Posts Tagged With: Puerto Aventuras

Hasta la Vista PA

Before I move on to our ill-fated trip down under, I have a few more memories to share from January 2017 in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico.

Food is an important component of any trip. Since this was our third stay in Puerto Aventuras, we have several favorite restaurants but Cafe Olé tops the list. (It’s also the top rated restaurant on Trip Advisor.) Jim loves the all-you-can-eat fall-off-the-bone ribs with potato salad, coleslaw, and beans offered on Sundays and Tuesdays and I can always find fresh local fish.


Ribs with potato salad, coleslaw, and beans at Cafe Olé


Fish (which I started eating then remembered to photograph) with grapefruit, rice, and fresh veggies at Cafe Olé

The number 1 dessert place is Jessie Gelato where Jim and Gail can be found every evening getting their home-made gelato fix. They didn’t have to twist Chuck’s arm either.


Jim, Chuck, and Gail at Jessie Gelato

Every year we walk across the highway to the local village to find authentic Mexican food but each time we retreat fearing Montezuma’s revenge from the local water. This time we finally stood our ground and ate at A Tu Parador which means “at your roadside inn.” That makes sense since this place is just next to the highway.



Jim, Chuck, Gail, and me

The various condiments for the tortilla chips were tasty with some heat and the beers on tap were big and cheap.


Condiments for chips

I ordered a fish taco and while it was a no frills, basic taco, it hit the spot. This was probably the least expensive meal we had the entire two weeks and we didn’t get sick either. I’m sure we’ll be back.


Fish taco

One advantage of staying in the condo at Chac Hal Al is the ability to cook some of our own meals. The walk to the large super market, Chedraui, is 2.9 km (1.8 mi) each way but twice a week we can buy fresh produce at the farmer’s market just a couple of blocks from our condo.


Farmer’s Market in Puerto Aventuras

Each day we checked at the marina for fresh fish that charter boats sometimes sell if the customer doesn’t want it. Chuck got lucky one day and bought some yellow fin tuna that is usually eaten raw after marinating but we grilled it to perfection with a little olive oil and onion.



Chuck also got a lesson on harvesting and opening coconuts from Miguel, one of the grounds keepers at Chac Hal Al.

Chuck engaging the grounds keepers

Miguel picking a coconut

Opening the coconut

Jim tasting coconut milk

Coconut meat

This year we enjoyed a special treat when the Green Bay Packers played in the NFC Championship. One of the restaurants, Palapas, offered a package for an all-you-can-eat buffet including margaritas, piña coladas, rum punch, and beer during the game for just $12. Although the game was a blowout and the Packers played like high schoolers, the food was good, we had live music before the game, and we drowned our sorrows in margaritas.




Breakfast at Palapas


Live music at Palapas

A few more random memories:

Gail and I especially enjoy a drink at the bar at the Omni Hotel next door where we can sit in the jetted pool with a view of the water. We dragged the guys along for the fun. Gail was wearing an itty bitty bikini and I didn’t think she’d appreciate me posting that photo so I’ll leave it to your imagination.

One night while sitting at a restaurant on the marina, we saw fireworks over the water to the south of PA, probably at Barceló Resort. Sometimes if the wind is right, we can even hear music from major artists like Luke Bryan playing at Barceló.

One morning I planned to hike out to the lighthouse but the terrain was so challenging I made it just part way and took photos instead.

The grounds at Chac Hal Al are always well-maintained and I never tire of the beautiful views.

The little pool at Chac Hal Al

Iguana and Jim sunning themselves

Panorama view of our view from our balcony

Gail and me after a swim

We’ve already booked our two-week stay at Chac Hal Al in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico for next January. Until then, hasta la vista.

Riviera Maya from the air


Based on events from January 2017.


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Puerto Aventuras 2017

We first visited Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, in January 2015. It was such a great getaway from the January cold and snow in Iowa we went back in 2016 and again in 2017. We don’t usually return to the same place year after year because there are so many new places to discover, but this place is special. Puerto Aventuras is located on the Yucatán Peninsula, 89 km (55 mi) south of Cancun and a short colectivo (local bus) ride from Playa del Carmen and Tulúm. It’s a small gated community with a laid back atmosphere and beautiful views of Bahia Fatima (Fatima Bay).


