Punta Del Este, Uruguay

Gallery

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Punta del Este is an upscale summer beach resort. The natural attractions here are the beaches, ocean, nature reserves and related activities such as surfing, kite boarding, sailing, fishing, whale watching and hiking trails. Needless to say, you will also … Continue reading

La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico

El Corumel Aquatic Park

La Paz is a popular Eco-tourist resort on the east coast of Baja California Sur in Mexico. It is has a semi-arid climate, 300 days of sunshine annually as well as the Sea of Cortez also known as the worlds aquarium. Main attractions for Eco-Tourism in the area of La Paz include the following;

1) The Malecon, a wide sidewalk on the waterfront, with beaches, sculptures, tourist pier, marinas, hotels, restaurants and unimpeded sunsets.
2) El Coromuel Aquatic Park located just past the Malecon was awarded a Blue Flag, the worlds leading Eco-Label in 2016,
3) The Espiritu Santu island group, a Unesco World Heritage Site, is about 3 miles off the coast of La Paz that offers world class kayaking, snorkeling, diving, a variety of marine life to view such as sea lion colonies, in addition to, unique flora and fauna. It is also home to Ensenada Grande considered to be one of most beautiful beaches in the world.
4) La Ventana, another beach close to La Paz on the sea of cortez, offers world class kiteboarding, windsurfing and international tournament events.
5) The Balandra and Tecolote Beaches are about 15 miles from La Paz and are only separated by a protected area consisting of small mountains, sand dunes, mangroves and lagoons. Balandra has clear, calm and shallow water ideal for snorkeling and kayaking. It is also considered to be the best beach in La Paz. Next door, Tecolote Beach features camping, restaurants, tiki bar and beach rental gear.

 

Canyon Atuel, Valle Grande, Argentina

Lago Valle Grande, Argentina

Lago Valle Grande, Argentina

Located in the province of Mendoza a short distance from the city of San Rafael is the famous Canyon del Atuel with its exotic geological formations created by nature over long periods of time. Many of the unique shapes to be seen have been given names such as the cathedral, the castle, the ghost, the submarine and the armchair to name a few. These geological formations are surrounded by  canyon walls that display a variety of color combinations that are said to be created by a fault in the earth’s surface similar to that of the grand canyon in the USA, as well as. the action of wind and rain. The drive through the canyon follows a winding road along Rio Atuel and is approximately 45 km in length, Where the road hugs the river banks there is lush foliage, when it temporarily veers away from the river the environment becomes more like a desert Eco-system..In  addition to the river, lakes, surreal shapes and colorfully streaked canyon walls;  a number of other outdoor recreational activities such as river rafting, zip lines, fishing, rock climbing, biking, paragliding, kayaking, horseback riding and more. The photo gallery below is just a small but representative sample of the many impressive  sights to be seen in Canon Atuel.

 

 

Eco-Tourism in Mendoza, Argentina

portrerillos

Lake Potrerillos, a one hour drive from Mendoza, is ideal for outdoor adventure sports.

Mendoza is a semi-arid mountainous environment, furrowed with rivers that carry melted snow water from the Andes into an extensive system of irrigation canals that have turned the area into a productive oasis specifically fit for vine growing and Eco-tourism. This system of rivers and irrigation canals also support the life of over 100,000 trees that provides a canopy over most of Mendoza city. These sources of water have also been used to create several artificial lakes such as the one found in Mendoza’s San Martin Park which is host to a variety of nautical competitions like sculling and jet ski races, as well as,  Lake Portrerillos that features pristine water for kayaking, fishing, rafting and swimming. For the purposes of eco-tourism the province of Mendoza can be divided into four areas which are the northern oasis, southern oasis, central oasis and southern border oasis. All the photos in this essay are made in the northern oasis which stretches from the capital city of Mendoza to the northern border of Chile.

 

 

 

Urban Parks of Santiago, Chile

,

japanese garden in the metropolitan park

japanese garden in the metropolitan park

 

 

Santiago is supposed to have some 1500 green spaces  but the largest and most popular with locals and tourist alike is Parque Metropolitano de Santiago. The city planners have  devoted 40 percent of its green areas to this park and it’s also the largest urban park in South America.that includes a  forest  of 400 hectares as well as the developed area’s. If you want to see all the park’s amenities there are a few hills to climb, one of which rises  880 ft from the park’s entrance. lf you don’t feel  like walking or riding a bike on the trails that wind around this hill to the top, you can ride in a cable car for only one dollar. Once you reach the top you will be greeted with a full panoramic view of the city, snack bars souvenir kiosks, a church and large statue of the virgin mary that overlooks the city.  Other features of the park include the national zoo, a variety of botanical gardens, hiking trails in the forest, bike paths, a cultural center, picnic zones,  swimming pool, and wine museum. As indicated, there are many other parks in the city of Santiago and most offer a similar natural environment for relaxing along with the same kind of amenities, such as outdoor exercise equipment, bike paths, skateboarding courses, refreshment stands,etc.. In addition to the metropolitan park , a few  of the largest and  most popular parks are included in the photo gallery below; they are Bustamante Park, Forestal Park, Araucano Park , and Park Hurtado.

