What am I still doing in Cancun?

The adventures of an American single mommy working and playing in paradise.

November 4, 2014
by admin

Xcaret Festival de Tradiciones de Vida y Muerte 2014

Once again Xcaret’s Festival de Tradiciones de Vida y Muerte was a joyful, colorful, creepy, rousing success. Bebé and I attended on Saturday. Each year a different Mexican state is showcased. This year it was Michoacan. The Festival features some 250 exhibits which include theater productions; musical, dance and multidisciplinary performances; audiovisual presentations; a Catholic mass; children’s activities; expositions and exhibitions; a parade (which takes place on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen); and traditional Day of the Dead food.

La Catrina (a Day of the Dead icon) is always there to greet visitors at the main entrance…

La Catrina Xcaret

Each year I have more fun getting into the spirit of the event, so I bought a new traditional blouse and put festive flowers in my hair. I planned to get my make-up done at the Ultrafemme stand, where they were doing gorgeous intricate work, but alas, the line was looong, too long to wait in with a 5 year old. So we smeared on some paint from one of the stands they have throughout the park. For the first time ever Bebé wanted his face painted.


Day of the Dead Cancun


Festival Vida y Muerte Cancun

Normally we go to the cemetary first, before it gets crowded, but since it was Saturday, there was already a long line, so we headed to check out the altars.

altar Day of the Dead

altar Dia de Muertos

Xcaret Festival Vida y Muerte

altars Xcaret festival

celebrations Day of the Dead Cancun

We went to three performances this year, a record for us. The first one was about a family of “calaveras” or skeletons, in other words, a family of dead people. Then we went to see a performance by a Michocan dance troupe and then the Game of Life, a story and performance of an ancient Mayan ball game. The only good picture I got of the performances was this one, of the dance troupe. Both of us loved all of the performances, or shows as Bebé calls them, that we saw.

traditional dance Michoacan

It is important to note that the traditional Day of the Dead food at the festival is absolutely delicious and reasonably priced. I should know. I ate a lot of it.

And just for fun, I wanted to share a few of Xcaret’s gorgeous pictures…

Festival Vida y Muerte Xcaret

Photo: Xcaret

Dia de Muertos Cancun

Photo: Xcaret

Day of the Dead Cancun

Photo: Xcaret

The drive to Xcaret is kind of long from Cancun, especially on the way back late at night, but we might have to attend the Festival two days next year!

Dia de Muertos en Cancun

October 29, 2014
by admin

Day of the Dead – Dia de Muertos in Cancun

Dia de Muertos aka Day of the Dead, is my favorite Mexican holiday. Before I moved to Mexico my entire experience with Day of the Dead consisted of an ex-boyfriend giving me a sugar skull, and when I first moved to Mexico the whole thing seemed a bit creepy, you know, with all the skeletons and children dressed as dead people.

However after attending Xcaret Park’s Festival de Tradiciones de Vida y Muerte a few times, I have discovered the joy and beauty of Dia de Muertos. This is not a celebration of death, but of life and the eternal soul. On November 1 and 2 each year Mexicans remember their beloved that have passed by erecting altars in their homes and visiting the cemetary to decorate gravesites, often spending the entire night there.

Each year I visit Mercado 23 (Market 23) in downtown Cancun to buy dulces (candy) and Bebé’s Halloween costume (Halloween is becoming increasingly popular in Cancun each year). This year I bought a little face paint for the festival as well.

And of course, I take lots of pictures.

Paper cross…

Dia de Muertos Cancun cruz

Cute couple!

Dia de Muertos Cancun Mercado 23

I just love these! #tinyfood

Dia de Muertos Mexico

Halloween is present at Market 23 as well.

Halloween Cancun

Sweet homemade deliciousness!

Dia de Muertos Cancun dulces

I always wonder what they do with the leftover goodies.

Market 23 Dia de Muertos Cancun


Dia de Muertos calveras

Marigolds, the official flower of Dia de Muertos.

Mercado 23 Cancun


Catrinas Dia de Muertos Cancun

Mark my words, one of these years, I am going to create altar in our home! (I may have said this last year as well.)

I would also like to share our Halloween/Day of the Dead pumpkin. I was pretty proud of it, but it was rotten and moldy in less than a week. #tropicalproblems

Halloween Dia de Muertos

Bebé’s Halloween costume… it cost a pretty penny but it’s handmade.


A lovely animated feature film about Day of the Dead was released this month. It’s well worth seeing it in the theater.

