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AUG 2012


South American TRAVEL issue COAST THE








Hidden Gems In Central



5 Ways to Give Your

Children the World



South American

TRAVEL issue


AUG 2012


THE COLONIAL GEMS OF CENTRAL MEXICO The colonial center of Mexico is a treat for those seeking something different and more adventurous than sipping a cocktail on the beach. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY TIM LEFFEL

14 COASTING IN ECUADOR Many travelers to Ecuador connect through Guayaquil en route to the Galapagos, barely stopping before reaching the islands. In rushing to their destination, these avid tourists fly right by some of Ecuador’s lovely lesserknown gems. This is one of the many instances, however, when it's well worth taking the road less traveled. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY NANCY SCHRETTER

20 ROYAL CLIPPER PIRATE ESCAPE Enjoy the Caribbean while you explore your adventurous side on this uniquely extravagant pirate cruise ship, the Royal Clipper. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY DALE SANDERS

28 EXPLORE THE MAYANS’ RIVIERA A week of exploring ancient Mayan ruins while staying at a great resort will feed the soul for quite some time. BY PETER I. ROSE. PHOTOGRAPHY BY PETER & HEDY ROSE

COLUMNS 34 FAMILY 5 Ways To Give Your Children the World / BY DAN CHRISTOPHER



The Aztec Eagles of World War II / BY HOWARD HIAN



Two Of Mexico’s Iconic Gay Beach Resorts / BY MARC KASSOUF



Take A Diverse Adventure in Belize / BY VICTOR BLOCK



The Real Cowboys of the Hawaiian Islands / BY ANN TERRY HILL

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The Benefits of Being a NATJA Member TravelWorld International Magazine is the only magazine that showcases the member talents of the North American Travel Journalists Association Group Publisher Publisher Editor-in-Chief

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Brian Hemsworth Tim Leffel Peter I. Rose Dale Sanders Nancy Schretter

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The Colonial Gems of

Central mex Heading inland is the key to experiencing the true history and culture of Mexico STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY TIM LEFFEL

Colorful houses on a pedestrianonly street in Guanajuato City


xico A

t the time Jamestown was settled on the shores of Virgina, Zacatecas in Mexico was bustling with miners and merchants. The Franciscans and Dominicans had already established monasteries. When that legendary Thanksgiving feast between the Mayflower pilgrims and the Native Americans happened in what is now Massachusetts, Guanajuato’s first church had been in place more than half a century and stone mansions were going up on the main streets.

The Colonial Gems of

Central mexico When many people imagine a trip to Mexico, they picture languid afternoons in a beach chair, sipping a cocktail while the waves lap the shore. Cancun alone has more visitors each year than the whole rest of this large country combined. To see what Mexico is really about, however, to experience its culture and history, going inland is essential. The colonial center of Mexico is both the literal and figurative heart of the country. Fanning out a few hours north from the capital, the colonial center supplied the original riches to Spain and later was the where the fight for independence took off. During the Mexican bicentennial of 2010, the area was flooded with school trip children and domestic tourists seeing where it all started—but with very few foreign faces in the crowd. In contrast to the beach crowds on the coasts, this whole area feels like a collection of undiscovered gems. Here are four of the highlights, each one a UNESCO World Heritage site. SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE This picture-perfect Spanish Colonial settlement went through a few booms and busts the past 300 years. Ever since it got on the radar of English-speakers to the north, however, it’s been a beacon for retirees looking for a more temperate climate and lower real estate prices. Depending on the time of year, there are between 5,000 and 10,000 Americans and Canadians living here—in a city of just 40,000 people. For those who aren’t fluent in Spanish, this is an easy first stop. You’ll hear more English than Spanish in most restaurants and shops. The buildings are all beautifully restored and the streets are TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL / AUG 2012

Mules carrying supplies through central San Miguel de Allende.

Central San Miguel de Allende.

La Basilica church in curvy Guanajuato City.

impeccably clean. In many ways it’s a stylized movie version of Mexico, but there’s no denying the sheer beauty and enchanting atmosphere. Apart from the European-style, NeoGothic La Parroquia church on the main square, there aren’t a lot of “sites” in the traditional sense in San Miguel. Instead this is a city for simpler pursuits: eating well, strolling in the temperate climate, and sipping tequila at an outdoor café. This is also one of the best shopping destinations in Mexico, with local handicrafts and decorative home fixtures mixing with the art galleries and jewelry shops on nearly every street. This city also offers a range of memorable hotels, from 200 year-old mansions converted to B&Bs to very new luxury hotels with all the modern trimmings. GUANAJUATO Near the main international airport in the state, this is by far the number one tourist stop for Mexicans, but it’s blissfully off the radar for foreigners except during the annual Cervantino Festival in autumn. Established in 1972, this

has become the largest music and performing arts festival in Latin America and features weeks of shows on stages scattered throughout the city. In Guanajuato City, there are almost no right angles or straight lines in the streets or walkways. The main park is a rounded triangle and streets curve around hills and gullies. Pedestrians far outnumber vehicles in the cobblestoned historic center: only two main streets carry cars through the middle. The rest of the traffic goes through a series of tunnels carved out under the city. Originally built to divert floodwaters away from the buildings, they later became traffic tunnels as the exminers expanded them. From the undulating streets in the center, brightly-painted homes climb up the hillsides of the narrow valley, looking like colorful little blocks pressed into clay hills. For the majority, there’s only one way to get to them: on foot. All those alleys and stairs keep the local population in shape—and also keep the city from becoming a favored destination for those foreign retirees. Guanajuato is a cultural center and

university town, so it’s difficult to arrive here and not find some kind of performance going on that night: the symphony in Teatro Principal, the Ballet Folklorico in the commanding Teatro Juarez, or perhaps a local band in the gazebo. Mariachi bands and mournful singers with a guitar stroll the outdoor restaurants, playing requests for a donation. There are notable museums here, from the childhood home of Diego Rivera to the collection of Don Quixote depictions from around the world. The building where the first independence battle with Spain took place is a museum as well. Plus some of the churches here rank among the most magnificent in Latin American, especially the 18th century Baroque masterpiece La Valenciana (San Cayetano) overlooking the city. The legend says the owner of a nearby mine promised God to build the most magnificent church in the land if the mine made him rich. The mine eventually became the most productive in the whole Spanish empire. The owner kept his side of the bargain. The big draw though, the one every Mexican will ask you if you’ve seen, is “the mummy museum.” Officially El Museo de las Momias de Guanajuato, this macabre collection is comprised of several rooms of very well-preserved bodies behind glass. Still clothed and sporting facial and body hair in some cases, these unfortunate souls were bodies dug up from a local cemetery after relatives failed to pay the tax on them. Preserved by minerals in the local soil, some date back to a cholera epidemic in the mid-1830s. The smallest is a not-quite-born child, “the world’s smallest mummy” appearing on the obligatory keychains and postcards. MORELIA AND PATZCUARO Morelia is often described in guidebooks with descriptions like “one of the most bafflingly under-visited AUG 2012 / TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL

Morelia’s stately buildings on a Sunday, when the main boulevard is closed to car traffic.


Patzcuaro's Temple Sagrario, with parts dating back to the 17th century.

Peppers for sale in the main market, Patzcuaro.

cities in Latin America” and “the coolest city you’ve never heard of.” With grand municipal buildings an awe-inspiring cathedral lit up at night, and a wealth of perfectly manicured parks, in any other country Morelia would be the prime draw on every tourism brochure. To Mexicans it is another jewel in their country’s independence story, the plotting center of Valladolid and the home of José María Morelos. The city’s name changed to honor him—the general who took over the fight after Miguel Hidalgo was executed by the Spaniards. It’s also known as a prime center for buying sweets: there’s a whole market devoted to candy stalls, with more than 100 vendors. Some 1,100 buildings in the center went up before the 20th century, the most prominent ones built in the 1700s. Almost all of the large ones are AUG 2012 / TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL

Shop entrance in the town of Jerez, near Zacatecas.

built from the same pink cantera stone, giving the city a more unified look than most others and creating a sense of permanence that has not been marred by heavy battles or natural disasters. With a layout that hasn’t changed in centuries, Morelia makes Boston feel like a brand-new city and in some of the atmospheric hotels here guests sleep in thick-walled rooms dating back hundreds of years. Nearby Patzcuaro is nearly as old, but is more modest in scope, with lowTRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL / AUG 2012

La Catedral de Aguascalientes.

slung buildings and red clay tile roofs. Besides soaking up the mellow atmosphere, the key reason to visit here is the wealth of local handicrafts. Mask makers, doll makers, and woodworkers have shops in the surrounding towns and most visitors explore the loop around the lake for its archeological sites and the shopping opportunities. ZACATECAS The city of Zacatecas has a lot in common with Guanjuato a few hours to

the southeast. It also became rich from its mines and the curvy streets and alleys defy the usual grid system in the historic center. So few foreigners make it to here though that those in town often end up becoming friends after running into each other over and over at the museums. This city is an oddity in Mexico though with its Swiss-made aerial cable cars passing high over the city. Gliding from one rocky outcrop to another, the ride provides a

panoramic view of the whole area. One of its embarkation points is near one of the original silver mines, with part of it now converted into a nightclub. Two wealthy brothers donated their vast collections of art to create a couple of the many museums here and the Rafael Coronel Museum is simply unbelievable. A collection of 5,000 Mexican masks is housed in an evocative former monastery. Grouped thematically, the masks cover every style

created in this country. There are faces of Spanish rulers, wild animals, devils, and the bizarre whole-head monster masks with fierce expressions made in Guerrero state.

