Flying and Travels

Category: Mexico and Central America

Land of Volcanos

“You entered the country illegally”, said an immigration officer to Amy, when we were leaving the country. Definitely not something you want to hear when departing Guatemala, a small Central American country that our group visited for 6 days.

These used to be Cirrus-only trips, which started as COPA trips, but over time became independent. This year, we had 8 SR22s, two SF50s, and one Piper Malibu. Although Tino, the Piper owner used to fly a Cirrus, so he didn’t feel completely out of place. We limit the group size to twelve airplanes, but the twelfth developed a last-minute medical issue and grounded himself as PIC, which didn’t prevent him from joining us in Tikal traveling on commercial flights. My wife Ania and I organized already 10 of these trips, until then to Mexico, this was our first venture to Central America.


Our first stop, Tikal is a Mayan archeological site located in the Eastern part of Guatemala, close to Belize. To get there, our group met in McAllen, TX on a Saturday afternoon and departed on Sunday morning for our fuel stop in Minatitlan, Mexico. In January 2024, Mexico changed its entry procedures, which could create significant havoc when a group of 11 airplanes arrives at the same time. Before departure, you must send the required documents to the Airport of Entry. These include airplane airworthiness certificate, registration, pilot and medical certificates, copy of insurance policy, and the so-called LOPA. If you google that term, you will find out that it is Layout of Passenger Accommodations and it is an engineering diagram of the aircraft’s cabin interior that includes, but is not limited to, locations of passenger and flight attendant seats, emergency equipment, exits, lavatories, and galleys. Right, for a SR22! With typical Mexican efficiency, they don’t publish email addresses where this should be sent, you are on your own treasure hunt to find it. In addition, you are supposed to send to Mexican immigration services a monster Excel spreadsheet, which serves as an APIS entry document. And resend it “30 minutes prior to door closed”. I highly recommend joining Baja Bush Pilot or using the services of to help navigate that madness.

Group trip itinerary

In this case, since we organized the trip, we had a local contact in Minatitlan, to whom we sent all documents and who arranged for the so-called Autorización de Internación Única to be prepared. You would think that since AIU is Unica, it is for one entry into Mexico, but no, it is valid for multiple entries during 180 days. At least for now, it might change by the time you read. While our AIUs were all ready, the handler we used didn’t think about preparing our necessary exit documents since we were only stopping for fuel and continuing to Guatemala. Most countries have a concept of a “technical stop” for refueling, where the airplane occupants do not leave the airport, and which allows to skip entry/exit immigration procedures, but not Mexico. It would be foolish to skip the required administrative tasks and associated fees, wouldn’t it?

Altogether, we spent a little over two hours in Minatitlan and departed for Mundo Maya airport in Guatemala. Most of us flew both legs under IFR, the weather was making it preferable, but one pilot was not instrument-rated and managed to get through VFR. Our handlers were very efficient at Mundo Maya and we breezed through immigration and customs very quickly.


Our first hotel was called Las Lagunas and consisted of beautifully decorated individual bungalows on a small lake next to Lago Petén Itzá. We arrived there in the late afternoon and stayed in the hotel for dinner to launch a visit to Tikal the next day.

Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel

Tikal site dates back to 1000 BC, at the peak of its glory, around 750 AD, it was home to at least 60,000 Maya and held sway over several other city-states scattered through the rainforest from the Yucatán Peninsula to western Honduras. At that time, “downtown” Tikal was about six square miles, though research indicates that the city-state’s population may have sprawled over at least 47 square miles. Today much of the city is still buried under the forests and overgrowth, but what has been excavated shows an elaborate and huge ancient Maya city with beautiful, crumbling temples and ruins around every corner.

We started the visit at the most spectacular attraction of the city, the Great Plaza, home to palaces, ceremonial buildings, stelae, carved altars, and the two giant pyramids known today as Temple I and Temple II. The magnificent Temple I is 154 feet high, dedicated to Lord Jasaw Chan K’awil who died in the year 734 AD. Also known as the Temple of the Great Jaguar, the impressive structure had its pyramid added approximately 10 years following the death of the king.

Tikal archeological site

Believed to have been erected in the year 700, the adjacent Temple II, known as the Temple of the Mask, was constructed on the orders of Kasaw Chan K’awil. Deciphering the hieroglyphics in the structure, it is believed that Lord K’awil had the temple built for his wife, Lady 12 Macaw, although no tomb or human remains have been discovered inside. Lady 12 Macaw’s pyramid reaches 125 feet to the sky overhead. It is precisely oriented toward the rising sun, giving visitors an unparalleled view of the rest of the city and the surrounding jungle.

With private guides, we toured Complex Q and R, Temples I, II, III, and IV, Plaza Central, Central and North Acropolis, and Mundo Perdido.

Lake Atitlan

The following day, we drove back to the airport and departed for a short 150 nm hop to Aurora airport in Guatemala City, before boarding a bus to drive to Lago de Atitlán as it’s known in Spanish, which is one of the most beautiful lakes in all of Central America and is surrounded by three massive volcanoes – Tolimán, San Pedro, and Atitlán. The lake has an area of 50 square miles, and the color of its waters varies from deep blue to green. Formed approximately 84,000 years ago as a result of a volcanic eruption, it is 4,500 feet above sea level, with a length of 12 miles, and a depth of up to 1000 feet, making it the deepest lake in Central America. The shores of the picturesque lake are dotted with Indian villages, with the main towns Panajachel, Atitlán, and San Lucas.

Lake Atitlán

Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World wrote in his travel book Beyond the Mexique Bay published in 1934, “Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing.”

We stayed in Casa Palopó, an exceptional hotel that is part of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux, and had dinner in the hotel.

Casa Palopó – Relais & Chateaux

The following day, we met our private guide at Casa Palopó dock for a boat ride to experience the Maya culture and impressive views the lake offers. We visited San Juan La Laguna, learned about traditional dye with natural colors at the textile workshop, and visited the local art galleries.


This was already the fourth day in Guatemala, and we boarded a bus again for a ride to Antigua, the ancient capital of the country. Founded in the early 16th century, Antigua served as the capital of the Captaincy General of Guatemala for 230 years. It survived natural disasters of floods, volcanic eruptions, and other serious tremors until 1773 when the Santa Marta earthquakes destroyed much of the town. At this point, authorities ordered the relocation of the capital to a safer location region, which became Guatemala City, the county’s modern capital. Some residents stayed behind in the original town, however, which became referred to as “La Antigua Guatemala”.

