spring break 2015, part II (“who goes to Cancun anymore?”)

On Wednesday morning of our Spring Break adventure, we packed it up and headed south to Mayakoba. We checked in to the Fairmont and headed straight to the pool. The main pool has a water slide, so the boys were thrilled. After lunch, we headed down to the ocean.

Mayakoba is situated in the jungle and consists of 3 resorts, all very spaced out. In fact, to even get around the Fairmont, you had to take shuttle carts (or bicycles or walk a very long way).

I’d read that the beaches in Mayakoba were not as spectacular as the ones in Cancun, and the reviews were correct. The ocean was a lot rougher, and the beach was a lot smaller.

don’t get me wrong; it’s still a beach, so that by default makes it pretty awesome…

Guests at the Fairmont have the option to take a boat tour around the property. We grabbed the last boat of the day and settled back for a relaxing jungle cruise. The area is gorgeous and lush and chock full of critters.

turtle on a crocodile

crocodile sunning himself

We headed back to our room to shower and get situated for dinner. We had no advance reservations in Mayakoba, but because we’d been able to switch reservations and get new reservations so easily in Cancun, I was not worried.

That was a mistake.

The concierge was zero help, as was Open Table. So the first night, we ate dinner at Las Brisas at the Fairmont. While the ambiance was excellent, the food was nothing to really write home about.

We got back to our room and I managed to lock in a reservation at the highly recommended Italian restaurant at the Rosewood for the following evening.



the Mayan worry-doll was a nice touch from the turn-down service

We had our biggest adventure yet booked for the next day. We were picked up at our hotel at 8am and joined a group consisting of a couple from North Dakota, a couple from Mexico City, and a couple from Santiago, Chile. Our driver took us an hour south to a jungle near the ancient Mayan ruins of Tulum.

First up, rappelling.

Well, actually, the first real part of the adventure was the 4×4 ride into the jungle. Our tour guide called the vehicle a Unimog. It was bouncy, fast, and without a doubt not very safe.

Then rappelling.

Into a deep hole that was filled with freezing cold water.

I cannot believe I actually did this.

You know it’s going to be cold when the helper-dude is wearing a wetsuit.

After the rappelling, we climbed an extremely rickety, homemade ladder/gangway type thing and zip lined through the jungle.


The final zip line ended in another cave filled with freezing water.


Then we donned snorkel gear and snorkeled in an underground river. Cold. But amazing.

After that, we ate an authentic Mayan lunch prepared in the middle of the jungle.

Yes, you read that correctly. And the biggest miracle isn’t that we all survived unscathed, it’s that every single person in our family actually ate the food without complaining. Even Jack.

After lunch, we hiked through the jungle to another cenote where some type of Mayan ceremony was performed that involved a whole lot of incense.


Then we reloaded the crazy Unimog and reboarded the minibus which took us on down to Tulum.


The ruins at Tulum were pretty incredible. If you know anything about the Mayans then you know that they were some seriously mean folks. The boys were fascinated by the guide’s tales of human sacrifice and whatnot.


Theo was convinced these were bloody handprints on the wall of the temple where the Mayans sacrificed humans.

While our tour guide spoke, this critter scampered by only about 10 feet away from me. 
It’s a coatimundi. Ok, then.


Tulum was fascinating but very, very hot.


After the official tour, we were able to explore the ruins a bit ourselves. The walled city goes right up to the beach. The water here was as incredible as it was in Cancun.



Back at the tour group meet-up spot, there was a Mexican market and Voladores–these Mayans below who climbed a tall pole and then spun their way down. The boys were mesmerized.


The Mexican market was the best place for buying souvenirs, but after all the craziness of the day, I was not fired up about bartering in Spanish. Plus, we only had a few minutes left before the ride back to Mayakoba so we opted to let the boys change into dry clothes instead.


The only poorly translated sign we saw the whole time in Mexico…if you care about that.


We got back to the room, showered up, and rested until time for dinner. Everyone was very excited about the Italian restaurant.


