PV: Paradise Village Marina – A Resort Vacation!

Early April, 2013 – After enjoying the wonderful outdoor market in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, we took a brief, hour-long sail aboard Groovy to Paradise Village Marina, where we were suddenly surrounded by all the comforts of shore-based living.  And and then some!

paradise village resort

Paradise Village Resort – What a Place!

sunrise at paradise village marina

Sunrise surrounds Groovy in its slip.

After five months of rolling around in small coves and bays, the luxury of Paradise Village Resort was totally over the top for us.

overlooking paradise village resort pools

Paradise Village “Dragon Pool” with the beach and bay beyond.

The marina sits in an estuary, and at sunrise the water is often like glass.  One morning we were blessed with a spectacular sunrise that embraced Groovy.

It felt really strange to be able to walk right off the boat and into a resort.  No mad dash through the surf to land the dinghy, and no salty and sandy feet when climbing back aboard.

The dinghy even began to gather dust in its spot hanging off the transom.

We began to wonder if what we were doing still qualified as “cruising.”

paradise vaillage hot tub crowd

The hot tube is a popular place.

Paradise Village Resort just begged for exploration.  Looking down from a balcony near the top of one of the buildings, we could see the “dragon pool” that has two water slides where squealing kids shoot out of the mouths of dragons.

palm tree and chairs at paradise village beach resort

There are rows of palapa-chairs on the beach by the bar.

Beyond the poolside chairs and palms, we could see the pier that marks the entrance to the marina channel and the beach and bay.

The hot tub looked really inviting from this balcony too, and we discovered that quite a few cruisers spent their evenings there after the sun went down.

Palapa and chairs at Paradise Village

Hey – we’re on vacation (from our vacation)!!

Out on the beach there are rows and rows of lounge chairs sitting under thatched umbrellas.

For a few days we ran around so much,  taking it all in and rejoicing at being able to live at a resort (how did THAT happen?), that we didn’t stop to take advantage of any of it.  We just took a million pictures and said “wow” over and over.

waterfall pool in puerto vallarta

The “Waterfall Pool” at Paradise Village.


But then we got down to the business of vacationing, like everyone else around us, and we spent an afternoon hanging out in those wonderfully inviting chairs.  Pretty darn nice!

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Gulls on the beach.

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A snowy egret comes in for a landing.

The other big pool at the Paradise Village beach resort is the “waterfall pool.”  Playing in the spray in this pool was fun, but what really got me excited was the fabulous shower in the spa.  For five months I had been dancing around in a phone booth for my daily shower, but not any longer.

nuevo vallarta beach kid

We just loved watching the kids play on this beach in the mornings.





The “ladies room” in the spa isn’t just a row of toilets.  It is a haven for women where all your weariness and cares of the day just melt away.

Beyond all the massage rooms, where the masseuses wear crisp white uniforms and the vacationers kick back in plush robes, there is a candle-lit hot-tub.

puerto vallarta kids playing on beach

Treasure hunting on the beach.

This darkened tub is surrounded by cushioned lounge chairs and glass vases filled with water and floating flower petals.  The air is thick and moist and sooo relaxing.  Oh my.

When I walked in, gentle, soothing, new age flute music wafted softly through the warm mist, and no one was there.  I submerged myself in the luxurious hot water and basked in that bubbling tub for what seemed like hours.

Once I was sufficiently relaxed, I contorting myself into all kinds of crazy positions in front of the jets to massage all my sore spots and bruises from the boating life.  Pure heaven!  Then I moved on to the immense shower.  Sigh.


sea kayak in waves

The tour boat operators struggled to get their boats off the beach sometimes.

The shower was made of fancy stone tile and was very spacious.  Three big dispensers were filled with sweetly scented, high quality shampoo, conditioner and body wash.  None of that one-bottle-does-it-all stuff here.

And the hot water just ran and ran and ran.  I emerged a long time later, quite pink and very wrinkled.

I was so excited about all this that after gushing about it to Mark for a while (he rolled his eyes a bit), I started going on and on about it to a neighbor down on the docks.

shipwreck on the beach puerto vallarta

A unique wooden cruising boat was beached in front of the resort.

She laughed as she listened to me and then informed me rather bluntly that we cruisers weren’t supposed to use the spa.  It was only for the highest paying resort guests.  Oh, man!  Really?!  I had been ready to move right in and stay forever.

One day, “Flying Dragon,” a very unusual wooden cruising boat, ran into trouble and grounded hard on the beach. All the cruisers from the marina ran down to the beach to see what was going on and try to help out.

shipwreck on the beach shovels nuevo vallarta

Taking a break from shoveling.

We discovered that it had beached the night before while coming into the marina, and as the day progressed, the community efforts to assist the folks on this boat grew and grew.

All kinds of ingenious tricks were employed to try and dislodge this boat.  Men began shoveling around it, then they used a torch to remove the rudder, and finally they drove a backhoe onto the beach to dig a trench around the boat.

At high tide a huge tug-of-war line of men stretched far out into the water and pulled the bow towards the bay.  After sunset the boat finally floated off and was able to limp into Marina Nuevo Vallarta across from Paradise Village Marina.

Mayan temple sand castle

An ancient Mayan temple in the sand…!





Paradise Village is very grand, and the theme at the resort is ancient Mayan culture and history.  Even down on the beach someone had built a Mayan temple sand castle.  Up at the resort, the arched doorways and windows have the classic tapered edges and flat tops of the ancient Mayan style.

Mayan temple window patterns

Mayan history is reflected throughout Paradise Village Resort.

Every building is named for one of the famous landmarks of the ancient world: Palenque (Mayan ruins in Chiapas Mexico), Tikal (Mayan ruins in Guatemala), and more.

People go cruising for all kinds of reasons, and one of our biggest goals was to learn first-hand about a foreign culture and its history.  In this third year of floating along Mexico’s coast we began to feel that we’d accomplished that goal.

When we first stayed at the Paradise Village Resort before Christmas last year, we knew nothing about the ancient ruins or cultures that are sprinkled throughout Mexico.  Our cruising had been strictly focused on coastal destinations.

Zapotec style stonework

A huge lintel at one of the resort entrances reminds us of the stonework at the Mitla ruins in Oaxaca.

Mayan Statue at paradise village marina

Mayan warrior.

Now we felt really grateful to have gotten off the boat and seen some of the wonders of the ancient world. As we looked around the resort now, we recognized the historic references to antiquity.

Last spring, we had crawled all over — and loved — the ruins at Palenque, Monte Alban, Yaxchilan and Bonampak.

