Followers and friends often ask me which I’d recommend when traveling to the Cancun and Riviera Maya areas: going out to explore on your own, or booking a tour?
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to go on an organized tour with my friends at GoMexico, a Cancun-based company that offers tours in several of Mexico’s top travel destinations. We took the Tulum + Cenotes Plus tour, and I LOVED IT. The day’s itinerary would take us first to the Maya ruins of Tulum, then to a cenote park called Aktun Chen just north of Tulum. We were taken everywhere on a comfortable, air conditioned bus, and I frequently found myself comparing the experience to a similar day last year when I had taken my sisters on a Tulum/cenote day trip using the public van system. Which experience was better? Which experience would I be more likely to recommend? The comfortable and convenient organized tour? Or the self-made family itinerary with nobody but me as the primary tour guide?
When I took my sisters to Tulum last year, we got there by using the public van system out of Playa del Carmen, with cheap “colectivo” vans that take you up and down the main Riviera Maya highway (read more on that experience here). While cheap, the vans were somewhat uncomfortable and always full… Not necessarily a problem if you’re only going on a half hour trip, but something to consider for people with mobility problems. The region’s main destinations (Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Akumal and Tulum) all have designated spots in town where you can find the vans, but when on the highway after visiting a cenote, you have to flag them down by the side of the road. It’s a bit hectic to figure out the first time, but pretty easy once you know what you’re doing. By contrast, the bus with the GoMexico tour was air conditioned and very comfortable with reclining seats, great for napping. Tour buses usually pick you up straight from your hotel, or from an easy-to-access location in a popular tourist area. From there, they take you to each of the day’s tour locations, then back to your hotel, or close to it. Easy peasy. And bonus: They’ll usually serve you a boxed breakfast and/or lunch along the way!
Our tour bus and part of the group! (You can see me in the bus staring out the window) Photo by @ConnyCun
I’ve been to the Maya ruins of Tulum over my past decade living in Cancun, but this was my first time visiting the site with an organized tour. Having a tour guide was WONDERFUL. Thanks to our ruins guide Cesar, I learned so much about why the ancient city of Tulum was built a certain way (often relating to the sun’s positioning throughout the year), as well as its history and way of life. Cesar even took us to spots around the site that I’d never thought to visit before! If you go to Tulum on your own, you can still hire a guide at the entrance to take you through the site, and if you have all day with nowhere else to go, you can even spend the afternoon at the beach below the ruins, one of my favorite places in the world.
A little language trivia: While we were at Tulum last weekend, some Mexican friends and I got into an interesting discussion on the use of the word “ruins”. In Mexico, they tend to prefer the phrase sitio arqueológico (archaeological site), while ruinas (ruins) might be considered an insult. On the other hand, in English the word “ruins” has a feeling of mystery and romance and has become the more preferred phrase, while “archaeological site” is hardly used at all… and when it is used, it sounds a bit cold, scientific and impersonal.
Me on the Tulum beach a few years ago, when Jorge and I were spending the weekend in town
Tulum beach last weekend
Our group learning from guide Cesar
On the Tulum train with @zukogirl and @pptotravel
Yours truly last weekend
Oh-so-casually leaning against a palm tree while listening to the guide (photo @marhubarreto)
A small crowd getting in some beach pics
Tulum’s beach has the best rock formations
The second leg of our tour with GoMexico took us to a place called Aktun Chen. Here, we were given a Mexican-style lunch before we were taken to see some of the features of this area: a 20-minute walk through stunning caves, followed by an hour swim and snorkel in what is, to date, the most gorgeous cenote I have ever seen. The cenote at Aktun Chen is almost entirely enclosed within a cave; stalactites hang over clear, blue waters, and beautiful stalagmite formations lurk below to create a memorable snorkeling experience. Booking a tour will often let you visit some of the region’s most amazing cenotes located deeper in the jungle (like Aktun Chen), and using the van system limits you to the cenotes located closer to the highway, like Jardin del Eden or Cenote Azul. When renting a car, you have no limit to your choices.
Ok so clearly GoMexico’s photos are way better than mine
Love. Love. Love.
