Ceviche and Sunsets on Isla Mujeres

Work is fiiiinally starting to slow down, and I’m back to share some more of my adventures with you guys! Two weeks ago, Jorge and I got to go to Isla Mujeres with some friends for a fun Sunday afternoon. The other two couples with us weren’t as familiar with the island as we were, so we got to show them some of our favorite spots.

We also stayed until dark, which is something we’ve never done before.

First was my favorite part: the ferry ride! Seriously, for the absolute best Caribbean Sea views, grab a camera, get a seat on the top deck of the Ultramar ferry and thank me later.

 

Next was a little walk through downtown Isla Mujeres. I love all the different kinds of island transportation.

 

And of course, I tried to get a few pics of the downtown Isla Mujeres lifestyle. I’m working more on getting pics of people and things instead of just scenery and alcoholic beverages…..

 

For lunch we went to my favorite place: Jax! Upper story terrace with ocean views. Sadly I only got 1 pic because I was too busy stuffing my face with a Coke float and ceviche. (It was ridiculously hot that day.)

 

After lunch, of course we walked up the street to Playa Norte (North Beach). I really need to stop going to Isla Mujeres on weekends. So. Many. Boats.

 

We spread out our sarongs in the shade of a palm tree and took turns going into the ocean to cool off. As the conversation flowed, we found out that one couple used to live in the same apartment the other couple lives in now. (It was the first time the two couples had met.) Cancun is really, really small.

 

A few of use bought some ankle bracelets from a vendor walking along the beach. Here’s mine (still wearing it now)!

 

A few hours later, we saw the sun going down over the water and moved closer to shore. This is really sad, but I had no idea that you could see the sun set from Playa Norte. Cancun sits on the eastern coast of Mexico, so we can see sunrises but not many sunsets. Isla Mujeres is an exception.

 

Once it started to get dark, we walked back downtown to one of Jorge’s favorites: the delicious and super-cheap Los de Pescado, a fish taco and burrito joint right by the main square. Then it was back to Cancun on the ferry, where we came within inches of crashing into a pirate ship. (I can’t really elaborate much more on that story… it’s exactly what it sounds like.)

Hasta luego, Isla Mujeres!

 

 

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?

Isla Mujeres Pics and My Dream Home

On the way back to Cancun from our Whale Shark tour, we swung by one of our favorite places: Isla Mujeres. The Solo Buceo tour guide team provided us with lunch and snacks to eat on the boat while we cruised along the Isla Mujeres coastline.

We rode by Playa Norte

Then we made our way to the south end of the island, which I’d never seen from the ocean before. There was lots of lush greenery and a few tiny islands. I was in love!

That's the Cancun skyline on the horizon.

We even got to swim a bit just off the coast. Even though the water was crystal clear, it was also quite deep!

Nadia and me

But my absolute favorite part was spotting my dream house. My long-time readers know about my obsession with houses (I blame my parents), and this one, although under construction, did not disappoint. It was set right on the edge of a rocky peninsula, bordered by turquoise on two sides. It even had a few palapas and pergolas being built.

Tomorrow I’ll post some pics of our arrival back to Cancun and dry land. WHAT A DAY!

Where would your dream house be located? (Would it be a hurricane risk like mine?)

 

Swimming with Giants

Every single time I’ve gone snorkeling, whether it be in Belize, at Xcaret, at Xel-ha or in Akumal, I’ve experienced a kind of claustrophic panic. As soon as my head gets underwater, I flip out. Usually I’m able to relax after a few minutes, but snorkeling is still an uncomfortable feeling for me.

When Jorge, my friend Nadia and I decided to swim with whale sharks this weekend, I was so excited but mostly nervous! I’d never snorkeled in more than 10 feet of water before, much less in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight. Or swimming alongside a 30-foot fish.

At 7 am Sunday morning, we made our way to the Solo Buceo dive center located at the beautiful Dreams Cancun Resort and Spa in the Hotel Zone.

Our early-morning boat ride was much bumpier than I’d anticipated, and I realized it was my first time being so far away from shore! It was a scary but fascinating feeling.

Me and Nadia, ready to go!

It took us about an hour to get to the area where the whale sharks hang out. Since we were one of the first boats to arrive, we spent awhile circling the area and communicating with other boats looking for the whale sharks. Once a boat had found them, we saw all of the other boats racing toward the area, where there were about 50 whale sharks.  Beautiful.

Several couples came along with us on the boat, and the guides would take us out into the water in teams of 2. When we spotted a whale shark swimming nearby, the boat would head it off, then the guides would jump in with 2 people and swim along with the whale shark.

