Why I Love Cancun’s Plaza La Isla

Sometimes when you live in a beautiful tourist destination like Cancun, it’s easy to get sucked into everyday life. Even though I’m just minutes away from some of the world’s best beaches and most incredible All Inclusive resorts, I often forget there’s more to life than wake up, go to work, go to the gym, watch TV, sleep, repeat.

So when I really want to feel like a tourist in Cancun, there’s one perfect place that’s just a cheap bus ride away: Plaza La Isla.

Plaza La Isla is a beautiful outdoor mall set in the middle of the Hotel Zone, complete with charming canals, luxury boutiques, inexpensive brands, high-end department stores, fast food, fun restaurant and upscale dining. It’s unbeatable location right on the lagoon makes it the perfect spot for a romantic evening.

One thing I love about Plaza La Isla is the fountains, which always manage to draw in a crowd! Everyone oohs and aahs over the jumping water fountain, while kids can be seen running through the ground fountain by the lagoon.

See? Kids can't help themselves 🙂

So many of my best Cancun memories have been in Plaza La Isla: margaritas with my sister, dinners at Thai Lounge, a quincenera party at Planet Hollywood, tons of photo ops by the fountain, shopping at Guess (my favorite), root beers at Johnny Rockett’s, petting a shark, panoramic views of the Hotel Zone from the top of the parking deck, and of course… Jorge proposing to me by the lagoon.

Next time you’re in Cancun, make sure to visit this beautiful outdoor mall. I recomend arriving around 4 pm so you can see it in the daylight, at sunset and in the evening.

View of the Hotel Zone across the lagoon

What’s your favorite place to shop in your city?

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

Christmas and Culture Shock

Hello all! I’m back from good ole Richmond, Virginia, and it was a very Merry Christmas indeed. This was my first time back in Richmond after more than 3 years, and I got to see family and friends I hadn’t seen in forever.

Jorge LOVED the US. He liked the houses, mainly because they “don’t have bars on the windows, like in Mexico”. Very true. I took him to my favorite outdoor mall, and he was a bit overwhelmed but definitely enjoying himself. I have to admit I miss US malls, too… although I did feel bad for the shirtless guy standing in the freezing cold of the Abercrombie and Fitch entrance.

I was excited to be back in my hometown of Richmond! I got to see lots of friends and family I hadn’t seen in over 3 years. Jorge got to see my high school, middle school, elementary school, church and old house.

Everything seemed so much bigger and grander than I remember. In Cancun all the houses are right next to eachother (no side yards, shared walls) and yards are usually just tiny squares of concrete. The bigger houses here have walls around them, and almost all houses here have bars on the windows. In Richmond, the yards were so huge and the houses so much larger than they needed to be that I felt like I was way in the country or something (even though it was just the suburbs). Even houses I used to think were small growing up, today they look immense!

All the shopping centers and restaurants looked so pristine it was overwhelming. Immaculate storefronts were surrounded by massive amounts of parking space. Where were the flimsy taco stands? Where were the family-owned corner stores? Why are there so many SUVs? Who would go to a huge shopping center in the middle of nowhere? (a lot of people, apparently)

The only thing big about Cancun is the potholes.

I was seeing the first stages of reverse culture shock, and I was only there for 3 days. Everything from the cars to the houses, restaurants, movie theaters and malls was just so BIG and PERFECT. It was lovely, but I was glad to get back to the sun and tiny concrete houses of Cancun.

Here are a few pics. The lights are from the James Center in downtown Richmond, and the rest are just family photos taken at my grandparents’ house.

How was your Christmas?

Christmas Questions!

Got this from Ang and Krysten! Enjoy some Christmas questions combined with photos from the posada at our house on Saturday. (Burgers and piñatas… good times!)
1. egg nog or hot chocolate?
Hot chocolate. I only had eggnog once and it was good, but nothing beats hot chocolate.