My Verdict: Solo Exploration or Organized Tour?
Well, I guess in the end I don’t have a huge preference either way as it mostly depends on who’s asking!
If you’re a tourist: Go for the organized tour. There’s no hassle, no headaches, no questioning if you’re going in the right direction, no wasting precious vacation time getting lost, and you’ll probably get to see the area’s more impressive attractions, even if they’re harder to reach. You won’t have to figure out where to get lunch, your bus will be comfortable, and your pick-up spot will be easy to find.
If you’re a resident or a frequent visitor to the area: Do mostly solo exploring to save money and see places other tourists might not ever get to visit, BUT book a tour every once in awhile to see some of the Riviera Maya’s most beautiful and hard-to-reach locations. If you have a car – or can rent a car – or have a local friend with a car… well, that’s the best of both worlds.
No matter which option you choose, I hope you have fun exploring Cancun and the Riviera Maya!
Even when you have the easiest baby in the world, sometimes you just need a date night.
And so, last weekend Jorge and I dropped off the baby with my in-laws and went out for dinner and a movie. First was the movie “Room” at Plaza Las Americas (highly recommend!), then we headed to Parque Las Palapas to experience one of Cancun’s oldest and most iconic restaurants: La Habichuela.
With 38 years of history in Cancun, La Habichuela has two locations: the original restaurant by Parque Las Palapas, and the newer La Habichuela Sunset in the Hotel Zone. (You might remember we went to La Habichuela Sunset about a year ago when I was very, very pregnant.) On this particular night, Jorge and I wanted to try the original.
I had been to the original La Habichuela once before, but never had the opportunity to sit out in the garden and hoped that this would be my night. It had been raining all day, but the sky had completely cleared by the time we arrived; much to my delight, they had a covered terrace area within the garden, just in case of rain. The host sat us at the last table for two on the narrow terrace that had filled up with customers, mostly small groups of tourists and a few locals.
The garden area twinkled with little white lights, accented by Mayan statues and small trees. A Downtown Cancun fairytale setting! Yes, date night had begun.
Right away, the waiter brought us a jícara (dried gourd) filled with a Mayan drink called balché, made with tree bark, honey and water. Definitely one of the most refreshing drinks I’ve ever had and the perfect way to start the night. Jorge offered himself up as the designated driver for the evening, and I took advantage of my baby-free evening by ordering a few mojitos.
We were both in the mood for some soups, so Jorge got the cream of habichuela (string bean) and I got the lobster bisque; I’m pretty picky about soups, and these were delicious! Jorge and I filled up so much on soups that we couldn’t even finish our shrimp. (No worries, we ate the rest at lunch the next day.) Both of our shrimp entrees were wonderful, especially the sauces that came with them.
And for dessert… anybody who knows me, knows that if it’s not a chocolate dessert, I’m not interested. Well, La Habichuela changed my mind. The staff recommended the flambéed strawberries, so I asked Jorge if he wanted to take the risk with me, and he was happy to go along. Our server, Muse, brought all the flambé equipment tableside, and we looked on as he added cassis, red wine and brandy to the hot pan of strawberry slices. Then, he served the strawberries and sauce over vanilla ice cream and gave us each a glass. I had in front of me two things I’m not a fan of: vanilla ice cream and a non-chocolate dessert. Less than excited, I took my first bite… and discovered I had been so, so wrong. The flambéed strawberries and ice cream they had prepared was one of the best things I have ever tried, even better than *most* chocolate cakes. Thank you La Habichuela for taking me out of my comfort zone!
I think that my years as a waitress plus my years living in a city with so many cool restaurants has made me pretty picky about food, service and atmosphere. La Habichuela got gold stars in all three!
Much of my career is based around the simple fact that I am a Cancun local.
You can come to me if you want to know the cheapest ways to get around town, the best place for tacos, where locals hang out on weekends, and the best bars off the main hotel strip.
And this works out well for me. Why? Because the hot new trend in travel is to experience a city “like a local”. Like me. Like my friends.
