What am I still doing in Cancun?

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

March 21, 2017
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Camping in Cancun – Paamul

I had never gone camping, nor had the desire to go camping, in my life. But well, I’m a bit more adventurous these days and I figured Bebé would love it, sooo… I went camping!

Our Cancun family had bought a tent for a couple of school camping trips, and we had been discussing going camping forever, and we finally make it happen. We chose Paamul, a strange combination of hotel/RV park/campground/beach club and some giant mansions, which is located between Playa del Carmen and Puerto Aventuras.

My friend’s husband got there before us and set up the tent. We arrived on Friday in the late afternoon and we quickly got everything else set up before it got dark. Then we basically drank beer and talked (and laughed, a lot) while the boys played with their tablets inside the tent.

camping near Playa del Carmen

Sleeping was a little uncomfortable since I didn’t have an air mattress, but I took muscle relaxers, which helped.

The next morning we were all excited to see what the day would bring!

We were thrilled that there were a lot of electrical outlets close to the tent.

camping Riviera Maya

There are also bathrooms and showers for campers.

The cost is 200 pesos per adult per night, 100 pesos per child per night. Children ages 5 and under are free. (The office does accept cards for payment.)

The beach at Paamul isn’t that great, and the pool/restaurant area gets very busy, so we decided to walk to a virgin beach. Someone told us it was a 15 minute walk. I’m pretty sure it was more like 40 minutes, but it was a beautiful walk through the jungle.

Notice the garbage someone left under the tree. #peoplesuck

The boys didn’t really enjoy the hike.

But when we finally got to the beach, we all realized it was worth every step.

No hotels, no houses, no nothing.

We set everything up and had an unforgettable day.

I was really worried about how the boys were going to handle the walk back but I think they realized that it’s actually kind of fun to walk through the jungle.

When we got back we showered and ate dinner in the restaurant. It was fine, nothing to write home about and a little pricey, but the views are gorgeous. (The restaurant doesn’t accept cards, cash only.)

As far as other meals went, for breakfast we had fruit, cereal bars and pre-made toast (that’s a thing in Mexico) with peanut butter. For lunch we made sandwiches and brought chips and cookies. We brought a big jug of water with us and milk and juice for the kids.

Note: There is a small store on the highway at the entrance of Paamul that sells a little bit of everything, including ice and beer, and Puerto Aventuras is just a few minutes away by car.

That evening we sat outside the tent drinking while the boys played inside the tent with their tablets. (See a pattern developing here?)

I was so tired the second night that although I still felt like I was sleeping on cement, I slept better.

I could not believe it but on Sunday morning the boys actually wanted to walk back to the beach we had gone to the day before! Alas, there wasn’t time for that because had to return to Cancun, so we spent the morning at a beach that was closer. (Except my friend’s poor husband who stayed behind and took the tent down.)

There was one thing I definitely didn’t like about Paamul. They wouldn’t let us take our cooler to the beach. We weren’t in front of the restaurant (or even close to it). We weren’t using their beach furniture, and all Cancun area beaches are public and are not owned by any hotel or homeowner. In the end we just stuffed our sandwiches and water in our beach bags, but that part of the experience left a bad taste in my mouth. Everyone is paying in some way to be there, so the fact that they try to control what you take to the beach is not OK.

Finally, here are the things I learned about camping.

  1. You have to bring A LOT of stuff with you.
  2. It’s not as cheap as I thought it was.
  3. It’s super fun!

You may be wondering if I will ever go camping again… and the answer is a resounding “Si señor!”

Cancun-allinclusive-vacation

February 20, 2017
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Hyatt Ziva Cancun: Best Location in Cancun’s Hotel Zone

Bebé, my mom and I recently had the opportunity to stay at the new (ish) Hyatt Ziva Cancun. The place is fabulous.

Location

First of all, it literally has the best location in the Hotel Zone. The resort is located on the tip of Punta Cancun (think the corner of the seven-shaped Hotel Zone), so it is surrounded by the Caribbean Sea on three sides.

The beach on the calm side that faces Isla Mujeres looks like this…

Hyatt-Ziva-Cancun- beach

This side has docks and this is also where the main pools with all the activities are located. And, wait for it… They. Are. Heated.

Hyatt-Ziva-Cancun-pool

Hyatt-Ziva-Cancun-pool-2

The beach on the side of the resort that faces the longest part of the Hotel Zone is also pretty calm because they built a break wall. It looks like this…

Cancun-allinclusive-resorts

There is also another huge pool on this side of the resort…

Cancun-hotels

The middle of the resort faces the open ocean in all its glory. The cliffs are lower, but the area reminds me of Punta Sur on Isla Mujeres.

Cancun-vacation

You can walk all the way around the property along the water, and there are a couple small Mayan ruins on the open ocean side.

Mayan-ruins-Cancun-Hotel-Zone

There are three guest room buildings in the hotel. One by the main pool, the adult only building, and the tower. Our room was in the tower on the 11th floor and this was our view (to the right and then to the left).

Hyatt-Ziva-Cancun-view

The tower or Hyatt View and Club Level rooms have their own lounge and bar. There are cocktails, snacks, beer, yogurt and soft drinks available all day long.