Pucon, Eco-Tourist Resort in Chile

 

 

Lake Tingquilco and Villarica Volcano

Lake Tingquilco and Villarica Volcano

Located in the southern zone of Chile, Pucon is one of the most  popular eco-tourist destinations in the country. The main attractions include volcanos, caves, lakes, rivers, national parks, natural hot springs, waterfalls, beaches, stable climate, and pristine natural enviroment.  A few of the related recreational activities consist of trekking, mountain biking, white water rafting, kayaking, fishing, sailing,  horseback riding, zip line canopy tours, guided accents of the Villiarica Volcano, snow skiing in winter, water skiing in summer and bird watching,. If that’s not enough,  Pucon has arguably  the best small town infrastructure in South America. This means quality accommodations and good restaurants offering a variety of international cuisine. If your the type that would rather prepare your own meals, there are at also 3 large supermarkets in this village of 20,000 people that you normally do not see in cities with less than 500,000 people. Last but not least, if you prefer greenbacks instead of trees, there is also a casino with 488 gaming machines and 44 table games. All things considered, there are few eco-tourist destinations that have this much variety to offer their guest.

 

Mendoza, Argentina

 

Rose Garden Promenade

Rose Garden Promenade and Lake in Parque San Martin

Mendoza is a city in western Argentina in the foothills of the Andes and Cuyo desert region. It  is both an emerging ecotourism destination and  the largest wine producing area in Latin America for which it is world-renowned. Although it is has an arid and desert like climate,  , Mendoza has used a simple flood irrigation technique for centuries that has only required a few extensions and minor modifications over the years to provide enough water for  the growth of over 100,000 trees that line every street, a variety of urban green spaces,  as well as the growth of grapes used to make its wines. This system  consists of  irrigation  channels in all the streets with flood gates to control the distribution of  water diverted from the surrounding rivers and mountains as needed.

Starting with bike wine tasting tours to local vineyards, there are  quite a variety of outdoor activities  for eco-tourist to enjoy in Mendoza.  When in the city  itself, perhaps the best place to visit would be the 971 acre Parque General San Martin. It consist of tree-lined hiking and biking trails, gardens, a lake with regatta’s for sculling boats, fields with outdoor exercise equipment, a zoological park, soccer (football) stadium, playgrounds, equestrian center, tennis club and an amphitheater where the international wine festival is held annually. A few of the other natural attractions to visit in the Mendoza area  include tours to Mount Aconcagua the highest peak in the western at 22,000 feet, Atuel Canyon where there is an oasis that is over 100 feet deep, the hot springs of Cacheuta.  and Luna valley ( moon valley) where there are many mystic geological formations. At these and other locations nearby you will find many outdoor adventure activities such as white water rafting, mountain biking, trekking, horseback riding, rock climbing, canopy zip lines, hang gliding and kayaking.

 

 

Banos, an Eco-Tourist Paradise

 

Banos, Ecuador

Banos, Ecuador

Due to its natural beauty, spring like climate year around and many outdoor adventure sports; Banos is one  of Ecuadors most popular tourist attractions. At 5,900 feet in the Andes mountains this small village has international appeal and is surrounded by 60 waterfalls, deep river gorges, steep bluffs, lush green mountains, expansive plateaus, and hot springs heated by the nearby Tungurahua Volcano.The list of outdoor adventure activities includes white water rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping, mountain biking, horseback riding, amazon jungle tours, waterfall tours, zip lines, atv trails, cable car rides, canopy tours, trout fishing, rock climbing, mountain climbing, trekking and most anything else you could  want at an eco-tourist resort.

In addition to these outdoor adventure activities, Banos also has many festivals, special events and parades. So the mood in town is usually festive and upbeat.  There are also quite a few good restaurants with international cuisine from around the world at very reasonable prices. I recall seeing German, Italian, Danish, Chinese, Mexican, Uruguayan, and Japanese restaurants, as well as a variety of pizzeria’s. If restaurants are not what your looking for at the end of the day,  you can also find a bar zone with a variety of nightclubs.

Vilcabamba, Ecuador

Vilacabamba, the valley of longevity

Vilcabamba, the valley of longevity

Vilcabamba is a small mountain village  with a population of about 7,000 people that now includes quite a few ex-pats from the USA. Located in the Andes at an altitutde of  5000 ft  and  30 miles from the city of Loja, it is famous for its pristine  natural environment, where there is little if any air pollution, water pollution, chemtrails or electro magnetic pollution.  Concomitant with a great climate, stress free lifestyle and plenty of homegrown organic produce, Vilcabamba has a reputation for being the valley of longevity where  life expectancy of the local population exceeds the average of  most other people in the world.

The main  attracttions here for the  eco-tourist  or nature enthusiast includes Podocarpus National Park, the Rumi-Wilco eco-lodge and nature reserve that is less than a 10 minute walk from the center of town,  a mountain called Mandango the sleeping Inca, bike trails and riverwalks. Podocarpus is considered to be the  botanical garden of america and is 1462 sq. km. with 4 distinct high and low mountain ecosystems. There are over 4000 species of plants, 68 species of mammals including 560 species of birds, and a complex system of over 100 lagoons called Lagunas del Compadre, as well as waterfalls and rivers. The park has 3 main entrances in different sectors, the closest to Vilcabamba is el refugio del plato. From here vistors can access parts of the lagoon system, hike, camp, bird watch and enjoy the forest scenery.

