Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mayan Riviera Day 12: Leaving Paradise

January 12, 2016

There is not much to report from Tuesday the 12th, as we woke up and headed out around 10:15 am to catch our shuttle to the airport. Since we only had enough pesos left to tip our shuttle driver, we spent some time trying to figure out the best way to haul our own luggage up the various sets of stairs to the lobby without calling the bellboy. After a few unsuccessful attempts of locating appropriate elevators and/or ramps, we dragged them ourselves up the many steps, just in time to catch our shuttle. After our nightmare experience with Super Shuttles, we opted this time for USA Transfers, which was a 5 star experience all around. The driver was prompt, we were the only 2 he was driving, he was courteous and very friendly, and the cost was the same as using Super Shuttle. I highly recommend them instead.

We had lots of time to kill at the Cancun airport, and they don't announce what gate your flight is departing from until about half an hour before boarding begins, so we had burgers and onion rings at a Johnny Rocket's in the food court. We elected this familiar restaurant over the loudly publicized American Kitchen by Guy Fieri, which was clearly the main draw of the food court, demonstrated by the huge portraits of Mr. Fieri plastered various on walls of the airport from the floor to the ceiling, with arrows leading the way. Seeing as how he's from Santa Rosa, it didn't seem necessary we succumb to the blatant marketing.

We had to catch a connecting flight in Denver and were fortunate enough to have more passes to the United Club Lounge, which happened to be located directly next to our gate. We were able to have a bit of dinner (for free!) in the Lounge, and head out for the last leg of our journey. My seat on the flight was smack dab in the center seat of the center row, with Todd on one side, and a large man who insisted on invading my personal space throughout the entire flight on the other. The people in row in front of us spoke almost no English and rode the whole flight with their seats in the reclined position (even during takeoff and landing, despite the flight crew’s instructions), and completed the flight with one of the children in the group throwing up all over himself and his chair. Not a great way to spend the evening.

After traveling for more than 15 hours straight in total, we arrived back at our home in Petaluma in the cold rain, which was a terrible contrast to the previous conditions of our vacation. But there is, as always, no place like home, and it was a joy to be back.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mayan Riviera Day 11: Zona Hotelera

January 11, 2016

The weather on Monday was grim as promised. We awoke to rain coming down and a thick, gray sky. The chilly wind kept us indoors, enjoying the view from our room as we drank coffee and watched 6 or so pelicans diving into the surf, often in synchronized groups of 2, 3, or even 4. If you have never seen multiple pelicans flying and diving into the ocean in almost perfect unison, let me tell you, it is quite the sight! Synchronized soaring. You get the idea. We also got a great view of the poor guy who rakes up all of the seaweed that washes ashore, and the other gentleman who drives some kind of sand Zamboni back and forth across the beach.

Gray morning, as seen from our room.

Because of the dreary weather, we decided to head down to one of the malls located down the Zona Hotelera. They have stores of all kinds, much like any mall you would come across in the States, complete with aquarium, movie theater, and waterfront restaurants. We strolled around and settled on having lunch at a restaurant called Taco y Tequila, which we equated to a Mexican Applebees. We ordered margaritas, which ended up being as large as our heads, empanadas (which were just ok), and tacos (which were actually pretty good). The carne asada in my tacos was extra tasty.

Margs and tacos

Can I actually drink this whole thing? Yes, I can!

Todd's pineapple and mint marg

After lunch, we walked around the mall and stumbled upon a 6D Experience, much like the 5D Experience we did when we were in Rome together in 2009. This is where they put you in a 3D theater space in seats that move along with the film, wind blowing at you, etc. to make it feel like an interactive ride, similar to the Star Tours ride at Disneyland, only much lower budget. The 5D Experience in Rome had been extremely cheesy—we had discovered it via an ad in the column of our map of Rome, and were interested to see what exactly 5D entailed. We gathered that it was the 3D film, plus the motion of the chair and the wind/extra effects. I have still to figure out what the 6th “D” was at the Experience in Cancun, but in solidarity of our original excursion of 2009, we decided to give it a go, knowing full well that it would be a hokey attempt. We had our choice of about 7 or so videos, and we chose the Haunted Mine, where a hillbilly took us on an adventure in a mining cart through an underground virtual rollercoaster. Amazingly, it was better than its Roman counterpart, and we were laughing hysterically the whole time at our good fortune in finding something similar. It was actually pretty fun, and would be great for kids. 3.5 stars.