(, Artisans of Leisure (, and Journey Mexico ( Tim Leffel is an award-winning travel writer,

IF YOU GO Independent travel in this region is possible with patience and passable Spanish, but for those who are languagechallenged an organized tour can be easier. Companies with itineraries in this region include Latin Excursions

author, and value travel expert who is frequently quoted in the major media. He has circled the globe many times and dispatched articles from five continents. He is editor of the highly regarded webzine and also edits the Practical Travel Gear blog ( AUG 2012 / TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL

The pool area beckons at Casa Ceibo in Bahía de Caráquez.


Coasting in


Many travelers to Ecuador connect through

Guayaquil en route to the Galapagos, barely stopping before reaching the islands. In rushing to their destination, these avid tourists fly right by some of Ecuador’s lovely lesser-known gems. This is one of the many instances, however, when it’s well worth taking the road less traveled. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY NANCY SCHRETTER

Manchalilla National Park’s Los Frailes Beach.


cuador’s shores are lined with beautiful beaches, unspoiled nature preserves, cool surf towns, and fascinating places to visit. This region is one of the travel world’s best-kept secrets, so step off the beaten path and stay awhile. Beach towns and tiny villages are linked together like pearls along a ribbon of road called the Ruta del Spondylus. Named for the local colorful spiny oysters once worth more than gold, this route takes visitors to some of Ecuador’s most prized spots for coastal vacation escapes.

GOING TO GUAYAQUIL Ecuador’s largest city and leading commercial center serves as the gateway to Ecuador’s Pacific Coast. Located on the Guayas River, the city of Guayaquil has undergone a massive transformation in recent years. The newly revitalized city is filled with lush green spaces, museums, chic neighborhoods, and waterside boardwalks for relaxing strolls. Malecón 2000, Las Peñas, Cerro Santa Ana, and Parque Histórico Guayaquil are just a few of the highlights to be disTRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL / AUG 2012

covered here. Giant green iguanas can be found languidly lounging in the trees of downtown’s Parque Seminario. Guayaquil’s Botanical Gardens provide a relaxing setting for nature lovers and offer a superb view of the city. The region outside of Guayaquil is filled with banana and cocoa plantations. This is cowboy country as well. Visitors can head out to one of the haciendas in the Guayas province for horseback riding, cocoa demonstrations, and even a rodeo if the timing is right. It’s a great way to experience some of the area’s local culture. STOPPING BY SALINAS Located just a two-hour drive north of Guayaquil along the Ruta del Spondylus, Salinas is a well-developed resort destination with a wide stretch of beach. The town’s seaside Malecón is dotted with high-rise condominiums, hotels, restaurants and artisans selling their wares. Watersports and surfing are popular in this area. The upscale Salinas Yacht Club divides the beach area, and boats are available for fish-

ing, whale watching tours, and day trips. The Museo de Sumpa, located in a nearby town, provides an interesting glimpse into the area’s past. MOVING ALONG TO MONTAÑITA Further up the coast, Montañita beckons. This tiny town is a surfer’s paradise and has become popular with backpackers and tourists as well. Here you’ll find hip bars, surf shops, restaurants with live music at night, inexpensive hostels, and artisans from Ecuador and other parts of Latin America. The surfing in Montañita is superb, particularly around the point break at the northern end of town. Montañita has secured its place on international surfing competitions— and its lively nightlife has earned considerable renown as well. Some of Ecuador’s most spectacular coastal gems are located further north along the Pacific shores. Those who have a few days can use Hosteria Alándaluz as a base to explore all that this enchanting area has to offer. Located just south of Puerto López in Manabi,

Beachfront Hosteria Alándaluz provides ecofriendly lodging in Manabi.

Hosteria Alándaluz is an ecologically oriented complex of attractive rooms and suites situated on a nice stretch of beach. All of the buildings are constructed of stone, bamboo, wood and palm thatch and some rooms feature small fireplaces, balconies and outdoor showers. Many rooms in the main lodge are particularly spacious. Hosteria Alándaluz is popular with Ecuadorian families and kids will love its outdoor pool, playground, game room and ping-pong tables. Nearby Puerto López is an authentic fishing village encircling a wide bay filled with colorful boats. In the morning, travelers can come down to the beach to watch the fisherman bring in their catches and work on their nets. Puerto López is also one of Ecuador’s most popular whale watching destinations. Many tour companies in town are available to take guests offshore hoping for close encounters and photos, but whales can also often be spotted from shore. Several species pass through the area between June and September, so make your reserva-

tions early if you’re planning to arrive during that time. Keep a watchful eye even if you’re traveling through the area later in the year, however. We were lucky to see several humpback whales breaching and frolicking near our boat in early November as well. HIKE YOUR WAY TO HEAVEN Ecuador’s only coastal park, Manchalilla National Park, is located just a short drive from Puerto López and is not to be missed. On the mainland, the park is made up of more than 135,000 acres of tropical scrub desert and dry forest. This fantastic nature preserve features excellent hiking. The park also contains the offshore islands of Salango and La Plata, otherwise known as the “Poor Man’s Galapagos.” Accessible by boat from Puerto López, Isla de la Plata is home to many Galapagos species of birds including boobies, frigate birds and waved albatross. There are several hiking trails around the island. Each loop is approximately a two-hour trek. Sea turtles and colorful tropical fish can typically be seen

by snorkelers in the waters around Drake’s Bay and dolphins—along with whales in season—can often be spotted on boat rides to the island. The crown jewel of Manchalilla National Park is Los Frailes, a long white crescent-shaped strand that is reputed to be Ecuador’s most beautiful beach. It’s quite possibly one of the loveliest in the world as well. Relax and savor the experience. This beach is the stuff postcards are made of, and you’ll find an aerial view of Los Frailes gracing many throughout Ecuador. Bring plenty of water and sunscreen when you visit, as there are no concessions on the beach. Umbrella rentals are available at one of the stands near the entrance to the beach and restrooms are located nearby, too. Approximately six miles north of Puerto López is Agua Blanca, an indigenous village that houses a church, a small archeological museum, and a lagoon fed by volcanic springs. Some of the museum’s treasures come from partially excavated dig sites located near the village, while others AUG 2012 / TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL

Blue-footed booby Cowboys at a rodeo in Ecuador's

along the trail

Guayas province.

on Isla de la Plata.

have been contributed to the museum. The finds appear to belong to the Manteña people who lived in this region between 800 and 1532 A.D. A guide is available to take visitors through the museum, and souvenir stalls staffed by community members are located next door. After touring the museum, take a dip in the warm sulfur lagoon and follow the locals in spreading some of the therapeutic mud on your skin. Let it dry before washing it off. The process softens the skin and certainly makes for some priceless pictures. WATERSIDE WONDERS There are more enchanting spots further up the coast, such as the appealing port city of Bahía de Caráquez. Located at the mouth of the Chone River, Bahía offers a lovely waterside Malecón, a wide variety of wildlife and eco-tours, and the excellent Central Bank Museum of Archeology and History. Nearby Isla del Corazón is a must-visit spot for nature lovers. This large heart-shaped mangrove island is a sustainable tourism project and TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL / AUG 2012

home to a large number of birds, including the largest frigate bird colony on mainland Ecuador. Visitors can take a guided canoe ride through tunnels in the mangrove forest and spy colorful red crabs hiding along the island’s raised wooden walkways. One of the hidden gems in the Bahía de Caráquez area is Casa Ceibo, an exclusive boutique hotel that would be right at home on a tony Caribbean island or along the California coast. This exquisite luxury property pampers its guests with large rooms featuring sumptuous Jacuzzi baths and high-tech showers, flatscreen televisions, full-service spa, a clay tennis court, and a stunning outdoor pool that invites guests to stay awhile. An international awardwinning chef prepares gourmet meals served indoors, poolside, or at the end of the hotel’s bayfront dock under a romantic palapa set for two. Be prepared to want to linger—we certainly did. Like many of coastal Ecuador’s jewels, this is the kind of place that’s meant to be treasured. A

visit to Ecuador’s Pacific coast will reward avid travelers with vivid memories that are impossible to forget.. Nancy Schretter is an award-winning travel writer and editor with over 15 years of experience in travel journalism and publishing. Nancy is Founder and Managing Editor of the Family Travel Network and Founder of Together for Good, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting giving back as part of the travel experience. She has been a family travel expert guest on The Today Show, CNN, NBC News, and numerous other television, radio and conference programs. Her work and insights have been featured in national newspapers, magazines and a variety of trade publications.