The Room

As usual, the photos I took of the room were well, crappy, so I am using one of Hyatt’s pictures. This is exactly what our room looked like.

Hyatt-Ziva-Cancun-tower-ocean-view

The room was stocked with amenities; mini bar, robes and slippers, iron and ironing board, toiletries, safe, alarm clock, phone, coffee maker and flat screen TV with satellite programming. There were also snacks that they replenished every day, which we loved! The room also had blackout curtains which is a must.

The only thing the room was missing was a place to hang wet towels and bathing suits.

The Food and Drinks

Food, glorious food! We ate way too much. The resort has so many restaurants, and they are all good. There are Asian, Italian and Mexican restaurants, a steakhouse, an adult-only French restaurant, a super cute 50’s diner, a buffet open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, a coffee shop, a sweets shop (heavenly) and a 24 hour bar/snack shop.

They also have 24 hour room service. We only used it once to get Bebé some french fries. Service was quick and the fries were hot.

There is a table built into a car at Chevy’s, the 50’s diner.

Hyatt-Ziva-Cancun-Chevys

This place! ❤️ Ice cream, cake, chocolate fondue, candy… look for the huge chocolate covered almonds.

Hyatt-Ziva-Cancun-Pasteles

There is no shortage of bars either, including a microbrewery! They also have wait service around the pool and on the beach.

Everyone loves to eat by the pool, and at Hyatt Ziva Cancun there is a food truck right next to it!

Hyatt-Ziva-Cancun-food-truck

Around midday they start serving quesadillas and burgers. In addition, waiters drive carts around the pool area and serve chips and guac, tacos, pizza, and my personal favorite, tortas de cochinita (a must-try pulled pork sandwich from the neighboring state of Yucatan).

Activities and Kids Club

There are activities going on at the main pool all day long and you can kayak and snorkel in front of the resort. We loved the evening shows. We saw the Stars show (celebrity impersonators), the breakdance show and the Mexican show.

Haytt-Ziva-Cancun-entertainment

The last night we were there was Superbowl night. They did a really good job with it. There was a pre-party and the game was shown in the theater area on a huge screen. There was a kiss-cam and all kinds of dancing and silliness during commercials.

Bebé didn’t spend any time at the kids club. From what I saw, it isn’t quite up to par with the rest of this fantastic resort. In addition, there were only a couple hours a day that parents could join their kids that were over age 4, which I found to be a strange rule. That being said, Bebé loved the hotel and I saw plenty of families with children that were really enjoying themselves.

Friends

One of the best things about our visit was meeting a wonderful family of four from Ohio. The first day the mom suggested our boys play together, and they pretty much played together for the rest of our stay, so we spent a lot of time with them. It was hard to say good-bye.

Hyatt Ziva Cancun also has free WiFi throughout the resort, a gym, a spa and salon, photo services, shops and free parking.

Note: Tips are included in your stay at all-inclusive resorts, but remember, if you tip, you will get even better service, and you will be helping a local resident to provide for his/her family. People often ask me if/who they should tip and I always tell them they should at the very least leave a tip in the room each day for housekeeping. Generally speaking, they earn very little money.

Just one more thing… the weekend after our stay at Hyatt Ziva Cancun, my friend Kelly aka The Sober Senorita got married there. They did a beautiful job with it.

Everything. Was. Spectacular. (Congrats again amiga! ❤️)

Take me back! The beaches, the pools, the food, the room, the views, the drinks, the shows! We…

…Hyatt Ziva Cancun!

books about Frida Kahlo in English

January 2, 2017
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Frida Kahlo at Home by Suzanne Barbezat

books about Frida Kahlo in English

Anyone who knows me knows that I really like Frida Kahlo, the demigod-like Mexican artist who died in 1954, and her work. So when I was asked to review a book about her life, I was thrilled. I had never been sent a book to review before, so I was also a little nervous.

Please don’t expect this to be like a professional book review, but just the opinion of someone who likes to read and who loves Frida Kahlo, her work and her story.

As a single mother who works full time I don’t have a lot of time to read, but I made time for Frida Kahlo at Home and frankly, I loved it. It was very engaging and easy to read.

I think I know quite a bit about Frida, I’ve even been to the house where she was born and where she died, La Casa Azul in Coyoacan, but I always yearn to know more about “Fridita”, as we fans like to call her, and this book provided me with more details about Frida, her family and friends. Plus it is written in English, my first language. There is a good balance here between well-known and lesser-known facts about Frida. I learned things I did not know and I also learned a lot about her long time love and fellow revered Mexican artist, Diego Rivera.

I really enjoyed the photographs as well. I especially liked the explanations / interpretations of Frida’s paintings, which helped me, an amateur art-lover, to understand her and her work better.

The effort and care poured into this book are apparent on every single page. (Plus you can see it all in the Bibliography or References section.) I’m thinking the author Suzanne Barbezat (who happens to be a friend) is an even bigger fan of “Friducha” (Diego’s nickname for her) than I am! I can’t wrap my head around how much time and research must have gone into this book.

This labor of love was a pleasure to read and is perfect for both those who know and love Frida, and for those who wish to learn more about her.