We returned to our hotel and took a walk through the shopping center located across the street. We walked down to the water on the lagoon side (not the beach side our room faces...opposite side of the Hotel Zone), and went out on a dock to check out little schools of fish swimming nearby, and a pirate ship docked at the pier. 

Check out the pirate ship!

That evening we decided to eat at the semi-fancy restaurant at our hotel, the Trattoria, which was Italian themed and desperately wanted to be more upscale than the sandal-clad clientele would allow. Despite the quality presentation of the restaurant and a waiter who pulled out my chair and placed my napkin on my lap for me, the food and beverages were mediocre at best. I ordered a glass of Rose and the spaghetti alla carbonara, and Todd ordered a mojito, which he actually sent back for being so terrible, and the margherita pizza. As our final meal of the trip, it was very disappointing. 2 stars.

The rest of the evening was spent packing and preparing for the trip in the morning, which was fairly anticlimactic for the end of our last full day of vacation.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Mayan Riviera Day 10: Parasailing & Mayan Museum

January 10, 2016

Early in the morning, Todd snuck out before sunrise to go take photos of an abandoned resort that was damaged in Hurricane Wilma in 2005 and never reopened, while I stayed sleeping. It seemed like a cool UrbEx opportunity, but I am not super interested in being awake before the sun or going to Mexican jail, so I don’t feel as if I missed too much there.

Photo of El Pueblito, the abandoned resort

The weather had claimed it would be raining on Sunday, so we were pleasantly surprised that the morning was clear and hot. We took advantage of this bonus sunshine to procure a parasailing excursion from our activities desk, which is something neither Todd nor I had ever done. I had done some research online in advance between the bench kind versus the harness kind; it seems the harness kind is more thrill-seeking because you are dangling in the air, but the bench kind is more conducive for taking photos and selfies. Though I would have preferred to terrify myself by free-dangling over the ocean, we are narcissistic millennials (mostly me), so we went for the bench kind to secure a quality photo opp. The activities desk was nice enough to arrange everything for us, and we walked down the beach 2 or 3 hotels to start our adventure at the shoreline.

A beautiful start to the day! View from our room.

This particular parasailing adventure was done with Aquaworld, and they had a tent near the ocean with jet skis for rent and parasailing trips on a first come, first served basis. We waited our turn, which wasn’t long, and they loaded us onto jet skis to take us out to the boat. I was super glad I had enough forethought to pack our wallets, etc.  into a dry bag (thanks, Cody!), since the ride to the boat was certainly a wet, albeit fun, one.

The parasailing itself was not scary at all, which was kind of a disappointment. We weren’t strapped into the bench, but we are reclined enough that there is zero fear of falling out, and your feet don’t even dangle over the water or anything. This was a bit of a bummer. But it certainly did give stability for some sweet photos, so I can’t complain about that. The view of the Zona Hotelera was great, but my waterproof camera has a terrible zoom feature, so they didn’t turn out very well. If someone is afraid of heights or general “extreme” activities, but still wants to try something new and fun, I would highly recommend this, as it feels extremely safe and tame. If you are looking for something to get your adrenaline going, this is not the activity for you. Overall, I enjoyed the experience; it was fun, and I’m glad I did it, but for what it was, it was quite expensive and I don’t think I would do it again. Also, beware of wearing hats. I wore mine backwards while actually parasailing, and on the jet ski out to the boat it was fine, but it blew off on the jet ski ride back. Fortunately Todd caught it with his face and the hat was saved! Haha! So beware. 4 stars overall. Maybe 3.5. 

