Monday, December 13, 2010

How A Lump of Clay — And One Man — Is Helping Mayans Reclaim Their Culture

 By Lisa Rogak | Thursday, December 9, 2010


Argentinian Agustin Villalba moved into a small Mayan village without running water or electricity six years ago. Today, an entire village is thriving because of his efforts.

Visit Riviera Maya or any of the small towns and villages south of the tourist mecca of Cancun, and it’s unlikely you’ll get a firsthand look at any traditional Mayan customs. Despite the fact that the region is named after a proud native people, the Mayan culture has been slowly dying for decades.

Rampant tourism growth — including the popularity of Mayan ruins throughout the region like Chichen Itza and Ek Balam — was partly to blame as people left their villages to work at resorts and tourist attractions to earn a lot more money.

Today, the decline is being reversed with a remarkable program where little kids in small Mayan villages are teaching gringos like me how to make traditional pottery.

And it’s all because of an Argentinian potter named Agustin Villalba.

When Villalba was in university he became fascinated by Mayan pottery. As part of his studies, he visited small Mexican villages to learn more about the people and craft, but was stunned to discover in many cases that he was more familiar with the craft of Mayan pottery than the natives themselves.

"In 10 years, if we didn’t do anything, the only thing left of Mayan culture would be the ruins," said Villalba.
He was determined to change all that by teaching Mayans in the small seaside village of Coba the craft of their ancestors, while also they also learned how to run their own business. In 2004, he set up a school to teach both kids and adults how to make traditional Mayan pottery that they could sell directly to tourists in a shop next to the pottery studio. And what better way to attract tourists in search of authentic Mayan experiences than to have kids teach them how to make pottery as well?

At first, the residents regarded Villalba as yet another gringo looking to make money off the Mayans. After all, most of the tourist attractions and hotels in Riviera Maya are owned by multinational corporations that are making money off the Mayan name, but little of it gets funneled to actual Mayans, except for the paltry paychecks of those who work in low-paid service positions at the resorts.

To win them over, Agustin moved into a hut without electricity or running water in a Mayan jungle village 25 kilometers outside of Coba. Before long, enrollment at the school grew from five students to 33, and his wife, Sophie, launched classes in Mayan embroidery and textiles at the school as well.

With the success of the program, Agustin joined with other Mayans to offer other authentic cultural experiences to tourists, including traditional dinners and performances of Mayan music and theatre through an organization called The Mayan Express.

From my perspective, it’s all working. Back in the studio, the kids are skilled beyond words, but they aren’t very successful at hiding their giggles at my ham-fisted attempts to turn a lump of clay into an ashtray or bowl, or at least something that doesn’t look like a misshapen rock. Soon, we’re all breaking out into laughter.

“We’re only re-introducing what they lost,” says Villalba. Indeed, he considers it the ultimate compliment when one of his tiny teachers says that he has a heart of clay.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Next Thursday begins the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival 2010... can't wait...

Each November, the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival provides us with 4 nights of excellent jazz, by world-famous artists. This year the jazz fest begins next Thursday, November 25th and runs through Sunday, November 28th.
 
The shows are free and open to the public. The event will be held at Mamita’s Beach Club, in Playa del Carmen.

For some great, free, fun under the stars, head over to Mamita’s Beach Club and enjoy the outdoor concerts. Each year, the jazz festival gets more popular, and more crowded. A sample of the cast for this year:

November, 25th.

Mike Stern

Mike Stern. In a career that spans three de-cades and a discography that includes more than a dozen eclectic and innovative re-cordings, six-time GRAMMY nominee Mike Stern has established himself as one of the premier jazz and jazz-fusion guitarists and composers of his generation.

Dave Weckl. Considered “one of the 25 best drummers of all time” by Modern Drummer’s Hall of Fame, Dave Weckl, an internationally renowned musician, began as a teenage pro-digy, escalating him into a celebrated 25 year career. Weckl’s cutting edge technique and innovative use of electric and acoustic drums caught the attention of Diana Ross, Robert Plant and Simon and Garfunkel for collabora-tive projects, leading him to launch a solo career and form the David Weckl Band, which released 5 albums and toured worldwide.