You can purchase Frida Kahlo at Home by Suzanne Barbezat here or here.

November 8, 2016
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Celebrating Day of the Dead in Cancun: Xcaret, Market 23, Halloween and More

Dia de Muertos and Halloween are all over now *sigh* but we celebrated bigger than ever this year!

We began our celebrations by visiting Mercado 23 (Market 23) in downtown Cancun on Saturday the 29th to pick up a calavera de azucar (sugar skull) for the altar at Bebé’s school, some traditional Dia de Muertos candy, and well, to take pictures!

Day of the Dead flowers

Day of the Dead supplies Cancun

Day of the Dead candy

flowers Cancun

Day of the Dead altar

Unfortunately the market is now way to small for the big city of Cancun, and was surrounded by cars at a complete standstill. Never have I been so happy to see people with whistles and rags directing traffic.

This year I carefully planned our annual visit to Xcaret Park’s Festival de Tradiciones de Vida y Muerte aka their Day of the Dead festival, which is held each year Oct. 30-Nov.2. Due to my previous face painting fails, I decided to hire a neighbor to do our make-up.

Totally. Worth. It.

Catrina makeup Cancun

Bebé wanted something simpler.

Day of the Dead makeup Cancun

We headed to Xcaret on the first day, Oct. 30th, since it was a Sunday. It was a bright, sunny day in Cancun, but alas, as we got closer and closer to Playa del Carmen, it rained harder and harder. We were so upset!

I’ll spare you the gory details, but we had to park really far away and take a bus to the entrance of Xcaret, but we eventually made it. First order of business was to buy Bebé a poncho. Luckily I happened to have one in my size in the trunk.

xcaret-day-of-the-dead-festival-2016-13

Finally we began our stroll through the park, stopping to view exhibitions and performances, or “shows” as Bebé calls them, along the way.

Xcaret festival vida y muerte

festival vida y muerte

festival tradiciones de vida y muerte

altares Xcaret

Xcaret festival

Luckily it stopped raining soon after we got there.

It was muddy as hell, and the shows were all off schedule because of the rain but we made the best of it and had a good time. The torta de cochinita (slow-roasted pork dish sandwich from the state of Yucatan) helped a lot. Anyway, I had to make the most of my makeup, right? A lot of people smiled, waved and asked me who had done it.

xcaret-day-of-the-dead-festival-2016-4

xcaret-day-of-the-dead-festival-2016-9

The next day was Halloween and Bebé’s school threw a party for the kids. The black eye makeup that we couldn’t get off the night before turned out to be very convenient the next morning.

Halloween costumes Cancun

That evening we went trick or treating in our neighborhood with some friends.

So at this point we were basically exhausted, but the party wasn’t over, at least for me. On November 1, my boss treated us to pan de muerto (sweet bread topped with sugar) aka dead bread. It was scrumptious!

pan de muertos Cancun

Then on November 2, we had mucbipollo aka pib in the office. Guess who found a provider, ordered, and even picked up this traditional Yucatecan Hanal Pixan (Mayan Dia de Muertos) dish? That’s right, the gringa, yours truly.

Mucbipollo is made from corn dough and chicken wrapped in banana leaves. Traditionally it’s cooked in an underground pit called a pib. Some of the ingredients include tomato, onion, achiote, xpelon and epazote.

Absolutely. Delicious.

mucbipollo pib Cancun

I’m a little sad it’s all over, but we made the most of Dia de Muertos and Halloween in Cancun, and it is the beginning of the holiday season! Bring on Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Chiles en Nogada in Cancun

October 31, 2016
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Chiles en Nogada at La Habichuela in Cancun

Chiles en Nogada is a traditional Mexican dish with a rich history. I have lived in Cancun for over 15 years, and I had never tried it, until last Friday.

Since this was an important, well, event really, I decided to leave it to the experts at La Habichuela, one of Cancun’s oldest and most beloved restaurants.

good restaurants in downtown Cancun

First I had a cocktail called Konhunlich (named for a Mayan archaeological site), or as the waiter called it, a Mayan Martini.

best restaurants in Cancun

Then I asked to be moved to the dreamy garden, because well, I don’t know why anyone would want to sit indoors La Habichuela, unless it was raining or something.

garden La Habichuela Cancun

Chiles en Nogada is generally only served in September and October, when pomegranates are in season, so I made it just in time. It is most commonly enjoyed in September for Mexican Independence Day, as it is a very patriotic dish that includes all the colors of the Mexican flag.

Chiles en Nogada in Cancun

It is generally accepted that Chiles en Nogada originated in Puebla, but there are two versions of who exactly came up with the recipe.

The most popular version claims the dish was first prepared for Mexican emperor Agustín de Iturbide by nuns in a convent (historians can’t agree on which convent) in the 1800’s.

The other version claims the Traslosheros family created the dish from recipes that were handed down to them.

The fact that Chiles en Nogada is served at room temperature really surprised me. The dish consists of poblano chiles filled with picadillo (ground meat, fruit and spices) and topped with a walnut-based cream sauce (nogada), pomegranate seeds and parsley. Another thing that surprised me, it was quite sweet.