The beach at sunset in the upscale tourist neighborhood of Playacar, Playa del Carmen
My family checking out the sunset in the off-the-beaten-path lagoon at Isla Blanca
Every year, it becomes increasingly less cool to look like a tourist or act like a tourist… even if you are a tourist.
I would like to present the other side of the coin: sometimes the touristy stuff is the coolest stuff.
My favorite example is where to get tacos in Cancun. Yes, there are some really great tacos al pastor right by my house. Some of the best in the city. The place fills up on Sunday at noon (right after mass lets out) with a long line down the sidewalk. But you know which taco joint I always recommend? La Parrilla. Yes, I’m talking about the tourist-filled taco restaurant on Avenida Yaxchilan that everyone visits after shopping at Market 28. Yes, the one with all the mariachi groups and the waiters who balance giant margaritas on their heads. It is without a doubt the most touristy taco place in Cancun. But guess what? Those tacos al pastor are friggin’ delicious. And it’s easy to find. And the margaritas are pretty good, too. And you won’t have to face Moctezuma’s Revenge the next day (unless you overdo it on the margaritas). La Parrilla is super-touristy, but they serve amazing authentic Mexican tacos that surpass many of the most hidden-away street carts.
I always say, “Sometimes touristy places are touristy for a reason. It’s because they are good.”
My family came to visit last week. My sister and brother-in-law really wanted 3 things:
1. To visit a cenote
2. To visit Xcaret
3. To eat at a hole-in-the-wall taco place where “they might get sick”
My brother-in-law almost seemed ashamed about wanting to see Xcaret because it is so touristy. But guess what? Xcaret is really, really cool. It’s always on my lists for best day tours from Cancun. It’s filled with tourists, but it is AMAZING. Stunning. Fascinating.
But on the “travel like a local” side of things, Jorge and I took my sisters and brother-in-law out to a cenote that most non-Mexican tourists don’t know about. We took a cheap colectivo van to get there and back, just like the locals. We snorkeled. We jumped off a cliff. Then we took another colectivo van to the Mayan ruins of Tulum. (Ok, the ruins were touristy, but we did it local-style… except for the hazelnut praline coffee I bought at the new Tulum Starbucks… seriously) It was everyone’s favorite day of their vacation, and it cost us less than $20 dollars per person.
Jumping off the cliff at Cenote Azul
Me (left) with my middle sister in a touristy area of Playa del Carmen
I guess in the end, my advice would be this: When traveling to Cancun, try to get the scoop on hidden local gems and ways to save, but don’t disregard the touristy stuff just because you won’t look as cool to your Instagram followers. You might be missing out on something amazing.
I have always traveled back to the States for Christmas, ever since I moved to Cancun in 2005. That’s 10 Christmases. This year, I will finally be spending my very first Christmas in Cancun.
And guess what? I don’t feel very Christmas-y. Only 2 houses on our street have put up Christmas lights (1 of them is us), for some reason our tree doesn’t smell very pine-y this year, Jorge and I have been too busy to watch many Christmas movies, and it’s just too darn hot to feel like Christmas.
But that doesn’t mean we haven’t been trying to get into the holiday spirit! It is also baby’s first Christmas, and we are excited to see him open presents and go through his stocking. (Funny side story about that stocking: 5 years ago, Jorge had his first Christmas in the States, but he didn’t own a stocking. We ordered him a cute snowman stocking online from Target. When we opened the box… the stocking was considerably larger than we had anticipated! We kept it hidden away all these years, and now since we forgot to buy baby’s stocking in advance, we are rocking the giant stocking once again.)
As always, we set up a Christmas tree (smaller than usual this year). Jorge has always wanted a train around the tree, so we picked up a cute one from Home Depot in early December. My mother is the queen of giftwrapping, and she passed that talent down to my sisters and me. I couldn’t find curling ribbon in Cancun, but the thick ribbon looks pretty festive!
I also went with some friends to a local Cancun Christmas tradition: the Sunset Boat Parade. First I went to the press tweet-up for a sunset yacht ride from the Sunset Admiral Yacht Club & Marina last week…
…then attended the big Sunset Boat Parade event on Sunday night at Jardin del Arte on the lagoon. The Manos Magicas Christmas market was there with lots of local Cancun artisanry, along with live shows. Everyone lined up along the lagoon to watch the boat parade, a flyboarding show and a beautiful fireworks display. It started very, very late, but it was a very cool Cancun-style Christmas event! The water looked amazing.