A short walk from the center of town is the Rumi-Wilco nature reserve  offering guided nature trails, camping, swimming holes in the river Chamba  and cabin rentals. Another favorite outdoor activity in Vilcabamba is the trail to the top of Mandango which has a rock formation  resembling a temple that according to folklore,  is where the Inca God sleeps. Many tourist ride horseback or hike to the top of this peek for a closer look at the temple and the panoramic views from the mountains peak. If your not a nature enthusiast you  might want to try prospecting for gold in the eastern sector of Podocarpus not far from the Bombuscaro entrance to the park.

Cajas National Park, Ecuador

This lake is just below the vistors center and main trailhead

This lake is just below the visitors center and main trailhead

The Cajas National Park is located about 45 minutes away from Cuenca, Ecuador by car or bus at an altitude that ranges from 10,000 feet to over 12000 feet. At the entrance to the park there is a restaurant, trail maps, lake, restaurant and exhibits. The main trail from the vistors center is about 4 km in length with moderate to steep elevation gains along the way.  It can take approximately 4 to 5 hours to finish hiking this trail depending on weather and individual hiking capabilities. This trail includes several different lakes, rivers, lagoons, fishing opportunities, bird watching, inca ruins, camping, and a variety of flora. All the photos seen in this gallery are part of the main trail which starts at the park entrance.

Tapalpa, An Eco-Resort in Mexico

lake chapala258

The entrance to the Eko-Park in Tapalpa

 

 

Tapalpa is a rustic mountain village surrounded by pine forest at an altitude of approximately 6800 feet  and it is a popular weekend resort for nature lovers in the Guadalaja area. It is also one of Mexico’s pueblo magico’s and offers the eco-tourist a variety of outdoor activities. What attracts eco tourist to this village are several extreme outdoor adventure parks including the Bosque La Mexicana, Eko Park, Parque Natural Los Frailes and Parque Aventuras la Ceja and Monte Real Adventura. These parks feature zip line canopy tours, rappelling, rock climbing, atv trails, mountain biking, hang gliding, trekking and obstacle courses. One of the favorite attractions for the extreme adventure lover is the Canopy Tour at Eko-Park. This is a circuit consisting of 9 zip lines more than 25 meters off the ground where the longest is 300 meters and you can reach speeds of 50 kilometers per hour.For the less adventurous, there are scenic hiking trails to both springs and waterfalls such as Salto del Nogal which is the highest waterfall in the state of Jalisco at just over 100 feet. In keeping with the spirit of outdoor living, you  will also find many good restaurants around the village that specialize in outdoor grilling of fresh meats. Bon appetite..

 

While trekking in the Tapalpa area you can come across many scenic landscapes

While trekking in the Tapalpa area you can come across many scenic landscapes

A Japanese Garden in Guadalajara, Mexico

This Japanese garden is found inside a large metropolitan park  that  is called Bosque Colomos. It is one of the most popular attractions in Guadalajara for both tourist and local residents.  In addition to the garden,  there are miles of trails for hiking and bicycling, outdoor exercise equipment, a cultural center for children,  a small lake, a bonsai pavilion, an area for riding horses and a variety of outdoor sculptures.

The traditional Japanese Garden is designed to reflect the countries culture and philosphy which involves harmony with nature, tranquility, serious contemplation and discipline. Several types of Japanese gardens exist and the most common include a rock or zen garden, a tea garden, a water garden and strolling gardens. The latter type of garden can be either a strolling garden designed for recreation and aesthetic pleasure or a strolling garden for meditative walking which will incorporate some spiritual imagery in the landscape.

Lake Chapala Promenade, Jalisco, MX

 

IMG_5773_tonemapped

At sunset, a boat returns to the pier with its passengers.

 

Lake Chapalpa is the largest freshwater lake in Mexico and the village of Chapala has been a  popular weekend and holiday destination for both Guadalajara residents  and international tourist since the 1920’s. The lakefront promenade or malecon has 2 scenic piers, boat rides, restaurants, hotels, playgrounds, skateboard park, mariachi’s, retail vendors and yacht club. One of  the malecon’s landmarks, seen below,  is the old Victorian style mansion built in 1906. It is now a restaurant called Cazadores but was  formerly  owned by the Braniff family of airline fame and fortune, In addition to tourist, ,many local people come to the malecon on a regular basis for picnic’s, see the sunsets or watch the birds who migrate here in the fall.

 

Day of the Dead, Lake Chapala, Mexico

villa

A tribute to revolutionary hero’s Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata

The day of the dead is a long standing tradition in Mexico similar to Halloween or all saints day in other parts of the world  and was inscribed into the intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO  in 2008. In Mexico, it is also a national holiday celebrated on November 2nd. On this day Mexicans pay homage to deceased family members, friends, national hero’s, luminaries and even world leaders with  personalized altars that offer gifts to the departed. These offerings usually include flowers, favorite foods, beverages and possessions of the dead. Alternately, family members will visit the grave site of departed souls and leave similar offerings.

