Riviera Maya During Covid

Riviera Maya During Covid

Day 1 –

With everything going on with Covid, our trip to Spain and Portugal, two trips to Mexico, and trip to SXSW this year were all canceled. By July, I was getting very restless. We have a few friends who work for different airlines, like Southwest and American, and both of them were traveling and gave us all of the details on how the airlines were staying relatively safe. With that in mind, we decided to take a trip in September for our three-year anniversary to Riviera Maya Mexico.

After doing tons of research on TripAdvisor, we found the Unico 20 87 resort in Riviera Maya. Unico was only running at 50% capacity and they had major deals on their typically $800 a night room’s so we booked an ocean front, all inclusive, adults only room for only $350! Flights were $1,600 to fly direct from DFW on American when I originally when they are usually $250! I was panicking at first, but after some additional research and waiting a couple of days, we finally got a flight that was reasonable for the dates we wanted.

I couldn’t contain my excitement leading up to the trip! I broke out all of my resort wear and packed it all into our carry-on bags. We booked a whale shark tour and I couldn’t stop imaging swimming with such incredible creatures. However, we were at the tail end of the whale shark season so I wasn’t quite sure if we actually get to see any. I wasn’t holding high hopes that this trip was actually going to happen in 2020, let alone the whale sharks.

Luckily, we got to the airport without issue and were of security within five minutes. Our flight boarded on time and we even landed 15 minutes early! We were through customs and onto the private Happy Shuttle ride to our hotel within about 15 minutes. Crazily enough, everything went super smoothly for probably the first time in 2020! The drive to the resort was uneventful and we passed a few of the resorts we stayed at in the past, as well as Xplor, one of the adventure park so we went to. Most of the adventure parks and quite a few resorts were closed due to Covid in different cities since City regulations vary from place to place. Technically, we weren’t even supposed to enter the country unless it was for emergency reasons, but Cancun was letting people in for vacations anyways as tourism has such a huge impact on the economy.

We drove up to the resort and it was absolutely beautiful and situated in the middle of jungle. Our driver told us that there were monkeys and jaguars in the jungle around our resort! I was wearing a jungle blouse with jaguars to match LOL.

We walked into the resort and immediately felt relaxed. Everything was socially distant and all of the staff are wearing masks. They even sanitized our shoes when we came in with spray to make sure that we are safe. Upon check-in, we met Carlos, our personal concierge for our entire stay. He gave us his details via WhatsApp so we could communicate and also booked all of our restaurant reservations for the week so we didn’t have to worry about it later on in our trip. We were then taken up to our ocean-view room and, wow, it was absolutely gorgeous! The view of the ocean was 10 out of 10 and our room was super modern and clean. I absolutely loved it.

We put our stuff down and decided to go to one of the lunch spots right by all the pools for a bite to eat since we hadn’t had anything since breakfast and it was already 3 PM. While we were eating, we saw three different couples from our flight were actually staying at the same resort! We are amazed at just how many Texans we ended up meeting on our trip.

We tried quite a few different dishes for lunch. I would say the food was a 6 out of 10 on the yummy scale but it wasn’t one of the main restaurant so I wasn’t too worried. After filling up, we hopped into our bathing suits and went back to the pool for a swim. We found some lounge chairs by another couple who were just married that Saturday. They were super nice and we talked to them for a while before they got up for the dinner reservation. We hopped in the water and another couple came down to swim in the same area so we started chatting. The girl, Kayla, was a CrossFit gym owner and her boyfriend, Jordan, was an engineer. They were definitely “feeling themselves” with some drinks and we ended up having a very lively conversation. After about 30 minutes, they got up to leave for their dinner reservation but Kayla was having trouble getting out of the water and we were all laughing so hard as she kept falling down! It was hilarious. It was her first time in an all inclusive and the drinks really snuck up on her! After they left, we swam for about another half an hour and basically had the whole pool to ourselves.