The lintel over the huge stone arch at one of the resort entrances looked very much like the stonework we had seen at the Zapotec ruins of Mitla outside of Oaxaca City, and the statuary around the resort was reminiscent of the stone statues we had seen at Yaxchilan.

Jaguar Statue paradise village resort


Tiger face in the Paradise Village collection








Last year we had been alarmed by the roaring sound of the howler monkeys in the trees at Palenque, because we had thought the sound came from jaguars. Here at Paradise Village, the jaguar statue looked very fierce — but not nearly as intimidating as Diego, the Tiger-in-Residence at the resort.

Tiger at Paradise Village Resort - Diego

The tigers were both very regal.

Diego and his companion Daisy are part of the Paradise Village Bengal tiger program that has produced over 76 cubs from 9 females and 3 males since 1996.  We learned it is the most successful tiger breeding program in Mexico, and the cubs have been relocated to zoos all over Mexico and Latin America.

Exotic flora and fauna abound at the resort, and a collection of macaws and a cockatoo give the place a really jungly sound each morning and evening as they squawk and holler at each other and their caretakers.

There is a fun parrot show twice a week, and these guys are really amusing to watch!

military macaw on bike

A native military macaw prepares for the Tour de France.

Moluccan Cockatoo drinking from a hose

The Moluccan cockatoo gets a drink.










scarlet Macaw flapping his wings

The scarlet macaw went crazy during his shower every morning.

scarlet macaw shows off his colors

Joseph and his coat of many colors…

The olive green military macaws ride bikes, balance on balls, and do toddler-level exercises with jig-saw puzzle shapes and blocks. A blue and gold macaw roller skates, and the scarlet macaw and cockatoo pose with kids for photos afterwards.

Scarlet macaw takes a bath

He loved his bath as much as I loved that hot tub in the spa!

Their trainer has worked with them for many years, and it is one big happy family.  Every morning she brings out a hose to clean their cages, and they all take advantage of the water spray to get a bath and take a drink.

starbucks sign

Ahhh… a Venti Hazlenut Latte at last!!









The military macaws are the only native parrots in this flock, and their breeding program at the resort must be very successful, as there were ten or so of them, including a few loving (and squabbling) pairs.

We were enjoying our new resort life so much that the days just flew past.  Every imaginable convenience was within a few footsteps of the boat

latte swirls

This fancy latte was even better…

Down at the mall (there’s a mall!!), we found not only Subway, Domino’s and McDonalds (believe me, these are very appealing when you’ve been at anchor for a long time), but there was a Starbucks.

Ooooh that first Venti Hazlenut Latte was yummy. Better yet, another little coffee bistro nearby had fluffy coffees with pretty designs on top.

At first, we had planned to stay at Paradise Village Marina for a month or so.  Little did we know that our stay would stretch out to be longer than that!

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Costalegre: Manzanillo’s Las Hadas Resort – The Med in Mexico

sailing blog Zihuatanejo pangas on the beach

Pangas on the beach in Zihuatanejo.

Early March, 2013 – We were loving Zihuatanejo‘s wonderful, relaxed, laid-back atmosphere, and we took many leisurely strolls along the waterfront. It was impossible to walk anywhere without snapping a few pics.

One afternoon a couple on inflatable kayaks paddled out to Groovy and we discovered they were future cruisers who were outfitting their Catalina 34 Aussie Rules for a voyage from Vancouver Island through Mexico to Australia two years from now.

sailing blog Zihuatanejo palm trees and pangas

Palm trees lean out over the beach.

We remember being in their shoes in San Diego and the Caribbean a few years back, longing to meet active cruisers who could tell us what the lifestyle was like.  We welcomed Rose and Dave aboard, gave them a quick tour and had a lively conversation about cruising.

sail blog sailing groovy with friends

“Aussie Rules” captain Dave steers Groovy on a windy romp.

Dave is an Aussie who grew up sailing Down Under, and he and Rose fell in love when the two of them were fierce rivals in the sailboat racing circuit on Okanagan Lake in British Columbia. We could tell they were both itching to get out for a sail to cap off their Zihuatanejo vacation, so we invited them back to Groovy for a daysail with us a few days later.

sailing blog Crepuscular rays outside Zihuatanejo

Sunrays spray the sea from the clouds.

The wind gods showed up on cue and gave us a wonderful, brisk ride. Dave was completely in his element as Groovy leaned into the waves, and he was ear-to-ear smiles at the helm. We are looking forward to following their voyage in a few years!!

It was time for our own voyage to continue, however, so after seeing them off, we pointed the bow north from Isla Ixtapa and made our way to Manzanillo 29 hours (190 miles) away. On the morning of our departure we sailed under beautiful, brooding clouds and sun rays.

sailing blog Lazaro Cardenas see from the sea

Lazaro Cardenas is one big industrial port!

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The sun sets off the bow of Groovy on our way to Manzanillo.

The huge oil refinery at Lázaro Cardenas made quite an impressive sight as we slipped past a mile offshore.

Happy to put all that industry behind us, we watched a colorful sunset off our bow and settled in for one of our last overnight sails for the season.

A recent armed robbery aboard an anchored cruising catamaran in Caleta de Campos (halfway between Zihuatanejo and Manzanillo) made us cautious as we snuck past in the night.  We detoured slightly further out to sea and passed without mishap.

mexico sailing blog sunset at sea

The sun goes down in a burst of color.

This had been the first incident of its kind that we know of in Mexico, and it is being taken very seriously by the authorities. The catamaran’s owners were seasoned Mexico cruisers and were known for their fun Playboy antics at the Baja Ha-Ha cruisers rally in 2010 (near top of page). In contrast, armed attacks on cruisers are quite common in many Caribbean countries.

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The sun sneaks above the horizon behind us and Mark pops up to say “hi”

Next morning we caught the sunrise at about the same position on the horizon as the previous night’s sunset, but this time at the other end of the boat! As you can see, along this stretch of coast the direction of travel is predominantly east-west.

When we finally pulled into the sweet anchorage in front of the Las Hadas resort, it was like being given a second sunrise for the day.

Las Hadas is unique and utterly charming. Filled with fairy-tale turrets and gargoyles, arches and palm trees, it was a pleasure to sit in the cockpit and take in the view while Groovy gently swung this way and that.

sailing blog Las Hadas Resort manzanillo mexico

Las Hadas (“The Fairies”) Resort – right out of a fairy tale.


The cove is very small, and condos and villas cover the hillsides, hugging the anchored boats in a close embrace.

