah Style Magazine

Recently Holly Howard, designer to homes around the world — including a beautiful villa in San Miguel de Allende, shared her insight into creating warm and inviting spaces with Utah Style Magazine. Holly touches on everything from accessories, furniture, and use of color: "I like color in my home, my dress and the people I spend time with." Take a look at some of her work on Mariposa Mexico Villa in San Miguel:

See the full article here in the spring issue of Utah Style (PDF link) and be sure to check out Mariposa Mexico, a steal at only $279 a night.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Best Things to Do in Puerto Vallarta

The travel section at U.S. News & World Report has posted a excellent guide of sights, sounds, and experiences you don't want to miss while visiting Puerto Vallarta. Included in the guide are beaches, parks, shopping districts, historical sights, free activities, and much more. Here is just a bit of what they have to say:

Catch a bus or ask a taxi driver to take you to the beautiful Malecón, the boardwalk that runs parallel to Banderas Bay. Then take your time strolling past the unusual statues and intricatesand sculptures found there, stopping for pictures or looking inside one of the art galleries along the way. You'll probably end your walk at Los Arcos or the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe -- two of the most iconic images of the city. If you have more than a day to spare, plan on spending one or two hours at the Botanical Gardens of Vallarta or in the northern seaside town of Bucerías.

Click here to see the complete guide and to get ideas of what to see and do during your stay in Puerto Vallarta.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What You Should Really Worry About When Visiting Mexico

Often tourists get a little concerned about saftey when traveling to Mexico. Recently Susie Albin-Najera of The Mexico Report wrote a great piece on what will really be on your mind as you travel. Here's a small excerpt:

Here is a list of things you just might have to worry about while you’re visiting Mexico:

  • You might overeat at the endless Sunday brunch and get heartburn

  • You might trip and fall on the cobblestone streets

  • You might get acid indigestion from too much fresh squeezed lemonade

  • You might get sunburned and have to spend extra money buying aloe vera gel

  • You might lose your hearing if you are sitting next to a 26-piece mariachi band

  • You might have a hard time deciding whether to go to the beach or get a massage

  • You might hit someone with a golf ball because you were blinded by the sun

  • You might get really tired from having so much fun, that you forget to buy souvenirs for your family back home, and they might get mad

  • You might fall completely, head-over-heals in love and never want to leave which causes you to be depressed when you have to go to the airport to go back home

Read the entire piece here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

President Calderon's Canopy Tour Excursion

A local business man shares his experience of welcoming President Calderon of Mexico as part of his quest to support tourism in Mexico in 2011. The president has pledged to show the beauty, diversity and safety offered by established resorts like Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, Riviera Nayarit and Los Cabos. While international attention has been focused on sporadic violence along the US border, many hours from the tranquil beauty of Puerto Vallarta, the president´s campaign puts visitor safety at the top of his agenda.

His overnight stay at the hotel resort Velas Vallarta is one in a series of tour stops to show hesitant would be visitors that they have nothing to worry about.

It all happened so fast and was hard to believe that it actually happened. On Saturday afternoon, we had an unexpected visit at Los Veranos Canopy Tour . They were agents from the Mexican government and were here to see if we would be a suitable and safe place for a last minute visit from Felipe Calderon, the current president of Mexico. Their plan was to film a TV special with CBS correspondent Peter Greenburg, the idea being to promote Mexican tourism filming President Calderon, his three children and Peter Greenburg as they flew through the jungle on the zip lines at Los Veranos Canopy. An hour later, another group of agents showed up. This group seemed a bit more serious and intent on getting things set up and secured for the events to follow some 12 hours later.

Meanwhile, all of Puerto Vallarta was curious if not a bit concerned with all the buzz of low flying helicopters, and by low we are talking 20-30 feet over the water buzzing the entire coastline, and an entourage of black cars bearing license plates stamped with the Mexican flag. Obviously, something big was going down, or someone very important was in town.

Early the next morning, armed personnel in uniform and many more clandestine personnel in street clothes arrived at the sleepy pueblo of Los Veranos in trucks, busses, vans, and cars. Well, by now the word was out. President Calderon and his family would be arriving by helicopter in just a couple of hours! They were to land in the school’s soccer field, a short distance from the Los Veranos Canopy Tour.

When they arrived there was quite a bit of last minute organizing. The camera crews needed special harnesses to accommodate their heavy and unwieldy equipment. Trial runs were done in the briefing area to see if the camera and sound crew could fly over the jungle, 400 feet in the air with some cables crossing the river gorge 1,400 feet to the other side. Not a problem. Next, who is going up? Who is staying behind as ground crew? Who will be walking up to get coverage without going on the cables? All this was accomplished along with brief introductions to all the key personnel needed in about 1 hour. This was absolutely amazing.

