Sunday at Cancun’s Playa Delfines

Jorge and I spent Sunday at Playa Delfines (Dolphin Beach) in Cancun. It has been years since we hung out at the beach in the Hotel Zone! Usually we prefer Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen or Puerto Morelos, but I’m glad we finally came around and decided to enjoy our city for once.

Honeymoon in Rio de Janeiro: Ipanema Sunset

Last night I realized I hadn’t finished showing you guys our honeymoon photos from Rio.

The photos today are very special to me.

Here’s the story behind them: Jorge and I had just been through one of the worst days of our lives as we missed our flight back to Mexico. I’d spent all morning crying at the airport and making desperate phone calls, then we went back to our vacation apartment for an afternoon nap. We woke up late afternoon, still with no idea how or when we were going to get home, and walked out toward Ipanema because that’s where the Subway shop was (extra vacation days = poor).

When I saw the sunset on Ipanema Beach, I knew that this was the reason we’d missed our flight. God wanted us to see this…

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?

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.

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.

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:

Honeymoon in Rio de Janeiro: Thongs and Fashion

On our recent trip to Rio, we were very surprised by some of the… um… “unique” fashion trends, and not so surprised by others.

Thongs

Everything you’ve heard is true. Brazilian women love to wear their thong bikinis on the beach! Every single woman aged 15 on up to 90 on the beach was wearing a thong bikini, or a very small bikini that had been “tucked in” to resemble a thong. They seemed to be pretty shameless about it as well, which was shocking at first but seemed quite normal after a few days.  They would bend over, run around with the kids, and even play a game of beach  paddleball in their thongs.

Interestingly, the Brazilian women were quite modest when not on the beach. Even when walking along the boardwalk, the ladies were fully covered… unlike Cancun or parts of the US, where you’ll see women walking along in bikini tops. Not so in Rio. When you’re not on the sand, you cover up.

Everything you’ve heard about Brazilian butts is also true. We did not see a single Brazilian woman there who didn’t have a fabulous butt. Didn’t matter if they were skinny or fat, young or old… amazing butts, all of them.

About 2/3 of the men were wearing speedo’s, but luckily Jorge didn’t feel too left out because there were a good amount wearing trunks as well.

American men will never be secure enough to hug another man wearing a speedo.

Workout Gear

We mostly stayed in the Copacabana and Ipanema districts of Rio, where you’ll find tons of locals biking, playing soccer, playing paddleball, walking and running. They even have gym stations on the beach so guys can do pull-ups!

By Day 2, Jorge had noticed that many of the women were wearing the same workout outfit that seemed a bit odd to us. We saw at least 20 women wearing this trend every day: leggings with knee-high athletic socks. For posterity’s sake, we documented some of these women so you can see it’s actually true:

After seeing it so much, this trend actually began to look attractive. Luckily we left Rio before I had a chance to buy my long athletic socks.

What interesting fashion statements have you seen in other cultures?

Honeymoon in Rio de Janeiro: Ipanema Beach

Moving along with the honeymoon posts, today I’ll write about my favorite part of Rio de Janeiro: Ipanema.

You may remember we stayed in the Copacabana district, which was lovely, but on the 3rd day of our trip we finally made it to the neighboring beach neighborhood of Ipanema. Once we discovered it, we’d spent hours on the remaining days of our trip just wandering around the streets and beach of Ipanema, just a 20 minute walk from our Copacabana apartment. It has a very cool vibe, with lots of surfers, beautiful views and endless restaurants to choose from. Ipanema is the perfect place to just… be.

If we ever make it back to Rio, we’re definitely staying in Ipanema!

Note: I know I’ve been using the slideshow feature a lot lately. Personally I like it better for posts with lots of photos, but if you have a hard time seeing it please let me know and I’ll be sure to use regular format in the future.

Taste of Playa 2011

I’d been looking forward to this past Sunday for a year now, and I was not disappointed!

Jorge, Viri, Juan and I all made our way south to Playa del Carmen for the annual Taste of Playa culinary event, sponsored by Diamonds International. For those who haven’t had the chance to explore the Riviera Maya, the city of Playa del Carmen is well-known for its charming bars and restaurants. The entire Quinta Avenida (Fifth Avenue) is filled with all kinds of dining venues, ranging from casual sandwich shops to chic upscale restaurants. Local bars are open-air, ideal for people watching while indulging in a margarita or artisan beer.

At Taste of Playa,  the best of all these unique options come together at Parque Fundadores, set on the Quinta Avenida right by the Caribbean Sea. Guests lined up to purchase “Playa Pesos”, each costing $10 pesos (roughly $1 USD) each. With just 1 Playa Peso, you can purchase some mouthwatering tacos, a cold cocktail, a spicy ceviche or even sushi!

We each wandered around on our own, sampling from almost every vendor we saw. The favorites among our small group were the crunchy tacos and some chocolate-covered cream puffs. I’m always surprised how the simplest dishes often turn out to be the best.

After an hour or two of culinary inspiration at Taste of Playa, our small group walked up and down Quinta Avenida to enjoy the laid-back vibe of Playa del Carmen before heading back to Cancun (where we immediately went to a taco joint, surprise surprise).

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, I’ll let the slideshow do most of the talking. Try not to drool onto your keyboard:

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.