The white-washed architecture, bright green palm trees and true blue sky combine to make a beautiful backdrop.  What’s best is that all the properties that flank one side of the anchorage are filled with vibrant magenta bougainvillea flowers.

sailing blog Las Hadas anchorage manzanillo mexico

Our boats seem to be anchored in a flower garden.



Standing out on the breakwater on the opposite side and looking back across the tiny cove, it seemed as though all our boats were anchored in a brilliant garden of palm trees and pink flowers.

Even though we have been here several times before, each time we arrive we are enchanted once again.  The colors are so vivid, the buildings are so fanciful and the whole area is so lovingly maintained.

sail blog las hadas resort anchorage manzanillo mexico

This tiny cove is such a picturesque spot to drop the hook for a while.

sail blog Las Hadas Resort manzanillo mexico

Curvy palms.

sail blog Las Hadas Resort rope bridge manzanillo mexico

A wonderful rope bridge crosses between the pools.

sail blog Las Hadas Resort pools manzanillo mexico

What a spot!

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Double arches and cobblestones – such fanciful architecture.



















We wandered happily all over the resort, as excited to be walking its little cobbled paths today as we were the first time three years earlier.

sail blog las hadas arches manzanillo mexico

Arches everywhere…

Las Hadas palms manzanillo mexico

The pretty archways, royal blue swimming pools and soaring palm trees inspire the imagination.

sail blog sailboat wreck las hadas manzanillo

A fallen comarade – we never got the full story behind this odd sight.

sail blog Las Hadas Resort architecture manzanillo mexico

Private pools and cabanas and courtyards everywhere…








Out on the pier we found a toppled over sailboat with broken rigging that was in dire need of a bottom job. It was unclear how it came to be lying there. It looked very forlorn, with tall grasses growing around it.

A mystical air envelops this whole resort, and there is an element of fantasy to it all. The architecture is truly whimsical, with towers, sculptures, curving stone paths, and rotundas at every turn.

We needed to get through the resort to the main road to do some errands, but it was hard not to get sidetracked and wander off down all the inviting little pathways.

sail blog Las Hadas anchorage

First light in Las Hadas…


One morning we hustled ashore before the sun had risen to try to capture the Mediterranean looking cascade of villas in the morning light. We climbed high on the hill on the opposite side and found a tiny peek-a-boo lookout through some chainlink construction fencing where we could catch the view.

cruising blog Stone stairway las hadas

An intriguing stone stairway.

While we were in Manzanillo we began experimenting with various post-processing photo techniques. Mark downloaded PhotoMatix which creates intriguing effects. First you take three identical photos at different exposure settings and then you feed them through this software which takes the most vivid colors from each image and creates a composite merged “painting.”

cruising blog las hadas docks HDR

Down on the docks – PhotoMatix software.

Another technique is Nikon’s “color sketch,” a menu option within the camera that takes a photo and creates a colored sketch from it.

cruising blog Las Hadas docks color sketch

Down on the docks
Nikon’s “color sketch” button.

cruising blog Colorful clay bowls mexico

Mark found a vendor selling colorful clay bowls.







cruising blog Bronze sculpture Las Hadas

Las Hadas has some interesting art work and sculptures.

This was all great artsy fun, and we were loving our walks around this stunning little oasis. Every way we turned there was another beautiful image that begged for attention.

cruising blog sailboat at anchor las hadas manzanillo mexico

Groovy turns heads – ours at least!!

Unusual sculptures and accent pieces caught Mark’s eye, and then he was drawn to the colorful clay bowls sold by a pottery vendor on a folding table.

Meanwhile I wandered down to the beach and took portraits of the Groovy boat framed by palm fronds.

It was hard to call an end to all this, but we finally hauled up the anchor and made our way around the corner to Santiago Bay where every morning was kick-started with a spectacular sunrise.

Note: to see the location of Zihuatanejo and Manzanillo on a map, check the first image on Mexico Maps and another halfway down that page.



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Huatulco – Las Palmas Villas on picturesque Playa Violin – Gorgeous!

Late January, 2013 – After seeing the beautiful beach house, Villa Escondida at Playa La Bocana, we had the good fortune to spend more time at the dazzling resort of Las Palmas. The Gulf of Tehuantepec had gotten into a particularly unpleasant mood lately, and life aboard Groovy at anchor in Santa Cruz Bay had become a struggle to hang on for dear life as we lurched about in the rolling waves.  Bruises showed up on our arms and legs in the craziest places, coffee cups went flying periodically, and dishes in the microwave did drunken dances as the carousel spun them around.  Groovy was taking us for wild rides – at anchor!

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Las Palmas – Just Stunning!!!

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

A romantic spot by one of the pools.

Our new friends at Las Palmas graciously invited us up for a little more time off the boat. What a magnificent place to regain our balance and get our shore legs back!  It was truly divine to kick back in a lounge chair poolside.  Of course those shore legs took a while to return.  Going into small spaces like a showers and bathrooms, everything seemed to spin like a whirligig.  Staggering around the resort, we grabbed doorways and walls so we wouldn’t fall over!

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

The outdoor breakfast nook…

But the world stopped spinning after a little while, and what utterly awesome beauty surrounded us at Las Palmas.  It is a place that is made up of one spectacular view after another. Mark and I nearly wore out our cameras, because we could barely take a step anywhere without seeing yet another image that knocked our socks off.

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

President of Paradise

The owner, Ron, signs his emails, “The President of Paradise,” and it’s the perfect title. High up on a hill, surrounded by lovingly nurtured palm trees and tropical flowers, with majestic views all around, it really is paradise.

A “color sketch” image I created on my camera from a photo of one of the casita doorways had an almost Mediterranean look.

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Nikon’s “color sketch” gives it a Mediterranean look.

But the climate here isn’t Mediterranean. It’s hot hot hot, and frequent dips in the pool are a must (oh, darn!).

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Sunset lights up some flowers on a roof deck.

As sunset fell one evening, Ron led us up onto one of the many rooftop terraces.

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The climate keeps you jumping in the pool… what a shame!

We stood there with a group of other guests and watched the most dramatic sunset unfold before us.

Down in the bay aboard Groovy we had been missing the sunsets because a row of tall hills blocked much of the western horizon. Up here, however, nothing was blocking anything, and we stood in a row in our bare feet and wet bathing suits, gawking at nature’s incredible colors.

Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

This sunset was a jaw-dropper for everyone standing with us on the roof deck…

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Life at Las Palmas is pretty relaxed. Almost every room of every house opens onto a balcony or terrace or large deck, and you wander deliciously from indoors to outdoors, from living room to swimming pool, from kitchen to pool bar without taking more than a few steps.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Looking back towards Santa Cruz Bay where Groovy waited patiently








Las Palmas Huatulco Mexico sail blog

A rowboat on windswept Barra de la Cruz.