Last night I baked cookies and watched Christmas specials with some girlfriends, and tonight Jorge and I will be watching our all-time favorite Christmas movie: Home Alone! Then we are having Christmas Eve dinner and lunch on the 25th with my in-laws, and my entire family is coming to Cancun to visit me the week after! The warm weather has me feeling un-Christmas-y this year, but we are surrounded by so much love, family and beauty this year. I thank God for everything.
Happy Holidays to you all, however or wherever you are celebrating!
We’ve been married for 5 years! It’s hard to believe it has been so long since our wedding day back in 2010, and Jorge and I still have so much fun together. We would have loved a huge week-long vacation to celebrate, but a newborn sure changes things. We left the baby with Jorge’s parents, and jetted off to Cozumel for the weekend. And by “jetted off”, I mean we took the ADO bus to Playa del Carmen, then the cheapest ferry to the island. Of course.
Our friends Juan and Viri celebrate their anniversary the day after we do, so we made it a couples weekend. Viri got us a room at this great little hotel called Vista del Mar. It sits right on the main road in Downtown Cozumel, and it has an ocean view. I loooooved hanging out on the balcony!
Our first day on Cozumel, we rented a Jeep that was clearly well-used (to put it nicely), and had a little road trip around the island.
We use a selfie stick. Deal with it.
We wanted to hang out at the Punta Sur beach, but the entry fee was very expensive for us, so off we went in search of something else. The entire Caribbean Sea has been suffering from a huge sargasso problem the past few months, so we had to settle for the closest beach with as little sargasso as possible. I was so bummed by the whole sargasso thing that I didn’t take any beach pictures, but we did end up at this cool little beach bar in the middle of nowhere that I absolutely LOVED.
Viri asked the bartender his name, to which he replied “Luis Forever”. The bar had a neighboring souvenir stand, plus a shaded hammock area on the beach.
Chillin' with Luis Forever
We were the only people in the hammocks when we arrived, but we were soon surrounded by all kinds of other travelers: a family with small children, a British couple, some couples, and a guy who kindly offered me a hit from his pipe. (People are SO NICE – but I politely declined.)
I also had my first alcoholic beverage in over a year – a really, really amazing mojito. But to be honest, I kind of liked Jorge’s coco loco better.
For lunch, we went to Muellecito at the southern end of Downtown Cozumel. Muellecito is a favorite of ours here in Cancun, but the one on Cozumel has an ocean view. Score. I’m OBSESSED with their caldo de camarón (shrimp broth) – first because it’s deliciously spicy, and second because it’s free. I also had a Long Island iced tea, which has like 3 kinds of alcohol in it, so I didn’t finish it because I started to get buzzed a third of the way through. That’s the danger of drinking something that tastes just like tea, but has zero tea content.
I don't remember this picture being taken.
The next morning, Viri and I noticed that there was a little entrance to the water right across the street from the hotel, and the water looked amazing! Turns out, the water around Downtown Cozumel is very, very rocky. Painfully rocky.
My feet were in a lot of pain when this picture was taken, but don't I look fabulous with the yacht in the background?
Later on a stroll through Downtown, we noticed a very nice beach just a block from the hotel. Oh well… missed the opportunity to swim here, but it sure looks nice in pictures!
Before hopping on the ferry back to the mainland, we got some lunch at a seafood restaurant called Tio Jose. The nachos were so, so wonderful, not to mention the seafood dishes. We grabbed a table right by the water, and there was a calm inlet with lots of families enjoying a Sunday swim.
We did so much more on this trip than I mentioned here. There was a haunted-house-style wings restaurant, a swim in the hotel’s terrace pool, watching local kids play in a fountain, some great omelettes, and a few road trip adventures where our Jeep almost exploded, but I really dropped the ball on the whole blogger taking photos thing. Hopefully you enjoyed the photos that I do have!
