Sunday, January 17, 2016

Mayan Riviera Day 5: Croco Cun Zoo & Playa del Carmen

January 5, 2015

We didn’t have anything planned for Tuesday, but we had seen a sign for Croco Cun Zoo on the side of the road while going to our excursion the day before, and decided to check it out online. I slept in while Todd went down to the pier to photograph sunrise, and we went to a late breakfast at the hotel, which was a huge mistake. All of the other tourists seemed to be dining at the same time, there were no tables outside, and we were completely ignored for 10-15 minutes after arriving. The toast they brought us was cold, the fruit was warm, and even though we asked, they didn’t bring us coffee. No tip for them.

Photo of sunrise by Todd Sipes

After reading positive reviews online of Croco Cun Zoo, we decided to go check it out. It used to be a crocodile preserve, but has evolved into an interactive zoo. You can purchase a feeding bag with your ticket that contains carrots, broccoli, peanuts, sunflower seeds, etc. to feed to the animals on the guided tour, and you get to touch and interact with many animals. It was just us with one other group of 3 adults and a small child, maybe 3 years old, named Alex, who was a handful—constantly running  off, crying, his poor mother negotiating with him at every turn to behave himself. But our guide was knowledgeable and entertaining.

Ready to see some animals at Croco Cun Zoo

Our first stop was the birds under a palapa, were we could hold different kinds of parrots and learned about their behavior and coloring. One of them made a sound like a laser! Cool! We went on to see swamp crocodiles and river crocodiles of all sizes, and Todd even held a baby one, much like I did in Florida (I didn’t hold him because he had just peed all over Todd haha). We saw snakes of all kinds, including enormous Burmese Pythons, and held a small boa constrictor named Penny. Poor Alex was horrified. 

Todd doesn't look thrilled to be holding this bird haha

These birds are in love!

I love his beautiful yellow head

Todd holding a little crocodile

Look how big this python is compared to my feet!

Penny the snake

It was fun to walk through a crocodile enclosure with no fences or gates or anything (aren't we brave?!), and little Alex had to be wrangled because, as our guide let us know, it was ill-advised to let him run free in the crocodile enclosure. We saw iguanas and huge lizards (monitors, I think), and even saw Sammy!!! He followed us to Mexico (Sammy, our resident squirrel from our San Rafael apartment). We also were able to feed spider monkeys, who were wild and didn’t live at the zoo, but were simply visitors that came and went as they pleased during the day. A mom and her baby came down to us, and we had to feed them in these hanging baskets because they are wild and grabby. The mom was so eager to get the food, she pulled up the basket with 3 of her 4 feet while holding on with her tail. 

Look at that open mouth!

So many crocs! Photo by Todd Sipes

In the crocodile enclosure. Will they bite me? (Spoiler alert: No.)

Giant monitor

We found Sammy!!

Baby spider monkey and her mama

Better photo of the monkey by Todd Sipes

My favorite part was feeding the white-tailed deer. There was a huge swarm of them…67 deer in total…and as soon as we entered their enclosure, they came for us, knowing we would feed them. They would delicately nibble the food from your fingers, and lick your palms. Both tiny little female deer, and big male deer with full sets of antlers. The monkeys heard us coming and came in hot, trying to sneak any leftovers.

Feeding the sweet deer

So much fun!

We fed turtles of all kinds, swimming in their pond, and my favorite was the tiny turtle with the pointy nose. We also saw Mexican equivalents of raccoons, the Coati. It was great being so interactive, and you can tell the staff truly care about the zoo and the animals. We asked the guide all kinds of questions, and he was very knowledgeable when the language barrier wasn’t an issue. After our tour, we had frappucinos in the delightful cafĂ©. They also had a little gift shop and very clean bathrooms, and you could tell the establishment was very well cared for and in immaculate condition. I would highly recommend for travelers who enjoy animals, and not just kids!

Feeding the turtles


Mocha frappuccino in the cafe

Definitely a great activity for all ages

The day itself was cooler than the other days we had been there, with heavy clouds threatening rain. We had originally planned on spending the afternoon on the beach and by the pool, but the weather suggested alternative activities may be time better spent, so we left straight from the zoo down to Playa Del Carmen, about 30 or so km south from Puerto Morelos. I had wanted to go here after our trip to Tulum, but being so salty and gross from our swim at Playa Maya, we had skipped the stop. Our sense of adventure replaced actual directions, and we found our way to the beach and Quinto Avenida (Fifth Avenue), the tourist heart of Playa del Carmen. 

Cloudy Playa del Carmen

The beach was beautiful, with some cool beach clubs that had deluxe lounge chairs and canopied beds, with loud pop music and open bars in reserved areas, but the weather meant most of those chairs were empty. We walked up and down the avenue, being bombarded by souvenir salesmen and men dressed in Mayan costumes wanting to take photos with us for a tip. This is a VERY different experience than we have in Puerto Morelos, which is very local and low key, much less touristy and internationalized. We passed Victoria’s Secret and Forever 21 and all kinds of big name shops, and themed restaurants reminiscent of the Vegas strip. A huge Christmas tree was set up in the center of the avenue reminding us of the recently passed holiday, and we walked up and down the side streets checking out the small boutique hotels and enormous beach resorts. The water was so blue, though I know the color would have been spectacular if there had been sunshine. We took some photos by the ferry to Cozumel, and ate some gelato from a shop on the strip, and then headed back to Puerto Morelos for snacks and a nap.

Playa del Carmen by the ferry to Cozumel

Giant compass

One of the nice beach hotels

Holidays are here at Quinto Avenida

After a lazy afternoon, we headed back out to the square to find dinner at one of the restaurants called El Pirata, obviously with a pirate theme. It was an Argentinian grill where they cook the meat on an open fire right in the seating area of the restaurant, and the sandwich board sign that sat on the street next to the life-size statue of a pirate proudly broadcasts “Breakgfast served all day” complete with spelling error. The food was decent…they served us cut vegetables with salsa-ish dips, garlic bread, and chips as starters, and we had daiquiris and mojitos for our bebidas. For dinner, Todd had a skirt steak and I had lemon grilled chicken, both served with small salads and potatoes with an almost chipotle tasting gravy. Across the street was the obvious competition for this locale, with flashy lights and live music that was easily enjoyable from our seats next to the sidewalk. All of the restaurants here are open air seating, often times only under a palapa for a roof, which makes you feel included in your surroundings. The bill was brought to us in a little wooden treasure chest with 2 large chocolate coins in gold foil. Very cute. 

Dinner at El Pirata

Beautiful shot of a rainbow in Puerto Morelos taken by Todd


  1. Gi: Cool!! That snake doesn't even look real.

    Looks like you had a pretty epic time. I love serendipity when I travel.

  2. I can see how you could equate parts of the trip to Puerto Rico. The photos are great and I LOVE your blog!