The views sweep both eastward towards town and westward towards Huatulco’s outer bays, depending on where you stand. And every part of the resort is easily accessed by short paths and a few stairs here and there, making you feel like the whole property is your own personal estate.

Barra Huatulco Mexico sailing blog


One afternoon Ron took us on a road trip out to Barra de la Cruz, a long, windswept beach that is a local favorite for surfing. We had thought the surf would be up, because a Tehuantepecker was still blowing ferociously, but the waves were actually small and confused that day.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Cactus are friends with the ocean all along Mexico’s Pacific coast.

However, the beach was lovely to stroll on, and we had fun posing and playing with a few props we found along the way.

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Playa Violin – clear and inviting.

Back at Las Palmas, we took a morning walk one day down to Playa Violin, the beach that fills the majority of the views from the resort’s hilltop spot.  The path in the woods peaks out at the beach here and there.


Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Craggy rocks line the shores of Playa Violin.

The surprising thing about all of Mexico’s Pacific coast is that cactus grows everywhere. Cactus and the ocean don’t seem like they’d be close companions, but very often they are.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

A corner of the beach at Playa VIolin.

The water was particularly blue and clear that morning, so we rushed down to the beach with snorkeling gear to see who we could meet up with in the ocean.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Fish swim just below the surface.



Playa Violin is small beach tucked into the end of a narrow cove that is hugged on each side by steep cliffs. It would be an ideal anchorage, except these rock walls extend out into the water, crowding out the little bit of sand that is in the middle of the bay, and robbing boats of any possible swing room at anchor.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

The fish were abundant.


The rocks form wonderful canyons underwater, however, and the fish are plentiful. We didn’t see any exotic big guys like rays or turtles, but the huge schools of small fish were abundant.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Some wildflowers lured Mark off the path.

Nearby we found some beautiful flowers in bloom. Of course, Mark loves taking wildflower photos, so he was delighted to discover a few exotic ones he didn’t recognize and then he saw the familiar Regina which we first learned about at the beautiful orchards of Hagia Sofia.

Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico sailing blog Playa Violin Huatulco Mexico cruising blog regina

When we first arrived in Huatulco the day after Halloween, we thought we might stay a few weeks. But this is a place that grabs your heart and doesn’t let go. We had heard a saying from some of our local friends that if you eat iguana in Huatulco you will never leave. Well, we hadn’t tried iguana yet, but it didn’t seem to matter. Leaving was something we just didn’t want to do!!

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Huatulco’s Villa Escondida – A beach bonfire with new friends

Playa La Bocana Huatulco sailing blog

Surf at Playa La Bocana

Late January, 2013 – Huatulco is a small community where people not only run around in crazy vehicles designed for short hops on small roads, but where visitors and residents easily become friends. Every time we landed at the dinghy dock, the guard Antonio would call out, “Groovy, Groovy!” and a chorus of friendly greetings from the tour boat operators and other people around the docks would follow as we emerged onto the streets.

Surfing Playa La Bocana Huatulco sailing Mexico blog

Playa La Bocana is a favorite surf beach








Surfing Playa La Bocana Huatulco sailing Mexico blog

Hang on!!

We ended up chatting with the many street vendors day after day, practicing our Spanish and learning a little about them. And whenever we went to “The Ché” (Huatulco’s sole supermarket), we invariably bumped into someone we had recently come to know.

It seems that everyone who visits Huatulco quickly agrees it is an unsung paradise worthy of frequent return visits. The winter residents are a tight knit group too, and suddenly we had a new circle of friends from the US and Canada who had vacation homes here.

Surfing Playa La Bocana Huatulco sailing Mexico blog





We’ve found that most Huatulco tourists have vacationed for years in other more well-known parts of Mexico before discovering this quiet jewel. We spent many happy hours chatting with very well traveled folks from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico City and Europe.

Villa Escondida La Bocana Huatulco sailing Mexico blog

Entering Villa Escondida



I hadn’t realized it at first, but my various blog posts about our wonderful experiences in Huatulco had developed a little bit of a local following. Online sharing travels quickly, and without intending to, my pics and stories had garnered interest from many of the good people that have invested in Huatulco and want to see good vibes about it advertised in an understated, “word of mouth” way. Writing strictly from the heart — as I always have — about our many fun escapades here, I discovered I was inadvertently helping their cause.

Villa Escondida Playa La Bocana Huatulco cruising Mexico blog

There are huge views to the beach from every room.


Out of the blue, we received an email message from the people at MyHuatulcoVacation.com (which we later discovered is a local vacation property rental company). The email invited us to meet up with their team at one of the properties they represent to share a dinner and a beach bonfire together at Playa La Bocana.

Now, mind you, we’ve received our fair share of emails from lottery winning Nigerian chieftains that are dying to give us a portion of their winnings if we’ll just mail them a certified check for ten grand.

Playa La Bocana Villa Escondida Huatulco cruising Mexico blog

Views from Villa Escondida hang like paintings on the wall.

But this was different. For one thing, the email message didn’t have any spelling mistakes or that wacky English grammar typical of those Nigerian internet pranksters. Better yet, all we had to do was show up at Villa Escondida on Playa La Bocana.

We love La Bocana’s stunning, windswept, rugged surf beach, where nature plays with a raw kind of wildness and abandon. So what a thrill it was to to be entertained at a gorgeous beach house we had admired from a distance on our previous visits.

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View from up top.

Stately and grand, with pillars, pools and views, this beautiful house sits right on the beach where the surf pounds with a mesmerizing roar, almost within arm’s reach. Mark and I rushed straight up to the roof deck to check out the views.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Playa La Bocana sail Mexico blog

Awesome views from the roof deck.

Loads of surfers were riding the waves, as the Gulf of Tehuantepec had been blowing with enthusiasm for a while. As we watched the surfers, our cameras clicked in unison. We soon realized the hot bikini clad girls had it all over the boys when it came to skill and survival in the waves, and we laughed as we said to each other, “It’s her! She’s up! Get it, get it!!.” The surfers flirted tirelessly with the unruly waves.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Playa La Bocana sail Mexico blog

Villa Escondida sits right on the beach.