Since we were a bit nervous, Jorge and I waited until last. We both panicked a bit when we jumped in, but once I was able to slide my mask on and put my face underwater, the guide pointed toward my right and I saw it, swimming underneath us. Pepe (the guide) grabbed my hand and pulled me forward, and we were able to swim on top of it for awhile before it disappeared into the depths of the ocean.

Jorge and I getting ready to jump in!

Nadia looking much calmer than I could ever be

After the first round of swims, several of the people on our boat got seasick and just waited it out. The rest of us jumped in several more times. On my 2nd and 3rd swims, we tried to head off a whale shark but it went another direction, so we had to look for another one! Both times, another whale shark came swimming right at us. Since the water is so clear, I could see the whale sharks coming from quite a ways away. I can’t begin to tell you what it feels like to have this giant fish swim right at you, mouth gaping open.

Since I don’t have an underwater camera I couldn’t take any photos (fail), but here’s a shot from my friend Kelly McLaughlin so you can get an idea of just how amazing these things look:

Photo by Kelly McLaughlin

On those last 2 swims, I got to swim along just a few feet from the whale shark for several minutes. The immense gills were fascinating, and the spots were sparkly, like they’d been bedazzled by a 12-year-old girl. After we stopped and the animal swam away, I couldn’t stop looking at its huge tail!

Even though I was planning on being frightened and out of my element, it was a surprisingly peaceful experience. The whale sharks are calm, slow-moving creatures and we never once felt in danger. My guide Pepe was also great about guiding me along and pointing everything out, so I never felt lost out on the open sea.

Jorge and his guide swimming alongside a whale shark

The ocean itself surprised me almost as much as the whale sharks. As we were snorkeling along, the water was so incredibly clear and intensely blue. Rays of light shone through and disappeared way down. Even with such clear water, I couldn’t see the bottom. I can’t even imagine how deep it went.

Gringation’s Whale Shark Tour Tips:

  1. Put on sunscreen before you leave the house, or bring bio sunscreen. I was too lazy to put sunscreen on before leaving the house, and our guide told us that once you’re on the boat, it’s bio sunscreen only. And today I’m paying the price. So much sunburn. Ow.
  2. Bring an underwater camera. In a way I was glad I didn’t have one because it was one less thing to worry about while I was swimming, but trust me, you’ll want those underwater photos.
  3. The boat ride is bumpy and uncomfortable (but worth it), so I wouldn’t recommend this tour unless you’re in decent physical condition.
  4. Sunglasses!
  5. Dramamine!

We stopped by Isla Mujeres on the way back… I’ll post those pics tomorrow!

For more underwater pics and a video, check out Kelly’s post: Swimming with Whale Sharks Cancun

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.

Xcaret

This weekend, I made the quick trip from Cancun to Playa del Carmen with Jorge’s family to visit one of my favorite places in the world: Xcaret.

Xcaret is an immense ecopark filled with unbelieveable attractions. I’ve been there 4 or 5 times already, and I still haven’t seen everything! The park has Mayan ruins, an underground river, a Mayan village, an hacienda, greenhouses, a huge butterfly pavilion (my favorite part), stunning beaches, dolphins, jaguars, sharks, a lookout tower, amazing restaurants, an aquarium… and the list goes on. All this is surrounded by lush jungle and winding paths, making you feel as if you’ve stepped into another world.

This park isn’t just about nature, though. It’s about Mexico. Combining Mexican culture, Mayan roots and the stunning jungle setting of the Riviera Maya, Xcaret is heaven on Earth. (Except for the snake that slithered across my foot at the entrance… sent that thing flying with a high kick and a scream!)

We started the day wandering around the hacienda near the entrance, with beautiful courtyards and unique colonial artwork, followed by amazing views of the Riviera Maya from the lookout tower. Then, we stopped by the orchid greenhouse (WOW) and took a turn on a riverboat.

A few of us jumped into the underground river, where we swam through caves and vine-covered cliffs, exiting into a beautiful enclosed jungle filled with vibrant butterflies. We walked past jaguars, tapirs and monkeys on our way to explore some Mayan ruins, then stopped by Xcaret’s large aquarium.

After a quick dip in the Caribbean Sea in one of the park’s crystal clear inlets, the family grabbed a quick dinner and headed to Xcaret’s famous show. Mayan warriors greeted us along the fire-lit path to the immense theater, where we sat back and watched the Mayan ball game, Papantla flyers and traditional dances from all over Mexico.

The evening ended with the show’s final song, “Mexico en la Piel” (Mexico In Your Skin), which brings tears to my eyes every. single. time.

Exhausted, I took a little cat nap on the car ride back to Cancun, thinking how much I’m dying to go back already.

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You can follow Xcaret on Twitter via @XcaretPark

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.