Explore Mexico: Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo

Staring out the window at yet another snowstorm, my mind wanders to warmer times.  This time four years ago, Mr. WACH and I were gearing up for a week in Riviera Maya, Mexico.  LivingSocial had just come on the budget travel scene, and we skeptically decided to try out one of the first LivingSocial offers in the Lexington area.  Our adventure started on the sidewalk in front of Blue Grass Airport.  When a bird shat on me as I was pulling my luggage across the pavement, I knew we were going to have good luck that week.

Kite Surfing

After an early flight, we arrived in the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico just after lunTukan Lobbych.  Our first destination was our home for the week at the Hotel Tukan in Playa del Carmen.  What a great spot!  The public areas of the hotel are all open air, and the beautiful plantings make it feel like the hotel is in the jungle, even though it’s right in the middle of downtown.  The rooms are well-appointed, and each one has a terrace or balcony.  Plus, the housekeeping staff makes those adorable towel animals for you room every day.  The hotel has a relationship with Kool Beach Club just a short walk away, so we set off to spend our first afternoon in Mexico on the beach.  The Beach Club is a fun spot, with lots of beach chairs, creative cocktails, and a stunning view of the bluish-green Gulf of Mexico, but the best part about our visit that day was that the Club was hosting a kite-surfing competition.  We spent hours on the beach watching athletes from across the globe flying high above the ocean and twisting and flipping on the way down.  A perfect way to introduce us to the Mayan Riviera!

 Our travel plans for the week were booked through Alltournative, an eco-friendly tourism company that I would highly recommend.  They first organized an outing to Xel-Ha (pronounced Shell-Ha), an all natural water park.  I can’t say enough good things about Xel-Ha.  Our tour guide explained that it was just a dead-end beach road until the mid-1990s when someone decided to turn it into a model for sustainable tourism.  It is situated on the beach and centered around a natural lagoon filled with all sorts of native fish.  From the time you arrive until the moment you leave, an all-inclusive admission ensureXel-Ha Signs that you are never hungry or without something cold to drink (with or without alcohol).  Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and in between were all covered by multiple buffet restaurants featuring traditional Mexican cuisine, fresh seafood, ice cream, and sandwiches, among many other tasty options.  For those in the mood for relaxation, beach chairs are spread throughout the park where you can curl up with a floppy hat to read a book or watch all of the guests have fun in the water.  For those who want more of an active day, you can spend your afternoon floating down an all-natural lazy river, snorkeling in a lagoon that is the equivalent of an enormous natural aquarium, zip line over the water, play on a rope bridge, or just go for a swim.  You an also hike around the park, visit the beach, watch dolphins playing, and say hello to the iguanas and birds sunning themselves on rocks and in trees.  What an amazing way to spend a day!

The next day, we traveled all around Quintana Roo with Alltournative.  Cenote Rappelling 2Our first stop was a visit to Coba, a large ruined city of Pre-Colombian Mayans.  We drove all around the ruins by bicycle, stopping to learn about how the Mayans may have lived there.  My personal favorites were hiking to the top of a pyramid and visiting what looked like the Mayan version of a basketball court and made this Wildcat fan smile.  From Coba, we traveled to a modern Mayan village for a hike through the jungle to enjoy home-cooked meal, ziplining over a lake filled with alligators, and rappelling into a cenote (underwater lake) after a blessing from a Mayan shaman.  So many new experiences packed into one wonderful day for our memory books!

If you’re like me and waaaaay over the beautiful snow that’s covering Kentucky, spend your snow day inside browsing the web and planning a trip to warmer pastures.  If Mexico strikes your fancy, consider visiting Quintana Roo.  There are several travel deals available right now with flights out of Cincinnati, and I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed with your visit!

Fire Performers  Cactus Dinner

© Copyright 2015 – Amelia Adams