As we were getting out, my phone started ringing. I answered it and some one said “can we get a wheelchair?” I told the person that he had the wrong number but, as I hung up, I realized it was Jordan! I looked around and saw Jordan and Kayla about 30 yards away – they hadn’t made it very far! Kayla was sitting on the ground laughing hysterically and Jordan couldn’t get her up to move around. I ran over to the closest restaurant, knocked on the door, and typed “too much to drink drink, need a wheelchair” into Google Translate. The waiter read it and walked over to our friends to help them get back up to the room! It was so funny and quite a scene.

We went back to the room ourselves and got ready for a nice dinner at the Mexican restaurant. We sat on the patio and, of course, I forgot to wear bug spray. Oops! Despite that, we ended up having a lovely dinner. We got these duck taco spring roll things that were absolutely so delicious that we had to order more. Got a love all inclusives!

We also had guacamole with crickets, steak, bone marrow, and a pork chop which was all really good. At one point, there was a mosquito on my cheek and instead of saying “Hey, there’s a mosquito on your face”, Ryan just looked at me and blurted out “Eat it”! It was such a weirdly funny reaction that we used that phrase for “there’s something on your face” the rest the trip.

After dinner we went back to the room, got ready for bed, and had an amazing night sleep!

Day 2

We were supposed to go on the whale shark excursion on this day but, because it was the end of the season and the tour hadn’t seen whale sharks in a couple days, they canceled. I was a bit bummed, but it is 2020 so what can you do? We will just see them the next time we visit Mexico.

We got up and went down to the breakfast restaurant for a delicious breakfast. We probably ordered way too much but, at all inclusives, you have to try different things, right?! I tried one of the Mexican egg dishes and wasn’t a big fan but still enjoyed our morning.

After breakfast, we went back to the pool area we were in the day prior. At some of the other resorts we’ve stayed at in past trips, we’ve had to get up super early in the morning to reserve chairs because there are so many people but, with 50% capacity, we had our pick of all of the best pool spots!

We claimed some chairs and decided to go walk along the beach for a little bit. The sand felt great between our toes and the water was a perfect temperature. It felt so nice to get out and walk a little bit. There was barely any people on the beach too!

We went back to the resort and laid out for a while. The sun was so intense. Eventually, I got up to walk around and saw Kayla and Jordan! We ended up moving over closer to them and they were so excited that we still wanted to talk to them even after the craziness of the night before! I was so proud of Kayla for being such a trooper. She was much better condition than I thought she might be LOL. We ended up chatting with them pretty much the whole day in the water. It was a really nice time.

One of the guys working in the activities part of the resort told us we could go stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. So, after lunch of Hawaiian pizza and pork tacos, all four of us headed to the beach. We tried to find the kayak area and were flagged down by this guy. He was hanging by the lifeguard stand so he looked pretty legitimate. He came up to us and, instead of kayaks, offered us cigars. When we politly declined, he said “how about cocaine?”! What?! That was definitely not what we were going for. We laughed as we say “no” and walked way into the ocean water to relax for a while. The water temperature was absolutely perfect and, while there were some rocks in the water, we found a great, sandy patch to float around in. The colors of the water was so blue and amazing and I was very happy.

We eventually ventured back to the pool area and said goodbye to Kayla and Joe so they could go to dinner. We had an 8:30 reservation at the Italian so we have some time to kill. We ended up going back to the room and decided to try out the hot tub bath on the balcony. As I like overindulge, I put both containers of bubble bath in tub and turned the jets on. Bubbles were flying everywhere! It was absolutely hilarious. The people at the pool below us could see us being goofy and there was bubbles flying all out of our balcony down to the pool. I can only imagine what they thought of our laughter! 

After rinsing all the bubbles off, we got ready for our dinner at the Italian restaurant. Since our reservation was so late, we tried to go and get an earlier table but they were booked out. All of the restaurants were at half capacity so it was kind of hard to get reservations at decent times. We ended up going to the coffee bar for an espresso and then over to the reception bar for a couple cocktails and football.

8:30 finally hit and we walked over the pond area back to the restaurant. We ordered calamari and various pasta dishes that were all really tasty. I got raviolis for my main course but there were only three of them made of way-too-thick thick dough so I didn’t like them very much. We had a few glasses of wine and enjoyed the evening overall.