Jorge and the grill

2. does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree?
Neither. The wrapped, under-the-tree presents are from cousins, grandparents, sisters and my parents. Santa fills our stockings and leaves our gifts out in the open for us to see when we go into the living room.
3. multi-colored or white lights on tree/house?
Any Christmas lights are good Christmas lights. (This year I found out Jorge dislikes multi-colored lights. Very disappointing.)
4. do you hang mistletoe? 
Not me or anyone in my family.
5. when do you put up decorations?
Beginning of December.

Thomas manning the grill

6. what is your favorite holiday dish?
My mom’s Christmas breakfast sausage and cheese casserole and venison sliders (thanks Jared!)
7. favorite holiday memory as a child.
Opening presents is always the best part. Not so much the presents, but watching everyone open theirs and laughing with the family.
8. when did you learn the truth about Santa?
What?
9. do you open a gift on Christmas eve?
Only at the occasional family get together with aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.

It was a very Merry Christmas for all the guys present

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Jorge and I don’t have one because we’re never home on Christmas Day, but at my parents’ house it’s usually multi-colored lights and all of our family ornaments. Used to have an angel on top until it was destroyed by tree sap. Now they use a gold star.
11. Snow! Love it or dread it? 
Love. (Then again I don’t have to live in it, so I might be biased.)
12. Can you ice skate?
Barely, but yes.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
Probably an iPod classic Santa brought me 5 years ago. I may be the only person left in the world with an iPod classic, but that baby is still going strong! My sister gave me a hand-made photo album years ago that I still have as well. Bottom line, there have been many.

Nothing says "Mexican Christmas" like a miniature deep fryer

14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you?
Traditions and being with my family.
15. What is your favorite holiday dessert?
Chocolate fudge and Lord of the Rings-inspired Christmas cookies (courtesy of me and Sarah)

Me vs. Piñata

16. what is your favorite holiday tradition?
In our family we all open our gifts one at a time, taking turns. Christmas morning lasts hours, and it’s nice to see what everyone gets.

17. what tops your tree?

No tree
18. which do you prefer: giving or receiving?
Both! Right now I’m more excited about seeing my family open their gifts from me, but once the gifts are opened I love playing with my new toys!

My brother-in-law vs Piñata

19. candy canes. yucky or yummy?
YUMMY! Especially traditional peppermint.
20. favorite Christmas show?
We used to watch Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer every year.
21. saddest Christmas song?
Blue Christmas (Like Ang said) is the only sad one I can think of right now. Jorge thinks Carol of the Bells is very eerie.
22. favorite Christmas song?
All I Want For Christmas Is You (original Mariah Carey version), O Holy Night, Mary Did You Know

Aaaand grown-ups fighting over piñata candy, including Jhonny hitting his girlfriend. Nice, guys.

This will be my last pre-Christmas post because I’m leaving for home TOMORROW! With Jorge! So incredibly excited.

Feliz Navidad to all of my readers. Thanks so much for your love and support.

The Fairmont Mayakoba Resort Goes Green

Set in the Riviera Maya just north of Playa del Carmen, the beautiful Fairmont Mayakoba forms part of the Mayakoba Resort, which just won the prestigious Ulysses Award from the United Nations World Tourism Organization, one of the world’s top recognitions for ecotourism development.

The Fairmont Mayakoba’s green iniciatives are seemingly endless, focusing not only on preserving their natural environment, but going several steps further to actually help it grow and form new, biodiverse ecosystems.

The winding canals found throughout the resort were formed utilizing the underground rivers and cenotes already existing on the property, creating several miles of soft current where guests can enjoy boat tours in lanchas to see the local birds, fish and ecosystems. By forming these canals, the resort has managed to maintain much of the pre-existing wildlife while also providing a beautiful home for hundreds of new species.