View from our balcony


View from our condo of our balcony and the bay


View from the bedroom to the upper balcony


Walking along the marina


Dolphin Discovery on the marina


Selfie while walking the beach in front of our condo


The lagoon near the marina


Sunset from our balcony

We arrived on January 10 and we wanted to continue our exploration of Mayan culture before our friends, Gail and Chuck, arrived on January 15.  Since we visited Chichen Itza the previous year (you can read that post here) and Tulum in 2002, this year we scheduled a guided bus trip to the ruins at Cobá. After a mix-up about our pickup location, we were finally on our way.

Coba is a large, mostly unexcavated archeological site in the jungle just 39 km (24 mi.) northwest of Tulum. Dating from 600-900 AD, the main attraction is the pyramid, Nohoch Mul, which is taller than Kulkulkan Pyramid at Chichen Itza. Nohoch Mul has 120 steps to the top compared to Kulkulkan Pyramid’s 91 steps. And, unlike Kulkulkan Pyramid, Nohoch Mul is still open to the public to climb. 😱 This pleasure, however, was saved until the end of our visit. Nohuch Mul is at the far end of the grounds, a distance of at least 2 km (1.2 mi.), by my estimation. Because not everyone wants to walk that far, they offer bike rentals and rickshaw bikes with drivers to transport visitors at a very reasonable cost. We, however, walked.


Ruins at Coba with our guide


Sculpture at Coba


The walk to the pyramid


Rickshaws transporting tourists at Coba


One of the stone slabs or stelae that archeologists used to learn about life in Coba

When I saw the pyramid, I knew climbing to the top was out of the question for me. The slope was extremely steep and everyone I saw coming down was doing so on their butts close to or holding onto the rope.  The steps were also very uneven and quite narrow.


Nohoch Mul Pyramid

I did climb far enough for a photo, then relinquished my phone to Jim who made it all the way to the top. It was, in a word, terrifying and I worried about Jim’s safety the entire time. Since he had the camera, I was unable to get photos while he climbed but he took pictures during his ascent and from the top.


This was as far as I climbed at Nohoch Mul Pyramid


Looking back down the pyramid


Looking down from Nohoch Mul Pyramid

Screen Shot 2017-06-27 at 11.11.32 AM

Jim’s photo of the surrounding jungle from the top of Nohoch Mul Pyramid

I hadn’t heard of Coba before my research but this tour was impressive. While it’s not as extensive as Chichen Itza, if your dream is to risk your life by climbing to the top of a pyramid, this is the place to do it. So go there before they prohibit it.

And come back next time for more of our 2017 trip to Puerto Aventuras.

Based on events from January 2017.

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Sailing Fat Cat from Puerto Aventuras

If you’re looking for a fun-filled sailing experience while visiting the Riviera Maya, check out Fat Cat Catamaran and Sailing Tours. For $100 per person, we got a four-hour sailing experience that included drinks, lunch, music, snorkeling, swimming, and even the catch of a dorado.


Our catamaran, Fat Cat Two

As we set sail at 9 am, most of the passengers were ready to party to the thumping dance music with drinks in hand–rum punch or beer. While I don’t usually succumb to sea sickness, I felt that alcohol so early in the day combined with motion might not set well on my stomach so I declined the offer and stuck with water until after lunch. My friend Gail definitely tends toward sea sickness so she abstained with me. I admit when drinks are included, there’s some pressure to imbibe, just to “get your money’s worth” but the seas were a little rough and I think it was a wise choice for both of us.


Gail showing a Corona Mega


Setting sail


Jim as we set sail


Out of the marina and into the open water

After sailing north toward Playa del Carmen for an hour or more, we anchored to snorkel. I snorkeled briefly but then returned to the boat to take photos instead. Someday I’m going to get a waterproof camera and take photos while in the water.


Our group snorkeling


Gail snorkeling


Gail returns to the boat


Jim snorkeling


Jim returns to the boat

While in the warm, crystal-clear water, the snorkelers saw many varieties of colorful reef fish, stingrays, and sea turtles. When they were finished, everyone had worked up an appetite and it was time for lunch. The others had a typical sack lunch containing sandwiches, chips, and cookies but I requested a gluten-free lunch and I was thrilled with my offering of tuna, lettuce, tomato, and avocado.


