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- Endless Summer
- Fishing Village
Planning a return trip to my favorite beach in the world, I was almost as apprehensive as I was excited. The last time I visited Troncones — a town of some 600 people pushed up against the Sierra Madre del Sur mountains on the Pacific coast of Mexico — was five years earlier.
In the intervening years, word got out that Julian Schnabel and Damien Hirst had homes in the area. That’s it, I thought, as I prepared for our vacation this past January. I was picturing all the practitioners of extreme cool who had surely followed in their wake.
Thankfully, when we got off the highway, we were surrounded by nothing but tropical forest. In town, we found a chicken running on the dirt road in front of the same dusty tienditas and hand-painted hotel and restaurant signs we remembered.
On our walks we were relieved to find the beach mostly empty, even at prime-time hours. "It’s 4 o’clock, and we’ve passed what — 60 people?" my husband asked after one outing. We considered this good news, but that night at dinner a man who visits regularly from Seattle said he was feeling crowded. "It used to be there’d only be five people on the beach with you," he said.
Another day, we met a couple from the Yukon. I asked about the Inn at Manzanillo Bay, whose intriguing menu I had seen online. "It’s pricey and a little too fine for Troncones," the wife said.
Despite our fears that it might be one of those fancier-than-thou spots, we tried it ourselves. Fortunately, the poolside restaurant (and adjoining hotel) proved that a touch of sophistication (groomed grounds, California-trained chef) doesn’t trump the Troncones character. It also demonstrated that "expensive" in Mexico is completely relative. Wearing our bathing suits on the patio, we ate Thai Shrimp Tacos and an Ahi Tuna sandwich as we watched surfers in Manzanillo Bay. For the four of us, lunch came to less than 800 pesos (about $66).
I decided one of the biggest changes in Troncones was the number of arranged activities: Live salsa music at bars, bird-watching, eco-tours into the mountains, painting lessons on the beach at an art house called Casa Creativa.
Inn at Manzanillo Bay (manzanillobay.com) has two suites and eight casitas with private patios, from $98.
- Ocean Views
- Thatched-Roof Bungalows
- Tequila-Glazed Yellowfin Tuna
- Handcrafted Reposado Tequila
Dream trips with ocean views
Laid-back getaways, offbeat adventures, and ocean views (all under $200)
1. Troncones, Mexico
Try surfing: Even beginners can tackle the swell at the Inn at Manzanillo Bay, a secluded spot a half-hour from the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo airport. You can also find water calm enough to test your balance on one of the inn’s stand-up paddleboards.
The laid-back hideout has eight ocean-view thatched-roof bungalows and two suites. And, because the owner is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy, the trip’s worth it simply for the food, like the roasted poblano-chile soup and tequila-glazed yellowfin tuna. Also, a handcrafted reposado tequila is made just for guests.
From $138 U.S.; +52-755-553-2884
- Endless Summer
- Fishing Village
As any surfer knows, there’s nothing worse than trekking to some Endless Summer beach town, driving down a bumpy road and then paddling out at daybreak only to find 30 pumped surfers clawing and fighting for the same wave. This won’t happen in Troncones, a small fishing village about 20 miles north of Zihuatanejo on Mexico’s Pacific Coast. For now, at least, it’s still an undeveloped surfer’s paradise.
Hammocks and shady palms adorn most yards, chickens wander the dirt roads, and the night life is pretty much limited to two local hangouts: the Inn at Manzanillo Bay and El Burro Borracho. That may explain the recent sightings of such chilled-out surfers as Stacy Peralta, director of “Dogtown and Z-Boys,” and the fashion designer Maia Norman, who owns a winter home nearby with her partner, the artist Damien Hirst.
There’s a bounty of breaks to choose from, so there are rarely more than a few surfers in a lineup. “Other spots like Puerto Escondido have major local attitude,” said Randall Brook, the manager at the Inn at Manzanillo Bay, which claims the town’s only surf shop. “But here no one is taking ownership of the wave, and people are actually nice.”
The surf might have something to do with that. Breaks in Troncones tend to be on the mellower side and more suited to long boarders, although swells can build to 15-foot kahunas during the peak surf season from May to November.