Our hosts turned out to be a collection of fun-loving people that had arranged for a gourmet dinner to be served on fine linens and beautiful tableware overlooking the beach from the home’s breezy dining room. The occasion was a farewell feast for their Canadian contingent that had visited for ten days and was headed home the next day. With quiet grace, our chef announced and brought out course after course to the table, while the sun disappeared into the blackening sea just beyond the open windows.

View from Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Dinner in this dining room was exceptional

Exchanging wide-eyed glances, Mark and I kept secretly thinking about those microwaved bean burritos we would have otherwise  been having on the boat. Going from a sumptuous squash soup to an elaborately prepared quesadilla dish to a phenomenal main course that disappeared so quickly and went down so well I that have no idea what it was — except that it was awesome — all made us wonder if anyone at the table really knew just how down-and-dirty a cruiser’s lifestyle is…blogs be darned.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Villa Escondida

Vacationing in Huatulco can be glamorous: staying in a luxury property, dining on the finest foods, and taking a brief barefoot evening stroll in the sand while wearing an elegant dress and carrying a glass of expensive wine. Our companions for this evening were truly devoted to making those kinds of heavenly, tropical, dream vacations come true, and we were savoring a taste of what that is like.

Window View Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Pretty views…

But there is little of that kind of glamor living on a boat!! For us, most days bring the same old food from the same old chefs wearing rather tired clothes!! What a shock it was to be invited to stay in the honeymoon suite at this house, where the doors open onto a deck above the beach, the shower is as large as our stateroom, and plush, lily white robes awaited us after we bathed.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

Beachside pool

Down on the beach, the bonfire went late into the night. Despite coming to Huatulco with two different perspectives — ours as two tourists on a boat loving the place and theirs as a group of business people seeking to give tourists the most pleasurable vacation experiences possible — we found we had a lot in common. For starters, like most people who have lived and traveled extensively in Mexico, we had all come to love Mexicans and being in Mexico.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Elegant and grand…

Our conversation ranged far and wide about how we’ve learned a new set of values by spending time here. The local people we have met value their family, friends and community in a way that many of us from more developed western nations have forgotten. The prize at the end of the rat race isn’t as eagerly sought after here, which gives everyone more time and energy to enjoy simply being themselves, rather than working so hard to be something else.

Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

As ex-pats living much of our lives in Mexico (and, for our hosts Judy and Valerie, running a business here), we have also each taken a big leap of faith to try a new lifestyle in a foreign country. Following your heart and pursuing your dreams is fulfilling in a way that nothing else can be.

Beach chairs Playa La Bocana Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico sailing blog

A great place for relaxing…

Yet it requires a degree of fearlessness to take that plunge. And then there’s the big dose of life lessons waiting for you when you splash back to the surface and sputter with mixed terror and glee: “What the heck did I just do?” We had all experienced both the immense satisfaction of living our dreams as well as that occasional deer-in-the-headlights shock of trying to square the dream with reality.

Beach bonfire Villa Escondida Huatulco Mexico cruising blog

Our beach bonfire went long into the night.




The sun rose in spectacular shades of orange the next morning, lighting up the beach in a burst of color. Mark and I took reams of photos while the fishing boats and seabirds puttered across the blue and orange waves.

Sunrise Playa La Bocana Huatulco Mexico sail blog

Sunrise view from the deck of Villa Escondida

Judy and Valerie, the key MyHuatulcoVacation.com team members, had to run off early to tour yet another luxury vacation property (what a job they’ve created for themselves!), while Mark and I lingered at Playa La Bocana, soaking in the morning air as the beach slowly came to life.

It had been a night and morning to remember, and the beauty of the place and our lively late night conversation with new friends enveloped us in a warm feeling of contentment. In all our travels, truly our best adventures have been the ones that came looking for us.  How very cool and surprising it was to have this one seek us out online.

The Tropical Resort Vacation Gods kept watch over us a while longer, and suddenly we found ourselves back at Las Palmas Villas resort (which turned out to be another one of the gorgeous luxury vacation properties that MyHuatulcoVacation.com represents).  What incredibly good fortune… We were on quite a roll!!!


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PV: Paradise Village – The Lap of Luxury

Two of Carlos Slim's three megayachts, "Tulley" and "Ostar," at Marina de La Paz.

Mariachis cap a perfect evening.

Waiting out a Norther in Bahía Falsa.

Clipped in while crossing the Sea of Cortez.

Coconut palms!

Banana trees!

Wendy grinds his yummy

French Roast.

Welcome to Paradise.

One of the swimming pools.

Eggs Benedict or Huevos Rancheros?

Grady the Cockatoo says "¡Hola!"

Tiger mom.

The Welcome Event was a colorful spectacle.

Future Flamenco dancers.

Baja Ha-Ha mothership Profligate

Crocodile Zone!

Iguana sunning himself.

Wild coatimundi in the grass near a bus stop.

Beach chairs at Paradise Village.

Paradise Village.

Playing in the surf.

Cartwheels: the essence of

little girlhood on the beach.

A snowy egret high-steps it out of

the waves.

Vallarta Yacht Club.

Bougainvillea on the docks.

This place gets a grip on you.

Paradise Village

Late November/Early December, 2011 - We returned to La Paz from

the nearby anchorages to find ourselves suddenly caught up in the

lives of the rich and famous.  Two megayachts were parked at Marina

de La Paz: the 140' Tulley and the 182' Ostar. Both belong to the

world's richest man, Carlos Slim (his other 200+ foot megayacht is in

the Caribbean!).  Excitement filled the air the day Carlos arrived.

"Which one is he?" I asked as the entourage appeared.  "The one with

the sunglasses." "But they all have sunglasses!"

A friend of ours is the captain of a neighboring megayacht, and he

invited us to his birthday party along with his buddy, the captain of

Ostar and his wife (who is also a captain but is currently enjoying the

high life on Ostar instead).  Wow.  How often do you get to peak in the

door of the world of the ultra rich?  The stories these captains could

tell -- but can't due to contracts they've signed!  The wine flowed, the

food was divine and above it all the music of the mariachi singers soared.

Out in Bahía Falsa a few days later, Mark played mellower tunes on his

guitar as we waited out a series of Northers that were blasting down the

Sea of Cortez.  This was the ideal location to sit out these vicious storms.

We had tolerable winds and flat seas in our safe little nook, but the radio

crackled with chatter as one unattended boat dragged into another back in

the main La Paz anchorage.  Helpful cruisers around the anchorage

located the owner of one of the boats in the US and relayed messages

from him to get the combination to the padlock, the location of the ignition

key, and the location of the battery switch for the anchor windlass.