Santa Catalina Arch – Antigua Guatemala

The city was revived in the mid-1800s, as a center of coffee and grain production. Now, the city’s cobbled streets — arranged in an easy-to-navigate grid, with views of the imposing Volcán de Agua to the south and the twin peaks of Volcán de Fuego and Acatenango to the west — are lined with farm-to-table restaurants, contemporary art galleries and design studios. We stayed in one of the best hotels in Antigua, El Convento Boutique Hotel.

The pattern of straight lines established by the grid of north-south and east-west streets and inspired by the Italian Renaissance is one of the best examples in Latin American town planning and all that remains of the 16th-century city. Most of the surviving civil, religious, and civic buildings date from the 17th and 18th centuries and constitute magnificent examples of colonial architecture in the Americas. These buildings reflect a regional stylistic variation known as Barroco Antigueño.

We explored the city with a private guide. The walking tour focused on the city’s history, cultural trends, and restoration efforts. We saw the City Hall Palace, Fountain of the Sirens, Royal Palace, visited San Jose Catedral and its ruins, and learned about Maya archeology at the Maya Jades Museum, completing the tour at the best museums in town at Paseo de los Museos.

The following morning we took a bus for a short drive to Finca Filadelfia for a group-guided visit to one of the oldest and most established coffee estates in Guatemala. We were able to follow the path of the coffee bean from the nursery to a cup and concluded with an educational tasting.

In the afternoon, we had an opportunity to visit Pacaya Volcano National Park and a horse ride up the volcano with a plan to watch incredible views, which unfortunately didn’t materialize due to clouds.


This was our last day in Guatemala, and it was time to launch for a return trip and that is where Amy ran into a snag of illegal entry. My wife Ania who is fluent in Spanish was next to Amy and learned that the problem was that Amy didn’t have an entry stamp in her passport. We called our handler who in turn called people in Tikal, who called the airport there. The immigration people at the Mundo Maya said that indeed, they ran out of ink, and couldn’t stamp Amy’s passport, but not to worry, it was properly recorded in the immigration authorities’ computers. The officer in Aurora didn’t want to hear any of that, no stamp, no entry. That particular dance took about half an hour, at which point everybody was yelling at everybody, and finally the stubborn official gave up.

When you enter Mexico from the North, you don’t have to land at the first Airport of Entry, you can continue to any airport along your route of flight. That is very different when coming from the South, your options are limited to Tapachula and Cozumel, and from where we were, the former made sense. Our AIUs were received without problems, but they still asked us to haul our luggage to the office for an X-ray machine inspection. We arrived on a Sunday and Mexico just started applying special $150 weekend fees for immigration services, despite the airport being open and staffed 7 days a week since the beginning of time.

Our original plan was to spend a couple of nights in Acapulco, in the spectacular Encanto hotel. We made a group reservation and paid a deposit back in September, but then Hurricane Otis ravaged the city in October and destroyed the hotel. Nobody was answering phones or emails anymore, the airport was closed, and it was a disaster area. We made a new reservation at Secrets in Huatulco, which was nice, but far away from the elegance of Encanto. This was our last group stop and after two nights in Huatulco, everybody launched individually for flights back home.

Secrets Huatulco

Organized trips like this one are a great way to spread the wings outside our borders without the stress of dealing with different languages, different procedures, and unfamiliar rules. Flying in a group is easier and safer, we communicate on an air-to-air frequency about any unexpected issues, interesting sights, or ATC directions. A camaraderie developed during after the flight debriefings, which invariably take place in a bar, often persists well after a trip is completed.

Hasta el próximo año.

Group airplanes on the ramp at Mundo Maya

Pueblos de Plata

Another year and the 9th trip to Mexico. We planned for 12 airplanes and ended up having that many, in spite of the very untimely AD affecting Continental engines, which caused one participant to drop out. I always encourage people to sign up for the wait list, because we invariably have one or two cancellations, sometimes the week before. This year was not different.

The theme of the trip was Silver Towns and we visited four of them. First Alamos, then Guanajuato, then San Miguel de Allende, to finish in Zacatecas. What an itinerary to accomplish in 8 days! This is truly Cirrus Life.

As is often the case, it didn’t start without troubles. Our initial meeting point was Tucson on Saturday, February 18, for a group flight to Ciudad Obregon and Alamos on Sunday. About 20 minutes from Tucson, I heard a bang and increased noise. After checking all engine parameters and aircraft control, I quickly determined this was a mushroom fairing that detached. I had the same thing happen 8 years ago, although with more noise. At that time it was under the main left gear, this time it was on the right side.

Nothing that can’t be fixed with some duct tape.

As soon as I arrived in Tucson, I learned that one participant who had arrived earlier on Saturday in Ciudad Obregon had a bad battery and couldn’t start the engine for a short flight to Alamos. Finding a battery on a Saturday evening is not an easy task, unless you know somebody who has it. I was already talking to Roger Whittier about my mushroom fairing, so I asked him if he happened to have a spare battery. He did have it in his hangar in Glendale. The next question was how to get that battery from the Phoenix area to Ciudad Obregon. That turned out to have an easy answer also, because one participant was planning to fly from Phoenix to Ciudad Obregon on Sunday morning. He graciously offered to drive to Roger’s hangar Saturday night to pick up the battery and fly it to MMCN on Sunday. Local mechanic installed it and we didn’t lose anybody from the group.


We launched as a group of 9 airplanes from Tucson to Ciudad Obregon on Sunday morning. Two airplanes flew to Alamos on Saturday (one having the battery issue there), and one flew directly from Phoenix to MMCN also on Sunday morning. The flight would be unremarkable if not for overcast skies with low visibility, which forced us to stay low due to icing threats. One airplane, a Cirrus Vision Jet, could safely ignore overcast and icing and flew IFR over the top. In spite of having sent all documents ahead of time to the airport, it still took a bit of time to process everybody, The delay would be completely unacceptable in the US, but it was quite normal for Mexico. Alamos is only about 20 minutes from Ciudad Obregon, a flight we’ve done many, many times.

Dinner at Hacienda

In Alamos, we stayed in my favorite place in the whole country, Hacienda de los Santos. If you’ve never been there, pick up the phone and make a reservation right away. There is a 5,000′ paved runway in town, and it is only a 20-minute flight from MMCN, or about 2 hours from the US border. The first night we had a rooftop party to get to know each other, followed by dinner with live music both nights. A tequila class is one class that I am proud to have failed to graduate from, so I have to take it each time I am there.

Tequila class

After a day of relaxing, it was time to launch for the flight to Guanajuato/Leon airport, which takes about 3 hours. We stayed under an overcast for the first 30 minutes and then climbed to 14,500′ for a smooth sail to the destination. 