After dinner, we walked back to the room with full bellys and passed out.

Day 3 –

Day three of our trip started the same as day two, with a delicious breakfast trying all-of-the-things and getting a good spot at the pool. We decided to sit by the party pool today because it was a celebration of Mexican Independence Day. The resort put up these fun banners everywhere and hosted events and music throughout the day. There was a nice older couple that sat next to us and we ended up chatting with them for a good hour or so before Ryan and I decided to embark on a hard-core water basketball tournament. Mind you, he’s 6’2 and I am 5’2, but I still totally beat him (maybe with just a littttttle bit of cheating). We had a lot of fun with water basketball and were a little winded. Covid definitely got me out of shape, but after mudslide and a few strawberry margaritas, I got my wind back in my sales!

About 20 minutes later, the water volleyball tournament commenced and we ended up playing for three different games. No one wanted to play at first so we went over to just play each other and, after we entered the volleyball court, 20 showed up on each side! It was a bit crowded but really fun. Once volleyball ended, all of a sudden flamenco dancer started dancing. They did a great job and had wonderfully colorful outfits on. We enjoyed some alcoholic Popsicles while we were watching the show and then a guitarist appeared and played guitar alongside the DJ in this really awesome rhythm I’ve never heard before. It was quite entertaining.

We had another pizza for lunch and just relax by the pool until it was time to get ready for our dinner reservations at the sushi place at 5. The sushi restaurant was totally booked out and I had to check the Unico app every few hours to see if anyone had canceled just so we could get in.

I’m so glad we did! The sushi restaurant served some of the best sushi we’ve ever had, and we’ve been to Japan! The spring rolls were so crispy and delicious with so much flavor and the sushi was insane. We thought the portions were small so we ordered a hot pot of bbq pork ribs, pad thai, some steak thing and ended up with absolutely way too much food! But it was all sooooo good.

After dinner, we walked over to the breakfast restaurant located right by the beach where they were supposed to have live dancing and mariachis. We had some wine and churros while we waited. Ryan wanted to move spots to sit by the pool and, right after we moved the dancers started their performance where we were sitting. Talk about bad timing. We ended up just lounging in the dark, listening and watching the dancers run in and out of the bathroom as they changed into their numerous outfits.

Carlos, our Unico guide, texted us and said that there was a turtle release right before the fireworks at 9. We invited our friends Jordan and Kayla to go check it out and we all set off on an adventure to try and find the turtles. We walked on the beach and it was so dark! I turned on my cellphone light and saw a giant crab the size of a softball on the beach not 2 feet in font of me! There were bugs everywhere too. We kept walking into the darkness and thought we were going to get mugged but, eventually, we saw a group of three or four people crowded around a guy with a bucket of baby turtles. The bucket must have had a few hundred turtles in it and followed the guy down to the water’s edge. The guy who was in charge dug a small path in the sand and then tipped the bucket of turtles over and they all started running towards the water. It was absolutely wonderful to see. They were so cute and wiggley. Jordan had to pick one up and reroute it into the ocean because it was coming to hang out with us. Even though we didn’t get our whale shark experience, we still had a bit of nature love with the turtles.

Once all the turtles were safely in the ocean, we walked back to the pool area and relaxed on some lounge chairs facing the firework area. The fireworks went off with a bang (literally) and were right above us! It made for a wonderful view. The fireworks didn’t last very long but they were so fun to watch and made for an insanely great end to the night. We chatted with Jordan and Kayla for a while after the fireworks and eventually decided to call it a night. 

Day 4 –

I finally got my groove down at breakfast and ordered Mexican eggs with red bell peppers, green bell peppers, onions, homemade flour tortillas, salsa verde, and bacon to make breakfast tacos! While it all took absolutely forever to come out of the kitchen and my eggs came out 15 minutes before everything else, it all ended up being really delicious.

After breakfast, we went to the pool and decided to try the infinity pool area. We grabbed some chairs for Kayla and Jordan and figured out we had the best view in the house. It was only place in the resort that had ocean view and the infinity edge was just amazing!