But I really liked it and ate every bite. Yum. ¡Viva Mexico! (Just what I needed, something else I like to eat.)

Do you like Chiles en Nogada?

cheap good restaurants Cancun

October 17, 2016
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The Alley aka El Callejon: A funky, fun bar/restaurant in downtown Cancun

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of eating and drinking at The Alley, aka El Callejon, in downtown Cancun. The Alley is literally, well, in an alley in Plaza Bonita, a small shopping center right next to Mercado 28 (Market 28).

cheap good restaurants Cancun

Cancun bars

casual restaurants downtown Cancun

The Alley is owned by a Canadian couple, Will and Jennifer. They fell in love with the bar during a vacation in Cancun and decided to move down and make a go of it. Their relaxed, friendly attitude makes both tourists and locals feel right at home. Sports are always showing on both TVs and an eclectic mix of music plays in the background. I was excited to hear a few songs by DeBarge, a group from my hometown, Grand Rapids, MI.

bars downtown Cancun

The Alley claims to serve “the best margaritas” in Cancun. I must say, I can’t really argue with them. They are huge, made with only fresh juices, and contain a whopping six shots of liquor.

best margaritas Cancun

They also serve various Mexican beers and stock a full bar of high-end liquor. After you have a margarita, order a michelada or Jennifer’s “no name drink”.

And then there are the hamburgers, which really shouldn’t be called hamburgers, because they are made from 6 ounces of 100% Alberta ground skirt steak. YUM! It really was one of the best burgers I have ever had. Everything at The Alley, except for the fries, is made from scratch. I got the burger with everything but they also offer Mexican and Caesar versions and a chickenburger as well.

hamburgers Cancun

They also serve a delicious fish-n-chips plate and poutine, a Canadian fast food dish.

fish-n-chips Cancun

poutine Cancun

Jenn got tired of having the menu reprinted every time they changed it so she took matters into her own hands. 😀

the-alley-cancun-6

There’s a high level of quality control here because Will and Jenn do almost all of the work themselves.

If you spend an afternoon or evening, or an afternoon AND evening at The Alley, you may get to meet the neighborhood alley cats (Get it?) that they feed.

The Alley is open 7 days a week, it’s right on the R6 bus route (or the R2 bus route if you don’t mind walking through the market) and there is free parking. They accept cash only.

We may run into each other there one Friday afternoon!

Note: Jenn also run a catering company called Catering Cancun, which offers nutritionally balanced gourmet meals to those who want to eat well but don’t have a lot of time to plan meals.

cenotes near Cancun

October 3, 2016
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The Best Things to Do in Cancun (according to a local)

I’ve been posting about hotel stays a lot lately, and though I do love staying in resorts and posting our experiences, this time I want share my opinion of the best things to do and see in Cancun. These are the things I take my visiting friends and family to see. These are the places I feel passionate about.

There are literally thousands of articles on the internet listing the best things to do in Cancun. A lot of them are written by people who have been to the area once, or maybe never! Don’t get me wrong, I still haven’t experienced everything Cancun and the surrounding area have to offer, and there is a lot more to see than what is listed here, but these are my favorites so far. I have lived in Cancun for 15 years and I feel like being a local gives me a unique perspective.

So here they are, kind of in order, although depending on who I am with or what I am in the mood for, the order can change.

Depending on where you are staying and how long you will be in the area, you can easily do many of these things during a 7-night vacation in Cancun, Playa del Carmen or the Riviera Maya.

Xcaret

 

Xcaret is a magical place, and the easiest place to celebrate and enjoy Mexican and Mayan tradition, color, culture, music and food. This sprawling park in the jungle has all the modern conveniences yet has somehow maintained a natural feeling. The park is home to a breathtaking underground river, a butterfly pavilion, an aquarium, the replica of a Mayan village, a Mexican wine cellar and so much more. There are performances throughout the day but the night show must not be missed.

My favorite Cancun event is held at Xcaret each Oct. 30 through Nov. 2, the Festival de Tradiciones de Vida y Muerte, aka Day of the Dead festival. What once seemed like a creepy holiday to me has become my favorite Mexican holiday. Dia de los Muertos is a celebration of loved ones who have passed, of life, and the after world. Each year the festival features a different Mexican state and its music and traditions. This year that state is Puebla.

2016 Xcaret Festival of Life and Death Traditions

All of Xcaret’s parks are supurb, so depending on what interests you, there’s also Xplor, Xel Ha, Xoximilco, Xenotes and Xenses.

Xcaret Festival de Tradiciones de Vida y Muerte

Isla Mujeres

Island of Women Cancun

visitroo.com

Isla Mujeres is a small island off the coast of Cancun. Unfortunately in recent years it has become busier and more populated, but it’s so charming that it’s still worth a visit. This is literally your tropical island paradise dream come true. The best way to experience the island is to rent a golf cart, circle the entire island, stopping along the way to sight see (and for beer). Don’t forget to explore the colorful downtown area, then finish with lunch, swimming and cocktails on Playa Norte (North Beach).

To really appreciate the island, stay there! There are hotels available at all prices and tons of really good restaurants.

