CUERNAVACA TRAVEL GUIDE
by Jane Onstott
Places to Stay in Cuernavaca - Click here for price key
For budget digs right in the heart of the old city, stay at Hotel Hortensias ($, Calle Hidalgo #13, tel. 777/314-1324), which offers Wi-Fi, decent beds, and cable TV in rooms surrounding a cheerful garden.
On the other end of the price spectrum, the classic hotspot for romance and elegance is Las Mañanitas ($$$$, Calle Ricardo Linares #107, Centro, tel. 777/362-0000 or 01800/221-5299 toll-free in Mexico, 888/413-9199 toll-free in the US, www.lasmananitas.com.mx). The onsite restaurant is a good choice for a lengthy, upscale dining experience.
For comfortable lodgings in a homey, garden-like setting, book Las Villas de Bellavista ($$$, Tabachín 133-135, Col. Bellavista, tel. 777/317-1893, www.cuernavaca-villas.com) by the day, week or month. There’s a large swimming pool, free Wi-Fi, parking, and each cozy unit has its own complete kitchen and sleeping quarters. It’s in a quiet residential neighborhood a bus or taxi ride from the historic downtown.
Places to Eat in Cuernavaca - Click here for price key
Although I wouldn’t make a pilgrimage to get here, La Glorieta ($--$$, Av. E. Zapata at Tlaltenango Glorieta, Col. Bellavista, tel. 777/313-8063) serves Mexican specialties at reasonable prices, including a comida corrida (set-price menu) for 50 pesos. They serve breakfast daily after 8AM, and paella on weekends.
La Comuna ($--$$, Calle Morrow #6, tel. 777/318-2757) is a simple restaurant-café serving up two-for-one beers, inexpensive meals, coffee and cake. The food is nothing to write home about, but it’s a good pit stop in the heart of downtown near Casa Borda and Calle Hidalgo. Also, they have free Wi-Fi and good Mexi music on the sound system.
We weren’t crazy about the dry pizza at Marco Polo ($$-$$$, Calle Hidalgo #30, Centro, tel. 777/312-3484, www.marco-polo.com.mx), and the green salad we ordered was an odd mix of iceberg lettuce and cooked vegetables with a strong mustard dressing. But the second-floor location is charming, with balcony tables overlooking the Hidalgo street scene and the cathedral across the street. Local friends recommended the place … so perhaps you’ll have better luck with the dishes you choose. Go at least for a drink and perhaps a bowl of spaghetti.
For an upscale meal in a beautiful setting, many guayabos recommend Gaia ($$$$, Blvd. Benito Juárez 102, Centro, tel. 777/312-3656, www.gaiarest.com.mx). Located in the former home of the late Mexican comedian Cantinflas, the Gaia has a playful and modern menu. Choose from hot and cold appetizers and lots of interesting main dishes. Service is polished and attentive but not overpowering. The swimming pool’s mosaic, visible from the courtyard and balcony tables, was designed by Diego Rivera. Valet parking.
Although the name leaves plenty to be desired, Glu ($$$, Av. Rio Mayo #1209, Pabellón Vista Hermosa, tel. 777/316-5073) is a hip fish and seafood restaurant open daily between 11AM and 6PM. It’s part of the Gaia group, but cheaper than the flagship restaurant. Asian-fusion fare.
Located within an early-20th-century building, Casa Hidalgo ($$$$, Jardín de los Héroes #6, Centro, tel. 777/312-2749, www.casahidalgo.com) is a charming place for a snack, a drink, or a meal in the heart of historic Cuernavaca. The menu is nouveau Mexican. Tables on the second-floor patio overlook the action at Jardín Morelos. On weekends the rooftop lounge attracts the city’s hoi polloi.
A Cuernavaca classic, El Rincón del Bife ($$$, Av. de San Diego 1001, Col. Vistahermosa, tel. 777/315-4794) is the venue for an atmospheric evening of international fine dining and steaks, with an emphasis on Argentine dishes. There’s Wi-Fi throughout the restaurant and bar, valet parking, and a children’s play area.
Although the Gurus are too frugal to eat here, Las Mañanitas ($$$$, Calle Ricardo Linares #107, Centro, tel. 777/362-0000, www.lasmananitas.com.mx) is recommended by their more upscale friends, who have been coming here for decades. They start with drinks in the vast garden, perhaps for an hour or more, before moving to the indoor or outdoor dining area for comida or dinner and then perhaps a coffee by the fire.
