Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Mexico Day 6: Beach, Kayaking, and the Italian Restaurant

This morning we were tired of getting up early so we slept in.

After all, we were on vacation.

I don't think we got down to breakfast until around 9:30. This morning it was lovely so we ate outside.





And had some company.




These things are called Coatis, and are kind of like a cross between a racoon and a small anteater. They are all over the place and for the most part are skittish, but some are a little more brave.

This guy was checking to see if any munchies had been left.




After he had checked that table he went to the one on the other side of us, where a couple was sitting. Their other table guest had gone back to the buffet so the little guy reached up and grabbed his coffee. He spilled it on his face, and it was a bit warm because he jumped and ran a little ways away. Maybe he'll think twice before trying that again.


The plan for the day was this:




There were a few cruise ships coming and going from Cozumel.

We sat on the beach for a while and talked. Noberto kept our drinks filled, and made sure we had ice cold water too.





After a while, we went to lunch at the buffet. Honestly I have no idea what time we ate, I was on vacation and was not looking at a watch. (I did keep a journal so that is how I remember all we ate and did.)


At lunch we had the tournedoes again, but for some reason I didn't take a photo.


After lunch we decided to try kayaking again.



Today was a much better day, and we were out there for at least an hour.


This is a great view of our hotel from the water.



We did the normal afternoon activities.......sitting on the beach some more and then we played in the waves for a while. There was a great spot right in front of our building where the waves would break and the sand was smooth. They were just strong enough to knock us around a little bit and I loved floating in them.

Then off to the pool bar.

Again, no photos. But I do know that we enjoyed mojitos in the hot tub.



Dinner that night was at the Italian restaurant.


As we were checking out the menu, they brought us an appetizer sampler.



For my appetizer I ordered the shrimp and vegetables with cheese.


 It was very good.


My Sweetie had the calamari, which was delicious.




For the entree  I chose a papperdelle with mussels and pesto.







Good as well, but I wish there were more mussels.




My Sweetie had the beef cannelloni.





We split the risotto, which was superb.





For dessert we got what you should get at an Italian restaurant, tiramisu and espresso.





The Italian restaurant was good, with excellent service. Not my favorite, so far that distinction was going to the French restaurant.





After dinner we decided to walk through the next resort over, the Mayan.







It was beautiful, all lit up at night.






It had its own feel, but it was still a beautiful property.




Across the main street from the Mayan was the shopping center. We had only ridden our bikes past this on the first day so we spent some time exploring.





There are a few gift shops, a taco shop, crepe shop, smaller bar, and the disco bar.

The disco bar was called Galaxy, and had all this Star Wars stuff in there. We were in there around 9 at night and it was pretty empty. I did hear though, that things got pretty active there after 11pm, when kids under 18 were not allowed.







We headed back to the Mayan and the Snake Lobby.




This bar was pretty neat, it was inside a replica of a Mayan temple.


We walked back to our room for our nightly dessert plate, and found this:



We had our usual dessert plate that we had saved and enjoyed the nice bubble bath.






Monday, March 14, 2016

Mexico Day 5 Part 2: Japanese Restaurant and Lobby Bar

We got back from our day of snorkeling at around 4pm.

I had gotten really chilled so I took a nice long, hot shower.




Dinner tonight was at the Japanese restaurant.



We sat at teppan tables. There were 16 of us around two teppan cooking stations. But there was nice space between each couple.





Our chef did a little bit of a show.



 It was an okay show, but not horrible.




We chose our appetizers as he was cooking the main meal.

This is my eel sushi. This was actually pretty good.





My Sweetie's plate, a salmon California roll.






We also got some tempura. This was very disappointing! The tempura was mushy, like it had been under a heat lamp.







I had read that they cook all the meats for the same amount of time. So we weren't freaked out when the chicken and shrimp sat on the grill for about ten minutes. But it was sad to see the shrimp neglected like that.


We had observed chef tipping while we were at the resort, and so we knew to put their tips in their hat.

About tipping: We tipped, even though this was all-inclusive. Just $1 to $2 for drinks every now and then, and $3-5 for waiters at dinner. And I can tell you, I really think we had exceptional service because of it.




Everyone at the table got the fried rice, and then you could chose two meats: either shrimp, chicken, or beef.





The fried rice was really good. The meat dishes were good too, but the sauce was the same for all meats.



For dessert My Sweetie got a mango something. He was not too impressed. But the presentation was beautiful.





I played it safe and got some ice cream with mochi and white beans, which was very yummy.




It was a decent dinner, not horrible but not spectacular.




After dinner we wandered over to the theater, where casino night was happening. Casino nights were Tuesdays and Fridays.



Our table was playing Texas Hold 'Em.






We played for about an hour, and then at the end of the game night, the winner from each table got a prize.




And yours truly, who doesn't gamble or play these kinds of card games much, won at our table.




The show immediately followed and tonight was the Circus Show.




There was juggling, trapeze stunts, and acrobats. We stayed for about 20 minutes, and then headed to the Lobby Bar.




A Bloody Mary for me.






Cucumber Mojito for my love.



We wandered back to our room, enjoying the Grand at night. It is lit up very beautifully, and I felt very safe. Butlers are driving around on golf carts, and are always available to give you a ride.




Back at our room, we sat on the patio and listened to the waves.



I will never stay here, and not stay in an ocean front room. To me that was SO worth it and we really appreciated the staff upgrading us.




We made ourselves a couple of Havana's and Cokes, and relaxed to the sound of the ocean.



Sunday, March 13, 2016

Mexico Day 5 Part 1: Akumal, Cenotes, and Caverns, Oh My

We were up with the dawn again, but this time we just needed to be in our own lobby at 7:45 am.

