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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 LocoGringo.com.
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Nov 1, 2016

Norma Pancorbo is a dive instructor at the Mahahual Dive Center, who is originally from the North of Spain. She had never been to Mexico before the job of dive instructor was offered to her. But, after researching Costa Maya on the internet, she knew fate was leading her in the right direction. When Norma learned she could dive and work in paradise, she moved from a sizable city in Spain, to the small, isolated town of Mahahual.

“The diving is amazing,” she says. “The variety of reef and coral, in a place with so few people, is like no other diving spot in the world.”

Mahahual may be small, but it has basic services, good restaurants, and great diving. Banco Chinchorro is only a short boat ride from the Mahahual coast, and is comprised of a reef about the same size as Cozumel. Norma has been diving all over the world, and says she has never experienced the beauty and solitude of Banco Chinchorro.  The area also has a 16th-century shipwreck, where divers get a glimpse of 40 sea-encrusted brass cannons on the bow of the sunken ship.

When Norma isn’t underwater, she spends her time mountain biking through the jungle. She loves taking biking groups to see ruins, and having lunch with the Mayan families of the Chacchoben Ruins. She also loves the Palenque Ruins and Laguna Bacalar, which is known for its seven hues of freshwater blue.

 

Norma’s Secret Spots:

Nacional Beach Club - For a Tamarindo Margarita

Cafe Colonial - For a Traditional Mexican Breakfast of Chilaquiles

Pizza Papi - For an Excellent Pizza with a Local Flair

 

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Mahahual Dive Centre

Mahahual Dive Center on Facebook

Oct 25, 2016

My guest on today’s podcast, Lia Evans, has a passport full of stamps, is a self-proclaimed foodie and loves her new home of Tulum.

Lia and her husband managed a diving resort in Belize, shortly before arriving in the Riviera Maya in 2015. They found Belize to be expensive, so they decided to travel around a bit. Playa del Carmen wasn’t exactly what they were looking for, so they made their way to Tulum. Lia says, “It immediately felt like home.” So, they rented a cheap room in the center of town, and found a dive shop that needed an experienced diver.

Lia’s big plan is to have her own company one day, but she realizes there is a lot of competition in the area. Many of her previous diving students are contacting her, now that she lives in the Riviera Maya -- or what she calls one of the most amazing places to cavern dive, in the world. The cenotes are so big, her clients don’t need to be certified cavern divers to enjoy them.

During her free time, Lia takes long walks through the jungle and into the Sian Ka’an reserve. She enjoys watching monkeys in the trees, large bird migrations, and the colorful parrots.

She and her husband make the most of the dining scene in Tulum, by finding restaurants that specialize in the foods they love to eat. Her husband believes that great service is just as important as great food, making all of the secret spots she shares, must-visits.

 

Lia’s Secret Spots:

Dos Ojos Lodge - For Amazing Cenote Diving

La Eufemia Taqueria - For Really, Really Good Tacos

La Siesta Tulum - Italian Food with Great Service and Delivery

Azafran - For a Proper English Breakfast

 

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Oct 18, 2016

My longtime friends, Laura and Perry, are calling in from Iowa to join me as my guests on today’s podcast. They are the couple responsible for Cancun Map and MapChick maps, and travel guides of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Perry shares the amusing story of how a waiter friend had won an obstacle course contest for a free trip to a little-known place called Cancun, Mexico. When he returned from the trip he told Laura and Perry, they must visit. This was in the 80’s when hotels were so far apart it was a 2-3 minute plane ride between them. The couple loved the area so much they would visit over and over even though they didn’t have it in their budget. They would sleep on the beach in a tent, and buy a loaf of bread with some butter, and rough it for a couple of weeks. 

They knew they had to share the information they were collecting with others. This is when they started their map projects. In the early days, they would pay someone to show them local swimming spots, local life events, and remnants of the ancient people. Perry also used a bicycle equipped with a compass and an odometer and pinpointed every last turn through small towns. And, all with little to no Spanish. 

The couple muses about writing a book about their experiences over the last 20 years but with the annual updates to their seven sets of maps, they may not find the time.

Be sure to catch the story of the night time fish dinner!

 

Laura and Perry’s Secret Spots:

Chamikos - Always the Best Food

El Galeon del Caribe - Fresh Fish Over Hot Coals

 

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Cancun Map

Map Chick

Laura@cancunmap.com

Oct 11, 2016

My guest, Yasmin Vera, and I only recently met. We were both at the airport in Houston, Texas, waiting for our flight to Cancun. It turns out she has lived in Playa del Carmen for two years. She owns the luxury fitness based vacation company, Fun Fitness Globetrotters.

Yasmin is a licensed attorney, and worked as an in-house security litigator for ten years. Why would an attorney from California found a fitness vacation company in the Riviera Maya? Yasmin says she has a couple of professional athletes in her family, and has always been interested in fitness. When she decided to make it her full-time career, she knew Mexico would be where it would start.

Yasmin’s client signs up for the complete curriculum of fitness plus vacation fun. Classes include high-intensity cardio in the mornings, yoga and beach time. Her packages even include a staff masseuse, a physical therapist and electro muscle stimulation. Yasmin says her clients may sign up to tone a specific part of their body, but healing their bodies is the main focus.

There is also a nutritional component to the vacation, and Yasmin says that is where Mexico really shines. Fish, fresh unprocessed foods and amazing flavors make it easy for clients to learn lifelong eating habits they can take back home with them.

