By Bob Schulman
Memo to travelers to Mexico: Make room in your closet for a bunch of new tee shirts proclaiming your love for places like Teacapan, Esquinapa and Playa Espiritu. Particularly for Playa Espiritu.
You'll have to squint to find these spots on the map – if they show up at all – but they're about half-way down the west coast of Mexico south of Mazatlan. What's happening there is, Playa Espiritu (spirited or lively beach) is going to be the country's next tropical Eden in its line of built-from-scratch mega-resorts a la Cancun, Ixtapa and Huatulco.
Workers are already buzzing around Espiritu's 7.5 miles of golden beaches, leveling land plots, building roads and putting in power lines. Among distinctive features of the nearly 6,000-acre site – over a third of the size of Manhattan Island – will be a Venice-like community on an island surrounded by winding waterways.
To be built in phases over a 30-year timetable, Espiritu eventually will welcome guests to some 17,000 hotel rooms and 26,000 residential units flanked by marinas, a golf course, shopping malls, plazas and year-round verdant parks.
According to a brochure, the project has been designed “to make nature our priority by accenting sustainability in everything from water recycling systems to using renewable energy sources.”
Humberto Avilez, regional director of Fonatur, Mexico's resort development agency, said the first hotels are planned to open in early 2014. The creation of Espiritu, he noted, could prompt private developments along the 25 miles of beaches between the new resort and the eco-tourism haven at Teacapan at the southern tip of the state of Sinaloa.
To be left intact in the development of Espiritu and its surrounding areas will be miles of meandering lagoons, mangroves and estuaries, home to millions of birds (and a near-religious visit for bird lovers) such as pink and blue herons, parrots, pelicans, storks, fishing eagles, ducks, hummingbirds and orioles among many other species. Besides coexisting with bird sanctuaries, Fonatur maps show development areas sharing the landscape with current farmlands, cattle ranches and shrimp beds.
Tourism planners say Espiritu could spark privately backed tourism projects on its neighboring northern beaches as well as southward developments. Ongoing growth in the area, they predict, could some day create a 100-mile-long resort corridor running all the way from Mazatlan to Teacapan.
Mazatlan's international airport, 20 miles down the coast from that city, is the closest terminal to Espiritu. It's about an hour's ride south of the airport to the new resort, mostly on a modern highway to the regional capital of Esquinapa, and a few miles from there on a secondary road to Espiritu.
Cover image and artist's concept of Espiritu courtesy of Fonatur.
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