A Night at Parque Las Palapas

Parque Las Palapas is one of my favorite places in Cancun. It’s not particularly fancy and there’s no ocean view, but the atmosphere is great.

This park (and I use the term loosely because it’s mostly paved) has a food area where you can buy tacos, tortas, etc, along with tons of junk food carts (yum!) and vendors selling tables of used books, traditional clothing, handmade jewelry and more.

Last time I went, it just happened to be the night of the pageant to crown the Junior King and Queen for the upcoming Cancun Carnaval. There was a pretty big crowd gathered around the main stage at Parque Las Palapas. I guessed that the girl in the blue dress was going to win because her dress was the most sparkly. And she won!

After the pageant, my friends and I strolled around the park and just took it all in. Lots of families, kids running around, and a group of guys playing drums for tips. It’s a fun place to just hang out with the people of Cancun.

If you’re ever in downtown Cancun one evening and want to see where all the local families go, stop by Parque Las Palapas and just walk around for a bit. Maybe buy some jewelry. Parque Las Palapas is located near the ADO  bus station, just between Avenida Tulum and Avenida Yaxchilan.

Release the Turtles!

I have to admit that my life is pretty cool. I got to spend my Monday morning on a Caribbean beach watching young sea turtles swim in the ocean for the first time.

This photo was taken by my friend Pamela Acosta on Monday morning. God bless GoPro cameras.

Xcaret park in the Riviera Maya invited a bunch of us over for the day to see the first sea turtle release of their 2014 season. Here in the Cancun / Riviera Maya area, mother sea turtles come to our beaches to nest and lay their eggs. Many local volunteers, companies and resorts have baby sea turtle programs where they rope off turtle nests to keep them from harm, then releases the newborns into the sea to make sure they get there safely. (The path from the nest to the ocean can be perilous for them!) Only 1 out of 1,000 of these newborns will reach adulthood.

However, Xcaret goes a step further to increase their odds of survival in the wild by caring for the turtles until they reach 15 months. So, throughout February and March 2014, Xcaret will be releasing a few of their 15-month old sea turtles every day at noon on their amazing beach!

The water was STUNNING. Oh my gosh. The water. Wow.

And the turtles had a paparazzi-like crowd to make them feel like celebrities.

They let the kids form a group for each turtle, then release them one at a time. It was one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen!

What a great way to start the week. Thanks Xcaret!

Weekend in Akumal

After months of rain, rain, rain, my tan is finally starting to make a comeback!

Last week was my best friend Viri’s birthday, and a bunch of us headed down to Akumal for the weekend to celebrate. (With stops in Playa del Carmen for food on the way there and back, of course.) We booked the 3-bedroom condo at Vista del Mar on Half Moon Bay for a night, and it was huge! I didn’t take pictures of the condo, but you can see pictures of their condos here.

HALF MOON BAY PICTURES

Most of the weekend was spent relaxing on the hotel’s beach. Half Moon Bay is much different from Akumal Bay. It is filled with rocks and fossilized coral, which is perfect for taking beautiful pictures, but difficult to walk on. If you’re ever on Half Moon Bay for the week, I’d recommend a camera and water shoes.

CONDO PICTURES

The only part of our condo that I did manage to snap some pictures of was the balcony. It was big and facing the beach! We spent a lot of time on the balcony eating and hanging out.

AKUMAL BAY PICTURES

While the guys had ceviche at Lol-Ha restaurant, us girls went to hang out on the beach and play in the water of Akumal Bay. This beach has zero rocks and zero waves! This time, there were even schools of fish nibbling on my legs. It was cute 95% of the time, but there were a few fish that liked to bite my knees pretty hard.

Akumal is located in the Riviera Maya, about an hour and a half south of Cancun. (Halfway between Playa del Carmen and Tulum) We loved Vista del Mar hotel because of the spacious condos, amazing views and great location just a quick walk from La Buena Vida bar.

Discovered! Downtown Cancun Street Markets

Jorge and I have been buying our fruits and veggies at the supermarket for years, but I was intrigued when he filled me in on a small street market that comes to his parents’ neighborhood once a week. I went for the first time this week.

