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.

 

 

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Urban Parks of Santiago, Chile

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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.

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.

The Green Around Medellin, Columbia

Guatape Lake and Islands

Guatape Lake and Islands

 

If you happen to be planing a vacation to Medellin in Columbia and are interested in eco-tourism or outdoor recreational activities in and around this city of approximately 2.5 million people, here are a few parks, gardens and nature reservses that you might want to visit. First and foremost on my list are Parque Arvi and Piedra Blancas both of which are located in the mountains surrounding the city and easily accessed by the metro cable car systems. The cable car takes you as far as Parque Arvi and a short bus ride of about 5 minutes will take you to Pierda Blancas eco-resort where you will find campgrounds, nature trails, butterfly pavillion, lake, boat rentals, hotel, restaurant and more. Another favorite getaway for tourist is Guatape approximately one hour away from the city by bus. It features a lake with islands, windsurfing, boat tours and a large monolith with a unique observation deck that is reached by climbing a built in staircase of 750 steps. Perhaps the most often visited location in central Medellin for  tourist and locals alike is Cerro Nutibarra, a nature reserve in the mountains overlooking the city and reached by a city tour bus. It offers guided nature trails, art nature trails, bird watching, outdoor amphitheater for concerts, musuem, restaurants and a replica of what mountain villages around Medellin where like in the past.. The Uribe Botanical garden is another popular attraction for the eco-tourist. It features a variety of gardens, trails, lagoon, restaurant and is next door to parque explora as well as the city planetarium. Other photos included in this gallery are barefoot park behind the convention center, El Castillo Musuem and Gardens, as well as an example of floral arrangements seen at the annual festival of flowers.

Guadalajara’s Historic Landmarks, Mexico

Templo Expiatorio

The Templo Expiatorio

 

 

Guadalajara is Mexico’s second largest city and the cultural center of Western Mexico. Its status as a city was granted by the Spanish King Charles the sixth in 1550 along with a coat of arms that the city has today. The Central Historic district is the oldest section of the city where it was founded and where the oldest buildings are located. They include a combination of religious and civil colonial buildings which are noted for their architectural and historic significance. While the colonial buildings are the most common style of architecture found in the historic district, one can also find examples of Gothic, Baroque, Neo-Classical, Viceregal and Art Deco designs. One of the buildings,  the Instituto de  Cultural Cabana, is a world  heritage site.

From an architectural standpoint, the Templo Expiatory is perhaps the most interesting building in the  historic district and its neoclassical style was designed by Manuel Tolsa. Although the cornerstone was laid in 1897, the church is made of stone, carved as it was done in the middle ages.The three tympana on the church’s facade are accented with Italian mosaic’s created in the Vaticans mosaic factory. Also seen on the facade is a church clock imported from Germany and installed by German technicians along with a carillon of 25 bells which play 25 religious pieces such as Ave Maria. Whenever a musical piece is played, minature statutes of the 12 apostle’s rotate in and out of the campanile.  Of course a church would not be the same without stained glass and this one has huge stained glass windows created by Jacques and Gerard Degussecau of France. In addition to  the musuems and galleries in the historic area, the sites shown in this gallery are the most popular attractions for cultural tourism in Guadalajara.

Taxco, the Worlds Silver Capital

 

The Santa Prisca Cathedral was built in the 18th century with funds provided by the by the silver tycoon Jose de la Borda

The Santa Prisca Cathedral was built in the 18th century with funds provided by the silver tycoon J0se de la Borda

Founded in 1529 by one of Hernan Cortes captains, Taxco remained an unkown village outside of Mexico until the discovery of a silver mother lode in the 18th century fueled the cities development. Sometime in the 1920’s as the silver mines were being played out, an American silversmith by the name of William Spratling came along and began teaching local people the art and science of  silversmithing in his own workshop. The result was that the crafting of silver started a creative and economic boom that still exists today. Taxco now has over 300 silver shops including open air markets, metal workshops, and high end boutiques where buyers from around the world come to stock their retail stores with a variety of earrings, necklaces, rings and other creations .of silver finery. Besides the silver shops Taxco has other tourist attractions such as that old world ambiance of Spain with its winding cobblestone streets and small plazas, an  aerial tram, good restaurants, some impressive architecture, Los Pozas Azules and several silver museums including the William Spratling museum dedicated to his contributions. For additional details, see the photo gallery below.

