Monday, December 19, 2011

Riviera Maya Mexico ~ MANY Moons Ago!

A friend of mine is headed to the Riviera Maya area of Mexico on Wednesday for a week.  I found these old tips of mine from a trip we took in May 2002.  I have come across many friends that have visited this beautiful area through the years and have just kept emailing the same info over and over (I was blogging before I even knew what blogging was).
Here is the email - 
Don't forget your big cup (maybe insulated so your frozen bev don't melt in the hot sun)
Below I found some of my trip report from when we went.  long but good stuff
This is the Natural Waterpark - if you go, get there when they open and leave after lunch then you miss the big tour bus groups.  I think we did the All-Inclusive price.  Don't forget your chemical-FREE sunscreen (this place is ECO-friendly!).
Chris jumping off of the STONE of COURAGE

GREAT RESTAURANT - Yax Che ate out in this beautiful courtyard FOOD was awesome! It is located on the corner of the striking 5th avenue and 22nd street 

Hotel Deseo WAY COOL ROOFTOP BAR 5th & 12th

Blue Parrot Inn - with it's swings AND Fire show! 12th Street North & 1st Avenue North

Tequila Barrel on 5th between 10th &12th 
Chris and I at the Tequila Barrel in '02

Here is a trip report I wrote for a travel forum for the Playa area 
The Four of us at dinner on our last night (boo hoo)