It pays to wait for

a good weather

window when

crossing the Sea

of Cortez, and

we got the perfect slot.  We romped along close-hauled for 15 hours

at a blistering 7.5 knots and we motor-sailed the rest of the way,

zipping from Los Frailes to La Cruz five hours faster than we'd

planned.  The seas were calm and the wind was warm on our faces,

and when we weren't on watch we each slept well.  What an

incredible contrast to last year's roller coaster ride from hell on these

same waters where the teapot took a nosedive right off the stove and

the waves bore down on us like frothing beasts hissing at us from

above.  Now we realize we crossed during a Norther last year.

The downside to our lickety-split speed was that it put us in port in the

wee hours of the morning in the pitch black.  Fortunately, we knew the

La Cruz anchorage from last spring, but the twelve mile approach was

littered with small fishing pangas.  Mark kept his eyes glued to what he

could see of the horizon through the binoculars while mine were glued to

the radar.  The pangas kept materializing out of nowhere.  They would

flash their flashlights at us frantically as we drew near and we'd flash

ours back to let them know we'd seen them.

We got the anchor down without a hitch,

43 hours after leaving Los Frailes, and

fell asleep almost before our heads hit

the pillow.  Next morning as we

wandered around La Cruz it slowly sank

in that we were no longer in desert of

Baja California any more.  We were in the lush, verdant, moist

tropics.  The palm trees sported coconuts and the bananas

were thick on the trees.

The most important stop for us in La Cruz was at Garleria

Huichol in Octopus's Garden where a Frenchman named

Wendy roasts the most delicious French Roast coffee.  We

stocked up and enjoyed a cup under the shade of a

cuastecomate tree.

The real reason we crossed the Sea to Banderas Bay (home of Puerto Vallarta) was to treat

ourselves to an early Christmas present with a stay at the incomparable Paradise Village

Marina.  It is just a few miles from La Cruz, and we waited until we were fully rested from our

crossing before we headed over so we could make the most of every minute of our stay.  As we

tied up at the dock a neighbor came over to greet us.  "Are you here for good?"  He asked.  I

hesitated, puzzled.  "Um, no, just five days… Are you here for good?"  "Oh yeah!"  Then we

discovered another neighbor had just signed up for his fifth year.  As soon as we started walking

around the resort we began to understand why these guys weren't leaving.  It's that nice.

Paradise Village is a huge complex of hotels, shops, villas, condos,

marina, golf course, beach, pools, spa and hot tubs located in Nuevo

Vallarta some 10 miles from downtown Puerto Vallarta.

The grounds are lavish, and lush, the dining areas are elegant, the

pools have a view of the expansive beach, and the spa can deliver

every possible body treatment you could dream of.

To keep the kids happy there is a building where vacationing

parents can drop them off for a day of supervised activities, and to

keep everyone happy there is a mall with all the favorite fast food

eateries from McDonalds to Starbucks.

After two months of living on the hook in a salty,

rolling home, I was dumbstruck when I went into the

women's showers in the spa and discovered a

candle-lit hot tub waiting for me.  And boy, was I

ever clean when I finally emerged!

In the mornings the eager joggers ran around the

extensive grounds and up and down the miles long

beach.  In the evenings couples strolled the paths hand in hand under the

stars.  A small flock of macaws and a cockatoo added a tropical note to the air

with their raucous cries, and a pair of tigers in the middle of it all nursed a pair

of month-old cubs, the latest two of 76 that have been raised at the resort.

When we checked into the marina we were told

there was a "Welcome Event" that night with free

food and drinks at the amphitheater.  What a

surprise to find rows of margaritas, piña coladas

and rum punches next to endless platters of finger

food and a huge crowd of vacationers taking seats

in front of an outdoor stage!

An emcee appeared and the colorful

show burst into action with all kinds

of dancing, audience participation

games and laughter.

We were treated to a special show

right in front of our seats as a little

girl and boy did their own dance


The marina has a cool layout

where all the boats are lined up

against the shoreline as it curves

along an estuary.

We took the kayak out one day

to explore the estuary a little

further, and were shocked to find

that our friends on Ostar had

followed us from La Paz and

parked at the end of the dock.

They must have liked our Groovy

travel plans.

Another boat in residence was

Profligate, the catamaran

mothership of the Baja Ha-Ha

cruising rally that takes boaters from

San Diego to Cabo San Lucas each fall.

Unfortunately its owners had returned

to the US and it was closed up tight.

Paddling down the estuary we passed many beautiful boats sitting out

in front of equally beautiful homes.  Eventually we passed under a

bridge and turned away from civilization into the crocodile zone.

We didn't see any crocodiles but there were lots of exotic birds in the

trees and quite a few iguanas sunning themselves.

Unusual animals seemed to be the theme at

Paradise Village.  Even when we took the city bus

to go provision at the supermarket we passed a

group of coatimundi scavenging in the grass.

So far we had explored only the

back side of the resort where the

boats and the estuary are.  Out

front is an enormous beach that

stretches to the horizon and

seems to go on forever.  Resorts

line the beach as far as the eye

can see, and each resort has a

collection of beach chairs and

thatch shade ramadas out front.

We took some wonderful, quiet

early morning walks along the sand.  Later each day the beach would

be hopping with vacationers catching rays and playing in the surf.

Canadians and

Americans weren't the

only snowbirds enjoying

the warm air and warm

water.  Several snowy

egrets were fishing along

the water's edge too.

The Vallarta Yacht Club

is an active social club

for all kinds of winter

residents, both boaters

and non-boaters alike.  Visitors to the marina can enjoy the

yacht club's amenities too, and one afternoon we strolled down

for a beer and some free wifi.  After an hour or so we noticed

the place was getting very busy.  A woman came over and

asked, "Are you new members?"

We explained we were

"temporary" members through the

marina.  She welcomed us warmly

and headed over to a large table

of delicious looking hors

d'oeuvres that had magically

appeared.  We followed her

example and loaded up a plate

full of delicious goodies.

The crowd kept getting bigger,

and then another woman

asked us if we were new

members.  "We must really

stand out!"  Mark chuckled.

Just then a fellow with a microphone stood up right next to our table and said to the crowd,

"I want to welcome all our new members to New Member Night!"  Suddenly we were in the

middle of a round of introductions and a microphone was thrust in my hand so I could

introduce Mark and myself to the group.  "Gosh,"  I said to all the grinning faces, "We just

came down here for a beer and to get our email -- and then the party showed up!"