Today , Katrina’s are the most highly recognized symbol associated with the Day of the Dead. Years ago, however, a Katrina referred to an elegant and well dressed woman of class and privilege  until a mexican artist  created an illustration of a well dressed skeleton during  revolutionary times that was supposed to symbolized the death of mexico’s ruling  class of privileged  aristocrats. Eventually,  the Katrina figure came to represent the joy of life in the face of its end.

The Lake Chapala Society, Ajijic, Mexico

untitled-4403

Located in the heart of Ajijic, the Lake Chapala Society was founded in 1955 by a group of 21 expatriates and today has over 3,000 members.The mission of LCS is to contribute to the social enrichment of its members and the Lakeside community through a variety of services and programs designed to facilitate the integration of  expatriates into the Lakeside community and foster interchange between ex pats and mexicans to name a few. More details about LCS are available at http://www.lakechapalasociety.org and in the photo gallery there are images of the LCS facilities, garden and the recent Woodstock 45th anniversary party.

 

Ajijic, Lake Chapala, Mexico

An historic  Chapel across form the Ajijic plaza

An historic Chapel across from the Ajijic plaza

Ajijic is located on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest freshwater lake,  less than an hour’s drive away from Guadalajara in the state of Jalisco. It’s a small village with a population of approximately 10,000  and over half of these people are either retired Americans or Canadians who relocate here for a variety of reasons including attractive scenery, tempered climate, lower cost of living, english is spoken,  and a variety of recreational activities tailor made for the cultural background of North Americans to name a few. So relocating to this part of Mexico also means less cultural shock then would be experienced in many other parts of Mexico or Central America and  this is why Ajijic and Lake Chapala has  been the top choice for most expatriates seeking retirement outside of the states since the 1940’s.  The photo gallery below focuses on the plaza in the heart of Ajijic.

The Botanical Garden of Lake Atitlan

Botanical garden flora

Botanical garden flora

The Gardens of Lake Atitlan are about a 3 hour drive from the border of Mexico by shuttle bus. Altogether, there are said to be over 500 species representing some 250 plant families found in the separate and distinct gardens that surround the upscale Hotel Atitlan. The antique, modern and David Austin rose gardens, for example, have over 200 varieties of roses on display. In other theme gardens there are over 50 varieties of hibiscus, arbors of vine, 25 or more colors of bougainvillas and azaleas, along with a variety of orchids to be seen. Other theme gardens include the wedding gardens, the coffee gardens, the helicona gardens, and english style knot gardens.  The small sample of images in the gallery below is representative of what you can expect to see if you visit the Atitlan gardens.

 

Lake Atitlan National Park, Guatemala

 

Lake Atitlan, volcano's and botanical garden

Lake Atitlan, volcano’s and botanical garden

If you happen to be planning a trip to San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas, Mexico don’t miss the chance to visit Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.  Tour companies offer daily shuttle bus rides to and from Atitlan for a cost of only $50 dollars  round trip from San Cristobal.  This lake is considered to be one of the ten most beautiful in the world  and has been has been a national park since 1955. Besides the lake; the main outdoor attractions include the 3 volcanes that surround the lake and a nature reserve featuring a botanical garden, butterfly sanctuary, hiking trails and cascading waterfalls. Other recreational activities in the park include trails to the top of the volcano’s, rappelling, zip lines, hang gliding, canoeing and bass fishing. The lake also has several indigenous maya communities where it is possible to gain insight into the their culture and purchase traditional hand made arts and crafts at very reasonable prices.

 

 

Grutas del Mamut, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico

 

figura del Mamut

Figura del Mamut

The ecological site off Grutas del Mamut or Mammoth caves is about 7 km from the central historic area of San Cristobal. The main attraction here are the caves but the park also includes palapas with picnic tables, a pavilion for special events, snack bars, a soccer field,  a  river with canoe rentals, and a mountain top vista. The caves  have several dimly lit rooms with some impressive stalactites and stalagmites. The stalactites are the formations that hang from the ceilings of caves while the stalgmites look like they emerge from the ground. Both are collectively referred to as drip-stones because they are formed through deposition  of calcium carbonate and other minerals, which is precipitated from mineralized water solutions.The color of these drip-stones is determined by what minerals are dissolved in the formation process. The images  below include both kinds of dripstones and other photo’s of this ecological site.

 

The magic village of Comitan, Chiapas, Mexico

Here's  the flat top trees in Comitan's main plaza

Comitan’s main plaza is the heart of the city and is noted for these flat top trees.

 

A Pueblo Magico since 2012, this artsy colonial village is located about 60 miles southeast of San Cristobal de Las Casas and is close to the border of Guatemala. It has some good restaurants and hotels, a few interesting musuems and is less than an hours drive away from El Chiflon Waterfalls, the lakes of Montebello, and El Chintuchek archeological site. Comitan also has one of the most impressive zocola’s in Mexico. These town plaza’s are an important part of the Mexican culture and the heart of almost every city both large and small. They serve as a place for people to socialize, find taco stands or restaurants, see special events and hear Mariachi music.  More often than not, most zocola’s  are centrally located across from the cities main cathedral, they usually have a large gazebo where local musician’s perform, lots of park benches and beautiful landscaping. With it’s distinctive flat topped trees, fountain and unique metal scupltures,  Comitan’s zocola is one of the most impressive in Mexico. There are a few photos with additional information in the gallery below.