- Smoked Pork Ribs
- Thai Style Shrimp Tacos
- World Class Breaks
- Surfboard Rentals
- Gorgeous Pool
Places to Eat
Inn at Manzanillo Bay (Tel: 553- 2884 , Fax: 553-2883 www.manzanillobay.com; Playa Manzanillo; Mains US $5-12; Open 8:00 am – 9pm daily) has an excellent restaurant. It’s tough choosing between smoked barbecued pork ribs (US$11), Oaxcan-style chicken mole (chile sauce; US$9.50), aloha duck (US$14) and chef and owner Mike’s signature Thai-style shrimp tacos with soy dipping sauce (US$6.50). Out on the sand with views of the surf break, the Inn’s Beach Bar & Grill (mains US$4 – 8; open noon – sunset) is great for grilled specialties, ‘boat drinks’ and some truly spectacular sunsets.
Most people bouncing around the vicinity of Troncones are either looking for waves or riding them. With more than a dozen breaks within 20km, short boarders, long boarders, rookies and rippers will all find something to ride. As usual it’s best to get out before the breeze picks up (usually around 11:00am), or around sunset when it gets glassy again. The Waves are biggest May to October.
Troncones itself has several world-class breaks here and can be excellent in summer, but the wave to chase is the left at Troncones Point. When it’s small, the take off is right over the rocks, but when it’s big, it’s beautiful, beefy and rolls halfway across the bay. The best place for surfboard rentals is Mike Bensal’s surf shop at the Inn at Manzanillo Bay. (Tel: 553- 2884, Fax: 553-2883 www.manzanillobay.com; Playa Manzanillo).
Mike has an excellent selection of short-boards and long-boards (US$15 per day) as well as two wave kayaks (US$6.50 per day) and boogie boards (US$22/42 per half/full day).
Places to Stay
Inn at Manzanillo Bay (Tel: 553- 2884 , Fax: 553-2883 www.manzanillobay.com; Playa Manzanillo; rooms year-round US $88, bungalows Nov-mid-May US$98-108, mid May-Oct US$64-70) boast a prime location facing the surf break at Troncones Point, so surfers can literally check the waves from bed – or from the gorgeous pool, or the gourmet restaurant, or the beach bar and grill, or ….. The Inn is relaxed and thoughtfully designed, and it’s eight bungalows appeal to everyone from surfers to honeymooners. Amenities include internet access, fax and copy service, a surf shop, satellite TV at the Bar, and one of the best swimming pools around.
- Golden Malted Waffles
- Private Patio
- Boutique House Tequila
- Baja Style Fish Tacos
- Surf Lessons
Though only about 50 miles from the larger resort communities of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, its rural setting, jungle backdrop, and eco-vibe make Troncones feel a world away. The town is a haven for surfers, who are lured by the miles of waves and white- and golden-sand beaches.
The resort food at Manzanillo Bay's garden-patio restaurant might seem a bit much for surfers (golden malted waffles with fresh fruit and cream, anyone?), but that doesn't seem to deter them. Of course, the nice surf break directly in front of the restaurant doesn't hurt
(Playa Troncones, 011-52/755-553-2884, www.manzanillobay.com, breakfast from $4.25).
7 Secret Hideaways: Inn at Manzanillo Bay, Mexico
Psst ...! These secluded North American properties, surrounded by spectacular landscapes, are the perfect antidote for the busy workweek. Check in, drop out, and catch a late flight back.
Point break: Far from touristy Ixtapa, the Inn at Manzanillo Bay draws both mellow sunseekers and surfers eager to test the challenging waves of Mexico's Pacific coast. The eight thatched-roof bungalows and two deluxe suites with marble floors and private patios are part of a complex run by American Michael Bensal, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy who cooks up Baja-style fish tacos and chiles rellenos in the hotel's casual restaurant. There's a decidedly laid-back vibe: Guests laze on the beach with frozen margaritas made with the inn's boutique house tequila, or relax in the pool surrounded by coconut palms and bougainvilleas. Surfers will catch the biggest swell from May through October, although the inn's private point break throws consistent waves throughout much of the year. Want to learn how to surf? Bensal will set you up with a local instructor for private lessons on a nearby sandy beach break, ideal for beginners.
011-52/755-533-2884, manzanillobay.com, from $128.
- Beachfront Bungalows
- Yoga Sessions
- Spa Treatments
- Surfing Lessons
Minutes from the popular Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo resorts, Troncones has an attraction all its own. The small village has emerged as an eco-retreat with more than 10 boutique inns. Choose from beachfront bungalows, waterfront rooms, private suites, and villas. Most inns offer yoga sessions, spa treatments, and snorkeling and surfing lessons.
