My New Orchid

I was excited to walk out the door this morning to see that my new orchid plant finally has its first bloom! I’ve always been a bit of a “black thumb”, so it’s nice to know I didn’t screw this plant up.

We put it in the planter in our front patio because that spot gets some sun during the day.

Would anyone judge me if I said I really want a pair of heels in this print?

The leaves might be my favorite part! We’ve discovered that they open during the day (as you see in the photos) and fold perfectly in half when it gets dark. Very cool.

The leaves are a little lighter than they should be, which has me worried. Maybe if I lift it up a bit with some string so the sun hits it better?

In this shot, you can see that the plant has tons of buds on it... can't wait to see what it looks like in a few days!

We got it from a local plant shop that some guy runs out of his house (gotta love Mexico!). He had several huge versions of this plant in his front yard, and I fell in love!

If anyone can help me identify this plant, I’d really appreciate it! Right now, the only descriptive words I have are “orchid” and “pretty”.

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.

Cenote Verde Lucero

This past weekend, my in-laws, Jorge and I decided to travel in search of adventure in La Ruta de Los Cenotes (The Cenote Route), located just south of the town of Puerto Morelos about half an hour from Cancun.

La Ruta de los Cenotes is a small highway that heads further and further inland from the coast, bordered on either side by dense jungle. Along the way, you’ll see rustic signs pointing toward dirt roads leading off the highway to take you out to adventure parks, eco hotels and beautiful cenotes. (If you’re lucky, you might see some unique Yucatan wildlife crossing the road! We saw a pisot and a tarantula.)

After checking out some eco cabins, artisan shops, local farms and winding dirt roads through the jungles of the Yucatan, we finally came across the stunning Cenote Verde Lucero (Green Star Cenote). We got there late, but decided to go in and explore anyway. The cenote had a zipline, a small cliff, bright green waters, several small caves and a beautiful canopy of trees. There were a few groups there already, and they were having so much fun I knew I had to come back soon and spend an entire day here… maybe bring some sandwiches and sodas and 20 of my closest friends.

An entire day at this cenote is only $80 pesos per person (about $7 US dollars). We will definitely be back here with friends and family, although I can’t promise I’ll be doing any cliff jumping!

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 Trees and Crocodiles at the Sumidero Canyon

As much as I love the immense All Inclusive resorts, Caribbean waters and boisterous nightlife in my current state of Quintana Roo, the lush state of Chiapas holds what many believe to be the most impressive natural beauty in the entire country.

Chiapas is filled with tall mountains, sparkling waterfalls, ancient Mayan ruins, colonial cities and small mountain towns untouched by modern culture, the perfect place for an adventurous getaway. A few years ago, I got to see them all… and I’ve been dying to go back ever since.

Misol-Ha Waterfall

One of the state’s most impressive natural attractions is the Sumidero Canyon, whose stone cliffs reach heights of more than 3,200 feet. On my visit, our group got to take a boat tour along the river that winds through this breathtaking canyon. We drove to the town of Chiapa de Corzo, where we hopped into some boats and headed down the river.

Chiapa de Corzo central square

Our boat ride began on a wide stretch of river, flanked by soft mountains on either side. Once we passed under the bridge, I began to see the steep rock walls that this canyon is known for.

After a few twists and turns, we came across the canyon’s deepest point. This natural gateway is one of the symbols of the state of Chiapas, proudly displayed on its state seal. A simple photo doesn’t come close to describing what it feels like to see this in person, looking up from a tiny boat in the middle of the river. (Somewhere in the back of my mind, I could hear Wallace Shawn screaming “the cliffs of insanity!”)

My favorite part, however, was probably El Arbol de la Navidad (The Christmas Tree), a unique waterfall spilling down the side of the canyon.

The rest of our boat tour is filled with tiny caves (including one with the Virgin Mary), rock islands and even crocodiles.

Can you see it?

Chasing flocks of birds with a motorboat was fun, if not somewhat frightening.

The Yucatan Peninsula, where Cancun is located, is almost completely flat with hardly any hills, much less mountains and cliffs. The fact that I hadn’t seen mountains in years made this trip all the more exciting for me. I hope to go back to Chiapas with Jorge someday, and take our time to really explore everything this state has to offer.

What’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever traveled to?

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.

Baby Sea Turtle Release at the Ritz Carlton Cancun

Step out onto a quiet beach in Cancun and the Riviera Maya on a summer night, and you just might spot a female see turtle laying her eggs in the sand. This summer alone, I’ve had several friends mention that they’ve seen sea turtles laying eggs at night on several beaches in Cancun’s Hotel Zone.

Lots of development and activity, however, has made local beaches unsafe for the turtle eggs, and many resorts are now looking for a way to restore balance by finding the turtle eggs and giving them a safe home until they hatch. The hatchlings are then released into the Caribbean to try their luck on their own.

I was recently invited to the very first Baby Turtle Release of the 2011 season at the Ritz Carlton Cancun. Even though I’ve been living here 6 years, it was the first time I’d witnessed one! PR Director Paulina Feltrin gave me a tour of the beautiful hotel and explained about their Turtle Camp, run by Juan de Dios.

The Ritz Carlton has been helping the baby turtles for more than 13 years! They patrol the beaches at night searching for nesting turtles, then recover the eggs and bring them to safety at their Turtle Camp, where they can rest safely for 45 to 60 days until they hatch.

Each mound of sand is a nest of turtle eggs, labeled with info like the type of turtle and predicted hatch date.

The baby sea turtles are always released in the evenings to increase their chance of survival from predators, although it’s estimated that only 1 in every 1,000 sea turtles will survive to adulthood.

After a glance at the Turtle Camp, Paulina led me down to the beach area, where a large crowd of Ritz Carlton guests had gathered to share the experience.

It was a beautiful and peaceful evening, perfect for a turtle release.

I could feel the air abuzz with excitement and curiosity. The adults were snapping photos (note: no flash allowed!) while the kids were peering into the basket of sea turtles as Paulina explained the process. Sea turtles were then passed around to guests, who were careful to hold the baby turtles by the sides of their shell.

And then… they were off!

Some of the baby turtles were super-speedy, swept away by the gentle waves within seconds. Others took a bit longer, but eventually made it to their destination… the Caribbean Sea.

I couldn’t help but notice how tiny and fragile they looked compared to the waves, and I wondered what adventures they’d have on their first night in the sea.

Fun Fact: Many locals rely on sea turtle nesting habits to determine how strong hurricane season is going to be. This forecast is generally more accurate than human weather forecasts! Rumor has it that according to nesting sea turtles, 2011 is not going to be a strong hurricane season in Cancun and the Riviera Maya.

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.

Xel-Ha

For my birthday this past weekend, we decided to go with some friends to Xel-Ha.

Xel-Ha is a huge ecopark set on in inlet in the Riviera Maya, just south of Playa del Carmen. It has a great All Inclusive plan (all you can eat buffets and all you can drink bars), and it’s perfect for snorkeling, exploring and just relaxing. It has cenotes, lagoons, a mile-long river you can swim through, cliffs, ziplines, a floating bridge, and the list goes on.

One of the highlights was floating down the river, but I didn’t get any pictures because I don’t have a waterproof camera. I saw lots of fish and a barracuda!

Other than that, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

The dolphinarium

Its hard to get the full effect from this picure, but under this bridge were HUNDREDS of fish. Later, Jorge and I snorkeled through there... Ive never had such an amazing experience. Then someone threw fish food on top of me and I was attacked by hundreds of fish. Good times haha

Jorge and Juan trying to look cool by the floating bridge

The man of my dreams, taking a much-needed nap.