The Fairmont Mayakoba’s Green Partnership Program incorporates sustainable ecotravel concepts into all areas of the hotel:

  • Eco-Meet program, minimizing the ecological footprint for groups and conventions
  • Nature tours and adventure tourism at the nearby Sian Ka’anBiosphere Reserve
  • Greening Our Greens program for wildlife conservation on El Cameleon Golf Course
  • Green Cuisine, using fair-trade, sustainable, local and organic food products whenever possible (specializing in local Mayan communities and on-site gardens)
  • Alliance with the Climate Savers Program from World Wildlife Fund to cut down on CO2 emissions
  • Energy and Water Conservation projects in staff areas, public areas and guestrooms
  • Flora and Fauna Conservation with plant relocation, a turtle aquarium, and more
  • Waste Management projects with recycling, biodegradable products and composting of organic materials

Rose Spoonbill (apologies for the blurriness, he was too quick to catch on camera!)

In addition to their green iniciatives, the Fairmont Mayakoba also works closely with the community, aligning themselves with local universities, Mayan communities and programs for children.

This year, the resort is working hand-in-hand with the U’yo’olche non-profit organization with Pack For A Purpose. During the month of December, guests at the resort can participate in this iniciative by packing toys and gifts for Three Kings Day, a Latin American children’s holiday celebrated on January 6th. Gifts will be given out to local Mayan communities so children can wake up on January 6th to much-loved presents. For more information on how you can help, follow through here:

Pack For A Purpose

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

My Christmas Posada Parties in Cancun

I’ll be straight with you… I’ve lived in Mexico for 6 years and I still don’t know much about what a traditional Mexican posada entails. I know they’re parties held in December, kind of like our Christmas parties in the US, but with more traditional elements like star-shaped piñatas and bowls of ponche to drink. People also go from house-to-house singing a traditional song to pedir posada (or “lodging”, a la Mary and Joseph looking for an inn) until they reach the home of their party host, who lets them in.

And yet, I have seen none of this in Cancun. No ponche, no donkeys, no songs and no star-shaped piñatas for this gringa.

I have, however been to several Cancun posadas in my time. Young people in Cancun just do things a bit differently than the rest of Mexico. Why? Because who needs tradition? Bring on the dancing and the crazy house parties!

Here are some pictures from my first ever Cancun posada at a house party with my univeristy friends, circa December 2008… whoa.

That's my logistics professor in the background!!

Gotta love living in a city where you can wear spaghetti straps outdoors in December.

In 2010, I was a bit more tame and I only went to my office’s posada. It’s nice to see everyone dressed up and out of uniform.

2011 promises to be the best year yet for posadas and me! I’ve been to two already, including yet another work posada. For our first posada of 2011, Jorge and I went to Muellecito bar with a group of his friends from elementary school, then the group headed out to Alebrije nightclub, which I hadn’t been to yet.

Jorge with his friends from elementary school

Screen in back translates "Welcome to Mexico Jesus!!" I like to think they're referring to Jesus Christ and the posadas tradition, but since we're in Mexico it's probably just some guy named Jesus.

Tomorrow night we’re hosting a posada party at our house. Just as with all my other Cancun posadas, it’s looking to be very untraditional with no singing, no donkeys, no piñatas… because apparently our friends want to grill burgers.

BURGERS.

Whatever, that’s how we roll in Cancun.

 

This post is part of a Blog Hop on posadas! Want to read more about Mexican posadas from some of my friends, or add your own posada post to our Blog Hop? Check it out below…

Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

 

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

A Walk Along Fifth Avenue in Playa del Carmen

The past month has been one of my favorites since I moved to Mexico over 6 years ago. For three weekends in a row, we found great excuses to make the 1-hour drive from Cancun to Playa del Carmen. First we went to the Taste of Playa Food Festival, then the next weekend to the Riviera Maya Jazz Festival, then last weekend just to hang out! Because who doesn’t want to wake up to this…

The most famous area of Playa del Carmen is Fifth Avenue (or “La Quinta”, as the locals call it), a pedestrian street that runs parallel to the beach. All along this avenue, you’ll find charming hotels, tons of restaurants, boutique shops, local artisanry, beautiful cafes and chic nightclubs right on the beach.

Coco Maya Beach and Night Club

A predominantly European destination, Playa del Carmen’s Fifth Avenue is ideal for people-watching. You’ll see everything from luxury travelers to backpackers all on one unique street.