We were picked up by the limo at 4:30 AM (not to be ritzy but because no one wanted to drive our butts to the airport at that hour). Picked up our friends (my husband's roommate from college & his wife our best friends here) that were going with us on the way. Oh by the way did I mention it was down pouring in Atlanta at this point. Got to airport & went to Starbucks & Burger king of course. Flew Pace Airlines through Vacation Express. Took off no problems. Switched planes in Sanford/Orlando, I didn't even no that this little airport existed. At this point we have about an hour to kill & since it's only 9 AM let's start having some drinks at the bar. We were the only few at the bar but w/in no time it filled right up. You can easily tell when people are on vacation they have not even a second thought about the time when it comes to the first drink. It was a mix of coming & going some so pale & happy to be going & others w/ tans & wrist bands w/ their long faces because it's over. Anyway board plane #2 and their seems to be some confusion because there are 2 flights leaving for Cancun w/in 15 minutes of each other. It looks like a few from the later (15min later) flight had snuck on our flight so we were at capacity & this group of 4 women had no seats. Too bad soo sad (it was really). They were told to de-plane and try the other flight Good Luck! We did see them at immigration so I guess they made it. Flight was fine except I had had too many cranberry/vodkas & had to pee since before we took off. Not easy to not think about it when your whole bladder is rockin & rollin w/ take off. Then I had to climb over the girl in the aisle seat who didn't even know that we were in the air because of the drugs she took (that's what she told me). Okay- onto Cancun, flight was great. It makes Cancun seem like a hop, skip & a jump away from ATL. Immigration went fine. Our friends got on the wrong line (passport vs birth cert. but were not stopped so they went ahead to gather all our luggage. While we waited on the BC line moved slow but it moved. Met up with them & they said there was some mysterious oil all over one of my pieces of luggage. Great! (Turned out to be nothing only on the outside thank god but I am sure someone else's luggage is a mess) Red light/Green light only one was working but we flew threw here anyway. Then through the mayhem. NO Gracias, No Gracias and just keep on moving as fast as you can is the only advice I can give & I also held my transfer out advice from travel agent who knows if that smart or not. Found our Vacation Express Royale Tours guy and looked on the clipboard we were scheduled on a van & our friends on a bus weird but okay whatever you say amigo. Then we get to the van check with this guy he checks us in meanwhile someone else has taken our vouchers at this point I ask about our friends He says oh no & goes to get them they are supposed to be on a van too. Yet not our van with this we watch our friends pull away with out us Adios. We wait for our van to fill. I say the hell w/ it & pay $3 for a corona. Soon enough we were off.
As soon as we pulled out of the airport it was exactly what I pictured this part of Mexico to look like. A little dusty & dry pick up trucks filled w/ amigos, busy street it was just what was in my head. As you get away from Cancun and down 307 it gets a little greener but it is hard not to stare in awe at the poverty (true poverty) that is all around you. Okay back to vacation talk.
We were the first to be dropped off Yeah for us. The entrance to all the resorts are pretty impressive but I must say Aventura Spa Palace is breathtaking. I think the people who remained on the bus to go to other resorts were a little jealous. Walk in, greeted w/ champagne & sped thru the check in process (Carlos is quick). I asked that we see our room first but it didn't really matter I think you are sort of already CHECKED in at this point. We were taken in a golf cart w/ luggage to a room in bldg 4 third floor but facing bldg 3 not a very pretty view (despite the e-mail request I had sent). Called to change & was told to check back in the am around 10 Okey dokey. Off to see our friends room WOW nice view 3465 I think it was. Looking straight on at the ocean. No hammock oh well.
I can hardly remember what we did first. I think we were off to the lagoon & pool. Got down there were extremely impressed. Everyone is SOOOO nice, friendly & helpful. This place is soooo clean. I saw them scrubbing down the outdoor speakers one night amazing & not to mention how thorough the maids are. I had seen the standing in the Jacuzzis to really get those suckers clean. Back to the beach - We ate first at the pool snack bar on the Aventura side. Yummy- nachos/guac/salsa, a refreshing seafood salad, great fries. We are really excited at this point we have never done an AI and we like the looks of it so far. Start off with a frozen margarita a little strong but yummy. Then down to find a palapa on the beach/lagoon whatever. You can still hear the waves, the water is the same water that's in the ocean there is just a small rock wall barrier that keeps the waves from crashing in. The rocking lounge chairs for the water were awesome. We lounged around down there for awhile then back up to check out the pool. It's about 4:30 now so those that are at the pool look like they have been there a while (drunk & sunburn). Swim up bar is Great - Gilmer the bartender is a great guy. Well it is a party atmosphere that is for sure up until now we hadn't seen too many topless women. But now some drunk guys at the bar are egging some drunker girls in the pool to take off their tops and sure enough they did. Now the guys are wearing them. We had only been here 3 hrs or so and are like oh my this is going to be a crazy trip. (But this is about as crazy as it got.) Back to the rooms to get ready for dinner. When we got to our rooms we were surprised to find a delicious cheese platter (YUMMY) and a bottle of red wine. We were going to try La Hacienda our first night but the wait was about an hour & we didn't feel like waiting. So we went down to Mundaca which is also Ala carte and right down by the pool. This was our longest meal here. Don't get me wrong it was very relaxing it was just long. We were on vacation so no one cared. No wait for a table. We had many courses & champagne. Salad bar at dinner was a little disappointing. But the food was okay. Tried to catch a little of the show but we were told by some people heading the opposite way it just ended so back to the rooms it was. Tried out the hot tub. Put a little too much hot in and couldn't get it to cool down my husband went to get 2 buckets of ice to dump in too get cooler it helped a little. Also scrambled for matches for candles we brought, had to get some in the gift shop the next day. Okay enough of day one. More to come. Sorry so long but it fun to remember. I feel like I am still there a little. 