We were right by the party pool and I was ready to work when Victor from the athletic’s team came out for some “pool-aties”. We jumped into the water with about 5 other people and were stretching and moving and grooving! It was pretty fun! Kayla and Jordan came up to our spot and then invited some other friends they had met throughout the resort, so we had quite a group going. Although our new friends didn’t want to join, Kayla and I indulged in the pool spin class. While there was no resistance on the pool spin bikes, the water made it hard to peddle, especially when we were out of the saddle! It was quite a workout! You’d think with my Peloton I’d be OK at water spin but, boy it was tougher than I thought.

After “spool”, spinning in the pool, we relaxed and just hang out by the poolside chatting and enjoying yourselves. Around 3 o’clock it was time for us to go to the spa for the experience pools in massage! We walked over to the spa and we’re taking through a series of experience pools and showers. We first had to to shower off, then go in the hot sauna for 10 minutes, then the steam room for 10 minutes, then the cold shower, then a Jacuzzi tub, and then a cold plunge into a freezing pool. After all of that, it was time for a massage. The massage was absolutely fantastic, especially on oils and my sunburnt skin. I was soooo red even though we had been putting on tubs and tubs of sunscreen. Oops!

After the spa we went back to the room and felt super relaxed. Ryan wanted a nap but we had to go to the sushi restaurant early to try and change our reservation from hibachi to sushi again. We had such an amazing dinner the night before that we wanted to enjoy it again, especially since it was our three-year anniversary. We grabbed an espresso and walked over to the restaurant and they were, thankfully, able to accommodate us.

We even talked to the sommelier and ordered a bottle of port 20 year Tawny port. We talked to the waiter about how good the food was and he brought out the chef to chat. We had a really nice night talking about how this place compared to all of the wonderful places we’ve been able to eat at like Gagan in Thailand,  Il Pagliaccio  in Italy,  Passion by Martín Berasategui. It was so nice to remember all of those very special nights.

Once we got to desert, we had some of our port and set two glasses over to Jordan and Kayla to enjoy as well. After dinner we grabbed the bottle and went to the bar lobby to drink the rest and chat with some of the new friends.

I ended up playing pool with this guy who was in the 60s and had moved to Mexico to DJ for 14 years before moving back to Florida to retire. He had led a pretty interesting life! While we didn’t do so well at pool, we had a good time playing.

Once Jordan and Kayla got done with dinner, we met up with their other friends and ended up going to one of the couples swim-up rooms to hang out. Eventually got kind of cold in right now headed back up to hit the hay.

Day 5 –

It was our last morning in Mexico and our checkout time was at 12:30. Boy did time fly! We went back to breakfast restaurant for another round of breakfast tacos and then out to the infinity pool for our favorite spot. Ryan was super sunburnt so he hid under towels and a big umbrella while took a quick walk on the beach to get one last look at it before we had to leave. Feeling refreshed, I laid out and absorbed some sunshine in the fresh air.

Eventually our group from the prior day trickled in and we all enjoyed each other’s company until it was time for Ryan and I to get ready to go. We went back to the room and ordered room service pizza intros for our “last meal” in front of our ocean view. We packed up, checked out, and were back in the Happy Shuttle van to the airport before we knew it. We were in the airport quickly, on the plane quickly, landed quickly, and were out a customs in no time. It almost felt like the entire trip it never happened as it went so fast. We were definitely relieved to have the time off to decompress.

Playa Del Carmen – Day 4 & 5

Playa Del Carmen – Day 4 & 5

Today we finally got to sleep in! Getting out of bed was incredibly difficult with the super fluffy pillows, ridiculous amount of room to stretch, and cloud like covers, however, the siren call of our 10 AM massage somehow got us out! We had a quick and delicious breakfast at the buffet and headed over to the spa.


The Yhi Spa smelt amazing and instantly relaxed us. We changed into robes and went outside to the private jacuzzi area. I was all about the cold-water Jacuzzi, as it soothed my burnt back, and Ryan hung out in the hot tub. After 5-10 minutes, I tried out the sauna and the mint steam room – ahhhhhh so nice! Eventually, we were taken upstairs to the couple’s massage room. The spa was one of the nicest I have ever been too and it was one of the best massages of my life! The pressure was perfect, the only downside was it went way to quickly.

