I SPY: Mexico

Dec 10, 2015

CANCUN + PLAYA DEL CARMEN + TULUM: NOV 2015

When you think of Cancun what comes to mind?  I think...Booze, Sex, Drugs, Spring Break party central.  That is how they like to market that town, don't they?  Well, at this day and age that's not my cup of tea.  I know I'm sounding like an old lady, well I am, and thankfully outgrown that college crazy-ness.  Been there, done that…phew, lets move on!  But for a while I've been wanting to visit Chichen Itza one of the new seven wonders of the world, however kept putting it on the back burner because I didn't have desire to be in Cancun.  Well I discovered Cancun is the main city you fly into, but there are plenty of neighboring towns in close proximity you can stay at to be out of the chaos.  That is just what us Three Amigos did for Thanksgiving break!



1st stop:  PLAYA DEL CARMEN
It is about an hour drive away from Cancun.  Less white trash.  But still very touristy, and American-ized.  Once I spotted the huge Forever 21 chain store on the corner, that blew it for me and it felt like I never left the USA!  But thats on the main strip, their 'Fifth Avenue'.  However, once you get off those few blocks surrounding the main strip, you will begin to feel like you are in Mexico.  That was a good thing, otherwise I wouldn't of been too happy during our 2 days stay! Not like we really spent much time in Playa Del Carmen though, since we went on day excursions both days we were there and only would come back to eat dinner and sleep.  But still I don't want to be eating at Chiles, I want REAL Mexican food and thats what we got as you will see later.  You know me and food, my life revolves around it!



SEE + DO:

CHICHEN ITZA:
Finally we got to see the Mayan ruins and pyramids that I've been seeing in a gazillion photos and books, and dreaming about.  It's so different when your actually in front of it, have a photo of yourself standing with it, and can now claim bragging rights!  WIN.  It was about an hour and a half drive from Playa Del Carmen.  We uber-d it Mexican style!  Our hotel arranged a private taxi to take us on a day trip for USD 150.  For three people, it worked out cheaper then getting on a tour bus, and we went at our own pace which was nice.  This was the first thing on our hit list for our trip, because obviously, duh, we really came to Mexico just to see this!  It was awesome, lived up to my expectations, and in better shape then the pyramids we saw in Egypt.  Unfortunately since it became a Unesco seven wonders of the world site they've stopped allowing visitors to climb the pyramids.  But you can still get very close to it.  Needless to say I'm so happy we made it and can check this off our bucket list now.  WOOHOO.



The Hall of a Thousand Pillars is another beauty to ponder over.  I tried counting, but gave up!  The precision of that perspective is on point.  They didn't have rulers back then.  Amazing to think how they lined all the pillars up so straight.



We walked the site grounds admiring the Mayan ruins for about an hour, before we got sucked into buying a few souvenirs.  I love how the Mexican vendors kept saying 'Come look...Almost FREEeee!'  HA.  My kids are so gullible!



Stop by their cafe on your way out for a drink and a bite.  The food was good!  Tacos, Carnitas, Tamales…all my Mexican fixings on one plate.  YUM.



CENOTE IK KIL:
Close by to Chichen Itza is one of the most beautiful Cenote's.  Visit it on the same day, and bring a towel and your swim suit.  I have never seen anything like it.  Cenotes are natural sinkholes found in caves, that are created when the cave ceiling collapses.  I was told there are thousands all over Mexico, however Cenote Ik Kil is one of the special ones.  If this is your first time seeing one believe me you will go camera happy.  It's really spiritual, and I felt like a mermaid.  Just needed my red wig to be Ariel!  However let me warn you that the water is full of minerals, and there is a slight current.  It is not easy to swim in because the water feels very heavy and is extremely deep.  I'm a pretty strong swimmer, however I strongly advise you rent a life jacket and forfeit trying to look cute like me.  Otherwise be prepared to get a mega workout treading water!



HUELLAS DE PAN:
If your in the Cancun vicinity please make some time for my amigos at this community kitchen.  I wrote a separate post about our volunteer experience at Huellas De Pan that was so fulfilling.  They are located in Cancun, but out in the hood, half an hour away from the main hotel strip in Cancun.  So nothing touristy and I guarantee you will have a very authentic taste of real Mexican life there.  Besides doing a good deed.