My lunch 

After lunch, we headed back at a leisurely pace.


Jim enjoying the ride


Enjoying a rum punch on the return trip

The fishing lines were trolling off the rear of the boat and we were thrilled to watch the staff land a dorado, also called mahi-mahi in Hawaii or dolphinfish in other places.  In Spanish, dorado means golden which perfectly describes this tasty fish. Everyone who cared to was offered the opportunity to pose with the fish.


Gail with the dorado


Jim with the dorado


Laura (me) with dorado

We made a final stop near our marina for swimming. While there we discovered one of the other passengers onboard was a firefighter from Iowa who knows my brother through rugby. I’m always amazed by the connections we find with people as we chat.


Swimming off the boat


My handsome man

As we sailed into the channel to the marina, I got a photo of our condo from the water.


View of our condo as we sail into the marina

It was a great day at sea and Jim was already talking about going again next year.


Based on events from January 2016.





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Stinking and Sinking in Puerto Aventuras

Our condo at Chac Hal Al overlooked Bahia de Fatima, a beautiful, serene bay with clear cerulean water perfect for swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, or paddle boarding. For the less active, it was a beautiful setting for sunbathing or just sitting in the shade of a palm tree or palapa with a good book or a cocktail.


Bahia de Fátima (Fatima Bay) from our beach


Báhia de Fátima (Fatima Bay) from our balcony


Swimmers and snorkelers at the beach


Gail paddle boarding


Jim chillaxin’ poolside with a view of the bay


Gail sunbathing on the beach


Jim with a view of the pool and the bay


Time for nachos and Coronitas


My view

Idyllic, wouldn’t you agree? That is until our idyll was disturbed by two events. The first disruption occurred when we observed this.


What looked like brown seaweed invaded the peaceful azure waters and definitely discouraged water activities. My research revealed it was sargassum or sargasso seaweed, which is an increasingly common problem in the Caribbean. The free-floating algae originate in the Sargasso Sea located in the Bermuda Triangle of the North Atlantic. While its existence is nothing new, the amount has increased dramatically and may be attributed to the warming of the ocean due to global climate change. In normal amounts, sargassum provides habitat for lots of marine life including hatching sea turtles but the massive amounts washing ashore today can adversely impact tourism. Clogging the water, it discourages swimmers and snorkelers and the smell as it deteriorates drives away beach-lovers.

I was impressed to see residents and employees working side by side to rake and bag the sargassum and haul it away from the beach. Soon they had the beach looking pristine again and ready for activities. We did, however, observe sargassum at other beaches along the Riviera Maya during our stay so I wonder how they are dealing with the issue.


Jim walking back from the area where clean-up occurred

The next puzzling event occurred when we noticed a large ship which appeared offshore in Bahia de Fatima.


Large ship in Bahia Fátima

After several days continued presence, we asked a local realtor that paddle boarded to our beach about it. She said a Mexican Navy ship hit the reef and sank. I posted a teaser on Facebook and Twitter that a blog post would follow. This is finally that post.

We still didn’t know the full story. Why was the large ship there? Day after day, when I saw it was still there, I wondered what it was doing and how long it would continue to be present. It dominated our view and became a daily topic of conversation.


Mexican Navy Ship


View of the navy ship from our upstairs balcony

We even discussed it over cocktails at the Omni swim-up bar.


Our view of the navy ship from the swim-up bar at the Omni Hotel

And then it was gone and the drama ended. We finally learned from reading the local paper, The Pelican Free Press, a Polaris Patrol Interceptor boat lost power causing it to hit the reef. It was hung up on the reef for several days, where Jim first saw it, but it sank when it was pulled from the rocks. Salvage operations first centered around removing equipment and weapons from the boat. The Mexican Navy’s second largest multipurpose logistical ship, a BAL-02, equipped with a hoist arrived to refloat the sunken ship and tow her in for repairs.

Life on Bahia Fátima returned to its previous undisturbed halcyon state. But I’m sure the tourists and locals who were there sometimes say, “Remember when…”


Next time: Playa del Carmen

Based on events from January 2016.