After the massage, we walked to the pool and hopped into the day bed we reserved with towels. We ordered some drinks and Ryan got a burger for lunch. After lounging for a while, we hopped in the pool and watched the very enthusiastic water aerobics teacher do his thing with about 30 people in the pool. It was funny and I couldn’t help but join in for 10 minutes. We made our way over to the pool bar to meet up with the group from Vermont that we talked to the day prior, grab a volleyball, and play water volleyball. After about an hour or so before we decided to get out of the sun and back into our cabana for a nap. It was heaven!

We had a 7:30 reservation at Bana – the hibachi / Asian fusion restaurant. I love all things sushi but Ryan never gets “full enough” from sushi dinners so we don’t go often. In this case, it was all you can eat, so we ended up ordering over half the menu; spicy edamame, rock shrimp, a pineapple crab roll, a tuna roll, tuna nigiri, sea weed salad, pork egg rolls, sea bass with sweet noodles, shrimp pad Thai, and two desserts.

We did not go hungry this trip!

We ended up going to the Blue Agave cocktail lounge after dinner for some strawberry margaritas and tequila tasting. That was delicious, and needless to say, I was in the mood to dance after those exotic drinks. There was a funky band playing at the outside bar on the adult’s side so we enjoyed and danced to their music the rest of the night.

Day 5 – The last day in Playa:

Last day in paradise! We woke up early so we could enjoy a quick breakfast and head to the beach. Being pretty burnt, we decided to snag some lounge chairs under an umbrella and relax for the last 2 hours of our stay. The water was a bit choppy and the wind was blowing, but it was so relaxing and warm. The beach in Playa is much narrower than that in Cancun and there are quite a few more reefs so you should be careful where you enter the ocean.

Ryan started to itch and we noticed he had red bumps on his hands and legs! They were pretty concerning so, after we finished on the beach, we quickly showered, changed, packed, and went to the front desk to check out and to ask for a medic. The medic came and said that his bumps were either a sun rash or reaction to the microorganisms in the seaweed. We had been using SPF 30 and apparently, if your sun screen is not potent enough, you can get sun poisoning, so we will be upping the SPF in future. The medic gave Ryan some Benadryl cream and that seemed to lessen the irritation and redness almost immediately! Thank goodness.

With a less itchy fiancé, we went to the Market restaurant for some Italian fare before grabbing a taxi and heading to the airport for our quick flight back to the Lone Star State.

Playa Del Carmen – Day 3

Playa Del Carmen – Day 3

The view of the pool at the Paradisus La Perla, Playa Del Carmen

Upon check-in at the hotel, our concierge guy Marcos convinced us to sit through a 90-minute presentation about the Melia membership club. We were hesitant but, after a lot of back and forth, he promised he would pay for our $200 meal at the Passion by Martin Berasategui restaurant and gave us two 50 minute massages for the price of one at the spa ($150 savings). For a 90-minute presentation at 8 AM over breakfast, the $350 worth of stuff was with the time sacrifice. We researched the presentation before going into it and read a lot about how some people’s tours were 2 hours, how you needed to be very firm with the sales people, and how some people spent way too much money on a membership and couldn’t get out of it. We put together a game plan going into the pitch to make sure we stood firm that we were not going to buy.

Our sales guy was quite nice and apparently, Marcos gave more free perks that he was supposed to. We had breakfast at the buffet and talked before the sales guy showed us a few luxury suites, and then took us to their business office to show us the club membership. The pitch boiled down to a $42K price tag on a partially covered 1 week vacation every year for 50 years, however, there were tons of crazy additional fees and your money bought points instead of hotel nights so the value of what you buy might change arbitrarily based on the chain’s whims. They also wanted the money within 24 months which equalled out to payments more than our rent! We were flabbergasted at the “deal” and were joking about the ridiculous cost with so many caveats.

Our sales guy quickly realized that we were not buying and we were done with the presentation in under an hour. For all the stuff we received, it was very worth it, but some of the other couples we met here had a bit higher pressure sales person and it wasn’t quite as easy to make a get-away. If you do decide to go in for the pitch, make sure you have a game plan ahead of time so you don’t sign up for something you regret.