Ivan Lins. The smooth, romantic Brazilian beat that underlies much of contemporary jazz-pop in the United States has often originated with the music of Brazilian singer-songwriter Ivan Lins. A superstar in Brazil with a career stretching back to the classic era of bossa nova music, Lins gained fans in the United States and  Europe as he collaborated with urban contemporary greats George Benson and Quincy Jones in the 1980s and launched an independent American career.

November, 26th.

Troker. Very Mexican smelling Jazz, in the land of mariachi music, Troker presents itself as a band of progres-sive jazz, making always a crazy and original jazz-fusion on stage, there-fore to see them in concert is a unique experience.

Eldar Djangirov. Eldar came to the US from Kyrgyzstan in the former Soviet Union when he was nine. His first performance appearance in the US was at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan. He has performed at venues ranging from the Holly-wood Bowl to Carnegie Hall and has played at the most notable jazz venues in the world including Blue Note (NY, Japan, Italy), the Vanguard, Dizzy's, Yoshi's, Jazz Alley, etc.

Al Di Meola. Member of Chick Corea's group, Return to Forever, 1974-76; launched solo career; began touring and recording with Paco De Lucia and John McLaughlin, 1980; founded Al Di Meola Pro-ject, 1985; toured with Larry Coryell and Be-relli Lagrene as Super Guitar Trio, 1987; main-tained dual career as electric guitarist and acoustic guitarist, 1991; formed group World Sinfonia, featuring bandoneon player Dino Saluzzi, percussionist Arto Tuncboyaci, and guitarist Christopher Carrington, 1991.
Incognito

Incognito. An acid jazz project with sur-prisingly deep roots in the 1970s jazz/funk/fusion world, Incognito was originally formed by Jean-Paul Maunick (aka Bluey) and Paul "Tubbs" Williams. Both were lead-ers of the late-'70s disco-funk group Light of the World, who scored several moderate British hits, including a cover of "I Shot the Sheriff."

November, 27th.

George Duke. He has worked as a musician, composer and producer with Dizzy Gillespie, Kenny Dorham, French violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, Frank Zappa, Cannonball Adderley, Johnny "Guitar" Watson, fusion power-drummer Billy Cobham, virtuoso bass player Stanley Clarke, singer Al Jarreau, Brazilian instru-mentalist Raoul de Souza, Deniece Wi-lliams, Smokey Robinson, saxophonist George Howard, Miles Jaye, vocalist Diane Reeves, The Pointer Sisters, 101 North, Najee, Jeffrey Osborne, Take 6, Howard Hewett, Chante Moore, Everette Harp, Rachelle Ferrell and, most recently, Gladys Knight, Keith Washington, Filipino star Gary Valenciano, Johnny Gill and Anita Baker. Predictably, the energetic, unstoppable George Duke keeps moving from strength to strength, bringing inven-tion, dimension and texture to music that is alive with person-ality and rich with artistry.

John McLaughlin. The "4th Dimension" is a group that is the culmination of many years of collaboration with
different musicians from different cultures and musical traditions both eastern and western. The music of this group successfully integrates these and other cultural influences, while keeping the spontaneous tradi-tions found in Jazz music.
The Manhattan Transfer

The Manhattan Transfer.  A four-piece band with Tim Hauser, Janis Siegel (alto), Cheryl Bentyne (soprano) and Alan Paul (tenor), who found each other in a series of happy accidents What now, after so many years of suc-cess? Only time will tell of course, but the four singers continue to be partners and certainly an inspiration to all who hear them. Whatever it is, it'll be done as only the Manhattan Transfer can do it!

November, 28th

Yekina Pavon. Celebrating a career of nearly 35 years, Yekina Pavón has been recognized by the media as one of the best voices in Mexico.