But we got there and the restaurant didn’t have our reservation. And I wasn’t able to convince them that because their restaurant was empty and because it was only 6:00 that they most likely could stuff us in the corner where we’d eat very quickly and then be on our way. Instead, they sent us across the resort to what they called “the Asian restaurant” and said we could eat at the Italian place the following night.

Agave Azul was good–and the boys love Asian food–but it was definitely a 180 from what we were expecting that night. We ate quickly and headed back to the Fairmont for the night.

The next day was our last day in Mexico. We spent the entire day camped out by the pool.


And I’m happy to report that our meal that night at the Italian restaurant, Casa del Lago, was just as great as we’d anticipated it would be.

Our flight home was uneventful until we got to baggage claim.

We saw Dikembe Mutombo in the international terminal last year when we flew home from London. Russ sent Theo up to him to give him his trademark finger-wagging/”no, no, no!” to which Dikembe responded by giving Theo a high-five. We didn’t take a picture though and then kicked ourselves afterwards for not being brave enough to ask for one.

We did not make that mistake again when we saw him this year.

Mr. Mutombo is a supremely nice (and good-natured) fellow–all 7’2″ of him.
(Notice Jack’s hand…no, no, no!)

All in all, our trip to Mexico was fantastic, and we are very glad we split our time between two different resorts. The jungle adventure was the highlight; it was absolutely packed with activity, and the boys had a blast. The Thai restaurant in Cancun was our favorite meal, hands down. We spent much more time on the beach in Cancun than we did in Mayakoba, but our rooms in Mayakoba were much more unique (the bathroom itself featured an entire wall–floor to ceiling–of glass), and Mayakoba was much less crowded. We somehow managed to get the best of both worlds–beach and jungle, touristy and secluded–by splitting up our trip, even though switching hotels midway through a trip is something we have never, ever wanted to do before.

In a nutshell, we’d recommend this trip to just about anyone. The only thing we’d do differently would be to bring along a full calendar of dinner reservations and a full stash of medicines for stomach ailments. Otherwise, we wouldn’t change a thing.

So who goes to Cancun anymore?

Well, we did.

And we’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Spring Break 2015, Part I (“Who Goes to Cancun Anymore?”)

Spring break comes ridiculously early for some folks in Atlanta. When we woke up Friday morning to snow falling, we were even more excited to be heading south for a week.

An extremely well-traveled friend of ours remarked, “who goes to Cancun anymore?” when he asked what our Spring Break plans were. It soon morphed into a funny joke between our families. We’d spent the two weeks leading up to our trip dealing with various random viruses in our household, so other than a few restaurant reservations, we’d not exactly done a lot of any research on our destination. We were worried we were indeed going to find out that no one goes to Cancun anymore…and for a reason.

We are delighted to report that we couldn’t have been more off target. Mexico was incredible.


Our flight–though direct–was delayed, and once on the ground, we had to maneuver customs, baggage claim, and ground transportation (all in Spanish) before arriving at our hotel, the JW Marriott in Cancun. It was well after 10 p.m. before we set foot in our rooms which, after a great deal of messy of Spanglish email communications and phone calls, thankfully were connected.

The boys shared a room with 2 double beds and were going to rotate who got to sleep alone, but the first night Tucker insisted on sleeping on the floor instead of sharing a bed with a brother. We were all too tired to fight it. 

We woke up bright and early the next morning to this view:


It was beautiful. 

The boys couldn’t get their swimsuits on fast enough.

We had breakfast at the hotel and then wandered around a bit to get a lay of the land. Russ decided we needed our own cabana for the day. We didn’t argue. 

Our cabana was basically a queen-sized bed next to the pool, shaded by a thatched roof, and cordoned off by a low wall. We had two lounge chairs, our own server, and a perfect view of the water. Cancun was off to a great start.


view from our cabana to the beach

We shuffled back and forth between the pool, the beach, and our little hut all day, only leaving when it was finally time to go in and shower for dinner. 