After the pitch, we found some lounge chairs by the pool and lathered up with sun screen. The weather was perfect and the sun came out right as we laid down. Being the antsy person I am, I left Ryan to nap and headed to the pool bar. I started chatting with this super nice couple who were on their honeymoon. They also had recently visited Thailand, and were thinking about going to Peru, so we had lots to chat about! Eventually, Ryan wandered over and we had a great conversation over some bloody Mary’s, mud slides, strawberry daiquiris, and then rum and Cokes. Unfortunately, all those drinks forgot to remind me to reapply sunblock, and my back got nice and uncomfortably red! Oops!

Around noon, the water-jazzercise started in the pool. We watched the two instructors do some pretty intense water moves outside of the pool for 20 minutes – they were so enthusiastic about their moves we hand to laugh! Eventually, we hopped out of the pool and headed to a sub par, pizza lunch at one of the restaurants. It seems that the cooks “forgot” to add marinara sauce to their pizzas, making for Hawaiian cheesy bread instead.

After lunch, we found a cabana by the pool and napped under the shade for a few hours. Talk about relaxing! Around 5, I attempted to go to spin class but the instructor hurt his back and canceled the class. Feeling a bit woozy on the treadmill, I decided to head back to the room, got ready, and went to a Rodizio dinner at the hotel before hailing a cab to head to Playa’s famous 5th Street.

We heard about 5th Street from quite a few people. It is about 2 miles of cute local and chain shops, beauty parlors, restaurants, and bars. We were dropped off at the end closes to our hotel and we walked for about two hours down the street. There were tons of people! I left my sun hat on the Edventure shuttle from our sea-turtle tour the day prior, so we haggled a few shop keepers until I found a fabulous new sun hat at a great price. I was also very impressed by all the restaurants and bars. They were so cute and each had a very unique theme with amazing décor. It didn’t seem like there were any chain places at all (outside of Senior Frogs) and I wanted to stop and try all of them!

There were also loads of typical American shops like Nike, Sephora, Forever 21, but we only shopped the local ones since those are unique to the area. There were lots of nice leather goods and amazing art at very reasonable prices. I wish our apartment had more room for all the things I wanted to buy – especially the art! There was a full side street of amazing paintings by local artists.

We stayed on 5th the entire time and felt very safe. After so much walking, our feet started to complain and we hopped in a cab to head back to the hotel and then to bed.

 

Playa Del Carmen – Passion by Martín Berasategui

With such a hilarious Michael Jackson show in the day prior, we couldn’t pass up seeing the Aladdin show playing in the Paradisus La Perla theater. We had an 8:00 reservation for dinner and Aladdin started at 7:30 so we were only able to catch the first 30 minutes of the nostalgia generating performance! Between the costumes, the semi-coordinated dancing and lip syncing, all the music from my favorite Disney movie, and two glasses of wine, we were very entertained.

After we got our Aladdin fix, it was time for dinner at the world-renowned restaurant, Passion by Martín Berasategui. Berasategui has several Michelin Stars from other restaurants and launched a fancy resultant at our hotel. Even though this dinner was not included in our all-inclusive, we decided to give it a go – and boy were we glad!

We got dressed up and entered the fanciest restaurant on the grounds. Our white-gloved waiter greeted us and presented us with a selection of waters from across the world. I have never been offered a water selection… it was so lux. We decided on bottled water from Playa Del Carmen and it was poured over a rose petal in our water glasses.

We were then presented with two amuse-bouches dishes first that were totally to-die-for! The first featured balsamic watermelon, beef and caper tartar over a wonton crisp, parmesan cheese puffs, a grapefruit puree, and another puff of some kind. It was an off-the-menu surprise of a first course into an excellent meal.

The second amuse-bouche was a light calamari salad with a lemon drizzle.

