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).
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.
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.
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.
They also serve a delicious fish-n-chips plate and poutine, a Canadian fast food dish.
Jenn got tired of having the menu reprinted every time they changed it so she took matters into her own hands. 😀
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.
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 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.
All of Xcaret’s parks are supurb, so depending on what interests you, there’s also Xplor, Xel Ha, Xoximilco, Xenotes and Xenses.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 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, 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?
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).
Photo: Catalonia Hotels
I loved our colorful building.
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!
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.
Bebé gave the pool two thumbs up!
There is also a nice area between the pool and the beach where there is a juice/smoothie bar.
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!
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.
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. :/
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.
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.
And bonus! Dozens of these creatures (Coatis) are hanging around each morning.
Then it was time for my massage! Yippee! I sent the kids to the room after I took this picture (I just love it)…
…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.
After my massage Bebé decided that he wanted to go on the kayak. So Big sister hung out here…
…and we took what turned out to be a very short trip on the kayak, because Bebé was worried about sharks.
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…
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.
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.
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.
Photo courtesy of Yuum Ha Boutique Hotel
This was the view from our room…
This is the view from their patio…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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”.
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).
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.
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.
After dinner we had beers on the dock across from Yuum Ha and watched the sunset.
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.
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).
I have been looking for the perfect turquoise necklace and I found it! (I love hearts.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
The service and food in the Asian and Italian a la carte restaurants were excellent.
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.
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.
One of my favorite activities was having cocktails in the lobby bar.
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…
Bebé and I recently spent the weekend at Westin Resort & Spa Cancun. We love our weekend getaways, but I was extra excited this time because I had just gotten a new phone with a better camera.
Westin Resort & Spa Cancun is located at the very end of the Hotel Zone, close to the airport. It sits on a spectacular beach, the perfect, white sand, aqua blue Caribbean, Cancun beach.
Towel looks like a cape… Super Beach Bebé!
What makes the Westin Cancun different than many resorts we visit is that it is not exclusively all-inclusive, so it’s a good option for those who prefer a breakfast-only or European plan. This is an older resort, but it’s very clean and well-maintained.
After we checked-in we headed to our room, which was a Master Suite. I think it was larger than my condo! It had a huge living room and dining room, a half bath, a large bedroom with a hot tub in the bathroom, and a balcony that ran the length of the suite. #sweetdigs
Our room had a coffee maker, a hair dryer, bath amenities, robes and slippers, a telephone, two TVs with satellite programming, an iron and ironing board, a clock radio with an iPod docking station and a safe.
We received a warm welcome, and it was obvious they had done their research. #wine #soccer
The view from the room was spectacular, day and night.
We had access to the Royal Beach Club, which has a restaurant/bar and a pool. We were there every evening from 5 – 7 pm for Happy Hour (Free cocktails and snacks!)
The second evening we were there, we met a family from New Jersey. Bebé had fun playing with the twins and it was so nice for me to have some fun adults to chat with.
We also had breakfast in the Royal Beach Club each morning. It isn’t a huge buffet, but they had all our favorites, including mimosas and Bebé’s favorite vacation treat, Fruit Loops.
Speaking of food, I was very impressed with the restaurants at the Westin Cancun Resort & Spa.
The second night we dined at Arrecifes, which serves Mexican gourmet cuisine. I had a creative appetizer of “tacos” (jicama, a white tuber, was used in place of tortillas) and a delicious risotto with huitlacoche (corn smut, yes I know it sounds gross, but it’s delicious).
The third night we ate at Sea & Stones, which is right on the beach. They serve steaks and pizzas cooked in a wood-burning oven. I ordered the chorizo pizza and it was absolutely scrumptious. Bebé asked me if I was going to eat it all and I told him that I would like to, but I didn’t think I could.
There are a few other restaurants including El Palmar (buffet breakfast, a la carte dinner), Sunset Bar (lunch and snacks) and The Place (gourmet appetizers).
It is important to note that the restaurants in the Westin Cancun will cater to any special food needs, like vegetarian, gluten-free or vegan.
The resort has a lot of pools including two large pools in the center of the property (one overlooks the lagoon and the other overlooks the ocean and has a swim-up pool bar), three small pools and the pool at the Royal Beach club. The depths vary so there’s something for everyone.