My personal favorite part of Fifth Avenue is a small off-street called “Calle Corazon” (Heart Street). Calle Corazon is filled with twinkle lights, cafes and art galleries, and I lose myself in its magical atmosphere every time I walk by.

Calle Corazon

 

From Fifth Avenue, it’s just a one-block stroll down to the stunning Caribbean beach, where travelers can indulge in enticing meals right on the sand at oceanfront palapa restaurants. But to be honest, sometimes we don’t even make it to the beach! Our favorite thing to do is to simply walk up and down Fifth Avenue and talk about how much we want to move to Playa del Carmen.

"Jellyfish Lanterns"

What’s your favorite travel destination?

Disclosure:  I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Community Manager for the Mexico Today Program.  All stories, opinions and passion for all things Mexico shared here are completely my own.

Online Shoppers Don't Have To Put Up With This

The other week while shopping at Plaza Las Americas for a sweater for Jorge’s upcoming Christmas trip (yay!), I stopped by a clothing store to browse a bit. On a high-up shelf, there was a headless, armless, legless mannequin wearing a gorgeous cream-colored strapless dress.

Since I couldn’t find the dress on any racks, I asked a saleslady for help and she asked my size. “Large”, I answered. The saleslady goes into the back and brings back a dress. “Sorry, we only have medium. Try this one on.”

A tad doubtful, I made my way to the fitting room with the medium dress in-hand.

The skinny fitting room attendant looks at me and says, “Are you sure you don’t want a larger size? Maybe something wider?

She then made me hold the dress up to my body to make sure it was the correct size.

Then she brought the large size down from the mannequin “just in case”.

Wow. Consider me humiliated.

Anyway, I’ve been going to the gym for a year and was doing well, but I haven’t been able to lose any more weight for a few months now. I’ve plateaued. (sp?)

So this week I went to a nutritionist and have officially begun my new 1300 calorie diet to lose my recommended 25 pounds of fat! The diet combined with my normal workout routine will hopefully result in fabulousness by April or May.

Let’s do this.

**Note: The medium size fit, by the way. In your face, fitting room attendant!

Honeymoon in Rio de Janeiro: Botanical Garden

Moving on with the Rio de Janeiro posts (it’s been awhile)…

On the third morning of our trip, Jorge and I spent about an hour trying to figure out which was the correct bus to get to the Botanical Garden. After getting several different answers from several different people while trying to find out which one-way street was correct, we were finally on our way!

We passed through Ipanema and the uber-fabulous neighborhood of Leblon. I knew we’d arrived at the Botanical Garden when I saw several lines of the tallest palm trees I’ve ever seen just off to my left. (Palm trees don’t get that tall here in Cancun, aka Hurrican Territory!)

Here are the pictures! It only cost a few dollars per person, and it was a great way to spend a few hours:

My Mexican Thanksgiving

As I was going through some pictures yesterday, I realized I hadn’t told you about my Thanksgiving!

Back in the US, my family does Thanksgiving just like everyone else’s family… turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy and lots of desserts! When I was in college in Cancun, I never had any fall breaks. Now that I’m working, I only get back home for Christmas. So I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving since 2005, I think. (or seen any fall weather, for that matter!)

This year, my suegros took pity on me and prepared a lovely Thanksgiving dinner. They invited some of their friends, and I invited some of mine. We had a pretty big group (not all are pictured), including an American priest from the church my suegros go to.

There was turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and lots of veggies! Everyone seemed to really enjoy all the American food. I was almost expecting them to break out the tortillas, but they resisted.

Thanksgiving dinner still had some undeniably Mexican touches to it, though… dinner didn’t begin until 10:30 pm, the turkey was heavily seasoned with lime, the dinner was blessed by a Catholic priest, and the priest had to explain the Thanskgiving story several times to our Mexican guests. Close enough!

Me being a dork

Oh mashed potatoes… it’s been too long since we last met!