Advice on where to go in Mexico

 by Alan Solomon

Nancy asks:

We plan to travel to Mexico spring of ’08 with our two teenage and two adult children. We are not sure where to go. Debating between Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Maya. Can you help us decide by explaining what each of these places have to offer? Why are so many of the resorts “all-inclusive”?

Alan answers:

“All-inclusives” are popular down there for the same reason cruises are popular everywhere: Some folks like the idea of having predictable costs (lodging, meals, entertainment, sometimes even hooch) and spending most of their time within a walled compound. Like cruises, they’re especially popular with couples who (for a variety of reasons) want most decisions pre-made by someone else and aren’t particularly interested in immersing themselves in the local cultures, are wary of venturing out on their own and won’t eat in a local restaurant unless it’s a branch of T.G.I Friday’s. Families with kids like them because many have programs and venues (game rooms, discos, etc.) to keep the young ones entertained, safe and out of their parents’ hair.

There are a lot of them, and more on the way, because—like the gas-guzzing SUVs still being cranked out by automakers—they’re what people buy.

Having said that—with a group like yours, an “all-inclusive” might be the best option. Getting that many people of various ages and interests to agree on what to do today or where to eat dinner tonight can add tensions nobody wants. One more point: Even though all your meals are prepaid, there’s nothing illegal about, say, the two adult children ditching the group and going into town for a lunch or dinner at one of the very fine local restaurants in all three Mexico destinations . . .

Now, the destinations:

Los Cabos is especially popular for golfers and deep-sea fisherpeople, and people with the money to pay for both. Some of the resorts are spectacular and spectacularly expensive. Cabo San Lucas is basically a party town (a big spring-breaker destination) with a marina. San Jose del Cabo is a charming town with some history and plenty of party potential as well but less of that urban tackiness. The beaches along the stretch between the two are gorgeous for walking but not great for swimming (cold water, strong currents); this is a pool place, and some are dazzlers.

Puerto Vallarta’s beaches are variable, but the variety of lodgings and price-points is a plus. The old town, with its shops and restaurants, is especially appealing, and it boasts some of Mexico’s finest galleries. Night life is, well, as lively as you dare, but if you want a gentle, romantic dinner—after that romantic sunset margarita—you can find it easily here.

Punta Vista

Fishing is good, and golf—once limited—is now exceptional. Coming to this place and not breaking away from the all-inclusive to explore the town and have at least one meal would be a waste . . .

Riviera Maya is a hot destination, with new all-inclusives battling new condo/time-share developments for waterfront exclusivity. Ignoring Cancun, because you did: The primary town is Playa del Carmen, a modestly scaled beach town with a feel that’s part Mexican, part European, and with a slightly more sedate bar scene than Cancun. Great beaches along much of this stretch of coast, which were sheltered by reefs and out islands from storms that hammered Cancun. Added pluses: The marvelous Mayan ruins at Tulum are an easy day-trip, as is Cozumel, where rugged shoreline, quality diving and a pleasant little town are a short ferry ride from Playa.
At all three: The sun is warm, and the beer is cold . . .

Hope this helps.

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