 

Yasmin’s Secret Spots:

Playacar Beach - Beautiful Clear Water

Playa Punta Esmeralda - Cenote at the Beach

El Fogon - Best Tacos Ever

 

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Fun Fitness Globetrotters

Fun Fitness Globetrotters on Facebook

Fun Fitness Globetrotters on Instagram

Fun Fitness Globetrotters on Yelp

Oct 4, 2016

Gerardo and I have been friends for well over a decade. Originally from Argentina near Patagonia, Gerardo arrived in the Riviera Maya to work in the hotel business. The job offer he received was to work at a large hotel in Playa del Carmen. Gerardo says working for big corporations didn’t suit him because he didn’t feel he was able to express himself fully. Then, he met the owners of the local Lol-Ha restaurant. They asked him to join them in changing the face of their establishment. He was finally able to express himself creatively and he loved the town of Akumal. After a walk to the Caribbean on his very first day in town, he called his family in Argentina and told them to sell all of his belongings because he wouldn’t be returning.

Gerardo knew he wanted to become part of the real estate market in Mexico. He became a Mexican citizen and learned everything he could about the area. He says, the real estate environment in the Riviera Maya has very mature markets to the North in Cancun and developing markets near Tulum. Tulum is a wonderful place to invest because the atmosphere is laid back and relaxed. You can have a better lifestyle for less money. 

Gerardo’s favorite places in Mexico, in addition to the Riviera Maya, are Chiapas, Zacatecas and the bustling, Mexico City. He visits annually to visit the museums and great restaurants, all of which are easy to get to from the new larger airport and improved roads.

 

Gerardo’s Secret Spots:

La Floresta — It’s a surprise for everyone who goes there

Dos Brot German Bakery

DAC — Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

NAO — Portuguese Cuisine with an International Flair

Lol-Ha — Re-designed by Gerardo

La Azotea en El Punto Hotel — Rooftop Views for Evening Drinks

La Lunita — A Quiet Dinner with a Great Wine Selection

 

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Buy Playa

Email Gerardo: Gerardo@Buyplaya.com

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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Serenidad Shardon

Niki Allen Facebook Page

Punta Allen Community Page

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

Bio-Orgánicos

Babe's Noodles & Bar

Plank (Ken’s restaurant)

 

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Ken Mex Productions

Condo Hotels — Receive 10% off your stay if you mention the Loco Gringo podcast!

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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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Ojos Mayas

Ojos Mayas on Facebook

@ojosmayas on Instagram

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

Aug 30, 2016

Originally from Youngstown, Ohio, Ryan headed to the west coast to complete his graduate degree in architecture. He started working with a local sculptor in California, who does art installations, furniture designs and architecture. During Ryan’s initial interview, the sculptor asked him if he would move to Mexico. Ryan ended up in the city of Merida with a team of people. About a year and a half ago, Tulum called to him and Ryan transitioned from life in the city to life on the beach.

After giving himself time to settle in, Ryan started working with local building contractors to get a feel for the area. He saw opportunity in Tulum, which lead him to start his own design and building firm, Caribbean Luxury Builders. An aspect he loves about building design in Mexico, is the intricate tile work he has seen in many of the colonial houses. This inspired him to design the concept for the tiles on a computer, then have local craftsmen make the tiles by hand.

Ryan says his business is picking up but its slow, going nature aspect is like everything else in Tulum - you just have to give up planning and go with the flow. You have to network―you just can’t wait for customers to come to you. But in Tulum, it’s easy to get conversations started.

 

Ryan’s Secret Places:

Uno Astro Lodge for Magical Sunsets

Tulum Art Club for Coffee and Mexican Art

Papaya Playa for Electronic Music

Todos Santos for a Good Party

La Dama Juana for Mezcla 

Casa Jaguar Tulum  to Party ‘Til You Drop

Eden Tulum for Artsy Entertainment

ZINE for Dinner and a Movie

 

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Caribbean Luxury Builders

Email Ryan: Ryan@caribbeanluxurybuilders.com

Caribbean Luxury Builders on Facebook

Aug 23, 2016

My guest today, Sandra Dayton, is a huge supporter of the local Mayan community here in the Riviera Maya, specifically Puerto Morelos. She is an icon who embodies a true pioneer spirit. Sandra became enchanted with Mexico when she was only 7. Her family would take her from Texas to Mexico for shopping trips. Her silky blonde hair got her a lot of attention from the local women who said it reminded them of corn silk. She says the women would give her free ice cream and the mariachis would sing songs about the little market princess. She knew then she would one day live in Mexico.

She fell in love with the community of Puerto Morelos and it was there she founded her first business Jungle Tours in the Jungle. A local Mayan family had some land with a cenote in the area so Sandra bought roughly 2.5 acres to build a community tour center there. Sandra’s dream to bring local community tourism to the area became a reality. The success of the project has spawned a weekly Jungle Market complete with a peace ceremony. 

In 2008, Sandra was looking for an additional way for the local women to make money. She learned massages had been part of the Mayan culture for ages so she started the Jungle Spa. The women receive 75% of the cost of each massage they perform. At first, there was a bit of a cultural hurdle to jump when Sandra had to explain to the local women that tourists would take their clothes off and get a massage from a stranger because traditional Mayan massage was performed only as a healing exercise. The Jungle Spa is now frequently visited by tourists during the hours of 10 am to 4 pm, Tuesday through Saturday.