Our hotel (2nd from the left) as seen from the air

The day stretched out before us, so we went straight from our parasailing adventure to the beach, easily reserving some prime lounge chairs since it was early. The waves were mighty that morning. After a while of getting abused by them in the ocean and a particularly aggressive one that tried to take me and Gina down, I bailed on that idea and instead had a feisty piña colada while reading in the shade of our umbrella. Our beach is nice because unlike at the Playa Norte beach clubs, our lounge chairs are far apart from the other groups, so you get a bit more of a sense of privacy while still feeling protected by the attentive security and bar staff nearby.

Enjoying the morning on the beach

Soon, doomsday-esque rain clouds began creeping in overhead, completely obscuring the sky behind us. Rain was coming down in other areas up and down the beach, but we stayed mostly dry. Unfortunately, with no sun and a wind picking up, the beach was less than exciting, so we moved up to the pool to lounge in a more protected environment. The sun peeked out for a while and we enjoyed another piña colada at the swim-up bar while listening to top 40s music blasting through the speakers strategically hidden in the plants. After taking Gina for a spin in the pool, the sun disappeared again and it became too cold to hang out comfortably, so we headed back to the room to get showered and changed.

With Gina at the pool

At the swim-up bar

Piña colada at the swim-up bar

As I’ve mentioned previously, the only two MUST SEE things on my list for Cancun were Playa Norte at Isla Mujeres (check) and the Mayan Museum, which was conveniently located directly behind our hotel (literally the properties touch). We had plans to see that on Monday, as the weather had it being the coldest and rainiest day of our whole trip. Todd brilliantly suggested I look up online to see if the museum was open on Mondays, since that was our last day in Cancun, and lo and behold, it wasn’t! I’m so glad he suggested we look. We would have missed it! So with only a couple hours until closing time, we hustled to get ready and walked on over.

Museum entrance

I didn’t have any expectations of the museum since I hadn’t read up on it except that it was well-reviewed and recommended. I was definitely pleasantly surprised with what I saw. The building is modern and attractive, and the exhibits were well curated and interesting, divided up into two sections: one of Mayan history in the local area of Quintana Roo, and one for the Mayan culture elsewhere. We saw all kinds of artifacts including your traditional pottery and jewelry, working tools, and everyday objects, as well as the skeleton of a saber tooth tiger, human skull, and stone carvings and calendars brought in from Chichen Itza. Many of the posted exhibit information signs included English translations, but the object descriptions themselves were mostly just in Spanish. I know enough Spanish from my 4 years in high school to understand the main gist of most of them, but I probably missed quite a bit.

Your traditional museum pottery

Skeleton of a saber tooth tiger

This guy has a great facial expression

How do I look??

The museum is a comfortably small size, which is perfect for a short outing after a day at the beach. Once we had viewed the exhibits (maybe an hour at most?), we were about to leave but saw a stone-lined path leading the opposite way from the exit and decided to follow it to see where it led. I’m so glad we did! It ended up leading to an extensive archaeological site that we hadn’t anticipated (I’m thinking maybe we should have read up on the museum before we went to get more out of the experience). And it kept going and going! Foundations were left from houses and palaces, with remnants of columns and carvings and interior paintings. Information placards were posted in Spanish and English along the way in just the right amounts—not too many, so you actually read them and know enough about what you are looking at without being overwhelmed with information. The paths winding through the shaded site were almost spooky, and we encountered very few other tourists which enhanced the experience. The mangrove trees themselves were fascinating, with roots like insect legs above the ground to let them grow effectively in the sandy earth. We encountered a majestic and large iguana, and some tiny skittish little lizards. And at the far end of the site, a large pyramid! Like a smaller version of the one at Chichen Itza! What a find! I couldn’t believe this whole site was right behind our hotel, and we were accidentally stumbling upon it in our uneducated ignorance. Very impressive.

