I’m writing this post whilst at work…in Reading… and I’m reminiscing back to our last family holiday to Mexico and realised that I hadn’t shared anything about it on my blog, and this is not cool.
So, I apologise, and hopefully I’ll be shortly making up for that.
Read on.. ¡Arriba, arriba! ¡Ándale, ándale!
August is the one time of year my little family and I get to spend two unbroken weeks together. We work hard and have so much going on throughout the year that this time together means a lot to all of us. We get to relax, have fun, eat lots of delicious food, discover new cultures and do things we usually wouldn’t even think about doing. You may have read that the previous year we went on a mini-European adventure. This year we wanted a lot more sand..and water…and snooze time!
Once we’d decided on Mexico for our location, preferring a more authentic local experience for our children we booked a hotel in the Riveria Maya. A nine hour flight was nothing and once we landed the heat nearly knocked us of our feet, so we were extremely keen to get to our hotel and freshen up.
As soon as were checked in we tore off our shoes, discarded our travel clothes and suitcases, and made a beeline for the pool. Every time they do this to me! 😉
Personally I was dying for a tequila…or even a margarita would have done the trick – when in Mexico right?
What we enjoyed the most
I enjoyed Mexico far too much to choose a favourite thing about it.
I loved the people, the food, the weather, the drinks, the crystal clear sea, the sand that felt like warm velvet; just everything about the place.
But, I’ll attempt to narrow down our most favourite things for you.
We stayed in an Eco-Hotel where the beach and surrounding jungle are untouched. Animals roam free, fish swim freely around your feet and coconuts fall as you lay on your lounger reading your book.
Cenotes are naturally dotted around and we often took advantage of the cool, calm depth of them desperately trying to spot a turtle. We got lucky on many occasions. Some of these cenotes are found in caves and others are open to the sky above, either way, swimming in these pristine waters is quite magical.
The water’s so clear you don’t need goggles, and there’s no salt or chlorine to get in your eyes.
We watched the sun set as our room was very close to the beach and we took advantage of the hotel snorkelling trip racing out to sea in search of something pretty, new and bright.
There are hundreds of Mayan ruins spread across Mexico and we chose to visit the popular ocean-side ruins of Tulum. Standing above the waves next to the castle-like buildings is an amazing experience at any age, and we were there a lot longer than we anticipated to be.
These ruins are unique and different to any other Mayan ruins as they sit on 12 metre cliffs and overlook the gorgeous Caribbean Sea, which is so blue, you won’t believe your eyes!
After making new friends…
We took ourselves off the main track and attempted to find this amazing beach we’d heard about from the staff at the hotel. After around 30 minutes of walking, which felt like 30 days in that heat… we found it. Pure white sand.. crystal clear sea and hardly a soul to be seen. Bliss.
We rented some comfy loungers from Playa Pescadores and prepared ourselves for spending the rest of the day here.
Taco’bout a feast!
This beach was possibly one of my most favourite beaches ever. It was perfect. I did however drink quite a few Mojitos… but I think my photos confirm just how lovely it was and if there’s one thing that Mexico really excels at, it’s beaches.
The water is some of the purest I’ve ever experienced.
Cool, clear and quite breathtaking.
One thing to note is that the currents here can be strong, so keep an eye on the kids. It’s more of a splashing kind of sea than a swimming one.
Akumal Bay – “place of the turtles”
Just when you think you’ve already found your dream beach out comes a new rival. This beach was just as pretty as Tulum beach but with one added extra – you swim with turtles! I know.. amazing right?
I feel like I really should first talk about the fact that if you ever go it’s so so important to respect the turtles and the environment they live in. Do not touch them, don’t wear sun cream in the water, don’t get too close and please don’t take anything out of the sea. The turtles here are known as ‘Green Sea Turtles’ and they are endangered. We saw a few people disrespecting this and it’s just not right! All for the sake of a selfie! tut-tut.
