Snorkeling with a sea turtle in Mexico

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.



The beaches of El Salvador

El Salvador Beach Trip

Another 6:15 AM morning for our trip to El Salvador from Guatemala City! It was a spectacularly clear morning and the view from Cass’s parents house was amazing. We had a quick black bean, egg, ham, and tortilla breakfast and hopped in the car for our 3+ hour drive. Cass’s dad, who is originally from El Salvador, was kind enough to drive us to their beach house. The drive was full of twists and turns and we passed lots of coffee, sugar cane, and pineapple fields along the way. We passed through El Salvador’s customs and then stopped at watermelon booth set up on the side of the highway for a snack and had to make sure the “water in the watermelon was safe to drink so we wouldn’t get Montazuma’s” – *places palm on forehead, shakes head, and sighs*. It was pretty funny!

Eventually, we hopped on a dirt path, through a gate, past huge trees, and parked in front of an adorable little beach house in the forest. The house had a big center room and then three rooms off to the sides with 5 beds in each room! It could fit over 20 people! There were super comfortable hammocks everywhere, a pool for sunning, and this great cabana next to the kitchen building overlooking the ocean. Talk about paradise!

We immediately changed into our bikinis and hit the beach. The water was like bath water and the sand felt so good between our toes. We literally had the whole beach to ourselves for two days! We laid out in the sand with the water lapping at our toes for a while before getting called in for lunch.

On the beach in El Salvador

Cass’s mom and maids had prepped food for us to bring and we had a yummy lunch of grilled chicken and veggies at this giant wooden table that sat about 20 people in the cabana. It is made of one giant, continuous piece of wood and was probably one of the most amazing piece of furniture I have ever seen.



After lunch, we played some bocce ball (which I totally botched), and then some badminton. We got the fly stuck up in a big tree above us an all took turns throwing our rackets up at it to get it out. Janine tried to throw hers but, instead of throwing up, she threw the racket straight into a tree – we were laughing so hard we were crying! We eventually transitioned to sand volleyball and got super sandy so we relaxed in the water until sun-down when all of the mosquitos arrived in droves. Seriously, it was like a monsoon of mosquitos was upon us and we raced back to the house for cover and bug spray until they passed.

During that time, we put on some dance 101 YouTube videos and learned some new, sweet moves, including our attempts at twerking. I am pretty sure the groundskeeper and maid saw us, but El Salvador is a “judgment free” zone, right?

Finally, the mozzies left and we went back to the cabana for chicken tortilla lasagna – probably my favorite dish in all of Guatemala. It was SO good! We listened to the waves in the dark and watched lightning bugs dance on the beach until we were too tired to keep our eyes open and then went to bed.

El Salvador – Day 2

Although we were not traveling to another location, we still woke up at the crack of dawn to explore the beach at low tide on our second day on the beach in El Salvador. There were black volcanic rocks that led to a big boulder about 200 yards from the beach and, when the tide went out, we were able to walk across the lava path to the boulder. There were crabs, weird shelled creatures, and minnows strewn all along our path entrapped in pockets of water and ripe for exploring. We brought our water shoes and goggles to do some reef snorkeling as well and saw glimpses of colorful fish, kale looking sea slugs, and neat looking shells. unfortunately, a lot of the reef had disappeared over the years due to human intervention and shell-pocketing, but we at least got a feel for what once was.

Volcanic rocks on the beaches of El Salvador

There was no current while we were out in the morning, so we relaxed and floated for a while and then decided to pose like mermaids on a nearby rock while singing songs from the movie. I mean, who wouldn’t want to do that?

Channeling my inner mermaid in El Salvador

After we got our fill of pictures and sang out lungs out, we grabbed the kayaks for a sea adventure. Unfortunately for Kim and I, our kayak went rouge and we couldn’t stay stable for the life of us! We must have had 15 attempts before I left Kim to use the kayak on her own and swam back to shore. I sat under a tree and listened to the waves roll in for what must have been half an hour before I was rejoined by the group to play badminton and have ceviche for lunch.  Who knew cold shrimp, lime juice, garlic, and cilantro could be so delicious! We also made my new favorite drink – micheladas, and laid out by the pool until the swarms of mozzies returned and we had to go inside. It eventually started to pour rain and we had to make a break for it to the cabana for dinner. We had that delicious chicken tortilla lasagna again and watched the lightning break over the ocean until it was time for bed.

The Core 4 travel buddies at the beach in El Salvador

El Salvador Beach Tips:

  • Bring lots of bug spray! They mozzies are everywhere
  • Wear water shoes as the beaches are rocky
  • Bring board games for when you are indoors waiting for the mozzies to dissipate / rain to pass
  • Don’t forget your sun screen and a hat