Loco Gringo Mexico

LocoGringo Mexico gives you local insights, vacation tips and stories from people who live and work in the Riviera Maya and Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. Our host Kay Walten, will introduce you to people in Mexico who tell of their journey to the Yucatan, their local scoop on the people, the Mexico and Mayan culture, places not to miss on your next vacation, food and more. LocoGringo gives you travel info that you won’t find in a travel guidebook. Discover Mexico for your next vacation on a more intimate level than a typical tourist. As an expat, Kay has been working in vacation and tourism in Mexico since 1992. She is also co-founder of the vacation rental site
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Now displaying: September, 2016
Sep 27, 2016

How did a baby photographer from Clarkston, Michigan end up running a hotel on a Caribbean island, just offshore from the Sian Ka’an protected biosphere in the Riviera Maya? My friend Niki Allen, the owner of Serenidad Shardon, tells us exactly how she did it.

Punta Allen is a World Class destination for saltwater fishing and is sometimes called the Permit Capital of the World. Niki and others on the island created a fishing tournament to provide funding for the families and children who inhabit the area. Niki and her husband bought their property with the intention of having an eco-retreat for people who don’t want to be in the middle of Margaritaville while on vacation. Though her husband has since passed, Niki and her son are working together to keep the dream alive.

Niki says the ecosystem is thriving in the area thanks to the education of the local guides and children. Even the area’s 48-year-old lobster cooperative has rules about which lobsters can be harvested, allowing the lobsters a rest and recuperation period. There is no diving in the nearby biosphere and there is no swimming with the abundant dolphin pods. These conservation techniques are what maintain the natural world pristine.

Niki keeps her passion alive by investing her time in the island children’s lives. She shares information with guests and educates the local kids not to throw things on the ground. These kids are the future caretakers of the area and rather than being stuck in a phone or video game, they go outside and gain knowledge about the real world. Young people are also staying in the area and working in ecotourism.

Niki says if travelers want to contribute when they visit Punta Allen, they can contribute monetarily or by donating school and art supplies.


Niki’s Favorite Places:

Bacalar - Mis Casas

Punta Allen

A Jungle Walk to the Black Lagoon

Temple Ruins in the Surrounding Jungle

The Ultra Blue Water of Blankisal


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Sep 20, 2016

Today I am speaking with my friend Ken Schmidt, who is originally from Florida, where he started his own software company. His one software client in Mexico, Condo Hotels, told him he needed a career change and he was to be their new General Manager and CIO. Ken likes to wow people so he said he would give it a shot. He now lives in Playa del Carmen with his beautiful new wife and travels back and forth to the U.S. for business and vacations.

Ken spends most of his days managing 5 upscale hotels, but has now added much more to his personal portfolio. He is a partner in the only 5-star restaurant in the Riviera Maya called Plank, produces aerial and ground videography for his own production company, is the owner of his own software company in the U.S, and provides content for his wife’s PR and Marketing firm. 

One of his favorite places in Mexico is Isla Pasion, a small island on the north side of Cozumel, where he and his wife were married. Ken says the next place he visits in Mexico will be Copper Canyon. 

A self-professed tequila guy, Ken has an affinity towards mezcal, which he calls the wine of tequilas.


Ken’s Favorite Places:

Isla Mujeres

Punta Sur


Babe's Noodles & Bar

Plank (Ken’s restaurant)


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Be Social Playa del Carmen

Sep 13, 2016

Originally from Guadalajara, my guest Angel Carrera came to Playa del Carmen to work in his father’s accounting firm. His passion for the Mayan culture is evident in his side activities. He helps the Mayan communities to sell their art, develop tourism and even gives them financial advice.

His community project, Ojos Mayas, connects the tourism community of the northern part of Quintana Roo to the Mayan Zone. His culturally- rich tours of the Mayan Zone include visits to a traditional healer who uses plants as medicine, a trip to the house of the village elder to hear about Mayan traditions which have been passed down for generations, and a stopover to a place of agriculture where Melipona bees are kept. Tourists are able to get a history lesson in the Mayan culture from the Mayan people and then end the day in a refreshing lagoon.

Angel stresses the importance of promoting the social and economic development within the villages. As the big resorts entice the Mayan youth to work along the coast, much of the tradition and culture is being lost in the Mayan Zone. These traditional tours can help bring social development to the villages, keeping them alive and flourishing.

Angel says he loves the Riviera Maya but he frequently visits Chiapas where his wife’s family lives. When tourists ask him where to visit, he recommends the San Juan Chamula Church for a very different experience.   


Angel’s Favorite Spots:

Va q’ Va! - Seafood Restaurant 

Bendito Café - Café from all over Mexico

Xpu Ha - Quiet Beach

Caleta Tankah - Beautiful Beach

Noh Bec Ruins - Incredible Ruins


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Sep 6, 2016

The area around Cozumel grabbed Kelly's heart during her first visit. Flying over the turquoise waters of the Caribbean left a significant imprint on her heart. She returned to the Riviera Maya to work for a summer and once she went diving in the area’s underwater playgrounds, she was hooked. 

Later when Hurricane Gilbert smashed into Cozumel, Kelley returned to San Antonio, Texas to finish her Psychology and Business Administration degree, even though she knew it wouldn’t be relevant to her life’s calling.  Her passion now revolved around scuba diving. After returning to Cozumel, she became a divemaster and a scuba guide for tourist trips.  She and her partner bought a boat, built a dream and had a baby.

Currently, Kelley still scuba dives but a portion of her time also includes finding homes for visitors. She says most people make several visits a year and they want to feel like they have returned home when they arrive. She works with vacation rentals, property management and real estate.

Since her arrival in Cozumel, the island has protected its waters by establishing a marine park. Kelley says this, along with the community of small dive shop members, has helped save the reef. Her dive company, Manta Raya Divers, along with other dive companies work together to take care of Cozumel and the planet.

To this day, Kelley’s favorite photograph is one of her and her daughter snorkeling with the gentle whale sharks on Isla Holbox.


Kelly’s Favorite Spots:

Las Ventanas al Mar for Breathtaking View, Pampering and Food

Punta Sur on the South Side of Cozumel for Big Marine Life

El Recoveco is a lesser known dive site on the North of Cozumel

Shirena’s Reef (named after Kelley’s daughter) for sleeping nurse sharks

Café Del Mar for Ceviche and Atmosphere

Rolandi’s for Homemade Pasta, Garlic Bread and Sangria 


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Manta Raya Dive Shop

Casa Cozumel

Cozumel Homes