 

Sandra’s Special Spots:

1.) Yal Ku Lagoon in Akumal  

2.) Shopping in San Miguel

3.) Central Vallarta on Cenote Road 

4.) Cobá Cenote and Ruins

 

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Maya Echo

Maya Echo on Facebook

Email Sandra - starseed@prodigy.net.mx

Aug 16, 2016

Originally from a failing tourist town in Washington State, an offhand comment prompted a friend to tell Margo about a management opportunity in Xamach Dos in the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve. In just four days after speaking with the owner of the property, she arrived ready to work. She had no electricity and had to take a 2-hour drive just for groceries, and this was in 2006.

Margo finds the small town of Punta Allen inspiring due to the multi-generational Mayan families and eccentric expats who visit in the winter months. She says it has six really good restaurants, and the Serenidad Shardon hotel is nice, especially for sports fishermen who want to pick up a Grand Slam of tarpon, permits and bonefish. During the boat ride to Punta Allen, many of the 350 species of birds of the area can be seen as well.

Margo found herself spending a lot of time on travel blogs, including Loco Gringo, during the day and hanging out listening to local music at night. People started to fall in love with her life and wanted to know more about it. After a forum reader asked her about being a masseuse, she ended up with eight massage appointments within two hours.

Margo’s passion is something she calls My Feel Good Way. A fun and easy way for massage clients to lower chronic pain and stress. She is currently working on a book, online classes, and she also has personal retreats. 

 

Margo’s Special Secret Places:

1.) Zamas for Live Music

2.) Cenzontle Jardin Secreto for Great Food

3.) Tita Tulum for a History in Local Architecture

4.) Dos Ciebas for Romantic Dinners

5.) Batey for Mojitos

6.) Campanella Cremerie for Gelato

7.) Único and Ginger are great Gourmet Food Restaurants

8.) Antojitos La Chiapaneca for Tacos and Great Prices

 

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My Feel Good Way

My Feel Good Way on Facebook

Margoinmexico@hotmail.com

Aug 9, 2016

Originally from Mexico City, Claudia came to the Riviera Maya in 2000 when she was hired by the tourism board to create a hardcover publication called Destination Riviera Maya for hotels. At that time, the Riviera Maya was known as Playa del Carmen, or just Cancun South.

When Claudia’s father passed away she decided to turn her life upside down and start doing what she loved, so she could have more time with her son. She started freelancing for travel writers as a scout and eventually found herself translating for visiting doctors. She then went to the Red Cross to study to become an EMT. It was during the relief efforts after Hurricane Dean that Kay and Claudia met. Today, she spends her days in promoting tourism in the area and translating for doctors. She has even bartered with doctors to get access to behavior modification medical techniques. 

Claudia plans to offer these techniques to spas and retreats in the area for tourists who want to truly relax, and for locals who want to modify their behaviors. She believes the Riviera Maya is a healing paradise which has no equal.

Claudia’s Special Places in Playa del Carmen:

  1. El Pirata for Fresh Ceviche 
  2. PapaCharly for Homemade Pasta 
  3. Don Chendo for Deep Dish Pizza
  4. La Tarraya for Great Prices on the Beach
  5. Zenzi Bar for a Tuna Burger

Use these Resources to Continue Your Journey:

  1. Loco Gringo
  2. askkay@locogringo.com
  3. LocoGringo Mexico Vacation Free E-books
  4. Brain Tap Technologies   
  5. GRACIAS PLAYA
Aug 2, 2016

Arielle Thomas Newman moved to Playa del Carmen from Kansas City, Missouri, in 2001. She and her husband knew they wanted to live in a beautiful beach environment, but didn’t want to be more than 2 hours from the US. The Riviera Maya in Mexico was the perfect location.

Arielle is a yoga teacher, a writer and a choreographer. A perfect sequence of events gave her the opportunity to cover yoga classes at a local gym, write healthy living articles for the local paper and then choreograph the Jesus Christ Superstar musical, making her life in Playa complete. She has now been teaching yoga (Hatha) longer than anyone else in the area and she trains other instructors who have their own studios.

Her passion to continue living in the Riviera Maya is fueled by her love of what she does, the modern conveniences which are now available and her ability to meet people from all over the world. She says the area is healing, rejuvenating and healthy for those calling this area home and for the visitors who come to attend her yoga retreats.

 

Arielle’s Secret Spots

  1. El Jardin Restaurante in Playa del Carmen - Friday night cabarets
  2. Thompson Beach Club in Playa del Carmen - Weekend brunch
  3. Latitude 20 by Live Aqua in Playa del Carmen - Beautiful setting
  4. Cafe Antoinette near the Cozumel Ferry Dock - People watching
  5. Das Brot in Playa del Carmen - German Pastries
  6. Rolandi’s in Cozumel - Fresh fish
  7. La Parrilla in Playa del Carmen - Great prices
  8. Soliman Bay - Sit under a palm tree and relax
  9. Valladolid - Yoga retreat

 

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More than Yoga

Yoga by the Sea on Facebook

Alhambra Hotel

Soho Playa Hotel  

Jul 26, 2016

Today, it is my pleasure to speak with Kendall Inman. Originally from California, she currently lives in Playa del Carmen and in Dallas, Texas. While living in California, she frequently took trips to Mexico with her Grandmother to get lobster tacos along the water.