A Spring Festival, San Cristobal, Mexico

 

San Cristobal is at an altitude of 2300 meters and is surrounded by peaks, pines and oak trees

San Cristobal is at an altitude of 2300 meters and is surrounded by peaks, pines and oak trees

This annual week long celebration of spring  involves quite a variety of events and runs concurrent with the Semana Santa holiday in Mexico. There seems to be something for everyone including art exhibits, sports,  concerts, parades, cultural events, rodeo’s,  bull fights, fireworks and more. Best of all,  most events are free of charge and in San Cristobal de las Casas the weather is spring like almost year around. For more information and a few photos of event activities, see the gallery below.

 

Chiapa de Corzo, A Mexican Magic Town

 

La Pila

The La Pila Fountain landmark was constructed in1592 with a diamond shaped Moorish design made of brick.

Chiapa de Corzo was once the capital of the state and is now one of Mexico’s  Pueblo Magico’s  due to it’s historical significance. It is located between San Cristobal de Las Casas and Tuxtla Gutierrez on the banks of the Grijalua river. The main tourist attractions here include some impressive church architecture, sumidero canyon and ecological park, waterfront restaurants on the river and the waterfalls of Chorreadero Park. Touring  Sumidero Canyon requires an inexpensive 2 hour boat ride that cruises down the Grijalua river through steep vertical walls that rise up as high as 1000 meters in some places while the park offers hiking, cycling, rappelling, rock climbing and kayaking recreational activities. The  Chorreadero waterfalls and ecological park is only a 15 minute ride by taxi or car  from Chiapa or the waterfront. The main attraction here is  a stream that emerges from a cave which is the end of an underground river and plunges like a waterfall from a height of about 25 meters to form a series of cascading pools for swimmers to enjoy. The caves and underground river can also be explored by arranging a guided tour. Take the guided photo tour for more information about these attractions.

 

Rancho Nuevo Ecological Park, San Cristobal, MX

A Woodlands Trail in the Park

A view of the parks forest and one of the hiking trails

 

Rancho Neuvo Caves

Rancho Neuvo Caves

Located in a beautiful forest on the outskirts of San Cristobal de Las Casas, the Rancho Nuevo Ecological Park  features  an illuminated  2 kilometer walkway through spacious caves with impressive stalactites. Other outdoor recreational activities at the park include horseback riding, a giant slide, a zip line, hiking trails, skating rink and camping facilities. There are also shops selling snacks, souvenirs, a variety of art and craft work as well as a restaurant. For more information, check out the guided photo tour below.

El Arcotete Eco Tourist Park, Mexico

 

It runs through the park and surrounds the village of San Cristobal

The Fogotico river  runs through the park and down to the village of San Cristobal

 

Folklore has it that years ago a French soldier named Jean D’Arcotete committed suicide in this park when he was rejected by a local woman that he fell in love while living in San Cristobal de Las Casas and the park is named after this legend. It is one of 7 ecological sites  surrounding  San Cristobal and is typical of the natural beauty which still exists all throughout the state of Chiapas, Mexico. The park is most well known  for a large stone arch that crosses the river Fogotico. It also has interior cavities with stalactites and twisted rock formations that can be explored by visitors. Besides the arch and river that winds through the park there are trails with an abundance of vegation, oak, pine and cypress trees for those who like to hike. Other outdoor recreational activities include zip lines, rappelling, camping or floating down the river on the parks rental boat. There  are also  palapa’s, a snack bar, cafe and pavillion if needed. For a better idea of what this park is like, take the photo tour below.

 

Moxviquil Ecological Reserve, San Cristobal, Mexico

bromeliad

This botanical garden is only 3km from  the center of town and should be on everyone’s  to do list when visiting San Cristobal. It consist of a 1700 meter guided nature trail, an orchid greenhouse with another currently under construction, a botanical garden with a variety of flora native to the state of Chiapas, a spring fed lagoon, small amphtteather, as well as guided tours with educational activities. In general, the mission of Moviquil is to rescue, maintain and preserve a variety of flora native to the state of Chiapas for the benefit of future generations. So far, the Moxviquil group has rescued over 3,000 plants representing over 418 species of the 700 recorded for the state of Chiapas. For more information, check out the Moxviquil website at http://www.orchidsmexico.com and the photo gallery below.

 

Palenque National Park, Mexico

Commonly refered to as the palace, this structure was actually  a residential and administrative complex.

Commonly refered to as the palace, this structure was actually a watchtower,  residential and administrative complex combined into one.

Palenque is not only an archeological site but a world heritage site and national park as well. There are approximately 65,000 species of flora and fauna within the park that can be seen by hiking the jungle trails surrounding the ruins. In addition, there is an orchid nursery, waterfalls,  and creeks where visitors can swim if desired.. Excavation and renovation of the ruins  began over 100 years ago and continues today as only a small portion of the original cities estimated 1400 buildings have been excavated. Never the less, Palenque was inscribed as a world heritage site in 1987 because its “residential areas, buildings with political and administrative functions, as well as those whose function was ritual are conserved in their original setting, turning the site with its exceptional artistic and architectural features into a living museum.” Of all the Maya archeological sites, this is arguably the most impressive.