Approaching MMLO, many of us had a GPS outage, I experienced it with one of the two units, but I already saw the airport and my iPad was still getting GPS reception.

An unpleasant surprise awaited us after arrival. In spite of calling ahead of time to ensure there is enough space on the ramp, we were told to park at the FBO. FBOs in Mexico are relatively new invention, but they pop up at all major airports with an intent to extract maximum cash from all visitors. This particular one did it to the tune of $380 for 3 nights parking without any other services. What is even more appalling is the airport personel that works hand it hand (or perhaps hand under the table) to force unsuspecting visitors to pay these fees.

The city of Guanajuato was worth the visit. We stayed in a small boutique hotel, Casa del Rector with beautiful views of the city, which is laid over hills and still has working silver mines. After a short walk, we were rewarded by a truly gourmet dinner at Costal Cultura Cafeteria.


The next day started with a walking tour of the city, which was very pleasant because the center is pedestrian-only, most traffic is in tunnels beneath the city. The tunnels were initially built to prevent flooding of the nearby Rio Guanajuato from damaging the city, but now they protect it from traffic.

After lunch at Casa Valadez, we took a funicularto the top of the hillside to the Monumento Al Pipila for more views of the city. In the evening, we had dinner at another Guanajuato culinary gem, El Comedor Tradicional,followed by a unique Guanajuato experience, Callejoneada, which is a walking tour of the city accompanied by a group of musicians and artists, who enliven the way with traditional Mexican and Guanajuato music, typical dances, stories, and legends that are told throughout the tour.


San Miguel de Allende

There used to be a dirt airstrip in SMA. Over ten years ago, the municipality decided to pave it, and it is now a nice 4,500-foot-long runway. Unfortunately, as is often the case in Mexico, somebody didn’t pay something, some paperwork was not completed, and some contractors didn’t do the job. The runway has remained closed since. You can admire it on Google Maps, but you can’t land there.

Two buses picked us up at the hotel for an hour ride to visit Santuario de Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco, which is sometimes called, perhaps with only slight exaggeration, the “Sistine Chapel of Mexico.” After the visit, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch at Nirvana, an oasis of calm and delicious food 15 minutes outside of SMA,

Lunch at Nirvana

We were originally planning to stay in Live Aqua, a modern hotel near the center of the town. We negotiated and signed the contract, and pre-paid all of the rooms for the group, only to learn that our reservation was cancelled about a week before the departure. To their credit, the hotel helped find alternative accommodations at the Numu Boutique Hotel, a convenient although somewhat bland newly opened hotel that is part of the Hyatt chain. A formal opening ceremony was taking place during our stay there, with numerous officials participating, which I suspect had something to do with the cancellation of the reservation at Live Aqua.

Dinner at Terazza 48

We had a dinner at Terazza 48, the restaurant chosen for the fabulous night views of the city. The next morning we went for a short walking tour of the city with a guide, which was somewhat disappointing. The guide wanted to get over it quickly and wasn’t that interesting.


It is a short one hour flight from Leon/Guanajuato airport to Zacatecas, but it is a long 1.5-hour bus drive from San Miguel de Allende to the airport, all thanks to the stupidity of Mexican authorities and the closed runway in SMA. We paid the exorbitant parking fee at MMLO and launched. Approaching MMZC we all experienced a GPS outage, It seems that this is a popular setup in many towns in Mexico, and we can only speculate about reasons. In any case, it is best to be prepared with alternative means of navigation and check your iPad; it seems to be less sensitive to jamming than the onboard avionics.

Quinta Real Zacatecas

Our excellent guides from Operadora Zacatecas picked us up at the airport and drove us to the Quinta Real hotel. We had dinner with friends with whom we flew together to South America, and we promised ourselves that we would repeat that trip in winter 2024. Last time, we flew as far as Ecuador, our next trip will be the circumnavigation of the whole continent, following the west coast through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Ushuaia, and then returning via Argentina, Brazil, and Caribbean islands to Florida. What a trip!

The next day, we boarded an open-roofed bus for a guided tour of the town. Founded in 1546 after the discovery of a rich silver lode, Zacatecas reached the height of its prosperity in the 16th and 17th centuries. Built on the steep slopes of a narrow valley, the town has breathtaking views, and there are many old buildings, both religious and civil. The historic center of Zacatecas has almost completely preserved the urban design of the sixteenth century, taken as a basis for further development in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 

After the tour of the center, we drove six kilometers to the town of Guadelupe, known for its silversmith center. We started by visiting the Templo de Guadelupe. and then the Museo de Guadelupe, an old Franciscan church with 27 permanent rooms; that is one of the most important Viceregal painting galleries in Mexico. Silversmith Center has a school for silversmiths and many excellent jewelry stores.

Mina el Eden

After lunch in a restaurant back in the center of Zacatecas, we drove to visit Mina el Eden, Exploration of the mine began in 1586, forty years after the founding of the city. Its heyday occurred from the 16th to 18th centuries, when production consisted mainly of silver, gold, copper, zinc, iron, and lead. Work in the mine stopped in 1960, due mainly to urbanization, flooding, and its proximity to the city. This original tourist attraction opened to the public in the early part of 1975, with some adaptations such as bridges, railway access, stairs, balconies, lighting, re-enactments of the mining, myths and legends. After exiting the mine, we boarded the Teleferico de Zacatecas, which crosses the city in just 7 minutes and offers one of the most spectacular panoramic views, to end up at Cerro de la Bufa,

Return home

It is 1336-mile straight line from MMZC to KSQL, 7.5 hours of no wind flight time, but we had strong headwinds all the time, so it was in fact 8.5 hours. If you add two stops, including one in Mexico, from leaving the hotel to getting home, it would be a 12-hour day. There was weather in the last 1.5 hours before home, but it still sounded OK.

Other than headwinds, the first two legs went without issue, even the stop in Ciudad Obregon took only about half an hour, those who fly there know it was fast. The last leg was from KCXL to KSQL, about 450 nm, almost 3 hours with 30+ knots headwinds. Weather was fine until Central Valley, but it was supposed to get nasty after Gorman. Ceilings 2000-3000 feet, tops 16,000 and icing starting at 4000. I fly a basic TKS airplane, so I need to treat the airplane as having no icing protection.

Other than headwinds, the first two legs went without issue, even the stop in Ciudad Obregon took only about half an hour, those who fly there know it was fast. The last leg was from KCXL to KSQL, about 450 nm, almost 3 hours with 30+ knot headwinds. The weather was fine until the Central Valley, but it was supposed to get nasty after Gorman. Ceilings range from 2000 to 3000 feet, with tops reaching 16,000 feet and icing beginning at 4000. I fly a basic TKS airplane, so I need to treat the airplane as having no icing protection.