It was just a small family with a few tables set up on a side street, but the selection was just as good as the produce section at our favorite supermarket! And let’s face it, a little more charming.

The vegetables were the best part! HUGE stalks of lettuce and spinach, big cucumbers, lots of chiles to choose from (dried and regular), and tomatoes that were twice the size of the ones we get at the supermarket.


The fruit was great as well, and I even spotted a few fruits that I hadn’t seen at the supermarket in a few months, like red mangoes and pears. The yellow mangoes weren’t looking so hot, but everything else was beautiful.

Jorge told me that they’ve been around since he was a kid and they set up in different neighborhoods on different days of the week. I asked the owner more about the place while she was weighing our purchases, and she told me that they get most of their vegetables from her brother’s farm in the state of Puebla. (For those of you unfamiliar with the Cancun area, the Yucatan Peninsula is mostly limestone, meaning the ground is not good for agriculture. Almost all fruit, veggies, and dairy products have to be shipped in from central Mexico.)

This little market runs from 7am – 2pm (more or less… hey, it’s Mexico), and here’s their weekly schedule:

  • Sunday: At the big tianguis near Avenida Lopez Portillo (no idea where, but you’ll find plenty of produce vendors there)
  • Monday: In Unidad Morelos, just off of Avenida Kinik
  • Tuesday: On Avenida Kabah, across from the Ombligo Verde
  • Wednesday: In Puerto Morelos
  • Friday: On Avenida Kohunlich

Here’s what Jorge and I made off with this week (minus the grapefruits the owner was weighing while I took the picture):

I’ve never bought farm fresh produce before, and I can already see that it looks bigger and healthier than the store-bought stuff we usually get. I’m curious to see how long it stays fresh; I’ve heard from some that it lasts a few days longer than supermarket produce, while others tell me it lasts less time because it has less preservatives. So far, everything still looks great 2 days later, except for the bananas that have started to turn, but that happens to our supermarket bananas as well. We’ll see!

What are your experiences buying organic and/or farm fresh produce? How does it hold up to supermarket produce?

 

No Better Place for a Day Off!

We just had a 3-day weekend here in Mexico! Many people in Cancun who work at hotels had to work on Monday, but Jorge and I are blessed with jobs that gave us the day off on Monday. It was also our 7-year anniversary of becoming a couple and the weather was PERFECT, so we knew we had to go to the beach. But which one? We woke up Monday morning and I asked Jorge where he wanted to go, and he said Isla Mujeres. (He almost always chooses Isla Mujeres), an island located just off the coast of Cancun.

Around noon, we headed to Puerto Juarez to catch the ferry. We had lunch, walked around town, bought some ice cream, then headed over to Playa Norte / North Beach. I’d mentioned to Jorge that the part of North Beach where we usually go had been crowded the past few times, so we decided to go to the northern end of North Beach for the first time. It was just as crowded, but we still liked it better! This end didn’t have the big black sand bags that the other part of North Beach has, plus it has no hotels, which means less loungers and umbrellas for rent. We felt like we fit in better at this part of North Beach because it was overall a younger crowd (20s and 30s mostly) and everyone just spread their blankets on the sand like we did, instead of having the view blocked by hotel loungers like usual. Some people were even smart enough to bring their hammocks. It felt like a beach camp!

 

The water was calm and peaceful, just like the rest of North Beach, but it was even shallower! Instead of being waist-deep, it was only knee-deep  or calf-deep.

 

The knee-deep water meant that Jorge and I spent most of the afternoon doing this:

 

There was a little silver fish that decided we were tasty and spent quite awhile exfoliating / nibbling at our feet, just like at the fancy spas! But for free 🙂

When I took my camera into the ocean, Jorge kept telling me not to get it so close to the water. But I couldn’t resist! And the pictures were worth it.

After awhile in the water, we went back to our shady spot under a palm tree and napped for an hour. When we woke up, the view looked like this:

After the beach, we had a pretty amazing dinner and saw a side of Isla Mujeres we’d never seen before… but that’s a story for another blog post.