By Marcia Chaiken and Jan Chaiken
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder- according to the old adage. And romance is in the mind of the romanticist. Our most amorous places may well be idiosyncratic. We thought we’d give you a taste of places we’ve loved and found love in Mexico, so as to encourage you to search for your own.
We’ve been wandering around Mexico for about forty years and still remember the idyllic places we discovered long ago in the state of Quintana Roo, on the east coast of Mexico. One was an isolated lagoon south of Cancun near Akumal, at that time accessible only by a narrow dirt road cut through the jungle. (No GPS then to remember the almost-hidden location!) We’d leave our hotel early in the morning with a few bottles of water and some snacks in a cooler and, usually after missing the turn-off and back-tracking, find our own personal aquarium. The salt-water lagoon was crystal clear with colorful sea life right up to the edge. The plants growing wild around the shore swayed in the breeze. We could dangle our feet and have the fish visit us. We snorkeled for hours, side-by-side, pointing out particularly beautiful fish and other lagoon denizens. Sometimes the sun would start to set before we remembered to drive back north on the coast highway. If the moon phase was right, we would be rewarded by a rising moon over the Caribbean to illuminate our trip back. Sorry folks, you can’t have the same experience now – you’ll encounter advertisement signs, a paved road, and tour buses, but very few fish.
Another romantic venue in Quintana Roo was an isolated cenote (a romantic word, with ancient ceremonial overtones, for a very deep water-filled sinkhole) long abandoned by the indigenous people who had cut away limestone to make it. Access was this: hold hands and jump in. The cold, fresh water was a delight on hot summer days. We floated on our backs and admired the clear blue sky and the wild-flowers peaking over the cenote rim. We were never quite sure that any of the possible ways out would remain stable enough to hold our weight. But the adrenaline rush made the site even more romantic.
Archeological sites around Mexico have long provided us with a romantic refuge. By staying overnight in or near the ruins and avoiding the tour bus crowds, we’ve been able to share the mystical spell the pyramids provide at sunrise and moonlight. During the lowest of the low season, we had a hotel with a view of the ruins in Palenque (northeast of Huatulco in the state of Chiapas) virtually to ourselves; we sat in a stream running through the hotel gardens and serenaded each other. Most recently, in Tonina, a site near Comitan, Chiapas, we wandered hand-in-hand through the immaculate and nearly deserted grounds among temples and pyramids, observed only by butterflies and iguanas. These you can experience too.
“If music be the food of love, play on,” wrote the Bard. We’ve had many romantic musical evenings around Mexico. In Jalisco, we’ve shared the mariachi love songs at Casa Bariachi, in Guadalajara. Also, in Guadalajara we joined the deeply responsive, singing audience at a memorable concert called “El Ultimo Bolero,” after a vanishing art form called bolero; it was in the beautiful Teatro Degollado. If you too are turned on by music, you should seek out performances of State symphony orchestras, such as in the cities of Oaxaca, Puebla, Guanajuato and Morelia, or look for musicians in the many cultural centers around the country.
For us, food can be the music of love, especially if prepared with passion and served in a place with an incredible view, such as the restaurant in at the Villa Montaña high in the Morelia hills, or the terrace of Casa Oaxaca restaurant with a view of picture-perfect lit-up Santo Domingo Church in the city of Oaxaca. Our romantic food moments also include picnics in secluded places such as lake shores in Montebello National Park in Chiapas and one of the few car pullouts overlooking the deserted beaches on the coast of Michoacán.
Although we’ve traveled far and wide in Mexico to find romantic venues, you can stay pretty close to home for great places. Here are some of our favorite local sites for romance: The cave behind the waterfall at Hagia Sophia where you can catch a quick kiss before being joined by other nature lovers. The mirador at the Eco-Archeological Park in Copalita. One special table for two overlooking the park from Cafe Juanita in Santa Cruz. An early breakfast (before the tourists wake up) on the terrace of Quinta Real overlooking Bahia Tangolunda. Also in Tangolunda, what could be more romantic than choosing one of the couches at an Amigos de la Musica concert at the Hotel Camino Real and hearing the waves rushing on the beach between movements? But the very best is watching the sunrise over Bahia Chahué from our own bed. We are not inviting you to join us there.