She discovered the Riviera Maya when a friend told her about Akumal, in 1998. She says it was so magical she knew she wanted to build a house and a life there. And even though she was nursing a new baby, if  there was a problem with the building process, she would grab her Spanish/English dictionary, get up on the roof and teach the workers how to build whatever they needed help with.

Kendall turned to yoga to mentally deal with an unplanned divorce, and she sold the house she had built. She knew she didn’t want to leave the area so she bought a condo in Playa del Carmen. She now brings groups to Mexico and hosts yoga retreats, which she says keep her steady and peaceful.

Kendall has been all over the world and enjoyed many different coastlines, but none she says are as beautiful as the Riviera Maya. She says “here you can be in the heart of everything, yet still get off the beaten path.” She loves Mexican culture and the non-GMO/fresh tasting food, and is planning to start a business making fresh chutneys for the local markets. 

 

Kendall’s Secret Spots

  1. La Cueva del Pescador in Akumal - Where the cocktails are real.
  2. Mexico City has great museums.
  3. Sian Ka'an through a secret entrance in Muyil.
  4. Jardin del Eden cenote. 
  5. Le Zebra in Tulum - For Salsa dancing on the beach. 

 

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Kendall Inman

kendallainman@gmail.com

BRIC Hotel 

Jul 19, 2016

Today it is my pleasure to speak with Dave Randall of Costa de Cocos Resort. Costa de Cocos is the only full service fly fishing and scuba diving resort in Xcalak, Quintana Roo. Dave, who is originally from Minnesota, has been in the Costa Maya area for 33 years.

He started his journey before there was electricity in the area and still doesn’t have cell phone coverage at his home. He remembers using wind and propane generators to build his first few hotel rooms. Hotel rooms which may never have been built if heavy doses of rum had not been involved in a late night chat with friends. Dave has since built a resort like no other, including a restaurant and his own brewery and distillery of which there are only two in the entire state of Quintana Roo.

Dave’s dream of building a business in the middle of the jungle has given him great pleasure and to this day his home along the second largest barrier reef in the world is his favorite place to be. His low-key, 12 boat operation produces Grand Slams for fly fishermen during the prime season of May, June and July and two-for-one specials during October through December. Dave says that even in the low season the area produces fish daily.

Why Does He Do It?

After 33 years in business, Dave says one of the reasons he keeps going is his staff of 28 people. There are now generations of local families who have made their living from tourism and hospitality. In addition, there are the life-long friendships he has made along the way. He says there are travelers who visit annually and have been for years.

Dave’s Secret Spots

  1. Rancho Encantado in Bacalar - for lunch
  2. Taco Loco in Chetumal - for blue crab meat tacos
  3. San Pedro - Belize - for American made hardware and tools

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Costa de Cocos

Costa de Cocos on Facebook

Fly Fishing Mexico Book

Jul 12, 2016

In today’s episode, I am talking with Paul Sanchez Navarro, a Mexican/American, Cultured, Southern boy who was raised in New Orleans and Texas and now lives in Turtle Town (aka Akumal) and has for the past 12 years.

 

Why Did Paul Come to Akumal & What is He Working On?

Paul has worked in Mexico City and Switzerland on environmental policy with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). And, when The Ecological Center in Akumal (CEA) invited him to come and restructure the organization as the Director, he was intrigued because he was interested both in getting out of an office environment and because he loves the mix of the coastal eco-system here in the Riviera Maya. He says the mix of mangroves, wetlands, coral reefs, bays, and cenotes make the area naturally incredible.

He now works for the Mexican Organization of Environmental Conservation (MOEC) on public policy and creating an educational framework to help citizens participate in the sustainability process.

 

Is There A Passion for ‘Pride of Place’?

Paul says “yes and no”. The two local communities (Mexican and Expat) understand the value of the environment but are not sure what steps to take to conserve it. There is not a steady waste management infrastructure program in place from the government. However, it is inspiring to see a group of young people coming together who are interested in taking care of their community.

 

What Can Visitors Do to Make Sure They Are Protecting the Environment?

The best thing visitors can do to help the environment in the Riviera Maya is to get involved in climate talks in their home country to help reduce the carbon footprint there. Visitors to the Riviera Maya can be conscious of how they are treating the water. For example, using biodegradable sunscreen is IMPORTANT! And, of course, using locally owned businesses.

Treating animals with respect is another important point. Do not sit on turtles and do not take photos with wild animals on the street. Many of the animals on the street are obtained illegally and then are drugged to keep them docile all day and night. 

 

What Are the Rules of Fishing in Akumal?

A fishing license is required to fish and visitors should be 250 meters away from where people swim. Akumal has been decreed a “no fish zone”. There is no spear fishing with scuba diving. It’s important for visitors to research the country’s fishing rules before planning their trip. The best option for fishing is to use a guide and do some high seas fishing and practice catch and release.

 

4 Things Travelers Can Do to Have Fun While Leaving a Minimal Environmental Impact When Visiting the Riviera Maya

  1. Rent a kayak and tour Sian Ka’an 
  2. Tour Coba on a bicycle
  3. Zip line in the jungle
  4. Swimming in the cenotes (using biodegradable sunscreen or a swim shirt)

 

Use these Resources to Continue Your Journey:

Loco Gringo

askkay@locogringo.com

OMCA

CEA

Jul 5, 2016

Today it is my pleasure to speak with the vibrant and beautiful Sol Tamargo. Sol is an artist with a camera and has a passion for nature and color. She also participates in our local Superwomen's Club, a group of women supporting each other in business and in life. Sol spent her younger years in Cancun then moved with her family to Guadalajara. When life got to be a dull gray, Sol decided to move back to the coast to bring some much needed-color into her life. She says moving to Playa del Carmen in the Riviera Maya, in 2001, made her feel like she was coming home.