Bathers relax in the warm sulfur lagoon at Agua Blanca.

If You Go • For more information on exploring Ecuador's Pacific Coast, visit Ecuador’s tourism Web site at • Hosteria Alándaluz is a good home base for those traveling further up the Ecuadorian coast. For more information, visit • If you’re planning to visit Isla de la Plata and are prone to sea sickness, consider taking medication such as Dramamine before boarding your tour boat. • Casa Ceibo is an excellent choice for travelers planning to spend a few days in the Bahía de Caráquez area. For more information, visit

Royal Clipper

Pirate Es Enjoy the Caribbean while you explore your adventurous side on this uniquely extravagant pirate cruise ship, the Royal Clipper. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY DALE SANDERS


hard gust of wind filled the sails as the mighty ship begins heeling to starboard. Bustling crewmembers scurry about adjusting block and tackle till the windjammer reaches optimum speed. As the pace of the vessel progresses, so does the anticipation of its crews’ quest for treasure.


As the sun sets, the illumination of the ships lights create a mesmerizing scene.


The ship’s masts and yardarms create a light show against a western sky.


The Royal Clipper under full sail. Each week guests are treated to circling the ship on its launches for spectacular photos of this majestic sailing ship.

A downward view of the spiral staircase leading to the ship’s main dining room.

Such must have been the feeling of pirates as they roamed the Caribbean in search of booty. Today aboard the square-rigged sailing ship Royal Clipper, its not-so-tyrannical passengers exhibit many of these same feelings, all for a modern-day version of treasure that each cruise provides. Treasure of today’s kind, is not that of golden doubloons, but of escape and freedom from the daily obligations of our fast-paced world. Yes, freedom from bosses, in-laws and even the talking heads that bombard us with never-ending tripe about our not-so-perfect society. It’s hard to put a value on freedom. Pirates perhaps pursued this lifestyle of… “do what you want, when you want,” all the while keeping a flask of rum close at hand. They could have never known that one day this lifestyle would be termed “escapism”. Today’s modern-day cruisers aboard the ships of the Star Clipper line clearly exhibit some of these same traits. However, by today’s regimented cruising standards, these Star Clipper voyages are far more bohemian in style. No art auctions or the like to be found here. But, the modern-day conveniences of cruising are very much present, far exceeding the creature comforts that pirates were accustomed to. There is something to be said for having modern-day conveniences such as hot- and cold-running water and AUG 2012 / TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL

Large Caribbean lobsters are prepared on an open flame grill for those guest on the catamaran lobster fest in Grenada.

The Royal Clipper’s premium cabins feature tasteful wood accents.

One of the many delectable plates offered in the Royal Clipper’s main dining room.

your own bed to rest your head. Most pirates shared hammocks and usually only the captain was fortunate enough to have his own bed. Onboard the Royal Clipper you can even act out your pirate-like tendencies (especially during their weekly Pirate’s Night Party), all the while experiencing a comfort level far exceeding what the average pirate had to endure. Ironically, while pirates have long held the mystique of having a carefree life, pirates actually often suffered from exotic ailments and were most often outcasts from their families. Despite those hardships, adventuresome souls still search for the chance to mimick those magical euphoric moments of what they envision to be a pirate’s lifestyle. Clearly the Royal Clipper attempts to facilitate this by outdoing the feasts that pirates surely had after a conquest. And, I daresay that some of the early rum bullion (a spiced and distilled version of today’s rum held dear to every pirate) would still be a treat today. Nonetheless, bartenders on a Star Clipper’s cruise have no problem concocting tropical elixirs that would easily have made the most timid of pirates do gyrations of epic proportions. With all of the above in mind, imagine the pristine AUG 2012 / TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL

Pirate Escape kind of beauty that pirates viewed at every turn of their ship’s rudder. This beauty still exists today, though stippled by civilization. Despite this, the Caribbean presently has more than 2,000 uninhabited islands. Beauty of the pristine kind can still be found, but is becoming ever more elusive. Nonetheless, there is a strong chance that one of these outposts may hold the riches of escape for you. So, cast away your lines and immerse yourself in the accompanying photos while imagining yourself a part of a freebooter crew. Who knows, you too may be able to find the modernday version of pirates’ treasure aboard the sailing cruise ship known as the Royal Clipper… As an award-winning travel and outdoor photojournalist, Dale Sanders has ventured to more than 100 islands and coastal destinations around the globe. He is the associate editor for, travel editor for Antique Bottle & Glass Collector, and national travel examiner for Dale is the current NATJA first-place winner of the travel photojournalism award in sports and recreation. His numerous credits and outlets can be found at

One of the many beautiful views that the Caribbean has to offer.





A week of exploring ancient Mayan ruins while staying at a great resort will feed the soul for quite some time. STORY BY PETER I. ROSE PHOTOGRAPHY BY PETER & HEDY ROSE

Once a huge seaside city, Tulum was the seat of regional power as well as a trading post and religious center.


n the Yucatan, there is a riviera to compare and contrast with those storied strands all around the Mediterranean and extending down to the Costa del Sol in Spain. Like the others, it is a magnet for tourists; but it is different, too. The beaches are better, the air is purer, the crowds are thinner, and the year-round climate is ideal for swimming, snorkeling, sailing, sunning and just strolling along the shoreline. An added bonus is something that has been around for more than a thousand—some say several thousand—years: ancient Mayan sites. Many have been reclaimed. Two great examples of the “classical period,” the huge inland complex at Chichen Itza and the seaside city of Tulum, are widely known to the outside world. Others, like two even older, pre-classical ones, built between 300-900 A.D. known as Ek Balam and Coba, are still being renovated. A week in the area, easily reached from the airport in Cancun, is a week well spent. Especially if one is anchored at one of the new beachside resorts, such as the remarkable Secret’s Maroma Beach Resort where we stayed. The resort can only be described as an elegant compound designed to satisfy all the senses. It has an appealing design in a neo-Mayan style with its own temple of sorts, a huge main building entered through an open foyer dominated by a huge font of pure onyx and flanked by a bevy of desks, behind which are multilingual concierges who welcome each newcomer with a warm Bienvenida. Beyond that area is a large lobby and bar and directions to five restaurants—French, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, and “The World Café.” They also feature a small coffee shop within the building and several more outside it. The resort also has a business center, several shops, and a spa that is second to none. Guests stay in one of 412 rooms and suites, each with views of the gardens, multiple swimming pools, poolside bars, additional restaurants, and the large beach area, part of one of the finest stretches of white sand in the world. There is a theater with nightly entertainment and all sorts of services to arrange for tours should one want to see more of the area. For some, after a day of residence, there is the feeling—which I overheard expressed by a number of guests—“Why should anyone want to leave this place?” It is a good

question but there is a good answer, too. While Secrets at Maroma Beach and several other first-class hotels nearby are truly “full service,” taking leave of even these properties is essential to get the full flavor of this Mexican riviera. And we did. Every day. We had returned to the area with a prime objective of getting to know what is Mayan about the Riviera Maya and doing so at particular time of year, the very last days of October. That is the time when festivities associated with the

Hieroglyphics at Tulum.