MAMITAS BEACH CLUB:
On our last day we had a few hours to kill before dinner and the kids wanted to check out the beach.  So we went to the closest one.  Not the best one.  It was ok, a narrow strip of sand.  Nothing compare to wide Brazil beaches which are still stuck in my head from the Summer.  Brat, I know!  HA.  But, good enough if you want to put your feet in the sand, layout on a beach bed in the sun, catch some waves, have a cocktail, a few nibbles, and watch the sunset.  You can't see it in this photo, but it was a happening place, and I can see it getting crazy and wild after 7pm…*wink* in case your looking to party!



EAT:

- AQUACHILES
Known for their fish and shrimp tacos.  Set in an open air restaurant by the street.  Super casual, authentic and delicious.  Right up my alley since I'm a huge fish taco fan.  I could eat there everyday!




- TAQUERIAS EL FAGON
This place is famous for their meat tacos.  Another street side open air stall.  Super low key.  But you get your bang for your buck.  My 'Taco Loco' was stuffed with beef, pork, bacon and cheese, so many things it looked more like an over stuffed burrito to me!  I was happy to walk home after dinner to try and settle that baby in my belly!!!




SLEEP:

A swanky boutique hôtel, with a boho vibe.  Rooms were modern, clean lines and spacious.  The pool was really just a wading pool.  Very shallow.  But the roof top bar and Morrocan inspired sun beds were hip and added to the ambience.  The sushi restaurant was only eaten at for breakfast so we can't comment on how good the sushi was!  The breakfast was thumbs up though.  Hotel staff services were also very helpful and knowledgeable.  Location was great.  Mini mart across the street, and only a few blocks from beach, and a block from the main strip of shops and restaurants, that were all in walkable distance.

HOTEL BE PLAYA
Av 10 s/n Esq. Calle 26
Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen
QR. Mexico
T: + 52 984 803 2243
website







2nd Stop: TULUM

We drove about 1 hour from Playa del Carmen to upgrade to Tulum.  Now THIS was the less Americana scene I was looking for.  I won't lie, it was still a bunch of tourist!  But a much more rural beach town with pristine beaches, coconut trees swaying, and many chic boutique hotels to kick back and relax at.  A lil' slice of picture perfect paradise to end our vacation for 3 days.



SEE + DO:

There are ruins and cenotes in the area, but we opted out of that since we already visited the most famous ones, and had our educational fix.  It's a great place to rent a bike, and stroll through the streets freely.  Or plenty of water sports and snorkeling were offered too.  But we were there to chill, so didn't do much here except stay within our compounds grounds and visit neighboring boutique hotels.



COQUI COQUI:
This is a beautiful eco - friendly rustic style residence that was designed to reflect the local architecture. A beachfront limestone property that is known for their perfumerie.  Great place to pick up gifts of unique room scents, candles and perfume to take home as a memory.  Highly recommend you visit or stay at if you are a sucker for interior.





LA ZEBRA HOTEL:
Another low key, trendy, boutique style hotel, with interesting decor to hang out at.




EAT:

- THE REAL COCONUT
This is the restaurant where we stayed, with a lovely ambience on the beach.  A dairy, gluten, grain free, organic kitchen.  Mainly a vegetarian menu, but there were a few meat and fish dishes. The food was super clean yet yummy it was ridiculous!  Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all amazing, and I miss their smoothies soooo much.  Oh they were addictive!




- CASA BANANAS
Who doesn't like an open air restaurant slash bar scene with a foosball table to keep the kids entertained!  The chimichurri steak and red snapper were worthy.  But beware the portions are huge, and get there early unless you don't mind waiting forever for a table!




- COQUI COQUI
Their restaurant is another organic kitchen winner.  You can't loose with a great view paired with great food.  Their ceviche was top, and this is the Queen of Ceviche talking here!



SLEEP:

We stayed at Sanara, a year old boutique resort, with contemporary lines, and interior decor to drool over.  They're conveniently located on the main strip, so walkable to everything we visited.  They offered free yoga classes, and a worthy spa, you should take of advantage of.  Also they had the best dream catchers, that are for sale.  Dream catchers were my obsession for the duration of my stay!  Of course I couldn't leave without purchasing one *wink*.  The one with the leather fringe is soon to be MINE.  It's on custom order now.  So very excited...Merry X'mas to me!

SANARA TULUM HOTEL
KM 8.2 Carreterra Tulum Boca Paila
Tulum, QR 77780
Mexico
T: +1 310 933 6408
website



It was a quick and fun 5 night trip, and we covered enough area that I don't really feel the need to re-visit.  However, Tulum on a solo trip without the kiddos in tow could be repeated again, to take full advantage of the healthy living and wellness programs.  Maybe a winter escape to detox and get my Ohm on?  I would be totally up for that!

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