Riviera Maya, MX 2011

February 5, 2011 - Playa del Carmen, Mexico

 After last year's three week backpacking adventure in Thailand, Linda and I decided to take a shorter and more relaxing trip to the Riviera Maya in Mexico. We stayed in Playa del Carmen or simply "Playa", which is a resort town of approximately 100,000 some 45 minutes south of Cancun on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. We stayed at Playacar Palace, an all-inclusive resort very near the ferry terminal to Cozumel and the popular shopping district, Quinta Avenida (or 5th Avenue). 

04 Feb: We left Seattle the morning of 04 Feb and were scheduled to arrive in Cancun at 3:45PM. Mother Nature had other plans. The aftermath of a huge winter storm that stretched some 2000 miles and impacted 100 million Americans had resulted in cancelled flights nationwide...including ours to Cancun. Bonus time at George H. W. Bush International Airport! We checked in the resort at 12:30AM grateful  the delay was only 6 hours and did not require an overnight stay in Houston.

05 Feb: LINDA'S BIRTHDAY and our first day unplugged!! We explored Quintana Avenida and upgraded to a honeymoon suite using a portion of a $1500 credit we had. We marveled briefly at the killer view of the white sand beach and tourquise sea from our huge balcony but the sand between our toes beckoned. We combed the beach and sunbathed prior to grabbing some eats at a local eatery on the beach for Linda's special day. We later had a good laugh watching a group 20-somethings belt out some tunes at Karaoke Night at the Luna Lounge before turning in.

06 Feb: Took a long walk on the beach south of the resort. This was the first day that we were focused on tanning, swimming, and watering our livers.

07 Feb: Bused 50 minutes south to Tulum for a history lesson. Tulum is the site of a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city. The ruins are located on 39-foot cliffs along the east coast of Yucatan Penisula on the Carribean Sea. Tulum was at its height between the 13th and 15th Centuries and managed to survive 70 years after the Spanish began occupying Mexico. It seems Old World disease brought by the Spanish settlers were the cause of their demise.

We met a couple Babyboomer friends, Jim and Marianne, who were from Minneasota and Wisconsin. Turns out Jim and I attended the same college (UW-Stout). We enjoyed hearing the traveling adventures this brother and sister team, which included a recent trip to Bali and planned trip to Vietnam. We took an hour-long guided tour before exchanging email addresses and going our separate ways. Linda and I then walked down to check out the beach before returning to Playa where we scheduled the rest of the week's activities.

08 Feb: We woke early for breakfast prior to taking the 8AM ferry to Cozumel. I had a 2-tank dive (Scuba with Alison) scheduled and Linda had a spa day at the Palace Resort in Cozumel. Unforunately, I received a call at 7:15 from Alison that the dive would be canceled due to rough seas. We ventured onward to Cozumel given we had already purchased our ferry tickets. The sea was angry that day my friends...like an old man sending back soup at a deli (Seinfeld reference). Bonus: Free vomit bags for everyone on the ferry! 45-minutes later Linda and I kissed solid ground and quickly walked to the Palace Resort where she checked in for some pampering (again, thanks to the $1500 credit). I devised a Plan B where I would walk 20 minutes to the Museo de la Isla de Cozumel. The island's museum is housed on two floors of a former hotel. It has displays on natural history—with exhibits on the island's origins, endangered species, topography, and coral-reef ecology—as well as the pre-Columbian and colonial periods. I spent nearly 1.5 hours there, which is about my maximum for any one activity (shopping, museums, etc.). A great value for the $3 Admission AND I left a little smarter than when I entered. I wandered back through town and sipped on a beer in the town square/center before making my way back to the resort to pick up Linda - who was now supremely relaxed and properly exfoliated from head to toe. We grab lunch at the resort before roaming town and making our way back to the ferry terminal for our 5PM return trip to Playa.

09 Feb: Swimming with the dolphins at Dolphinaris! I swam and Linda played photog to document the event. I signed up for the dolphin swim and ride program, which begins with a 10-minute orientation. Participants have free time to swim with the dolphins, observe their habits while underwater using a visor, and also experience an exhilarating belly ride. Visitors in this program also received a kiss and a handshake from the dolphin. Our host, Richie, was the alpha-male of the group and was quite a ham. He truly seemed to enjoy performing for us...and the smelt he received for positive reinforcement. We somehow managed to decline the generous offer to purchase THREE digital photos of Richie and I for the mere price of $99, which quickly became the entire CD for $99. We exited the gift shop resisting the urge to ask our friends at the Dolphinaris if they had heard of The Great Recession that had a stranglehold on America and the rest of the Free World. Later, we lounged on the beach, played ping-pong, and jumped on the trampoline at Senor Frogs. What a great day!

10 Feb: After breakfast I headed to Dive Adventuris for two dives. My dive buddy for the first dive was a man from St. Paul, MN - Ralph. Again, I found myself chatting about my homestate with a retiree enjoying the good life. The water temperature was about 78 degrees with excellent visiability (estimated 70 feet). We dove along the beautiful coral reef watching tropical fish, and relishing the calm of floating in the underwater world. Highlights included a great barracude, large grouper, and watching the attempts to spear lionfish, which are a non-native species to the Carribean threatening the delicate eco-system. The lionfish population is quickly growing given they have no natural predators in the area. At home I read an old Alert Diver article (July/August 2009) on the matter. It seems Lionfish may have been introduced into the Atlantic at Biscayne Bay, Fla., when several individual fish were relased from an aquarium during Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

We spent the afternoon trying to catch some final rays. We met and had a good chat with Michael - a U.S. expat currently living in San Jose Puerto Rico after retiring from the Dept. of Defense. We took joy picking his brain about the logistics of relocating "overseas". Although Michael admitted the appeal of Puerto Rico was its familiarity to the United States and the fact that San Jose is a very English-friendly. Turns out after 3 years of combing the beaches, he began working part-time as an English instructor for a pharmaceutical firm. Before you know it, it was time to pack up and hit the sack in anticipation of our 4:30AM wake-up call and check-out.

Had an amazing time. Then again, it's easy to do spending time with my best friend and wife! We always have fun and seem to find lots to laugh about. Would love a return trip one day to possibly spend some time in Tulum...but for now there are too many other places we want to explore. For 2012 we are dreaming of a trip to Vietnam or perhaps the Philipines. Time will tell...happy travels!











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