Day of the Dead movie

Last but not least, this colorful, animated short will make you fall in love with Dia de Muertos too! Grab a tissue!


Stay tuned for the post about this year’s Xcaret festival!

October 20, 2014
by admin

Happy 5th Birthday Bebé

I cannot believe it, but my “baby”, Bebé, is five years old!

Like good gringos, we had a party at McDonald’s to celebrate. They have a private area for birthday parties and they provide music and “party girls” (for lack of better words) to lead games. Bebé was thrilled to be the star of the show and thoroughly enjoyed himself.

In case you didn’t know, birthday parties have “themes” nowadays, and Bebé chose Captain America as his theme. (My “theme” was generally a homemade sheet cake and my grandparents coming over for dinner. I was actually going to make a sheet cake but I was terrified there wouldn’t be enough to go around.)

About 20 kids came, and believe it or not, the party was small and humble compared to what a lot of people in Cancun do. It is not uncommon for a middle class family to rent a “jardin”, an outdoor party facility that has a pool, and pay for catering, a bounce house, shows and entertainment, candy tables and if you’re lucky, beer for the parents.

Guests always receive a gift bag. In this case I gave away little toys instead of candy, which is the norm, because well, I figure they already get candy from the piñata.


Speaking of the piñata, this is what we put in it, the necklaces were a total rip-off but a real hit!


Bebé asked for black balloons (!!!???) but I told them multicolored would be great. I love balloons!


Doesn’t he look miserable?



In Mexico it is customary for the birthday boy or girl (or man or woman) to take a “mordida” or bite of the cake after “Las Mañanitas”, the local version of Happy Birthday is sung. Generally someone shoves their face into is as well but we got lucky and nobody did that to Bebé.



Of course Papi was there too. I think everyone enjoyed themselves, most importantly Bebé.

Until next year…


September 29, 2014
by admin
1 Comment

A Weekend at Isla 33 on Isla Mujeres

Bebé and I spent the weekend of my birthday on Isla Mujeres and brought along my friend and her daughter. I had never stayed on the southern end of the island before, and wow, what a treat! I love staying on North Beach but the south end is even more laid back.

We arrived late Friday afternoon and after dropping our bags at the condo, we headed to Chedraui for groceries. We woke up the next morning to a beautiful, sunny day.

We stayed at Isla 33, a brand new condominum complex/resort. It’s not even finished yet!

condos Isla Mujeres


resorts Isla Mujeres

Check out the view from the pool! (Insert your feet here.)

hotels Isla Mujeres

After breakfast we took a short walk on the path that was recently constructed along the water. The views are spectacular!

To the right…

day trips CancunTo the left…

activites Cancun

All the kids really wanted to do want get to the pool ASAP, but we convinced them to pose for a few pictures.




Then finally Bebé could jump in! (Who am I kidding? He is so not a baby anymore. :( )


I’m sure it will come as no surprise that we spent most of the day at the pool. After naptime (for all four of us) we headed downtown for my official birthday dinner at Rolandi’s. I never tire of their bread, lasagna, and outdoor seating where you can witness all the action on Hidalgo.

The central plaza was decorated for Mexican Independence Day.

Isla Mujeres plaza central

The next day there was more pool time and then we headed downtown to grab a cart and take a drive around the island. Both kids fell asleep!

A ride around Isla isn’t complete without this shot…

Garrafon Isla Mujeres

When I went to return the cart I took a few shots on my way to the ferry. I could spend hours doing nothing but taking pictures (and drinking cerveza) on Isla.





I doubt we will ever tire of visiting this little slice of paradise.

September 23, 2014
by admin
1 Comment

TBEX Cancun: Short but Sweet

travel social media convention

A couple of weeks ago I posted about being invited to be a local ambassador at TBEX Cancun, a conference of travel industry professionals in marketing, PR, social media and online community management (I pretty much do all of these jobs in some capacity). So, bright and early on my birthday I headed to the Moon Palace Golf & Spa, and more specifically the Moon Palace convention center to spend just one day at the two-day convention.

Registering was easy, and after the Best Day breakfast I headed to the opening keynote, which for the most part was a discussion about the controversy that had taken place during the planning of TBEX Cancun. I won’t get into it but basically it comes down to… is it OK to swim with dolphins in captivity?

The conversation about responsible travel was interesting albeit a bit vague, mostly because responsible travel is a huge issue/discussion. Things got a bit awkward when a bigwig from Dolphin Discovery stood up to ask some questions, at least for those of us who knew who she was.

