Published on July 18th, 2013 | by Mark Chesnut
Q&A: Marriott’s Dennis Whitelaw on the Best of Costa Rica & Mexico
With more than 32 years of experience working with Marriott International, Dennis P. Whitelaw has lived in some pretty amazing places. He’s served as general manager of the Marriott Guatemala City and, more recently as general manager at the Marriott CasaMagna Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa — a job that kept him in Puerto Vallarta, one of the most popular Mexico beach destinations, for more than a decade. He recently made the move to Costa Rica, where he’s serving as Marriott country manager, heading up properties that include Los Sueños Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort and the Costa Rica Marriott San José.
Thanks to his experience in both Mexico and Costa Rica, Whitelaw is in a unique position to compare both of these popular tourism hotspots. In this exclusive interview, he talks about some of his favorite things and, in the process, provides some valuable Mexico and Costa Rica travel tips.
You’ve lived in so many fascinating places. How would you compare living in Mexico and Costa Rica to other parts of the world in which you’ve lived?
I have lived in the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Sri Lanka for a short time and now Costa Rica. The variance in cultures has been truly outstanding; I’ve especially enjoyed the difference in culinary offerings between all of the destinations. I quickly learned that Mexico’s 32 states had 32 diverse cuisines, each rich and fulfilling.
What did you like best about life in Puerto Vallarta?
Above all else, the people in Puerto Vallarta were some of the most hospitable and friendly that I have ever encountered. The destination itself was sheer paradise; I was able to live a relaxing and spectacular resort life.
What are some of the biggest ways that Costa Rica’s coast differs from Mexico’s Pacific coast, and how is it similar?
Costa Rica is a spectacular land of eco adventure. The lush green surrounding and people are the happiest I ever encountered. While I have found that the coasts are similar, the culinary and activities are extremely diverse.
Culturally, what would you say are some of the most noticeable differences between Costa Rica and Mexico?
Mexico’s culture is highlight defined by its cuisine, while Costa Ricans pride themselves [on their] eco adventure.
Let’s say I’m a vacationer who’s trying to decide between the Pacific Coast of Mexico and Costa Rica. What would you say are the biggest selling points of each?
Costa Rica offers up a number of sun-filled activities, with the environment always top-of-mind partnered with international cuisine and friendly locals. Mexico, on the other hand, has exceptional local spicy cuisine, a vast array of water activities and locals with charm.
When you have free time in Costa Rica, what’s your own personal idea of a perfect day?
My ideal day entails golf in the morning, lunch with the family and an adventure-filled afternoon involving either a waterfall, park or zoo.
Since a lot of your guests fly in via San Jose: Do you have any restaurant recommendations or “must-do” recommendations in Costa Rica’s capital?
I highly recommend eating at both Doris Metropolitan Steakhouse and La Divina Comida Fusion Peruana. As far as adventure goes, travelers must see the La Paz Waterfall Gardens and do either a Britt Coffee plantation tour or the Doka Estate Costa Rica gourmet coffee tour.
MORE INSPIRATION & TRAVEL TIPS:
• VIDEO: Mexican Music & Art, on the New Malecón in Puerto Vallarta
• “My Costa Rica” — DayMen’s Ty Wivell on Costa Rica & Mexico Travel
• HOTEL REVIEW & VIDEO: Sheraton Buganvilias Resort, Puerto Vallarta
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