 

A Snapshot in Time

Sol’s uncle gave her a camera and she started to learn about photography. One night while sleeping, Sol had a dream that she was on the beach taking photos of brides. The next day when she awoke she knew she was going to be a photographer and she went after her dream with everything she could muster. She made a scrapbook with samples of her work and set forth hunting out someone to give her an opportunity. She started out shooting destination weddings for local hotels but due to her huge talent brides-to-be now seek her out.

She has shot wedding related photography in Hong Kong and Thailand, in addition to the multiple beautiful locations in the Riviera Maya. When wedding photography starts to feel repetitive she turns to nature to spice things up. She goes underwater to shoot with sharks and manta rays. 

 

Sol’s Favorite Places in Mexico

  1. San Miguel - El Quita Penas (Forget Your Sorrows) - Bar offers a silky smooth singing, sombrero wearing, mustache sporting Mexican, who just happens to be the owner and will put on an amazing show for you.
  2. Cabo Pulmo National Park on the Baja Peninsula - A marine park where visitors can see over 100,000 fish.
  3. Panaderia at 101 and 25th - Bakery with sweet potato filled pastries. 
  4. El Gran Taco de Playa - They have 200 different flavors of delicious, healthy food to stuff in your tacos.
  5. Playa Punta Esmeralda - Sol’s favorite swimming place. It’s a cenote that mixes with the ocean to create a natural jacuzzi.

 

Use these Resources to Continue Your Journey:

Loco Gringo

askkay@locogringo.com

LocoGringo Mexico Vacation Free E-books

Del Sol Photography

@soltamargo on Instagram

@soltamargo on Twitter

@DondeAndaSol on Periscope

Jun 28, 2016

Today it is my pleasure to interview a wonderful woman who has traveled all over the world and who now proudly calls Playa del Carmen in the Riviera Maya her home. Years ago, Regina Puentes and I met in a yoga class and have been friends ever since.

 

A Passport Full of Stamps

Regina knew from a young age her life’s goal would be to travel the world. She first visited Europe and after living for several years in London she moved to the U.S., where she fell in love with the country. It was in San Francisco that she earned her license in Cosmetology.

After applying for residency in the U.S., Immigration officials told her she must return to Mexico and await their decision. She didn’t know it at the time but fate had brought her back to Mexico for a reason. She says “looking back it was one of the best things which could have happened to me”. A friend’s recommendation led her to Playa del Carmen in the Riviera Maya.

 

The Ego Boost

A friend asked Regina to help open the new Bahia Principe resort, in 1999, and then to run the hotel spa. She thoroughly enjoyed her job and eventually said yes to opening three additional spas, including one in the Dominican Republic. A few years later, the resort went through a change in management and Regina decided to go visit her mother in the U.S. It was there she was ordained as a non-denominational minister. 

 

Performing Wedding Ceremonies in the Riviera Maya

Regina believes that when two people promise their love for one another it is the most wonderful time in their lives and she enjoys being a part of it. Her spiritual ceremonies are neither legal nor religious and she can perform vows in English, French, Italian and Spanish. Often, she does a renewal of vows for those who have already had a religious or legal marriage in another country. She says sometimes people want to come to the beautiful Riviera Maya to exchange vows with a sand ceremony or near the fascinating natural cenotes of the Yucatan.

 

Mexico or Cuba

Regina has visited Cuba enough times to be considered an expert on the country. Her Grandmother is Cuban and she fell in love with a Cuban man. She returned to Mexico because she believes that even if the Cuban government assures the people of a better future, things will continue to be the same for those living under the country’s 50-year-old regime.

She prefers Mexico because of its rich culture and diverse population. She says she doesn’t like it when outsiders speak ill of her native country and hopes people will visit the Riviera Maya to see for themselves how safe the area is and how welcoming the people of the Caribbean side of Mexico can be.

 

Regina’s Favorite Places in Mexico

  1. Mexico City - A safe city, where there is never a dull moment.
  2. Chiapas - A true gem.
  3. Cenotes - Nature’s magical swimming pools.
  4. Turtle Bay - A home-cooking restaurant in Akumal.
  5. Ana Y José Charming Hotel and Spa - Tulum.
  6. Casa Sofia - Playa del Carmen

 

Use these Resources to Continue Your Journey:

Loco Gringo

askkay@locogringo.com

Bahia Principe in the Riviera Maya

Turtle Bay Cafe and Bakery

Ana Y José

Reginainparadise@yahoo.com

Casa Sofia of Playa del Carmen on Facebook

Jun 21, 2016

Today we welcome a long time friend and fellow cave diver, Steve Gerrard. Steve was the first ever full-time cave diving instructor. He has been cave diving for over 30 years, has been the President of the National Association of Cave Diving (NACD) since 1979, has been featured in magazine articles and television programs and is the author of five books.

 

The New Frontier

Steve started out cave diving in the deep caverns of Florida and eventually moved to the Riviera Maya where he could enjoy the underwater beauty of the area. The very first filming of cave diving in the world started at Little Dismal Sink in Tallahassee, Florida and finished in the basement of The Room of Tears in the Riviera Maya. It  was filmed by Steve and his friend Parker. Steve is also partially responsible for my moving to the Riviera Maya. He met Gary cave diving and the two have been friends since the 1980’s.

