“At the end of the day, I want to be sitting on my patio with a margarita in my hand watching the sun dive into the ocean,” Stuart McGregor says as he surveys his new vacation home.
He’s not surprised to have a luxury vacation property — after all, he worked for years in Calgary to be able to afford to spend his later years in the sun with wife Barbara. What surprises him is his vacation villa is in Punta Mita, Mexico.
“We’d spent a lot of time in Southeast Asia and Thailand and we’d checked out Hawaii and, of course, we kind of knew Palm Springs and Phoenix. But then a friend from Calgary said we should check out Punta Mita. We thought — oh, Mexico, we just don’t know about Mexico,” Barbara McGregor recalls.
It’s a common response by Canadians, given the spate of bad publicity about Mexico in the Canadian news. It’s rare to see a positive review of a Mexican destination.
That’s what makes Punta Mita, a 200-hectare development on a peninsula poking into the Pacific, such an unusual place, where every other holiday property owner you bump into is a Canadian — mostly from Calgary.
This is a vacation community of a type that’s unusual for Mexico, one that resembles high-end developments on upscale Caribbean islands like Nevis and Barbados.
It was built around a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course that was ranked world’s best golf resort by readers of Conde Nast Traveller 2006 and one of the world’s best courses by Travel + Leisure Golf in 2006.
Surrounded on three sides by white sand beaches, Punta Mita is a collection of exclusive hotels and high-end, privately owned vacation homes, often rented to Canadians.
It’s also a vacation destination for Mexicans that is working to preserve the environment and the flavour of the small fishing village next to which it has been built.
Leave your luxurious villa and drive five minutes to the wharf, where a variety of tour boats wait to take you to the island of birds. In the harbour, brown pelicans rock on the gunwales of small fishing craft while seagulls circle and cry.
While these seabirds are a common sight to many North Americans, the somewhat more exotic blue-footed booby can be spotted at the Marieta Islands Marine Reserve, 20 minutes out.
Humans are strictly prohibited from landing on the sanctuary, where hundreds of boobys, whose blue feet are thought to attract the opposite sex, call to the passing boats.
It’s that combination of protected environmental beauty and culture that attracted the McGregors, Stuart says.
“The climate is virtually perfect for golf. The sun shines every day. Obviously that’s a big bonus, but we love the culture. The Mexican people are wonderful. The cultural change from where we come from is incredible.”
Are the McGregors likely to return to Calgary full time?
“I go back occasionally for in-person meetings,” Stuart says, “but beyond that I’m as comfortable here from a business perspective as I am in Calgary. I do all my business by Internet and phone. Given the differences in climate, why would we go home?