indigenous people of the Yucatan are El Día de los Muertos. Through the alchemy of what anthropologists call “syncretism,” what is also known to Catholics everywhere as “All Soul’s Day,” has also become a part of more general Mexican tradition. The Day of the Dead is actually two days, the first honoring the souls of deceased children, the second celebrating the lives of adults who have passed away. It is something like our Halloween and some, as in the hotels that cater mainly to North Americans, AUG 2012 / TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL




make the link with familiar characterizations with orange and black decorations and masked and costumed desk clerks and waiters asking, in Spanish-accented English, “Trick or Treat?” But for the Mayan Mexicans this is not a time for tricks, Instead it is a short period to venerate loved ones who have passed on but are thought to return as spirits to enjoy rich repasts of specially prepared food. The tasty fare is placed before a stylized altar to be consumed by those who have passed on and shared by family friends, neighbors, and strangers, too—and, in our case, visiting journalists. In a tiny community known as Dos Palmas not far from the town of Playa del Carmen, we witnessed the construction of an altar honoring the recently deceased mother of one of our hosts. We also were lucky enough to see her preparation of the muc bi pollo, a specially prepared dish of chicken with a distinctive sauce that is wrapped in palm leaves then buried in a pit of hot coals and baked for hours in a thick pizza-like tortilla of corn meal. Once dug up, some of the loaves are placed on the tiers of a three-level altar, alongside a variety of other items, including fruits and flowers and, for children being memorialized, toys as well. In the past participants were required to purify themselves in a sweathouse and some still do, but not those in our party. After the food was dug up from the fire pit, the wrappings undone, it was shared with us. Afterwards we were invited to take a piece of fruit from the altar, but only after offering our respects to the deceased. Not far from the little pueblo where we were privileged to participate in the family rite is the huge park known as Xcaret. It offers a combination of activity (from folk dancing to swimming with dolphins) and a cultural center very much geared to catering both to Mexicans from the surrounding area and tourists. Hedy and I had been there once before and knew that each October the entire park becomes a venue for pageantry relating to El Día de los Muertos. In addition to its annual “Festival of Death and Life,” which involved playlets, face-painting (white death masks, etc.), and a fascinating trek through the torch-lit woods to see mini-dramas highlighting Mayan myths and legends, there are representations of native arts and crafts and the colorful Cementerio. Arrayed on a hillside are hundreds of reconstructions of burial sites found in every part of Mexico. Almost all visitors to the park wander the paths between the rows of miniature mausoleums, fascinated by

Secret’s Maroma Beach Resort.

One of many pools at Secret’s Maroma Beach Resort.


Offerings made during El Día de los Muertos.

Skull on Day of Dead in Xcaret.

the variety of architectural styles and amused by many of the nostalgic nostrums and humorous eulogies painted on the gravestones. Other highlights of Xcaret are nightly performances relating aspects of ancient Mayan culture, especially their games and rituals, the story of the Spanish conquest, and many aspects of more recent history of the Yucatan. We spent several more days on and near the Riviera, mostly visiting three Mayan cities. With the help of very informative guides who accompanied us at each place, we were able to get a better sense of the pre-Columbian world of the Yucatan, the social structure of its various communities, the activities in which they were engaged, and something about their politics and religion. The oldest sites we visited were Ek Balam and Coba, the former being quite compact, the latter spread over many square kilometers. The centerpieces of each are huge pyramids dominating the landscape. At Ek Balam, a most knowledgeable guide led us through one of the several entrances into the old city through a series of stone walled enclosures. We walked around many of the buildings and saw the ball court where many scholars claim that the winners of a game, which resembles a combination of today’s basketball and football (the idea being to score by getting the ball through a hoop), might lose their heads. Literally. Their sacrifices, it was said, would propitiate the gods and immediately propel them to the third level, the heavens. From the top of the main structure, it is possible to get an incredible view of other monumental constructions – temples, palaces, administration buildings, ball courts, and residences that were built between the 600 and 900 A.D., the period known as pre-classical. Moving on to the much more spread out ruins of Coba, visitors are treated to a modern way of moving around huge sites with minimal damage to the environment: rickshaw-like tricycles. In a short period, it is possible to cover much of the section that has been excavated and only recently opened to the public. Near the entrance to Coba, we were shown sections of structures as they first appeared to the archaeologists -- some looked like ordered rock piles; others, including several ball courts, as they had first been discovered, almost completely intact once the dense growth of forest was removed. Most spectacular of the many places we saw was the great pyramid of Coba, said to be the second highest in the Yucatan area. After leaving Coba, we were again privileged to have two exposures to traditional ways of the Mayan people. They were very different. The first was a pottery school where professional cerami-

Cementario at Xcaret. AUG 2012 / TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL




cists have devoted their lives to recreating a craft that predated the arrival of the conquistadors and were teaching their skills to upwards of 70 children of the villages near to the ancient site. With advanced notice, visitors may participate in workshops as much led by the kids as their instructors, trying to make some rudimentary bowls, plates, and figurines, too. The instructors are especially gifted and their clay reconstructions seem to match those found in many museums of pre-Columbian art. The other “treat” on that Mexican Halloween is a series of tableaus of Mayan stories presented by local actors on a natural stage deep in a cave in the same small village.

The guide in Ek Balam was invaluable.

Climbing 600 AD pyramid in Ek Balam.

There, behind barriers of netting, they preform, relating stories that neither we nor our colleagues, all journalists from Mexico City, had heard before. Their acts and those of others have been recently added to specialized cultural tours of this backcountry only an hour from the coast. On the coast itself is one of the most spectacular sights— and sites—along the entire Riviera Maya, the ruins of Tulum. Unlike Ek Balam and Coba, which still have few visitors, along with Chichen Itza, Tulum is the most visited archaeological place in the area. Tour companies in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, arrange for thousands of visitors to go down to see it. Once a huge seaside city, Tulum was the seat of regional power as well as a trading post and religious center, Pyramid in Coba. TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL / AUG 2012

Many of its most important buildings have been reconstructed and the grounds have been turned into a kind of archaeological park. Its highest and most impressive structure backs to the sea and dominates many others. Some display the effects of interaction with other cultures, especially the Toltec, as evidenced by the presence of “unMayan” columns in some of the palaces and temples. Returning each day from excursions into the past to our base we joined many others who were benefitting from a new version of trade and worship that now dominates the Mayans’ Riviera: the commerce of tourism and the veneration of the sun. We participated in many of their activities and watched others play their own ball game (though the stakes were much lower than in the days of Mayan domination!) The Riviera Maya is at once very old and very new. If its growth can be controlled in an ecologically sensitive way, it will continue to be a very special destination not only for

Vase with Mayan motifs.

Tulum at dusk.

those who savor gracious living, Mexican food, entertainment, and the beach, but for that growing number of curious travelers who, like the two of us, also want to learn about what life was like for the original inhabitants and still is like for many of their descendants. IF YOU GO Peter and Hedy Rose are social scientists, travel journalists, and photographers. Author of many articles and seven books, including Guest Appearances and Other Travels in Time and Space, Peter’s latest is With Few Reservations: Travels at Home and Abroad. See Mayan figures in clay. AUG 2012 / TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL



5 Ways To Give Your Children


Learn some great methods to incorporate travel into family time and make it not only a wonderful learning experience, but a bonding one as well. Story and Photography By Dan Christopher

There is no ribbon long enough to giftBELOW: The Parthenon in Athens, Greece; OPPOSITE,TOP: Parliament Building in Vancouver, British Columbia; OPPOSITE, BOTTOM: The Red Square in Moscow.

wrap what we gave our kids. In fact, there is no end to the gift they got. Because of it, our children were introduced to mystery and marvel, laughter and achievement, new skills and new horizons. Besides providing Brandon and Chelsea with a loving home and solid education, my wife, Laurie, and I agreed early on that the best treasure we could give our children would be “the world.” Not only did it become an exceptional bonding experience for the entire family, ultimately that gift became the centerpiece of the kid's character, spirit, generosity and compassion. From the pyramids of Egypt to the impoverished and remote shanty towns in Mexico, we reached out in simple but meaningful ways. Ultimately, the rewards for all

of us have been priceless. The gift of travel can do the same for anyone and does not require great wealth, exceptional luck or even a touch of magic. It simply requires a plan and the determination to stick to it. There were five basic elements to our plan. Happily, I am able to include insights from Brandon and Chelsea who are life-long beneficiaries of the gift and are now young professionals who thoughtfully reflect on what it all meant to them and can mean to others.