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Behaving Badly in Puerto Aventuras

We enjoyed our week in Puerto Aventuras on the Mayan Riviera of Mexico in January 2015 so much that we returned in January 2016 and extended our stay to two weeks. (If you want to read my previous posts about Puerto Aventuras, check posts from February and March 2015.) In the several days before our friend, Gail, joined us, we got reacquainted with Puerto Aventuras; walked to the grocery store, Super Chedraui, to stock up on essentials; discovered a Starbucks; and even found a Zumba class.


View from our condo


View of Dolphin Discovery from Hoo Haa Restaurant


Sea Lions at Dolphin Discovery


Marina at Puerto Aventuras


Cannon outside the National Museum of Underwater Archeology


Marina at Puerto Aventuras


Our condo at Chac Al Hal is on the right side upper 2 floors


No explanation required


Beach in front of our condo




Guacamole on the balcony


Iguana sunning itself


Party boat leaving the marina


Dinner at Dos Chiles





Knowing  our friend, Gail, wouldn’t care to accompany us, we decided to take a bus tour to Chichen Itza before she arrived. We booked our tour through Paradise Tours located in the lobby of the Omni Hotel. For $85 per person, our package included narrated bus transportation, entrance to Chichen Itza with a guided tour, buffet lunch on the return trip, and a stop at a cenote for a swim. As it turned out, we got even more for our money.

A 12 passenger van picked us up promptly at the Omni and then picked up another couple at a nearby resort. The driver stopped next at Barceló Resort but the passengers were not waiting. What?!!? The driver got on his phone, drove around the resort a bit, waited some more, walked around looking for them, walked inside the resort lobby, and phoned some more. Meanwhile, we were worried we’d miss our connection with the tour bus and I was getting more annoyed by the minute. This is why I usually avoid tours; there’s always someone that keeps the group waiting.

When the young couple finally appeared a half hour late and climbed into the van laughing and chatting, oblivious to their inconsideration, something in me snapped. Honestly, if they had apologized or seemed contrite or abashed, I’d have swallowed my irritation but instead, I blurted, “I hope you were sick in the bathroom and aren’t just an a**hole making us wait.” Oops. I couldn’t believe I’d said it. The words just escaped from my mouth. My bad. And their bad certainly didn’t excuse my bad.  I heard Pete, from the seat behind us, gasp and say quietly to his wife, “And you think I’m outspoken.”

Well, we made our connection with the bus but when we got there, the guide took us and the couple that made us wait aside. I thought, “Uh-oh, now what?” The guide told us that everyone else on the tour had paid more for their package which included breakfast and snacks and they would give us the same extras at no additional charge but not to say anything to the others. Then they seated us together, with a table between us facing each other. Awkward. I was somewhat embarrassed and when I introduced myself, my husband offered, “You can just call her A**hole.” Thankfully, that broke the tension and we had a pleasant 2-hour ride to Chichen Itza. We also enjoyed the additional perquisites including  Coronitas, little Coronas which are just the right size to take the edge off an awkward situation.


So tell me what you think. Whether you think I was horribly rude or just a little out of line, feel free to weigh in below in the comments. Has anything like this happened to you on a tour?

Up next time: Chichen Itza

Based on events from January 2016.


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The Best Thing I Ate in Puerto Aventuras

Our first night in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, we didn’t venture too far from our condo. The closest restaurant was Hoo Haa! which sounded like a Chinese restaurant to me but fortunately it was Mexican. We like Chinese cuisine but we didn’t plan to eat any in Mexico. The food at Hoo Haa! was fine but nothing special, although I’ve since seen rave reviews on TripAdvisor and Facebook.  Following chips with pico de gallo and guacamole, Gail and I ordered the fish tacos and Jim had the specialty plate that looked quite impressive.

Chips, pico de gallo, guacamole

Fish Tacos at Hoo Haa

Jim’s Specialty Plate

The next evening we tried Hippos Marina Lounge. The Blues Brothers in front of the restaurant attracted us although honestly, what does that have to do with good food? Hippos Marina Lounge The food was well-presented but rather bland. Someone later told me when you order grilled fish in Puerto Aventuras you must tell them how to season it or it won’t be seasoned at all. I don’t know overall how accurate this is, but it was certainly true in this instance.