 

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.

 

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.

 

San Cristobal de Las Casas, A Mexican Magic Town

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This 16th century building with solid adobe walls is located in the center of town and is an important symbol of San Cristobal

The department of tourism in Mexico defines a Pueblo Magico as a place of natural beauty, cultural riches or historical revelance. In 1987 San Cristobal de las Casas was selected as a magic town and is considered to be the Pueblo Magico of Pueblo Magico’s. It is centrally located in the state of Chiapas at 2300 meters above sea level and lies in fertile valley surrounded by mountains and pine forest.. It is also a place where old traditions and customs coexist with modern luxuries. A few of the cities highlights include 12 musuems, 2 theaters, 15 temples, 4 cultural centers, 6 ecological sites and 3 pedestrian only streets lined with a variety of cafes, restaurants, bars and retail stores.  San Cristobal is also an ideal location to start exploring the natural wonders in the state of Chiapas such as Montebello Lakes, Agua Azul waterfalls, Rancho Nuevo Caves, Sumidero Canyon, Palenque National Park and many other ecological attractions not far away. The photo gallery below shows a few of the cities many highlights.

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.

Valladolid, A Mexican Magic Town

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The Cathedral of San Servacio

In August of 2012, Valladolid became part of Mexico’s “Pueblo Magico” program which recognizes traditional villages that meet their specific requirements of natural beauty, cultural riches, or historic relevance to the country. It is a well preserved colonial city of Spanish arcades and 16th century spires located between  the beaches of Tulum and  the archeological site of Chichen Itza. A few of the main attractions include the cathedral of San Servacio, Rosado Park, Cenote Zaci, the colonial homes with great architecture on Calzdada de Los Frailes and the Siskal neighborhood temple and ex-convent of San Bernadino de Siena. Additional activities include a variety of tours such as the chocolate factory tour, the mexican folk art tour of Casa de Venado and the Tequila tours of local agave plantations and distilleries. Photos and additional information is included in the photo gallery.

Mexico and Monuments

a tribute to the maya people and civilization

a tribute to the maya people and culture

Mexico loves it monuments and that’s why one of its most important  cities, Oueretaro, was inscribed as a historic monument  U.N.E.S.C.O. world heritage zone in 1996. A  tourist in Mexico can learn much about the history of this country  by simply visiting these monuments which can be found in most every large city and resort area. There are several kinds of monuments such as statutes  built as a lasting tribute to a person, a group of people or an event. Other kinds of monuments that are most common can be either a place, building site or structure that is preserved because of its historic culture and/or aesthetic importance. In addition to Queretaro;  most of the national monuments are found in Mexico city, Gaunajuato, and Guadalajara but there are many other significant monuments to be found in a variety of locations nationwide.The photo essay below shows a variety of these monuments including some of the most important and popular in Mexico.

Eco-Sur Botanical Garden, Puerto Morales, MX

Eco-Sur, Tropical Forest

This 150 acre botanical garden also know as Ya’ax Che is the last patch of conserved forest between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Established in 1982, the main objectives of the park are to preserve and propagate endangered plant species as well as inform and educate visitors about how the mayans used the natural resources of this area. To this end, there is an interpretive trail of about 4 km with a variety of exhibits set in a natural forest environment representative of the complete eco-system existing in the Yucatan Peninsula. The distinct exhibits consist of cactus, orchids, ferns, ornamentals, palms and medicinal plants, Additionally, there are maya ruins, a recreated traditional mayan home and “chicle camp” where sap from chicle trees was used to make the chewing gum which bears its name. Wild fauna such as spider monkeys, lizards and a variety of birds can also be seen along the trails. For more information and images about this park, see the photo essay below.