After we finished with the first two courses, our tasting menu began. Our waiter set down a marble block with 5 different butters that were to be paired with a different bread over the next 5 courses. I have to say, the butter was one of my favorite dishes of the meal! From truffle, to citrus zest, to Italian herb, the butters were so creamy and paired so well with each bread variety that I had no butter left by the end of the meal. I was in calorie heaven! Our first butter was accompanied by thin slices of tri tip steak over foie gras royal.

Next up was organic egg yolk with liquid salad, red tubers and smoked cheese. I typically do not like any type of egg unless it is scrambled, but when this infused, red egg yolk was popped and mixed with the other flavors, the egg was taken to an entirely different flavor level.

Next up was a dashi and mushroom broth over liquid cheese spheres with dewlap and crispy quinoa. The broth was poured over the dish and added an interesting mushroom flavor. Additionally, there have only been two different instances in my life where I have eaten and tolerated raw tomatoes. Note, I love sun-dried tomatoes, ketchup, pasta sauce, and salsa, but I just cannot stand raw tomatoes! Outside of the tomato dish at Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand, this is the only other time I have eaten tomatoes and not died inside – it was that good!

The 4th course was totoba with false shiitake mushroom risotto and creamy rice. It was good but was probably the least remarkable dish of the night. I did like the crispy skin on the fish though.

Our waiter delivered our 5th course of picanha with truffled tubers and olives and then rolled over a cart of salts. We picked some salt flavors and then added a dash to each bite of the steak as we enjoyed the dish. I tried a volcanic  and grasshopper salts and, wouldn’t you know, they were both delicious.

After a quick palette cleanser, my favorite dish of the night of lemon ice cream with basil essence, green bean and almond was served. The lemon was actually a cold, white chocolate shell that contained an incredible lemony cream inside. I cracked it open with my spoon and the cream picked up pieces of the dark chocolate crunch underneath, making for one of the most scrumptious bites of food I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. On the other side of the plate was mint infused ice. The cool sensation of the ice ,when enhanced by the lemon and chocolate still lingering from prior bites, was simple and exquisite. I would eat this every day of my life if I could.

The last dessert on the official menu was a chocolate Bailey’s ice cream with vanilla and coffee toffee and it was then followed up by a “chef’s treat” of other various mini-desserts and jellies. Needless to say, we were totally stuffed after a total of 11 dishes (plus all of those yummy butters and breads!).

Playa Del Carmen – Day 2

Playa Del Carmen – Day 2

Two years ago, we went to Cancun and booked all our excursions thorough the ME Cancun. While we had an amazing time with those tours, they were with lots of other people and we paid a lot more than if we had booked online. This time around, we researched tours on TripAdvisor before we left and booked a Snorkel & Sea Turtle Adventure with Edventure Tours which had a 5-star rating and over a 1.4K reviews! With that amount of reviews, it had to be good and the price was just right.

Our shuttle for the tour picked us up at 7 AM so it was another early morning. The bus was very clean and comfortable and our driver was very friendly. We picked up another couple along the 50-minute drive to Tulum and arrived around 8 AM. The took us to Edventure Tour’s HQ, a little shop on the outskirts of the Tulum Ruins park, and we met Eddy the owner. He was so nice and gave us free passes to the Tulum Ruins since the four-other people who were joining us on our snorkel and sea turtle adventure were rock climbing first. He also gave us a free bottle of organic sun screen to use instead of the stuff we brought that had chemicals harmful to the sea life. Super nice!

It was quite sunny out and Ryan didn’t have a hat so we stopped at one of the shops on the way to the Tulum Ruins.  He tried on all sorts of fedoras, cowboy hats, bonnets, and finally settled on a giant straw one. It was super goofy but, after rocking his Peruvian “adventure hat” for so long, we had to make sure he had a worthy replacement!

Adventure hats are the best hats! Tulum, Mexico

A guide walked us to the entrance of the Tulum Ruins, gave us our free tickets, and said we had about an hour to gallivant around. Since it was so early, there were not a ton of people there, so we had free reign of the Ruins. While they were not quite as impressive as Chichen Itza, the view from the cliffs, combined with the 1,300-year-old ruins, were very impressive.

There were even iguanas running around everywhere. The only downside was that my flip-flops meant for our day at the beach gave me a huge blister. Word to the wise, wear walking sandals on all excursions just in case!

