Published on September 10th, 2011 | by Mark Chesnut
LatinExpert: Beto Kay on Travel to Monterrey, Mexico
A Monterrey native, Beto Kay is a fashion and image consultant and director of the Universidad Valle Continental. In this exclusive interview with LatinFlyer, he shares his insider tips about travel to Monterrey, one of Mexico’s largest and most sophisticated cities.
What do you like best about Monterrey?
Monterrey is a vibrant city that works every day to be a part of the global scene. When you visit, it gives you the impression of being an eclectic place, even outside of Mexico. Perhaps one of the first things you notice on your first visit is that it’s surrounded by mountains, which are part of the Sierra Madre Oriental range.
What makes Monterrey different from everywhere else in Mexico?
More than anything, its strategic location, which results in different ecosystems. You can be in the Parque Ecológico Chipinque (Chipinque Ecological Park), which has a mountain forest climate, and in 25 minutes you can arrive in the middle of the García desert or in the Huasteca canyons, which have landscapes that are almost like another planet. All of these qualities create perfect conditions for cycling, mountaineering, paragliding, hang gliding and even extreme water sports in Presa de la Boca (Boca Lake) in Santiago, Nuevo León.
How would you describe a perfect day in Monterrey?
There’s something for everyone here. As I mentioned, it’s perfect for ecotourism and adventure sports, but if a traveler is looking for a cosmopolitan experience, there are many cultural activities: We have a dozen museums, including MARCO (Museo de Arte Comtemporaneo, the Contemporary Art Museum), which has major, world-class exhibitions like the Australian artist Ron Mueck.
The Paseo Santa Lucía is an urban park with museums, urban sculpture, sports fields and traditional cruises on “trajineras,” a folkloric boat. Also there is the Arena Monterrey, where the best international stars, like Katy Perry and many others from different genres, perform.
So in summary, the perfect day would mean taking advantage of the day at one of the many attractions and end the afternoon with shopping and dinner in some fashionable place.
What are a few of the best places for shopping?
My favorites aren’t at all traditional. If what you’re looking for are department store, Bloomingdales-style, shopping, the Palacio de Hierro is the ideal option, with top-of-the-line brands for the most demanding fashionista. They also have an excellent personal shopper service; ask for Judith, Marcos or Ignacio in the men’s department for excellent personalized service.
KumKum & Kasta is a jeweler with unique items that have a strong mystical and Latin influence while at the same time are very contemporary.
Insolit is perhaps one of my favorite stores for design furniture. You’ll find brands like Kartell, from Italy and Moooi from the Netherlands, among others.
What are your favorite restaurants?
The San Pedro district has areas with multiple restaurants. If you have trouble deciding, go to Plaza 401, Plaza Fiesta or Plaza 02, where the design hotel Habita is located. In those three places alone you’ll find a dozen restaurants — Argentinean, Italian, Mexican and international.
• If you’re looking for high international cuisine, the best choice is Pangea.
• If your thing is Nobu-style Asian fusion, the place to go is Kitchoan (Plaza 02).
• If you crave a Mexican experience accompanied by some of the best Tequilas in the nation, don’t miss La Catarina.
Some people might be worried about safety in northern Mexico. What would you tell them?
Monterrey is going through an intense struggle between police and crime, similar to what Miami had during the 1980s, or Colombia in the 1990s. I should tell you that much of what you see on television takes place in the distant suburbs, where gangs and cartels are fighting for control. One recommendation is to use the taxi service at the hotel where you’re staying. All of the locations I’ve mentioned are safe.
Monterrey is an industrial city that is not often associated with tourism, however whenever American or European friends visit, they really enjoy themselves, thanks to the multiple attractions for every taste. Any traveler who is only familiar with a typical Mexican stereotype will surely be surprised.