Eugenia Leon. With a career of more than 30 years, she has recorded 24 albums. Her capacity to work, her imagination and per-formance quality have given memorable concerts at the most important venues in Mexico. She is appreciated nationally and interna-tionally for the strength, versatility and quality of her voice, as well as the elabo-rate cultural offerings to her proposal. She is therefore identified as one of the most recognized and representative Mexican singers.
Armando Manzanero

Armando Manzanero. Manzanero was born in the city of Merida, capital of Yucatan, Mexico, the birthplace of many songwriters and troubadours. Long way from there to the living legend, the songwriter, record producer from Grammy Award winners, he is well con-sidered as one of the leading exponents of Latin music and modern bolero. Manzanero is the essence, the same com-poser and author at the piano, his voice, gently whispers the lyrics of his songs, so intimate that anyone who hears them can sometimes imagine that they were written specially for them. "The best languages for love are songs" said Armando Man-zanero. Not surprisingly, to date he has written over 400 songs, 50 of which have gained international fame. In addition, his songs translated or not, have been performed by voices like those of Eddie Gorme, Johnny Mathis, Paul Muriat, Tony Bennet, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Ellis Regina, Andrea Bochelli, Il Divo and Placido Domingo.

No doubt this year the festival will be something to remember.

Friday, November 19, 2010

This next weekend: "Taste of Playa 2010"


Taste of Playa is an annual culinary event in Playa del Carmen that celebrates the creativity and cultural in­fluences of chefs throughout the Riviera Maya. The event promotes the unique culinary perspectives of local chefs, highlights new event venues and coordinates the efforts of local businesses and municipal governments.
In 2009, Taste of Playa captured the attention of national and international media and showed the spirit of multicultural cooperation that defines the modern Riviera Maya.

International culinary festivals are held throughout the world, with each host city highlighting the chefs, restaurants and retail food outlets that dene the culture of the area. Playa del Carmen is renowned for its diversity, its international infl­uences, its culinary expertise and its Caribbean lifestyle. The restaurants and food industry have played a major part in the development and definition of the Riviera Maya. This event provides local businesses with an opportunity to showcase the expertise of their talented chefs.

Famous for its pristine beaches, clear blue waters, and Caribbean lifestyle, Playa del Carmen is a place for those in search of an extraordinary vacation destination. The friendly people, the vibrant indigenous culture, and the remarkable biodiversity all contribute to a unique travel experience that will stay with visitors long after their suntan fades. Once a quiet seaside fishing village, Playa del Carmen has doubled its population in the past decade, attracting new residents from around the globe. Europeans, South Americans, Americans and Canadians have discovered this little slice of paradise, and have set up permanent homes as well as a myriad of internationally infl­uenced businesses.

The event location, Parque Fundadores, commemorates the Founders of Playa del Carmen and is a significant historical location within the city. Originally a community gathering spot where residents obtained their water, food and basic living essentials, this seaside location was the market hub for the then small village. As the population grew and the city expanded, the park evolved into a center for entertainment and events, with local businesses and vendors setting up shop around this central point. 

The event is scheduled for November 21, 2010. Local businesses and sponsors are supporting the operations of this food focused event, leaving chefs free to concentrate on the execution of their creations. Government and media support will promote this festival to local residents and tourists alike, inviting everyone to sample creations that normally they may not have the means or opportunity to enjoy.

Admission to Taste of Playa is free to the public with all inclusive VIP Passports and “Taste of Playa Pesos” available for sale. The Taste of Playa Pesos are used to purchase the signature dishes offered. Samples will have a value of 1 or 2 Taste of Playa Pesos (10 to 20 pesos in value). Taste of Playa Pesos and VIP Passports may be purchased at the event, ordered in advance or purchased online.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mexico’s Inch In The Field Of Tourism And Travel

 According to a recent World Tourism Organization study, Mexico gets the thumbs up as having some of the worlds favorite tourism spots. By 2005 Mexico was ranked seventh amongst all the global tourist destinations.

Even now, Mexico is the sole South American nation that will rank within the top twenty-five destinations in the world. There is also observation that the lower and middle class citizens in the country travel locally (domestic tourism) much more than the high-class few who travel outside the country.

The destinations that the upper classes of the Mexican citizens prefer traveling to include the United States and other European destinations. A good number of these same tourists also travel to Asia tourism spots just for some adventure. This is the reason why Mexico is ranked the 23rd largest spender when it comes to tourism related issues.