Punta Venado Caribbean EcoPark

Bike Trail out of the jungle to the beach

Bike Trail out of the jungle to the beach

The Punta Venado EcoPark is about a 10 minute drive south of Playa del Carmen. Its a little over 2000 acres with 2.5 miles of beach on the Caribbean coastline. The outdoor adventure activities in this park include horseback riding,  atv trails,  mountain biking and water sports such as kiteboarding and snorkeling.  Mountain bike trails are rated according to difficulty and cut through dense jungle where there’s a good chance of  wildlife encounters with spider monkeys, deer or a variety of other small mammals as you ride. Whenever you get hot or tired and need a break from biking,  you can always stop at one of the cenotes found near several of the trails and take a refreshing dip in these natural pools of underground water. Another way to relax and cool off at the end of the day is to take the trail towards the park’s  beach club where you’ll find a restaurant, bar,  and the caribbean ocean.

Isla Cozumel, Mexico

Tiki Bar

Cozumel is the largest of Mexico’s islands measuring 53 km by 14km and is found in the Caribbean Sea about 1 hour away from  Playa del Carmen on the passenger ferries which make frequent trips on a daily basis.  Although, there are a variety of things to do once you get to Cozumel the main attraction has always been snorkeling and scuba diving to experience the great meso american reef system. One travel guide book has a list of 86 attractions around Cozumel but 43 of them involve different scuba diving or snorkeling locations. Other things to do while on the island  are  related to either cultural activities,  parks or  beach clubs.

Three types of beaches can be found around this island and they will be either rocky,  smooth white sand or  hybrids. According to people in the know, rocky beaches are a indication of good snorkeling opportunities off shore and they are plentiful. The smooth white sand beaches are not as common as the rocky type but they can be found at the northern or  southern tips of the island’s  western shores such as Playa San Francisco near Punta Sur. Finally, there is the hybrid variety where sand has been brought in to build a beach on top of the limestone croppings that are the norm around Cozumel.. One such man made beach is found at the Chankannab National Park to the south of town.

At the end of the day, most people head for  San Miguel to enjoy happy hour, dinner or other cultural activites. This is the only city on the island and it has a population of over 75,000 people according to the last count. One of the main attractions here is the pedestrian only Plaza Centro where you can find restaurants, shops, street artist, cafe’s and nightlife. In the photo gallery below you will find images and more information about Plaza Centro, a few of the beaches  as well as some other highlights.

Tulum, Maya Riviera

a roadside stand on the jungle side of Tulum beach road

a roadside stand on the jungle side of Tulum beach road, would you rather be here or starbucks?

Tulum is  a  mixture of 3 separate and distinct areas which consist of  the archeological zone, Tulum Playa and Tulum Pueblo. In the past, the main reason to visit Tulum was to see the archeological site but many new additions  to both the beach zone and central zone are now attracting tourist  for a variety of others reasons.  The focus of new developments in the Tulum Playa area is overwhelmingly  on  eco-tourism and preservation of the natural environment. So, new construction projects are kept to a minimum and must also meet strict standards for sustainable development.

Tulum pueblo is  primairily a business and residential area for the locals  but it also has some restaurants and nightlife that appeals to both tourist and residents alike.  The beach area, however, is the  main attraction for most people and Tulum beach road is where it’s all happening. This is where you  find all the new ecologically designed boutique and spa hotels along with beach clubs, beach parties, stores and a decent selection of  restaurants   and nightlife. This is the only way into and out of Tulum Playa and it is surrounded by jungle on one side and the caribbean on the other. This is the same road that leads to the Sian Ka’an Reserve  and Punta Allen which is a fishing resort at the tip of the peninsula. In any case, someone once said “a picture is worth a thousand words” so, to learn more about Tulum Playa, see the photo gallery below.

Playa del Carmen, La Quinta Street Highlights #2

Mexican Cuisine, no doors, no walls and no windows. The traditional style of building on La Quinta.

Restaurant/Bar with Mexican Cuisine, notice the absence of doors, walls and windows. This traditional style of building is the norm
on La Quinta Ave.,

The pedestrian promenade of La Qunita or Fifth Avenue attracts an international mix of travelers and is the place to see and be seen while in Playa. A party  atmosphere,  created by the nightclubs, bars and restaurants on La Qunita;  keeps  the grown up good time crowd around until the wee hours of the morning. On another level, La Qunita attracts people for it’s down to earth lifestyles and egalitarian spirit characterized  by the very casual style of dress seen everywhere, the variety of businesses that offer both low end and high end merchandise or services and the friendly attitudes of most people around town. The photo gallery of this edition and the prior edition illustrates what has made La Qunita Ave one of Playa’s main attractions.

Playa del Carmen Highlights, La Qunita Street

a bar and grill with sports betting decorated for saint patrick's day

A bar and grill with sports betting on La Quinta as well as St. Patricks Day decorations.

