Day One: October 24th.
The group of Water Enthusiasts from South Carolina had been planning this trip for the longest time. We are an eclectic group of 4 men and 15 women, ages ranging from mid 30s to early 80s all living in South Carolina and all people who love the water.
We arrived in Cancun before noon and went through immigrations with no problems at all. Everyone gathered their luggage and headed towards customs, out of 19 people only two had the red light and needed to have their luggage checked. Moments later we were all gathered waiting for our vans. We made one stop on the way to Akumal and that was at the brand new grocery store, Sabrina, in the new mall in Playa del Carmen. The store is wonderful, and we were all able to get everything we needed for the week, snacks, drinks and even a pareo or two.
Rosie and Amy's Bungalow
Once we arrived in Akumal everyone quickly found their rooms and started to get settled in. We checked in, got our golf carts and were settled in in no time. The evening festivities began with happy hour and dinner at Lol-Ha Beach Bar. CEA was releasing some turtle hatchlins which some of us got to witness. For most of us it was early to bed since we had gotten up early to catch our flights.
Breakfast at Lol-Ha
Day two: AKUMAL
We woke early and several people took a nice walk on the beach. We had breakfast at Lol-Ha which included a choice of fresh fruit or fresh squeezed OJ and eggs with toast and bacon or ham. It was the perfect way to start our first morning. Several of us gathered at the pool for water aerobics.
At 10:30 we all gathered at the beach bar to for a presentation about CEA, given by their Director, Paul Sanchez-Navarro. Following that we all piled into some vehicles and were off to visit the school in the pueblo and meet our new pen pals. The children are involved in a program run by Leticia Cordova, who teaches the 8th graders about recycling and English. This is a part of a larger Environmental Education Program that is run by CEA and Leticia.
Pen Pals Meet
Everyone had a great time seeing the classroom and getting to know their pen pals. Letters and gifts were exchanged and the children were most excited about their trip with us to Xcaret the next day.
Group at Nah Hah Pool
Following the school visit everyone went back to their rooms to gather up their towels and snorkeling gear. We then hopped on our golf carts and headed to the north end of Akumal. Our first stop was at Nah Hah, a lovely oceanfront villa owned by Kathy Farrell Sonheim. Kathy was kind enough to offer a house tour which included Nah Hah and Azul Riviera. We all enjoyed her pool and lagoon access at Azul Riviera. Both houses together can accommodate up to 24 people, a perfect way to house your group and at the same time have access to both Half Moon Bay's coral reefs and Yal Ku lagoon.
La Buena Vida
We ended our tour of Akumal with happy hour at La Buena Vida on Half Moon Bay.
Day Three: XCARET
Pen Pals at Xcaret
Some people stayed and enjoyed snorkeling and relaxing in Akumal, while others headed with the 8th graders to Xcaret. The day at Xcaret began with a behind the scenes tour of their recycling program. One of the most interesting facts to many of us was that the plastics from Xcaret are made into pellets and sent to China, where they are made into clothes that very well may be sold in the USA. It made us all realize the importance of recycling and its global affects.
After the tour we all headed to the aquarium. Xcaret has one of the most fantastic coral exhibits, in addition to their sea turtles exhibit. Xcaret is where other turtle programs, such as CEA, take injured turtles that they find. Xcaret also has wonderful breeding programs for native birds and panthers.
Once we all left the aquarium everyone was on their own to explore the park and we agreed to meet up in time to see the night show all together. Several of the folks in our group had decided to come only for the night time entertainment.
Xcaret has so much to offer people of all ages. There is a natural underground river that runs from one end of the park all the way to other, where it empties into the Caribbean Sea. This is one of the most relaxing ways to get around the park. There are exits along the way for those who want to stop. Over many, many years holes have worn through the ground and the sunlight streams through. These holes are called Cenotes and you find them throughout the Yucatan. The water in the underground rivers is cooler than the sea water As the current takes you toward the ocean, you will feel springs of warm and cool waters.
In addition to the many animal exhibits, water activities, and restaurants there are also a number of shows that happen throughout the day. You cannot be bored at Xcaret!
The highlight for all was the spectacular night time show. Xcaret has a brand new theater with a gorgeous palapa roof. You have the option of having dinner right there in the theater, which looked great. We, however, passed on that option. There is also a snack bar right outside the theater. As you walk up the path to the theater all of the Mayan actors are standing along the way in full original costumes. It is magnificent to see them up close like that.
When the show began, several of us thought it was the NBA meets the ancient Mayan ball game. The game was short but amazing to watch. Following the ball game they shut off the lights and had a hockey game, which was played with a fire ball. None of us were familiar with this game but it is wonderfully entertaining. Following the games, the show became a theatrical performance of the history of the Mayans and Mexico. It was a great way to see the history without needing words and translations. There was a brief intermission and the second half was a musical extravaganza that showcased the dress and music from each of the Mexican states. By the end of the show everyone was singing and dancing. Everyone from the teenagers to the oldest in our group was thoroughly entertained.