Woke up early 6:30 couldn't go back to sleep. Too excited I think. Couldn't decide if I should go for a walk, go to the gym, lay there looking at the ceiling or wake my hubby & get going to bfast. The last choice won. We went over to Mundaca for a fabulous Breakfast buffet. So many choices!!! It was so hard to decide. The homemade bread is not to be missed. It is located smack in the middle of the pastry section. Although Wednesday's homemade bread was a little different & not quite as sweet as Sundays. They must have different flavors. The juice selection was awesome. I had read about the tangerine juice on this board and was looking forward to trying it. It was delicious and refreshing. Oh yeah, our table was looking directly out over the ocean. The breeze really kept you cool. I felt as if we were in a movie. I am sad I didn't not get a smoothie from the smoothie lady. They looked good but I had too much bread.
We were to meet with our Vacation Express/Royale Tours guy Roy at 9:00 am. After blowing him off the first day, we thought even though we were not planning on taking any tours thru them we should meet w/ him because we had to schedule our return transfer to the airport for Thurs. While my husband & our friend met w/ Roy, I tried the front desk at Aventura to get a new room with a better view. Sure enough NICE Carlos who had checked us in the day before and remembered me was happy to help. He said he had a room but it would be a 1/2 hour before it was ready. He also said he thought we would be very happy with the view. Boy was he right!!!! I went back to pack up for our move then headed back to AP to find my husband & I had the pleasure of meeting Roy (Mr. I can get you anything) including a tour of the jewelery factory across the street. NO GRACIAS! We already had planned to do our stuff on our own. He did say if we wanted our Palace Passport Books we had to meet w/ another guy w/ Palace Resorts. ENOUGH ALREADY! We did however want them because our spa $50 certificates were in them. Each meeting you have you are just waiting for the timeshare pitch. And believe me you meet w/ a lot of people. After you get your Palace Passports to actually use them you then have to take them to the Chaza Travel desk to get the actual certificate. It is like a scavenger hunt (but not quite as fun).
Anyway we were moved to our new very quickly and we were very happy with our view 2404. Extremely close to the ocean, overlooking the spa palapas. Nice spot, a little tiny bit noisy in the late night if you leave you slider open like we did. But the ocean waves crashing in the background & the nice breeze is well worth it. Then off to the AP lagoon for snorkeling. I was surprised that there were as many fish as there were. From just walking in the lagoon the day before you would never have known it. I used the cheap raft I had brought to float around on in the lagoon while I looked for fish. I was glad I had it since they don't give you fins I knew I would have been tired. Our friend found that if you bring bread out to the rocks just in front of the lifeguard station on the right looking out to the ocean there are some good size fish in there. Neato!! This little bit of snorkeling just got me more excited for going to Xel-Ha the next day. We hung at the lagoon for a while then up to Mundaca for a great takeout lunch. Which we ate right under our palapa on the beach. The pork tacos that they make fresh for you were great! Oh, Roger at the beach is a great waiter, refills your drinks without even asking. We moved up to the pool at some point. Watched a few of the races the activities guys had going funny stuff. Painted some pottery. More chips, guac, salsa, margarita etc. So said to say we had to leave the pool at around 4:30 to meet the Palace Resorts guy I mentioned earlier. Homero (call me Homer) told us alot of the same stuff Roy had but finished the 20 min. preview up with the request that we give him another 45 minutes on Wed. morning for the Official Tour NO THANK YOU!!!!! He also tried to talk us out of going to Xel-Ha the next day & said Xpu-Ha was the same but Free. I am so glad we didn't listen to good old Homer. Headed straight into the spa reception to make our appts. for tues. I made 2 ~ 25 min Sea Fango Treatment & 25 min foot massage. I ended up cancelling the foot massage because I felt soooo relaxed I didn't really think I needed it. I was right.
We decided to meet for dinner at El Greco at 8:00. Very romantic setting & good food. If you order Filet mignon here ask for it a little less cooked then you would typically order it. We asked for med and it was med well to well all 3 of them but it was still tasty. The steamed seafood appetizer they have one of my friends got & they loved it. I didn't care for the fruit crepes dessert. We headed over to the Patio at AP for the Mexican show. We sat right up front and were enthralled. It was very authentic & entertaining. My friend got pulled into the act for a dance number and she truly held her own. Afterwards we headed up to the disco ballroom. Not many people but fun is what you make of it and that is what we had fun dancing the night away. Another jacuzzi night and then drifted to sleep listening to the waves again. I could do this forever. We were talking about having the kids Fed Exed to us at this point because we never wanted to leave. More to come. Again sorry so long but this is my way of capturing our memories on paper. 