Rather than eat a third meal of the day at the hotel, we took the concierge’s recommendation for an off-site, authentic Mexican restaurant. La Destileria is an actual tequila distillery, and some other dear friends had recommended it to us, as well. We sat right on the water, enjoyed good drinks, and watched the sunset. The food was good; it was definitely authentic (read: not the Mexican food you’d find in America), but tasty.  


Afterwards, we made a pit-stop at an Oxxo (basically a 7-11) to get water and snacks. Theo hit the jackpot when he found a Mexican Rubik’s cube to add to his ever growing Rubik’s cube collection.


By the time we’d gotten back to the hotel after our pit-stop, one of us had been violently stricken with Montezuma’s Revenge. Then poor Tucker spent the entire night vomiting.

Around 7:30 the following morning, he asked for some honeydew melon (because, you know, after a night of hurling, the thing you want is more questionably washed fruit). But he ate it, and it stayed down, and he was back to his Tuckerish self. We were floored. If either of us had spent a night like he had, we’d certainly be in the bed the entire next day. Russ and I were exhausted from tag-teaming our care through the night.

But this guy never ceases to amaze.


one tough cookie right here

Tuck celebrated his defeat of the barfmonster by…

wait for it…

convincing Russ to take him parasailing.


bouncing out to the parasailing boat on a jet-ski with Russ


taking off


Russ on the left; Tucker on the right



Meanwhile, back on terra firma, the other boys and I relaxed.


It’s no secret that Tucker’s favorite food is Thai food. That night we had reservations at Restaurante Thai, a place I’d found solely via online reviews. After the previous night’s adventures, I was a bit gun-shy about food, and the fact that the taxi driver didn’t know where the restaurant was didn’t help things. He dumped us at the entrance of an outdoor shopping plaza, and we roamed around until we finally found the restaurant, tucked behind the Aquarium.

Any worries we had about this place disappeared once we saw it. The place is spectacular. We followed a path through a jungly area to our table which was inside its own palapa over the water.


terrible lighting but a family portrait nonetheless

The food was unbelievable, and everyone left happy. We highly recommend this restaurant; it’s well worth the hike to find it.

We made it through Sunday night without anyone getting sick, so Monday morning we decided to get more adventurous. We took a cab to another hotel–the Westin Lagunamar–with plans to hang out at their pool and beach area all day.

We forgot that all of the hotels are gated and have a guardhouse.

After some seriously not-exactly-honest-communications/advanced-playing-dumb, the gatekeeper gave up and let us in.

Don’t worry; we didn’t stay long. We weren’t allowed to buy anything there without ID or a room key. Go figure.

The pool area at the Westin is humongous, though, and the entire resort–from the outside, at least–looked very pretty.

Since we were already almost in downtown Cancun (and were apparently living the life of renegades), we headed on in to town for lunch. The original plan was to cheese it up at the Hard Rock Cafe and get the boys a shirt to match their London shirts. The cab driver dropped us right at the front door…of the completely dark and shuttered Hard Rock. Closed for business.

So we went native and flipped a coin between Carlos ‘n Charlie’s and Señor Frog’s.


Though the photo ops were better at C’nC’s, Señor Frog’s won out. It was just as mediocre as you might expect, though the boys were somewhat entertained.


We made our way back to our actual hotel and played a little football before heading to an Italian restaurant for dinner.


Casa Rolandi was another slam-dunk of a restaurant choice. We again ate on a back patio overlooking the water, and the food again did not disappoint. The profiteroles were Jack’s favorite thing he had on the entire trip.

Tuesday was our last full day in Cancun. We spent the day in yet another rented cabana and hung out with fellow Atlantans (and NYO baseballers), the Bentons.


That night we all went out to dinner at Harry’s. The Bentons have 2 sons, and our 3 sons were thrilled to get to hang out together with other kids. Our dinner was fantastic and ended unexpectedly with giant puffs of cotton candy brought to our table, which cemented the awesomeness of the night for all involved.


The next morning we packed up our hurricane of a room, checked out, and caught a ride about an hour south to Mayakoba where our Mexican adventure got even more adventurous.

Part II coming right up…