Hotel Review: Aqualuna Boutique Hotel

On the first night of last weekend’s Playa del Carmen beach getaway, Jorge and I checked into the lovely Aqualuna Boutique Hotel. I immediately fell in love with this little hotel, looking toward the beautiful courtyard area as we walked into the small lobby. Check-in was quick, easy and friendly, and the receptionist took us straight to our room, where we promptly changed and got ready to go out for a late dinner on 5th Avenue.

The location is the biggest plus for this hotel, in my opinion. Set on 10th Avenue, it’s just 1 block from the popular 5th Avenue and 2 blocks from Playa del Carmen beaches. Aqualuna is right next to Calle Corazon, which in my opinion is the most beautiful part of the entire 5th Avenue.

The room was a bit on the small side, but it was very comfortable and decked out in bright pink bougainvillea petals (my favorite flower!), plus I really liked the casual Mexican charm.

The bathroom was my favorite part of our room, with even more bougainvillea petals as well as organic bath amenties and a spacious rain shower. (I might have taken a 30 minute shower Saturday morning!)

Aqualuna also has a convenient outdoor sitting area, perfect for a morning coffee or checking your e-mail on the computer. (Free Wi-Fi is also available.)

I highly recommend Aqualuna Boutique Hotel. This spot has an unbeatable location along with all the amenities you need for a convenient stay, not to mention the laid-back tropical charm that Playa del Carmen hotels are known for.

Restaurant Review: 100% Natural

I’ve been a fan of 100% Natural ever since I first came to Mexico. When I was doing mission work in Acapulco back in 2004, I would often go there with the other interns for breakfast. 100% Natural restaurant is best known for their extensive list of fresh fruit juices and numerous kinds of agua de jamaica (hibiscus water).

My beet and orange juice, and Jorge's Conga drink (canteloupe, watermelon, banana, papaya and guava) in the background

Jorge and I have visited the Playa del Carmen location several times as well as taking my family there back in May. The restaurant has so many options that fit perfectly with my diet, but it’s delicious enough that I like to go even when I’m not watching what I eat. They serve great breakfasts along with pastas, seafood, sandwiches, salads, etc etc etc etc.

On this particular visit, we both ordered wraps. I’ve become a huge fan of the cranberry wrap, stuffed with turkey, lettuce, onion, tomato, dried cranberry and cream cheese.

I always enjoy the casual atmosphere, with a small waterfall and tons of shade with large trees and vines overhead to create a jungle-like atmosphere right on Playa del Carmen’s 5th Avenue.

100% Natural has always been one of my Mexico favorites. Make sure to stop by there for some amazing fruit juice creations next time you’re in Playa del Carmen! They’re located right on 5th Avenue, between Calle 10 and Calle 11.

Playa del Carmen’s Bright Green Beaches

This week is Playa del Carmen Week here on the blog, and boy do I have tons of pictures for you guys!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the area, Playa del Carmen (or “Playa”, as the locals call it) is located in the middle of the Riviera Maya, a 1 hour drive down the coastal highway from Cancun. The island of Cozumel, a popular dive destination, is set just off the coast of Playa del Carmen.

Jorge and I took the ADO bus down to Playa del Carmen on Friday evening for a 2-night stay with Xperience hotels, which was lovely! I’ll be blogging all about our trip throughout the week, with hotel reviews, restaurant reviews and more.

Let’s brighten up Monday with some beach photos, shall we?


Wah Wah Beach Club

We had lunch Saturday afternoon at Wah Wah Beach Club, located by the southern end of Playa’s main pedestrian street, Quinta Avenida. It was a bright and sunny day, but on the horizon there were heavy storm clouds over the island of Cozumel. In some of these shots, you can even see the curtains of rain way off in the distance.

(click to enlarge)


Mamita’s Beach Club

Jorge and I spent Sunday morning at Mamita’s, Playa del Carmen’s most well-known beach club, located at Calle 28 near the northern end of Quinta Avenida. It was a beautiful, beautiful day with tons of fluffy clouds!

squinting into the sun!

I love how green the water is in Playa. Cancun’s ocean has more of a turquoise blue that I love, but there’s something special about the bright emerald green!

So tell us … What’s your favorite beach?

Mini Vacay in PDC

Guess where we’re off to this weekend?!

Playa del Carmen!

I’ll be uploading pics on my Facebook page and on @CancunGringa while we’re there. It’s been rainy the past 2 nights, but hopefully it won’t affect our trip too much.

All I know is I am so ready for the work day to be OVER.

What is everyone else doing this weekend?