On the ground, I took fuel (why not?), topped off with TKS, and did all of that in rain and cold wind. Sure enough, TKS spilled over the wing, and the fuel hose didn’t want to unwind, so when I finally got back into the airplane, I was cold, tired from a long day of flying, and ground activities. The thought crossed my mind that perhaps it would be smart to overnight in Salinas, but I was so close to home and still within my personal minima. I did that IFR flight from SNS to SQL hundreds of times, I knew I would be OK for the 15 minutes it takes at 6,000, even if I got light ice. I had outs if needed.

That all sounds like a careful analysis, right? Well, I filed, called ground, and taxied to the runway. Or so I thought.

In the mud

That’s my nose wheel in the mud, I did taxi into the grass area between two taxiways. We left the airplane, drove home (wonderful people at JetWest gave me a crew car), I returned this morning, and more wonderful people at Airmotive Specialties pulled the airplane out of it and cleaned that mud. Only luck prevented any damage.

This incident made me re-evaluate my personal minma with respect to length of light and fatigue. It was very clear to me that fatigue was the main factor in that incident, and I didn’t act on my symptoms.

2022 Viva Yucatan

This was the 8th time we set up a trip to Mexico and it was the most ambitious trip. Close to 2500 miles and it felt double, because my autopilot failed right after departure. Hand flying a Cirrus is not particularly pleasant, particularly for 30 hours. Our first destination was Brownsville TX, where we met most of the group. One participant elected to fly to Merida from Florida directly, but everybody else flew to KBRO. Initially, we were supposed to have 12 airplanes, but one had engine issues a week before departure, so they elected to join us in Merida flying commercial.

We left on Friday afternoon and flew at 17,500 to cross Sierras and landed at the North Las Vegas airport. Vegas is not our preferred location, but it is a convenient stop to spend the night. The autopilot failed during the initial climb and no amount of circuit breaker pulling made a difference.

Saturday morning didn’t start well. First, when walking to the airplane I noticed that I didn’t have my iPhone. A quick look at the Find My iPhone showed it happily travelling on a highway back to the city. I have to give it to Apple engineers that they thought about that scenario when they decided that answering a phone call doesn’t require a passcode. The taxi driver pick up and said he was “super busy” and didn’t know when he would have time to bring the phone back. A quick negotiations reversed his priorities.

Then I got a phone call from one participant, whose airplane sustained damage so much so that he wouldn’t be able to join. At that point, we already passed our cancellation deadlines, so we wouldn’t be able to provide him a refund. However, I planned to negotiate with hotels, hoping to recoup at least part of his cost.

We stopped for fuel in El Paso and after a delicious lunch at a local Subway launched for the 2nd leg to Brownsville KBRO, but not before receiving a message from another participant that his alternator 1 failed in flight. That is a required equipment per the Cirrus Kinds of Operation List, and we thought we would loose another airplane.

“Executive” terminal in Brownsville

Brownsville isn’t much of a town and I don’t think we will choose it again as a point of departure, in spite of its favorable southern location. Neither Uber nor Lyft had any cars, but we managed to call a local taxi company for a drive to a Courtyard. A local Olive Garden was too busy for our group and we ended in a burger joint.

Next day morning departure confirmed that ALT1 was definitely inoperative, but it turned out that the nearby McAllen had a Cirrus Certified Service Center, obviously closed on Sunday, but reopening on Monday morning. The pilot elected to fly there and in the meantime discovered that it was the field current jumper that snapped. A fix would be easy.

Everybody else departed for a three hours flight to Minatitlan MMMT. My usual stop for that itinerary is Veracruz MMVR, but with 10 airplanes, we needed a handler, so that all our paperwork and in particular multi-entry permits were prepared ahead of time. Few years back we didn’t do that and an entry through Oaxaca was taking hours. Assuming 30 minutes for one permit and 10 airplanes, you can easily see how long it takes if done serially. Veracruz handlers were ridiculously expensive, so we decided to switch to Minatitlan.

Passing through 5000′, I saw 40 knots headwind, but at 11,000′ it was only 12 knots. We were above overcast most of the time on an IFR flight plan. 25 miles from Minatitlan tower said “Below 8000, you are in uncontrolled airspace, cleared for VOR/DME runway 10”. Great, but what about that 6000 feet mountain that I could see on the charts? We managed to descend without hitting anything and executed a full VOR/DME procedure, with a teardrop course reversal in actual conditions. I was glad to be proficient with hand flying.

Our handler in Minatitlan did a splendid job and all processing was done in record time, less than an hour for all airplanes. And that is when we learned that the fuel truck was not working. The only fuel truck. A specialist was called and after half an hour, he managed to fix it. In the meantime, , e looked at other options, but we definitely didn’t have enough fuel to get to Merida.

Hacienda Temozon

Arrival to Merida was uneventful, we exited the airplane and were picked up by the arranged mini-buses, which drove us to the Hacienda Temozon. A margarita and a nice dinner later, we all went to bed early tired after a long flight.

On Monday a bus picked us at 9 am for visiting of Maya site in Uxmal. It was a 45 minutes drive for a guided tour of the impressively well restored ruins. The site is the most important representative of the Puuc architectural style, which flourished in the Late Classic Period (AD 600–900).

Pyramid of the Magician at Uxmal

Quite probably this style and the northern Maya lowland culture continued in full vigour for a century or so after the decline and abandonment of the southern Maya lowland centres such as TikalPalenque, and Uaxactún. After about 1000, when Toltec invaders arrived in Yucatán and established their capital at Chichén Itzá, major construction in the city ceased. According to Maya hieroglyphic records, however, Uxmal continued to be occupied and was a participant in the political League of Mayapán. When the league ended, Uxmal, like the other great cities of the north, was abandoned (c. 1450). Before abandonment, the ruling family of the city, like the Itzá of Chichén or the Cocom of Mayapán, was the Tutul Xiu.

Landrover tour

After visiting the site, we had lunch at a local restaurant and ended up with a Land Rover tour of the plantation and ruins of Hacienda Uxmal constructed in 1673.

On Tuesday, we again boarded a bus, which drove us to Merida, for a short tour of the city. Merida, capital state of Yucatan whose heritage is a rich blend of Mayan and colonial was founded in 1542 by Francisco de Montejo on the remains of the ancient Mayan city, called T’hó, which means 5 in the Mayan language.