Things to Do & See in Cuernavaca
The city’s best museum is el Palacio de Cortés/Museo Cuauhnáhuac (Blvd. Juárez at Calle Gutenberg, facing la Plaza de Armas/Jardín Morelos, tel. 777/312-8171, closed Monday). Within Hernán Cortés’s beautifully restored former palace are well-displayed colonial and pre-Hispanic artifacts, including archaeological pieces found on site. Don’t miss Diego Rivera’s murals on the third floor, portraying the conquest of Cuernavaca.
The tren turístico (tourist tram, tel. 777/318-6045) departs on a flexible schedule from el Palacio de Cortés. Guides narrate a spiel in Spanish giving area history. There are four different routes. Route #1 lets passengers off the tram for a walk into one of the city’s trademark canyons; route #3 goes to Teopanzolco, a small archaeological site in the middle of the city; and Route #4 hits several ceramics studios. Pick up a flyer at any tourist kiosk, and check likely departure times with the tram operator. Ultimately the tram goes when there are enough passengers; the most departures are on weekends and holidays. Cost is 46 to 60 pesos per adult, less for kids and seniors.
Hidalgo Street between el Palacio de Cortés and Jardín Borda has shops and galleries. Vendors sell inexpensive jewelry, snacks, sweets, and souvenirs in Jardín Morelos.
The free if unexciting Museo de Fotografía (Calle Agustín Güemes #1, El Calvario, tel. 777/329-4405, closed Monday) has some old photos of Cuernavaca and environs. You get what you pay for. It’s near the walkable Barranca de Amanalco, one of Cuernavaca’s typical ravines, which is allegedly patrolled by the tourist police. vAn eclectic collection of art is found in the former home of the namesake American expat at the Museo Robert Brady (Calle Netzahualcoyotl #4, tel. 777/318-8554, closed Monday), right off the main drag downtown. There’s a small café on the premises and the entrance fee is less than 20 pesos. Art films are shown Thursday evenings at 6PM.
Jardín Borda (Av. Morelos #271, tel. 777/318-1050), catercorner from the cathedral, has extensive if unexciting ethno-botanical garden (lackadaisically signed), and some excellent art exhibits in its temporary exhibition halls. There’s a nominal fee to enter.
Nightlife in Cuernavaca
See the websites listed under More Info, below, for ideas about things to do during your visit.
Lively bars and cafes line Plazuela del Zacate and the adjacent walking street, attracting young people in the evening with canned or live music and 2x1 beers.
Cousin to the more pricey and sophisticated Gaia restaurant downtown, Gaia Bistro (Av. Rio Mayo #1209, Paballón Vistahermosa, tel. 777/316-3000, www.gaiarest.com.mx) offers wine and a full bar as well as bistro fare in a modern, upscale setting for lunch or dinner.
Cine Morelos (Av. Morelos #188, centro, www.cinemorelos.com) is a multiplex movie theater surrounded by Subway, McDonalds and other fast food outlets, right in the center of town.
A free monthly booklet (in Spanish) called GoZarte Morelos lists theater, music, plays, and art exhibitions to be held during the month at different venues throughout the city.
The Morelos State Tourism Office is at Ave. Morelos #278 (tel. 777/312-2747); it’s open weekdays only. On the web, visit www.morelostravel.com (Spanish only). The Municipal Tourism Office, at Calle Hidalgo #5 (tel. 777/314-3920), is supposedly open daily. For info toll-free in Mexico call 078 or 01800/836-9999. Additionally there are information kiosks on Jardín Morelos, at the entrance to Barranca de Amanalco, and elsewhere throughout town.
How to Get There & Around
For a taxi in Cuernavaca, call 777/317-3766 or 777/322-1202.
Cuernavaca’s bus station is located near the Adolfo López Mateos market. The main bus lines are Pullman de Morelos (tel. 777/312-7620 or 312-6001), Estrella Blanca (tel. 777/312-2626), and Estrella de Oro (tel. 777/312-3055 or 320-2801). Buses leave Mexico City’s southern bus station, La Tasqueña, every 15 minutes or so for Cuernavaca.
From points north of Mexico City, one has to drive through Mexico City. The Guru got very lost and had to pay a taxi driver to lead her through town to the correct highway. If you’re going only to Cuernavaca, we suggest you take a bus. If you’re driving, below are general directions.
From Querétaro, take 57D to Anillo Periférico in Mexico City, heading toward Periférico Sur/Reforma/Chapultepec. Continue on Boulevard Adolfo López Mateos and finally take Viaducto (NOT Calzado) Tlalpan to the entrance to the Acapulco Toll Road (Cuota a Acapulco). From there follow the signs into Cuernavaca.