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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In Search of Hotels

In Search of Hotels
by Naomi Black

On our first road trip through Mexico, we visited Tequila, Mexico. We discovered the newly painted nine-room Maria Isabel Hotel as we came into town on the main road. We were traveling with our family and the two-bedroom suite was $38 USD. The Mexican furniture was rustic wood and the floors were newly tiled. The iron beds with colorful butterfly and lily headboards had crisp bedspreads and the room smelled fresh and clean. After dinner and with the kids stashed in their room, Russ and I found a spiral staircase which led to the rooftop. With a bottle of local tequila and water glasses from the room in hand, we enjoyed the evening breeze, the smell of blue agaves cooking and the views of Tequila.

Seldom does an evening come together in such a fine way without some planning. However, I have always found that choosing a hotel is a trying task. Slick online photos and shiny brochures promise such perfection, peace and beauty. But will the hotel actually be a restful place? Will it add to the travel experience . . . or detract from a great day?

Each traveler has differing priorities; my priority is local flavor and charm, ambience, a little adventure and realistic prices. A $250 a night room should be absolutely perfect and restful; whereas, a $50 room with a view of the ocean or a sense of history can have a few quirks and be perfectly acceptable. Before leaving on a road trip, I browse travel books (such as Frommer’s) and research online locators (such as TripAdvisor). But I am never quite sure until I get there.

A hotel housed in a historical mansion can evoke a sense of history in such an intense way! This is true of the colonial-style hotels across Mexico; many are housed in mansions built in the 1800s, which create an incredible feeling of being in another time! The Playa de Cortez in Baccochibampo Bay, midway between Guaymas and San Carlos, is such a grand Old Mexico hacienda-style hotel. With the feel of having been transported to another era and set down in an aging Hollywood movie set, this hotel is old and it shows. But that is fine because there is no other place which so quietly and assuredly speaks of a long-lost time of graciousness and stateliness.

For many, Mexico conjures up thoughts of the Mexican cowboy, the vaquero or charro, roping wild horses or driving cattle out on the ranchero. In the beach community of Rosarito, there is a wide selection of hotels, condos and rentals of all sorts. Yet sitting slightly out of place, squeezed in between the high-rises, you will find Los Pelicanos Hotel. With cactus lamps, rustic brick décor, a camp-fire style steak restaurant, this eclectic “ranchero Mexico” hotel has a bit of a hunting cabin feel to it. Although a little rough around the edges, it is unexpected and cozy. The rooms with an ocean view are coveted and even the locals come by the restaurant for drinks at sunset.

And for legend and history, you just cannot pass by the Posada la Roca in Puerto Peñasco. This 80-year-old stone hotel is purportedly the oldest building in town. Legend has it that this was Al Capone’s hideout in the 1920s during Prohibition in the States. This place has atmosphere and feels like Old Mexico. Each room has been restored and the front room for sitting and reading is comfortable and inviting.

The right hotel can change your trip! A traveler on Trip Advisor worded it so well. After his trip to Vina Del Mar in Puerto Peñasco last year, he remarked, “we went to the pool, looked at the ocean from our room, took a walk downtown, watched a sunset, and enjoyed all the calm friendly people. My wife fell back in love with me. The kids had the time of their lives. All was good and my life was complete again.”

Even if you can’t visit, do some armchair traveling and visit their websites!

Armida Hotel (Guaymas) www.hotelarmida.com.mx
El Pelicano (Rosarito) www.lospelicanosrosarito.net
Vina del Mar ( Puerto Peñasco) www.vinadelmarhotel.com
Or, do an online search for “Posada la Roca Puerto Penasco”