Grilled fish at Hippos

Grilled fish at Hippos

After asking around for restaurant recommendations, we found Latitude 20 uniformly received high marks so that was our next choice. There was good cause for the accolades.

Whole chicken at Latitude 20

Whole jerk chicken at Latitude 20

Fish at Latitude 20

Fresh grilled fish at Latitude 20

I had the fresh grilled fish with coconut curry sauce which was outstanding. The sauce definitely added plenty of flavor. All three of us thoroughly enjoyed our food and the entertainment at Latitude 20 and I hope the food is as good next year. The evening we were there, we met the new owner and I saw on Facebook that the chef, Danny, recently left as well. Next year, we’ll definitely go back to Latitude 20 and I’ll let you know whether it’s still our favorite.

We had a great meal at Cafe Ole on Sunday night when they serve all-you-can-eat ribs accompanied by beans and cole slaw. One serving was plenty for me but Jim had seconds and even thirds. The ribs were done to perfection and literally fell off the bones.

All You Can Eat Ribs at Cafe Ole

All You Can Eat Ribs at Cafe Ole

Each night we finished off the evening with home-made gelato and soon found our favorite was Jessie Gelato. I was led astray by Jim and Gail as I would never seek out dessert of my own volition. The generous servings were delicious and samples were freely provided to help us decide. Fortunately, the calories in the samples don’t count.

Jessie Gelato

Jessie Gelato

We’d read that the food in the village populated by the locals was cheap and tasty so we decided to take a walk over there and give it a try. Once there, however, common sense prevailed. I was worried about whether we’d end up with Montezuma’s revenge which Jim already had a touch of, so we opted for middle ground and visited Taco Paco located outside the village along the highway. Their excellent shrimp tacos are made fresh while you wait.

Taco Paco

Taco Paco

All in all, one of my favorite meals was actually in Tulum on the beach at Adelita’s. The chips, pico de gallo, guacamole, and fish tacos were only outdone by the tasty fresh kiwi and mango magaritas.

Adelita's at Tulum Beach

Adelita’s at Tulum Beach

I love Mexican food and with fresh ingredients, you really can’t go wrong. I tend to choose fresh local fish whenever possible since that’s not available much in North Iowa. We did try to purchase some fish from a fishing boat in the marina but we couldn’t agree on price. Next year I definitely want to try my hand at grilling local fish at the condo. We enjoyed breakfast and lunch on the balcony each day and with our view, you just can’t get any better than that.

Breakfast with a view

Breakfast on our condo balcony

Based on events from January, 2015.

Categories: Mexico | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

Walk on the Wild Side in Mexico

I was surprised by some of the wildlife I saw around Puerto Aventuras. I’ve been to the Yucatán Peninsula before and naturally I’ve seen plenty of geckos, iguanas and even a cucaracha or two. Incidentally, I’m a screamer. If I see a bug, especially one like a cockroach, I’m very likely to scream.  At home I have an exterminator once a month, not because we have bugs but because I don’t ever want to see a bug in my house.  On this trip, however, I saw some animals totally unfamiliar to me so I had to consult Michaelpedia. Michaelpedia is my son, Michael, who has been an expert on animals since he was a small child. When I saw a strange animal, I texted a picture to him and soon had reply with the name.

But first, let’s see the ordinary ones. Dolphin Discovery drew a lot of interest from children and adults who want to swim with the dolphins. I’m not a fan of keeping dolphins in captivity but I did take a photo.

Dolphin at Dolphin Discovery, Puerto Aventuras

Dolphin at Dolphin Discovery, Puerto Aventuras

As we explored the beach and area around our condo, we encountered iguanas languidly sunning themselves.



One morning, I was up early having my coffee alone on the balcony when I saw this pair on the lawn below me.


At first, I thought they were rabbits but when they moved I knew they were something else. I sent the photo to Michaelpedia and learned that they were agoutis, rodents that are native to this area. To see them in action, watch the video.

Then on our visit to Tulum, we spied this creature which necessitated another text photo to Michaelpedia to determine that it was a coatimundi, from the raccoon family. You can see a second one just emerging from the jungle. The woman ill-advisedly luring them with food from the jungle didn’t warrant a picture, however. I hope she didn’t get bit but why do people do that stupid stuff?



