by Lydia Linton Pontius
Interview conducted Nov. 2008
Having been a CEA volunteer and supporter for about 10 years now, I have known Laura for almost as long. It was so much fun to spend time with her and learn more about her. I was aware of many of her accolades such as, she has been the Chair of the Board of Directors for Centro Ecológico Akumal, her father was the founder and she is the owner of Hotel Akumal Caribe, Lol-Ha Restaurant and Super Chomak. She is the founder of the Pablo Bush Romero Scholarship Fund, and is a staunch animal lover and supporter of all things that are for the betterment of Akumal. She has also made a sound commitment to make her business Eco-friendly. She is a wonderful person and a role model for many. I am sure you will enjoy this interview.
What are your first memories of Akumal?
Arriving on the Cielito, a very slow motor/sail boat from Cozumel after 5–6 hours on board and being met by Don Pepe Tun, the caretaker of the coconut plantation. We would stay under an open-air palapa in hammocks, and Doña Saturnina, Pepe Tun's wife, would cook fresh lobster and fish for us. She always made fresh tortillas and everything was cooked over a wood fire in their palapa. I loved it because they always had either a monkey or a tejon or a parrot around, never in a cage.
What was it like in Akumal as a child?
Akumal was my personal playground. It was full of adventure—nature at its best. The diving was amazing: we saw many nurse sharks, barracuda, and large reef fish, and lobster were abundant, even inside the bay. My stays in Akumal were always during school holidays, and we got to know whomever was in Akumal. It felt very familiar.
What adjustments did you have to make?
I always felt it was normal to be in Akumal. It never crossed my mind that it should be any different. We went without many comforts, but it never bothered us. It only became an issue once I came back to Akumal to live and work. Doing business in such an isolated place was tough.
What are some your favorite memories?
Meeting people my age that went to visit Akumal with their families, and being their personal tour guides, going diving together, hanging out on the beach, taking our meals together, bonfires and guitar playing at night.
What made you decide to move to Akumal?
My father needed help running the operation and since I did study Hotel and Restaurant Management, I wanted to see what I could do with what I learned at school.
What was it like raising your son, Ryan, in Akumal?
At times lonely, because we had very few other families with small children in Akumal but, as the area grew, the school in Puerto also grew, and it no longer felt that way. It was a great place for Ryan to grow up. The school gave him a really good base, and Akumal was a safe and beautiful environment.
Do you have a favorite memory of Ryan in Akumal?
Yes! Climbing trees, the one by the Kids' Club, and also the sea grape trees by my house. He loved it! He also loved our animals at our house, taking in stray cats, ducks, a goose, land turtles and birds. It was all part of the fun for him.
What makes Akumal different from other places along the MR coast?
Its bay is unique, and the community is also unique. We retain the flavor of the Yucatán Peninsula, the original Quintana Roo. The Mayan Riviera is now totally different from what I saw in the '60s.
What changes have you seen?
Too many to list. Everything from the development, to the deterioration of the reef. But not every change has been bad. Akumal has maintained much of its flavor!
What is one of your favorite hidden or special places to go?
I love X'cacel! I love to walk the beach and then body surf and lie on the beach. Since there is no sign, few people go in there. My next favorite place is Tulúm beach. You can walk for miles there and it reminds me of how things used to be.
Is there something that has been lost from the past?
Akumal can never go back to being the place of my childhood, but I don't like to feel like anything is lost, just different. I love Akumal today, and I loved Akumal as it was when I was growing up there.
What is your vision for the future (Akumal and business)?
For Akumal I hope that it will always be a community of people interested in protecting our ecology, working together for common goals, interested in making Akumal a unique destination, and standing out from all the other mega resorts in the area. For our business, I don't want to change too much of it. Upgrade when we can, provide for the needs of our guests, attract new visitors, and hopefully keep adding to our loyal repeat customer base that is our mainstay and our biggest satisfaction.
What is the importance of sustainability and what is your company doing to help?
If all developments in the area just think about how to make the largest return on their investment, tourism will kill the area! If we all work on sustainable development, our biggest reward will be providing tourists with as much of a pristine environment as we possibly can, for many, many years to come.
What is your relationship with CEA?
My father founded what is now CEA, previously Club de Yates Akumal Caribe. I have been on the board for at least 15 years, and president for quite a few years. My main focus is working with the PoBAK (Akumal's Bay Protection Program) since this is the area I feel I can contribute the most to, as well as feeling very strongly about protecting this beautiful and unique bay.
To learn more about Hotel Akumal Caribe and Lol-Ha Restaurant, please visit their site.