Downtown Cancun

downtown Cancun

Travel Weekly

Parque las Palapas, the central park in downtown Cancun is where you can get a taste of local life and delicious authentic Mexican food. On Friday evenings, local families gather in the park and their children participate in the various activities offered. Sometimes there is a show or public event. There are also cute vendor carts that sell unique crafts. Grab a bite from the food stalls (the places with the longest lines are the best) or dine at one of Cancun’s oldest and best restaurants, La Habichuela. Eat in the garden which feels like something out of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. La Habichuela’s menu integrates traditional Mexican and Mayan ingredients and has been open for almost 40 years and is one of Cancun’s best restaurants.

best restaurants in Cancun

La Habichuela

Cenotes

cenotes near Cancun

tulumblog.com.mx

The Yucatan Peninsula, the region of Mexico where Cancun is located, is home to thousands of cenotes. The peninsula is made of porous limestone, and over thousands of years water seeped down below the surface, creating stalactites, stalagmites and openings to underground rivers. The openings, or cenotes, can be anywhere from completely open, like a lake, to almost completely closed, like a cave. Cenotes hold cool, fresh water, so they are a perfect place to swim on sweltering tropical days. They are also a great place to snorkel since they often have fish and beautiful rock formations. The Mayan considered cenotes to be sacred portals to the underworld, and sometimes used them to perform human and other sacrifices, as is the case with the main cenote at Chichen Itza.

Many tours include a visit to a cenote and there are many cenotes along La Ruta de Cenotes (Cenotes Route) in Puerto Morelos and along the highway driving south from Playa del Carmen.

Mayan Ruins

Mayan ruins near Cancun

expertvagabond

The longer I live here the more I appreciate Mayan culture, tradition and history. Visiting a ruins site with a competent guide is a way to get closer to this fascinating ancient culture. Coba is an excellent choice, as it is much less crowded than very popular sites Chichen Itza and Tulum, and you can still climb the huge pyramid.

There are tours available that will also take you to a Mayan village… something worth seeing!

Yucatan

Yucatan-state-Mexico

I haven’t had many opportunities to explore the neighboring state of Yucatan, but I recently visited Rio Lagartos and Valladolid, and I’ve caught the bug!

Valladolid is a bustling colonial city complete with a charming town square and Rio Lagartos is a lazy fishing village that sits on the edge of a natural reserve that is home to thousands of flamingos, other birds and wildlife. If you don’t feel the Cancun area represents the “real” Mexico, Yucatan might be for you!

Traveling through the Yucatan is relatively inexpensive and safe.

I especially enjoyed driving through the countless “pueblos” where Mayan culture is still alive and well.

As I said earlier, I haven’t been everywhere, so here is my short bucket list. I have no problem saying that these places are fantastic, even though I haven’t been able to visit them yet.

Holbox

tropical islands in Mexico

Holboxisland.com

Holbox is an island located off the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. It is not nearly as developed at Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. Like Isla Mujeres, this is your tropical island paradise dream come true, but with fewer people and hotels. And there are no cars! Holbox Yum Balam ecological reserve is home to sea turtles, crocodiles, flamingos and other wildlife. The waters off Holbox are one of the few places on earth where Whale Sharks can be found from May through September.

Sian Kaan

nature tours near Cancun

villapalmarcancun.com

Sian Kaan, which means, “origin of the sky”, is a biosphere reserve that begins just south of Tulum, runs along 120 kilometers of coastline, and covers 5,280 square kilometers. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’re taking Caribbean Sea, virgin beaches, tropical jungle, mangroves, coral reefs, Mayan ruins and wildlife, including monkeys, crocodiles, manatees, jaguars, birds, and much more! I am dying to explore this unspoiled natural paradise.

Have you visited any of these places? Did I miss any? What are your favorites?

You can see all of my Cancun recommendations on the 10Best Cancun Travel Guide.

Cancun beach

September 12, 2016
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Return to Catalonia Playa Maroma

A couple of weeks ago Bebé and I returned to Catalonia Playa Maroma, this time with Big Sister in tow, who was visiting from Cuba. We stayed at Catalonia Playa Maroma once before in 2013.

Catalonia Hotels is a Spanish hotel chain. There are two other Catalonia resorts in the area, Catalonia Riviera Maya and Catalonia Royal Tulum (adults only).

We arrived on Thursday evening and got settled in. Our room looked like this (but with no canopy, two beds, and a special little bed for Bebé).

all inclusive hotels Cancun

Photo: Catalonia Hotels

I loved our colorful building.

catalonia-playa-maroma-12

We headed to the Mexican restaurant, Tio Pedro, for dinner. They have a kids menu that is available in all of the restaurants which is wonderful because Big Sister is just as picky as Bebé is. They both ate the same thing every single night. hahaha

After dinner we went to Karaoke in the lobby and I sang two songs, one in English and one in Spanish. 😀

The next morning after breakfast in the main buffet restaurant Pajarito, we headed to the pool/beach. I had forgotten just how spectacular their beach is!

Riviera Maya beach

Cancun beach

Catalonia-Playa-Maroma-11

I would go as far as saying this might be the best beach in the Cancun area. It absolutely takes your breath away. Corona commercial all the way… paradise found!