The highlight of our visit (at least for me) was my visit to the Heavenly Spa. Heavenly indeed!! I had the Heavenly Massage (of course) which involved heated compresses and essential oil blends. I left the Heavenly Spa feeling more relaxed than I have probably ever felt, no exaggeration.
While I was at the spa, Bebé hung at the kids club. He made a tie-dye t-shirt which he loved and insisted on wearing to dinner the following two evenings under his dress shirts. The kids club is simple, but it has a full schedule of daily activities from 9am to 5pm. We went back to the kids club on Saturday with the family we had met and the kids got to demolish a piñata since it was Día de Niños (Children’s Day) and feed the wild iguanas that live on the property.
There were two programs at the resort that I thought were really great… for 5 bucks, the resort will lend you New Balance workout gear, shoes and all, and you get to keep the socks. Love this. A great idea!!
The other… the resort is pet-friendly! They welcome pets weighing 40 pounds or less, and they even get their own special bed and dish. (Note: Pet owners must sign a liability waiver at check-in which covers cleaning fees, noise disturbance and other matters. Dogs must be leashed at all times, and are not permitted in the resort restaurants, bars, swimming pool and beach areas, spa, gym and tennis courts.)
They also offers outdoor tennis courts, a gym, a business center and free WiFi with an option to pay to upgrade to high-speed internet. The staff is warm and accommodating.
Westin Resort & Spa Cancun is a good option for those who are not into the activities and shows that all-inclusive resorts provide. We had a wonderful weekend!
For those who love Mexico and fashion, it can be difficult to find clothing and bags that are created using traditional methods, yet look modern. It’s possible to find some items in markets, but many seem a bit doudy or outdated, and believe it or not, some may not actually be made in Mexico!
Boutique Mexico is an online boutique that offers clothes, bags, accessories and gifts. What makes these items special is that they are colorful, fashionable, modern versions of traditional Mexican pieces.
Boutique Mexico’s founder Jenn Olson has visited many Mayan communities, which are quite literally located in the jungle, far from large cities like Cancun and Playa del Carmen that are filled with tourists. During these visits she would speak with artisans and see the beautiful things they create. She realized they had no way of selling them to tourists, so she started to work with them. She gives them a design and they bring it to life using their tradition weaving and embroidery skills. This results in modernized styles created using ancient traditions.
By working directly with artists, Boutique Mexico ensures they are being paid a fair wage and don’t have to leave their homes or their families to earn a living. In addition, the materials used to create the items are sourced in Mexico. This type of arrangement is known as “slow fashion”, which “encourages taking time to ensure quality production, to give value to the product, and contemplate the connection with the environment”. (Source: notjustalabel.com)
In other words, this is fashion you can feel good about.
Recently I went on a search for a new beach bag. I went to Market 28, Market 23, Plaza Outlet and La Gran Plaza (all located in Cancun) and I could not find the kind of bag I was looking for. The only place that had exactly what I wanted was Boutique Mexico.
I used my gorgeous new bag for the first time a couple of weekends ago.
What makes this bag so awesome is the fact that it’s made of durable woven plastic yet still looks well-made and stylish. Plus no big deal if gets wet!!
You don’t have to live in Cancun or even Mexico to shop at Boutique Mexico. If you are staying at a Cancun or Riviera Maya resort Boutique Mexico will deliver your order to your hotel or resort within 24 hours.
If you are not in Cancun or Rivera Maya they will ship your product anywhere in the world using FedEx.
I lived here for 14 years without visiting La Habichuela, one of Cancun’s best restaurants. Now I’ve been there twice in one year, and frankly, if I were invited again next week I’d be cool with that.
La Habichuela is a Cancun classic. This restaurant is almost old as Cancun is, but that isn’t why you should dine there. You should dine there because the cuisine, service and ambiance are stellar.
My date for the most recent visit (and actually for the first visit as well) was famous Cancun blogger/friend Kelly McLaughlin of cancuncanuck.com. Our kids were not invited, which was perfectly fine with us. (We love our kids but c’mon everyone deserves a mommies’ night out once in awhile.)
We began with mojitos. ¡Salud!