Day Four: TULUM
Group at Tulum
The vans came to pick us up and we all piled in and were off to the famous Tulum Ruins. We had a marvelous guide - entrance, transportation and guide cost us each $10.00. It was the hottest day of the trip and when they mentioned that Tulum was soon going to be open at night many of us wished they already were. There was a nice breeze if you were right on the water but only a few feet away it was still and hot. But the heat did not deter our group. Everyone was fascinated by the history of Tulum and the beauty of the location. Of all the Mayan cities, Tulum has the most spectacular location, perched on a small hill right on the coastline, it was an excellent choice of real estate. After the tour was over everyone spent some time shopping in the gift shops. After shopping we all headed to Zama's for lunch. The beach at Zama's is the perfect setting and the breeze was more than welcomed. Again everyone poked about the shops close to Zama's.
After lunch we headed to Tulum City. Tulum was recently officially designated a city due to its most recent census. The city of Tulum's main street is lined with shops and restaurants. We decided not to stop and went instead directly to the Animal Clinic, which is now located on the very same property that was the site for the very first Animal Clinics for YARF and VIDAS. The owner, Karen Jenkins, is an animal lover, who along with some other locals, has worked tirelessly to see that the animals in and around Tulum have better care, and that spay and neutering is available at affordable prices for the locals.
Marty in Paradise
We made one last stop on our way home and that was at Soliman Bay, where we unwound with a bite of food and some drinks under a palapa on the beach. This is the very spot that the world famous Corona commercials were filmed.
Tonight CEA was having a fundraiser party with a DJ and bar. Those of us in the group, who still had some energy, showed our support and danced the night away.
floating down the canal
Day Five: Sian Ka'an
Sergio and Pastor arrived in their van to pick us up at 10:00. The group had decided that they were going to pass on the Muyil ruins and jungle walk and do only the water activities. We drove straight to the lagoon and climbed on board our boat. The skies were full of clouds and we had a light sprinkle of rain – but Pastor showed us an ancient Mayan trick to send the rain clouds away. We were not bothered by the rain for the rest of the day. Thanks Pastor!!
Sian Ka'an is like no place else on earth. It is just as it was when the Ancient Mayans used it as a trade route. There are no buildings or mega resorts to be seen. As far as the eye can see there is nothing but beautiful landscapes. We crossed the lagoon and slowly meandered through a man-made canal that had been dug about a thousand years ago. Along the way we stopped and learned more about this fragile and unique eco-system. With cameras ready, we came out of the canal into an even larger lagoon. The view was amazing.
On the other side of the lagoon was a natural canal and a small Mayan Ruin, believed to be built for protection and for trade purposes. We docked the boat and walked around and inside the small structure. Then the fun really began. We all grabbed our life jackets and jumped in the water. The current drew us down through sawgrass on one side and mangroves on the other. The mangroves are full of plants, with orchids growing right on them. This is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable ways to be up close and personal with the overwhelming beauty of nature. Each and every one of us sighed in disappointment when our journey was over. It was back in the boat for snacks and a ride to our starting point.
When we arrived back at the docks at the first lagoon Sergio had prepared our picnic table and we had the best lunch from Don Cafetos in Tulum. The group was full of questions for Sergio and Pastor and they were so great about answering them all - the environment, Mayan culture and more.
Before the trip was finished we had one more stop to make – we went to a gorgeous cenote. Most of us jumped off the side into the refreshing water... some of us jumped more than once “just for the fun of it.” The cenote is a perfect way to end the day.
Back at the hotel we had an impromptu cocktail party – everyone contributed an appetizer or drinks and we sat and shared stories of our week. Dinner this night was on our own. Some of us decided to choose Leo's Pizza in Chemuyil. Chemuyil is a great little town on the “other side of the highway” and on most nights you will find the air filled with music and children are playing in the streets. It is a warm and wonderfully typical small Mexican town. The food at Leo's is reasonably priced and excellent. If you want to pay top dollar you can order the pizza with lobster.
Day Six: XEL-HA
We opted for the all-inclusive package, so we grabbed cabs and headed out early to Xel-Ha. We headed first to have breakfast, and some signed up for their dolphin encounter. Following breakfast four from our group headed directly to do their dolphin swim. They had a marvelous time and everyone thought it was well worth the $125. The rest of us headed to the top of the river. Xel-Ha is one of the few above-ground rivers in the Mayan Riviera and it meanders through mangroves and cliffs. It is a totally relaxing way to spend an hour or so. Along the river there are places to jump off the cliff, stop and relax and a rope bridge to cross.
After our river experience everyone split up and went there own way – some had a bite to eat, others snorkeled, walked across the river and meandered down the jungle paths, stopping to enjoy the cenotes, while still others wandered down to the beach. But the shops eventually lured all of us in at some point during the day.
The park closed at 6 so everyone grabbed a cab and headed home. Another free night and folks were on their own to do what they wanted to.
Day Seven: FREE DAY
This was everyone's last day to snorkel, shop, relax, do water aerobics or read and nap under a beachfront palapa. That afternoon we had a water aerobics class at the pool and then all headed to Lucy's for some home-made ice cream. We all spent the last night at Lol-Ha Beach Bar for happy hour and dinner, sharing thoughts and memories of our week.
Day Eight: HOME
People woke early to enjoy their last hour in paradise. Breakfast at Lol-Ha, last minute snorkeling, walks on the beach and of course that last run to the stores. We were in the vans and on the road by 11:00. We breezed through the airport and had no problems nor delays. Everyone was through Immigration at Charlotte and made our connections home. We were back in Charleston at 8:30.
Water Photo Album.
Water Enthusiasts Trip Planned.