A Peek into Huatulco

Here's a great video I found on YouTube that sheds more light on why Huatulco is special. See my last entry for more insight...

Undiscovered Huatulco

The pool at the Las Brisas Huatulco

Ask a typical American traveler to locate the Mexican resort area of Huatulco on a map and chances are you'll be greeted with a blank stare. Chances are that most non-Mexican nationals, be they American or not, couldn't find Huatulco on a map.

In the mid 1980s, FONATUR, the Mexican government agency behind resorts like Cancun and Ixtapa, decided to create a new, more exclusive resort area called Huatulco, based on the 9 Bahias de Huatulco in souther Mexico. Located in the state of Oaxaca, Huatulco still remains a relatively undiscovered paradise. While over 10 million travelers flew into Cancun's airport in 2006, about 350,000 flew to Huatulco.

So, what is so special about Huatulco? The area, for the most part, is still relatively unspoiled. Most of the 9 bays in the area are undeveloped and can be accessed mostly by boat. Development has primarily been focused around three bays - Santa Cruz, Tangolunda and Chahue'. The warm waters are teeming with sea life and are suitable for snorkeling along numerous coral reefs. Resorts like the Las Brisas and the Camino Real Zaashila provide all one might need from a traveler's standpoint and small towns like La Crucecita and Santa Cruz have a more local, slow-paced feel. The weather is ideal with over 300+ days of sunshine and an eternal summer-like climate. Outdoor pursuits include snorkeling, surfing, eco-tours, waterfall hikes and more.

I bring up Huatulco because we'll eventually be checking out the resort. I had heard of Huatulco in the past as a gorgeous area - more upscale than traditional Mexican beach towns and much more laid back. The New York Times rightfully called it the anti-Cancun. Perhaps Americans aren't familiar with Hualtulco due to the limited amount of flights. Most flights come from Mexico City on Aeromexico while Continental Express offers a seasonal flight from Houston. Last-minute airline seats can be found even in the midst of spring break.

To get a more "personal" feel of what it's like to visit Huatulco, The Independent offers a wonderful 15 minute broadcast on Huatulco. It's definitely worth listening to.


More Tips on Staying Fit

I've mentioned before that I'm a big fan of Turbulence Training and Craig Ballantyne's articles in magazines such as Men's Health and Men's Fitness. This past weekend, I received his daily e-mail that shared some great tips on staying in shape when on the road...

From Craig:

Here are 7 tips to help you stay fit, not fat when it comes time for your spring break or next work trip.

1. It's up to you to pack good nutrition options for the road since it's almost impossible to eat right when you are stuck in airports.
Healthy, road-worthy snacks that you can pack in your bag include raw nuts, apples, pears, protein bars, and organic beef jerky.

2. Plan your business travel meals in advance if possible so that you can stick to daily nutrition totals. Airlines and hotels are more accommodating in meeting the special nutrition requirements of customers these days. Ask and you shall receive.

3. Find an adequate hotel gym or nearby fitness establishment so you can continue with your regular workouts. I hit the Honolulu 24-Hour Fitness location and didn't miss a workout. (Plus, I filmed a few new TT workout videos around the Island).

4. While your best option is to purchase a day-pass and go to a local gym for your TT workout, if there is no time, then hit the hotel gym or do a bodyweight TT workout in your room.

5. Schedule your workouts with as much dedication as you schedule your business meetings. Take advantage of whatever time slot is available during your travels for exercise. Training is another appointment that can also be used as an excuse to skip the unnecessary post-meeting cocktails and calories.

6. Travel with a "maintenance mindset". Stick to your plan and you'll return home without gaining any fat or losing any fitness.
Minimize the nutrition dangers of food, booze, and inactivity with a positive mindset. Holidays are not a license to binge.

7. Spend waiting time walking. If you are enduring a layover in an airport, walk around the airport if your schedule and surroundings permit. Don't be lazy!

For more travel workout options, get the Turbulence Training fat burning workouts:
==> http://www.turbulencetraining.com


What to Bring Home from BsAs

I wanted to start the day by including a quick post on shopping in Buenos Aires. No, not the type of shopping you might do along Florida or in some of the great shopping centers like Alto Palermo... rather, the fun and unique things you can find at some of the local markets that take place in Buenos Aires.

I'll keep this one short and simple... when heading to places like the antiques market at San Telmo, the weekend fair in Plaza Cortazar or the Feria Hippy in front of the Recolata Cemetery, here are the kinds of things to look for:

Jewelry - lots of handmade jewelry. From handblown glass penants and rings to intricate silver wire designs, you can find all types of inexpensive options. We found several great sellers at the weekend market in Recoleta and on Plaza Cortazar. I'm sure prices have gone up since our last trip but you'll still find them to be a steal.

Boxes - Boxes? Yes... what kind of boxes? Well, you have wood boxes with hammered metal decoration inlaid with precious stones, boxes carved from indigenous hardwoods and boxes with enameled bronze tops with indian-themed designs.

Wood - Speaking of wood, look for wood trays and serving platters used for traditional Argentine picadas (like the one below). Most are made out of gorgeous South American hardwoods. Palo santo wood is also used for greenish-tinted nativity scenes carved by indigenous tribes.

Leather - Well, not just any leather. Anyone can tell you about buying leather in Argentina. Be on the lookout for carpincho - a large water-loving rodent (below at the Buenos Aires zoo). Doesn't sound like what you have in mind? Well, get your hands on some carpincho leather and you'll see why it's worth seeking out.