1. ESTABLISH A GOAL As parents, our “worldly” motivation was not to simply drag the kids around the globe in helter-skelter fashion, but rather to allow them to enhance their own lives by absorbing many cultures first-hand, interacting with all kinds of people, walking foreign landscapes and embracing great diversity. Now a 27-year-old tennis pro living in Australia, Brandon describes his family adventures this way: "By the time my sister and I graduated from high school, we had been to 28 countries. As a result, we grew up citizens of the world. All people are my type of people." My wife, a well-traveled Army brat, and I, a somewhat nomadic news reporter/photographer, love the American way of life. But it is not the only way to live and often is not the best way. So as our growing kids were discovering the world, they gathered tools of experience that would help them help themselves and help them help others. Our plan for global exploration actually began when the kids were still toddlers, well before our first major trip as a family. To help prepare them for travel, we would use even simple outings to the grocery store as training grounds. Brandon recalls, "As kids we were often sent off on our own to go track down a gallon of milk or a stick of butter. Though I always had a feeling

my parents supervised us from afar, it was fun; we got to do what Mom and Dad did." Along with assigning them basic responsibilities in a controlled environment, if they wandered off on their own we would make it clear to them that this wasn't a good way to travel. We had to stick together. Or if they got a little feisty we’d explain that, we don't do that when we travel because (fill in the blank). Few outings went perfectly. But every outing was a perfect opportunity to teach and learn. The grassroots lessons paid off quickly. By the time Brandon was 7 and Chelsea just 5, they were well prepared to venture out into the world around them as seasoned travelers.

2. PLAN AND EXECUTE Though we didn't traipse around wearing wrinkled bandanas, torn jeans and battered backpacks, our trips were always on the economy plan. There was never much money to go around. And travel always required some kind of sacrifice. We didn't typically sport the latest fashions nor have the coolest electronic gizmos. We gratefully accepted coach seats on airplanes, iInside cabins on cruise ships, brown-bagging it on car trips. We'd seek out street corner food carts instead of spendy restaurants. We rarely loaded up on souvenirs or nice-tohaves. Yet not once did we feel deprived of what was important to us. Recalling her globe-trotting experiences, daughter Chelsea, now working in a Tucson law office, advises parents to, “include your children in the grand scheme of your goals. Tell your kids you intend to give them the world. Share stories of your own travels. Imagine stories you will make together. Your honest excitement will be beyond contagious.” Allow kids to buy into the vacation by letting them bear some responsibility during preparation and make decisions when appropriate. For example, with some guidance, let them plan their own wardrobe. Teach them packing tricks like rolling up socks and tucking them inside shoes to save space. Instruct them on carefully folding shirts and slipping them into re-closeable plastic bags which let you squeeze out the air to take up less room and minimize wrinkles. Let the kids occasionally decide where the family will eat or which venue to visit.

3. EDUCATION FOR THE FUN OF IT Nearly every year we found ways to reach out, experience and learn about worldly wonders. Each of us AUG 2012 / TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL



FAMILY loved every minute, even study time. We all do advance research. We made arrangements with the kids’ teachers. Then we packed notebooks and pens to gather more facts about the places we would visit. Without relinquishing time for unstructured fun and relaxation, the children would find out what made the people and places unique, their economies, their way of life, their traditions. Chelsea recalls, despite her young age, "By the time we were marching up the path to the great Acropolis, I was well-informed enough to tell our tour guide all about the goddess, Nike, the conflict between the Turks and the Greeks and all sorts of fascinating details in history. I knew the magnitude of what stood before me.” Together, our family walked the hallowed pathways of Jerusalem, studied great works of art in St. Petersburg and Moscow, snacked on chunks of freshbaked bread as we strolled along the canals of Venice, examined the ruins of Ephesus, marveled at whale pods in Alaska and the pyramids of Egypt, basked in the grandeur of Big Ben, rumbled through the jungles of Costa Rica and Panama, crept through the darkened alleys of Athens, sloshed up the famous Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica, stood before the lofty gates of Buckingham Palace, tickled the sands of the Caribbean, and hiked the winding paths on the rugged cliffs of the Na Pali Coast. We experienced luxury and poverty, laughter and sadness, the magnificent and the modest. And so much more. Over time, we had great stories to talk about. In fact, we'd play a family game to decide which place we liked the best. We could never really decide, because we made sure each place became a family treasure. And what the kids saw first-hand often was what they would study in their classrooms. "In middle and high school,” Chelsea remembers, "the history books were exciting!" Admittedly your adventures, like ours, will have flaws. "Don't let imperfections interfere with your excitement," Chelsea advises, "let them become part of it.” This recalls a fateful day long ago while waiting for a plane inside the Amsterdam Airport terminal where the acrid cigarette smoke was so thick, both kids suddenly barfed all over the floor. On a pyramid tour in Cairo, panic set in when our son was surreptitiously snatched from our side by an Egyptian photographer who plunked the boy on a camel in hopes of selling us a photo of the event. Laurie launched TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL / AUG 2012


Fountain in Copenhagen, Denmark.

into a diatribe about child stealing that the photographer undoubtedly still remembers. Then there was the cruise when we discovered that a male passenger had ill-intentions toward a young boy our son had befriended. It became a teaching moment about strangers for all the kids in our respective families. Once alerted, the ship's security staff swiftly imposed strict procedures that assured safe passage for the rest of the journey. Always being alert is essential. Bad things happen can happen anywhere, even at home. "Be ready for unpleasantries,” Chelsea remarks, “buck up and move on."

4. HEAD-OFF POST-VACATION BLUES Unless you prepare for your post-vacation as thoughtfully as you prepared for the trip itself, you may be in for a huge case of the blahs when you get home. Psychologists call it Post-Vacation Syndrome, though they offer little or no advice on how to cope with it. But take heart travelers, there is hope. I speak from experience. Getting home from a trip typically means piles of

The Pyramids in Egypt.

begin a countdown. Before the end of virtually every trip, we had a realistic plan in place for our next adventure. And we'd tuck away any leftover dollars from one trip as seed money for the next trip. It's amazing how even a tiny vacation fund can get the ball rolling.


dirty laundry, a gazillion unread e-mails, return to school and work, cooler temperatures, short tempers, shorter days, and the deflating end of your adventure. So make sure your plan includes antidotes to postvacation blues. First, plan something special in advance that you can look forward to soon after your return home. Make sure you pay for it beforehand so it won't be a financial burden. Perhaps a family trip to the zoo, a weekend at the beach, or simply a night out at a favorite family restaurant. You may wish to secretly wrap an inexpensive present for each of the kids to open during a special family meal a few days after your return. Whatever it is, get the family excited about it before you return home. But the real elixir for Post_Vacation Syndrome is to start laying plans for your next trip well before your suitcases are unpacked. While you are still on your trip to Mexico, get the family pumped up about next year's trip to Canada. Or at least narrow down the choice destinations and get the family involved in preparations right away. Make it real, not just wishful thinking. If you know your approximate date of departure, you can

No amount of money could possibly make up for the worldly wonders that we invited into our lives. With a bit of patience and planning , along with some scrimping and saving, we brought our family untold intellectual wealth. We became a global family. Brandon, who is now completing a fictional novel based on his travels, says “Mom and Dad taught us to see people equally, without judgment. Traveling prepared us to adapt to any environment.” Of her adventures, Chelsea counsels “Go fulfill your dreams. Make stories. Live your anticipations." Through the eyes of a mom guiding her globe-trotting kids, my wife Laurie says "I loved watching their excitement. And I loved watching the poise develop within them as they encountered different situations. They knew how to handle themselves among different people and I really appreciate the way they were so much more accepting of others in different situations." As a couple, our enthusiasm for travel has not diminished a bit. Laurie and I completed a mission trip to Tanzania a couple of years ago, experiencing extraordinary poverty. Yet we also discovered the riches of love among those who have so little. One day we hope to return. We keep a glass jar in the kitchen cupboard where we stuff any extra dollars we can find and earmark them for the next destination. In fact, the jar was emptied recently for what became a marvelous three-week adventure crisscrossing China. Work obligations prevented the kids from joining us. But I bet they'll make it there one day... very possibly as a gift to their own children. Dan Christopher is an award-winning professional photgrapher and a veteran broadcast journalist well known throughout the Pacific Northwest. During his extraordinary 40-year career in television news in the Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington market, Dan worked as a news anchor, reporter, producer and writer. Now, Dan is very pleased to be devoting his talents full-time to photography, a craft he truly loves. AUG 2012 / TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL




The Aztec Eagles of

WORLD WAR II Discover something new about a place normally known as a vacation spot. Hidden in Cozumel, is an important segment of history that is often overlooked. By Howard Hian

Most travelers know Cozumel as a

OPPOSITE, TOP: 4th. Air Military Base in Cozumel. BOTTOM: Curtiss P - 40 Aircraft Used in Training (Courtesy of the Palm Springs Air Museum).

