Saturday, May 3, 2014

Vacation: Part I. {beaches & hotel}.

I decided after uploading all of the pictures from our vacation that I needed to split everything into two posts: one for where we stayed, and one for the excursions we went on.

Ten years ago, for our honeymoon, we went to Cancun. We got a few eye rolls about Cancun being our honeymoon destination, but we were just excited to be able to go somewhere with the little money that we had. Fast forward to last year when we started looking at where we wanted to go for our 10 year anniversary, and we kept coming back to the Cancun area.  I had only had two requests throughout the ordeal to find a hotel: adults only, and a beautiful beach. (I try not to be too demanding ;) ).
After talking with a few people who are avid travelers we decided the Riviera Maya, which is just south of Cancun, would be a perfect landing spot for us.

We ended up booking a room at the Catalonia Royal Tulum. It was about twenty minutes south of Playa Del Carmen. The hotel was kind of in the middle of a less populated area, so when we pulled into the resort, I was a little leary (Drew later informed me that he was REALLY leary, and was scared that I would be upset the entire week. Apparently I'm more demanding than I realize). Compared to some of the more grandiose hotels that mark the Cancun area, ours seemed quaint and a little... old, for lack of a better term. But after walking in towards the rooms a bit more, our attitudes changed. And after we spent a full day on the beach, I think both of us were surprised at how the resort had won our hearts. It was on the smaller side, yet didn't lack in amenities as far as restaurants, pool and beach were concerned. In fact, I would venture to say this is one of the nicest pools at a resort that we have stayed at, and the beach was only second to the beaches of St. Thomas.  And not having kids there was a bit of icing on the cake... as much as I missed my boys, it was nice not to have to deal with or be witness of tantrums and the like. Although, I did decide that adults sloshed on tequila are about as loud as a 3 year old hyped up on artificial dyes and high fructose corn syrup.
The main entrance and lobby area of the hotel was all open air. I think this is what made Drew and I leary, as it just doesn't seem so extravagant as some of the other hotels and cruises we've been on. But when you exited the lobby, you were lead on a little winding pathway that cut between either side of the actual room buildings (there were 6 buildings in all). We called it a jungle, but wooded is probably a better term. There were all kinds of animals that inhabited the area, so you really felt like you were in a more remote area than just a hotel
we did our fair share of walking on these pathways. At first I was leary, but I really did fall in love with how tucked away we felt.

these little guys were ALL over the walkways and jungle areas (while we were there I called them Mexican racoons. They're actual name is a Coati. I prefer my name for them a bit better ;)) One morning I went out on our patio, and they met me there, hopefully awaiting some food. When I opened a granola bar, they all came running. At that point, I was a bit scared I was being cornered by about 5 of these critters. I quickly tossed the bar over the railing of our balcony and ran inside. Aren't they so cute?!

Past the rooms was a wooden bridge that led to the waterfront and pool. We were concerned with the distance between the rooms and the beach; we're used to having an ocean front room where you can literally walk out and be poolside at the least. But we ended growing to love the separation from the rooms as well, as everything you needed for the entire day was right there, so you really didn't go back to your room until dinner time.
this was the small lagoon that you had to cross to get to the rooms from the lobby. The Tapas restaurant also overlooked this area.

The restaurants were all really good. We did have our favorites, which included the Mexican restaurant (was this even a question???) and the Tapas restaurant. As far as atmosphere goes, the Tapas was hands down our favorite. It was set on an outdoor patio that overlooked a small lagoon, and it was covered by trees. Since it opened at 7pm, it was mostly candlelit and had soft music in the background. It was awesome. The tapas restaurant was where Drew fell in love for the second time... with chocolate martinis.
me at Tapas, the day we got into Mexico.
some of the appetizers at Tapas. These were probably my favorites of all that I tried.
dinner at Tapas. None of the restaurants had a strict dress code, but it was fun to get dressed up and feel like we were going on 6 different dates.
Our hotel has weddings on site. I was captivated by the beauty of the simplicity of this wedding on our first beach day there. I have no regrets with having a December wedding, but this does look rather magical, doesn't it?

Like I said earlier, this was probably one of the prettiest beaches we have been on, aside from St. Thomas. It had a very natural feel to it, and since the resort was smaller, it didn't feel overrun with people.
this was our view most days (one day we were even lucky enough to grab our own palapa (Drew and I have to find a combination area of both sun and shade, since I prefer to lay out and he prefers to not burn ;) ).
Drew enjoyed the beachside hammocks
Our resort had kayaks, snorkeling and a small catamaran that you could take a little tour on. I wasn't able to snorkel at the resort, and the ocean was always too rough for us to try the kayaks out. We did get to go on the catamaran adventure and it was a lot of fun.
private property. I kinda wish it was mine. ;)
directly next to our resort was an old abandoned hotel property. Our guide on the catamaran told us that it closed down years ago because it was just not making any money. Such a shame to see such beautiful land sit in ruins.

About a mile down the beach from our hotel was another piece of abandoned property. It looked like it used to have some sort of outdoor concert facility, but we weren't really sure. There were always locals there picnicing when we walked down, but it was clearly an abandoned facility.
these small crabs were all over the beach and they were SO cute. I took this ones picture before realizing that it was dead. Which I realize is slightly creepy to keep a picture of a dead crab, but I really liked how it turned out, so I never deleted it.
We found another small crab pulling this fish back to its hole for dinner. The crab was too quick for me to snap a picture of it with the fish, but it left it's dinner out on its way to hiding.
believe it or not, this was the best picture I took of the pool. Apparently I forgot to take one with my big girl camera. The big palapa in the background was the open air buffet that served lunch (it turned into a steakhouse at night). The pool was actually twice as big as you see in the picture. It was huge, and offered a great escape from the wind on the days where it was too windy on the beach.

Overall we really loved the hotel, and especially loved being away from other mega-resorts. The hotel was surrounded by mostly private property, so with the exception of a few locals, we really did feel like we had miles of beach to ourselves.

While we were there we went to two different tour parks, as well as spent a morning in downtown Playa Del Carmen. I'll share about those in my next post.... in the meantime, you can pray for our family, as it seems all but two of us have come down with a wicked stomach virus. I can do many things as a mom, but my abilities stop short of being able to stomach cleaning vomit. Hoping the worst is past....

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