- Surfing Expeditions
- Mossie Nets
- Swimming Pool
Owner Michael Bensal has claimed a primo piece of coastline on beautiful, walkable, surfable Manzanillo Bay -- and we all wish we'd grabbed it first. Mike rents snorkel, surf, and boogie-board gear and arranges fishing and surfing expeditions. His chef, trained at the California Culinary Academy, whips up burritos, burgers, and more complex fare of Asian-Mexican descent. Accommodations are bungalows thatched in palm, with screened windows and mossie nets over the beds; the built-in couches are outside. www.manzanillobay.com. 10 rooms. In-room: safe. In-hotel: 2 restaurants, bar, pool, bicycles, parking (no fee), Internet. AE, MC, V.
Address: Camino de la Playa s/n
- Francis Ford Coppola
- Seared Tuna
Tequila sunset... at dusk people come out to play on Troncones beach.
Half an hour of tuneless singing and dedicated hammock swinging had finally lulled my son into his siesta. His big sister and father were in the hotel swimming pool and, aside from a local teenager offering rides on a scruffy old horse, there wasn't anybody else in sight.
What to do with the temporary freedom? I sipped from a bottle of beer beside me and picked up a book I should have read years ago. It was enjoyable enough, but soon a darting movement caught my eye and I found myself looking at an iguana instead.
We stared at each other for some time until he scampered away and I was left looking at an apparently empty Pacific beach. Then the sand began to move before my eyes. Crabs with stolen shells on their backs scuttled about their business, while their smaller less protected cousins pitted their speed against the reflexes of the birds padding about at the water's edge looking for lunch. Pelicans flew along the foaming breakers beyond searching out bigger prey, and a lone yellow butterfly headed off on some unknown mission towards the sun.
The book stayed unread. People or no people, there was just too much world to watch going by on the beach.
I am, I found out during our five days there this summer, in illustrious company in my assessment. Beaten to it, more like, by a coterie of international art world celebrities whose presence provides mere mortals with quite a fun game to play while walking along the beach - guessing which villa belongs to who.
We are moderately confident we identified the home of artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel while on our way to a natural tide pool surrounded by rocks and filled with bright blue tropical fish. It wasn't just the faultlessly tasteful house, and the faultlessly tasteful sand castle in front of it. There were also the orange hammocks slung gracefully below a palm leaf palapa - an open-sided thatched hut - decorated with similarly coloured glass buoys which, for me at least, conjured up images of Schnabel's film The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Rumour has it that Schnabel's good friend, Francis Ford Coppola, is currently scouting out a winter residence for himself. The Mexicans have their fair share of notables too, headlined by the foremost modernist painter and sculptor José Luis Cuevas. And the British are represented by none other than Damien Hirst, reputedly drawn to Troncones by his wife's enthusiasm for surfing.
Surfers are among the most identifiable group of lesser known visitors too, attracted by a large number of "left-turn point breaks" that are reputedly both high quality and smooth, making them ideal for novices and veterans alike. All of which, I am reliably informed, holds particular appeal for those who favour a "goofy foot stance".
It began with a handful of gringos buying up beach land and establishing the unwritten rule that all development would be low impact. At the time there was little more than a tiny village sandwiched between the ocean and a small, steep, jungle-covered mountain, home to fishermen and former construction workers turned subsistence farmers. Today there are about 250 rooms in small hotels along the three-mile-long beach costing between $50 and $250 a night.
The best meal we had was at the Manzanillo Bay Inn where we got stuck one afternoon when a thunder storm scuppered our first attempt to play in the tide pool and we had walked on past the rocky point into the bay looking for shelter. The restaurant is tucked away from the hotel's spectacular views, but the seared tuna and ceviche were excellent.
- Small Fishing Village
- Thatched Roof Bungalows
- Grilled Gilet Mignon Fajitas
- Private Surf Lessons
- Snorkel Gear
The U.S. might share a nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico, a country almost three times the size of Texas, but most American travelers are familiar with only a handful of its destinations—Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and other beach towns that cater to Americans.
While a relaxing vacation at a beach resort never hurt anyone, visitors who avoid traveling elsewhere are missing out on some of the best that Mexico has to offer: virgin beaches unspoiled by development, colonial cities that are older and more European than anything in the States, and indigenous cultures that still hold true to ancient traditions. All that, and lower prices, too.
In many colonial cities and small out-of-the-way beach towns, you'll find B&Bs and inns charging as little as $50 a night (or less) and luxurious accommodations in converted haciendas and Spanish estates for less than $150 a night. As for dining and shopping, you'll always find cheaper and more authentic food and handicrafts beyond the big tourist zones.
To experience Mexico outside the resorts you'll need to show a bit of independence and an openness to a less structured style of travel. Driving a rental car down crumbly roads, speaking some basic Spanish and sharing your room with a lizard or two may be involved. Nevertheless, for the right kind of traveler, these elements are part of the excitement of venturing off the beaten path.