La Qunita or Fifth Avenue is the entertainment and shopping center of Playa del Carmen. It   is a pedestrian only street parallel to the beach and is somewhat like a boardwalk except that the beach is a block away. What is unique about this street is that the majority of restaurants, cafes, nightclubs and even retailers feature an open air or sidewalk atmosphere. At this time, La Quinta is over 30 blocks in length and still expanding, so you need good walking shoes if you plan to see it all in one night. Here you  will find a huge variety of restaurants, nightclubs, cafes, local bars, specialty retailers, services, hotels, hostels, kiosk’s and art galleries to visit on this strip. While some of the vendors on this street have a reputation for being very aggressive, keep in mind that these are mostly small business owned shops not corporations with advertising dollars to spend. That said, the photo gallery below is just a small sample of what you can expect to find on La Quinta Avenue.

Playa Del Carmen Highlights, Xcaret Park

This inlet leads to the carribean or the restaurant in the background

This inlet leads snorkelers and swimmers to the carribean or the restaurant in the background

Xcaret Park was created to promote nature and mexican cultural heritage. To that end, part of the admission price is donated to developing programs for the preservation of wild flora and fauna. There are quite a variety of  leisure and recreational activities in the park but all are related to this objective. In general, the main attractions include underground rivers, natural  pools and inlets for snorkeling, exhibitions which include archeological zones, re-creations of ancient mayan cities along with mayan ceremonies, flora and fauna found on interpretative jungle trails, orchid and bromelaid museums,  a butterfly pavilion,  natural habitats for jaguars, puma’s and monkeys, aquariums, bee farms and deer shelters. The latest in their long list of natural attractions is the Sea Trek underwater adventure that offers a new technology  for diving underwater without extensive training and cumbersome gear. All you need is their  new hi-tech diving helmet that keeps water out while air is pumped in from a boat that hovers above the dive site. So, it is now possible for almost everyone  to experience the coral reefs and tropical fish for which the Carribean is famous. Ladies will find this new helmet especially appealing because the helmet keeps  hair dry and prevents make-up from washing off.

Playa del Carmen Highlights, Mamita’s Beach

lots of people like to walk along the shores  of the carribean sea The most popular beach in this authentic mexican resort is Mamita’s at the north end of Playa and a block from La Quinta Avenue, the pedestrian only entertainment center of town. Thanks to the amenities offered by Mamita’s s Beach Club and Kool’s adult beach club next door, you don’t need to bring anything with you other than a swim suit to enjoy a day at the beach as illustrated by the following series of images.

Playa del Carmen Highlights, Pt. 1

In Playa del Carmen on the Maya Riviera, life is a beach and so it is called Playa by most everyone familiar with this area. Up until a few years ago, the main attraction to Playa  was  the ferry to Isla Cozumelisla cozumel ferry but there has been a dramatic transformation in the past 10 years from portal to what is now one of  Mexico’s most popular resorts. Some of this  success can be attributed to nearby attractions such as Cancun or Ecaret theme park but Playa’s newly developed amenities and attractions  make this resort an appealing  destination on its own..playa caribe

As far as attractions and activities are concerned, the sun, sea  and beaches are the most important to consider.  There’s plenty of sunshine to go around, the ocean temps are comfortable all year long, and the beaches stretch from one end of town to another. Playa Caribe is one of  the main public beaches at the south end of town next to the maritime terminal where ferries to and from Isla Cozumel are located. Amenities at this beach include volleyball nets, several tiki bars, showers and massage tables. senor frogs beachOn the other side of this terminal you will find Senor Frogs beach which offers similar amenities as detailed by  photo on the left, as well as there restaurant and bar.

Other conveniently located attractions include a variety of retail stores, restaurants and bars. The retailer’s directly behind Playa Caribe are for the most part independently owned and operated. Wheras, the retailers directly behind Senor Frog’s  are corporate owned traditional retail vendorspeciality stores that are part of the upscale La Fiesta Plaza. As you might expect, there is a considerable difference in the merchandise available at these shops and in the way they operate their business. Suffice to say, that if you are looking for a bargain on products made in Mexico,  shop at the independently owned stores as seen in the photo to the right.  If you want  expensive name brand imports, shop at the Plaza La Fiesta. In addition to the different types of merchandise for sale, it is also interesting to compare the old world approach to retailing  practiced by the independent shops versus the contemporaryLa Fiesta contemporary retail mall style of retailing at the Plaza La Fiesta.

Likewise, the choice of where to eat includes traditional mexican food served at stands or restaurants just behind Playa Caribe or  restaurants like Subway, Haagen Das and Starbucks in the food court at the La Fiesta Plaza. When it’s time for happy hour, however, the choices are easy because all the bars seem to serve the same brands of mexican beer and after a few hours in the sun, they all taste good. Cheers!

shoreline view from Playa Caribe

The Embarcadero, Cancun, MX.

IMG_2111 observation tower and helicoter pirate ships ultra marThe dictionary defines an  embarcadero as a landing place on a waterway. In Cancun, the embarcadero is more than just a landing place. Here the meaning includes authentic pirate ship cruises, helicopter tours, the cancun theater, retail shops, restaurants,  catamaran party boats, and a 293 foot observation tower with the best view in town.

One of the photos in this post shows the Captain Hook Pirate ships that are 93 foot replicas of 18th century spanish galleons. Despite their authenticity, these ships are equipped with all the necessary modern facilities to augment  the on board entertainment. The 3 hour cruise event offers entertaining pirate shows with sword fights, music, open bar, and buffet.

