Another Isla Mujeres Beach Day

By now it’s no secret that Jorge and I loooooove Isla Mujeres for a beach day! It’s so close to Cancun, the ferry ride is gorgeous, and the waters at North Beach are super calm for wave-haters like us.

So of course, we couldn’t start 2015 without a day on the island. Unfortunately, the day was very, very windy and even the pool-like water at North Beach had waves! We were disappointed at the rough-ish water, but that didn’t stop us from chilling on the beach all afternoon.

Not much new to say here, but I had to show you guys our pics from this weekend. From the Ultramar ferry to North Beach, Hidalgo Street and the Malecon.


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.

Mahahual: City of Signs

Sometimes a big personality can add great flavor to even the smallest travel destinations.

On my road trip to Mahahual this year (see all the beach pics here!), I fell in love with all the colorful signs I found while walking along the Malecon. Some of them were cute, some informative, and some hilarious. Clearly, this is a beach town that knows how to have some fun. Enjoy!


And of course… the one sign that every travel blogger wants to see… truly this must be paradise.


Mahahual Road Trip!

Over my 9 years in Cancun, I’ve made an effort to explore all the main travel destinations in the state of Quintana Roo. I’ve made it to Holbox, Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Morelos and Akumal. All the big ones. All that was left was Mahahual, Bacalar, and Sian Ka’an. A few months ago, I got to cross two of those off my list!

My friend Julie (another gringa) and I planned a little weekend road trip to Mahahual and Bacalar… not an easy thing to because they’re 4 – 5 hours south of Cancun. We took her car down the main highway, and we gossiped and reminisced about 90s music along the way. There was an overnight stay in Tulum before we made it to the little beach town of Mahahual for the afternoon.

The original plan was to stay a night in Mahahual, but since it was Semana Santa (“Holy Week”, kind of like Mexico’s Spring Break when they all go on vacation), all of the hotels in Mahahual were booked solid. So a few hours would have to be enough!

When we arrived in Mahahual, I wasn’t too excited. All the action is set along the Malecon, a beachfront pedestrian street, and it was packed. I don’t mind a busy beach, but this was ridiculous. And Mexicans don’t do beach days quite like Americans do. Americans will spread out a towel, tan, order a few drinks and play in the water. On the other hand, when Mexicans travel with the family, they will usually grab a table on the sand so they can eat and drink all day. (Let’s be honest, the Mexican way is so much better.) Unfortunately, this meant that the beach I’d dreamed of visiting for years was filled with plastic tables and chairs.

Luckily as Julie and I walked further down the Malecon, the crowds thinned out a little and we were able to find a beach club with some space. We ordered some drinks and a light lunch, and spent all afternoon hanging out in the water!

Just off the beach, there’s a reef where the waves break, so the water right by the beach is shallow and still, like a pool. It was HEAVENLY.

Our stretch of beach was pretty quiet, but I could see the Semana Santa crowds further down. My next Mahahual trip will be during low season!

For now I’ll leave you all with pictures of the beach and the Malecon, which was pretty cool! I’ll definitely be back to Mahahual.

Yucatan Weekend! Mayan Architecture and Magic Towns

As all my Facebook and Instagram followers know, Jorge and I were in Yucatan recently! We toured Chichen Itza and the town of Valladolid. (Valladolid is about 1 hour and 30 minutes from Cancun, and Chichen Itza is about 2 hours and 30 minutes.)

It was Jorge’s very first time at Chichen Itza and my third. Sometimes I feel that even though I’m the gringa and he’s the Mayan, I know a lot more ancient Mayan culture than he does haha I guess that’s what happens when you become a travel writer. As soon as we got there, Jorge was blown away. I rarely see him get this excited about anything that’s not a video game.

Our first stop was El Castillo pyramid, Chichen Itza’s most famous structure. This is also the one that has the descending shadow snake on the spring equinox! There were people behind us the whole time clapping because if you clap from certain points, it echoes back from the top of the pyramid and sounds like an eagle.

Also, like so many women do, I have married a man who is very much like my father. We always joke that my dad can’t go anywhere without seeing somebody he knows, and Jorge is no different. At Chichen Itza, we ran into his cousins!

We stayed at Chichen Itza for about 4 hours total, and I have one recommendation: less souvenir stands, more water stands! The amount of salesmen blowing their “jaguar call” whistles was ok for about 2 minutes, but the rest of the day I felt like I wanted to punch them. If you ever visit Chichen Itza, I hope you enjoy several hours of fake jaguar calls in your ear. And I only found 2 water stands the entire day, which is pretty difficult when you’re exploring an entire city with little shade. Travel tip: Bring your own water to Chichen Itza. Lots of water. Other than that, we loved it! Most people only know El Castillo and maybe the Observatory, but Chichen Itza has so many other structures! A large structure surrounded by thousands of pillars, beautiful artwork, small platforms, even more large pyramids you’ve never heard of, and a huge Mayan ball game court.

If you look closely at these pillars, you can see the engravings of Mayan warriors. Jorge loved these!

So… do you think you can get a ball through this hoop using only your hips to touch the ball? It’s probably for the best that you can’t, because the winning team of the Mayan ball game was sacrificed to the gods as an honor.