Here's a glimpse at 10 affordable, under-the-radar Mexican cities and beach towns that can be added on to a beach resort vacation or made the focus of a trip.
On Mexico's Pacific Coast, where beach resorts like Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco now sprawl over once-virgin beaches with high-rise hotels, golf courses and shopping malls, it's nice to know at least a few stretches of perfect sand remain undisturbed by the big developers. Troncones, a small fishing village located just a half hour from the resort of Ixtapa, is one of them.
It's easy to miss the signs on Highway 200 pointing towards the crumbly road heading west towards the beach and Troncones, but ask anyone with a surfboard for directions, and they'll point out the right way. People come to Troncones for a few simple reasons: great surfing, great beach, great eating and few tourists.
Troncones is home to several hundred local families and a number of small inns, guesthouses and restaurants. The Inn at Manzanillo Bay is one of the most well-known establishments, boasting probably the best restaurant in town and its own surf shop, in addition to 10 thatched-roof bungalows. It also has a good location on Manzanillo Bay, one that's ideal for both swimmers and surfers: "The beach out in front of the inn is set on a bay that's protected from currents and rip tides, which is great for swimming and snorkeling," says Manager Randall Brook. "We also have great surfing in front of the inn via a point break and reef."
As for dining, people come all the way from Ixtapa just to eat at the inn's restaurant. The chef (and hotel owner) Michael Bensal combines classical European cooking with local cuisine, creating dishes such as sautéed fish with tequila-lime sauce and grilled filet mignon fajitas. The inn also rents surfboards and snorkel gear, and can arrange private surf lessons for about $50.
Where to stay
Summer rates at the Inn at Manzanillo Bay start at $88 for oceanview bungalows, which include a private patio, canopy beds and hammocks. Sightseeing tours, horseback riding and other activities can be arranged for a fee.
- Thatched Roof Bungalows
- Deluxe Suites
- Frozen Margaritas
- Private Surf Lessons
Psst...! These secluded North American properties, surrounded by spectacular landscapes, are the perfect antidote for the busy workweek. Check in, drop out, and catch a late flight back.
Far from touristy Ixtapa, the Inn at Manzanillo Bay draws both mellow sunseekers and surfers eager to test the challenging waves of Mexico's Pacific coast. The eight thatched-roof bungalows and two deluxe suites with marble floors and private patios are part of a complex run by American Michael Bensal, a graduate of the California Culinary Academy who cooks up Baja-style fish tacos and chiles rellenos in the hotel's casual restaurant. There's a decidedly laid-back vibe: Guests laze on the beach with frozen margaritas made with the inn's boutique house tequila, or relax in the pool surrounded by coconut palms and bougainvilleas. Surfers will catch the biggest swell from May through October, although the inn's private point break throws consistent waves throughout much of the year. Want to learn how to surf? Bensal will set you up with a local instructor for private lessons on a nearby sandy beach break, ideal for beginners.
011-52/755-533-2884, manzanillobay.com, from $128.
- Secluded Haven
- Jungle Foothills
- Warm Tropical Waters
2010 travel trends according to TripAdvisor, December 09, 2009 | Online Travel
Americans expect to travel more in 2010 than in 2009. Forty-one percent of U.S. respondents said they plan to spend more on leisure travel in 2010 than they did in 2009 and 92 percent of travelers are planning to take two or more leisure trips in 2010, up from 89 percent last year.
TripAdvisor announced the results of its annual travel trends survey of more than 3,000 U.S. travelers. Americans are not taking the H1N1 warnings lightly, as 88 percent of respondents said they are concerned about germs, bacteria and viruses when traveling, compared to 83 percent last year. Seventy-seven percent of travelers said they are washing their hands more often on the road than they normally do, an increase of 17 percent from one year ago.
Despite the concerns over germs, Americans expect to travel more in 2010 than in 2009. Forty-one percent of U.S. respondents said they plan to spend more on leisure travel in 2010 than they did in 2009 and 92 percent of travelers are planning to take two or more leisure trips in 2010, up from 89 percent last year. Sixty-six percent said the economy will not affect their travel plans for the coming year.
The TripAdvisor TravelCast identifies up-and-coming travel destinations based on site data, including increases in search activity and postings for the past year on TripAdvisor.com.
TripAdvisor TravelCast Top Five World Destinations for 2010
1. Troncones, Mexico – Number One Boasting miles of white sand beaches, Troncones is a peaceful and secluded haven nestled between the jungle foothills of the Sierra Madre del Sur Mountains and the warm tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean.