Sean and I decided to start off 2012 with a bang, so we booked a vacation to Mexico. We had almost gone to Cancun with some friends the year before, but that fell through. So when brainstorming ideas for our winter vacation, Mexico was still fresh on our minds. We decided, however, that we wanted something a little more relaxed and cultured than Cancun, so booked an all-inclusive resort just south of Playa del Carmen in the Mayan Riviera. Despite a last-minute scare that involved Sean receiving a phone call from the airline that our flight was cancelled the night before our departure, the trip went smoothly and was a great combination of relaxation and adventure.
(January 9 2012) Day 1. Flying out from Boston, Landing in Cancun, Entering Mayan Riviera.
We were up and out of the door early to catch our (rescheduled) 8 a.m. flight. We landed in Cancun mid-afternoon and took the shuttle to our resort: Hotel Catalonia Playa Maroma. We arrived a little earlier than expected due to our flight change, so we wandered the grounds, took our first look at the (unbelievably gorgeous) beach, and enjoyed our first cervezas while waiting for our room to be ready for check-in. The buildings were beautiful and colorful, the vegetation was well kept, the guests and staff spoke dozens of languages (English was actually the least popular language there), the walkways were lined with trees, and we saw some furry friends scattered around – I later learned that these are called coati…we’d be seeing a lot of them over our vacation.
When the room was ready, we were surprised to hear that our reservation got upgraded to a honeymoon suite! It was equipped with a private patio, outdoor jacuzzi, rainfall shower head, and four-poster bed. Despite not actually being on a honeymoon, it was super romantic. Once settled we were tired from the travelling and it was too late to do much else besides enjoy the lovely night air on the beach in awe of the fact that we would be enjoying this view for the next week.
(January 10 2012) Day 2. Mayan Riviera.
Our first full day in Mexico was devoted to the beach. And we loved every minute of it. Reading, sunbathing, listening to music, enjoying the views, swimming, napping, drinking mojitos; pure perfection.
That night the resort was hosting a Mexican Fiesta of sorts for the guests. There were bunch of carnival games set up, such as ring toss, balloon darts, and Mexican bingo. There was also an assortment of treats laid out that included a tequila bar, Mexican coffee, and churros. At the end of the night you could use the tokens you won during the games to ‘buy’ prizes, but either we were horrible at all of the games or we didn’t understand the token values because we couldn’t even afford the cheapest prize between the two of us. Instead we settled for some more free cervezas.
(January 11 2012) Day 3. Mayan Riviera.
The next day we went on our first full day excursion. We were picked up bright and early at the resort, but I was ready to get my first glimpse of the Mexico outside of our resort. Our first stop was at a cenote, which was beautiful. I could not resist taking a quick swim but quickly became terrified by how deep the water was (I’m not a super strong swimmer). But I’m still glad that I faced my fears and spent a little time in the water. Before getting back on the bus, I also bought some tequila from a little vendor nearby.
On the way to the main event we stopped for a buffet-style lunch in a town I can’t remember the name of (if I was ever told in the first place). But the food was surprisingly good and we were entertained by a troop of traditional dancers, which was a fun perk!
Next up, Chichen Itza! Sean was originally a little weary of having to travel four hours to get to the site, but I had obviously convinced him. I mean, I hate cars and car rides (I get carsick super easily), but how often will we be driving distance away from one of the Seven New Wonders of the World? I’m glad that I won the discussion, because the visit was really awesome. The structures were impressive and the site was huge. We were led on an hour-long tour to start off and then were allowed to wander by ourselves for another couple of hours. We marveled at El Castillo (and the idea that a serpent image appears on the staircase as a pattern of sun and shadow during the afternoon of the spring and autumn equinoxes), the Observatory, the Temple of Warriors, the Marketplace, the Great Ball Court, and everything else we ran into. During this time we also shopped among the literally hundreds of vendors lining the walkways throughout the area and ended up buying a pair of earrings for me, a t-shirt for Sean, and a leather Mayan calendar for our apartment.
Our final stop on the trip was at the town of Valladolid. We didn’t have much time to spend there, but it was a pretty town with old churches, a nice park, and an assortment of attractive and historic buildings. After walking around a little bit and getting some coffee we boarded the bus for to head back to the hotels. On this final leg of the ride the tour guide tried to sell us a personalized bottle of tequila with our picture on it (that they had taken at the first stop). Although the picture was a good one, we were skeptical of the quality of the tequila itself and settled for enjoying the free beer offered on the bus ride instead.
(January 12 2012) Day 4. Mayan Riviera.
The next day was another beach day. We recovered from our previous long day of walking and sight-seeing with good old fashioned relaxation. Sure, we took a break for lunch, but basically we sat in our beach chairs from morning until dinner time.
For dinner we decided to dress up and go to the resort’s tapas restaurant. We ate some tasty food and drink some (er, an entire bottle of) wine. Afterwards we decided to check out the nightly show put on by the resort’s staff. It was a musical revue, and some bits were better than others. However, one highlight was the Elvis impersonation. It’s always amusing to see other culture’s portrayals of American icons!
(January 13 2012) Day 5. Mayan Riviera.
Another beach day! We just loved that sun and water. There’s also little better than being served free drinks while enjoying the view. We did take a mid-day break to get manicures at the resort salon. Unfortunately, it wasn’t an entirely great experience. The radio was broken, which created a slightly awkward and silent atmosphere. The nail artist also didn’t do a great job. She cut our fingers and should have added one more coat to my nails. Oh, well. If that was the low point of our vacation, I think we did pretty well over all.
(January 14 2012) Day 6. Mayan Riviera.
We spent our last full day in Mexico on excursion number two: Coba Maya Encounter, which was a half culture half adventure tour. The tour began at Coba, where we hiked around with the guide looking at some more Mayan ruins, including their Church structure, a ball court, limestone pathways, and the Tree of Life. This site was cool because you could actually touch and climb on things, which I took full advantage of. The guide left us at the Nohoch Muul pyramid, advertised as the tallest in the Yucatan Peninsula, where we were allowed to climb to the top. The pictures don’t quite give justice to how steep and scary the climb was, but the view from the top and sense of accomplishment were totally worth the effort. However, the climb down was even more frightening…I spent the whole time clinging to the rope and scooting down on my butt. But I wasn’t the only one!
After the party reconvened we bused over to a Maya village. This is where it started to rain. And not just rain, but downpour. But this didn’t stop us! We proceeded to hike through the woods, zipline over a lake and gator, rappel into cenote, climb a rope ladder out of said cenote, and canoe. We also witnessed a Maya sacred smoke bowl blessing and ate one of the most delicious meals of the trip – involving hand-made tortillas and empanadas and fresh herbal tea. The weather didn’t let me take too many pictures, but I was having too much fun living the experience anyway. This trip sure did a number on my sneakers, though…
When we got back to the resort we were exhausted. The grounds also took a beating from the rainstorm so we grabbed some drinks and watched the Patriots play some playoff football in a flooded, and therefore deserted, discotheque.
(January 15 2012) Day 7. Leaving Mayan Riviera, Flying out from Cancun, Heading Home.
Our flight was at noon, so we didn’t have time to do much except finish packing, check out, and eat breakfast. However, we didn’t leave Mexican land before we bought some tariff-free Kalhua and Cholula salsa at the airport! We hope to go back to Mexico someday, and maybe even bring some friends with us to enjoy the scenery and nightlife with.