Other photos show the observation tower, helicopter, ultra mar ferry and the Dancer Catamaran. The ferry is inexpensive and makes frequent trips to  Isla Mujeres during the day. It takes less than 1 hour to reach the island from the embarcadero. In addition, the Dancer Catamaran is known as the best daytime party boat in Cancun. It features guided tours of Cancun’s maya ruins, special events such as the upcoming New Year’s Celebration Cruise and great snorkeling opportunities. A continential breakfeast is also included with the cruises, as well as an open bar.

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Mamita’s Beach

Playa del Carmen is located on the Maya Riviera and has the ambiance of a small beach playaresort  but at the same time it is sophisticated  in many ways. Here you will find vistors and shop owners from all over the world, special events such as the Maya Jazz Festival that features music from a variety of cultures,  restaurants that serve many different kinds of cuisine

Argentina Restaurant, 5th avenuefrom  different countries around the world, specialty retail shops with  merchandise  from all over mexico and small boutique lodging’s with distinct European styles. Most of the restaurants, cafes, shops, nightlife and other tourist activity are located on a 15 block section of fifth avenue which is limited to pedestrian foot traffic.

5th avenue retail shopThere are many other attractions in and around Playa del Carmen. Some  of the best beaches in the world can be found in this area along with miles of offshore coral reefs that offer what are just about  the most spectacular snorkeling and scuba diving sites anywhere in the world. If the beach or scuba diving are not your cup of tea, than there are several major theme parks near by such as Xcaret, Xel-Ha, Xplor and Xaman-Ha Avairy.  Each offers its own unique blend of outdoor recreational activities. These are just a few of the reasons why Playa del Carmen was selected as  the second best destination resort in Mexico for 2012 by travelers choice.IMG_1722

Guadalajara, Mexico

 

The main attraction to Guadalajara, Mexico’s second largest city, is the well preserved central historic district. The centerpiece of this downtown area is the landmark Main Catedral MetropolitanaCathedral with its twin 200 foot towers erected in 1848. It is surrounded by 4 distinct plaza’s named Plaza de Armas, Plaza  Tapatia, Plaza de Liberacion and Plaza Guadalajara. All together they offer visitors  a variety of shops, restaurants,  cultural activities and  events hard to find elsewhere in the country with the exception of Mexico city.  One of the highlights  located in the Plaza Tapatia is the Cabanas Cultural Institute Instituto Cultural Cabanaswhich houses art exhibitions,  a movie theater,  a performing arts theater and an  outdoor patio where  ballet and musical events take place.

The Central Historic area of Gaudalajara is also a convenient base for exploring other surrounding attractions such as the suburb of Tlaquepaque and  Tequila, a Unesco World Heritage sight where much of the countries national drink is produced. tlaquapaqueOnly a few minutes away from Gaudalajara’s downtown  visitors can also experience  the  artisan community of Tlaquepaque, that produces the greatest variety of handicrafts in Mexico. Here, in a large pedestrian tourist area there are over 200 stores, restaurants, galleries and other attractions. Another unique experience not to be missed while in Guadalajara, is the tequila express, a 90 minute train ride from  the station in  Central Guadalajara that passes through vast fields of blue agave,  the village of Tequila and finally arrives at the Casa Herradura Distillery. This train ride features plush coaches, live Mariachi music on board, tequila tastings and dinner at the Casa Herradura, one of the oldest tequila making facilities in the country which is still 100% Hacienda made.

Los Cabos, Baja California, Mexico

Los Cabos is located at the southern most tip of Baja California Sur where the Pacific meets the Sea of Cortez. The Cabos area is anchored by San Jose Del Cabo to the east and Cabo San Lucas to the west  with about 30 miles of beach, golf courses, hotels and condominiums in between. There are recreational opportunities here to plealse just about everyone including golf, big game fishing, surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, horseback riding, atv adventure tours, and kayaking,  As well as, luxury spas and upscale nightclubs that stay open to dawn.

Cabo San Lucas is known to be a contemporary high end resort with a lot of vitality and a world class marina that features over 380 slips which can accommodate vessels up to 200 feet, along with high quality services and amenities only found at luxury yachting marina´s. San Jose Del Cabo, on the other hand, is more of a traditional mexican village that consist of historical sites such as the renovated Jesuit mission named Iglesia San Jose, an estuary with a variety of colorful birds and wildlife, in addition to, a botanical garden featuring desert flora called Cacti-Mundo.

La Ventana, Baja California Sur, Mexico

 

 

 

 

 

 

Less than an hours drive south of La Paz lies the Bay of Ventana which is one of the best locations in the world for windsurfing and kiteboarding. The best time of year for both of these sports begins in November and ends sometime in March when the strong northeasterly winds slowly die out.  During the peak season there are kite boarding expos and several major events such as the La Ventana Classic which is an international competitive  event for windsurfers and kiteboarders.

Other popular activites in the La Ventana area include snorkeling, camping, swimming and fishing for marlin. There are campsites for both tents or motorhomes all along the shoreline; some offer showers, toilets and trash barrels while others are more primitive.