I tried to get a photo of the gecko that Jim inadvertently brought in from the balcony after it dropped on his iPad but the fellow was too quick for me. I would also have loved to get pictures of the sea turtles at Akamal but the crowd of humans swarming in the water made the prospect of snorkeling in that area most unappealing. I’m just happy to have digitally captured some of the amazing wildlife we encountered while in the Yucatan Peninsula.

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Contrasting Tulum and Akumal

A friend recently shared a blog post from a friend of hers entitled Celebrate the Contrast. It was an entertaining read and thought provoking as well. It was with that concept in mind that I approached this week’s post for my blog.  All beaches are not created equal but, that said, any beach is better than no beach in my opinion. So, it may be an easy first step in the exercise of “celebrating the contrast” to apply this concept to beaches.

There were two beaches close to Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, that we wanted to check out. The first was at Tulum. I’d been to Tulum before to see the Mayan ruins but didn’t set foot on the beach so this time we skipped the ruins entirely and went straight to the beach. Jim was suffering a bit of stomach upset so he stayed behind while Gail and I hopped on the colectivo (local bus) at Puerto Aventuras. For the 28 mile ride south, it cost us 35 pesos ($2.35) each. Then we walked about a mile from the highway to the beach, just following the foot traffic and found our way with no trouble.

Tulum National Park

Tulum National Park

We walked the beach and checked out a couple of restaurants. I’d read if you ate or drank something at a restaurant on the beach, you could use the lounge chairs and palapas all day long. A palapa is a Mayan structure with a thatched roof that really looks and acts like a sun umbrella. This restaurant, called Adelita, attracted us but when the fellow told us there was a minimum of 300 pesos to get a chair, we said we’d keep looking.

Tulum Beach

Tulum Beach

In the end, we returned to Adelita and ordered some lunch and margaritas which covered our minimum anyway. I had a mango margarita and Gail ordered the kiwi. (Watch for a future post of all the awesome food and drinks we enjoyed on the Riviera Maya.) The best part was that I would have this palapa all day to sit in the shade thus preventing a major sunburn from the intense Mexican sun.


My Palapa at Adelita

The water was a beautiful turquoise, the perfect backdrop for beach photos. Disregard that guy in the water in this photo. He doesn’t belong to us.


Beach at Tulum

Me and Gail

Selfie of me and Gail

One of the coolest things I had read about Mexico is that on Sundays the locals are admitted free of charge to area museums and attractions. I think Sunday is the day that families get out and do family “stuff.” We observed many Mexican families enjoying time together on the beach. Maybe they stopped here after a free visit to the ruins. I don’t know whether they owned these boats or whether the boats are considered fair game for seating space but several were occupied. I loved the local feel.

Mexican families at the beach

Mexican families at the beach

This is one of my favorite photos. I saw this little guy striding among the boats and had to capture him on film.

IMG_9936 - Version 2

Mexican boy

One more view of incredibly beautiful Tulum, a relaxing idyllic paradise on the Riviera Maya. Ahhhh.

Beach and the Caribbean from Tulum

Beach and the Caribbean from Tulum

Akumal was on our itinerary for the following day. It was only half as far as Tulum by colectivo but the cost was the same which was still a bargain. Akumal is the beach where tourists go to snorkel and view the sea turtles. Our first look at the beach was certainly the opposite of our experience on the previous day. It seemed that every inch of shade was already occupied.

Beach at Akumal

Beach at Akumal

We finally found a spot far down the beach under a spindly palm tree shared by a beautiful young couple with a selfie stick that they used to capture pictures of themselves on the beach and cavorting in the water. You can see a frond here under which I moved about every few minutes to try to stay in the shade. But the more interesting point of this photo is the swarm of people going out to snorkel to view the sea turtles. There must have been at least five or six such groups churning the water at any moment. I was glad I hadn’t planned to snorkel that day because it was a madhouse.


Unfortunately, the constant cacophony of construction noise disturbed any thought of idyllic sunbathing. I would say that Akumal will become the next Playa del Carmen and we experienced it in the making.

