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A week in the Mexican Riviera - adventure arc
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A week in the Mexican Riviera

A week in the Mexican Riviera

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Wow! What an exciting time!This winter, Yuki and I had a special trip. Unlike the last few winters which saw us road-trip to either San Francisco or the Oregon Coast, this year Dad planned a family vacation down at an all inclusive resort in Mexico. It was a week-long trip filled with sun, beaches, and new experiences.

We left early on December 28th, flying down to escape the icy winter that had fallen on Vancouver. Kevin and Lyndsay flew from Calgary and met us at the resort, arriving a few hours earlier. The resort, called Akumal Bay, was an hour and a half van ride down south of Cancun on the Caribbean Sea.

The resort has a cluster of thatched roofed common areas and blocks of rooms that extend up and down the coast along the sandy beach shoreline facing the beach, offshore reefs, and sea beyond.

The resort was really nice; it had a big pool and three small pools in addition to a snack bar, 4 restaurants, buffet, and spa. The pool was, unfortunately, unheated and the restaurants didn’t have enough seats so there was always a long wait, but the food was okay and the main attraction was the beach anyways. We didn’t know before we arrived but the entire coastline was a federally protected site for sea turtle nesting which happens in early fall.

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On the first day at the resort we had clear 30 degree weather and a hot sunny day on the beach. To cool off we went swimming. The beach is a fine sand and a very shallow slope so it takes a while to get to deep water. This worked fine for us and even in the shallows we found a small sea turtle and a baby manta ray. The next day we ventured further out and discovered a reef. This was another unexpected surprised as it’s just off shore and I suspect part of the second largest reef in the world that extends all the way down to Belize.

Although much of the shallows in front of the resort has been trampled by visitors, there are rocky areas that are less accessible and where reefs still exist. We found one rock that was covered in fan, brain, and lettuce coral, had purple sea urchins with spikes as long as sewing needles, and an abundance of multi coloured fish. While figured out how to snorkel, this was an amazing find and a worthwhile reason for picking this resort.

On day two we took a walk in the morning down South and saw a giant iguana but don’t have any photos because we didn’t bring the camera. In the evening, we walked to the North and saw the public beach and a small harbour of fishing boats.

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While we stayed at the all inclusive resort for one week, we did go out for two day trips. The First was a tour of Mayan ruins. The travel company we had booked had a tour for $138 USD but talking with hotel staff, they sold us one for $108 each. This was on our third day after two days in the sun. Unfortunately Dad had a bit too much sun so he wasn’t feeling well. He decided to rest in bed but the other four of us went on the excursion.

The first site was the Tulum Archeology site, about 10 minutes down the road. We’d heard from family and friends to visit Tulum instead of Chichen Itza, one of the 7 wonders of the world, because it was closer and less crowded. Chichen Itza is a 3 hour drive away – each way whereas the tour we selected had Tulum and some other cool stuff is nearby.

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Tulum was interesting and it was cool to get a brief guided tour. Normally Yuki and I visit these historic sites on our own and wander around taking pictures without actually learning anything. This time we learnt about how the city is the only Mayan city on the ocean that is surrounded by walls, of which are skewed to the angle of the sun. The city is also protected from the water by a reef; however, a pyramid was constructed that had two slots that faced the water. When fires burned in them, canoes could use the two lights to navigate the reef by maintaining an equal brightness between them – a sort of lighthouse.

After the tour concluded we had half an hour to look around on our own and we took some photos along the coast. There’s a beach where some people were swimming but we didn’t have enough time so we just got a few pictures from the cliffs.

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The next stop was another resort but it wasn’t as nice as ours. Although we were told it was one of the best beaches, it was crowded and evidently a money grab requiring payment for any facility, whether beach chair or washroom. Like many others, we took a spot in the shade under a palm tree and then went for a dip in the sea. Unlike the beach at the resort, there were big waves which we played in so that was cool.

Following our time at the beach, the next van ride was an hour to lunch so everyone slept. Lunch was at a small restaurant that regularly sees busloads of tourists on their way to and from the nearby attraction. It was a simple buffet of tacos, though the first time we got plates we missed seeing the shells so we just had the fixings.

Within sight of the restaurant is Coba. This is another Mayan ruin where we got another short guided tour. We were told that the pyramids are in fact hollow and have many chambers inside which surprised me. We also saw some of the ball game courts and ended up at the only pyramid that’s still open to be climbed.

A 32m pyramid in Coba

A 32m pyramid in Coba

Another ruin we found

Another ruin we found

The view from the top

The view from the top

Yuki on the way up the 42m pyramid

Yuki on the way up the 42m pyramid

Surprisingly, the jungle still covers three of the four sides of the 42m high, 120 step pyramid. It is pretty steep and most people use their hands to go up and their buts to go down. From the top there wasn’t much to see except for more forest. I imagine back in the day this would have been a large city but the jungle has consumed everything and they haven’t restored much of the city.

On the way back Kevin and Lyndsay took one of the bicycle taxis but we walked back to see some more ruins, though they weren’t anything spectacular.

The last stop of the tour was a Cenote – a limestone underground cave filled with water. We had to shower in cold water beforehand so that we didn’t contaminated the cenote and then went down a spiral stair to the chamber below. It was a big cavern with crystal blue water that was apparently 23 degrees. The little black fish didn’t seem to mind and once we got moving in the water it wasn’t that cold. There were two diving boards for people to jump off but we didn’t, instead admiring the limestone formations of the cave. This cenote goes down 28m and the wall is turquoise blue the entire way. Swimming in that cave was easily the best part of the tour and I wish I’d brought my camera and goggles down for more pictures and to see underwater.

The day after the excursion was new years eve and the second outing from the resort. We went into the town of Playa del Carmen to check out the shopping strip. We picked up a few souvenirs and had some tacos. I was surprised by how safe it was for tourist and how friendly the locals were, helping us order tacos and suggesting what toppings to put on them.

Playa Del Carmen

Playa Del Carmen

For new years eve, we had a family christmas and the celebrated with a countdown dance party on the beach. The next day we were up pretty late and the weather wasn’t the greatest but that didn’t stop us from getting in the water again. We spend the last two days at the resort hanging out on the beach and snorkelling.

On the last day of our stay, Yuki and I also rented a second snorkel and two life jackets so that we could go to a specific area where they were required. There, we found a giant sea turtle that was bigger than either of us, a manta ray over a meter in diameter, and swam between reefs with a school of fish. In the deeper water we found even more reefs and more fish than we could count. This was when we wished we’d brought the gopro for underwater photography that I’d forgotten to bring. Alas, it was not to be so unfortunately I don’t have any photos from the sea or what we saw under the waves.

Pool Party

Pool Party

Coming back to Vancouver was unfortunate and a 37 degree change in temperature to -7. Fortunately Yuki had a day off before work and I took several more plus a weekend to a acclimatize and chill during which time we started to get excited about the possibility of travelling more in 2017.

 

It sucks to have to leave

It sucks to have to leave

 



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