Another day we ended up on a timeshare tour of the nearby

Villa del Palmar resort.  The freebies on offer were 1,300

pesos in cash ($100), a certificate for a week's stay at one

of their resorts for $249 when redeemed, and a one-week

pass to enjoy all the amenities of the resort here.   It's not

that we couldn't find enough to do at the resort we were

already staying at, but we'd seen the

sister resort of Villa del Palmar in

Ensenada Blanca in the Sea of Cortez and

we were intrigued.  A delicious gourmet

breakfast with a salesman, a resort tour

and an hour on the hot seat was all it took

to pocket our cool cash.  This cruising life

is paying off.

It was really hard to tear ourselves away from Paradise Village, and we

envied the cruisers who had tied their boats up there semi-permanently.

But the warm air that had blown us across the Sea of Cortez had turned

cool in the evenings and the water that had been 80 degrees at the

beginning of the week had suddenly dropped to 69.  It was time to go

south to Manzanillo Bay.

Find La Cruz, Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay on Mexico Maps.













































































































Loreto: Isla Coronado & Villa del Palmar – Taming the Sea of Cortez

Roads Less Traveled

Villa del Palmar resort in Ensenada Blanca (Bahía Candeleros, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Villa del Palmar resort in Ensenada Blanca (Bahía Candeleros).

Isla Carmen's

Isla Carmen's "Painted Cliffs."

Isla Carmen's Punta Perico anchorage, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Isla Carmen's Punta Perico.

Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Isla Coronado.

Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Isla Coronado.

Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The turquoise water reflects off

the seagulls.

Turkey vulture, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A turkey vulture looks for carion on the beach.

Cardon cactus and seagull, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A seagull perches on a

desert cactus.

Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Mobula ray or manta ray, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico sv Groovy at anchor, Isla Coronado, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico Bus parking lot for Villa Del Palmar workers, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Buses wait in a dirt lot to take the resort

workers home.

Liguii village church, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Village church.

Fresh catch - cabrilla (bass) Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Jose holds up a cabrilla for us.

Panga fisherman fillets cabrilla, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Jose fillets the cabrilla in his panga.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

View from a Villa del Palmar 7th floor balcony.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The resort pools are creatively laid out.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A golf course is going in behind the resort.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

A spa and restaurant will grace one end of the resort.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

The pool bar overlooks the bay.

Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Dining in the desert by an open fire -- reminiscent of

the finest resorts in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Groovy anchored in front of Villa del Palmar Resort, Ensenada Blanca, Baja California Sur, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Groovy sits quietly at the resort's front door.

Isla Coronado & Ensenada Blanca, outside Loreto, Mexico

May, 2011 - At Agua Verde we really began to

relax.  All of a sudden the exertion of seven

months of cruising the Mexican coast had

caught up with us, and there in that little oasis

of tranquility we unwound until we became

blobs of jello.  We went to bed before sundown,

got up after sunrise, and stretched out for naps

in between.  For 17 days the Sea of Cortez

gave us a life without the distraction of the

internet.  The world beyond our immediate

surroundings on the sea seemed very far away.

As we sailed north and turned the corner to pass inside Isla Danzante

our eyes popped out of our heads when a massive resort suddenly

rose out of the mountains, overshadowing a cove and filling our view.

"Holy mackerel, what is that?"  Civilization.  Land of plush vacations.

We could almost hear the air conditioners throbbing, the fresh water

pumping, the workers scurrying.  We could almost see the elegant

meals being served by uniformed waiters on linen tablecloths while

patrons gazed at the expansive view of the Sea and its desert

islands.  Our guidebooks called the bay "Bahía Candeleros," and

mentioned only that a resort was under construction there.  Well, it's

open for business now!

We weren't ready for all that quite yet.  We pressed on, weaving between

the islands and taking a detour around the eastern side of Isla Carmen.

Here the colorful towering cliffs and crying gulls took over once again.  We

stopped at Punta Colorada, and again at a place the guidebook called

"Painted Cliffs" and finally at Punta Perico.  Besides one other sailboat and

the hum of cruisers talking on the radio, humanity disappeared once again.

A few days later we arrived at Isla

Coronado, an ideal little aquamarine

cove where the water is such a bright

turquoise that it reflects off the gulls'

wings as they fly overhead.  We relaxed

into jello once again.  Between swims

and kayak rides I began reading John

Steinbeck's Log of the Sea of Cortez while Mark played guitar.

Visiting the Sea in 1940 on a personal quest to study life in the

coastal tidepools, Steinbeck gives hilarious descriptions of life afloat

on a chartered California sardine boat.  Packed in with six other

guys, he took a six week voyage from California to Cabo, and then

along the inner coastline of the Sea of Cortez and back.  Endless

jars of pickled specimens that the crew collected from tidepools

filled every available space on the boat: crabs, worms, sea

cucumbers, and much more.

I laughed out loud at his wry tales.  They

were all the more poignant because

certain aspects of traveling the Mexican

coast by boat have not changed since

Steinbeck's time.  His skiff's cranky outboard engine, which he derisively nicknamed the "Sea-Cow,"

quickly became an eighth grumpy personality in the mix, running only when it wasn't needed and

leaving the men to row their dinghy in the most challenging conditions.  The crew bickered about

whose turn it was to wash dishes, harassing each other with practical jokes.  And they got caught by

surprise in the La Paz Coromuel winds which "sprang upon us" and "seemed to grow out of the

evening."  By the end of the trip they were all thickly encrusted in salt, as they had long since given up

using fresh water to wash their bodies or their clothes.  In fact, from the start they found the quality of

the fresh water they were able to get for their tanks so dubious for drinking that they endeavored to

consume as little water as possible and live on beer instead.

As I read Steinbeck's Log I found myself pondering the many changes, both

subtle and dramatic, that have taken place in the last 71 years in this remote

part of the world.  Cabo San Lucas, a raucous, pricey, resort-filled party

town today was, in Steinbeck's time, "a sad little town" whose road in from the

bay was "two wheel-ruts in the dust."  At La Paz he bemoaned a new

"expensive looking" hotel going up, as it spelled the end of the town's unique

character and isolation.  "Probably the airplanes will bring weekenders from

Los Angeles before long, and the beautiful bedraggled old town will bloom

with a Floridian ugliness."

In several different parts of the Sea he described seeing schools of leaping

swordfish.  Swarming the boat in thick schools, they "jumped clear out of the

water" and "seemed to play in pure joy."  In other places the schools were

tuna, and they too leaped around the boat with total abandon.  The tuna

would shimmer silver in the sun as they rocketed out of the blue depths and wriggled in the air.  On the Pacific side of Baja

between Magdalena Bay and Cabo San Lucas, he wrote: "We came upon hosts of...red rock-lobsters on the surface,

brilliant red and beautiful against the ultramarine of the water...The water seemed almost solid with the little red crustacea."