destination famous for its world class scuba diving and snorkeling, beautiful beaches and ancient Mayan ruins. But when travel, serendipity and history collide, there’s sure to be a story. On a recent trip to the island, I discovered an interesting, rarely told account regarding a few brave men. One afternoon, while sightseeing in Cozumel, my wife and I drove past a fenced-in field that appeared to be a military base. At the entrance, a circa WW II fighter plane was on display. I was intrigued, asked a few questions and a story unfolded that revealed a small slice of history, little known in the U.S.A. There is anecdotal evidence that the Nazis “invited” the Mexican government to join their cause and attack America from across the border; Mexico declined the offer. Shortly thereafter, Nazi submarines sunk three Mexican tankers that were delivering crude oil to the United States. That act of war led to the creation of the 201st Mexican Air Fighter Squadron, part of the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force, established to assist the Allies in the war effort. In 1944, the squadron left for extensive air-warfare training in Texas. At that time, its pilots nicknamed themselves “Aquilas Aztecas”—the Aztec Eagles. The group included more than 300 volunteer support crew for the 30 pilots. There, they flew the AT6, Vultee BT-13/15, Curtiss P-40 fighter and the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt fighter-bomber. Unfortunately, two pilots died in flying accidents during this period. In April, 1945, the group sailed for the Philippines. After arriving in Manila, they were assigned to the


U.S. 5th Air Force attached to the 586th Fighter Group based in Luzon. While in the Pacific Theater, the Aztec Eagles participated in more than 90 combat missions, totalling more than 1,900 hours of flight time in support of U.S. and Filipino troops. They also undertook long-range missions to the island of Formosa (now Taiwan). In August, they flew their last combat assignment as a full squadron, escorting a convoy north of the Philippines. By the end of their tour of duty, five more pilots had been lost; one shot down, one crashed in bad weather and three ran out of fuel and died at sea. The “Aquilas Aztecas” earned a commendation from General Douglas MacArthur who, at that time, was the field marshall of the Philippine Army. They returned to Mexico City at the end of November in 1945 and were greeted as national heroes. Even now, there is a yearly celebration marking their return from the war. Interestingly, Squadron 201 is still on active duty, flying out of the 4th Air Military Base in Cozumel. So the plane that we ventured upon, led to a surprising history lesson relating to Mexico’s contribution to winning WW II. Thanks to the Cozumel Visitor Bureau and Sr. Aldo Flores for background information, historical data and photos. Also, thanks to the Palm Springs Air Museum. Howard Hian is a regular contributor to The Military Press, a California semi-monthly journal. Along with travel features, he writes a monthly “California Roundup” for the publication.



Two of Mexico’s Iconic

GAY BEACH RESORTS Warm people, animated nightlife, and excellent attractions beckon visitors. Story By Marc Kassouf • Photography By S. Nathan DePetris

From coast to coast, Mexico’s playgrounds provide vacationers with unparalleled beaches, countless cultural sights, top luxury resorts, and adventure possibilities. Never mind the hoopla that keeps being flashing on the news, tourism is thriving with very high visitor satisfaction from Americans who are not deterred by scary headlines. Like its’ northern neighbors, Mexico is a huge country and the problems that dominate the news are often isolated to border towns or specific cities. It’s no surprise that Mexico remains the number one destination, representing 15 percent of travelers, for Americans internationally. Visitors to the country numbered almost 23 million in 2011, breaking record highs despite the bad press in recent years. For gay and lesbian travelers, two towns that are representative of the Mexico beach vacation are Puerto Vallarta and Cancun.

VALLARTA Puerto Vallarta, or simply Vallarta to those of us who lover her, is a bright jewel in the crown of Mexico’s resort towns. Nestled snugly between the Bay of Banderas and the Sierra Madre mountains, beach, sun and sand, join jungle seamlessly. Beyond offering the iconic beach experience, Vallarta has preserved and protected its charming colonial feel in spite of decades of tourism commercialization. Thanks in part to Elizabeth Taylor and the fame of Night of the Iguanas, the cobblestone streets that pave Vallarta’s Centro and Zona Romantica provide visitors a slice of nostalgic old Mexico. Vallarta is also a vibrant city, with a hopping nightlife, and bursting at the seams with adventure options. TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL / AUG 2012

Gay Pride & Events Like many Latin destinations, Vallarta prepares for Lent with Carnaval. Three years ago, it began to take on new meaning as the local gay community’s de facto pride. Whether the annual celebration sticks or falls by the wayside remains to be seen, but for now, it’s a bacchanal of celebrations with floats, a parade, and thousands of spectators lighting up the streets for one fabulous evening. Even when gay and lesbian travel to Mexico was still in its infancy decades ago, pioneers RSVP Vacations and Atlantis Events had bought out entire resorts for relaxing “gay getaways.” Atlantis is chartering the Vallarta Palace for a week, November 3-10, 2012, for one of the most awaited events of the year – Club Atlantis. Unlike the gay cruises they offer, land charters have a relatively more relaxed feel and pace. Sights, Sounds and Attractions Start your visit with a walk up and down the Malecon beachfront. Views of the pacific are accented by fantastical bronze sculptures dotting the boardwalk, with painters and artists selling their craft by the three arches square at the end. Along the way, Vallarta’s Cathedral bearing the imperial crown of Kaiser Maximilian evokes the days of when Mexico was ever so briefly under Austrian rule. For adventure seekers, a day trip to Las Caletas provides a secluded park with activities that have you climbing, falling, zipping or diving. At dusk, the cove is transformed for the Rhythms of the Night dinner show, with good food and an unmatched romantic ambiance of dinner by the sea. You can try your hand at Zip lining, and no other destination compares to Vallarta for options from beginner to advanced. Men can also mingle with other gay men on spe-

In winter, whales fill up the bay in Vallarta with boats vying for the elusive whale breach.

An artist working in sand welcomes visitors along

One of a dozen bronze sculptures dotting the

Vallarta's beach downtown.

Malecon boardwalk in Puerto Vallarta.



cial tours. The Boana Hot Springs evening tour whisks you away late afternoon for over seven hours of relaxation; a quick hour bus ride followed by dinner, then free time to relax and unwind in the springs with an optional massage or facial. For a faster beat, board the floating club Sunset Party Cruise that departs from Los Muertos pier every Wednesday at noon stocked with a full bar and go-go boys. Clubs, Bars, and Nightlife Paco’s Ranch is an institution of gay nightlife. This multi-level club is busy every night, but doesn’t get going until later in the evening. Apache’s Bar, while small, has a quaint setting. Garbo exudes a charm all its own, with a lively piano bar. Delectable martinis and original cocktails draw in a somewhat sophisticated yet fun loving crowd. Around the corner, the Palm rocketed to success when it opened by importing famous Canadian drag queens. Just on the other side of the Rio Cuale, Anthropology is a typical big-city gay bar with go-go boys. Wet Dreams bar has exotic male dancers on stage, sometimes behind glass and under a shower. During the day, the place for gays and lesbians to see and be seen at the beach is the infamous Blue Chairs, now also a hotel near the end of Amapas street. The rooftop bar of the hotel, Blue Sunset, is a great place to see the sunset, the ocean, or just start your happy hour. Accommodations and Logistics Hotel Mercurio welcomes all to its central location in the Zona Romantica, and is very popular with gays and lesbians. Casa Cupula follows the opposite approach as a Gay and Lesbian hotel that also welcomes our friends and family, offering an upscale and intimate setting on the hillside. With unrivaled beach access and a good location, the Blue Chairs hotel’s uncomplicated rooms and suites put you in the middle of the action. Mainstream hotels Los Arcos and its sister property, Casa Doña Susana, provide the best amenity available: location. Los Arcos offers tasteful three to four star rooms right on the beach in the heart of the gay Zona Romanitica. A local secret is the onsite Kaiser Maximilian restaurant, one of the best in the world boasting multiple dining awards without preTRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL / AUG 2012

tention. Casa Doña Susana is one block back from the ocean, behind Los Arcos, with boutique suites and rooms in hacienda style. If You Go Anthropolgy ( Apache’s Bar (Olas Altas 433) Atlantis Events ( Blue Chairs ( Boana Hot Springs ( Carnaval Pride ( Casa Cupula ( Casa Doña Susana ( Garbo Piano Bar ( Kaiser Maximilian ( Los Arcos Hotel ( Mercurio Hotel ( Paco’s Ranch ( Puerto Vallarta ( Riu Resorts ( RSVP Vacations ( Sunset Party Cruise ( The Palm ( Vallarta Adventures ( Wet Dreams Bar (