Back in the early 1990’s Steve called the Riviera Maya the new frontier. He is quick to point out that today it is a whole new world. Tiny fishing villages have turned into major tourists destinations and it’s impossible to count the number of dive shops in the area now.

As Steve shares the story of how he ended up as a cave diving instructor in one of the most popular cave diving destinations in the world, he recalls his early days with great respect. He remembers when Highway #307 was only a jungle road with no shoulder and when Tulum was only 4 blocks long. Steve has seen the cenotes and the Riviera Maya’s amazing underwater landscapes in their purest days.

 

What Can People Expect to Learn About in His Latest Books?

Steve says his new books Cenotes of the Riviera Maya 2016 and If You Don’t Go You Won’t Know, which is due out later this year, is for all people who want to visit the cenotes, not just cave divers. He writes about the history of the area and the history of the Mayan land owners. Steve created these books because people should be aware of the natural resources which are deteriorating and to educate visitors on how to appreciate the area responsibly.

 

Steve’s List of Beautiful Cenotes 

  1. Dos Ojos
  2. Gran Cenote
  3. Chac Mool
  4. Xtaby

Steve stresses the importance of preserving these naturally beautiful places.

 

Use these Resources to Continue Your Journey:

Loco Gringo

askkay@locogringo.com

Cenotes of the Riviera Maya 2016

All of Steve Gerrard’s Books

Steve on:

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

Amazon

Jun 14, 2016

Today my guest is Marcia Bales of the Mayan Beach Garden, a boutique inn located south of the Riviera Maya in Costa Maya. It is approximately 4 ½ hours away from the airport. 

A New Way of Doing Things

Marcia used to work in the software industry in Seattle. She loved her job but she loved traveling more. She and her husband would travel to Mexico whenever the opportunity presented itself. They loved it so much they started planning their next vacation as soon as they would return to the US. Marcia says they preferred the ‘out of the way places’ and when they arrived in Mexico they would make sure to get away from Cancun as quickly as possible.

They started having conversations about getting their own place. They both liked the idea of the quiet, tranquil destination of Mahahual. Her husband had a dream to build a hotel. He came down early and they officially opened the Mayan Beach Garden in 2002.  Marcia recalls those days before the reality of Mexico hit. She says, “like most Americans I thought I would change the world and run my business like an American business”. What she really needed to do was relax and embrace all the beauty Mexico had to offer.

 

What Activities are there in Mahahual and the Costa Maya?

For Foodies - There are 42 modest restaurants in Mahahual, including the restaurant in the Mayan Beach Garden Inn. The traditional, Caribbean cuisine features dishes that can take all day to achieve the savory flavor. Marcia posts their menu online daily.

 

For Diving and Snorkeling - There are amazing shore snorkels within walking distance of the Mayan Beach Garden and Mahahual the reef is still pristine with living corals. Local dive shops and boats can be arranged. 

 

For Fishing - The area is laden with lagoons full of tarpon and snook. Bonefishing is close by in Chetumal. Spearfishing near the border of Sian Ka'an is also available. Local guides can help visitors get their Grand Slam. 

 

For Ruins and Museums - An Indiana Jones jungle type experience can be had at Kohunlich and the Dzibanche ruins, which is a huge and active archeological site. The Cultural Museum in Chetumal is a must see. 

 

Marcia’s 3 Secret Places

  • ● The shipwreck and beach in Tumpalan
  • ● Rio Indio Fresh Catch Restaurant
  • ● Mayan Garden Beach Restaurant

 

Use these Resources to Continue Your Journey:

Loco Gringo

askkay@locogringo.com

Learn More About Mahahual

Mayan Beach Garden Inn

Mayan Beach Garden - Tripadvisor

May 24, 2016

In today’s episode, I chat with the dynamic Heather Froeming of Tulum. Heather first visited Akumal in 1998 on a diving trip with a college friend from California. She had plans to explore the world, but after falling in love with the area she let her love of adventure and passion for the environment guide her - so she put down roots. 

Her first days were spent volunteering for Centro Ecologico Akumal (CEA), a non-profit organization which focuses on sea turtle protection and beach monitoring. She helped CEA to start their local recycling program through collection and education programs.

 

A Less Plastik Lifestyle

Heather spends most of her days in and around the ocean. Over the years, she has seen the trash problem grow and grow.  She feels it’s her duty to maintain the health and integrity of the environment. She doesn’t mind seeing Tulum evolve and develop, as long the efforts are sustainable and protection oriented.

The lack of a recycling infrastructure and the on-again, off-again attempts at recycling programs led Heather to create No Mas Plastik. An organization which hopes to educate people about the problems of plastic and the contamination it causes.    

 

Go Fly A Kite (in an Extremely Controlled Manner)

Today, Heather works with the Extreme Control Kiteboarding School. After her boyfriend Marco obtained his kiteboarding instructor status he needed somebody to practice his teaching skills on, a task Heather readily accepted.

Tulum is the perfect spot to open the Kiteboarding School even though the trade winds aren’t consistent. It has a spacious beach, warm water, and conditions which give a student a complete course by testing all of their skills. Plus, the surrounding area has ruins, cenotes, and reserves for the entire family to enjoy. 