The pool area is not too shabby either. I like how they have many different pools of different depths.

Cancun hotels

Riviera Maya hotels

Bebé gave the pool two thumbs up!

Catalonia-Playa-Maroma-2

There is also a nice area between the pool and the beach where there is a juice/smoothie bar.

Catalonia-Playa-Maroma-8

Smile!

Catalonia-Playa-Maroma-10

Bebé didn’t want to go kayaking with me that day, but no big deal, because I had a free babysitter with me, Big Sister! So I took a kayak out by myself and for the very first time I took my phone with me (if you look closely you can see the Ziplock bag in the photo). It was terrifying. I need a GoPro!

kayaking Cancun

We decided to have lunch in the room that day. (Room service is the best!!) It was fast, they brought us exactly what we asked for, and we got a big kick out of the huge pile of chicken nuggets they brought us.

all inclusive resorts Riviera Maya

After our (necessary and required) afternoon nap we got all gussied up for dinner. This was the best picture I could get in the mirror. Bebé has been having a hard time with his smiling. :/

Catalonia-Playa-Maroma-4

We had dinner at the Italian restaurant Toscana. I had a delicious risotto and white wine. Their house Sauvignon Blac was great.

After dinner it was showtime! The shows were very entertaining. We saw The Castle of Terror the second night (poor Bebé hid his face much of the time) and Madonna in Concert the third night.

all inclusive resorts Cancun

The next morning we made our way to Pajarito for breakfast. The kids thought the walk was long but I love the path that connects all of the buildings in the resort.

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And bonus! Dozens of these creatures (Coatis) are hanging around each morning.

Coatis Cancun

Then it was time for my massage! Yippee! I sent the kids to the room after I took this picture (I just love it)…

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…and headed to the spa, which offers a full menu of treatments including salon and kids services. I had reserved an Aromatherapy massage but after explaining what I wanted in more detail to the therapist, she recommended the Theraputic Massage. She did a wonderful job.

Note: The spa does not have separate areas for men and women so plan on wearing a swimsuit in the shower, hot tub, etc.

spas Riviera Maya

After my massage Bebé decided that he wanted to go on the kayak. So Big sister hung out here…

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Catalonia-Playa-Maroma-beach

…and we took what turned out to be a very short trip on the kayak, because Bebé was worried about sharks.

Catalonia-Playa-Maroma-kayaks

Then it was time for lunch at Tortuga Snack Bar, which offered the expected hamburgers, salads, nachos, sandwiches, etc. It really hit the spot.

I still hadn’t visited my very restaurant at Catalonia Playa Maroma, La Creperie, which serves coffee drinks, sweet and savory crepes, sundaes and milkshakes, so we had dessert there. Behold…

Catalonia-Playa-Maroma-crepes

Yum, yum, yum, yum. The kids had ice cream, and Bebé had two servings!

That night we had dinner at Terrace Tapas, which overlooks the beach. It was peaceful and relaxing.

My only complaints… 1) It was literally hotter than hell. Of course the hotel can’t do anything about this, hahaha, I just need to express just how hot it was. Luckily the air-conditioning in the room worked very well.

And 2) One word… mosquitos. To be fair, this resort is in the jungle, so again, not sure they can do much about this, but they may be able to fumigate. It’s probably not as bad other times of the year, but bring repellent just in case.

Overall we had a super weekend and would be happy to return to Catalonia Playa Maroma for a third visit someday. You can find out more about Catalonia Playa Maroma here.

 

Note: If you’re a newbie to the blog, Big Sister is my ex’s daughter, Bebé’s (technically half) sister.

waterfront Rio Lagartos

July 5, 2016
by admin
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A Weekend in Rio Lagartos at Yuum Ha Boutique Hotel

I have lived in Cancun for 15 years, but I haven’t explored the Yucatan Peninsula very much. I’ve been to Tulum, and to all of the towns on the way down, but besides two hurried trips to Merida and one day trip to Valladolid, I hadn’t traveled to the west or the north.

Recently that all changed. I couple of weeks ago Bebé, some friends and I spent a weekend in Rio Lagartos, a small town that is home to a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which is located on the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Yucatan (Cancun is in the state of Quintana Roo). Now we all know I love my all-inclusives, but this was a delightful, unforgettable adventure.

We started the weekend by taking the scenic route to Rio Lagartos. You can see where it is relative to Cancun on the map below. Most people take the pay highway to Valladolid, and then the “highway” (so very narrow, no shoulder) north to Rio Lagartos.

Now imagine a twisty, turny route running northwest from Cancun to Tizimin through Mayan villages. That was our route.

Yucatan Peninsula map

Map: Mexconnect

It took forever, but I loved it! We passed through countless little villages of varying sizes, where many people still have pole and thatch houses (basically sticks with a palapa on top). Every single town had a government-constructed basketball court (Who knows?). We saw cows and horses tied up in front of houses, and stray dogs lying in the street completely unworried about traffic. And we crossed over “topes” (speed bumps), lots and lots of topes.

The kids asked if we were almost there some 100 times.

