Mini Vacay in PDC

Guess where we’re off to this weekend?!

Playa del Carmen!

I’ll be uploading pics on my Facebook page and on @CancunGringa while we’re there. It’s been rainy the past 2 nights, but hopefully it won’t affect our trip too much.

All I know is I am so ready for the work day to be OVER.

What is everyone else doing this weekend?

The Marina at Dreams Cancun Resort

As a grand finish to my whale shark tour posts, here are some photos of the beach at the Dreams Cancun Resort and Spa. We used Solo Buceo dive tour company, which is located right at the resort.

**Fun fact: I used to intern as a concierge at Dreams Cancun way back in 2007!**

It was the perfect place to begin and end our day.

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

Father’s Day in Puerto Morelos

Jorge and I spent all day yesterday with my suegros for Father’s Day. After a call to my own dad (miss you!), we had tacos de lechon for what can only be described as pre-lunch.

After a quick siesta, my suegro wanted to go to Puerto Morelos for lunch. (Mexican lunch is around 3 or 4 pm.) We drove half an hour down the highway and looked around for a beachfront restaurant.

We tried a fun place called La Panza Es Primero (The Tummy Comes First), but decided to only get appetizers because the service was snail-pace slow. The food was delicious! Jorge and I shared a spicy seafood soup that was amazing, but the poor service was too much to handle.

La Panza Es Primero

La Panza Es Primero menu

For our real lunch, we went to the popular Pelicanos restaurant, right by the main plaza of Puerto Morelos. I had a Cuban sandwich that was to die for!

Pelicanos

Sorry I didn’t get any food pictures, but here are some shots from our day in Puerto Morelos, Mexico:

What did you do for Father’s Day this year?

Day Off on Isla Mujeres

 

**I’ve been featured in a guest post at CancunIsSafe.com again!! Check out my Top 5 Tips for Summer Break in Cancun.**

 

Jorge’s work schedule was changed to the evening shift, so I didn’t see him much at all during the week. However, they gave him Sunday off, which is also my day off! Hurray!

There was beautiful weather on Sunday, so we took the ferry over to Isla Mujeres for a much-needed beach day on Playa Norte (North Beach).

Here are the best pics of the day:

On the ferry

On the ferry

Marina

Our palm tree

My question for you today: Have you gotten sunburned yet this year? (’cause I sure did!)

 

Barcelo Maya Resort: The Pool

Today I’ve got more photos of the Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe resort in the Riviera Maya, where we went for my cousin’s wedding.

Not much to say here, just daydreaming about one of the biggest pools I’ve ever seen. 🙂

Where would you most like to be today?

If you haven’t seen the resort’s beach pictures yet, click here. You’ll be glad you did!

Travel Safety in Mexico vs USA

I recently read an amazing article that talks about a topic very near and dear to my heart: the safety of Mexico.

The US, Canada and beyond have been flooded with news stories on violence in this country, even though expats and travelers to Mexico have seen with their own eyes that just like any other country, the violence is reduced to certain people and certain areas.

The Lonely Planet article mentioned cites numerous statistics comparing Mexican travel destinations to US travel destinations… and the results are quite surprising.

Next time someone tells you Mexico is dangerous, show them this Lonely Planet post.

Lonely Planet Travel Writer Provides Facts About Safety in Mexico
, via Mexico Today

 

Barcelo Maya Resort: The Beach

I have a confession to make… Playa Norte (North Beach) on Isla Mujeres is no longer my favorite beach.

The beach I went to last Wednesday “blew it out of the water” (pun intended).

When we went to the Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe resort for my cousin’s wedding (more on that later), I wasn’t expecting to find such an incredible beach. So, so many palm trees. Pool-like water. No seaweed. Breathtaking.

Even though there were so many of us in the water, several schools of large silver fish had no qualms about swimming around us, between my knees, and along my feet. I was actually screaming, smiling and jumping up and down out of sheer joy. Why can’t every day be like this?

Somebody please slap me if I ever decide to move away from the Caribbean.

What’s your favorite beach in the world?

Family Vacation Photos!

As I’ve mentioned, my cousin got married last week in the Riviera Maya, so Jorge and I have spent our evenings and weekends traveling down to Playa del Carmen to hang out with my family. My parents, oldest sister, brother-in-law, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents were here, and it was a BLAST.

We had countless dinners on 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen, and we spent all day Wednesday at a stunning All Inclusive resort. I’m really sad it’s all over!

To be honest I didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked, mainly because I forget about the camera when I’m having a good time. Still, I did manage to get a few in there.

I’ll share the wedding pictures later in the week, but for now here are a few of the family!

Jorge, my cousin Shayne, and my brother-in-law Michael at Tequila Barrel, PDC

My sister Noelle, my cousin's (new!) wife Joelle, her best friend Jillian, and me at Tequila Barrel

Jorge and I with the newlyweds and their friends at Blue Parrot nightclub

Jillian, Joelle and me after a few tequilas

Jorge the beach bum

Me and my sister Noelle

Me and my mom

Brother-in-law Michael, sister Noelle, parents, Jorge and me

Grandpa and Grandma dancing up a storm

We danced, we dined, we partied, we relaxed, we talked… and I miss them all so much right now. But oh man, what a week!