This was my favorite day!!!! Woke up early to meet our friends in front of spa reception to catch a taxi at 8:00 am. We were going to Xel-Ha for the day. After snorkeling a little bit the day before I was really excited. Got down front & tried to figure out if it took a little while for the cabs to get there or were they on the premises waiting. The latter seems to be the case most of the time especially in the am. Our taxi was there in seconds. From reading this board I learned to discuss price before you get in the cab. I believe the Taxi Fee board posts Xel-Ha as 120 pesos one way. Most of them leaving AP comply with the price but this was our first ride & this guy says 300 something pesos. I was like wait a second the AP taxi getter man (I am sure there is a better term for that occupation) came over and after a few minutes of Spanish discussion between the 2 of them we were on our way to Xel-Ha for 120 pesos.
We got there were 2 cars in parking lot. I thought Oh, God how early are we. But 2 people walked ahead of us and got their tickets. So we were off Dos All inclusives Por Favor. The park opens at 9:00 but if you get there before then you can still go in and walk around. You just can't get your towels, snorkel, etc. until 9:00. It was so peaceful & beautiful. Approaching the dolphin area we saw some of the biggest iguanas I have ever seen sunning themselves on the rocks in the morning sun. We loved the little free fish food machines that are scattered thru the park. We sat looking to the water, lathered up on our bio-degradable sunscreen & waited for 9:00 to arrive. Got our gear, locked our lockers & headed to the water. Right before we were ready to jump in we saw this HUGE fish that looked like he had a mustache and he was smiling at us. Now I am a tiny bit nervous but that wore off fast. AWESOME is all I can say. So many different colors, sizes & types of fish. We saw 2 sting rays (I think they were sting rays). We were heading to the bridge area after reading on here that this is where the BIG fish are. We came up the backside of the water furthest from the entrance and just couldn't find them. So we were all starving after our long swim so we decided to get out & walk across the bridge back to the restaurants. Easier said then down. This guy with a wheel barrel full of ice crossed over before we did. He made it look so easy. I was hanging onto my husband for dear life when I look down about half way across THERE THE BIG FISH WERE!!!! Tons of them they were huge. So as I am pointing & "screaming look over there, no there", my husband tells me I am killing him & to just pay attention and walk (he was hung over & a little cranky from the big disco night).
We ate at the breakfast buffet. At first glance not all that impressive but this food was good. Fresh squeezed juices again YEAH! Watermelon juice, Cantaloupe juice, OJ & I can't remember the 4th. Made to order omelets (sausage, salsa & cheese very good), potatoes, toast, meats, & of course nachos/salsa/guac/refried beans YUMMY!@ I miss nachos with my bfast. Beautiful view from the second floor. Our waiter was trying to talk us into tequila shots at 10:30 am but we were still recovering. We should have taken him up on it because as it turns out we never did do a tequila shot in Mexico. Isn't that sad!
Back to snorkel. I loved this place! We decided instead of walking over the bridge again we would jump in and swim alongside it to the opposite side. The big fish were still here just waiting for us to hop in. As we sat on the edge of the bridge to don our gear, a field trip of school children in their uniforms walked across the bridge all screaming & laughing while holding on tight to each other. It was so cute I wish I had my video camera (again). While they are walking past I thought we better jump in before one of them falls and pushes us in. These fish looked big from out of the water well up close they were even HUGER (is that a word). We made across no problem. Then we snorkeled in the Mayan Caves. Off to find the rope swing & diving platform. After a long walk we found the rope swing. It swings into a cenote that looked pretty slimey. Even though us (the girls) wanted to try it, we wanted the guys to go first. No go. Que Lastima. A couple walked up behind us it sounded like they were having the same discussion we were. He didn't do it either. Finally we found the Platform. Both the guys did it several times. They said it was best if you kind of jumped up when you jumped off. My husband was so daring he even climbed up the wall to get back up & he made it look so easy even though I know it couldn't have been. (My hero) Took some pictures & laughed alot. Then got to the start of the river, got