When we arrived in Rio Lagartos we hurried to dinner, as they were keeping the restaurant, La Torreja, open for us. We were a little perplexed since it was only about 8pm, but we quickly learned that things open late, close early and move slowly in this small fishing town. The menu was representative of most waterfront restaurants in Mexican costal towns, shrimp, fish, octopus, chicken and beef prepared in various delicious ways.

Finally it was time to check out our hotel, Yuum Ha Boutique Hotel. Yuum Ha is a comfortable, modern oasis in a town full of hotels and inns that can only be described as rustic. Yuum Ha offers free WiFi, comfortable beds, air-conditioning, lovely showers with rain shower heads and bathtubs, closets with lots of space and smart TVs with cable.

hotels Rio Lagartos

where to say Rio Lagartos

Photo courtesy of Yuum Ha Boutique Hotel

This was the view from our room…

hotel Rio Lagartos

This is the view from their patio…

waterfront Rio Lagartos

bed and breakfast Rio Lagartos

The next morning we were up bright and early for our Flamingo Tour. Diego Nuñuz, owner of Rio Lagartos Adventures (and various other things around town) was under the weather, but he left us in good hands with Francisco aka Paco. We boarded the small boat and he whisked us off to a group of flamingos that were very close.

Paco offered lots of info about the flamingos and after oohing and ahhing about the sounds they made and how beautiful they are, we headed deep into the “ria” (estuary). Occasionally a flock of flamingos would fly by, and they were much faster than the boat was at full speed.

Rio Lagartos flamingo tours

We go to the beach quite often, but we don’t spend much time in really natural places. The ria is absolutely breathtaking. No buildings, no docks, no airplanes, no people, just glorious nature, and a few other small boats. Every once in awhile Paco would quickly turn to the right or left to show us a black eagle, or a herron, or a crocodile.

Rio Lagartos nature tours

Yes, a crocodile. Paco called it as if it was his dog, by gently slapping his “chancla” or flip flop on the water’s surface. Then he pet it on the head. At times it was only about a foot or so away from us. The kids were thrilled. It was truly an unforgettable moment.

Rio Lagartos boat tours

Next stop was “Las Coloradas” aka the pink lakes. The reason the lakes are pink is because of the high content of salt and minerals. In fact, there is a huge salt factory next to Las Coloradas. Kelly aka Cancun Canuck and I went swimming in the pink lakes and found we were extra “floaty” in the salty water.

Las Coloradas Rio Lagartos

After “rinsing off” in the only slightly less salty ria, we make our way to the “Baño Maya” for a Mayan mud bath. Paco dug deep and scooped out some mud, which was odorless and felt very similar to an expensive mask you would buy in the cosmetics department. Felt good to get dirty from head to toe!

Mayan Mud Bath Rio Lagartos

Photo courtesy of Cancun Canuck

Now it was time for a swim at a completely natural, sublime beach. We kind of wanted to stay there all day, but alas we had no water and we were starving and you had to stay in the water the whole time because the “tábanos” (which loosely translates to “stupid horseflies that I am extremely allergic to”) were on a rampage.

Ria Rio Lagartos

Rio Lagartos tours

beach Rio Lagartos

beaches Rio Lagartos

Photo Courtesy of Cancun Canuck

After a quick shower to rinse off all of “the nature”, we had breakfast at La Torreja and I quite literally scarfed down these yummy “huevos divorciados”.

restaurants Rio Lagartos

We agreed that after a short rest we would explore the town on the golf cart. Dinner was at 6pm, so we headed out at 3pm.

We drove along the “malecon” (boardwalk) to Chiquila lagoon where locals go to cool off. Max wanted a “chicharron” (with everything por favor).

Chiquila Rio Lagartos

Then we drove into town, and well, drove around in circles (it’s not very big) while the few locals that were outside during “siesta” time stared at us. Bebé, who didn’t rest during rest time, fell asleep on the golf cart. (It is getting a lot more difficult to carry him up stairs when he falls asleep in random places.) We giggled about how our big exploration of the town lasted exactly one hour.

boardwalk Rio Lagartos

visit Rio Lagartos

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downtown Rio Lagartos

town Rio Lagartos

That night we headed to Restaurante Ria Maya for dinner. This cozy restaurant with a huge palapa roof is on the second floor and has a spectacular view of the sparkling ria and its sunsets. I had the “Camarones a la Diabla” (shrimp in a spicy red sauce). One word: Goooood. Wish I had some more of it right now.

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seafood Rio Lagartos

waterfront restaurants Rio Lagartos

After dinner we had beers on the dock across from Yuum Ha and watched the sunset.

sunset Rio Lagartos

And the kids found what is quite possibly the best swing in the world.

In the morning we were on the road right after breakfast. We had decided to take the faster way home and make a stop in “Pueblo Magico” (Magic Town) Valladolid. I was a little worried that the drive home would be boring without all the pueblos but we did go through a couple and Tizimin was an interesting little city to drive through.

