Host for the Holidays

If you’re having guests aboard in Mexico, here’s how to make it work for everyone.


Inviting guests to join them aboard for the holidays is standard operating procedure for many boaters in Mexico during the winter, but things are a little different in Mexico than stateside. Use the following considerations to make it work smoothly for everyone, beginning with narrowing any invitation down with respect to where, when, for how long and what you’ll do with guests that’s uniquely Mexico.


We once invited guests to cruise the tiny Gold Coast anchorages with us and suggested they fly into Manzanillo where we’d pick them up. Unfortunately, their travel agent booked them a round-trip flight to Mazatlan, because everybody knows that’s where the cruise ships dock and, well, they both start with M.

Two of the easiest places to rendezvous with guests are Los Cabos at the south end of the Baja California peninsula and Puerto Vallarta about halfway down the mainland. From there, take them to remote places. At both Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta, the airports have taxis and convenient access to several full-service yacht marinas.

From the international airport for Los Cabos (SJC), Marina Puerto Los Cabos in San Jose del Cabo’s municipal harbor is a 30-minute taxi ride. It’s about a 45-minute ride to Cabo San Lucas and either Marinas de Baja or IGY Marina Los Cabos. Or, it’s a 90-minute ride to La Paz, which features Marina CostaBaja, Marina Palmira, Marina de La Paz and Marina Fonatur — just for starters. From Puerto Vallarta’s international airport (PVR), it’s 15 minutes to Marina Vallarta, 30 minutes to Paradise Marina Village, or an hour to Marina Puerto Nayarit at La Cruz. So you could dock your boat at any of those places.

Both rendezvous points are in the tropics, so warm weather will be most welcome in the winter. The main difference in winter? Baja is usually dry, while P.V. is green and humid.


Marina Vallarta is the closest boating facility to the international airport at Puerto Vallarta, almost golf cart distance. From here you can take guests for a mini cruise around Banderas Bay for tropical fishing and diving.

Guest Cruise

You won’t have to hang out in the marina, because both locations are surrounded by months’ worth of fun boating activities, and your boat is the first-class ticket to sportfishing, snorkeling and scuba diving, beachcombing, island hopping and overnight anchoring opportunities.

To give holiday guests the authentic cruising experience, plan to coast 140 miles from Cabo San Lucas around East Cape (Gordo Banks for fishing, Cabo Pulmo for diving) to any marina in La Paz, and then taxi back to meet their departure flight at the original airport, San Jose del Cabo.

From La Paz, guests are often happy to relax for a week out at the Espiritu Santos Islands where they can fish, dive and hike.

From Puerto Vallarta, the 70-mile circular route around Banderas Bay includes entertaining stops for diving at the Islas Mariettas and fishing in Yelapa Bay.

Port calls at both ends of this cruise are always a hit, because they’re stuffed with fabulous shopping and different restaurants to sample each day.

When to Come and Go

One week to 10 days is about right, depending on your hosting capacity (e.g., berths, water tankage, galley) and guests’ boating expertise. Guests who are also boaters seem to take up less space.

Check out Mexico’s holiday calendar for 2016-2017 (see sidebar), so you can plan to soak up some colorful cultural events, or to avoid bank/business closures. Monday, Dec. 12 will be one of the heaviest travel days in Mexico, which takes many U.S. visitors by surprise.

If you’re going to travel with guests aboard from Los Cabos to La Paz, allow one normal business day to get them officially added to your paperwork. Use the day to provision and top off — but beware of packed grocery stores and potential fuel shortages. Leave another day at the end to remove guests from your paperwork before they jet away with their passports.

Mexico Holiday Calendar 2016 – 2017

Dates in bold are federal, state or bank closures, so plan ahead.

Nov. 20: Christ the King Day
Nov. 21: Revolution Day Memorial
Dec. 8: Feast of the
Immaculate Conception
Dec. 12: Virgin of Guadalupe Day
Dec. 21: Winter Solstice
Dec. 24 – 25: Christmas Eve and Day
Dec. 28: Day of the Holy Innocents
Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve
Jan. 1: New Year’s Day
Jan. 6: Day of the Holy Kings
Feb. 5 – 6: Constitution Day

Parades & Posadas

You and your guests can join or observe many festivities. The Virgin Mary of Guadalupe is the patron saint of Mexico, so at Christmas each cathedral’s statues of the saints are carried through the streets, accompanied by choirs and marching bands. Pine boughs and lighted ornaments decorate the streets and municipal buildings. Along the parade routes, market stands sell “comida de navidad” (Christmas foods): banana tamales, pozole, bunuelos, ponche, Noche Bueno beer and more.

A posada is a reenactment of Mary and Joseph knocking on doors in Bethlehem. Some marinas organize posadas: Two boaters play Mary and Joseph and knock on four or five hulls, seeking admittance while others follow. “Sorry, no room at this inn” is the required response until they’re finally welcomed in — usually at the marina lounge where a buffet or potluck begins.


Host Well

Use these eight tips to host guests in Mexico:

  1. Start with the lesson on flushing the heads and showering.
  2. Establish rules, such all on board help prepare meals, wash up, make their bed, etc.
  3. If you’re traveling, tell guests when you’ll fire up and get underway.
  4. Show all guests how to stop the boat and use the VHF; then let them do it themselves.
  5. Help guests practice a few key phrases in Spanish, so they’ll be comfortable.
  6. Provide floppy hats and sun block to lessen the inevitable sunburn.
  7. Keep an extra set or two of 7 x 50 binoculars for guests to use (not your good ones), and hand them your wildlife identification book.
  8. Keep a couple of extra snorkel masks with breathing tubes and surf fins, so guests have a chance to observe the marine life, even if it’s just below the boat at anchor. And hand them your reef fish and marine life identification book.


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