In the tourism industry, Mexico is therefore a respected name. If you are planning to go to Mexico, you should think about visiting the breath taking beaches and visit the Meso American ruins that have existed from ancient times.

Mexico is gifted with an enjoyable temperate weather. The rich culture is also an icing of the cake. The culture credits its origins from the mainly Spanish and Meso-American culture. The times of the year when you may want to be in Mexico are during the summer and through winter.

The activities and fun things to do keep improving and spring break events are many, more so during the final week before Easter. Many college students from the USA choose Mexico for the spring break.
In all of 2006, there was reported over 20 million tourists who came from nations abroad. The World Tourism Organization is the one behind this study.

The bulk of the tourists who flock Mexico are normally American or Canadian. The lesser numbers are from those who travel from surrounding Latin American countries.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Carlos Coste - Guinness Record Apnea in a Cave


Posted By Francesca Koe on Thursday Nov 4, 2010 in Freediving

Quintana Roo, Mexico -- Venezuelan champion freediver Carlos Coste has achieved a new Guinness record "The Longest Apnea in a Cave." Carlos achieved his new record apnea in an underwater cave with a linear swim of 150 meters dynamic, that took 2 minutes and :32 seconds to complete in the Cenote Dos Ojos.

Dos Ojos is a flooded cave system located south of Playa Del Carmen and north of Tulum, on the Caribbean coast, in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico. 

The exploration of Dos Ojos began in 1986 and to the extent that it has been documented underwater, it is at least 61 km long. Dos Ojos contains the deepest known cave passage in Quintana Roo with 118 meters / 396 feet of depth located at The Cenote Pit.

Carlos Coste World record Freediver in a Cave in Mexico 2010 from Dan Burton Photography on Vimeo.
Carlos Coste is a multiple record-holding freediver and boasts a seven minute breath-hold. Coste had been planning this cave dive for over three years, "I have been doing competitive diving for 10 years and this is by far the most bizarre run I have ever made."

Coste has a history of "firsts" as he became the first person to decend to more than 100m on a free immersion dive back in October of 2003, and this Guinness Record heralds the first time a freediving record was attempted in underwater caves. "To achieve this is a dream come true for me. I have been interested in speleology [the study of caves] since I was a little boy and to combine this with my profession as a freediver was amazing" said Coste.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Amazing Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos - the state's oldest natural port - is one of the Riviera Maya's ecoturistic paradises. To some extent, it has been able to preserve it's peaceful fishing village atmosphere, in the midst of big tourist developments. Its hotel zone (made up of nine deluxe hotels), its small hotels , its quiant inns, villas and campsites, combine to make the perfect formula for tourists looking to get away from the hustle and bustle and for retired expats who prefer the serenity of this place located 32 kms. (just over 20 miles) north of Playa del Carmen.

Puerto Morelos is protected  by the most important barrier reef in the Northern Hemisphere, which makes it ideal for enjoying water sports such as kayaking, windsurfing, snorkeling and scuba diving practiced outside of the reef in the National Marine Park spots like "Cuevones", "La Bocana", "El Túnel", "Los Jardines", "El Puente" and "La Pared".

At its "Alfredo Barrera Marin" Botanical Garden, the largest of its kind  (65 ha. or 160 acres) in the country - visitors can get to know the ornamental, medicinal, cacti, ferns and aquatic plants of the region, and come into contact with nature.

The garden also boasts a "chicle" or gum camp and a small archaeological site. Here it isn't uncommon to come across animals from the region like families of coatimundi or spider monkeys.

Other suggested activities for Puerto Morelos are a visit to the crocodile zoo, horseback riding, a visit to the town's small museum or Collective Handicraft Center, an ATV tour along the cenote route, a polo game, mauntain biking or just enjoying a sweet treat next to the town's landmark, the leaning lighthouse. In the past few years , Puerto Morelos has become a favorite destination for yoga and meditation groups. The area restaurants serve excellent regional, national and international food.