I hadn’t been to Valladolid in 15 years. It is now much larger and busier, but the downtown area and “zocalo” (town square) haven’t lost their charm. It was Sunday so there were vendors set up right in the zocalo. The kids were happy to be out of the car for a while.

kissing chairs Valladolid Mexico

fountain Valladolid

We bought a few things and had some delicious ice cream. I had “Queso de Bola” (Edam “ball” cheese) flavor. They had other unique flavors like “Elote” (corn).

ice cream Valladolid

I have been looking for the perfect turquoise necklace and I found it! (I love hearts.)

jewelry Valladolid

town square zocalo Valladolid

It was time to get back to Cancun to do the grocery shopping and laundry, so we hopped on the (boring but fast) toll road and sped back to the big city. However, I think I’ve got the bug now, and you may see posts of more road trips to Rio Lagartos or other parts of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Playacar Palace view

June 13, 2016
by admin
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Playacar Palace: You won’t be sorry!

Last week was a cloudy, rainy week in Cancun, but a couple of weeks ago Bebé and I spent a sunny weekend in Playa de Carmen at Playacar Palace. Here’s the lowdown…

The resort is small compared to many all-inclusives, with just 201 rooms, but this gives it an intimate feel. No golf cart or bus rides to dinner here, everything is just a few steps away.

Playacar is a quiet, private neighborhood in Playa de Carmen, and Playacar Palace is located right next to the entrance, making it easy to walk to 5th Avenue and all of its shops, restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs, but we never left the property, because it provided everything we could possible want or need.

The Room

Playacar Palace oceanview room

Photo: Palace Resorts

Palace Resorts don’t fool around. The rooms are fully stocked and include free WiFi (in fact it’s throughout the resort and it’s good too), in-room hot tub, a liquor dispenser, mini bar with soda, bottled water, juice and beer, a bottle of red wine (one upon arrival), toiletries, hair dryer and flat iron, iron and ironing board, robes and slippers, safe, coffee maker, phone, alarm clock and smart TV with satellite programming.

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Why take a shower when you can take a bath in a hot tub?

The room also includes turn down service and unlimited long distance calls to the U.S. and Canada.

We had a balcony with a spectacular view.

Playacar Palace view

Plus, it was just so… comfortable!

The Pool and Beach

Playacar Palace’s pool isn’t huge, but there is a busy, active end with a swim-up pool bar, and a quieter, laid-back end, which includes a shallow area for children. There are plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas.

Unfortunately, as in all resorts, people play “the towel game” here, but the resort doesn’t use those annoying towel cards, which is great.

Playacar Palace pool

The beach is breathtaking, wide and not crowded. There are tons of lounge chairs and umbrellas, a volleyball court and an area to play beach soccer.

Playacar Palace Playa del Carmen

Playacar Palace beach

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The Food

Yum!

Resort food can be inconsistent, but I never had a bad meal at Playacar Palace. Even the dinner buffet, which I always try to avoid, was good. The resort has three restaurants; the main buffet and two a la carte restaurants (Asian and Italian). All three are very close together and right in the center of the property. Reservations were not required for the a la cartes, but I have a feeling they may be during high season.

Room service was very good. One day we ordered lunch and I had this absolutely scrumptious torta de cochinita. (Cochinita is is a traditional Mexican/Mayan slow-roasted pork dish. Pork is marinated in strongly acidic citrus juice and seasoned with annatto seed and then wrapped in banana leaf and roasted.)

Playacar Palace lunch

Bebé suggested we eat on the balcony which was lovely!

Another day we ordered room service for breakfast through one of my favorite Palace programs; in the rooms there are doorknob tags that you can fill out with your breakfast order the evening before. They offer a huge selection and you can choose what time you want it delivered as well.

Playacar Palace room service breakfast

The service and food in the Asian and Italian a la carte restaurants were excellent.

Playacar Palace Asian restaurant

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The snacks by the pool are made to order and they offer more than just the usual hamburgers, hot dogs and nachos.

I love it when resorts have a kids’ menu that is available in ALL of their restaurants, as Palace Resorts do. It really takes the worrying out of what your picky kid is going to eat during your stay.

The Activities and Kids Club

Bebé and I took full advantage of the daily and nightly activities at Playacar Palace. He played beach volleyball a couple of times and tried the stand-up paddleboard. He also did a lot of good old goofing around.

Playacar Palace activities

Playacar Palace paddle board

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I did the water aerobics class twice, tried the stand-up paddleboard and participated in the paddle board yoga class. Don’t expect to see pictures of this. 😀

The activities staff was fun, friendly and attentive. You can tell they really care about making sure the guests enjoy themselves.

Bebé generally does not want to stay in kids clubs by himself, but he asked to a couple of times during this stay for one reason, the staff made him feel comfortable. The kids club is open from 10am to 10pm.

Playacar Palace features nightly shows. We saw the Mayan show and the Breakdance (Dance Evolution) show and they were both very entertaining. We have seen the breakdance show before and it is really something to see, especially the jump rope portion. Bebé was in awe of these guys.

Dance Evolution Cancun Playa del Carmen

One of my favorite activities was having cocktails in the lobby bar.

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Playacar Palace also offers a gym, a spa and a tennis court. Free transportation to and from Moon Palace is available daily with a reservation.

Without hesitation I would highly recommend Playacar Palace or any of the Palace Resorts to anyone planning a vacation in Cancun or Playa del Carmen.

Now if I could just figure out how to get to the Moon Palace Jamaica Grande…