Mexico — Cha, Cha, Cha

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Many folks will be enjoying a three-day weekend for President’s Day and next month area schools dismiss for spring break, so perhaps now is the time to consider a visit to Mexico. Recently Mexico has suffered from poor publicity due to the H1N1 flu outbreak, as well as the drug problems, along with the general downturn in the U.S. economy.

Mexico is close, warm in many areas and has marvelous accommodations for relaxation, food and swimming. Most Americans choose a beach resort that is often all-inclusive – providing lodging, three meals daily and sports activities. The big question is where to go.

The most popular destination for many is Cancun, located on the Caribbean coast. This resort town was created especially for tourism, so there are fantastic luxury resorts and hotels – some of the finest in Mexico. The crime factor is very low and you can feel at ease walking about. There are shopping areas, fine restaurants and much to enjoy. The beaches are some of the best in Mexico, with generally calm seas and warm sand. Only a few miles away is the Island of Cozumel, which can be reached by ferry. Also close by is the Riviera Maya development, which is famous for great resorts and good beaches. From these locations you can take a day’s tour of the Mayan ruins of Chichenitza and Talum. There are convenient flights from the States to Cancun.

Another favorite for some is Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo situated on the Pacific coast between Manzanillo and Acapulco. The palm-lined beaches remind one of the South Seas and perhaps Tahiti. Zihuatanejo is uncrowded and a good choice if you want to get away from the crowds. Ixtapa is more of a modern resort town with great hotels and a large marina with hundreds of boat slips. Some of the activities here would include snorkeling, beach fun and deep-sea fishing for marlin, sailfish, Dorado and yellow fin tuna. There are also convenient non-stop flights to these resort areas.

Many travelers from the Southwest find Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Nayarit a good choice for a holiday. There are good hotels, resorts and plenty of activity for daytime fun.

You can select a spectacular eco-adventure with a zipline taking you 90 feet above the nearby forest floor through huge tropical trees; or set sail and see a great variety of tropical fish, caves, tubes and cliffs and perhaps dive or snorkel in the clear waters. You can also take a catamaran and view the tropical coast of Banderas Bay or go hiking to the Chola de Caballo waterfalls for a swim. Rent ATVs and ride through the Sierra Madre Mountains, crossing rivers during your sightseeing. There is also a hidden tropical nature reserve accessible only by sea, which offers swimming and snorkeling with sea lions. You can do the same with bottlenose dolphins.

You might enjoy a fiesta at Palma Real with colorful swirling dancers, snapping lariats of the charos and mariachi music as you drink margaritas, and eat tacos, sizzling beef and fresh fish. The fiesta ends with fireworks.

Horseback riding can be arranged through Rancho Palma Real near Las Palmas and ride through tropical forest to Rio Valadero.

Los Cabos is another favorite for Southwest residents. This is a big party town and popular with young and old alike. The beach activities are varied and include swimming, glass-bottom boat rides, swimming with dolphins and surfing. Visitors can also tour the outback areas by Jeep and other off-road vehicles and find natural springs, waterfalls, plants and animals. Cabo can be action-packed or a complete rest. It’s up to you and the lifestyle you want to pursue. There is also great nightlife here for all ages. As in most Mexican resorts the lodging can be great with a lot of fun dining.

Still mostly unspoiled is Huatulco, located considerably south of Acapulco on the Pacific coast. It boasts warm sunny beaches and a small town flavor. It is perhaps one of Mexico’s best-kept secrets. If you are seeking relaxation, water sports and eco-tours you should consider this location. The gorgeous rainforest offers nature lovers an unforgettable experience. Like so many of the other beach resorts you can go snorkeling in Santa Cruz Bay, kayaking off Playa Ventura and play some golf at the Tangolunda Golf Club. You’ll find nightclubs, shopping at Plaza las Conchas and interesting restaurants. They’ll give you surfing lessons at Playa Esperanza and if you like, you can do a little mountain biking near Santa Maria Huatulco.

Probably one of the nicest resorts here is Quinta Real Huatulco, it has marvelous views, exotic gardens and a private beach. Flights here will most likely require change of planes in Mexico City.

If you seek not only warm beaches, but also a large range of activity you might consider an old favorite of many – Acapulco. It has long been considered a major Mexican resort area, but it is more than that. It is also a large city with all the pluses and minuses that suggests. In Acapulco you will find fast moving action, a colorful bay with many activities and exciting nightlife. You will not want to miss watching cliff divers at La Quebrade and seeing the moray eels and octopus while the diving is going on. Visit the Paradise Beach Club and have an Arrachera steak. Also try dining at the Baikal restaurant for good food and exceptional views. One of the oldest quality hotels is Las Brisas Acapulco, which has 253 spacious casitas with stunning views on 40 acres of lush hibiscus gardens on a hillside above Acapulco Bay. Each casita has its own private or semi private swimming pool.

If beach activity is not necessarily your cup of tea, then consider the very interesting inland destination of Guadalajara. Not only does it offer some nice hotels and resorts, but also is a center for Mexican arts and crafts. You’ll find hundreds of family run operations that produce pottery, glassware, papier-mâché and a variety of tin and wooden objects in Tonal and Tlaquepaque, Guadalajara’s two main arts-and-crafts shopping centers. You can even book a five-hour arts and crafts tour that will take you to the best stores and factories to watch artisans at work and purchase those items of interest. Visit www.visiontour.com.mx for detailed information.

Other Mexico vacationers like Manzanillo and Mazatlan. These are not so interesting to me personally, but may be to you. Wherever you choose to visit I suggest speaking to your travel professional who may recommend resorts, tours and perhaps other destinations I have not included here. Fly/stay vacations can also be booked for considerable savings.

Have a great time and cha, cha, cha!

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