The interior of La Habichuela is warm and inviting, but the garden is the place to be. It feels a bit like dining in an ancient Mayan ruin in the jungle, and at dusk, the twinkling lights come on. (Unfortunately they look really blurry when you try to photograph them.)
I started out with ceviche, because well, I love ceviche. It was awesome, especially after I added a little salsa de habanero.
I’ve had La Habichuela’s classic dishes before, like the Amaranth Fish Fillet and the Cocobichuela, so this time I wanted to try something new. I went for the Giant Shrimp in Tamarind Sweet & Sour Sauce, and it was absolutely scrumptious.
There were little surprises throughout, like a sorbet palate cleanser and a Mayan digestif.
There was really no question about what we were going to order for dessert. We both ordered our favorite dessert of all time, the Kukulkan Pyramid. See the pyramid, the cenote and the serpents? #YUM
I have also dined at La Habichuela Sunset in the Hotel Zone, and although it was excellent, La Habichuela Downtown has my heart.
La Habichuela Downtown is located at #25 Calle Margaritas next to Parque de las Palapas.
Do you ever wonder what Mexicans think about mass shootings in the U.S.?
Anyway, there’s no denying there is crime in Cancun, just like there is in any midsize to large city in the U.S. Of course, it’s always important to be pay attention to your surroundings and be careful (Would you walk home alone drunk at night in your city?) but for the most part, vacationers don’t have to worry about being kidnapped, raped, murdered or robbed.
However there are some other real dangers that you should be aware of.
A couple of weeks ago three tourists drowned in Cancun in one weekend. The turquoise Caribbean is so inviting, but it can be extremely dangerous.
Cancun is shaped like a 7. The beaches at the top of the 7 face Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) so they are protected from the open ocean and are generally calm and shallow. The beaches on the side of the 7 face the open Caribbean. They are the most beautiful beaches in Cancun, but they also can be the most dangerous.
There is a flag system to advise swimmers of current water conditions. Please pay attention to the flags. Last week a honeymooner ignored the black flag (which means no swimming) and drown. Tragic.
And never go swimming after dark or when you are intoxicated. #verybadidea
Black Flag: Do not swim.
Red Flag: Dangerous conditions.
Yellow Flag: Use caution.
Green Flag: Safe.
Getting hit by a bus (or a car)
You’re on vacation, but a lot of other people are trying to get to work, the bank, the grocery store or at 4am, home from the club. Buses and cars travel very fast on the main drag in Cancun’s Hotel Zone, Boulevard Kukulcan. Running red lights, especially just as they turn red, is very common here, so please us extreme caution when you are crossing the street. Don’t just blindly trust traffic signals or some guy across the street telling you to cross now to make the bus. Pay attention and hold your kids’ hands. Just think of it this way… pedestrians do not have the right away in Cancun.
trent roche Flickr
An ATM skimmer network was recently detected in Cancun. Your best bet is to only use ATMs that are in bank. Don’t use no-name ATMs in your resort or in malls, shopping centers, etc.
Getting seriously injured and not having a credit card
If you’re smart you have insurance that will cover you while you are out of the country on vacation. However, the best hospitals in Cancun are the private ones (Galenia, Hospiten) and if you don’t have money, they won’t treat you. It is important to have a credit card with a high limit available in case of an emergency. Ask for all receipts and sort it out with the insurance company later.
*Whenever they are available, wear a seatbelt. Just because you’re in a tropical paradise doesn’t mean there aren’t fatal bus and car accidents. This includes ADO buses, passenger vans, taxis and rental cars.
*A sunburn can ruin your vacation. Sit in the shade and reapply sunblock often. You’ll still get a tan!
*Stay hydrated by drinking a lot of water. The combo of sweating and drinking alcohol can be really dehydrating.
*Don’t sit on balcony railings, they may not be secure. Quite a few vacationers have died this way!
*Watch where you are walking, especially in downtown Cancun. Sidewalks are broken and uneven and there are many open drains and manholes. (Yes sad but true.)
*For non-serious medical issues you can go to a pharmacy that offers free medical consultations. Ask about this in your resort.