A palace-house on Paseo Montejo

In fact, when he arrived, he found 5 Mayan temples surrounding a huge plaza and resembling the Roman ruins of the city of Merida in Extremadura, Spain, and therefore he adopted the same name. Merida of Yucatan. On our tour of the city, we drove along Paseo Montejo, which is a gorgeous tree-lined avenue stretching from the Santa Ana neighborhood ending with the grand and unmissable Monumento a la Patria. The incredible mansions are a reminder of the wealth that was in the Yucatan during the 19th century. At one point Merida was home to the most millionaires in the world, wealth created by processing and export of locally grown henequen, a fibrous plant from which twine and rope are produced. Our tour of the city ended with a lunch at the Kuuk restaurant.

Dinner at Chable

We returned back to Temozon after lunch to rest a little before our dinner escapade to Ixi’im restaurant at the Hacienda Chablé. Overseen by chef Jorge Vallejo (whose Mexico City restaurant Quintonil was named one of the World 50 Best), using organic, seasonal ingredients that are often sourced from the expansive on-site gardens; Ixi’im is lit up like a jewel box at night. Set among trees, the stone ruins of one of the hacienda’s buildings have been attached to a glass dining room lined with the owner’s 5000-strong collection of vintage tequila bottles.

Wednesday was a short flying day. We boarded again a bus, which drove us back to Merida airport. Departure formalities took surprisingly long considering it was a domestic flight and we all had flight plans prepared. A twenty minutes flight brought us the Chichen Itza airport.

Conga line of Cirrus flotilla on the way to MMCT

No paperwork on arrival, we boarded a bus to drive to Mayaland hotel for a check in and almost immediately returned to the bus to drive to cenote Ik-Kil. It is arguably one of the most beautiful cenotes of Mexico. The waters of Ik Kil were considered sacred by the Mayans who performed here human sacrificing to their rain god and archaeologists found there bones and jewelries.

Light show at Chichen Itza

We returned to the hotel for dinner and then drove for yet another attraction: Noches de Kulkulkan, an audiovisual presentation that describes Maya cosmogony, their particular vision about the origin of the planet and of humanity, as well as the history of this place which is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. The light show was spectacular, pyramids gleaming in bright colors and ancient silhouettes alive projected on main pyramid side.

On Thursday morning, we departed the hotel for a visit proper of Chichen Itza ruins. Chichen Itza was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. In 2007, the Temple of Kukulcán at Chichén Itzá has joined such famous architectural wonders as the Great Wall of China, Machu Picchu and the Taj Mahal on the list of the Seven New Wonders of the World. This impressive pyramid symbolizes the grandeur of the Mayan civilization. The greyish white colossus is 30 meters high and has exactly 365 steps to the temple at the top – this was also the number of days in the Mayan calendar.

Historians believe that Chichen Itza was founded and rose to prominence due to its close proximity to the Xtoloc cenote, an underground source of fresh water. The name Chichen Itza is a Mayan language term for at the mouth of the well of the Itza. The Itza were an ethnic group of Mayans who had risen to power in the northern part of the Yucatan peninsula, where the city is located.

After the visit, it was time for another quick flight to Cozumel. Our handler at MMCZ did a great job ushering everybody to exit and calling us taxi. A short ride to the El Presidente hotel brought us two days of sun, beach and do-nothing rest.

On Saturday night, we had a goodbye dinner at the Buccanos Beach Club hosted and invited by a COPA member, who splits his time between Florida and Yucatan. This was the end of the trip and everybody was returning home individually. We chose to stop overnight in San Luis Potosi, we never been to the city and make a second stop in Alamos, to spend a night in Hacienda de los Santos, our favorite place in Mexico.

Mexico 2022 group

Remember these problems I had with the magneto? I called the avionics shop who did the work on the airplane before departure and asked them is there anything I could do to debug the issue. They said the first thing they would try is to make sure that the autopilot was properly seated in the tray. Departing Alamos, I pushed the autopilot as hard as I could into the tray and everything returned to normal. 25 hours hand-flying the airplane and I could have loved it by a simple push!

Mexico 2020

This was already our7th trip to Mexico. This year, with a trip name México diverso we chose three very different locations, the description is under the link above.

The group met in Tucson, Arizona on Saturday 2/15/2020 for a dinner and departure to Ciudad Obregon on Sunday morning. Tucson is normally a rather quiet class C airport, but we choose to depart at the same time as the morning airline rush hour. Twelve Cirrus airplanes calling clearance and ground created lot of confusion.

I sent all the required documents ahead of time to the Commandante of Ciudad Obregon airport and when we arrived, multi-entry permits and flight plans were ready. We were in an out under an hour – for 12 airplanes – what a change compared to the mess last year in Oaxaca.


Dinner table at Hacienda

After 20 minutes flight, we all landed in Alamos and settled in Hacienda de los Santos for well deserved margaritas and roof top party before dinner. Dinner at the Hacienda is always magical, with live music, beautiful tables and great food.

The following day, those who didn’t fly it before, went for a Copper Canyon flight. Barranca del Cobre consists of six distinct canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental. The overall canyon system is larger and portions are deeper than the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The canyons were formed by six rivers which drain the western side of the Sierra Tarahumara. All six rivers merge into the Rio Fuerte and empty into the Gulf of California. The walls of the canyon are a copper and green color, which is where the name originates.

In the afternoon, I had a talk about our flying in Africa and the infamous fuel cap and Jim gave his great tequila class, always a favorite.

Extra fuel before leaving Alamos

The next leg was about 760 nm to Puebla, which was putting us at the edge of the range, considering that we already burned about 7 gallons coming from Cd Obregon. While it would be possible to do that flight non-stop, it is always better to be conservative when flying in Mexico, so we split the group in two halves. Those who flew Copper Canyon, flew to Durango and those who didn’t, to Zacatecas to refuel. Since refueling and paperwork is done serially, processing all 12 airplanes would take too much time if we all went to the same place.

I refueled rather quickly and got the flight plan filed first, but when we got back to the airplane and tried to start the engine, we were in for an unpleasant surprise. Zero fuel flow. All the tricks and methods for dealing with hot starts that I knew didn’t have any effects. We started to think that we might need to spend the night (or more) in Zacatecas. Finally, after 1.5 hours, fuel lines cooled enough so that the fuel condensed again and the engine started. Our electric fuel pump was recently replaced and I suspect this had a lot to do with that, plus the fact that Zacatecas is at 7,200 feet and it was 20 deg C.