After another briefing, the one everyone gets when they visit the Canopy which explains safety, braking, hand signals etc. the group is ready for the tour. Felipe Calderon accompanied by his three Children, Peter Greenburg, Jeff Coates Owner of Los Veranos Canopy Tour and an onslaught of videographers, photographers, sound crew, a handful of Los Veranos professional guides, and numerous security personnel. Off they went on the ziplines.

Since time is always a factor with film crews, the first few warm up beginner cables were skipped. The first cable that the family would use was Chile Piquin which is named after a very small, very hot chile pepper as the cable is short but very fast. Judging by their expressions, the public audience were quite surprised and excited to see what was to come.

The next was Black Diamond. Nearly 1,400 feet long, this line is almost 5 football fields and 500 ft high over the river rapids. It is the Canopy’s longest ride. Since it was only their second cable, I was expecting to see some hesitation. Not in the slightest! President Calderon’s kids were eagerly pushing their way to the front to see which of them got to go first. Of course the youngest won the toss and was the first of the children to cross. They were ecstatic.

As we were now getting up to the highest cables on the tour, the sounds of the helicopters grew closer. I noticed something hanging from the helicopter up above. I never was sure if it was a cameraman or just a remote camera but the Film Director John Feist was in communication with them coaching them in so they could film President Calderon and his family zipping over the river 500 feet in the air.

The group continued up the trail to Dos Cojones, or Two Big Ones.The name speaks for itself. This zip line is reportedly 590 feet high and is the highest cable at Los Veranos Canopy. Again no hesitations from anyone except for maybe the film crew who were lugging 30-pound cameras across every zip line. The tour continued with Real Enchilada, Speedy Gonzales, Banana Split. They reached the last cable, Tequila Screamer which lands you in a riverfront palapa bar with select Tequilas and the world Famous Carla’s Mango Tango, a special Mango Margarita.

As the entourage with all its paparazzi regrouped and got a snack in the palapa President Calderon was calling for his photographer as he noticed his son trying to hold Mango an 8 foot albino python. It proved to be too much for a the small child so his brother and sister stepped up to help him hold up the mammoth reptile. Before they left the three kids got a visit to the animal house where the got to go into the monkey cage and hand feed the squirrel monkeys. Apparently this is a normal event for all the visitors who want to partake in such an activity.

After the black motorcade with red white and green plates drove off an army of men clad in camouflage clothes bearing automatic weapons descended out of the jungle from all directions. After a quick head count they were loaded into a military truck and disappeared.

We are honored that they choose Los Veranos Canopy Tour to be a part of Mexico: The Presidential Tour! I overhead Peter Greenberg tell President Calderon that this was the best tour he had been on in a long time!

Friday, February 11, 2011

President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa Visits Puerto Vallarta

Mexican President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa recently visited Puerto Vallarta to take in the sights and reinforce Mexico’s dedication to its booming tourism industry. During his three days in this tropical resort destination, Hinojosa and his three sons spent time enjoying a canopy tour, among other activities. Read more about Hinojosa’s visit here.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Even Mickey Isn’t Afraid of Mexico

Maryilyn Newman at the Prudential Vallarta Blog wrote a short piece on Disney cruises to Puerto Vallarta:

I was driving past the Vallarta cruise ship dock yesterday and couldn’t help but notice this gigantic black and white behemoth looming over the street with the name, Disney Wonder, painted on the bow. What a sight. Aha! Mickey isn’t afraid to come to Mexico; why should anyone else?

To see the full post, click here.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hottest Travel Destinations of 2011

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

Catesby Holmes of Travel + Leisure
January 2011

With its colonial architecture and cobblestoned streets, San Miguel de Allende may be a model for historic preservation, but a recent influx of innovative restaurants, art spaces, and hotels is adding a vibrant modern edge to this unesco-protected city. The most telling sign of the city’s evolution? The new Rosewood San Miguel de Allende (doubles from $295), the first international luxury resort, tucked away on four palm-studded acres near the historic center. Hand-carved furniture from Guadalajara decorates the 67 guest rooms, some of which have verandas facing the Gothic-inspired La Parroquia cathedral, while public spaces evoke a hacienda with arcaded walkways and courtyards. Design aficionados will fall for Fábrica La Aurora, a 1902 factory turned art center a 10-minute walk from downtown, with more than two dozen contemporary galleries and boutiques that showcase the region’s best artisans. Stop in at Superficie for colorful tiles made in the nearby town of Dolores Hidalgo, famous for its pottery. At creative Café Rama (lunch for two $17), a bustling downtown lunch spot, try international dishes (Andalusian pulled-pork sandwich) with indigenous ingredients (crunchy jicama). After dark, follow well-heeled locals to the laid-back terrace bar La Azotea (drinks for two $13) and try the signature cactus martini, a tequila-and-vodka concoction blended with Cointreau, lemon, and cranberry.