Some of the ruins

Pretty sure this is where the fairies live in Ferngully


I give the museum and site 4.5 out of 5 stars, with .5 only deducted because of the lack of English on the item descriptions. Not that I think they need to put everything in English in a Spanish-speaking country, but it is a museum located in the Hotel Zone, which is obviously tourism focused, so it seems like it may be an enhancement. But the museum and archaeological site are a real enjoyment, and would be a crime to miss if you are visiting the area.

You see the red sign on the building in the background? That's our hotel! So close to the museum!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Mayan Riviera Day 9: Isla Mujeres

January 9, 2016

We woke up on Saturday to beautiful blue skies, and checked the weather for the remainder of our stay. Though we had initially anticipated perhaps spending the afternoon at the Mayan Museum just next door, hiding from the 86+ degree weather in the temperature controlled environment, we noticed the rest of our stay was looking cloudy and bleak. The other item on my MUST SEE list was Isla Mujeres, a small island just off of the Zona Hotelera that boasts one of the best beaches in the Caribbean, and some have said even the world. In my never-ending quest to find something similar to Vieques’s Blue Beach, this was the very first thing I wanted to see when I knew we were scheduling a trip to the area. Nice weather was crucial to the success of this excursion, so we ended up changing plans last minute and headed right out for a day trip.

Our first step was to figure out the bus system of the Zona Hotelera, which is actually really easy. You just take any R1 or R2 bus on the side of the street that corresponds with the direction you want to go; they come frequently, and stop regularly for people who are walking. You hop on, and for $10.50 pesos you can go as far as you want. It does startle me that they deal in only cash (mostly coins) and the driver counts out change while actively driving down the road, and you are standing there, gripping the railing, trying not to fall over while you hand him your money and collect your change. But it was cool to see all of the other resorts, malls, restaurants, and other establishments, providing further evidence that the Hotel Zone is like a mini Vegas, but with beach instead of casinos.

We jumped off of the bus at Playa Caracol, which is a centrally located area with all kinds of tourist activities, and a kind man pointed us in the right direction to the ferry, which was situated next to a gorgeous little beach and had a view of a quaint red-and-white striped lighthouse. 

The pier out to the ferry at Playa Caracol

Playa Caracol

Love this lighthouse!

The ferry process was interesting and almost a tourist activity in itself, unlike ferries in Washington state or to San Francisco even, where it’s merely a mode of transportation. Here, the counters boasted on enormous banners that this company had the “Fastest ferries around, and with the most frequent departures all day!” (Mind you, they were sometimes hours apart, and horribly late). Ticket salesmen tried to upsell us on snorkeling trips, golf cart rentals, and day trips to adventure parks. The waiting area for the ferry was in an open air bar that tried to help you bide the time with cocktails and guacamole. And then the ferry arrived to pick us up 15 minutes past the scheduled departure time, and it was a hot wait on the dock in the midday sun. Televisions on the ferry advertised hotels and water parks and activities. It’s like you couldn’t escape the sales pitches.

Ready to get on the ferry!

The ferry ride itself was pleasant enough, and we stopped at the Embarcadero and parked behind an enormous pirate ship to pick up additional passengers, so that was fun.

Arriving in Isla Mujeres, we were absolutely bombarded right off the boat with vendors shouting at us to view their wares, or to rent a golf cart (apparently the preferred tourist method of travel on the island), or thrusting a laminated page displaying sea life in our faces, insisting “best snorkeling prices!” Yikes! The streets were crowded with tourists elbow to elbow, with beachside bars and overflowing souvenir shops lining the sidewalks, and little women with machetes hacking the tops off of coconuts and adding straws. There was even a very random soft serve ice cream machine in the street, unaffiliated with any shop or restaurant, with small children lined up for cones.