Breakfast was room service.


We had booked an excursion with Aventuras Mayas. Our tour guide, Jesse, met us on time.


We were the first stop and went to pick up ten other people, at three other resorts. As he picked each of us up, he asked us about where we were from. It must have been hard to remember our names, because he ended up calling us by from where we were from. There was Wisconsin, (2 couples that were from Wisconsin, of course), Boston Mamma (a mom from Boston with her three daughters), Canada (a couple from Canada), and then he called us California.


As we drove the 45 minutes south to Akumal, Jesse told us what to expect throughout the day. Our first stop was Akumal Bay, where we would do some snorkeling.

As we drove through Akumal, Jesse seemed to know everyone.



He was seriously a hoot.




We got to our area, and Jesse gave us quick snorkeling lessons. All of us had experience, so he did a very brief lesson. They did provide all the equipment we needed throughout the day.


We were going to be swimming in a sheltered bay. Jesse was our snorkeling guide, and also took along with us a couple of spotters. These guys had life preservers and helped to look for fish.



Once we got in the water, we saw there were lots of them.





We were required to wear these vests, but they were not inflated. If you wanted, you could blow into your own vest and inflate it. But both My Sweetie and I love diving down and seeing the wildlife up close, so we left our deflated and were able to swim just fine.







There was so much to see here! The photos just don't give it justice.




We were on the lookout for lionfish, and found a couple. This one stayed still long enough so that we could get a photo.





There was coral everywhere, with so many places to swim down.




In this area it was between 5 and 15 feet deep. We had been instructed to not touch the coral or stand on the bottom.



We headed out into the open bay. All of a sudden, Jesse told us to swim quietly but quickly across the bay. He has seen diving pelicans, and there was most likely a school of fish below the surface.



When we got there, we saw thousands of sardines.





At one point I floated as still as possible, and could feel them barely brushing against me.







There was also activity going on above water.


See those feet below?



A pelican was just a few feet away.



There was one time when I saw a shadow under water, only to put my head up and have a pelican land  right next to me.



You can see one flying away in the picture below.




While we were snorkeling, Jesse would find things that we could touch.

He found a sea urchin, and sacrificed his hand so we could touch it.





We also saw jellyfish, a small octopus, and a couple of small eels.


But what we were really waiting for was the sting rays. We had been told that when we got into the sandy part of the bay, that we were in sting ray territory. In this part of the bay it was at least 15 feet deep, and we had been instructed to stay on the surface and not touch the bottom.

The spotters were on the lookout, and within a few minutes had found a big guy.







A couple of us had go pro cameras, so Jesse took both of them down and got some amazing photos. 




We saw a few more of these amazing creatures. You can really see how when they are motionless, they really camouflage in the sand.



We headed back, this time exploring the other side of the bay.

We were closer to the bay opening, so had a few waves bobbing us about.





We had so much fun exploring as we swam back up the inlet.







My Sweetie loved diving down, as far as he could.




Our total time snorkeling was about an hour and a half. We dried off and headed back to the van and through Akumal.


Our next stop, about 20 minutes north, was a cenote. A cenote is a natural pit, filled with fresh water, where the limestone has collapsed into an aquifer.


We drove down the main highway and then turned off onto this dirt road. A few miles down, and we were at our destination.





To get into the cenote you had a couple of options. You could be boring and just walk down the steps, or you could be more adventurous.




That was how I decided to go in.




The drop was only about 15 feet.



Jesse and My Sweetie.





Jumping in.





The third way to get in was by zip line.





My turn.









The view underwater was amazing.





The color was so vibrant! Again, no touching or standing. And we did not use flippers in the cenote, so that the sand and dirt didn't kick up.




I was getting a bit chilled, so My Sweetie did most of the exploring. It turned out that this day was the coldest day of our trip. Temps were probably in the low 70's but it was lower humidity.



I sat on the step and had a fish massage.



People were paying $10 for 10 minutes of this at Xcaret. Seriously tickled, but it is supposed to be good for your feet.


There were a few tunnels to explore.






And a few of these cute little fellas.




After about an hour, we dried off and headed to the third spot. This was just a five minute drive deeper into the jungle.


The underground cavern.





This was probably the most amazing part of the trip. The water was so crystal clear, when we walked up at first I thought I was looking at a dry cave and didn't realize there was water in it.


They had lights throughout the cavern, so you could see perfectly.


These photos just can't show it.




It was incredible. I asked Jesse about depth, and we were at times, looking 75 feet down.



Jesse would dive down, and hold onto rocks. He would pause to equalize pressure, then dive even further. So far down, that we lost sight of him. After a minute, when we were sure we had just lost our guide, he would pop up, maybe 50 feet down the cavern. There were tunnels all through the cavern and he knew exactly where they were.

My Sweetie would follow him down maybe 10 to 15 feet, and had so much fun exploring.


Horrible photos I know, but this is me.




My Sweetie, having a blast.



With our low-light go pro, this was the best photo we had.




After about 30 minutes of exploring, we walked a short distance to a small eating area. The cooks had prepared grilled chicken, rice, beans, chips, fresh salsa and guacamole, and salad fixings.

The food was actually very good.

When we were at the cenote and cavern, there was a photographer that took lots of photos of us. While we were eating, they came around with a tablet and showed us all the photos. They were fun to look at. We could have purchased a thumbdrive with them for around $30, but we decided not to. They were great and did not pressure us at all.


This was probably our favorite excursion. If we go When we go back to Riviera Maya, this is definitely on our list of things to do again.