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Jack Bettridge

Smoking Down Mexico Way

Posted: Nov 15, 2007 5:05pm ET
Cruised the west coast of Mexico last week on Holland American with hopes of scoring some Havanas, but got a lesson in caveat emptor instead.

The ship (Oosterdam) had a selection of nice cigars—including Fuentes—and a comfortable smoking lounge, but no Cubans as the tour originated in the U.S. (San Diego). So if I were to score I had to do it on land.

The first stop was Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of Baja Mexico, where plenty of Cubans were advertised, but none appeared to exist. Of course, Cohibas are most represented and also the easiest (for me at least) to spot as fakes. (See the Counterfeit Gallery on this site for examples.) For some reason few seem to be able to get that checkerboard pattern on the band and its colors right. Saw all sorts of variations—the bottom color too orange or canary yellow, top color bluish, badly shaped squares, squares too far apart, wrong number of columns of squares, wrong font or size of lettering—but the most egregious fakes came in a box with a Plexiglas cover with five Esplendido-size cigars, each one of which had a different-looking band. I asked them to send me the name of the customer who buys that because I'm still trying to unload some prime real estate in Love Canal.

In retrospect, I think I was visiting the town too early (9 a.m) because everyone I met seemed too hung over to direct me to the local La Casa del Habana. They were, however, able to point out pharmacies that sold, as well as cigars, over-the-counter Prozac, antibiotics and steroids. I wonder if they were Fugazis like the cigars.

I sort of breezed through Mazatlan by car and didn't see a lot of cigars advertised, but you will be happy to know most every kind of American fast food is in evidence. Why experience a different cuisine just because you happen to leave the U.S.?

In Puerto Vallarta, we walked down the Malecon that skirts the waterfront and saw all manner of stores touting cigars (none real) as a sideline. You can buy clothes, drugs and food alongside your cigar purchasing experience. One place even hawked cigars as some sort of bait and switch to buy a timeshare. So I've got that to look forward to one week of every year.

We asked around for La Casa del Habana and everyone redirected us to the Vallarta Cigar Factory where they have a small rolling operation making Mexican cigars as well as a walk-in humidor with a medium selection of Havanas. While they were realistically priced—not the bargain-basement rates offered on the street—they had the distinct advantage of being authentic.

I bought a handful and shared them onboard. Anyone else have a similar experience?

Comments   4 comment(s)

michael albo — califonia —  November 16, 2007 3:12pm ET

I go to Cabo once a year and have found real cubans at different shops but when you go back they dont have any or just cant get them they say. So I just keep wandering around and keep checking.


Ned Falkingham — CA —  November 18, 2007 3:47pm ET

I was in Cabo for 10 days this past summer and wandered all over lookin for a good ciagr shop. I found plenty of shady ones, and plenty of offers to buy them on the beach. I did find it though, it is just across from Cabo Wabo. J&J is by far the best shop in Cabo. you definiately need to check it out when you are there.!http://jjco.biz/


Ned Falkingham — CA —  November 18, 2007 3:48pm ET

I was in Cabo for 10 days this past summer and wandered all over lookin for a good ciagr shop. I found plenty of shady ones, and plenty of offers to buy them on the beach. I did find it though, it is just across from Cabo Wabo. J&J is by far the best shop in Cabo. you definiately need to check it out when you are there.!http://jjco.biz/


David O'Neill — Nevada —  December 2, 2007 10:20am ET

Puerta Vallarta has a Casa Del Habano about 2 blocks off the Malecon and it's legitimate, owned by a American Ex-Pat.



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