Mate - Mate applies not only to the tea but also to the container used for drinking and sharing this ubiquitous potion. Options range from the basic mate to expensive silver masterpieces.

Gaucho souvenirs - Stirrups, facons, boleadoras, belts... the San Telmo antiques fare is a good place to look for gaucho gear. Some stores around BsAs also specialize in traditional items from around the country. Some are new while others are antiques or... "antiques".


Our Stay at the Cancun Palace

OK, then... let's put together a quick post on Cancun, namely reviewing the Cancun Palace. Here are my thoughts on the resort that we visited while in Cancun on a company trip.

First, would I recommend it? Yes, I would. It was completely renovated in 2007 and looks quite different than older pictures of The Cancun Palace. Gone is the Mexican-style resort - in it's place is a modern, sleek resort. Here is an idea of what it used to look like and here is the view from our 5th floor balcony - room 580 at the resort.

The rooms are nice and spacious and all include a hot tub. Other amenities include large showers, double sinks, modern furnishings, a fridge full of non-alcoholic drinks/beer and a liquor dispenser with Smirnoff, Dewar's and more. Yes, they'll refill it daily. All the rooms have a balcony although the ones on the side wings have larger balconies. End rooms have larger, more open balconies with unimpeded views of the Caribbean. Very nice. Some rooms on the lower floors either have obstructed views or face the pool. If possible, shoot for a higher room - you'll be glad you did. Oh, and make sure you face the ocean because there are lagoon view rooms - not the best choice, to be sure.

Now, onto the food - there are five restaurants to choose from... El Mercado (international), Leonardo (Italian), Frida (Mexican), Miyako ("oriental") and The Steak (uh... steak). For breakfast and lunch, El Mercado and Frida serve essentially the same thing although the buffet at El Mercado is superior - hands down. Both have outdoor seating but only El Mercado has indoor seating. I can't speak to their food for dinner. I never ate at Leonardo but our friends said they liked it. Miyako is Asian and not a great version although a nice enough place to eat. My wife's pad thai did not look like the pad thai I know and my shrimp in green curry was lacking in spice. Still, it was all serviceable and we were treated extremely well - the staff went out of their way. Never ate at The Steak but the atmosphere looked fantastic (see below).

Depending on your taste, the pool scene can get a bit loud. When facing the ocean, the pool scene to the left is rowdier with a DJ while the pool scene to the right is calmer. If you want a prime spot to lay out, "hold" your chair early by placing a towel and your book on the chair. People start doing it early. The jacuzzis (see above in the steak picture) weren't working so there weren't many people hanging out there. If you want peace and quiet, that's probably your best bet.

Inside the hotel, you'll find a great gym (one of the best we've seen at a resort - see above), tennis courts, a kids' club, a theater used for nightly entertainment (like a Michael Jackson show), a gift shop and jewelry store (both with reasonable prices), several tour desks and more. A centrally located lobby bar has nightly entertainment - live bands, karaoke, etc. The hotel spa is rather pricey but the treatments we enjoyed (and from what we heard from others) are quite good. The treatment rooms are nice but the common areas are very disappointing. Not like the stunning common areas at a resort like the Boca Resort.

What else... service, overall, was excellent. The rooms are cleaned twice a day. Despite being an all-inclusive, the staff generally provide quality drinks and don't skimp on the hard stuff. Everyone really made us feel welcome despite being one of 600+ guests. The beach is pretty much gone but there is a little strip of sand that runs along the hotels. Like I said... would I recommend the resort? Yes... it was a great stay.

Back from Cancun

We just got back from Cancun and I'll be posting my impressions of the trip, both good and bad, shortly. I've always said Cancun is one big American resort and this trip confirmed that. We also discovered the jewel that is the more "Mexican-like" Isla Mujeres - something I'll discuss more later.

However, I did want to say that in the Cancun airport, I spotted two people using the Sit and Stroll stroller. First impressions? Looks fantastic for the airport - a really convenient way to push the little one around the airport. That's the positive... now the negatives... it is awfully low to the ground and it looks like a terrible "city stroller". Good for the airport, bad outside the airport. Oh, and as many have said, it's not the best looking stroller out there either.


A Stunning Italian Island

I've been thinking a lot about beaches, islands and other sunny locales lately. Reading a book on the Greek Islands can't help - it's dangerous because it's taking my mind off of Santorini and making me think, but there are so many other islands to visit!? Okay... focus focus. Cancun isn't too far away... I need to stick to that for now.

At the same time, as we were sitting on the couch, an island I had once considered visiting (and still would like to visit) came to mind. Ponza. Located south of San Felice Circeo in the Lazio region of Italy, Ponza is the largest of the isole Pontine. Easily reachable via ferry, not only is it a stunning island - rocky and gorgeous like a Greek island - it's also full of history. It's the type of island that is well known to Italians but virtually unknown to Americans.

I can't say I can offer too much information on Ponza. My research on the island came on the heels of a trip to Sperlonga in 2004 (I'll eventually need to post something separate on Sperlonga). Whatever I dug up might be outdated... but I will say this - look up Ponza on your own . From everything I've heard and read, it is stunning. Besides, you could visit the island and be one of the few Americans around. While everyone you know talks about visiting Orlando or Cancun (ahem!?), you can talk about your visit to Ponza.

One hotel to look up is the four star, Gran Hotel Chiaia di Luna. Prices, even during high season, are much more reasonable than other beach hotels on European islands. Suites during high season are 225 Euros. A stunning beach is located below the hotel, reachable via a Roman tunnel. It would be my choice if heading to Ponza.