On certain occasions, festivals are held in the town's main square with local music as well as some featuring foreign musical artists.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Riviera Maya November Activities

 If you need more information about these events, please feel free to write to liliana@casaplayafina.com

 Life and Death Traditions Festival  
November 1st. & 2nd. 
This year the festival the is a real treat…trick or treat that is! Artistic and cultural activities where the Dearly Departed, offerings, rituals and oral traditions, culinary treats, theater, music and visual arts, handcrafts, children`s workshops and much more. Xcaret Park / Playa del Carmen

Investment Forum Riviera Maya. 
7th, 8th. & 9th
Toward a new era in the Riviera  Maya  Investment: diversification, sustentability, balance, respect.

French Film Festival in Playa del Carmen.  
13th. 
The best films of the year

Sprint Xel-Há Triathlon
14th.  
2nd. Xel- Natural Wonder of Mexico with the support of the Mexican Triathlon Federation, in coordination with the Youth and Sports Institution of the Municipality of Tulum and Cozumel, invite all triathletes, cyclists, swimmers and other great athletes to join this event. 

Golf PARa Todos (Golf for everyone)
14th. 
Aims to create a fun-filled, diverse and educational program that teaches about the game of golf and its ideals. Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen

Riviera Maya Jazz Festival
25th, 26th, 27th, 28, 29 & 30
International Jazz/ Playa del Carmen




Taste of Playa 2010
21th.
This is a culinary event in Playa del  Carmen that promotes the unique culinary perspectives of local chefs.


 
Think Green Expo
27th. & 28th. 
Explore the services and products available in Mexico to start or continue living an eco friendly lifestyle. 


 
United Nation Climate Change Conference - COP16
November 29th. to 10th. Dec 
Riviera Maya welcomes the delegates of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, observers, international officials, media representatives and participants from organized civil society. Mexico will encourage a plural and inclusive conference allowing for the building of understandings among Parties in order to face the global challenge of climate change.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cenotes The Sacred Waters of the Riviera Maya

The natural wonders of the Yucatan Peninsula are countless, but some of the most unique to the area are the cenotes. Cenotes are created by an underground river system and are fresh water sink holes that the Maya considered to be sacred.

In addition they were an incredibly important resource as a fresh water source, and the Mayans also believed they were the entrance to the underworld. Cenote, (say-NOH-tay) called dzonot (ZO-note) by the ancient Maya were defined by the Motul dictionary, a dictionary of Mayan hieroglyphics, as "abysmal and deep" or "hole filled with water".

Millions of years ago, the Yucatan Peninsula was covered by the ocean. Some 15,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age, the sea level descended approximately 250 feet.

For thousands of years, the porous land surface, formed by fossilized coral and limestone, has filtered rainwater, which dissolved parts of the subsoil. This process created a system formed by flooded underground rivers and caves. This phenomenon is truly unique, and makes up the largest network of caverns in the world.
Cenote Dzitnup, Valladolid, Yucatan
Cenotes are formed when the roof of a cavern collapses due to erosion. The level of the water also contributes to the creation of cenotes: if it is too low, it does not provide enough support, which causes the roof to weaken and cave in.

The depth of each cenote depends of the amount of natural debris that has accumulated through erosion in addition to the remains of the roof that collapsed. The water that gathers in these amazing natural wonders is a crystal clear turquoise color with a very pleasant temperature of 78°.

The stalactites and stalagmites that form inside the cenotes are true natural works of art. In many, holes in the ceiling allow the sunlight to filter into the cenotes, giving the scene a magical feeling. The cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula are a true natural gift that should be seen by all, but keep in mind that they should be protected so that they are here for generations to come. You can do your part in local conservation by not using any lotions, sunscreens, perfumes, or repellents prior to swimming in a cenote. Many cenotes provide showers that you can use to rinse off before going in.
There are four different types of cenotes - those that are completely underground, those that are semi-underground, those that are at land level like a lake or pond, and those that are open wells. Some of them are accessible for swimming and cave diving, some of them are not accessible at all, and some are actually dry cave systems that can be explored.

Sizes and shapes of the cenotes differ according to their location. Some cenotes have been found to hold quantities of ancient offerings and jewelry, apparently thrown in the depths by the Mayas who once inhabited the area.

Currently, an estimated six thousand cenotes have been found in the Mexican states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo. In the Riviera Maya, many cenotes have become famous, for their individual features offer different types of amusement for their visitors.