Known to be a sea turtle hot spot due to the sea grass that stretches along the sea bed not far from shore we arrived as early as we could as we’d heard it can get quite manic. The turtles linger for hours in the bay, casually munching on the grass, giving you a chance to get up close and personal.
Towels all spread out under the biggest palm tree we could find, snorkel gear on and raring to go.
About ten metres in the sea floor turned from sand to sea grass, crystal clear. We must have been in the water about five minutes before Lucy spotted her first sea turtle bobbing around feeding off the grass, then all of a sudden more appeared!
At one point a turtle was just swimming along next to me! He glanced around and finding nothing remotely interesting ducked back under the water, swam straight to the bottom and continued to munch on the swaying sea grass.
All a tiny bit surreal and probably one of our most favourite experiences. I swear I saw tears in Lucy’s eyes. I’ve seen turtles before but only in zoos or sancturies, so seeing one in the wild is just mesmerising.
So that’s how swimming with turtles went and that’s one more thing ticked off the bucket list…Water magical place!
The only thing left to mention is that unfortunately there were lots of companies, some unofficial, scouting for you to book them as a guide. We refused, it’s just not our thing. This didn’t go down well and they threatened us with calling the police numerous times. They didn’t, and we knew they wouldn’t. We’d already been warned about these people so were ready for their behaviours. Just keep walking and looking out for the ‘public swimming’ sign where they won’t bother you.
Anyway, it didn’t spoil our day and if you go, please don’t let it spoil yours either. It may be worth checking out what the current rules are as I do know they guides and the government were in conflict at the time we visited.
Playa del Carmen
After spending our days lazing on loungers, swimming in the sea and eating yummy food we often found that we needed a little bit of liveliness in the evenings and Playa del Carmen was so close to our hotel it was the obvious choice. If you love to people watch then a stroll down Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue) will definitely fit the bill. The pedestrian only street is full of people all the time and the miles of restaurants, bars, shops and ice cream stands will tempt you like no other.
We wandered up and down it lots and each time saw something new and interesting. The food is amazing with so many different choices. One evening we sat eating on the rooftop of a restaurant covered with canopies watching the most intense thunderstorm! I could have stayed for so much longer but the rain was getting pretty heavy! The weather is so beautiful here that the shower was pleasant and we enjoyed walking home in the rain.
I know nachos may seem pretty boring but in Mexico they are totally different, they are the real thing! I ate so many nachos, I’m surprised I didn’t turn into an avocado!
One of my favourites things about my visit to Playa del Carmen was the food (I know it’s always about the food with me). Honestly, having lived in the UK all my life I’d never truly experienced really good Mexican food until I visited the country….and then I was blown away. Mexican food is one of my favourite cuisines now. I could eat tacos every day!
Xel-Ha Eco Park – “where the water is born”
When you think of Mexico, you might picture a Mariachi band bringing life to your dinner, a huge plate of spicy tacos or a picturesque white sand beach. But jumping off a cliff in the middle of the jungle? Probably not. But you can do that here!
There are lots of parks like this one to visit in Mexico, each similar to one another. We chose Xel-Ha (pronounced as shel-ha) as 1) it was closer to our hotel and 2) It looked like they had a bigger variety of activities to choose from.
We snorkelled, swam, jumped off cliffs (I’m a baby, went last and squealed all the way down), floated down the lazy river and through underground cenotes, walked across rickety bridges, ate, explored caves and freaked every time we saw a giant stingray.
It is a fantastic place to explore and we spent the whole day here only leaving at closing time! Our tans were topped up, our bodies aching but we loved every moment!
As far as family beach holidays go, this one was near perfect. We found Mexico to be tropical, friendly and full of life and I can’t wait to return.
Things you should definitely remember:
- Book/Plan all your days out and visits as early in the morning as possible. You’ll avoid the crowds and the heat by doing this. The humidity can be intense.
- Avoid paying for unnecessary guides and swimming with caged or entrapped animals.
- Buy biodegradable sun cream as lots of the parks will take normal sun cream off you if they see it.
- Take pesos rather than dollars. You get a better price for things by doing this.