I attended three “breakouts”. Each hour atendees could choose from five sessions in the categories of Content, Commerce, Community and two TBEX Business options. It was a difficult decision each hour, because each session applied to something I do. I found each breakout to contain both very basic and more advanced info.

Lunch was fun! I met some fellow attendees and was disappointed that I wouldn’t be around for the speed networking sessions to meet more.

I found the event sparked my creativity, and I can’t wait to use some of the ideas I came up with. I could tell it definitely would have been beneficial to have attended the entire convention, including all of the social events, but at 3:30pm it was time to head to Isla Mujeres for the weekend. More about that later!

Our Weekend at the Beach Palace Cancun

September 22, 2014 by admin | 2 Comments

all inclusive hotels Cancun

I feel like I should begin this post by reminding everyone that five days a week Bebé and I go to school and work (respectively) and I have to do laundry, pack lunches, make dinner, etc.

That being said, one of my awesome jobs includes writing all about Cancun, so a couple of weeks ago we spend the weekend at Beach Palace in Cancun’s Hotel Zone.

Beach Palace is one of Cancun’s most popular hotels. In fact, it’s #6 of 174 on TripAdvisor’s list of Cancun Hotels.

We arrived late Friday afternoon and checked out our huge room. I think it may have been the biggest hotel room I have ever stayed in, and it wasn’t even a suite. The room had a huge balcony overlooking Nichupte Lagoon, an in-room hot tub, and tons of amenitites like a liquor dispenser, a minibar stocked with beer, soft drinks, water and juice, and other special touches like a flat iron. (My hair is pin straight so I don’t exactly need one but I know other women will really appreciate this amenity.) Oh and btw Beach Palace’s WiFi is phenomenal. #socialmediaaddict

lagoon view Cancun

Cancun at night

After getting settled in and changed, we headed for dinner at the Asian restaurant, Wok, which is casual but feels upscale. My sushi and tempura ice cream were delicious and they had a kids’ menu for Bebé which luckily included chicken nuggets. He especially enjoyed dessert.



After spending some time at Casino Night we headed back to the room to go to bed.

The next morning we had a yummy breakfast (pancakes, eggs, chilaquiles) at Tequila, the buffet restaurant. I knew once we settled in at the pool we would be there for hours so I told Bebé that we had to visit the rooftop pool first so I could take some pictures. We never spent any time here but the views are spectacular and I hear it is quiet during the day and then gets lively around 4pm.

Cancun vacation

Cancun resorts

Then it was time to choose our chairs at the infinity pool downstairs. Low season was just getting started so we had no trouble at all finding the perfect location. There are two smaller pools downstairs as well, one with a swim-up bar and one with a crazy-fun waterslide. The Kids Club is being remodeled so we didn’t spend any time there, but the activities team kept us busy with water volleyball, water aerobics and Zumba.

Cancun hotels

At one point, a lovely man who was leaving gave us all of his kids’ beach toys. Bebé was especially thrilled about the boogie board.


Beach Palace has one of the biggest and most beautiful beaches in the Hotel Zone, with loads of beach chairs and a special area for members.

beach Beach Palace Cancun


all inclusive resorts Cancun

After hours and hours (and hours) at the pool, plus a few drinks (the mudslides are to die for) and lunch from the snack bar (a wrap for me and nuggets, again *sigh* for Bebé) we returned to the room for a nap.

That night for dinner I wanted to eat at La Terraza (a steak restaurant, again casual) but it looked like rain so since it’s outside they closed it. However, they still served me a steak in Tequila. I would have loved to have tried Bocelli, which serves Italian food but it’s formal and let’s just say that Bebé isn’t ready for formal.

After dinner we went to the Stadium Bar for karaoke, which was super fun because it was not with tracks, but with a live band. It was great fun to cheer for the other guests. Bebé did not want me to sing (I have no idea why) but since I didn’t feel like it anyway, I didn’t.

When we got back to the room I filled out the room service doorknob thingy… I will explain this because it is the best invention EVER. In our room there was a doorknob thingy (like a “Do Not Disturb” sign) that you could fill out with your order for breakfast. You can choose what time you want it delivered as well. And well, this was the result…

room service Beach Palace

Scrumptious… and right on time too.

Of course we went to the pool again, but the weather was looking a little ominous…

rain Cancun

so when it started to rain we went to the room and filled the hot tub with warm water and bubbles! When we were finished, it was sunny again.