CANCUN & RIVIERA MAYA In contrast to the Pacific resort towns and Puerto Vallarta which have been the focal point of gay nightlife and entertainment, Cancun and its resorts and towns on the Riviera Maya are only now emerging as gay destinations. Long overshadowed by its spring break image, Cancun actually has a growing gay community and something other Mexican resort destinations don’t: In recent years, hotels have popped up that are exclusively for gay men. Even ‘Adults Only’ resorts catering to mainstream couples have opened their arms wide, such as the hot and sultry Temptations All Inclusive resort which is a member of IGLTA. Gay events and nightlife here may seem sparse, but are expected to grow rapidly in coming years. And, for culture queens and heritage aficionados alike, there’s also no shortage of archeological sites. Sights, Sounds and Attractions A visit to the Riviera Maya is incomplete without a

tour of its cultural heritage attractions. The most visited and best excavated are Tulum and Chichen Itza. Unique due to its location overlooking the blue Caribbean waters, Tulum is an easy trip from most resorts. For those wanting to dare the infamous and often-unmarked steel speed bumps on the highway, the drive is also manageable by rental car. Chichen Itza is nestled in the jungle deeper inland and requires more planning. An insider’s tip is to leave as early as possible on a private tour, no later than 6am, or book a flight with MayaAir to reduce travel time dramatically. These options are more expensive, and the wakeup call may seem brutal, but if you arrive before the crowds you’ll be rewarded with an experience devoid of tourists crawling all over the site. Make sure to consider a stop at one of the many large sinkholes, or Cenote, for a swim or just a peek on the drive back to your hotel. Other archeological gems include Dzibanche, Kohunlich, and Chac-

choben, all just now being discovered by tourists; they are one of the few places in the world where you can still climb an ancient temple. For ecologically responsible water activities, consider Xel Ha adventure park. Unspoiled natural excursions range from nature preserves, biking and hiking paths, to onsite spa, restaurants and relaxation areas. The most popular attractions, though, involve the water found in its many lakes, lagoons and bays.

Maroma Resort's Kinan spa embraces the surrounding jungle in its architecture and meandering paths.

Clubs, Bars, and Nightlife Playa del Carmen has always been a relaxed beach town with many evening options. Playa69 bar and dance club gives off a casual gay atmosphere, outside the hustle and bustle of Cancun’s main drag downtown, that still delivers Latin heat. Popular all day and into the evenings, Playa Delfines offers a gay beach hangout. Surfers and sunbathers may have contributed to its popularity. AUG 2012 / TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL




Arriving early to Chichen Itza rewards you with an uncluttered site before the crowds. The steps of El Castillo pyramid, flanked by serpents, lead up to the sacred temple.

Accommodations and Logistics Resorts in the Cancun area run the gamut from ultra budget to ultra luxurious. A great example is the collection of resorts at the Barcelo Maya complex. Five resorts ranging from three to five stars are located adjacent to each other. Another exceptional property is Maroma by Orient Express. This award-winning resort delivers unparalleled service, exquisite cuisine, and welcomes gay couples and groups for events or just to unwind like royalty. Special his&his or hers&hers couples packages are available (code: SUITEGL). Unique to Cancun is the relatively new idea of the gay ‘men only’ hotel. This new product is similar to resort charters in Vallarta or gay cruises and tours, but year-round. The small MayaFair Gay Design Hotel has no-frills suites in the heart of central Cancun’s hotel zone, facing the lagoon. For upscale accommodations at an all-inclusive that’s exclusively gay, head to the Adonis Tulum resort. Almost a hundred spacious suites are decorated in a clean modern décor, many with jetted tubs on a private balcony overlooking the ocean.


If You Go Adonis Tulum Resort ( Apple Vacations ( Barcelo Hotels ( Cancun ( Hacienda Tres Rios ( IGLTA ( Lomas Travel ( Maroma by Orient Express ( Maya Air ( Mayafair Gay Design Hotel ( Mexico ( Palace Resorts ( Playa 69 ( Temptation Resort ( Xel Ha ( Marc Kassouf has traveled to more than three dozen countries, lived on four continents, and sailed on more than sixty cruises. He owns an award-winning travel agency and has published instructive articles for travel agents. A collection of his articles can be found at

Do what




acing down a 310-foot hill at 93mph on a roller coaster or zipping around the corner on your first

Segway tour, what’s thrilling is different for each of us.

Whether you choose to kayak on a crooked river, make some sweet jumps at an indoor bike park, charter

a Lake Erie fishing boat, splash in a 12,000 square-foot

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wave pool, ride a camel or scale a natural outdoor


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Take A Diverse Adventure

IN BELIZE From soft sand beaches to historic Mayan ruins, beautiful Belize satisfies seniors and multigenerational family travelers. By Victor Block

I had heard that Belize has long stretches of lovely beach backed by dense tropical foliage, and it does. I knew that its dense jungles hide intriguing Mayan ruins, some dating back before the birth of Christ, and they do. What surprised and delighted me during my recent visit was the treasure trove of other attractions and long list of things to do. And, in a country about the size of New Hampshire, the ease of getting around and seeing a lot in a short time. Like most visitors, I spent some delicious time relaxing on soft sand beaches. I also relived the mastery, and mystery, of the great Mayan civilization. I hiked on flat, hidden paths, enjoyed gentle canoe paddles and explored the jungle, rain forests and rivers that encompass inland Belize. Just off its Caribbean coastline, some 200 island cayes (pronounced “keys”) bask in the warm waters. Most visitors head for Ambergris Caye, which has exploded in recent years as a diving and snorkeling destination. I preferred the quieter, more laid-back life on smaller, less-developed Caye Caulker. Its two narrow lanes are lined by brightly painted wooden houses, and most transportation is by foot, bicycle or golf carts. One of Belize’s most intriguing attractions is the mélange of its residents. Mestizos, descendants of Spanish and Mayan ancestors, and Creoles of mixed African and white blood, account for about 75 percent of the population of some 275,000. Mayans, East Indians, Chinese, and even some Mennonites and Amish add to the mix. Most intriguing to me are the Garifuna, descenTRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL / AUG 2012

dants of African slaves and Caribbean Arawak Indians. Their lifestyle may be experienced in Dangriga, Punta Gorda and Seine Bight, coastal settlements of wooden houses lining dusty streets. I was fortunate enough to meet 78-year-old Erdengela Polonio, a buyei (healer) who was preparing to conduct a dugu ceremony in her wooden, thatchroofed “temple” to cure two young girls who could not walk. Among her dugu paraphernalia was a crude handmade alter displaying a combination of symbols, including images of Jesus and a collection of items, a pig’s tail, cassava flour and plantain, laid out as offerings to the gods. The goal of a dugu is to heal a person who has been with a malady of illness because of something bad a relative has done. The ceremony itself, which can last two or three days, involves many family members and includes singing, drumming and dancing. I also relived the compelling story of the Mayans. Anywhere in Belize, remains of Mayan sites are likely to be nearby. The jungle conceals more than 600 ruins of that once-great civilization. My introduction focused upon Caracol, the largest Mayan location in Belize which sprawls across 50 square miles and encompasses the remains of some 36,000 structures. Massive pyramids, broad plazas, ball courts and over 100 reservoirs are linked by more than 20 miles of roads that radiate out like spokes of a wheel. Hieroglyphic texts carved into stelae and other facades include the names and sometimes portraits of rulers, and descriptions of important historical events. Descendants of the Maya today live in villages of thatch-roofed wooden homes, dine on traditional

One of many beautiful beaches in Belize. PHOTO BY DAVE HUMPHREYS

A Garifuna girl. PHOTO BY TONY RATH



Pottery in a cave. PHOTO BY TONY RATH

A hiker in the forest. PHOTO BY TONY RATH

foods like corn tortillas and caldo (a kind of cabbage), and keep their customs alive in other ways. Along with strolls through Mayan sites, very different walks tempt nature lovers. A personal favorite was the Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, a remote rainforest known as the only jaguar preserve in the world. Because jaguars are nocturnal animals, human visitors have little chance to see one. As our guide Santos Gonzalez remarked, “The best place to see a jaguar is in a zoo.” However, we did spot jaguar tracks, and a wild pig and tapir. We also encountered a troop of howler monkeys in the treetops, complaining about our presence through a chorus of barking noises audible for a mile. And we saw a crocodile half submerged at the edge of a river, a tarantula hidden beneath a fallen tree trunk, and a number of the estimated 300 species of colorful tropical birds that live in the overhead tree canopy. Caving is another popular pastime in Belize, and it doesn’t have to be a crawl-on-your-belly, slide-downa-rope activity. I enjoyed a pleasant canoe ride into Barton Creek Cave. Even without the human skulls,