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 7

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 1

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 2

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 3

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 4

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 5

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 6

Last time I posted a weight loss update, I had gained half a pound from all my diet cheating. I was getting very frustrated with myself, but even more determined.

Last week, I had another weigh-in with my nutritionist. After 3 weeks of being good on my diet and lots of extra exercise, I was thrilled to finally lose 2 more pounds! It doesn’t sound like a lot, but 2 pounds is quite good when you’re so close to the end.

Only 2 pounds remain to reach my goal weight. Right now I’m at 130 pounds, and I’m aiming for 128 to have a healthy percent body fat of 24%.

I have a horrible cycle of behaving well for 2 weeks, losing weight, then behaving badly for 2 weeks and staying the same, then repeat. Since I behaved amazingly well before my last weigh-in, the current challenge is to break the cycle and follow my diet this time as well. Last week was very iffy with some cheating, but this week has started off amazingly since I’m so determined to finish this already!

I’ve been running/walking 4 – 6 km a few mornings a week, plus I’ve switched to free weights at the gym just to mix things up a bit. My cardio workouts at the gym have also been extended from 15 minutes to 30 minutes. I’m feeling great with all this extra exercise, and it’s fun, too.

Here are my before and after shots for today:

Before - 160 pounds

After - 130 pounds

After - 130 pounds

I love these pics because my legs are beginning to show a bit of muscle tone. I’ve never had muscle tone anywhere in my life! You can see that I have a bit of tummy to get rid of still, but that will happen with time.

Once I lose 2 more pounds of fat, my plan is to stop worrying about the weight and to focus more on toning up and getting healthier at the gym (combined with my maintenance diet, of course).


As I’ve mentioned before, please keep in mind that 128 pounds is my goal weight. It won’t be the ideal weight for everybody… some of you might by healthier at 110 pounds. Others might be healthier at 180 pounds. If you want to lose weight and/or get healthy, I recommend seeing a nutritionist to find out what path is best for you.

Mariachis and Mexican Independence

Saturday night was Mexican Independence Day. In Mexico, locals usually celebrate with house parties or maybe going out to a bar, and many go to their city’s main square to take part in the festivities.

This year, Jorge and I started the evening at our friend Tomas’ house. We were expecting a small gathering of friends, but when we got there, the entire front patio was set up for a large party. Apparently it was Tomas’ sister-in-law’s birthday, so there was a huge double celebration.

All those tables were full an hour later.

They had set up a giant screen on the side wall to show the night's boxing match.

Centerpieces with the Mexican flag and traditional Yucatan candies

Soon after our arrival, a mariachi band showed up to surprise the birthday girl! So much fun.

Many of the party hosts and guests came dressed up in traditional Mexican and Yucatecan clothing. I was too shy to get pictures of them all, but I did manage to get these:

I loved this little girl dancing to the mariachi band in her traditional Yucatan huipil dress.

This little girl in the charro outfit was the best of the night! (She was too shy to let me get a good pic of her)

We did “El Grito” at 11 pm (when everybody across the country shouts “Viva Mexico”!), then made our way to another friend’s house for another party. We were up until 2 am chatting around the table with our friend Raul’s family, then we headed home early because Jorge had to work at 7 am. Overall it was a laid-back, very Mexican night!

How did you celebrate El Quince de Septiembre? (Mexican Independence Day)

New 3D Film on Mexico’s Monarch Butterflies

Call me nerdy, but I am obsessed with anything and everything to do with animals. I watch Animal Planet on a regular basis, and I have to stop and point anytime I see a lizard.

Yesterday I saw this preview for a new film coming out called The Flight of the Butterflies, covering the migration of the monarch butterfly all the way south to the state of Michoacan, Mexico. This is a little embarrassing, but tears came to my eyes with some of these images. What an impact!


Have any of you ever been down to see the monarch butterflies in Michoacan? If so, you’re my hero.


SK Films Presents “Flight of the Butterflies” via MexicoToday

Check out the Flight of the Butterflies website for more details and theater info.

Monks and Mayans Meet at Hacienda Tres Rios

Wednesday was the first day of the Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter at Hacienda Tres Rios, a luxury eco resort located in the Riviera Maya. The goal of this event is to showcase the unique ceremonies of local Mayan communities and Tibetan monks, oftentimes combining the two. The fusion of the Mayan and Tibetan cultures was truly astounding; even though they’re set on opposite sides of the world, the two groups demonstrated some striking similarities!

Tibetan monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery checked in to the resort on Tuesday wearing brightly-colored robes, and the following day began to share their traditions with guests and visitors at Hacienda Tres Rios along with local Mayan performers wearing colorful Yucatecan garb.