We checked out at 2 pm (I requested a late check-out) and headed home so I could do laundry, etc., but we had a fabulous weekend at Beach Palace and I can see why it’s so popular.

Just a note… there was an Indian wedding while we were there. We saw them setting it up on the beach on Saturday…

weddings Beach Palace Cancun

Then we spied on them a bit during the wedding that evening. The next day all of the women did a beautiful traditional dance to drums in the lobby! It was a lovely surprise.

Indian wedding Cancun

Now, off to wash the dishes!

This gallery contains 16 photos

September 5, 2014
by admin

TBEX Comes to Paradise (Cancun)!


Photo: bestday.com.mx

Photo: bestday.com.mx

I must admit, I am not normally into conventions and the like, but when TBEX, “the world’s largest gathering of travel bloggers, writers, new media content creators, and social media savvy travel industry professionals”, asked me to be an ambassador for their Cancun event, well I must admit I was totally flattered. (Flattery will get you everywhere).

So, I’ll be attending TBEX on Friday, September 12 (my birthday). The event actually runs Thursday, September 11 (the opening party is being hosted by amazing Xcaret Park) through Saturday, September 13. I would have liked to have attended all of the events, but duty calls… they invited me because I am a local travel blogger after all and Bebé and I are spending that weekend on Isla Mujeres.

“TBEX is a must attend show for new media people in travel. If you are in the travel industry
in any sort of marketing, public relations or content creation capacity, you need to come to TBEX”

-Gary Arndt, blogger, Everything-Everywhere.com

If you use my discount code (Kristin20)  you can get 20% off your TBEX registration fee. See the website for convention details. The blog has a lot of juicy information about TBEX Cancun speakers and special events and offers.

September 1, 2014
by admin

Jolly Roger Pirate Cruise in Cancun

A couple of weeks ago I took three little boys (one not as little as the others) on a booze cruise! Kind of. We went on the Jolly Roger Pirate Show tour. It’s a cruise on, well, a pirate ship, that’s actually appropriate for all ages.

tours Cancun

pirate ship Cancun

things to do in Cancun

activities Cancun

The tour is about 3 1/2 hours long. Guests are served dinner and the price includes all you can drink. (The Piña Coladas are gooood.) For dinner adults have the choice of lobster, steak, surf & turf, grilled fish filet, chicken cordon bleu, vegetarian ravioli or vegetarian lasagna. Kids choices include hot dogs or chicken nuggets.

Jolly Roger Pirate Show is available every day and the cost is $85 USD per adult. Children (one child per adult) ages 12 and under are free.

All kinds of silliness happens on the boat… games, music and an impressive swordfight. There’s never a dull moment. All three kids and I really enjoyed the tour and there were a lot of other families on the cruise. There are some pretty cool surprises too but I won’t ruin them for you.

living in Cancun

Awww… buddies.


Their best pirate faces… aaargh!

jolly-roger-pirate-show-cancun-5Piña Coladas (virgin of course)… these boys are already in training for Cancun’s world famous nightlife.



family activities Cancun

Tip: It’s best to get there early to get in line so you can get a good seat.  We were on the second level which was fine but sitting on the main floor might be better.

Jolly Roger Pirate Show is the #1 Cancun Attration on TripAdvisor. com. Ahoy mateys!

August 21, 2014
by admin

Our Yearly Visit to Michigan & Chicago

Bebé and I recently returned from our yearly summer visit to the US. We visited various places in Michigan and we also went to Chicago. We even took a daytrip to Wisconsin! We stayed at four houses and had one unexpected overnight stay at a friend’s when I drank (way) too much.

As much as I enjoy these visits, and believe they’re important for both Bebé and I, they’re always a bit stressful. I never get to see everyone that I would like to and every year that makes me feel extremely guilty. In addition, Bebé, who is still just 4 years old, has trouble adjusting to the break from his regular schedule.

We lost my grandmother,  Bebé’s great-grandmother, just a few days before our visit, so this year a funeral was part of our visit as well. I will do a post honoring Grandma soon. She deserves her own space here. I already miss her so very much.

Instead of posting tons of family vacation pictures, I’ll share just a few of my favorites. You’ll notice I have a sweater on in a lot of them. For the most part it was chilly (downright cold for us) during our visit.