IF YOU GO Belize Tourism Board 800-624-0686, animal bones, clay pots and other evidence of Mayan occupation, the beauty of the cavern itself is entrancing. Multi-hued stalactites suspended from the ceiling reach almost to the water. The cave soars to a cathedral-like height of 165 feet, then descends so low that boaters have to duck in order to pass. As our canoe glided between walls just wide enough to navigate, I recalled the open expanse of Caribbean beach I had enjoyed just hours before. That diversity of nature, people and history, with its appeal to travelers of all ages, is to me the greatest appeal of a visit to Belize. Victor Block is an established, award-winning travel journalist whose work has appeared in a variety of major outlets for more than a quarter-century. His specialties include off-beat travel, overseas destinations and senior travel. He augments basic information with an introduction to the people, culture and essence of places he visits. He currently focuses on newspaper travel features and is based in Washington, D.C. TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL / AUG 2012



The Real Cowboys of the

HAWAIIAN ISLANDS When hearing the word “cowboy,” Hawaiian culture does not particularly come to mind. Explore the surprising history of the “first cowboys,” the paniolo of Hawaii. By Ann Terry Hill

You might think of the West as anything left of the Rockie Mountains on the Mainland, U.S.A., but think again! King Kamehameha I of Hawaii, invited three California cowboys to the Big Isle to help manage his thriving herd of cattle in 1832. He wanted them to teach the islanders how to handle the cattle and horses. The islanders were able learners and quickly adopted the ways of the cowboys. The Hawaiian word “paniolo” was born, which was a step-child of Spanish that the vaquero spoke and their own native language. The paniolo flourished on the famed Parker Ranch, one of the largest in the United States and still known as the “Home of the Paniolo.” Their athletic way of handling livestock quickly spread to other ranches throughout Hawaii and their ways have been handed down for generations. Cowboys in the Pacific Northwest on the other hand, didn’t get their start until 1846, while Texas cowboys didn’t come into being until 1848. Thus one could argue the paniolo was the first. Today, Hawaii is busy preserving its heritage with the establishment of the Paniolo Preservation Society, located at Pukalani Stables in at Kamuela, Hawaii. I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Billy Bergin, president of the society and Keawe’ehu Vredenburg, director, at the stables last November. They explained that the mission of the society is to preserve and promote the heritage of the Hawaiian cowboy. The PPS celebrates the Hawaiian ranching industry and the accomplishments of

the generations of paniolo that make it possible. The PPS focus is state wide and represents all paniolo of the Hawaiian Islands. At the Stables you will see a wide collection of Hawaiian saddles, several of which go back to the Spanish style the vaqueros rode. The paniolo adapted the saddles to be more efficient in the tropical Hawaiian climate and you can see this evolution. The Society has also established a Hall of Fame Paniolo hearding cattle into the ocean.

where outstanding individuals have been honored over the years. In January of 2012 the Society held its first Silver Spur Paniolo Lifetime Achievement Awards honoring the “true keepers and protectors of the paniolo culture.” One of the most famous paniolo was the colorful Ikua Purdy, who, along with Eben Low and Archie Ka’au’a, Eben’s half-brother attended the Cheyenne Frontier Days in 1908. The trio bested the mainland AUG 2012 / TRAVELWORLD MAGAZINE


HISTORIC cowboys in steer roping; Purdy came in 1st, Ka’au’a placed 2nd and Low was 3rd. These paniolo quickly became the darlings of the Wyoming rodeo crowd, not only with their performance, but with their attire—vaquero-inspired chaps and hats decked out with flower lei. They quickly gained national attention. In 1999 Ikua Purdy was inducted into the National Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame, the first Hawaiian to receive this recognition. That same year he also became the first inductee to the Paniolo Hall of Fame. In 2008 at the Frontier Days’ 100th celebration, Purdy was again honored. Bergin and Vredenburg attended the presentation. Purdy is a centerpiece of the PPS and a large bronze statue of him roping a steer is on display at the Museum.

Ikua Purdy, champion and icon of paniolo in Hawaii and wInner in Cheyenne in 1908.

Ann Terry Hill is a former travel agent who specializes in writing about the Pacific Northwest, but ventures out to specific locales on assignment. Her articles have been published in The History Channel Magazine. she co-authored the book Pendleton Round-Up At 100, released in 2009 and now in its third printing.

Sonny Keakealani, winner of the 1st Silver Spur Award.



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World-renowned for sea kayaking, orca whale watching and a thriving arts scene, the San Juans are just a 30-45 minute scenic flight from Seattle or a ferry cruise through an archipelago. They enjoy a climate unique in the Pacific Northwest, with about half the rain of its neighbors. Growing trends include culinary tourism and multiexperiential tours.

Come discover Albany; New York’s historic Capital City on the banks of the mighty Hudson River! Albany has enticed visitors for 400 years with historic sites, fabulous attractions, family friendly amenities and entertaining events. World-class museums, unique galleries, stunning architecture, delicious cuisine and welcoming accommodations ensure your experience is legendary.

Old-Québec tells of its 400 years of history through its narrow winding streets. With French notes in the air, one feels transported into a European feel. Bistros serve “Café au lait” and boutiques offer local artisans work of art. The unparalleled quality of restaurants put Québec on a pedestal for exquisite cuisine. Outdoor enthusiasts are impressed with the variety of activities available.

ALASKA Sitka Convention and Visitors Bureau 907-747-5940

ARKANSAS Fort Smith Convention & Visitors Bureau (479) 783-8888

Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau 800-844-4781

ARIZONA Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau 602-452-6250

CALIFORNIA Big Bear Lake Resort Association 909-866-6190

Long Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Palm Springs 760-322-8425

San Mateo County/Silicon Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau 800-288-4748

KENTUCKY Buffalo Trace Distillery 800-654-8471

Bowling Green Area Convention & Visitors Bureau 1-800-326-7465

COLORADO Glenwood Springs




FLORIDA Visit St. Pete/Clearwater

LOUISIANA Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau



St. Augustine and Ponte Vedra 904.829.1711

ILLINOIS City of Chicago 312-744-2390

MICHIGAN Greater Lansing Convention & Visitors Bureau 517-377-1423

NEVADA Destination Henderson Nevada


INDIANA Brown County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Napa Valley Wine Train


Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority

Oliver Winery



Nevada Commission on Tourism


Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau 626-395-0211 TRAVELWORLD INTERNATIONAL / AUG 2012






In the heart of Southern Kentucky, Bowling Green is a bustling city treasuring its smalltown heritage. Rev up your sense of adventure at the National Corvette Museum or discover more than sweets at the Duncan Hines Exhibit. Exciting roller coasters, raceways and an underground boat tour are blended with the charm of nearly 100 historic register listings and family-fun farms.

In Oklahoma, you’ll find hospitality around every corner. We’re situated at the crossroads of the nation, where Southern hospitality goes hand-in-hand with solid Midwestern values; where the don’t-quit attitude of the Old West combines with a sophistication you would expect only in big cities back East. We are a one-of-a-kind state with something for everyone. Discover the nation's most diverse terrain and the ultimate in outdoor adventures.

Fort Smith was a town on the edge of the nation in the late 1800's; the last stop at civilization before entering Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) and the lawlessness that lay ahead. Today, Fort Smith embraces and celebrates its Wild West heritage and preserves the memories of those rough 'n tumble times.

NEW BRUNSWICK, CANADA New Brunswick Parks & Recreation (506) 444-5122

Lake Erie Shores & Islands 800-255-3743

Valley Forge Convention & Visitors Bureau (610) 834-7990

Positively Cleveland New Brunswick Tourism & Parks 1-800-561-0123

NEW YORK Albany, An Amazing Discovery


Tuscarawas County Convention & Visitors Bureau

QUÉBEC, CANADA Québec City and Area 418-641-6654


RHODE ISLAND The Newport & Bristol County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation

OKLAHOMA Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau




South County Tourism Council

Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce

Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Dept.





TENNESEE Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway

Ulster County Tourism

ONTARIO, CANADA Tourism Toronto



NORTH CAROLINA Outer Banks Visitors Bureau 877-629-4386

OHIO Greater Licking County Convention and Visitors Bureau 740.345.8224


OREGON Lincoln City Visitor and Convention Bureau 541-996-1271

PENNSYLVANIA Delaware County's Brandywine Conference & Visitors Bureau

VIRGINIA Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau 757-385-6645

WASHINGTON San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau 360-378-6822


TravelWorld International: South American Travel Aug 2012  

South American Travel Issue: TravelWorld International Magazine. Travel where the experts love to go. Colonial Central Mexico. Coasting in E...