Mexico: Riviera Maya
I’m back from a week in Mexico… it went by so insanely fast! It was so hot down there, practically unbearable if you strayed away from the beach. Which is why we basically parked ourselves on the resort beach every day and did a whole lot of lazing around. It was a family trip, celebrating the graduations of my sister and me, so very relaxing but amazing all the same. We stayed at the Gran Bahia Principe resort in Akumal, about 1.5 hours south of Cancun in the Riviera Maya. We flew into Cancun and had a fabulous view of the bright blue waters and reef on the coast, as well as endless lush green forests inland. From there, our vacation officially began!
The resort was ridiculously awesome, so pretty, so much to do. It’s comprised of 3 complexes, each with its own villas, pools, and restaurants, but you can use any of them no matter where you’re staying. We had 2 rooms with beach views at the Akumal complex. Our rooms were great – I had a comfy cot while the sisters shared the big rock-hard bed. At night we watched nothing but E!, which consisted of episodes of Dr 90210, Girls Next Door (aka ‘Girls of the Playboy Mansion’), and this really strange program where they play music videos and a person stands in front of it and strips. Ridiculous! Things aren’t exactly censored out either… so we heard the f-bomb and saw a little too much skin. Yeah this stuff would never happen in America. I also watched an episode of South Park in Spanish, and their version of Super Sweet 16 (except it’s for “las quinces”, the 15th bday). And they even played The Hills! Our room was comfy though, we blasted the AC 24/7, had towel animals waiting for us every evening from the housekeeper, a fully stocked minibar… the good life, definitely.
Each complex has its own buffet, where the food was hit or miss… some was amazing, some was rather lackluster. But either way, there was plenty of it, virtually all day long. I was a fan of chilaquiles (apparently fried tortillas in salsa with cheese on top… it looked like lasagna), fruit salad, and the soft-serve ice cream. While it’s a buffet, you get your own food, but then there are waiters who serve you drinks at your table. I don’t understand why we had to ask for water and why it wasn’t available to take in the buffet. I tend to drink about 5 glasses’ worth at meals, so I had to ration a bit. At dinner, mariachi bands would move from table to table playing music for families. We liked Tulum’s buffet best, for sure.
There were also several sit-down restaurants that you have to reserve in advance, most of which were booked up before we arrived. We did manage to eat 3 of our dinners at the restaurants, where you’re expected to dress nicely. We ate at both of the Mexican places, where the food was better than at the buffets. I had chicken stuffed with spinach and cheese, really delicious. We also at at Arlequin, a gourmet restaurant that felt a little too formal for us. Their duck plate was amazing though!
Naturally there were bars everywhere too, in the pools, by the pools, on the beach… I tried a bunch of mixed drinks, never finished anything though. I’m a fan of the daquiri now though (mm mango), margaritas are decent, not too big on pina coladas though (never been a fan of pineapple). I had a cappuccino every morning and it was surprisingly delicious. They also have their special Mexican coffee, where they take amaretto and possibly other liqueur and light it on fire while pouring it from glass to glass, back and forth, so that the liquid gives off a bluish glow as it’s poured. When they serve it with the coffee, the glass rim is outlined in sugar, and I think there is some cinammon topping too… it is SO GOOD. Of course, I don’t do coffee at night since I’m a terrible sleeper, so I could only have a tiny bit. The pools were awesome too, they were big and winding and several bridges run over them in places. Akumal definitely had the dinky pools in comparison to the massive ones at Coba and Tulum. All the same, it was fabulous no matter where you were. Beach chairs were all around the pools and on the beach, it was easy to find empty ones.
Umm what else… all the resort workers were really nice, it was great. I can’t believe they’re so happy when they make $10 a day working so hard! The first couple days were kind of meh because it was super cloudy and my eye was bothering me (allergies) so I couldn’t take pictures or see properly. But the rest of the trip went great and it was sunny and I could see again. On the last full day I got a terrible sunburn on my front side and at night my stomach was killing me, so that was less than fun. The day we left, apparently our leaving time was miscommunicated and our ride came an hour earlier than we expected, so we had to run around and finish packing, and Shan and I were on the beach at the time so Jamie had to run around looking for us and ugh… not fun. And coming home we had to connect in DC, and we couldn’t land in Providence because of t-storms, so we just circled around for awhile waiting for it to clear up. It didn’t, and we were running out of fuel, so we landed in Hartford instead and waited ages, finally took off at 12:30am or so and it was just 20mins to RI. We were all so exhausted. Gotta say, it’s slightly amusing that we ended up landing in CT when we actually LIVE there and are closer to that airport than the RI one. Go figure.
We also did a snorkelling boat trip close to the resort in Akumal, got to see lots of turtles and also a barricuda, sting ray, and thousands of fish (flounder, parrotfish, etc). It was cool to see different things from what I saw in Aus but my flippers were too tight (ouch) and there were too many people around, so it wasn’t ideal. Everyone knows how much I love doing things like this on my own, buuuut it was still cool though. The guides kept pointing things out to us that we might have missed or not known the names of. The reef itself was also different than the one in Aus, the coral was a different species here.
We also rented a car one day and drove out to Chichen Itza, it was sweltering hot and it took us so long to find it due to bad signage, and we almost ran out of gas. I loved driving through all the little villages on the way — these people live in little stone one-room huts without doors or windows, just open spaces usually with a hammock, yet they seemed pretty content with life. Some would sell touristy stuff or drinks in hopes of tourists stopping by to buy stuff from them. Some of the homes have those thatched roofs, many don’t though. The roads had so many speed bumps, so annoying!
The ruins were fabulous, but my sisters were cranky and itching to get out of the heat so we barely had any time there and that made me aggravated… who drives 3 hours in this heat just to do a 20-minute lap around the site? Still, it was really hot and uncomfortable outside. I tried my best to soak up what little time I had there and observed the gorgeous carvings and pillars. The big pyramid is massive, but no one was climbing it like in the pictures (too hot out?). It’s really pretty because parts of it look like the typical, tiered pyramid, but then there would be a middle section made of little round stones instead. We also observed some other temples and a playing field. Vendors were scattered all around the ruins selling little trinkets and souvenirs.
Playa del Carmen
We spent another day at Playa del Carmen, 30min north of the resort. We took a “bus” up there, which was really just a van that could hold about 10 people. These vans run up and down the coast and cost $2 per person. It was hot out. We spent some time walking down 5th ave, the main shopping street, where I bought nothing but a Starbucks frapp. It was just too hot. We did browse some stores, most of which sold Mexican souvenirs. We were constantly hounded by Mexican vendors to buy their stuff, it got really annoying. They kept calling my dad “Mr. Whiskers” because of his beard, which was funny the first time but got old really fast. Had it been a more bearable temperature out, shopping might have been more enjoyable. But alas.
The beach was pretty though, we layed out there for the afternoon. Lots of people there. Pretty blue water. It was a good time. I’m not sure if it was necessarily better than the beach at our resort, but it was nice to try a new place.
So, in short, it was an awesome week in paradise. I never really had the desire to see Mexico before, but now that I’ve at least scratched the surface, I’m craving more of it! There is so much more to see and do just in the Yucatan alone, I can’t even imagine the rest of the country. Hopefully I can come back someday. My type of travelling usually involves lots of moving around and sightseeing, but this form of leisure travel was a nice change from that. Most of the time we layed out and relaxed at the resort and it was fabulous.