IMG_0009 - Version 2 So, my celebrating the contrast caused me to appreciate our experience at Tulum with its low-key, relaxed, local vibe. I’m sure that young people who like to be where the action is would feel that they had scored big by being at Akumal instead. But, as I said, any beach is better than no beach at all. Yep, celebrate the contrast.



Based on events from January, 2015.

Categories: Mexico, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Better than Finding 20 Bucks in a Cenote

I’m from a family of storytellers. Funny storytellers. I’m a storyteller, too, but not a very funny one. Or so they tell me. Years ago, my sons shared a technique to rescue my stories from a boring finish. At the end of a boring story, they told me to say, “…and then I found 20 bucks.”  It’s been useful at times.

While we were at the Latitude 20 Restaurant enjoying the results of our Mexican cooking class, we asked the women sitting with us about the cenotes in the area. A cenote (say-NO-tay) is a sinkhole created when porous limestone collapses into the underground water beneath it. Cenotes were sacred to the indigenous Mayan people who regarded them as the entrance to the underworld.  They were also the only source of fresh drinking water. There are over 7000 of these sinkholes on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico and we definitely wanted to see some.

We got a helpful tip from one woman who told us a number of cenotes have been developed into Disney type tourist attractions and we first needed to decide what kind of experience we were after. The adventure parks or private tours in the area cost $100-$150 per person depending on the package which may include a guide, transportation, equipment, and lunch.

After studying the list of nearby cenotes and their amenities, we chose one that allowed snorkeling and provided minimal facilities including restrooms and a restaurant but not the crowded, popular adventure park atmosphere. Rather than hire a guide, we opted to do it ourselves at a total cost of less than $25 each. Our first stop was the dive shop to rent our snorkel equipment. We rented the snorkel tube, mask, fins, and life vest for the day for $10. Gail also rented a shorty wetsuit for another $10 as the water in the cenotes comes from underground and can be chilly.


Dive shop in Puerto Aventuras

Dive shop in Puerto Aventuras

Talking to the staff at the dive shop, we learned that Dos Ojos, the cenote we planned to visit, was closed that day, Saturday, for a Mayan religious observance. He suggested another cenote, Chikin Ha. So, Chikin Ha it was. On the highway outside Puerto Aventuras we hopped on the local bus, called a colectiva, to ride the couple of miles to the entrance at Chikin Ha. The cost was 25 pesos or about $2.

When we got off the bus there was a sign, a ticket booth, and a guy selling tickets. He collected our fee which was about $10 and directed us to walk 15 minutes down the dirt road where he said they would collect our tickets and direct us to the cenotes. We walked, and walked, and walked, toting our equipment and finally arrived more than a half an hour later. If I hadn’t seen signs along the way, I may have questioned whether we’d find anything back there.

The road to Chikin Ha

The road to Chikin Ha

Chikin Ha

Chikin Ha Ecopark

When we finally arrived, we were somewhat surprised to be almost the only ones there. The ticket taker seemed listless and disinterested and really preferred to talk on her cell phone rather than give us directions. I admit I thought maybe we’d made a bad pick. The restrooms were fine, however, so we used them and we were ready to explore the three cenotes in this park.

Chikin Ha Ecopark

Chikin Ha Ecopark


Chikin Ha

Chikin Ha

As we walked the path to the first cenote, we encountered this fellow with a Harris hawk. I have no idea why he and the hawk were there.

Harris Hawk

Harris Hawk

Cenotes range from entirely open, like a lake, to entirely enclosed within a cave and many variations in between. The first at Chikin Ha was open. The water was so clear that the limestone rock and fish beneath the surface were easily visible.

Open Cenote at Chikin Ha

Open Cenote at Chikin Ha


Chikin Ha Cenotes

Chikin Ha Cenotes

We decided not to snorkel in this cenote and moved on to the second. The second cenote was in a cave and we struck up a conversation with the young couple we encountered swimming in it. Hannah and David were from Australia traveling around Mexico and heading next to Cuba. They had been to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, and disliked it as too touristy but they loved the ruins at Tulum because it was the opposite. They had talked to someone familiar with many of the cenotes in the area, and picked Chikin Ha based on the recommendation that it was exceedingly beautiful and not so touristy. I felt reassured that maybe this was a good pick, after all!