Coba, Maya Riviera

The Great Pyramid

The archaeological site of Coba  exists in a world that has changed very little in the past 1000 years or more. So, it is still surrounded by a natural environment  of jungle vegetation,  tropical hardwoods, lagoons, vines, and  wildlife as far as the eye can see. Although the cities origins date back to the year 600 A.D. it was abandoned after the Spanish conquered the Yucatan Peninsula around 1550. Evidently, Coba was located in such a remote area in those days that the Spanish never found the city which remained hidden in the jungle until 1842 when it was rediscovered by explorers.

Coba is an expansive site which is believed  to contain apporximately 6500 structures  that once supported an estimated 45,000 people. At this time, however,  only a small portion of Coba has been cleared from the jungle and restored by  archaeologists. This part consist of 6 separate areas called the Coba Group, the Nohoch Mul Group, the Pinturas Group, the Chumuc Group, the Macanxoc Group and the Uitzil Mul Group which are all connected by a system of dirt roads built over a 1000 years ago. To see the ruins in these different areas you can either walk, rent a bike or a chofer driven tricycle. If your visiting Coba in the  summer months it would be best to rent a bike or chofer driven tricycle and save your energy for climbing the Nohoch Mul pyramid, tallest in the Yucatan peninsula at 138 feet. Images of  this pyramid and some of Coba’s other attractions along with additional information can be found in the  photo gallery below.

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.

Puerto Morales, Maya Riviera

Main Beach, Puerto Morales

Puerto Morales is a small seaside fishing  village about halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. It was not built for tourist and commercial development has been kept to a minimum, so it is still more like a residential community where prices for most everything  are lower and the pace much slower than the typical “touristy” resorts. The  Great Meso American reef lies just 500 meters off  the shores of Puerto Morales and offers a variety of marine life as well as one of the most beautiful reefs in the world. So it should not come as a surprise to say that the main attractions here are fishing, scuba diving and snorkeling. The largest annual fishing tournament is held in May and offers $80,000 pesos to the winner while scuba diving features coral reef formations, wrecks and schools of colorful fish. Other nearby attractions include the Dr. Alfredo Barrera botanical garden and Crococun Zoo, in addition, the photo gallery below  provides  a look at some of the sites around the center of town.

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, 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

Cancun Highlights Part #4

Biking/Hiking Path

One of Cancun’s most overlooked amenities is the cyclopista or bike path that spans about 18 kilometers from one end of the hotel zone to the other. It’s a great way to see all the attractions within the zone and get some exercise at the same time. Some hotels even offer there guest the use of bicycles without charge. As seen above,  the bike path is safe, well groomed and level most of the way, so it’s  not too strenuous for the average person to ride while sightseeing. This may be the road less traveled but it has some advantages over the alternatives. If it’s a sunny day, you may even get a sun tan while your burning up calories from all the margarita’s you had the night before.

One of the attractions you might check out while cruising around on a bicycle is  the Playboy Casino. Playboy CasinoAlthough there are several other’s in the Cancun area, the Playboy Club is the only one within this zone. It features electronic gaming machines but also has a few table games, poker room and sports betting. A small membership fee of about $20 dollars is required for admission. One of the other  attractions worth considering for a bike ride is the Wet and Wild theme park and the public beach right next door which is considered to be the best location in Cancun for kiteboarding. Here, the water is warm year around and the bay offers smooth riding conditions. Best time of the year for kiteboarding is said to be November to May.

Wet and Wild Public Beach. While the Plaza del Toros is not found along the bike path, it is still on the perimeter of the hotel zone. Every Wednesday night they host a Mexican folkloric show and bullfight. At other times they host both musical and sporting events. Other attractions nearby are the Cancun malecon on the Nichupte Lagoon and Plaza Las Americas which is the largest shopping mall in town.Plaza del Toros

Cancun Highlights, Pt 3

Cancun Golf Courses

This edition of Cancun Highlights features golf courses, restaurants, beaches and marina’s. It’s hard to say which is the best or most popular golf course because opinions usually vary according to individual preferences and skill levels.  In any case, there are several top notch 18 hole, par 72 courses within the hotel zone. The longest, at 6,800 yards, is the  Iberostar Golf Club, followed by the Cancun Country Club at 6,750 yards.. However, all golfers know that yardage changes from time to time with tee placement, so anyone of the above courses could be longer than the other on a given day. For what it’s worth to all the duffers out there, the Cancun Country Club, designed by Nick Price, is recognized as the only Tournament Players course outside of the United States at this time.

