A Cancun-Style Fairytale

In summer 2005, I left my family and friends behind. At age 19 I had moved to Cancun, a place where I didn’t know anybody. My first memory of the city is riding in a van from the airport to the downtown bus station. The van passed through the entire length of the Cancun Hotel Zone, stopping to let off other passengers along the way. The city had me hooked immediately. From that first van ride from the airport, I was mesmerized by the glittering lights of the huge beach hotels. This was where I belonged.

This week, 9 years of exploring, writing and learning have culminated in something pretty cool: one of the biggest travel publications in the world has named me a Cancun expert.

I’m thrilled to announce that I’m the Travel + Leisure Cancun Local Expert!

It’s every travel writer’s dream to write for a huge publication like Travel + Leisure, and I’m beyond happy to be working with them. I’ll be sharing my Travel + Leisure articles periodically on the Gringation Blog Facebook page so you can see even more of this city that I love so much.

They also have an extensive list of other great travel experts in different cities across the globe, which you can see here. I’m in good company.

From confused teenage American in 2005… to top Cancun travel expert in 2014!

Thanks to my parents for going along with my crazy move to Mexico, to Jorge for always being there to convince me I’m superwoman, to my boss Michele Kinnon at BuyPlaya Real Estate for recommending me to Travel + Leisure, and to all of my Mexican friends who have showed me what this culture is all about over the past decade.

Snorkeling Adventure in Tankah Cenote

Snorkeling used to terrify me. I would put my face under the water and instantly feel like I was being suffocated. Maybe that’s what claustrophobia feels like?

But living in the Cancun and Riviera Maya area, you have to get over your fear of snorkeling if you want to have any fun!

After 9 year living here, I’m finally comfortable snorkeling. The thought of barracudas still freaks me out more than I like to admit, but I’m trying to move past it. A few weekends ago, I went with a few of my coworkers from BuyPlaya Real Estate on a girls’ day in Tankah Bay! First we snorkeled in the ocean (no pictures, sorry), where we saw lots of huge colorful fish and the entrance to an underwater cave. No barracudas in sight, thank you God.

Next, we walked across the street to the main cenote in Tankah. I’m unsure of the name, but from quick internet searching it seems to be called simply “Tankah Cenote” or “Casa Cenote” (after the nearby restaurant). This cenote is interesting because it connects to the ocean through a large tunnel… the same one we saw when snorkeling in the ocean! It’s a completely open cenote, unlike many of the cave cenotes you’ll find throughout the Yucatan Peninsula.

Our group of four girls spent an hour or two exploring Tankah Cenote, which begins as an open pond-type area then becomes a long river through the mangrove.

The water was simply unbelievable. It reached 4 to 5 meters deep in most areas, but everything was crystal clear. Like swimming in a pool!

What I loved about Tankah Cenote was the mangrove on either side. As you’re swimming along, you see underwater forests of the long, thin roots on either side of you. The entire coast of the Riviera Maya is filled with mangrove, and it’s a huge part of the local eco system. At this cenote, you can see why! Mangrove roots thrive when growing in mud and water, so they serve as the perfect filter to keep the water clean and free of debris. In fact, the mangrove tree system is one of the main reasons that the ocean and cenotes in this area are so clear!

The mangrove is also home to lots of baby wildlife, as well. It must be fish hatching season, because we spotted thousands and thousands of baby fish living in the underwater mangrove roots. Just gorgeous.

During my snorkeling adventure in Tankah Cenote, I saw lots and lots and lots of baby fish, plus some bigger and more colorful fish near the floor. I even spotted a blue crab! (That little guy was hard to see because he was 5 meters below me and blended with the blue water. I had to dive down a few times to get better look.)

Tankah Cenote was also a fun place for me to get more comfortable with my snorkeling skills. Being in such clear, pool-like water made me feel safer than snorkeling in the waves of the ocean… with all the barracudas… ugh. And of course, my friends and I seized the opportunity to take some fun underwater pictures.

We also saw lots of divers. Apparently Tankah Cenote is also a popular spot for beginner divers, and there were several people there getting scuba diving lessons. I’ll stick to snorkeling for now, thanks.

Tankah Bay is located in the Riviera Maya, just north of Tulum. It has plenty of beautiful beach homes to look at, and of course great snorkeling locations. To get to Tankah Cenote, we drove down the main highway and turned left at a sign with a large peacock on it about 10 minutes after Akumal. Sorry I can’t be more specific!

All of these photos were taken by my friend Lisa Love Juliot, who works with me at BuyPlaya Real Estate.

Fenix Beach Club on North Beach Isla Mujeres

On the same day that we did the Seawalls mural tour of downtown Isla Mujeres, we also spent the afternoon at Fenix Beach Club! It was my first time there, and I was absolutely in love.

Fenix is located on the northern end of North Beach (by the bridge to the Mia hotel), and it has the same crystal clear, shallow waters that the rest of North Beach is known for… but with even less waves! Even though the water in this part was just as clear and beautiful as my previous North Beach pictures, for some reason it didn’t photograph quite as well. Very strange.

Jorge, my friends Tori and Laura and I had an awesome day with limonadas, ceviche and lots of time in the water. To use one of the beds and umbrellas at Fenix, we just had to consume $300 pesos in food and drinks. Not a problem.

Here are some of my favorite pictures! Since it was right in the middle of whale shark season, there were lots of tour boats just offshore enjoying their post-tour lunches. What a beautiful (and ridiculously hot) day.