The great thing about Isla Mujeres is it's pretty small, easy to walk around the downtown area with great beaches, and they have very helpful large-scale maps posted in convenient places. This was important  because we got off the ferry and the first beach I saw, while nice, was nowhere near my expectation levels of Blue Beach-ness. The beach in front of our hotel was way nicer, and I was going to be super annoyed if this was it. I was ready to turn around and jump on the next ferry back, not ready to waste a full day at a subpar beach (the next ferry was either in 30 minutes, or 4 hours. So much for their “frequent departures”). But alas! The map indicated we were at the wrong beach! We had to keep going.

After winding through a few awkward back streets and a weirdly secluded golf cart rental lot, we emerged from the back of a shabby bar into the full splendor of Playa Norte, the Holy Grail of Mexican beaches. My goodness, it was everything I expected and also nothing I expected at the same time. The water was crystal clear and a light aqua color; it was gorgeous, but almost too green. Beach clubs lined the water, but there were SO MANY people it was overwhelming. Pelicans dove into the water to catch their lunches, but they were too close to the people swimming, and we often saw people jump out of the way to avoid getting pummeled. I desperately loved this beach, and I also hated it.

The less crowded side of Playa Norte

We walked down past the beach clubs to a place where the water was calm and palm trees provided natural shade. It looked like locals were camping out on their towels here, but it seemed like unsupervised chaos, and we were concerned about leaving our belongings here while going into the water since we had our wallets and cell phones, etc. So back to the beach clubs we went. They all seemed to be about the same price, and representatives near the water accosted passersby to entice them to select their club versus the neighbor’s. We went with one of the first ones we came to, and paid $200 pesos for our shaded lounge chairs and wifi.

The bummer about beach clubs, at least in Playa Norte, is you are sandwiched in between other visitors with almost zero privacy. Thanks to the proximity, I could read all of the text messages on my neighbor’s iPhone, and listened to him ask questions about the menu and order guacamole in surprisingly perfect Spanish for his very Caucasian appearance. Random vendors would also duck under the umbrellas to try and peddle all kind of necklaces and beach bags and seashells to you, completely ignoring that you are minding your own business and trying to relax. But the great thing about beach clubs is the sense of security you have, as they are well staffed to meet all your needs, and you feel comfortable leaving your items at your chair while you head down to the water. Also, the close proximity to your neighbors creates an unspoken camaraderie amongst your paid-for comfort; I know I would have fought off any stranger trying to snoop in Perfect-Spanish-Speaking-Caucasian-Guy’s stuff.

Relaxing at the Beach Club

The water was heavenly. It was so shallow you could walk out incredibly far, and so clear it kept my fears of unknown sea life at bay. The temperature was perfect, and there were hardly any waves, which was ideal for basking and frolicking. I only wished I had brought Gina (my floaty!) with me for this excellent floating opportunity.

After our dip in the water, we went back to our chairs and ordered chicken tacos and nachos, delivered right to our chairs. If you’ve never dined on cheap Mexican food next to the ocean with your feet in the sand, I highly recommend it. Overall, it was an lovely afternoon despite my reservations and the crowds. 

As the time approached for the ferry back to Cancun, we went and found some pay showers ($10 pesos) to rinse off and change into less salty clothes in some seriously nasty public restrooms. We walked back to the ferry terminal with thoughts of perhaps looking in some of the souvenir shops, but the constant  hassling from the owners felt almost like being attacked and harassed, so it really turned us off the prospect. We ended up being early for the ferry and wanted to switch our tickets to another location in the Hotel Zone that was leaving half an hour earlier, but it turned out the ferry was delayed and wouldn’t be there for another hour (again, so much for being the best ferry line…if this is the best, I’d hate to see the others).