I took this from the plane when we left… score! Cancun is breathtaking from above. Cancun from above Each year I take pictures of Bebé and my nieces in the same place (2012, 2013). Here are this year’s shots. They are growing up so fast. ice-cream-Grand-Haven Grand-Haven When I describe Lake Michigan to Mexicans, I always feel like I have to clarify that’s it’s a lake, but it’s a HUGE lake. You can’t see across to the other side. Ludington-Michigan My beloved second hometown, Chicago, as seen from my friend’s balcony. Chicago-2 Chicago I just realized that my friends have awesome balconies! Check this one out… the gargoyle horns were a happy selfie accident. Chicago-3 And this one… the shadow is their highrise building! Chicago-4 Superman saves Chicago. Superman I already desperately miss everyone, but I feel fortunate that we are able to visit once a year.


July 10, 2014
by admin

Swimming with Whale Sharks in Cancun

I finally did it. I swam with the biggest fish in the sea! On Saturday I swam with the whale sharks (or well whale shark in this case) with Carey Dive Center on Isla Mujeres.

Let me tell you, it was AWESOME. Yep. All caps.

On Saturday morning I took the 7am ferry from Puerto Juarez to Isla Mujeres. I sat up top outside and it was beautiful and peaceful, albeit a bit windy.

ferry Cancun Isla Mujeres

There were a lot of other people heading to work, etc. but they all sat down below. I figured out why upon arrival, the outside seats were wet. Oh well, I was going to be getting wet anyway.

When I got to the island I took a few minutes to take some pictures. It is so peaceful early in the morning.

Isla Mujeres day trip

seafood Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres

downtown Isla Mujeres

The Carey Dive Center tour leaves from Bally-Hoo, a very popular restaurant located right on the marina dock. Coffee and juice are included with the tour. I was pretty excited just about the boat ride. I rented an XXL (groan) wetsuit (my friends had informed me that it’s difficult to swim in the life vests) for 100 pesos and we were on our way.

Isla Mujeres Restaurants

Cancun tours

It was an bumpy hour long boat ride out to open ocean, but I chatted with a nice lady from Mississippi the whole time, between giggling about the water that was spraying me in the face. On the advice of a friend I had taken Dramamine. No reason to risk this bucket list adventure being ruined by puking your guts out.

Now it seems that some days they find 30, or even 300 whale sharks, and other days, they are a bit more elusive. I noticed Captain Jorge was communicating with other boats but so far there were no whale sharks to be found.

Then we got lucky and found one.

I was the first one in the water, mostly because I speak Spanish and nobody else understood when the captain ordered two of us to get ready. Our guide Sergio (I think he is part fish) jumped in first to follow the big guy around so we wouldn’t lose him. I jumped in behind him and literally screamed with joy into my snorkel when I saw the enormous, breathtaking creature in front of me. He was probably about 20 feet long and absolutely majestic.

whale shark

Photo: Ron Herrman

The whale shark looked like he wasn’t moving at all, but I had to swim hard to keep up with him, which was really difficult because the water was quite choppy. Plus I was really excited and noticed that I was breathing really hard. I swam alongside him for 5 or 10 minutes, but then I was really tired and needed a break so I got back into the boat.

whale shark tours Cancun

Suddenly there were like 12 other boats there. Word had gotten out. When they asked us who wanted to get in again, most said no. I was a little nervous about how tired I was, but I knew that I was not going to give up another chance to see the whale shark. So I told myself to relax and control my breathing. After I jumped in with Sergio, I looked at him, he pointed, and the whale shark’s face was right there! It was literally like 5 feet away.

This time it was a whole different game. I swam calmly next to the whale shark, so very close to him, and studied the eye I could see, and how long he was. Then, he moved up, stuck his whole mouth out of the water, and came back down again in a swirl of thousands of bubbles.

I kind of wanted to stay in the water forever.

swimming with whale sharks

Photo: Ron Herrman

After those who wanted to had a second swim, we headed back to the island. They handed out sandwiches and during the ride we saw dolphins (the first time I have seen them in the wild) and huge sea turtles, um, “doing the cuchi-cuchi” as the captain said.

After snorkeling a reef close to the island we dined on ceviche, right on the boat. A friend later pointed out the humorous contradiction of snorkeling to see fish and then eating sushi.

tours Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres water

We were back at the marina by noon.

This was a once in a lifetime experience. Except I am going to do it again.


Note: It is important to note that if you ever have a chance to swim with the whale sharks you should never touch or disturb them in any way. Wear biodegradable sun block or no sun block at all. One woman on our boat touched the whale shark and a person from another boat got in directly in front of him and the big guy ran into him. I felt so protective of him. It is important to respect all creatures, especially in their natural habitat.