There was a SIGMET around Puebla for volcanic ash due to volcano eruption, but it turned out to be less severe than anticipated. While the visibility was reduced due to smoke, it didn’t create any flight difficulties.

Popocatépetl volcano

Two vans drove us to Azul Talavera hotel (ex Rosewood Puebla), a beautiful, modern hotel with excellent service. We walked 10 minutes to Casa Reyena for a fabulous mole poblano dinner.

Azul Talavera rooftop swimming pool

The next day we set up to explore the city with a visit to Capilla del Rosario located in Iglesia de Santo Domingo, which is considered a jewel of Mexican baroque. Its construction dates back to the 17th century and is the first in Mexico dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. The sumptuous decoration onyx, gilded plaster, paintings and tiles lined with 22-carat gold sheets, make the chapel a unique property of its kind, which has been considered the eighth wonder of the new world and named as reliquary of America by Pope John Paul II in 1979.

Capilla del Rosario

We continued to the Cathedral on the Zócalo. Built piecemeal over almost two centuries, beginning in 1575, the church has an unusual altar and magnificent choir stalls with Moorish-inspired inlay.

Biblioteca Palofoxiana – gorgeous 17-th century library, designed to rival Europe’s greatest, is recognized by the UNESCO for being the first and oldest public library in Americas. It has more than 45,000 books and manuscripts, ranging from the 15th to the 20th century. In 2005, it was listed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.

Biblioteca Palofaxiana

The last morning stop, Museo Amparo‘s permanent collection traces Mexico’s development over its history. It has one of the most important collections of pre-Hispanic, colonial and modern art in Mexico, with dates of pieces ranging from 2,500 BCE to the present day. The museum is housed in two colonial-era buildings that date from the 17th and 18th centuries, which were popularly known as the Hospitalario.

El Restauro

After another exquisite mole at El Restauro, we boarded the bus to drive to Museo Internacional del Barocco, which is housed in an iconic building designed by acclaimed Japanese architect Toyo Ito and which opened in February 2016. The museum presents art and culture of the Baroque age (from the early-17th century to the late-18th century) in European and Latin American societies.

Museo del Barocco

The next day we drove to Cholula and started our visit at the Church Santa María Tonanzintla. Its name comes from the Nahuatl word Place with our Lady Mother. This is one of the most viewed churches in Puebla for its indigenous Baroque or New Hispanic baroque style, consisting of an exuberant indigenous decoration; angels with feather tufts, with flower garlands, with horse attire Eagle and with fruits and plants, the church is a splendid mixture of pre-Hispanic and Christian influences.

Cholula main point of interest is the Great Pyramid with the Nuestra Señora de los Remedios sanctuary on top. At first glance, the pyramid looks like a hill as most of it is overgrown. The south side of the pyramid has been excavated and there is a network of tunnels inside, we walked part of it. Building of the pyramid began in the pre-Classic period and over time was built over six times to its final dimensions of 390 ft on each side at the base. This base is four times the size of that of the Great Pyramid of Giza and is the largest pyramid base in the Americas.

Model of Great Pyramid in Cholula, with different layers and church on top

After lunch in a local whole-in-the-wall eatery, the bus drove us back to the airport. This is the first time I experienced a true a**hole Commandante. The guy refused to take our printed flight plan, because he needed four copies and not one, refused to copy it and refused to give us blank forms to hand-write flight plans. I had a bunch of blank forms exactly for such just-in-case situations and we managed to file our flight plans to Zihuatanejo.

Arrival to the Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa airport was epic, late afternoon is the most busy time for commercial flights and between our now 13 airplanes and half a dozen airline jets, some of us had to draw doughnuts in the sky for quite a while.

Holds approaching MMZH


The last two days of the trip were designed with only one objective; relax and do nothing. Cala de Mar resort has beautifully appointed rooms, each with individual plunge pool and stunning views of Pacific Ocean. I am happy to report that we not only fulfilled, but also exceeded that objective – we stayed one extra day.

View from a room at Cala de Mar

The price to pay was the return back home, perhaps foolishly I decided to do it in one day, about 1,650 nm, with landings in Los Mochis (fuel) and Calexico (fuel and immigration). That plan was only half stupid, but it became really crazy with 30 knots headwinds. I tried 10,500, 14,500 and 16,500, the ground speed remained stubbornly between 150 and 160 knots. We landed in San Carlos at 7 pm.

Mexico 2020 group

6th Mexico trip

Flying there

I’ve been organizing trips to Mexico for a while now, and this was our 6th. We had 11 airplanes and 24 participants flying to Oaxaca, San Cristobal de las Casas and Palenque, you should check out the itinerary.

It didn’t start well. We were planning to leave on Friday afternoon, but when I checked on the airplane on Thursday, battery #1 was dead. Given that’s the one that powers the starter, it didn’t seem wise to fly. Searches of nearby shops came empty, so I looked online. and found an outfit in Texas, that was shipping overnight for $280. A bargain. Battery came in at 2 pm on Friday. I run to the hangar, installed it, checked voltage and all look good. As I was closing the hangar, I realized I didn’t have my cap. Open the door and look everywhere, I couldn’t find it. There was only one place it could have been. I opened the cowl and sure enough, my cap was on the intercooler.

This is another example how important it is to walk around the airplane before starting the engine and examine engine compartment for foreign objects before closing the cowl. Particularly if in hurry or stressed.

We left before 4 pm for Phoenix.  I was watching weather all the week and it didn’t look good. However, skew-T diagrams along the route were showing that tops where below 17,000 with freezing levels around 3,000. It was unstable environment with some convection activities building up. I decided we should be able to climb on top with TKS on and indeed, the wings got trace ice before we climbed on top.

Next day, we flew to McAllen, TX, to meet about half of the group. Mighty tailwinds made it possible to make that flight without a stop, but we wanted to stretch our legs, perhaps also grab a bite and decided to land in Fort Stockton. Coming in on short final I saw barriers on the runway, at about one third.  I added power to go over, but the rest of the runway looked fine, so we landed. It turns out there was indeed a NOTAM for runway resurfacing, luckily only the first third of it. Lesson learned: RYFN (Read Your Freaking Notams). Airport was deserted, so we took gas and a granola bar and left.

There isn’t much to say about McAllen, other than it is a convenient launch point for Mexico and allowed us a direct flight to Oaxaca, our first destination. On the way, we could admire Citlaltépetl volcano, the highest peak in Mexico.


To say that Oaxaca is a slow AOE (Airport of Entry) would be polite. First, they directed us to custom and immigration, which was reasonable, but then we got to the operation office where they told that we should have first closed our flight plan so that immigration and customs can apply required stamps. Than they proceeded to laboriously fill in seven Multi-Entry Authorizations, each of 8 pages. It took about 2.5 hours and we left disgusted without authorizations, which they promised to have ready for the next day.