The ruins in Tulum, Mexico

The ruins took about 30 minutes to go through and, while it was only about 75 degrees, it was humid so we were ready for refreshment. We wandered through the market shops outside of the ruins and found a little restaurant to grab a michelada, or what they call Rojo Ojo. It was so good! We walked back to the Edventures area and our guide, George, packed our snorkel gear and gave us some snacks for the bus ride to Eddy’s private property.

Eddy has 10 hectares (24 acres) of forest that had cenotes, a zip line park, and rock climbing on it. Once we got there, George had us hop in a camouflage ATV and we drove fast over 4 miles of rocky path through the forest to get to the cenotes! Cenotes are flooded underground caves with stalagmites and stalactites. There are three different kinds, once that are completely under grounds, ones that have caved in and are partially exposed, and then ones that are totally open. Our first stop was the underground variety.

We walked down this 5-foot-wide hole in the group to an underground paradise. It was completely dark so we were given flashlights to see in the water as we swam. The water was so blue and the perfect temperature. We could see perfectly way down to the bottom and there were little fish swimming around us. It was so cool to swim through the cave and see the bats hanging from the ceiling crevasse. I loved every second of it!

After the cave cenote, we walked to the open air one. It have to say, it was quite nice only having 6 people and two guides to our group. It made for a very exclusive feel without overcrowding. Anyway, this cave had a jumping platform where we could jump into the deep water.

There were also tons of cool structures in the depths of the water and ominous dark caves to go scuba diving in.

Exploring the waters of a cenote in Tulum, Mexico

We swam around and explored the cenote for about 45 minutes before heading to a Palapa for a lunch of pork and chicken tacos. Lunch was pretty good and, after we filled up, Ryan was given the keys to our ATV and drove us back to the van area. He loved every second of it (and we made it back without crashing – always a plus!)

We met the other 4 in our group, hopped in a van, and drove 15 minutes to Akumal Bay where the sea turtles are! Apparently over the past year or so, sea turtle tours were banned by the government due to huge tour groups disrupting the turtles. Two weeks before our vacation, 30 tour groups were re-granted permits out of the 300 or so that had permits the year before. Edventure tours had been working with the turtles and very involved in the environmental protection of the area for 30+ years and were grated a tour, so we were able to go!

The beach was totally packed with people and we were given special wristbands to snorkel out to the turtles. As we got further from the beach, the water got much clearer and you could see green seaweed growing from the sand. Apparently, this was the sea turtle’s favorite food and, within 4-5 minutes of being out there, we saw our first turtle!

We all floated around it and, eventually it had to come up to air. It spun around while rising and came within one foot of my face (see below)! The turtle was so huge and cute and I was in awe that I was so close to such a magical creature! It is amazing how encounters with such majestic animals can make for some of the coolest moments of our lives.

Getting up close and personal with a sea turtle in Mexico

We saw a bit further and I spotted another turtle with two huge fish on it! They were sucker fish and were eating the stuff on the turtle’s shell. So cool! We watched that turtle for a while and then were off to explore the reef.

The reef had tons of beautiful fish, much better than our snorkeling in Thailand, and we even saw a king fish! King fish are one of the deadliest fish we can encounter in reefs, but they are so cool looking!

A school of purple fish in the reefs in Mexico

We snorkeled for another 30 minutes or so throughout the reef and ended up back on the beach. We hopped back in the van and drove about 10 minutes down the road to a lagoon to do some more snorkeling. The lagoon was in a nature park with cool sculptures everywhere and we had to walk through a forest path to get to the lagoon. It was beautiful and full of amazing fish that flourished in the nutrient rich stream water hitting that of the sea.

Lounging by the lagoon in Mexico

We snorkeled there for about an hour. The top two feet of the water was hard to see through as the salt and sea water mixed, but visibility got much better with a quick dive down.

Snorkeling in a lagoon in Mexico

Eventually, all the activities of the day and early morning got to us, and we hopped out of the lagoon to relax on the rocky edges until the group was gathered and we took the hour-long ride home to get ready for our extravagant dinner at the Passion restaurant.