Been Too Long Since We Blogged…so Restarting with “Award Winning”

Why has it been so long since our last blog post? Simple, we revamped the website about a year ago and the blog was not part of the new site. But many of you were still searching, finding and commenting on content on our blog; so we decided to bring it back and incorporate it into the new website. While much of our content updates have been visual, posting photos on our Instagram page with links back to our Facebook page, we still have a need for words, for WordPress and for non-visual content that provides a narrative update for what we have been up to at Playa Viva.

So what have we been up to since the last post? Stay tuned as we provide updates on the same topics we have covered before: Green, Sustainable and Regenerative Travel, Architecture, Building, Community Development, Volunteering, Local and Organic Agriculture, etc.

One notable item is the new Treehouse at Playa Viva. It was designed by Kimshasa Baldwin at Deture Culsign and the construction was completed by Will Beilharz and his firm ArtisTree.  The end result is stunning and has become an iconic image for Playa Viva.

Most recently, the treehouse can now be called “award winning.” NEWSFLASH: the “Treehouse Suite at Playa Viva has been selected as one of the finalists in the Lifestyle Guestrooms category…,and all winners and finalists will be featured in the June issue of Hospitality Design magazine.”

Also, Kimshasa and Will along with David Leventhal of Playa Viva also presented at the Boutique Design Magazine’s BDWest conference. The session was entitled: “EARTH STAYS: MAKING SUSTAINABLE DESIGN HAPPEN IN A NANOSECOND.”  The focus was how an introduction by Mary Scoviak of Boutique Design in April of 2015 lead to the design and construction of the treehouse opening in October 2015 (a nanosecond in hotel design and building).

More about the design and building process in future posts. Please come experience the Treehouse for yourself.

Treehouse 1

Photo by Leonardo Palafox





Update from US State Department on Travel in Mexico

The US State Department recently updated it’s travel advisory for Mexico. While this is generally for US State Department employees, it also applies to US citizens traveling in Mexico. You can find the full advisory including specific updates for each Mexican State. Below we have included the first few lines of the General Conditions followed by an except from the specific update for the State of Guerrero where Playa Viva is located.  Your security is very important to us and we take certain security measuresUSPassports as well as ask you, our guest, to take normal precautions (many outlined by this advisory). These include traveling during the day on major highways; not displaying expensive cameras, watches and jewelry; and using common sense precautions when traveling.  Playa Viva makes sure that all transportation provided is with bonded taxis and tour guides (or well known employees and contractors).  We provide safe’s for your valuables, accept credit card on file for all payment so you do not need to carry cash and provide on site security 24×7.  We are happy to report that we have not had any incidents with guests to date and assume that part of this has to do with the great relationship we have built with the local community.  We appreciate your continued support of tourism in Mexico, to Playa Viva and support of the local community.

Below are excepts from the US State Department update on Travel to Mexico.

General Conditions: 

Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day.  The Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect visitors to major tourist destinations, and there is no evidence that organized criminal groups have targeted U.S. visitors or residents based on their nationality.  Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes. 

Nevertheless, U.S. travelers should be aware that the Mexican government has been engaged in an extensive effort to counter organized criminal groups that engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico.  The groups themselves are engaged in a violent struggle to control drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity.  Crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere. 

Guerrero: Acapulco, Ixtapa, Taxco and Zihuatanejo are major cities/travel destinations in Guerrero – Defer non-essential travel to the northwestern and southern portions of the state (the area west and south of the town of Arcelia on the border with Estado de Mexico in the north and west and south of the town of Tlapa near the border with Oaxaca), except for the cities of Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, and Ixtapa. In those cities, you should exercise caution and stay within tourist areas. You should also exercise caution and travel only during daylight hours on toll highway (“cuota”) 95D between Mexico City and Acapulco. Use the toll road towards the Playa Diamante area and avoid the highway running through the city of Acapulco for travel to and from Acapulco. In Acapulco, defer non-essential travel to areas further than 2 blocks inland of the Costera Miguel Aleman Boulevard, which parallels the popular beach areas. Lodging for U.S. government personnel is limited to the “Hotel Zone” of Acapulco, beginning from the Hotel Avalon Excalibur Acapulco in the north and going south through Puerto Marquez including the Playa Diamante area. Any activity outside the Hotel Zone for U.S. government personnel is limited to the coastal area from La Quebrada to the beginning of the Hotel Zone and only during daylight hours. In general, the popular tourist area of Diamante, just south of the city, has been less affected by violence. Flying into the coastal cities in southern Guerrero remains the preferred method of travel. You should defer non-essential travel by land between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa, travel to Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa only by air, and exercise caution while in Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa. If traveling by land, use toll highway 200 between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa. You should also exercise caution in the northern region of Guerrero (the area north of the town of Arcelia on the border with Estado de Mexico in the north and north and east of the town of Tlapa near the border with Oaxaca). The state of Guerrero was the most violent state in Mexico in 2013, with 2,087 homicides and 207 reported cases of kidnapping, according to the Mexican Secretariado Ejecutivo Nacional de Seguridad Publica. Self-defense groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Armed members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable.