A couple of weeks ago we spent 4 nights at the Grand Oasis Palm in Cancun’s Hotel Zone. This stay was extra special as my mom aka Grammy was with Bebé and I.
The Oasis Palm and Grand Oasis Palm are located next to the bridge that connects the Hotel Zone to the mainland. We stayed on the Grand Oasis Palm side where guests receive a few more amenities. It has a separate pool and beach and is quieter in general. All of the action takes place on the Oasis Palm side.
This was the view from our room!
And our room was so special! It was a kids room. Bebé loved it. The ENTIRE room was painted like this.
The first evening we checked in, unpacked and headed straight to dinner. The margaritas were perfection.
That first night I discovered that some musician friends play in the resort, which was a wonderful surprise. We went to see them every night. Per our usual resort schedule we also went to the show each night. They were all good except for one. We especially enjoyed the jump roping in the Urban show (really impressive) and the Michael Jackson tribute show (of course).
The next day it was “freezing”, so no swimming for us. Luckily we had reservations for the pirate ship excursion that is offered to guests each Friday. It was family-friendly and a lot of fun with music, games and general pirate silliness.
That night, we ate at Maki Taco. They serve Asian-Mexican fusion food. This was by far our favorite restaurant on the property. (To be fair we couldn’t eat at The White Box, a highly rated gastrobar, because it is adult-only.) We ate at Maki Taco twice. Both the food and service were excellent. We also had an absolutely delicious dessert there.
So now I must bring up the white wine thing again. Just like at Grand Oasis Tulum, the resort’s house white wine is undrinkable. The first night we ate at Maki Taco I got lucky and was served some other wine, but the second time we ate there the house wine was back.
I made up for this by drinking A LOT of margaritas.
For lunch we really enjoyed the pizzas at Terraza Dos Lunas on the Oasis Palm side.
We ate breakfast each day at the buffet restaurant in the Grand section. Unfortunately it is truly too small for the number of guests. We had to wait in line every morning. Part of the problem was that it was chilly so people didn’t want to sit outside, but the buffet itself is still too small for the size of the building. Some of the food was OK and some of it was not so good. The made to order omlets are the best choice here. We never ate lunch or dinner at the buffet restaurants so I can’t comment on those.
I wish the a la carte restaurants had a simple children’s dinner menu available. They were always nice and tried to offer us options for Bebé but he is really picky so I had to run to the buffet looking for things he would eat. If I found something the staff was less than thrilled that I wanted to take it out of the restaurant.
My mom is a vegetarian and in every restaurant we visited they were very accomodating.
Coffee is important to Grammy and I. The coffee in the coffee shop was good, but the coffee in the room and in the buffet restaurant was not. Once we discovered this the problem was solved… we only drank coffee from the coffee shop.
Thank goodness the second day we were there it warmed up, so we spent some time by the pool and at the beach, which is calm and shallow.
It’s important to know that you have to get wherever you are going early if you want to get a chair.
On the Oasis Palm side they lend kayaks and paddleboards to guests so the three of us piled on a kayak and took a spin which we really enjoyed.
Bebé absolutely loved the kids pool and there were always chairs available there in the morning.
They have just redone the kids club, and I think it’s the biggest I’ve ever seen. It has full schedule of activities, its own pool complete with a waterslide, a video game room, a handicrafts room, a bungie trampoline, a napping area, a mini disco, a kids buffet, a food court and dining room, a “sweets” area, a playground and a beach club.
We tried a solo visit to the kids club but poor Bebé got upset so they brought him back to us after only about 15 minutes. 🙁 Parents cannot stay at the kids club with their children so that was it for us.
There are all kinds of fun things going on at the Oasis Palm pool during the day. All three of us did the Zumba class, which was a lot of fun and an actual workout.
One day these cute girls showed up for pictures.
The last day Grammy spent some time at our pool while Bebé and I played catch in the ocean and built sand castles at the beach.
It’s important to note that this is a large resort on a small piece of land and it is economical compared to many resorts in Cancun, so there were lines for many things including, drinks, snacks and the buffet restaurants. That being said, if you understand this ahead of time, there is no reason you can’t have a wonderful vacation at Oasis Palm/Grand Oasis Palm.
We really enjoyed our stay and we made lots of treasured memories!