Jorge and I are now the proud parents to a handsome baby boy! Baby “A” caught us all by surprise and arrived 3 weeks early, and so far he has been a very, very easy and laid-back baby.
He is over a month old now, but I have been way too busy with family, baby and work to post about him on the blog until today. I have already been posting photos of him on the Facebook page and my Instagram (@CancunGringa), but he hadn’t made it to the blog quite yet.
The good news is that we now have the images from his newborn photo shoot, thanks to Monica Lopez Photography. Some of my long-time readers will remember that Monica also shot our Trash the Dress photo shoot on Isla Mujeres several years ago.
The newborn photo shoot was done in our house and around our neighborhood. We have several pretty parks nearby, and we may have snuck into a neighbor’s yard at one point.
Here are my favorite pictures of A, with his parents making a few appearances. 🙂
**Disclaimer: This is in no way meant to be a comparison between a pregnancy in the US vs a pregnancy in Mexico, unless specifically stated otherwise. I have never been pregnant in the US except for 1 week at Disney World, so I can only refer to my experiences here in Cancun and occasionally what I have heard from moms in the US.**
So now I am 7 months along! We’ve been lovingly referring to our little guy as “El Bebé”, and he’s a strong one so far. I’ve been blessed to have very few complications and hardly any symptoms. Some back pain has started to kick in a little, the heat in Cancun keeps me from being too active in the middle of the day, and El Bebé is kicking pretty hard sometimes, but beyond that I feel pretty awesome.
Overall pregnancy in Mexico has been a wonderful experience. People here really love babies, and Jorge and I both come from happy and loving families. We are so lucky.
I often get asked about what pregnancy and related healthcare is like here in Mexico, so here is my experience so far in Cancun:
1. People worry about my well-being
Ever since I started showing, everyone around me is constantly making sure I don’t over-extend myself. Friends will tell me to stop running if I rush to cross a street, and strangers are quick to pick stuff up when I drop something (which happens a lot). At first this was difficult because I’m a pretty independent person and I have been feeling really great this whole pregnancy, but now that the 3rd trimester has begun I am so grateful!
2. Everyone loves pregnant ladies
Strangers smile at me A LOT. It’s so lovely. I wish we could all be like this to everybody, all the time. I need to work on that, myself.
3. So much belly touching!
Confession: I am a belly toucher. Pregnant bellies have always been the coolest thing for me, and I love to touch the bellies of my pregnant friends and family. My family isn’t very touchy-feely, so I make sure to ask permission first. My social circle in Cancun is a little different. The amount of belly rubbing has been insane, and I hear it’s considered good luck. Many also believe that if someone wants to touch your belly, they absolutely should… resisting the urge or not being allowed to do so sends some kind of bad vibes to the baby, or so I’m told. In theory the belly touching is fine for me because I totally share that impulse, but for the first month or two after we announced I admit that things were tough. It doesn’t SEEM like it would be a private area, but I realized that nobody but Jorge ever touches me there normally. It was so strange to have so many people touching me in a place I had never been touched before, especially men. If I went to a social gathering, I could have up to 10 people touching my belly within a short period of time. Some people would keep their hand there for a good 30 seconds, some people would talk to it… Once I got used to it, it was wonderful. Now I love that friends and family show how excited they are about this little guy! But it took a few weeks to get used to it, for sure.
4. Strangers are pretty hands-off
Pregnant women back in the US often complain about strangers (usually older women, it seems) who approach them in the grocery store or the mall to touch their belly, ask questions, or sometimes to even say something mean. That has not happened to me in Cancun. I had one stranger touch my belly briefly last week, and that’s it. Last week we were at a Cancun resort on a day pass, and the other guests were mostly from the US. I was surprised by how many American strangers stopped me to ask questions (Boy or girl? How many months? etc) because Cancun locals don’t really do that with strangers at all.
5. More attention from men
When out in public, there are more men checking me out than usual. I also get more honks, headlight flashes and whistles. (Nobody has directly hit on me, though.) It’s nice to know I’ve still got it, I guess, but it definitely weirds me out. It’s always uncomfortable and sometimes scary for women to be looked at in public, but even more difficult when you’re “knocked up”.