Opening Ceremony

In the morning, we made our way out to the beautiful, untouched beach at Hacienda Tres Rios, where a tent had been set up as a stage for the Mayan dancers and Tibetan monks. The ceremony began with opening words from the event’s organizers from Richard Gere Productions, Producciones Arte Maya and Hacienda Tres Rios.

The arrival of the Tibetan monks was a sight to see as they rowed onto the beach and were greeted by the Mayan community with drums and the blowing of conch shells.

As the Tibetan monks lined up under the tent, I was blown away by the combination of the bright monks robes, the white Mayan clothing with vividly colored details, and the mostly-white, flowy outfits of the audience. Beautiful!

We all looked on as the monks began to chant a deep, slow song, which was followed by the Mayan community presenting them with local gifts. Afterwards, Mayan performers with incense and colorful outfits began to dance for the monks and the audience on the sand, hailing the four cardinal points in a fascinating show.

The Sand Mandala

After the opening ceremony, we were led to the resort’s immense lobby to witness the opening of the monks’ sand mandala, a beautiful and elaborate piece of art that the monks will continue to work on until the end of the Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter on Sunday.

The sand mandala ceremony began with several minutes of chanting by the Tibetan monks. They took out didgeridoo instruments (long horns) along with some colorful trumpets and drums. The entire lobby began to vibrate and I thought, “Wow! Those didgeridoos are powerful!” until I realized that it was the monks deep, gutteral chanting that was making the room shake. Incredible! Whenever the monks began to play their other instruments, I noticed it sounded similar to mariachi music, but played with different notes and combinations.

To create the sand mandala, the monks first measured and traced out chalk lines on the center table using string and rulers. They had a separate table filled with brightly colored sand, and they tapped on detailed straw-like instruments to filter the sand into its exact spot on the mandala.

Guests at the resort will be able to view the mandala-making process throughout the rest of the week. The unveiling will be on Sunday September 16, at which time the mandala will also be destroyed. The monks explained to the audience that the mandala is destroyed to represent how fleeting and temporary our life on this earth is. A stunning work of art with a profound message.

The Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter runs until this Sunday at the All Inclusive Hacienda Tres Rios resort. If you’re vacationing in the area this weekend, I recommend you spend a day at the resort to experience the ceremonies, rituals and conferences that will be going on throughout the day.

Follow My Adventures!

Good morning!

Today I’ve been invited to the 2nd Mayan-Tibetan Bicultural Encounter at the stunning Hacienda Tres Rios resort in the Riviera Maya.

Throughout the day, I’ll get to see a mix of Mayan and Tibetan ceremonies, followed by kayaking, snorkeling and swimming in the cenotes (eco resort, baby!), not to mention a lot of eating and drinking (All Inclusive, baby!)

This might be me today!

If you want to hear all about my luxury/eco/cultural/culinary adventures during the day, you can follow hashtags #MexicoToday and #MayaTibet, or @CancunGringa (that’s me!) on Twitter.

To see up-to-the-minute pics on Facebook, make sure to “like” my Gringation’s Blog Facebook Page to follow along as well! We have a lot of fun on there 🙂


Come at me, paradise!

Parque Ecologico Kabah

Lately I’ve been running quite often at Parque Ecologico Kabah (Kabah Eco Park) in downtown Cancun. It’s by far the best place for a run here in the city, with a 2 km trail winding through the jungle with markers every 100 meters.

If you go on a weekday, you’ll see tons of runners sweating their way along the trail, and even some bodybuilders sculpting their physique at the rustic outdoor “gym”.

The "gym"

Most of the trail looks exactly like this, with dense jungle on either side. That's my running buddy Nadia in purple!

There’s also a large playground area which is used a lot on weekends. You’ll see tons of families and school grounds exploring the park on a Saturday or Sunday.

The main playground area


More common areas

I’ve seen lots of different animals on my trips there, including crazy huge yellow ants, chacalacas, a snake and coati (known as pizot in Yucatan Maya).

A gold star for anyone who can tell me what kind of ant this is, because I haven't been able to find out.

Ant showing off his spiderman skills

I’d heard about a pond, so I asked Nadia to show it to me on our most recent run. I was absolutely giddy when we came across this:

A huge group of coati! (Can you see them all?)

Run, dude, run!

Thanks for the picture of me, Nadia!

Coati, chickens and ducks living in harmony

Beautiful mangrove pond

So for all you Cancun expats looking for a place to run or explore, Parque Kabah is a favorite of mine. So peaceful and so beautiful!

Yours truly jogging into the sunrise