The city itself is however wonderful. First, the food, this is a culinary capital of Mexico and if you ever visit, make sure to stop for mole at El Catedral and for tacos de lechón at Pitiona. Then, the city itself with its 16th century Church of Santo Domingo, the central Zócalo square, Palacio de Gobierno, with coloful murals depicting regional history. We wondered to Mercado 20 de Noviembre and couldn’t resist to stop at Chocolate Mayordomo, a museum and a tasting room with classes where you can learn to make your own chocolate drinks.

Monte Albán was founded in 500 BC on the top of a mountain dominating Oaxaca and functioned as the capital of Zapotecas from the beginning of our era until 800 AD. At its time of greatest development, Monte Albán had about 35,000 inhabitants, who lived mostly on the terraced slopes of the mountain devoted to agriculture.

Tuxtla and San Cristobal de las Casas

It was a short one hour flight from Oaxaca to Tuxtla Gutierrez, where we boarded a bus for a half an hour drive to Chiapa de Corzo, lunch and a boat ride in the spectacular Cañon del Sumidero. The canyon’s creation began around the same time as the Grand Canyon, by a crack in the area’s crust and subsequent erosion by the Grijalva River, which still runs through it. Sumidero Canyon has vertical walls which reach as high as 1,000 metres (3,300 ft), with the river turning up to 90 degrees during the 13-kilometre (8.1 mi) length of the narrow passage.

San Cristobal de las Casas was the capital of the state Chiapas until 1892, and is still considered the state cultural capital. The city’s center maintains its Spanish colonial layout and much of its architecture, with red tile roofs, cobblestone streets and wrought iron balconies often with flowers. We checked into Hotel Casavieja, a very simple but adequate place very close to the center and went out for dinner.

The most interesting and intriguing place to visit is actually 6 miles outside of the city, the Tzotil town of San Juan Chamula and its Iglesia de San Juan Bautista. The church is filled with colorful candles, and smoke from burning copal resin incense, commonly used throughout southern Mexico. Along the walls of the church are Catholic saints resting on tables posted in the church, but they represent Mayan gods. Candles are lit and the people sit on the floor and pray below the saints. The local form of Catholicism is a blend of pre-conquest Maya customs, Spanish Catholic traditions, and subsequent innovations.

It is forbidden to take pictures inside the church, so you will have to come and see yourself.


It was even a shorter flight from Tuxtla to Palenque, but it turned out that the destination was overcast and unlikely to clear up. We didn’t want to file IFR and suffer through 16,000 feet MEAs, so we launched VFR planning to request a pop clearance at the destination. The overcast layer was only few thousand feet and we cruised in VMC on top. Arriving over Palenque we dutifully request IFR clearance for the VOR/DME Rwy 10, but a relaxed controller replied simply: “roger, report turning inbound”. I think this was the first time I flew an IFR approach in actual conditions on 1200 squawk code, but come to think about it, what’s the point of having a discrete squawk code if there is no radar?

We checked into our hotel Piedra de Agua and the next launched for a visit of the Palenque archaeological site. The city was founded during the late pre-classic, which corresponds to the beginning of the Christian era. After several centuries, about 500 A.D., the city rose to be a powerful capital within a regional political unit. The total area of the archaeological site is about 1800 hectares and 1,400 buildings have been recorded, of which only about 10% have been explored. Older than the ensemble at Tikal, whose major monuments were constructed a hundred years later, the group of ceremonial buildings at Palenque is an outstanding example of a ceremonial and civic site corresponding to the middle of the Classic period in the Maya area.

It takes about half a day to visit a day to visit the site and in the afternoon we drove to see and take a dip in Agua Azul waterfalls. These waterfalls consists of many cataracts following one after another, taken from near the top of the sequence of cascades. The larger cataracts may be as high as 6 meters (20 feet) or so. During much of the distance the water descends in two streams, with small islands in the middle. The water has a high content of calcium carbonate and other minerals, and where it falls on rocks or fallen trees, it encases them in a thick shell-like coating of limestone and gives them unique color.

It was refreshing to take a swim in one of the natural pools. On the way back, we stopped to admire yet another waterfall, Cascada de Misol-Ha.

Return home

It is 2,000 miles from Palenque to San Carlos, our home base, so we decided to stop on Saturday night at Hacienda de los Santos, our preferred hotel in Mexico. The flight took us first to Queretaro for refueling and we then battled strong headwinds on the way to Alamos (MM45). All was however forgotten with the first sip of margarita!

Altogether, we flew about 4,500 nautical miles and visited three wonderful locations.

Whale watching in Baja California

In January 2018, I organized another trip to Mexico, this time we visited Baja California. This the 5th year we are bringing gringos to Mexico. The official purpose was whale watching in Magdalena Bay, but everybody knew it was just an excuse to go flying.

We left home Wednesday afternoon and flew to KSAN (San Diego International), Lindbergh field. I prefer that airport to smaller General Aviation airports, such as Montgomery Field, because it is close to downtown. As class B airports go, this is one of the easiest in the country.

On Thursday morning, we flew from Sand Diego to Loreto. My preferred AOE (Airport of Entry) in Mexico is San Felipe (MMSF),  they are by far the fastest and most efficient, unfortunately San Felipe didn’t have fuel at that time. If you plan to use that airport, make sure to call ahead of time to check fuel status.

Loreto is a bit larger and unfortunately, quite more bureaucratic, it took as about 1.5 hours to fuel-up, prepare flight plans and go through customs and immigration. And one point, all immigration officers disappeared, because Alaska Airlines landed. One airplane in our group was asked to carry suitcases to the office for inspection. While the customs officers are perfectly in their right to request that, in my 15 years of flying in Mexico, I was asked for that only once. To return to our airplanes, one has to go through a ridiculously superfluous security checkpoint. In contrast, the large commercial airport in San Jose del Cabo, where we were in November 2017 does not require jumping through these hoops.

On Thursday  afternoon we met all the group in Rancho Las Cruces, a seaside beach resort located on a natural sanctuary of more than 10,000 acres and 7 miles of private pristine coastline. The hotel is situated along the beaches of the Sea of Cortés, about 15 min flight from La Paz.

Most important though, the hotel has its own airstrip. Part of the magic of flying in Baja is just that, park your airplane and walk to the hotel. Unfortunately, there are fewer and fewer of such places now, because security measures are often too expensive to keep strips open. The approach and landing at the strip are not particularly difficult, but they are interesting.