Another popular public beach located in the heart of the Cancun hotel zone is Playa Tortuga. It is not an expansive stretch of beach like Playa Del Fines mentioned in a Playa Tortugaprevious post because it is filled with Tiki bars, open air restaurants, beach oriented retail shops and cafes. The pier in the background of this photo has a bungee jumping tower and is also a launching point for ferries to Isla Mujeres.

Aqua World is also one of Cancun’s top attractions. It is both a marina and business with a fleet of 17 boats offering both tourist  and nautical services. For example, there is a jungle tour that takes you through the Nichupte Lagoon mangroves to a secluded snorkeling paradise while another tour offers a lobster dinner cruise on the lagoon at sunset.

Last but not least is the La Habichuela Sunset restaurant. With a reputation for delicious meals, a unique sculpture garden of native flora and mayan theme shows;  it has  earned it’s rank as one of Cancun’s best restaurants. As the name implies, it is also one of the best places  within the hotel zone to watch the sunset over the Nichupte Lagoon.

La Habichuela Sunset Restaurant

Cancun Highlights, Pt 2

                                                                                     
El ReyIn this second post with more Cancun highlights, there are photos of the El Rey archeological site, the new Maya museum, the Forum Mall, and the Fiesta Americana Luxury Hotel which are all located within the hotel zone.  The above photo shows the remains of an ancient observatory at the El Rey site which dates back to 1200 a.d. The architectural style found here is similar to that of other structures built in the southeastern region of mexico during the time period from 1200 a.d. to 1500 a.d. San Miguelito, another archeological site in the Cancun Hotel Zone, can be found within the grounds of the newmuseo maya Maya museum which opened last December. Inside the museum there is a lot of  information about Mayan history along with exhibits and artifacts. The archeological site at this location features an interpretative trial through Maya ruins that are surrounded by a jungle ecosystem much like the one that existed when these structures were built.

Other photos featured in this post include the Fiesta Americana Resort and the Forum Mall both found in the heart of the hotel zone. The Fiesta is a family resort that has won the Fiesta Americanapresitigous 5 diamond award numerous times and is considered to be located on the finest stretch of private beach in Cancun, It also features a 40,000 square foot spa and an awesome swimming pool that spans the length of the 602 room hotel. Only a short walk from here  brings us to the Forum Mall which offers a unique blend of retail shops, restaurants, and nightclubs. The anchor tenants here are not walmart or costco, however, but super clubs such as the Hard Rock Cafe and Coco Bongo which ranks as one of trip advisor’s top attractions in Cancun.Hard Rock Cafe

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.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

 

Vallarta is located on the pacific coast of Mexico at the foot of the Sierra Madre mountains. It is an alluring blend of modern sophistication and old world character with many luxury resorts fronted by beaches and the warm waters of Bandaras Bay. Despite the presence of  luxury hotels and condominiums, Puerto Vallarta remains a very casual resort where shorts and t-shirts are standard attire.

Although Vallarta started attracting tourist in the 1940´s,  it was the filming of ¨The Night of the Iguana¨, starring Richard Burton in 1963 that eventually put Puerto Vallarta on the international tourist map to stay.  With the development of the Marina Vallarta Complex in the mid 90´s, the city has also become a major port of call for cruise lines. As a result, American discount chains such as Walmart and Costco have set up shop to accommodate the growing population of ex-pats and tourist that come by land or sea.

Since Banderas Bay is protected by its shape and surrounding geography,  the water remains calm and clear most of the time.  So, conditions are ideal for many water sports such as boating, deep sea fishing, snorkeling and parasailing. Other popular recreational opportunities in the area include golf, tennis and a variety of eco-tours  into the Sierra Madre mountains for the more adventurous.