Gail and Jim in cenote

Gail and Jim in cenote

The line that you see in the photo above was very useful for guiding us across the cenote allowing us to keep our masks in the water to see beneath us.

I'm going in!

I’m going in!

Swimming and snorkeling wasn’t allowed in the third cenote due to its fragile ecosystem. It was probably the most beautiful of the three and we could fully appreciate it without getting in the water. The turquoise color is so amazing and really more impressive than I could capture in photos. There were also many stalactites and stalagmites in this cenote.

Cenote at Chikin Ha

Cenote at Chikin Ha

We observed a candle ceremony at the back of the cave of the third cenote. We assumed this was a Mayan religious ceremony of some sort.

Mayan ceremony at Chikin Ha

Mayan ceremony at Chikin Ha

When I was about to enter the water of the second cenote, I went to remove my Fitbit (an activity monitor) from my wrist and discovered it was gone. I howled to Jim, “Oh no, I lost my Fitbit!” Hannah asked, “What color is it?” I responded, “Orange” and she said, “We found it on the road on our way in!”  So, while I didn’t find 20 bucks on this adventure, something even better happened.


Based on events of January, 2015



Categories: Mexico, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

Do You Want to Know a Secret?

I recently visited a tropical paradise on the Riviera Maya in Mexico and honestly, I was tempted to keep it a secret. I know once I share it, you’ll want to go there, too; then it will be booked up and I’ll have to go somewhere else. But because I have a hard time keeping a secret and I’m so excited about this place, I just have to share it with you. Here’s a picture of our first view from the condo.

Our view

Our view from our balcony of the infinity pool overlooking Bahia de Fatima

It was already late in the afternoon when we arrived by private shuttle from the airport in Cancun so we decided to look around our accommodations and then explore the complex before dark.

Entrance to our Condo

Entrance to our Condo

Living/Dining combo looking out to the balcony

Living/Dining combo looking out to the balcony

Looking into the kitchen from the living area

Looking into the kitchen from the living area

Second bedroom off the living area

Second bedroom off the living area

Jim and I were traveling with our friend, Gail, and we agreed that she would have the master bedroom upstairs with its own balcony and another bath, while we would sleep on the main floor. I’m an early riser and I prefer to move around, make coffee, and work on my computer without worrying about disturbing others. Because of this arrangement, I neglected to get photos of her area but it was lovely with a king size bed and large closet along with the aforementioned bath and balcony. Jim and I rearranged our bedroom putting the two single beds together. Sliding doors separated the bedroom from the rest of the living area to provide privacy. (The entire condo is two floors up and, as far as I know, there is no elevator so this is not a good choice if you have mobility problems.)

The condo is supplied with everything one would need for a short or extended stay including wifi, a coffee maker, hairdryer, washer and dryer, a grill and even bottled water. There is a flat screen tv that we turned on just once late in our stay to see a weather report. (We’d heard about the epic storm that was hitting the east coast and Gail was scheduled to go through Baltimore.) Housekeeping came in twice to clean although we were there only one week.

Our first exploration of Puerto Aventuras revealed a gated community with restaurants and shops dotting the central marina. Our condo faced Bahia Fatima on the Caribbean Sea. This map shows the area with Puerto Aventuras resort area east of Highway 307 and the pueblo where the locals live is west of the highway.

On our first walk we saw Dolphin Discovery, where you can swim with the dolphins, then we wandered over to the nearby Omni Hotel. There we discovered their swim-up whirlpool bar that we returned to wearing our swim suits several times during our stay.

Dolphin Discovery

Dolphin Discovery with rainbow overhead


Omni Hotel

Omni Hotel swim up bar and whirlpool


Puerto Aventuras

Sunset at Puerto Aventuras

The next morning here’s what greeted me when I awoke early and had the living area to myself.

Morning coffee with a view

Morning coffee with a view

I didn’t tire of the view during our stay and I’m hoping our friend has already reserved the condo for two weeks next year. If I’ve kept your interest thus far, here’s the name of the place where we stayed. But shhhh. Let’s keep it our secret.

Chac Hal Al, Puerto Aventuras

Chac Hal Al, Puerto Aventuras


Based on events of January, 2015






Categories: Mexico, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 10 Comments

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