Most of the strips in Baja do not have any terrain around and just looking at Google Maps might suggest the same is true for Rancho Las Cruces. This is where it pays to be more thorough, because here how it looks on Google Earth, looking south-east, i.e from the sea.

Landing towards the West may be impractical due to rising terrain and prevailing westward winds. Landings towards the East requires flying close to terrain in what looks like a canyon, following a dry river bed.

All the participants were provided with information about the strip, with photos of terrain and a video of a Cessna Caravan pilot landing there. They were also advised the strip was challenging and if not comfortable, they should land at the commercial airport in La Paz, which is only one hour by car.

I decided to land at the Rancho’s airstrip and flew along the coast southband, to determine the wind and airstrip condition. Winds were generally from the east at 12-17 knots, depending on the altitude and this, together with the terrain made me decide to approach and land to the east. Here is the video of our landing.

The approach looks very flat in the video, but this is an optical illusion due to the position of the camera.

We spent the next day relaxing at the hotel, trying out local margaritas, catching up with old friends and making new ones. Friday morning, it was time to depart for Magdalena Bay and the winds were again favoring takeoff towards the sea. Since there were people filming our departure, I stayed in ground effect until the departure end, before pulling up. The video below offers the opportunity to admire my soft field takeoff technique from the ground and from the camera attached under the wing.

It was a short flight towards Magdalena Bay on Friday morning, only about 130 nm. Approaching the Pacific coast I became concerned we might be unable to land, due to low level bank of fog and low clouds covering the airstrip. That turned out to be a false alarm, a large hole in the clouds was open over the Bay and we landed without any trouble. In the video below, the camera was attached below the wing, as in the inset for the takeoff video, but it tilted in flight.

Notice a red cement pad at the begining of the airstrip, this is a runup area. You definitely do not want to touch down at or before the pad, unless you want to have your landing gear forcibly retracted.

You might also have noticed that I swerved to the right after touchdown. This was to avoid a flock of birds that were sitting imperturbable at the middle of the runway. I thought they won our little game of chicken and rolled to the right to avoid them, but somewhat predictable, they flew away after few seconds.

There is a short 15 min walk from the airstrip to the marina, but we got a ride in a car and we hoped on a small boat to cruise the lagoon searching for whales. And they were there.

After a quick lunch in a local eatery, we returned to the airplanes for the flight to Mulege, but due to lack of fuel in San Felipe, we stopped en route in Loreto. Without hassles of immigration and customs, refueling and flight plans took about 30 minutes.

The airstrip adjacent to the hotel is in good shape, just make sure you don’t land on or before the cement pad used for runups.

Hotel Serenidad in Mulege is a fixture in Baja flying, it was one of the first places welcoming aviators. Their Saturday night roast pig with live music was quite famous. I called ahead of time to make sure that the tradition is still alive, in spite of being assured on the phone this was still the case, we had a simple pork rib buffet and no live music. But the margaritas were as good as ever – the barman Román works there for long time and he hasn’t lost the touch with his tequila.

After a somewhat wobbly wake-up on Sunday and a delicious breakfast, we said goodbye to the whole group and flew away home. The stop in San Felipe was the fastest I ever experienced – 10 minutes for immigration, customs and flight plans. Hopefully, next time they will have fuel.

Thanksgiving in Cabo

I flew to Mexico for the first time in 2005 and we’ve been flying there couple of times each year. Baja California is the closest real beach place from San Francisco and I am always surprised how many private pilots are apprehensive about visiting.

To help alleviate fears, I’ve been organizing Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association trips to Mexico for the last four years. In 2017, we had 22 airplanes joining us on a trip to Alamos, Sonora and to Manzanillo. In 2016, we visited San Miguel de Allende, Guajanuato, Morelia and Guadalajara. In 2018, we will be doing whale watching in Magdalena Bay and landing on some fun dirt strips.

End of November starts to be chilly here, meaning temperature may occasionally drop below 20°C, so to escape the freeze, we decided to spend Thanksgiving in San Jose del Cabo. There are two towns at the most southern tip of the Baja California Peninsula: San Jose del Cabo is a bit sleepy, Cabo San Lucas is a party town and there are plenty of resorts in between. Having already passed the prime of our party time, we decided for a more calm place, mostly because of a beautiful hotel that opened there recently: Mar Adentro.

In 2014, we spent Thanksgiving in Acapulco in Hotel Elcanto,  built by the same architect: Miguel Angel Aragonés. This is a truly amazing place. We loved it so much that we stayed in the hotel all four days, without going to town even once!

When we found that Aragonés designed another hotel in San Jose del Cabo, we had to see it.

The flight to San Jose was a bit longer than usual, because we first stopped in Santa Monica to pick up our daughter’s boyfriend. Both were coming with us for a short family reunion. This was right before shortening of the Santa Monica runway started, the first step in the city plan to shut down the airport. It is a shame that such a beautiful airport will close, only because malls and commercial real estate pays more in taxes than an airport. The city council conducted a shameful campaign under false pretenses.

We spent the night in Santa Monica and flew to San Felipe for customs, immigration and fuel. Airports in Mexico are known for their bureaucracy and I used to budget 1 to 1.5 hours for a stop. San Felipe is a notable exception, it took us 25 minutes to refuel and take care of all the paperwork and we took off for San Jose del Cabo (MMSD). This is the large international airport serving both towns, while the smaller (MMSL) caters mainly to private aviators. The incoming formalities were surprisingly simple: take your luggage and go. Well, almost, because I wanted to get fuel and it took a bit of time waiting for the fuel truck.

Mar Ardento didn’t disappoint us. Here is the restaurant, appropriately called El Nido.

At night, the whole structure is illuminated in blue and red. At the bottom right, you can see El Nido at night, from high up. In between the buildings, there is water, with walkways connecting the hotel with the restaurant, pool and the beach.

This time, we were going to town for dinners, San Jose has some great Mexican restaurants, for example La Panga Antigua or  Restaurante Mi Casa.

On Sunday, we drove back to the airport, took care of all the paperwork, which again was quite fast and took off for Loreto. Being four in the airplane, I couldn’t take full fuel and I didn’t have the range to fly back direct to San Diego. But the stop in Loreto was also fast and we took advantage of it to grab a quick bite, before continuing to San Diego, Brown’s Field (KSDM), than back to Santa Monica and finally home, San Carlos.

Yes, it would be faster to fly commercial to Cabo and less expensive, but we would miss amazing views of Baja California and the adventure of flying ourselves in our little travel machine. It is only 6 hours one way.






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