After our ferry’s return, it took us a while to get back to the road to catch the bus back to the Emporio. It had been a long day, but we eventually found our way back and dined on Cup Noodles and Easy Mac in our room. Oh, the leisure! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Mayan Riviera Day 8: Cancun

January 8, 2016

Friday morning I woke up not feeling so great, so I skipped breakfast and slowly packed up my things. We took another walk down to the pier one last time, and loaded up our rental car Matt to head out of Puerto Morelos and on to the last leg of our trip in Cancun. I remember being remarkably sad…much more sad than I had any right to be…to leave such a magical place. Puerto Morelos is such a charming, authentic, welcoming town, and I had really enjoyed our time there.

After driving around for the week on one tank of gas, we finally needed to fill up on our way out of town, and stopped at the closest gas station to the freeway on-ramp. I am super glad I had read up in advance about renting cars in Mexico, because my knowledge saved us from getting scammed! Apparently they pull this scam all the time on tourists—you give them the money, and they gesture back to the pump to look at the price, and when you look, they switch one of your $200 peso bills for a $20 to make you think you paid incorrectly, and then ask for more money or short you on change. This definitely happened to us! But we were prepared for this scenario. As he came up to the pump, I even said, “Make sure we watch him for the money switch!” I couldn’t believe he actually tried it. It’s one of those things you read about, but don’t think will happen to you. He kept trying to insist, and Todd handled it well with his super-human customer service skills, and eventually the attendant gave us our correct change and we avoided any kind of serious altercation. But for a moment there, I thought it was going to go down…things got a bit heated!

The drive to Cancun was short, and we arrived at our hotel resort early to drop off our luggage. Check in wasn’t until 3:00, and it was about 12:00 or 1:00, so we had a couple hours to kill and wanted to check out the new place.

Hola from Cancun!

We were staying at the Emporio Hotel & Suites, which is a huge contrast to where we had been staying for the previous week. Right in the middle of the Zona Hotelera, it is your average upscale tourist resort, complete with multiple levels of swimming pools, swim-up bar, ocean view gym, tennis courts, ping pong tables, multiple restaurants, activities counters, cultivated gardens, etc. etc. It also, of course, opens right up onto the beach with shaded lounge chairs, lifeguard, beachside massage tables, a bar, beach volleyball courts, someone to constantly clean up the seaweed, and brilliant turquoise waves. They even have showers right at the top of the stairs for you to rinse off, and the most genius invention I never considered before: at the bottom of the stairs right off the beach, there is a little canal of water for you to wash the sand off your feet before you head up. Amazing! I was very impressed, since this is the first time I’ve been to a resort like this. And while our beach was not roped off and private like the one in Puerto Morelos, it is well attended by guards to question anyone who doesn’t look like they belong. But you certainly need to claim a lounge chair early if the weather is nice. Here are some photos from the Emporio:

View down the Zona Hotelera from our beach

After scoping out the place, we decided to drop Matt back off at Hertz at the airport and catch a shuttle back to the Hotel Zone, a process that ended up being excruciatingly long, frustrating, and expensive. Zero stars for the shuttle procedures from Cancun International Airport. By the time we got back to our hotel, it was already 3:00 and we were grouchy when we checked in. But our room soon made up for it. As much as I pride myself on loving to travel like a local to get a more authentic experience and avoiding crowded tourist destinations, our room was fabulous and I certainly can’t complain about the modern amenities. We had an ocean front room right on the beach, with a spectacular view of the bluest waves and pelicans diving for their breakfasts. Plus our room had a microwave! And a mini fridge! And a coffee maker!! A hair dryer that works better than my own, and little vanity kits all wrapped up with Qtips and cotton balls! Such amenities! We had been living like paupers and now were kings! I have to say, the switch to first world comforts was appreciated and enjoyed more than I expected.

View of the beach from our balcony

We were starving, so after the bellboy brought us our luggage, we went to the casual restaurant for a buffet lunch that was overpriced for what it was, and just ok. That inspired us to hit the little coffee shop/deli/convenience store/souvenir shop in our hotel to stock up on some necessities for breakfasts and lunches, since it is not an all-inclusive resort—a decision we made intentionally because we wanted to take so many day trips and excursions.