After Chichen Itza, we spent a night in Valladolid. Mexico has a “Magic Town” campaign where towns across the country are recognized for their culture, history and attractions. Valladolid is one of Mexico’s “Magic Towns”. I didn’t take many pictures because I was  tired of playing photographer after the day at Chichen Itza.

The evening was spent watching cultural dancing by a park, hanging out in the main plaza, eating dinner by the main plaza and taking pictures of the cathedral.

We stayed at Hotel San Clemente, which I HIGHLY recommend! A few Facebook acquaintances highly recommended Meson del Marques hotel which is right on the square, but sadly it was out of our budget. However, Hotel San Clemente did not disappoint… right next door to the cathedral, pool, pretty courtyard, lots of hot water and a spacious room, all for $450 pesos a night (less than $40 USD). Next time I might spend the extra money just to stay in a hotel or B&B with more charm and style, but Hotel San Clemente was an amazing deal. Here’s the view from our room’s door:

In the morning, we crossed the main square to enjoy breakfast at the Valladolid market because you can’t spend a morning in Valladolid without breakfast at the market. I got a huge plate of fruit and Jorge got all kinds of tacos. Next we stopped by Casa de los Venados, which is a colonial home that was once abandoned and now has been renovated by an American couple as their house and a museum. You can go on a guided tour for about 1 hour, and all the bedrooms, courtyard, kitchen, living room, etc are filled with Mexican folk art. I’ve never seen anything like it! I wanted to focus on the experience instead of the pictures so I have nothing to show from my visit, but you can check out the Casa de los Venados website here.

Well that’s all I’ve got from our Yucatan trip! Jorge and I hope to go to Izamal in the future, and return to Valladolid with more time and more money.

I’ll Never Be Happy With Normal Food Again

It’s good to have a press pass.

Today I got to go with a bunch of friends to the Gourmet Tasting Village at the Cancun Riviera Maya Wine & Food Festival! And Oh. My. Goodness. We had the best time!

We spent two hours devouring sample sizes of gourmet food created by restaurants, caterers and resorts in the Cancun and Riviera Maya region! Some of it was just “meh”, but most of it was unbelievable. The event also had lots and lots of wine to sample, but our little group was so intently focused on the food that we kinda forgot about the wine. Whoops!

Here are some of my favorite pics… I won’t share all of them because I don’t want to ruin the surprises for anyone who is going to the Gourmet Tasting Village on Sunday.

The Gourmet Tasting Village is still going on Sunday afternoon, March 16 from 2 – 5 pm. (You’ll want to get there at 2 because trust me, you need the full 3 hours.) If you like the Cancun Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival on Facebook, you can even get passes at 2 for the price of 1!

Buy your tickets here.


The Press Conference that Turned Me Into a Foodie

Amazing things don’t usually happen on Wednesdays… but last Wednesday, something pretty amazing happened to me.

A media friend of mine invited me to a press conference for the Cancun Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival. Most press conferences are just the event organizers sitting at a table answering press questions and having their picture taken, but this was something else! I showed up to the beautiful Casa Rolandi and was taken to a large table with this view:

And the view from the deck! These are all pictures of the Nichupte Lagoon.

I was soon joined by my friend Kelly (aka Cancun Canuck). Figures the American and the Canadian would be the first to show up. As the rest of the group trickled in, it became clear that this was no ordinary press conference… we had just sat down to a multi-course tasting lunch with the founder and marketing team of the Cancun Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival!

Along with some other bloggers and “tweeters”, I feasted on course after course while the festival organizers told us all about the Cancun Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival for 2014. This is the region’s biggest food event, and it’s known for its luxury events, celebrity chefs, wine tastings, and upscale dinners hosted at some of the area’s best hotels and venues. Founder David Amar said, “We strive to showcase the world’s food and wine projects and the stories behind it… Even more than the names, it’s the story behind WHY.”

But back to my lunch! Had I known what I had gotten myself into, I would have brought my trusty Nikon camera. But alas, I’ll have to make due with my cell phone pictures. Here are just a few of the courses we had at Casa Rolandi:

My favorite, the white fish sashimi

Everything you need to make tiny pork tacos

My pork taco creation

Would you believe I have never gotten one of these fancy platters before?

Lamb and sweet potato. Wow.


Just when I thought nothing could beat the sashimi, Casa Rolandi proved me wrong. They brought out the dessert.

I usually go by the rule, “If it’s not chocolate, it’s not worth my time” when it comes to dessert. I was wrong. So wrong. I’m not 100% sure what this is. I believe it’s some kind of large macaroon with a passion fruit or mango ice cream. Either way, it blew my taste buds away.


After that lunch, I felt like a true cuisine connoisseur! It really got me revved up for the Cancun Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival. The festival’s events will mostly take place in the Cancun area this year (last year they were in the Riviera Maya). It will run March 13 – 16, 2014 with events like celebrity chef cook-offs, wine tastings (as well as mezcal, champagne and whiskey!) with top sommeliers, the Gourmet Tasting Village and a yacht cruise to Isla Mujeres. Their goal is to increase the luxury tourism market in the Cancun – Riviera Maya area with several days of upscale culinary events.

For all the information on the events and guest chefs, stop by the Cancun Riviera Maya Wine and Food Festival website. See you there!


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.


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.


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.


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.