Patrimony of Humanity Site – Patzcuaro – Great Change of Scenery

When John Ayliffe and family asked me to help them plan a trip to Playa Viva and Casa Viva recently I recommended that they add 3 days in Patzcuaro, inland in the state of Michoacan, Mexico, to their trip. They started with 1 night in Casa Viva, then a 3 hour drive to Patzcuaro, 3 nights in a local residence that we arranged for them and then 3 nights warming up on the beaches of Playa Viva.  I prepared a google doc with recommendations on where to stay and these are their recommendations back to us below. Enjoy and check out the google doc for recommendations on Patzcuaro (feel free to give us your feedback and input so we can share with our guests traveling to the area):

The document that David at Playa Viva provided was full of great hints and recommendations of what to do and where to go in and around Patzcuaro. We spent 3 days soaking up the atmosphere of this heritage town and loved our morning (and evening) strolls through the town. Breakfast and coffee at La Surtidora was a firm favourite as was the market – bustling, with a great choice of hot food, fresh produce and local goods. The food at Lupita’s (near the Basilica) was also really good. The bakery on Romero (2 minutes from the main square just past the hospital) tempted us on more than occasion as our nostrils were filled with that heavenly just-baked smell. Also recommend visiting the Casa de los 11 Patios – really beautiful (

Going out of town, we only managed to visit Tzintzuntzan (the potter is well worth a visit), Santa Clara del Cobre (the copper work is FANTASTIC – our favourite – visit the museum on the main street) and the quaint Bavarian restaurant near Erongaricuaro where the kids fished for trout and carp – a welcome break for them from the artisans.

Güelcome to ‘Julu York’

You definitely won’t spot the Statue of Liberty and you’re more likely to hear a cacophony of farm animals than the honking of horns and rumbles of the subway. Dusty dirt roads and towering palm trees fill in for Manhattan’s asphalt jungle and iconic skyscrapers. There are no world famous delis here, but the tacos at Doña Lupe’s aren’t bad. This is the city that definitely sleeps—mostly after 10pm and also usually a siesta in the late afternoon heat. Welcome to Julu York, population a few hundred give or take, and gateway to Playa Viva.

Juluchuca is no New York, so why all the comparisons? That’s the same question I asked when I first heard residents of this little town rechristening their pueblo with a moniker reminiscent of that most famous of cities. What in Juluchuca could possibly make someone think of New York? Sure, crossing the Juluchuca creek in the rainy season can be a little chancy, but it’s no East River. The truth is there’s not much in Julu York to remind you of New York, but that hasn’t stopped the spread of Juluchuca’s new name.

Julu York isn’t a PR stunt or even old-fashioned civic boosterism. It’s much more natural than that. Usually it’s just a joke over a beer:  rural Mexico’s take on modern sarcasm. Who could confuse Julu York with New York, the big city’s bright lights with the flickering bare bulb holding the countryside’s nighttime shadows at bay? But behind the laughter, I think there’s something more aspirational about Julu York.

It seems that even in the smallest specks on the map of Mexico citizens are eager to define their towns themselves. I don’t think anyone in Juluchuca believes Julu York will ever rival New York (and many probably wouldn’t want it to). I think with the new name, joke or not, people are trying to tell the world that there’s more to Juluchuca than meets the eye. The 20-second stretch of Highway 200 that crosses the town from one end to the other doesn’t do it justice.

For me, looking for comparisons between New York and Julu York was a good reminder of all the interesting things I’ve been able to see and do in Juluchuca. From a local farm that’s a solitary outpost of certified organic agriculture to a ceiba tree so big locals call it the ‘Avatar tree’ on the road up into the Sierra Madre mountains, there are a few surprises in Julu York, and the town can even hold its own with the big city. Take a trip up the sierra to eat a home-cooked meal with a local family and you can boast to all your foodie friends about a meal measured not in the great distances of food miles, but in the short steps of food meters—fresh, hyper-local food to rival the best farmer’s market in the biggest city.

So, why not trade in your Empire State of Mind for an outlook that’s a tad more provincial? You might be surprised what a one-tope town has to offer. Yeah, maybe it’s not as catchy or exciting as the New York of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, but give it time. After all, how long can it be before some enterprising chavo down in the town square pulls out his iPhone and autotunes an anthem that will really put Julu York on the map? Watch out world.