Lots of folks like to plan their travels in advance, but as Robert Burns so eloquently reminded us back in 1785 in explaining the realities of life to a field mouse after her nest was rent asunder by the plough;
But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,If any of that strikes a chord with you then this may not be a page you need. If, on the other hand, youíre a list-making, over-packing, itinerary double-checker then you might find some of this useful in planning your visit to this little Paradise. Although, just like at tourist destinations in any country, sometimes even your best efforts are occasionally futile.
In proving foresight may be vain,
The best-laid schemes oí mice aní men
Gang aft agley,
Aní leaíe us naught but grief aní pain
For promised joy!
Okay, I admit Iíve actually made a reservation or two in my checkered past but it damages my reputation as an irresponsible seat of the pants road runner to do so.
Here we go. All rates listed are accurate as of 2008 but should be used only as a guide to the relative costs of the various accommodations. Rates may vary due to season, availability, or other considerations. On occasion your attitude can raise the price considerably. Holiday rates may be higher due to increased demand, and in many cases you will not be able to book a room due to the overwhelming influx of celebrants. Many families have standing reservations for certain holiday periods.
One specific suggestion for your visit to Cuyutlán is to provide your own beach towel. The hotels in this beach town will not supply one for you. In the same vein, if you require a large fluffy shower towel, bring one. The more spoiled among us may sometimes find those hanging in their rented room to be somewhat insufficient in both size and absorbency. And if you normally use a washcloth youíll need to supply your own. Very few hotels in Mexico put them out because they sometimes nearly always disappear.
A friend up in Ajijic built and equipped a luxury B&B, complete with high thread count sheets and high loft Egyptian cotton towels and washcloths. Her very first customers, tapatios, evidently not understanding proper guest etiquette, took everything with them when they checked out. After that episode the rooms were carefully inventoried before clients were allowed to leave.
And if youíre addicted to a specific brand of shampoo or size of bath soap you need to bring it with you. Sounds like Holiday Inn, huh?
Also, in many cases the shower floor, as well as the floor of your room, will be slick tile. More than once, due to excess moisture on the floor, Iíve done splits that would have brought tears to the eyes of James Brown. Theyíve always definitely brought them to mine.
Bring a pair of flip flops to wear while showering and cavorting about your room. Youíll need them for the beach, too. That black volcanic sand is hotter than hell from late morning on to late afternoon. And you can wear them to any dining establishment in town.
There are a number of small stores close to most of the hotels where you can buy any beach supplies you need or want; towels, flip flops, suntan lotion, souvenirs, etc. and theyíll have ice cream, snacks, and sodas too. Several of the hotels have good dining rooms and theyíre usually very accommodating if you need a special diet. Youíre not going to get strict vegan, kosher, or any other true culturally correct cuisine but most places will let you order off-menu as long as your request is within reason. Of course, most of you who make this a habit are usually not all that reasonable, but give it a shot anyway. And on occasion youíll have a good reason for your request so feel free to explain if you think anyone will be interested.
A near-universal problem in small-town Mexico is getting a good salad so you may want to ask about the ingredients before you order. Hereís an idea for a delicious and satisfying lunch ensalada. Ask for lettuce (lechuga), chopped tomato (tomate), raw onion rings (cebolla), sliced avocado (aguacate), and boiled shrimp (camorones natural). And ask for limes (limones) so you can squeeze the juice as a dressing. Commercial bottled salad dressings are usually available but I advise going natural.
This is light, quick, satisfying, and familiar to the kitchen staff, and it tastes much better at the beach than what youíre used to. And yes, I know what I just wrote about special requests. I always smile and over-tip, so I get by with a lot.
And speaking of tips, my suggestion is 15% as a very bare minimum and 20% to 25% isnít outrageous because the cost of your meal is so very reasonable. After youíve spent an hour or two being treated to any number of servings of your beverage of choice and a well-prepared meal in a dining room open to the fresh ocean air along with pampering by a smiling, attentive, and efficient server you may decide, as I sometimes do, that the skyís the limit. In general, room service is non-existent, but itís usually the early retiring visitor who doesnít gather up a stash of goodies and drinks to enjoy while kicking back on the hotel patios or balconies or the beach after the restaurants close. In many of the hotel restaurants youíll be welcome to hang out after they close since they arenít enclosed by walls on all sides. Just BYOB and BYOF.
And there are usually several vendors along the beach who offer a nice variety of beach food; coconuts, burgers, hot dogs, shrimp, fish, fruit on a stick, fish on a stick, and cold cervezas, but you can take your cooler if you wish. Some visitors are surprised to find that theyíre expected to pay to use the chairs and umbrellas set up along the beach. As youíve no doubt gathered by now, Cuyutlán has no all-inclusive resorts to pamper you at no additional cost like the corporate giants. When you hit the beach youíre in a true free enterprise zone. Many services and amenities are available, but each one is provided by an industrious local small entrepreneur who needs to earn money to feed his family.
Iím a big fan of food. Easy access to delicious food on a sunny stretch of beach while sprawled across a comfortable chair and sipping a cold cerveza pretty well defines my idea of a vacation paradise. One exception to the easy access to food served by others is my favorite place in the entire State of Colima; El Centro Ecologico de Colima, more often referred to as El Tortugario. This beautiful ecological preserve is a short taxi ride from the plaza and should not be missed. They have snack food and cold sodas, but little else to nosh on.
Hereís my suggestion. Take a picnic lunch and spend the day. Most of the hotels can fix you a nice meal, or you can stop on the plaza and buy a delicious roasted chicken with roasted potatoes or slaw or flavored rice. Also, just stop on the corner of the plaza and buy a kilo of fresh tortillas, along with a delicious pastry or seventeen. Alcoholic beverages are not allowed but you can contribute to the fundraising efforts of Mary Cruz and her crew by buying your sodas and commercially packaged snacks on site at the Center.
Admission is only about US$4 which gives you access to a true Pacific Paradise. In addition to the natural wonders; the beach, the waters and plants and animals of the Palo Verde (Green Wood) estuary, the Iguanario holding Green iguanas of all ages, the sea turtles in their large pools, and a few crocodiles, there are other attractions. Unlike the beach thereís no extra charge to settle in at one of the many tables beneath one of several palapas close to one of the two swimming pools. Sit and relax for a bit before you begin to check out the many educational exhibits.
One major bonus for visitors from August to January is the chance to participate in the Sunday afternoon hatchling turtle release on the black sand beach. It may not sound exciting but itíll make a lasting impression on you.
And for a small additional charge you can take a boat tour of the estuary. The first boat trip is usually at 10:00 am. Take sunscreen, a brimmed hat, and fold your towel to use as a seat cushion. Binoculars will give you a better look in case you see one of the 69 or so American crocodiles in the water. And take a camera and a bottle of water. Youíll be glad you did. Also carry a few bucks so you can buy one of their T-shirts. Youíll regret it if you donít. And they do accept and appreciate donations.
You can contact the Center by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (313) 107-4061 or (313) 329-0581. If you want to visit while youíre in town you can catch a cab from the stand on the plaza if you donít have a car. Make sure to tell your driver what time to return to pick you up. Hours of operation are from 8:00 am to 5:30 pm.
Probably the best known natural wonder of the area occurs in April through June. The surf in Cuyutlán is intense all year round but during those months it increases in height and force. Surfers come from around the world to ride the Ola Verde, the Green Wave. Even for us non-surfers itís an awesome sight and one youíll remember.
One story says the origin of the name comes from the tsunami that devastated Cuyutlán and another 25 kilometers of the Colima coastline on June 22, 1932 as a result of the aftershock of an earlier earthquake. Some survivors reported the sea receded about 1,000 to 1,300 feet (300 to 400 meters) then came ashore with a ferocious intensity and an estimated height of from 65 feet on up to 98 feet (20 to 30 meters) destroying much of the village and killing many of its inhabitants. Todayís waves are nowhere near as high or destructive, but Iíve seen some that I estimate at 25-30 feet.
Another must-see is the Salt Museum, el Museo de la Sal, just a block from the plaza. You can learn some surprising information about the history of Cuyutlán, as well as an explanation of how all those coconut trees ended up in the area. Since the local government owns the museum thereís no admission fee. Just donate as much on you way out as you feel like. Thereís a container on the counter for your convenience.
The tourism folks in Colima do a great job of promoting the state. One of their popular programs is strictly voluntary on the part of the various hotel owners, but itís worth checking into. Some hotels offer a free third night if you book your room for two days. Some donít, but it doesnít cost anything to ask.
These are not, for the most part, luxury resort type set-ups. In most cases your room will not have a mini-fridge, a mini-bar, or a mini anything else. Nor a microwave or coffee maker, unless you bring one. You also wonít have potable water, outside of a bottle, so keep your mouth closed in the shower.
Some of these establishments are right on the beach and some are a block or so off the beach. Most are within a short walk from the plaza, six to eight blocks, and others are from one to two miles or so from downtown. This may or may not be important to you but to really get a feel for any small village many visitors enjoy interacting with the locals. Cuyutlánís plaza is an excellent place to do that. And vendors offer an amazing variety of fragrant and delicious soft tortilla tacos, along with hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries, and other delightful manna.
Pirata and I used to eat there at least a couple of times a week. Since he canít hold a taco the vendors would cut it in sections for him. And sometimes heíd go for a hamburger. The big problem at that time was the patties were so thin you could read the small print on an insurance policy through them.
You probably wonít need insurance in Cuyutlán. This village is very safe. The older folks keep an eye on the kids so thereís not much bad behavior allowed. And thereís a police station in town in case you do need help. A few dogs gather on the plaza most evenings but theyíre a pretty calm lot. Thereís also a doctor in town for minor medical problems. In the event of a medical emergency you can be quickly transported to a fully equipped hospital in Manzanillo within a half hour or so.
A few visitors complain that some of the structures about town look like they were used for target practice by a Mexican Army artillery battalion. Some do look a bit ragged. Youíll get over any remodeling urges pretty quickly. Or you wonít. No big deal one way or the other, unless youíre a stringer for Architectural Digest. If you have specific needs or concerns, hereís a short list of suggested questions you might use. Pick and choose to suit your needs and desires.
Here are six excellent choices for Cuyutlán lodging. Give one or all of them a call. If youíre not comfortable with the language you may want to have a Spanish speaker close by because not all the folks who answer the phones speak English. You can call direct from the U.S. by first dialing 011-52.
Hotel Fenix (313) 326-4082. Hidalgo No. 201. One Star, 14 rooms, from US$24 per personóincludes breakfast.
My review: I love this place. A generous menu, lunch specials, good food prepared in the open-front kitchen, sturdy drinks (2 for 1 from 7:00 to 8:00), cold, cold cerveza, good conversation, and excellent music from Geoffís huge collection of tunes make this my favorite. There are more amenities here than most of the other local hotels, with mini-bars, air conditioning, and TV in some rooms. Iíve eaten many meals here and spent hours engaged in sharing good conversation and cold drinks. Iíve never been disappointed. Itís not beachfront but several of the upstairs rooms have balconies with beach views.Maria Victoria (313) 326-4004. Veracruz No. 10. Three Stars, 79 rooms, from US$49. email@example.com
Family-owned, this is the oldest continually operating hotel in town, beginning in 1933 as a palm frond beach hut and progressing to the substantial two-story facility of today. The tasteful traditional dťcor takes you back to an earlier time. Itís well known to surfers from around the world and was a favorite hangout of the outdoor writer Russell Annabel.
Owner Olivia is one of the movers and shakers of Cuyutlán and can answer your questions about anything local, as well as offer suggestions on what to see and do during your stay. And if you decide to stay forever, sheís the local real estate expert. Very honest.
My review: Some of my more mature and conservative friends have stayed here. It has more of a north of the border ambiance, an undistinguished restaurant, and a tiny swimming pool. Beachfront.Morelos (313) 326-4004. Hidalgo No. 185. Two Stars, 30 rooms, from US$15 per person.
My review: Iíve never stayed here but Iíve eaten here many times. They offer a great breakfast variety; traditional dishes as well as North American style. The no-walls dining room and the beautiful grounds make your meal even more of a pleasure. Thereís a swimming pool and itís just a short block to the beach. Great service.Ola Verde (313) 326-4242. Avenida Lopez Mateos No. 24. Two Stars, 39 bungalows, from US$15 per person.
San Rafael (313) 326-4015. Veracruz No. 46. Three Stars, 28 rooms, from US$60 per couple--includes breakfast. firstname.lastname@example.org.
My review: My friend and webmistress Marianne stays here every time she drives down from Chapala. Itís right on the malecon and beach. The massive palapa dining room/lobby is worth seeing and the food has always been good. The rooms are simply furnished but more than serviceable. They have a swimming pool and an outdoor shower to rinse away beach sand. Hot water, ceiling fans, king size beds, and a 6:00 happy hour are other amenities. Well maintained. Great place for local gossip.Villa Margoth (313) 326-4101. Avenida Lopez Mateos No. 499. Two Stars, 8 rooms, from US$39.
Some things in Mexico, just like everywhere else, proceed in the same manner for years and then they change overnight, just like everywhere else. As I said, this information was correct when posted [September 2008] but is subject to change when you show up. Check things out for yourself and practice being flexible. The residents of Cuyutlán will extend to you a warm welcome when they see your big friendly smile. Youíll enjoy the time you spend in this laid back oceanside village, regardless of your lodging choice or dietary preferences. Visit soon!