We haven't seen any of those things, and we haven't heard of anyone else seeing them either.  However, the leaping manta

rays Steinbeck describes are still here, doing somersaults and slapping the water in loud belly smacks.  We had first seen

them 500 miles south in Las Hadas in Manzanillo.  They cruised Isla Coronado's cove in huge schools, fooling us when we

first arrived into thinking we had accidentally anchored next to a rock.  Jumping in with masks and snorkels, we searched

everywhere for that rock only to realize it had been a school of rays floating past.

Steinbeck vividly describes

the Japanese shrimping factory ships that filled the Sea in 1940.

He and his crew spent time on one of these ships and watched in horror as the massive nets scraped

the bottom clean of all sea life.  Fish from every level of the sea came up in the nets: sharks, turtles,

pompano, sea horses, sea fans and more.  All were discarded overboard in a sea of death, except the

shrimp which were processed and packaged to be taken home to Japan.  He bitterly lamented the

waste of a massive food source that could feed the Mexican people indefinitely.  At the same time he

conceded that none of the dead fish were wasted, as the birds scooped up every morsel that had been

thrown over the side.

A Spanish speaking cruiser told us he had talked at length with some lobstermen on the Pacific side

of Baja as he sailed south from San Diego last January.  He learned that these men work in

cooperatives for Japanese ships that wait in Ensenada and sail once the holds are filled.  The

lobstermen have a quotas that the cooperative must meet -- some 20,000 tons of lobster

per month was a number he was given -- and all the lobstermen are paid equally if the

quota is met.

While Steinbeck and his crew got progressively grubbier, drinking warm beer and eating

spaghetti twice a week, they felt a stab of jealousy when a sleek black yacht sailed by.  The

passengers, dressed in white, relaxed in chairs on the shaded back deck sipping tall cool

drinks.  Today we see the enormous power megayachts and can only wonder what that life

is like.  The upper crust passengers are usually hidden behind large tinted windows, and

the sliding glass doors are usually closed to keep the air conditioning in.

Eventually our curiosity about the resort we had sailed by earlier overtook us and we

doubled back.  "Bahia Candeleros" seems to be the name that was assigned to this bay by

the earliest cruisers and nautical charts.  But we soon learned that everyone in the nearby

village -- and even Google Earth -- refers to this bay as "Ensenada Blanca."

Whatever the name, it is a fascinating convergence of the old Sea and the new.  At one end

of the cove stands a small fish camp where drying clothes hang out on clotheslines and

cisterns hold water on the roofs of rickety shacks that look like they would collapse in a

storm.  A tiny village half a mile inland has a small church and store, reminiscent of Agua

Verde a few miles south.  Pangas on the beach bring in small boatloads of fish.

A friendly fellow at this end of the beach named Jose sold us a

"cabrilla" (bass) that had been caught and laid on ice that morning.  He

filleted it expertly on the seat of his panga and rinsed the flesh in the

seawater at his feet.  The gulls and pelicans gathered in a noisy crowd

nearby and fought each other over scraps.

Jose explained to us

that the well built

fiberglass pangas we

have seen on every

part of the Mexican

coast are built in

Mexico using molds

made in the US.  These

rugged boats have replaced the common

fishing boats that Steinbeck described as "double-ended canoes carved out of a single log of

light wood, braced inside with struts...seaworthy and fast."  Today's pangas are driven by

powerful outboards whereas the canoes were "paddled by two men, one at either end."

The eldest Baja citizens, whom Steinbeck called "Indians," would have been small children

when he was here.  He wrote: "When we think of La Paz it is always of the small boys that we

think first."  They swarmed his boat, curious and eager to help him collect sea creatures when

he offered a few centavos per specimen.  Those boys would be old men now, and they may

still be telling tales to their grandkids of gathering clams and worms and crabs for some crazy

gringos in exchange for a few centavos each.  Not even a full lifetime has passed.

Wandering down to the other

end of the cove it seems like

centuries must have gone by.

The gargantuan resort is called

Villa del Palmar, and the guards

were happy to arrange a tour for

us.  What a place.  Only the

finest materials have been used,

the highest end appliances fill

each suite, and the layout of the pools and gardens, as viewed

from a seventh floor balcony, is an artful pattern in the shape of

a sea turtle.  It is Scottsdale, Arizona on the Sea.

We learned that this resort is just the first of three similar hotels

planned for this small bay.  "Villa de la Estancia" and "Villa del Arco"

will follow.  A golf course will line the base of the mountains and

condos will be built in all of the nooks and crannies in between.

We looked out over the construction in awe.  Backhoes clawed

the dirt while cement trucks flowed to and fro.  Uniformed men

with clipboards checked the progress while workers nodded

confidently at them, wiping their sweaty brows with dusty

hands.  The air was filled with purpose and excitement.

Our tour guide, Gabriel, lives in Loreto and he couldn't stop

smiling throughout the entire tour.  He is thrilled to have this

job, working in a beautiful place in handsome clothes and with

what he believes is a fine future ahead.  He told us the resort

employs 250 people.  About 50 guests were there during its

second month of operation.  We had seen the buses that the

company uses to bring the employees in from town.  The road

to the resort is not yet paved and the buses park behind the

fish camp in a large dirt lot.

In the afternoon Mauricio, the music electronics whiz who sets up

the karaoke machines at the pool bar, told us he transferred in

from Mexico city.  He is being housed in one of the beautiful

condos set back in the hillsides while he looks for a home so he

can transfer his family from the mainland.  He likes the school

system in Loreto and is pleased there is a university there.  His

wife, a bank manager, may find work at the hotel too, and he hopes

his kids will be able to continue the after-school activities they now

enjoy in Mexico City: horseback riding, swimming and soccer.

The entire resort pulsed with the feelings of opportunity, promise

and the future.  This is the new Sea of Cortez that Steinbeck

knew was coming, tamed and gentrified for well-heeled tourists.

Along with the classy resort came an internet signal, and what a

surprise it was after so long adrift from world news to find out that

Osama bin Laden had been captured and killed.  This mirrored

Steinbeck's experience too.  He discovered that while he was in

the Sea, "Hitler marched into Denmark and into Norway, France

had fallen, the Maginot line was lost -- we didn't know it but we

knew the daily catch of every boat within 400 miles."

We stayed for several days, enjoying

placid, clear water and lovely views as

Groovy slowly swung at anchor.  Finally a

need for provisions pushed us into the

busy ports of Puerto Escondido and


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