And remember..."take only memories and pictures leave only bubbles"
 
In most cases, cenotes offer basic facilities such as bathrooms, dressing rooms and parking. Entrance can run anywhere from free to 100.00 pesos depending on where you go.

Some of them...
  • Tres Bocas
  • Cristalino
  • Cenote Azul
  • El Jardin de Eden
  • Chemuyil
  • Dos Ojos
  • Yax Mul
  • Casa Cenote
  • Gran Cenote

Monday, October 18, 2010

'AUTHENTIC': MEXICO'S RIVIERA MAYA IS BEACH DESTINATION WITH CHARACTER - TRAVEL WRITERS MAGAZINE

By Karen Rubin

Authentic. That pretty much sums up what distinguishes the Riviera Maya - this glorious 81-mile stretch of Mexico from the charming Playa del Carmen south to the archeological wonder of Tulum.

Yes, the region has stunning beaches, luxurious resorts with swim-up bars and opulent spas, and all the amenities and activities globe-trotting tourists expect - especially of any that conjures up the "Riviera". But the Riviera Maya has managed to preserve its heritage, character and identity in such a way as to add tremendous dimension and interest even to the most casual vacation getaway. That's the "Maya" part.

And for a family holiday, the Riviera Maya offers all the fun of a tropical paradise with the mind-expanding experience of a different culture and country.

In this respect, the Riviera Maya represents a triumph of ecotourism - using cultural heritage and natural environment to lure tourism that in turn sustains and preserves cultural heritage and natural environment - for the benefit of native peoples and visitors, alike.

We had come to the Riviera Maya to participate in what is becoming an annual re-creation of the ancient Sacred Mayan Journey -an extraordinary opportunity to take part in ancient rituals and traditions and interact with modern-day Mayan people.

We soon realize there are many different ways to appreciate on a daily basis the cultural treasures of the Mayan civilization - ancient and modern - as well as the natural splendors.

This becomes clear within moments of our arrival at the Occidental Grand Xcaret Resort.

You enter an open-air two-story reception building with a giant thatch roof, the Caribbean sea breezes wafting through, and immediately notice on the lower tier that a small river runs through it. And then you peer out toward the sea to see in the distance the ruins of a Mayan temple.

As you explore the sprawling property, you come upon other archeological sites - a Spanish Colonial church from the 1600s, for example - and realize this place is very, very special, and has been for centuries. You immediately feel the most powerful connection with people who lived centuries ago.

The Occidental Grand Xcaret has done an incredible job of retaining its natural landscape, as well. The resort is a sprawling place with three-story hacienda-like villas tucked into jungle. Small bridges cross over tiny rivers and waterways that flow through the property. A shuttle - an open-air carriage like at DisneyWorld - regularly circulates the property if you choose not to walk.

As you walk (or ride on the shuttle) to your own building, you get some sense of how special this place is - there are deer, flamingos, macaws, monkeys, and other animals living on the property. You can walk through the densest part of the woods on a fairly rustic nature trail and come upon these animals.

I was struck by the obvious effort to keep everything natural, true to the place and its heritage, and we subsequently learn this is by design - the property is actually owned by the same company that owns and built Xcaret, the phenomenal eco-archeological park just next door, and gave the developer strict criteria of how many trees could be cut down, and so forth.

The result is staggeringly beautiful and extremely pleasing - delightful "treasures" and surprises you discover.
Meanwhile, there is ever manner of activity and amenity to enhance a resort-style vacation - from gorgeous free-form swimming pools (the volley ball and water polo nets are popular, as is the in-pool bar) - to miniature golf, tennis courts, an indoor fitness center, a sand beach lagoon, and even a Mayan-style "sauna" (like a sweat lodge). There are also those stunning four-poster double beds dramatically perched on cliffs overlooking the sea, that are so wonderful for honeymooners and other romantics.

There is an open air theater where there is nightly entertainment, a teen center, a supervised children's program (for ages 4-12) and "fun house", a lovely dining room that looks like a piazza, plus several other restaurants sprinkled around the property.