At this point, it was fairly late in the day, but still the weather was glorious and the sun was still up, so we decided to take to the beach and enjoy the last hour or two before dusk. I had purchased a blowup inner tube at the gift shop that we named Orangina (Gina for short) because of the bright orange color, and brought her down to the beach and right into the water. The waves in the ocean were a bit of a challenge, especially compared to the calm waters in Puerto Morelos, but once you get beyond the breaking point, it’s easier to manage. It’s so shallow, you can walk pretty far out, but the constant jet skis and boats going by created some monsters that ended up clobbering me.

Having a grand old time with Gina

In the evening, we walked across the street to a little shopping center to round out our provisions for the weekend and checked out a little of what the area had to offer. I also noticed happily that the Museo Maya de Cancun, a well-reviewed museum that was one of only two MUST SEE items on my list for Cancun, was literally located right behind our hotel. I was amazed! Such a close distance! Making my life so easy for future activity planning.

View from our room at blue hour by Todd Sipes

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mayan Riviera Day 7: Mesoamerican Reef

January 07, 2016

Thursday we didn’t have anything planned and decided to just play it by ear and relax for our last full day in Puerto Morelos. We woke up and had breakfast in the hotel restaurant, heading down right after 8:30 to try and avoid the latecomer treatment we had previously in the week. We were able to get a table outside right next to the edge of the patio with a view of the beach, and had the best breakfast service we have had yet at the hotel. They promptly brought us juice Tang and coffee, as well as the fruit and toast, and were attentive enough to refill coffees and even ask if we wanted something additional made, like eggs or pancakes, etc. We didn’t even really know you could have that done here! The restaurant is such a mystery.

Breakfast on the beach

After breakfast, we headed to the pier to procure a snorkeling trip for Todd. As mentioned in previous posts, I don’t do well with water activities that involve getting my head wet, and my crippling fear of sea life also leaves me out of the snorkeling ring, but I definitely can appreciate the appeal. Since we are staying right off the Mesoamerican Reef, which is the 2nd largest coral reef in the world and snorkeling here is supposed to be great, I didn’t want Todd to miss the opportunity. I think I was more excited for him to go than he was. He took the underwater camera and promised to take some exciting pictures. There is a little booth right by the pier just a few doors down from the hotel and they have snorkel tours going out really whenever you want. Only $25 for 2 hours, 2 stops, full equipment, bottle of water, etc. Seemed like a great deal, so we sent him out and I went back to the hotel to hang out on the beach and continue reading Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” on my kindle while watching pelicans dive bomb for fish just feet away.

I can't complain about this view!

Todd lived up to his promise, bringing back photos of all kinds of undersea creatures: fish of all different colors, coral of various shapes and sizes, jellyfish, huge barracudas, a sea turtle, a squid, a brightly colored lobster-ish guy (I don't know my sea animals very well), and a few other unidentified lovelies. This is how I like to view my sea life—from the safety of a digital screen. Here are some of the remarkable photos he took on his excursion:

Here he is!

Love this round coral


Can you see the squid?

Rainbow colored lobster-ish animal. 

I love this shot of the surface



We then walked along the beach to the other side of town, but the weather, though warm, was a bit cloudy and windy and not great for a swim, so we headed back to our hotel for showers and reruns of Parks and Rec (what can I say? Amy Poehler is a personal hero). As I was drying my hair, Todd headed next door to pick up some burritos to go (or as they called them, “large tacos”) that we enjoyed in our room, followed by the best coconut flan I have ever had, with a consistency closer to cheesecake than the more jello-like flan I’ve had previously in the states. Yum!

A lazy afternoon brought us back to the square after dark for a walk to the pier and to watch them take down the giant canopy from the event the previous day. Since lunch had been so late, we weren’t hungry for dinner, and just had a nice stroll to say goodbye to Puerto Morelos on our last night here.

Adios, Puerto Morelos! Sunrise photo by Todd Sipes