 

Why the Riviera Maya?

Variety is indeed the spice of life, and for Heather it’s what keeps her here in the Riviera Maya. She says “You meet people from everywhere around the world here. You kind of travel just being here.”

 

Secret Gems Only the Locals Know

Even though Heather loves everywhere she visits in Mexico, she has a soft spot for long weekend trips down to Muyil and Bacalar. She also enjoys exploring the Northern Coast the Yucatan Peninsula, near El Cuyo, because of its great conditions for kiteboarding. When she wants some quiet time she is drawn to the less populated beaches of Sian Ka’an.

For amazing cave diving, Heather appreciates the cenote El Jardin del Eden aka Ponderosa. When she is feeling adventurous she goes to a cenote near the Coba ruins which has a 30 foot tall tower you can jump off of into the water.

 

3 Ways Travelers Can Minimize Their Impact While Visiting the Riviera Maya

  1. 1. Carry your own reusable bags. 
  2. 2. Ask for your drink without a straw or “sin popote”.
  3. 3. Use biodegradable sunscreen or no sunscreen.

 

Use these Resources to Continue Your Journey:

Loco Gringo

askkay@locogringo.com

CEA - Centro Ecologico Akumal

No Mas Plastik

No Mas Plastik on Facebook

Extreme Control Kiteboarding School

May 17, 2016

How did a Canadian end up in the Riviera Maya and start brewing beer?

This week I’m happy to interview local business owner, Jungle John of the Mundo Maya Brewing Company. John moved to Playa del Carmen in 1994. Having run a few small startups he eventually decided to move on. But in time, John combined his long-time hobby, the lack of good craft beer in the region, and the now craft brew craze sweeping North America to fuel his return to Playa del Carmen.

 

Of all the places in Mexico, why did John choose to start brewing beer in Playa del Carmen?

There are a number of markets in Mexico that would be receptive to craft beer. However, the great beaches, amazing weather, and the development of Playa del Carmen made returning to open his microbrewery an easy decision. As one of the pioneering Gringos of the area, John has seen a growth in not only expats and international residents, but an influx of Mexican nationals who appreciate the cultural diversity. This makes for a perfect small market for craft beer.

With now a steady customer base, and expanding locations offering his beers, John went from brewing his first batch in 2012 (the year of the Mayan prophecy), to forming an association of local brewers.

 

How easy is it to procure the equipment required to start a microbrewery in Mexico?

When John got his start, there were few resources available to set up a microbrewery. Though there are now companies in Northern Mexico that sell the equipment, ordering and shipping parts is still very much an arduous process. John skirted all of these obstacles when he took it upon himself to drive from Toronto to North Carolina to procure the parts required to get started. Having then assembled his equipment in Canada, he drove everything to Miami for shipment to its final destination of Puerto Morales, Mexico.

 

 

What are the varieties of beer that Mundo Maya is currently brewing?

John is now brewing four styles of beer; Vienna Lager, a malt-forward, sweeter beer, that’s very popular in Mexico, an IPA (Indian Pale Ale), an Oatmeal Stout, and finally an American-style Wheat beer.

Mundo Maya has recently opened a draft bar in Mateo’s Mexican Grill in Tulum. This provides an exciting chance to create small-batch, one-off, seasonal beers. This relationship with Mateo’s enables John the opportunity to showcase his abilities with their latest creation - an infused beer using the local fruit, mamey.

Though John does most of the work himself, he occasionally hires a bottle washer and helper with cleaning and other odd jobs. Aside from Roberta Satangelo, his partner and part owner who initially helped with sales and getting the business going, John is still largely a one-man operation.

 

John’s favorite parts of Mexico (other than Playa del Carmen!)

Playa del Carmen is by far John’s #1 place to be. Like his hometown of Toronto, he finds there is plenty of diversity in people, restaurants, and culture. John continues to enjoy simply having a cold beer on the beach and watching the people relax and have fun.

For a quick getaway, it’s easy for him to travel to Chiapas, Oaxaca by truck or plane.

 

John’s secret spot.

Chamico’s a great, quiet escape from Playa del Carmen. A rustic, Mayan family-run hut on the beach sporting a few plastic tables and chairs, Chamico’s a great place for some cold beers, ceviche with lobster, open hammocks and a chill vibe that reminds John of the Playa del Carmen, 20 years ago.

 

Where can you find a Mundo Maya beer?

  • ● Mahekal beach bar
  • ● Tequila Barrel
  • ● Casa de Agua
  • ● Piola
  • ● Le Zebra
  • ● Mezzanine
  • ● Mateo’s Mexican Grill

 

Resources:

Playa del Carmen

Mundo Maya Brewing Company

Mateo’s Mexican Grill in Tulum

Mundo Maya on Facebook

Kay’s Email: concierge@locogringo.com

 

Interview Links:

Loco Gringo Website

Bobby in NJ

El Hongo

May 10, 2016

In today’s episode, I chat with Sara Moen, who is originally from Northern California, moved to Seattle in 1990 for school and met her soon to be husband. Steve and Sara were married in 1993. He worked for Microsoft for ten years and in 2001, they took a vacation to Playa del Carmen, as the story goes “Once you arrive there it’s hard to leave.” Steve and Sara ultimately met their business partner during that getaway; within six months, they sold their home and packed up their pets and moved to Playa. Armed with her Bachelor’s in Science for Cognitive Development in Children, Sara’s longtime dream was to start a school in Mexico. Steve and her opened America Maya in Playa del Carmen, with the language barrier and other unforeseen loopholes, unfortunately, the school had to close its doors after two years. As serial entrepreneurs they knew that wasn't going to stop them, so they decided to start the first English newspaper called Playa Maya News; Steve started Virtual Playa, a web design, SEO, e-commerce, and marketing company. Sara needed to find her calling so she went back to school to further her career in education, and unbeknownst to her, Sara ended up opening a jerky business called Ch’arki Jerky.