The Occidental is an all-inclusive hotel - and I am amazed at all that entails - everything from fantastic dining in a choice of restaurants serving a marvelous array, beer or wine, to unlimited drinks at the pool, to activities including children's club, fitness center, archery, plus scheduled activities, to nightly shows in an outside theater and at the Disco, even tax and gratuities.

What is more, the Occidental includes a ticket for admission to Xcaret, a world-class attraction comparable to Busch Gardens Tampa, that is literally next door to the resort, which you can pick up at the tour desk right in the lobby (where you can also arrange for just about every manner of adventure).

In fact, in late afternoon, you may be amazed to see a wooden canoe with Mayans in full feathers and regalia, float right into the resort lobby.

So, when we arrive from Cancun airport, about an hour's drive, knowing I had a fairly tight schedule for our time in the Riviera Maya, I take advantage of the free ticket to spend the afternoon at Xcaret, but you can easily spend two or more full days there (in fact, you can purchase a second day at half-price and return any day within a week).

Wasting no time, I take the delightful 10-minute stroll along a small "river", beside lovely hotel shops (really, really nice), and enter Xcaret. In the mornings (9 a.m. to noon), you can actually take a small boat ride into the park from the hotel lobby.

Read more
http://www.travelwritersmagazine.com/TravelFeaturesSyndicate/RivieraMaya.html

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hurricane Paula Glances Mexico, Eyes Cuba

Source: CBS News

Hurricane Paula roared off Mexico's top vacation resort of Cancun on Wednesday without immediate reports of major damage, and it was projected to veer into western Cuba's cigar-producing country.

The Category 2 storm, with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph, swiped at the island of Cozumel and Isla Mujeres overnight on a northward advance and was about 60 miles southeast of Cancun early Wednesday.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Paula was expected to shift to the northeast and weaken slightly on a course that would carry it into western Cuba by Wednesday night or early Thursday.

CBS News' Portia Siegelbaum reports that, as of Wednesday morning, no evactuations had been ordered in western Cuba. The top Communist Party official in the region was meeting with other authorities to discuss how to proceed. Siegelbaum reports that Cuba generally errs on the side of caution, evacuating all residents and livestock in the path of potentially damaging floods.

There were no immediate reports of major problems in Cancun or other resort areas. Quintana Roo state officials said they could guarantee the security of all 27,000 tourists currently in the state during the October off-season.

They ordered the evacuation of 1,500 residents of Isla Holbox and 60 fishermen from Isla Contoy. The evacuees were taken to the town of Kantunilkin on the mainland.

More than 1,800 tourists remained on Cozumel after authorities suspended all sea transportation. City officials said three shelters were available on the island but that only a family of six had arrived at one of them late Tuesday.

Quintana Roo state prosecutors said in a statement that a U.S. man drowned when he went swimming in heavy surf near his hotel. Mickey Goodwin, a 54-year-old Texas resident, ignored warnings and red flags alerting the dangerous waters, the statement said.

In Cancun, 15 flights were canceled Tuesday and seven international flights for Wednesday would be canceled, Cancun airport commander Jose Chavez said.

Dozens of boat owners in Cancun hauled yachts and other vessels to shore, while sea tour operators canceled reservations.

Armando Galmiche closed down his water-skiing tour business in Cancun and canceled 15 reservations he had for Tuesday afternoon.

"It's already low season for tourism and, with this hurricane, things are going to get worse," he said, lamenting the loss of revenue.

Along Cancun's popular strip of night clubs and discotheques, workers took down billboards and other large objects ahead of heavy winds.

Peter Bruin, a 25-year-old tourist from Rotterdam, the Netherlands, was taking a stroll along the city's hotel zone, unaware that a hurricane was heading to Cancun.

"I hadn't heard anything but I'm not afraid," Bruin said. "It will be my first hurricane experience."

Early Tuesday, heavy rains and high winds destroyed 19 homes in northeastern Honduras, said Lisandro Rosales, head of Honduras' emergency agency. Officials closed schools along the country's Atlantic coast and some airports were reported closed.

Early Wednesday, the hurricane was centered about 60 miles east-northeast of Cozumel, and about 100 miles southwest of the western tip of Cuba.