6. Guessing the gender
This was the hardest part for me, and from what I hear, I think it happens pretty much everywhere. When you’re not pregnant, people usually don’t comment too much on your body. As soon as you get pregnant, people seem to think it’s open season to say whatever they like. When I was around 4 – 5 months and we didn’t know the gender yet, lots of people would try to guess the gender based on old wives’ tales about the shape of the belly. It sounds innocent enough, but when you have people looking you up and down every day for weeks and making comments on the size and width of different parts of your body, it feels like a violation of some kind. Of course these people have nice enough intentions, but it’s hard to have your body stared at and analyzed to your face. I urge everyone to please be careful about your comments. Many women don’t mind at all, but I have talked to many pregnant women and most of them don’t like being told things like, “It must be twins! Are you sure it’s just one in there? Maybe your ultrasounds missed the other one.” “You’re huge!” “Your butt is flat, it must be a girl!” “You don’t look pregnant yet, just fat!” “You’re too skinny! Are you sure the baby is healthy?” “Your belly is so wide! Your ultrasound is wrong… it can’t be a boy, it has to be a girl.” Etc etc. (Yes, these are actual things people say to pregnant women on a regular basis.) The body goes through a lot of scary and unknown changes during pregnancy and that makes many women feel insecure. My advice: If you want to comment on a pregnant woman’s body, just tell her she looks great.
7. Private health care
I am fortunate enough to have a private health care plan through my employer. Health care in Mexico is pretty great, at least in urban areas like Cancun, and I have several wonderful hospitals to choose from. There are plenty of excellent ob/gyns as well. Private health care in Mexico is only a fraction of what it costs in the States, and the quality is stellar if you know where to go. My ob/gyn charges $600 pesos (roughly $40 USD) for my appointments, and that includes a pretty high-tech ultrasound. Also, they looooove to give you ultrasounds here! My pregnant friends in the US say they get maybe 3 – 4 ultrasounds throughout their pregnancy. I have already had about 10! The downside to private health care in Mexico is that they have a reputation of pushing mothers into unnecessary c-sections. This is so they can have a more predictable schedule and charge you more money, from what I hear. I have read a few articles that show 70 – 80% of births in Mexico are via c-section!
8. Public health care and maternity leave
The free public health care system in Mexico is called IMSS. If you have a steady job here, you probably have access to IMSS, even if you are a foreigner. IMSS pays for maternity leave, which is 42 days before the due date and 42 days after the baby is born. Not bad! The only catch is you have to go to 5 pre-natal appointments at IMSS, I guess so they can make sure you’re really pregnant. These appointments were superfluous for me because I’m already going through private health care, but I have to admit I was impressed with IMSS. Government services in Mexico have a reputation for being disorganized and crowded, but my experience was great. I never had to wait more than 15 minutes for an appointment, and everyone was very friendly and knowledgeable. I even got some free vaccinations! To be fair, the IMSS location where I’ve been assigned is less crowded than most, and I’m able to schedule appointments in the morning when there are less people. I will not be having the baby at IMSS, but many friends have. The downside is that they don’t usually admit you until you are about to start pushing (they encourage you to do most labor at home until it’s almost time, otherwise you will just have to endure it in the waiting room), and they also don’t let anybody be in the room with you… not even the father! And visiting hours are very strict. On the plus side, the medical care is good, they don’t push you to have an unnecessary c-section, and it’s FREE!
9. Going out
Jorge and I are very social people, so on weekends we’re always out on the town. This hasn’t changed much with my pregnancy. I take El Bebé out to the beach, bars (no drinking, though), the mall, the pool, casual get-togethers… pretty much anywhere I would normally go. The only limitation is that I try to avoid crowds. After going to Disney World on the busiest day of the year (New Year’s Eve), I realized just how scary crowds can be when you have a pregnant belly sticking out. Cancun isn’t too crowded of a place, and so far I’ve only had to turn down invitations to nightclubs like Coco Bongo. I know many pregnant women go to nightclubs, which is great, but Cancun nightclubs are wall-to-wall packed, so it doesn’t seem like the best idea here. There don’t seem to be many other pregnant women out and about in Cancun, except maybe at the mall. I’m not sure if there just aren’t many, or if they prefer not to leave the house much, or if they’re just avoiding the ridiculous heat! But so far nobody has gotten on my case for going out, and I don’t get weird looks at bars.