some refreshments and our tubes and off we went. Floating down the river was a nice way to wind down after a long morning of playing hard. Did see a couple in a double tube that would have been fun. Got out, returned our equipment, got changed & had Burgers, cervesas & of course more nachos at the Comida Rapida (fast food). Headed back to AP via our craziest cab ride of all. Car started moving on it's own when we first got in. And my husband's door wouldn't shut they had to slam it from the outside. Then the car wouldn't start. Dios Mio. No a/c no prob except when the driver demands that it is working & has us roll up all the windows UGH! Made it back in one piece barely. Planned to meet at 4:30 in the Spa Lobby to catch another taxi to PDC for dinner.
Thank god this cab ride was uneventful. Everything seemed so much closer to AP then I thought it was going to be or maybe it is just because you are traveling at the speed of light down there. Walked up 5th, in & out of a few shops. I was looking for a silver anklet. Fifth ave was exactly how I pictured it. I got a nice anklet for 12 usd no idea if is a good deal of not but I like it. Bought some trinkets for the kids & a couple bottles of vanilla.
Ate at Yax-Che on 8th (8th was it's previous location). Tremendous!!!! Sat in the garden we were early so we had it pretty much all to ourselves. They popped the fountain on, lit the candles, pushed 2 tables together for the 4 of us & just treated us like royalty yet good old friends at the same time. Our waiter Ricardo was awesome. The food was great. We got about 4 or 5 appetizers to share. My favorite was a special crepe one that wasn't on the menu. The bread and dipping sauces were to die for (I rarely use that expression but it fits). The Modelos were nice & cold. My favorite dish was not my own but our friends. It was the Pork Tacos. Too full for dessert. And getting a little buggy as it is getting darker. Adios, Ricardo. Tell another foursome who just arrived on our way out what a treat they were in for. We were promoting this restaurant to strangers on the street. Oh my favorite line of shop owners to get you in their stores was, "Senor, Give me a chance to rip you off". Honest at least.
We stopped in the drugstore to buy bug spray which killed me since we had some in our room. Now we were on the mission to find an ATM (didn't go so smooth ~ think candid camera mexican style, a person behind the ATM machine itself saying "how much do you want?" I AM NOT KIDDING this really happened). Then to the rooftop lounge of Hotel Deseo on the corner of 12th & 5Th. One drink to check out. A little too Miami Beach for us. Over to Tequila Barrel, sex on the beach here (the drink get your mind out of the gutter). The band that was playing was a great. The female saxaphone player was fabulous. I loved the idea of the little borrow a bookshelf library. Then down to the Blue Parrot. We didn't get a swing but we were right on the beach and had a good view of the dance floor, so we had mucho entertainment. It was so breezy & beautiful. I think we were all just started to relax after the little ATM fiasco. My hubby bought 2 cuban cigars off a guy on the beach (rookie mistake #2). We think it was mistake because they weren't that good. We also fell for the Ladies drink free crap but were told that was only if you were sitting at the bar itself. Oh well. On our way out to head to Captain Tutix we saw a guy who had a flaming tissue sticking out of his pants. I mean it he was on fire. They were yelling to him to sit in the sand. He got it out before he was hurt I think. Captain Tutix was still on the tame side because it was not that late yet. They had three amazing guys on drums playing. I mean riveting. This one guys hands moved so fast it was a blurr. Our friends were pretty shot from our long day so we decided to head back after my husband & I peeked at their beach bar area. Big mistake. I was a little tipsy at this point and misjudged the height of the stairs leading out to the beach. Fell & scraped my leg up pretty bad. In my defense the steps are all different heights. I guess it was good that we had already planned to head back to AP. Another relatively uneventful cab ride except the one stop at the taxi check point area. Got back to the room & decided to order room service since we ate so early. 2 cervesas, Cheeseburger & a club sandwich. Tasty at Two AM. Off to sleep for another day in paradise tomorrow.  Still more to come...
I never did finish this trip report.  I sure wish I had.  You will have to settle for...
A few beautiful shots of the resort -
jacuzzi right in the bedroom overlooking the ocean
massage hut HEAVENLY!

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