Paula earlier drenched Honduras, northern Belize, eastern portions of the Yucatan Peninsula and was expected to bring heavy rains to western and central Cuba.

Forecasters warned of possible flooding and landslides and suggested residents avoid fishing trips or water sports.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Rio Secreto, a unique experience

The discovery, development and start of operations of Rio Secreto represents a watershed in the history of tourism in Quintana Roo.

This natural reserve is a system of caves and a large underground river located 5 kilometers south of Playa del Carmen, and is without a doubt the longest non-flooded cave in the Yucatan Peninsula. The length of this underground  river makes it unique , but possibly its main and most beautiful characteristic is that this is a semi-flooded cave that can be covered fully by waking or swimming, without the need of specialized training, which is usually the case for cave exploring.

Rio Secreto will soon become into a destination as important as Tulum, Coba, Chichen-Itza or Xel-Ha, because of its special characteristics, its natural beauty, diversity and its strict standards of sustainable tourism.
"We have ben asked why this new destination does not have a Mayan name, and we say that we baptized it Rio Secreto (Secret River) because it is a river and because for thousands of years it was a well-kept secret for Quintana Roo residents and the millions of tourists that visit this prodigious land each year": Francisco Cordoba.

Small groups of six people can access the routes available and the ones being opened, joined  by two specialized guides: the main guide and the photographer-guide. This way visitor's safety is guaranteed, as well as keeping the visits as personal, magical experiences and ensuring that the beauty of this natural wonder can be passed down to future generations.

Also, Rio Secreto complements perfectly a visit to Tulum or Coba. Either the Tulum-Rio Secreto or the Coba-Rio Secreto packages are the best combination for people visiting Cancun or the Mayan Riviera, as a way of mixing natural and cultural experiences.

Rio Secreto is directed by Francisco Cordoba Lira, who has been the promoter, partner, creator and general director of Xel-Ha, Garrafon, Cañon del Sumidero, as well as partner and executive director of Xcaret. He is currently a partner at Delphinus and shareholder with Alltournative. Rio Secreto comes to complement the natural tourist offer in the Mexican Caribbean, offering one of the most magical, mystical, spiritual, cultural and adventurous experience that have been made in Quintana Roo.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Riviera Maya Activities, October 2010

If you need more information about these events, please feel free to write to liliana@casaplayafina.com

Fishing Season – All year
Barracuda, Wahoo, Tuna and Reef Fish

8th. Sea Turtle Festival - Whole month
From the eight type of sea turtles that exist in the world, seven nest in Mexican beaches and four of them are in Quintana Roo

Love Mexico,Wedding & Honeymoon Expo - Oct. 2nd.
Playa del Carmen

1st. International Art Festival - Oct. 7,8,9 &10th
This is a cultural party where international, national, regional, and local artists from more than 8 regions in the world will participate. You will enjoy a unique show, a varied and eclectic cultural proposal: theater, dancing, photography, music and clowns will be all over 5th. Avenue  / Playa del Carmen

5K Run“La 5ta. Avenida” - Oct. 10th.
Playa del Carmen

Riviera Maya Underground Film Festival - Oct. 13,14,15,16,17th. 
Meeting between audiovisual producers and filmmakers. At this international forum the creators will be able to exhibit their short films, the experts will emit their opinions and the assistants will learn important aspects of the cinematographic culture. / Playa del Carmen

Fishing Tournament “El Quintanarooense” - Oct. 15,16 & 17th.
Puerto Aventuras

Golf PARa Todos - Oct. 17th.
(Golf for everyone) Aims to create a fun-filled, diverse and educational program that teaches about the game of golf and its ideals.
/ Mayakoba, Playa del Carmen

Vitigourmet - Oct. 28,29 & 30th.
Meeting point between producers, distributors and professionals in the trade. / Cancun

Life and Death Traditions Festival - October 30&31, November 1&2
This year the festival the is a real treat…trick or treat that is! Artistic and cultural activities where the Dearly Departed, offerings, rituals and oral traditions, culinary treats, theater, music and visual arts, handcrafts, children`s workshops and much more. 
Xcaret Park / Playa del Carmen