From stories I’ve heard from other pregnant women (in Mexico and the US), I was expecting lots of people to be pushing me to do or not do certain things. I’ve heard people can be pushy when it comes to babies! But no. So far I have gotten stories from other people’s experiences and the occasional tidbit of advice, but nobody has been pushy in the least. Everyone has been open-minded about letting Jorge and me do things the way we think is best.
11. My Mexican husband
Of course I can’t speak for all Mexican husbands, but mine has been amazing. Jorge helps me get up from the couch, he goes to all my doctor appointments, he talks to El Bebé every day, he puts up with the extremely cold air conditioning I want every night, and he has even gone out late at night on several occasions to buy me ice cream. He pretty much does whatever I need/want, and it has been a huge help. I try not to take too much advantage of his kindness!
I’m not sure how my experience in Cancun, Mexico compares to the USA or even other parts of Mexico, but that has been my pregnancy so far. I have been overwhelmed by the love shown to our little family by all of our friends and family. Everyone has been so wonderful and helpful, and El Bebé is seriously lucky to have such a great life filled with love in store for him! We can’t wait to meet him and share him with everybody.
To all the moms reading this: I’d love to hear how different or similar your pregnancy experiences have been where you live!
Ok, fine. I didn’t actually do any kite surfing myself, but I found out where everybody else is doing it!
On Saturday morning, Jorge woke up to a text message from his friend Benja saying his family was going to Isla Blanca, and did we want to join them? I was dying for a beach day and since we don’t have a car, I jump at every opportunity to get a ride all the way up there.
I’ve been to Isla Blanca before (read about that in this old blog post!) and it had always been pretty busy, but this time we had the beach almost all to ourselves. Something tells me Isla Blanca must just get really busy on Sundays. Isla Blanca is a strip of land with the ocean on one side and a huge, shallow lagoon on the other. The best part of all: it’s virgin land. Apart from one or two little seafood restaurants and a handful of beach homes on the way there, it hasn’t been touched. With tourism booming, we don’t have many places like this left in the Mexican Caribbean. Every time I go, I see so many birds!
The downside was the large amount of seaweed on the beach. We’ve been getting a lot of seaweed in Cancun this year, but I hear it helps prevent erosion to make the beaches bigger! Nobody seems sure what is causing it this year, but I guess that’s nature for ya. 🙂
It’s not that easy to reach. Isla Blanca is about 30 minutes north of Downtown Cancun, and a large part of that drive is unpaved road. You really need a car (preferably a sporty one!) to get to Isla Blanca. But it’s so worth it.
When we got there, Benja’s parents had already set up lunch under the shade of a lone tree. A very cool location!
After chowing down on some chips and ceviche, we headed to the lagoon to explore a little. In addition to some brave guys wakeboarding behind a truck, which looks REALLY FUN, we also found some baby mangrove trees, a family playing with their dogs, and even a horseshoe crab! (I was so excited about seeing my first live horseshoe crab, but later my friends from Philly tell me they see them all the time back home… I guess it all depends on where you’re from!)
A 5-minute walk by the lagoon led us to a campsite with trucks and tents, which turned out to be a big group of kite surfers. It was the first weekend of “Semana Santa” (a 2-week Catholic holiday in Mexico), so I’m guessing that’s why it was so busy. I may be wrong. But there were dozens of kites over the shallow lagoon water taking full advantage of the windy day. We saw some jumps, some pretty fast kites, and even a few wipeouts!
There’s not much to say about the rest of our day at Isla Blanca. We spent the afternoon exploring, watching the ocean, eating and listening to music. Can’t wait til my next chance to go back!
Between our regular dinners at the taco stand around the corner and the Italian place with $50 peso lasagnas, sometimes Jorge and I like to mix things up with a date night somewhere special. Last week we discovered a place that offered the perfect mix of charm, service and great food. I’d heard plenty of great things about La Habichuela Sunset and seen some beautiful pictures of it online, but it shames me to admit that I hadn’t been there yet.