 

What is Ch’arki Jerky and how can I get my hands on one?

The concept of the jerky goes back to the Native South Americans who would preserve the meat for the winter months. The word jerky was named back in 1550 from the Quechua word ch’arki, which means dried, salted meat. It has become a popular snack food among athletes. Located in Playa del Carmen this jerky is high in protein, low in fat, and portable. Ch’arki jerky is made from the finest quality of meat and spices; it is a nutrient-filled delicious treat. Please check out our Facebook page to make your order or to find a place near you.

 

Sara’s Favorite Spots in Mexico

Cuernavaca is one of her favorite special spots to go to in Mexico for a day trip. Located southwest of Mexico City, it is the largest city in the state of Morelos, nicknamed “City of Eternal Springs”. Sara fell in love with this magical spot called Tepoztlan, also located in the state of Morelos, famous for the remains of El Tepozteco a temple built on top of the nearby Tepozteco Mountain. She also enjoys going to Tequesquitengo for water skiing. There are incredible spas, restaurants, and recreational centers there as well.

 

Sara’s Favorite Little Gems

Lake Bacalar in Quintana Roo is the kind of place you can relax and read. Also known as the Lagoon of seven colors, it stretches 50 miles from North to South. This turquoise body of water flows right through the jungle.

Isla Holbox also located in Quintana Roo on the North coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. The reason this place is a hidden gem is that there isn’t much tourist action here yet. Hoping to protect the environment, Holbox doesn’t allow vehicles. There are many sites to enjoy while here, including swimming with the whale sharks between June and September - an opportunity of a lifetime.

 

Resources:

Playa del Carmen

Lake Bacalar

Isla Holbox

Whale Sharks

 

Interview Links

Ch’arki Jerky Facebook

Ch’arki Email Address

Kay’s Email Address

Loco Gringo Website

May 3, 2016

In today’s episode, I chat with Sherwood Anders, who was born and lived in Pittsburg until she was 32 years old. Sherwood lived in San Francisco before she and her husband Bob moved to Akumal, Quintana Roo, Mexico with their three rescue dogs “Beachmutts”. She spends a great chunk of her time volunteering with different organizations in Mexico, helping at spay/neutering clinics, animal welfare and helps find new homes for dogs and cats. Bob and Sherwood retired and sold their home in San Francisco in 2015 and are living in Akumal full-time. Tune in to hear about her volunteer work and where she and Bob’s secret spots are in Mexico.

 

What does your day consist of now that you are retired and living in Mexico?

Sherwood doesn’t get bored and finds tons of things to do. She loves hanging out with friends and spends the bulk of her time volunteering for animal welfare - not rescuing because her condo doesn’t have enough room. Sherwood is learning how to relax and take a step back from constantly going all the time.

 

Coco’s Animal Welfare

Coco’s mission is to prevent the birth of unwanted cats and dogs as well as raise awareness of guardianship. Coco’s provides free/low-cost spay/neuter for rescue animals in the local area. The clinic makes sure the dogs and cats are up to date on all their shots and given a health certificate. If you have any questions on how to take a pet home with you to the US, just contact Sherwood and she will gladly help walk you through the very simple process.

The Loco Gringo Nation has generously donated money to Coco’s new clinic, there is going to be a Loco Gringo Lovin’ Lounge in the clinic where you can meet all the pets and take them home with you, but if you can’t bring one of them back please leave a donation. The clinic still needs to raise an additional $30,000 for the completion. Please make your donations at www.cocosanimalwelfare.org.

 

Where is Sherwood’s Favorite Place?

The Sierra Occidental Mountain is a majestic mountain range that runs northwest/southwest through Mexico. She can’t take her eyes off of the Popocatepetl, which is a volcano located in the states of Puebla. Sherwood also loves to go to San Luis Potosi. There is a 50’s drive-in motel with simple rooms, Spanish language old-time TV, and 5-star service at the restaurant out in the middle of nowhere.

 

Sherwood’s Secret Spots

Sherwood says living in paradise does have its challenges because she lives in a rental condo where a lot of guests come in and out, and sometimes they just want to escape. Bob and Sherwood find that at the beach clubs in Tulum. She has been to the Chichen Itza probably at least ten times; she feels a special connection to that area since her uncle used to work there.

Paamul, started as a trailer park has now evolved into a very private and secluded community. There is a hotel with a beach that isn’t too crowded, and there is a restaurant with the best fish. If you turn right on the dirt road at the convenience store, take the dirt road that turns east on that path you will see a 3 to 4 story Pyramid. You can also take a boat along the coastline halfway between Paamul and Puerto Ventura there is another small Pyramid.

 

Resources:

www.cocosanimalwelfare.org

www.locogringo.com/chichen-itza/

www.locogringo.com/cocosanimalrescue

www.locogringo.com/paamul/

 

Interview Links

www.facebook.com/Beachmutts

askkay@locogringo.com

www.locogringo.com

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