Jorge’s birthday seemed like the perfect time to finally try it! After all, it’s impossible not to celebrate with this handsome guy.
We walked in, and it was stunning. The entrance is on the restaurant’s second floor, so you have this amazing view of the entire restaurant, staircase and 2-story windows toward the garden and lagoon.
Jorge and I wanted to see the Wednesday night Mayan show, so we requested a table in the garden. Magical.
I’m a sucker for twinkle lights and lagoon views.
Before the show, some of the performers went from table to table to do some face painting. This is the closest I will ever come to looking like a Mayan, by the way.
The Mayan show was pretty fun! The performers even came out into the audience, so it was easy to get caught up in the atmosphere.
As cool as the whole atmosphere was, we loved the food just as much! We got Yucatecan tamales to start… lobster, duck and shrimp! The lobster was my favorite.
Jorge’s main course was the chicken Veronica, and I had the amaranth fish filet (with tamarind and mango sauces… wow!). Both items were the top recommended dishes by our waiter German, and he sure knew what he was talking about!
And my favorite part… dessert! What a fun experience. German brought all the ingredients right to us and prepared tableside crepes for Jorge, which he was kind enough to share with me. I gave him half of my tiramisu in exchange, so it was all fair.
I’m always surprised that despite its Mayan history, the city of Cancun doesn’t have nearly as much Mayan/Yucatecan cuisine as you would expect. I’m so glad La Habichuela Sunset gives tourists and locals alike the chance to try an upscale version of local recipes. This restaurant is located in the Cancun Hotel Zone at Kilometer 12.6, almost across the boulevard from Plaza Kukulcan.
To see their full menu and find out more about the restaurant, visit the La Habichuela Sunset website or Facebook page.
Cancun is a pretty cool place to live. I could lie and downplay things and say, “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.” And sometimes there are tough days… but then I get to go on a bachelorette party yacht cruise to an island and it hits me that life is pretty good here in paradise.
My friend Jessica is getting married soon. She lives in Puebla, but she often comes to Cancun or the Riviera Maya for vacations, and her bachelorette party was no exception. Jessica’s a fellow Mexico blogger (check her out at MexicanAtHeart.com) and she brought a bunch of her family to Cancun to celebrate her last days of “freedom”. A few of us Cancun bloggers/friends joined her and her family for a Saturday afternoon bachelorette party on board a beautiful yacht called the Sea Horse from Sunset Marina & Yacht Club. The clouds were looming overhead all day, but we didn’t get rained on once.
We even ran into a bachelor party group at the marina, so of course we had to take a group shot before we split into our separate boats!
And guess who else was there? Fellow Cancun bloggers like Kelly (CancunCanuck.com), Kristin (WhatAmIStillDoingInCancun.com) and Marhu (MarhuBlog), plus one of my favorite Cancun tweeters Rebecca @BeccaMex. Yes, we’re all friends and if you follow our Twitter feeds you’ll see we hang out quite a lot!
First the Sea Horse took us through the mangroves of Nichupte Lagoon, then out to the Caribbean Sea. We were heading to Isla Mujeres! Along the way, we played some bachelorette party games and of course took some pictures of the amazing scenery.
I freely admit to getting pretty excited when the yacht anchored at North Beach on Isla Mujeres. We all know about my North Beach obsession, but very rarely do I get to see it from a boat. (I think this was the 3rd time.) Some of us couldn’t resist a little swim in the Caribbean Sea, and everyone had fun just hanging out on the boat with snacks and drinks. Just… oh my gosh, heaven.
Above photo by Kelly McLaughlin @CancunCanuck
After a few hours playing on the yacht, it was time to head back to Cancun, where I just napped for the rest of the afternoon. What a day!
After a day like this, it was easy for me to see why so many people choose Cancun for bachelor parties, weddings, honeymoons and anniversaries. My city has so many unbelievable ways to celebrate a special event!
Big thanks to the Sunset Marina and Yacht Club in Cancun… Beautiful place, beautiful boats and a beautiful event, as always!