The Good, The Bad and The Thank-You’s – Mexico

I’ve got a secret; I wasn’t thrilled to be going to Mexico. I’ve been there before – many times. From working on cruise ships and visiting many of the ports, both on the Pacific side and the Caribbean side, to my time in meeting planning when I worked for a week each in Cancun and Playa del Carmen, Mexico just never drew me in. It felt like a place you go to drink too much, have people sell you things you probably don’t need (just sold two, never-used, chair hammocks with the plastic still on which I bought in Cabo San Lucas), and eat Mexican food. Yes, the beaches are nice, but I always felt that people were pushing me to rent their kayaks or snorkel gear or braid my hair (careful not to turn your head too quickly or you’ll chip a tooth when the beads slam into your mouth). And, after all of the Irish friendliness of the last trip, I couldn’t see how Mexico could compare. But, as we know, I don’t choose where I travel to; that’s your job. So there I found myself in Mexico, working hard to have a good attitude. Who knew that the joy in this trip would be how it turned my attitude around and, let’s just say it, won me over; which is what made leaving so difficult.

So now I get to tell you what was good, what was not so good and, of course, thank the people who helped me along the way. Here is where I also give you the numbers on what this trip cost, as well as all of the links listed throughout in one place. It’s a great article to bookmark so you have the info. at your fingertips when you decide to go.

The Good – Spirit Airlines – It’s inexpensive and they don’t charge extra for being nice; a pleasant surprise.
The Bad – Due to weight limitations on checked luggage, and extra fees for carry-on, you must plan (oh, the dreaded “p” word)! Measure your carry-on bags, weigh your checked bags – I know, I hate planning but, to avoid a $100 fee at the gate, do it!

The Good – Hertz Rental Car and American Express, again, check out your insurance coverage on your credit cards before you go. While many will cover rental car damage, most don’t cover liability which is required by rental car companies in Mexico. Hertz includes liability in the price, many others do not.
The Bad – Hertz tried to give me what I like to call, the Deliverance car – “Squeal like a pig!” My recommendation is the Nancy Reagan response – “Just say no!” Also, car radio didn’t work and the guy tried to get me to visit his time share. Aah, Mexico.

Casa Alux

Casa Alux

Mexico Vista Del Mar HotelThe Good – The accommodations. I arrived in Mexico with no reservations. At just over $50 per night Vista Del Mar (now known as Del Sol Beachfront) was perfect. Right on the beach, room overlooking the ocean, free WiFi and even a hammock stored in the nightstand to use on the balcony (what’s in your nightstand, hhmmm?). And Miguel at the front desk was incredibly helpful. In Merida I stayed at The Studio at Casa Alux (full disclosure, it’s owned by my friends Stewart and Jesus and was comped, which really doesn’t change my opinion). The place had everything I could want – a comfy king-sized bed, a kitchenette, a lovely terrace, free WiFi, and it’s walking distance from downtown. At $50-$80 per night, it’s also a great deal.
The Bad – Vista Del Mar had some serious renovations going on which could be very noisy in the morning. Still, it was a good choice for them to wait until low-season to take care of them.Mexico Moonlight and Candlelight

The Good­ – The food! If you’re a fan of Mexican food, well, it seems obvious. And I’ll include La Buena Vida Restaurant in here. The food is great (as are the drinks), the prices are reasonable, and the view, oh the view (catching my breath as I write this). Just go.
The Bad – The food; it’s carbalicious. Tortillas, rice and beans, churros (Mexican doughnuts), horchata (a fine, non-alcoholic drink) and margaritas (a fine, alcoholic drink).

Mayan PyramidThe Good – The Mayan Ruins – they’re pretty fantastic and there are so many you can’t swing a stone carving without hitting a ruin. It’s kind of crazy knowing that only a small amount of buildings have been unearthed. And throw the cenotes in with the good. Yes, they’re refreshing, but their beauty is what makes them incredible.
The Bad – The vendors within some of the sites. There are way too many and it takes away from the experience. Also, in my opinion, the extensive restoration of the ruins. I understand we want to keep them standing but some might have just been built last year with the amount of restoration done.

The Good – Hekab Be Biblioteca, otherwise known as the Akumal Library. They provide a fun, safe, caring, educational environment for the children off Akumal, many whom live in very basic housing (some could be described as shacks). They love volunteers to come and help teach the kids English as that doubles their earning potential when they’re adults. They operate on donated funds and supplies and are an official non-profit in the U.S. and in Mexico. I’ll profile them in Rebel-With-A-Cause next week. Please subscribe there and I’ll let you know when that’s published. And if you wish to help them out (with funding or in-person volunteering) I’ll let you know how.
The Bad – There are none. Come here, meet these amazing kids and you’ll understand.

IMG_0453

The Good­ – Snorkeling with the sea turtles oe anywhere else in Akumal.
The Bad – I didn’t have time to do it, but you should. I hear it’s great!

The Good – The driving; there are actual rules of the road
The Bad – Nobody knows them. Many people in Mexico don’t actually learn how to drive. When they’re eighteen they go into their version of the MVD and are given a driver’s license. It can make things a bit chaotic.
The Good – My driving was no worse than the locals. You shouldn’t be afraid to rent a car here. Go, have an adventure!

The Thank-you’s

Thank-you, Anne at the Hekab Be Biblioteca. You welcomed this strange girl who showed up right from the airport, you introduced her to your children and your friends, and you even found her a place to stay. You are an amazing woman and the library is an inspiring place which does a great service!

Stephanie

Stephanielucky to have you.

Thank-you, Estefani., you’ll never know how much of my heart you stole.

Akumal Turtles GuillermoThank-you, Guillermo from Centro Ecológico Akumal, for taking the time to walk with me and explain your mission. The sea turtles are lucky to have you. I can’t wait to write about CEA on Rebel-With-A-Cause next week.

Thank you, Stewart and Chucho. You made me feel welcome, showed me your town of Merida, introduced me to more Mayan ruins, and took me to a chocolate museum. What more could a girl want?

Unprocessed chocolate tasting face

Unprocessed chocolate tasting face

Thank you to Randy and Stewart, my proofreaders. Writing on the fly isn’t easy and your help was invaluable, although you seemed to become a little competitive – don’t worry gentlemen, I make enough mistakes for everybody!

Thank you to the Mayans for leaving your “stuff.” I learned much about your fascinating culture and, while I never want to play ball with you (I’ll let you win), your buildings are beautiful.

Finally, thank you to, well, you, my Virtual Travel Buddies. This was the fourth DMA trip we’ve done together. I appreciate you joining me, your comments and your votes deciding where to “drop me” and I look forward to sharing our next trip together. The vote will be up next Thursday and let’s just say, “Drinks Are on Me!” Subscribe and I’ll let you know when it’s up. And please remember, we share responsibility in this so be sure to vote (once per day per electronic device) and share the link.

Budgeting

Here’s a breakdown of the costs of the trip:
Airfare –$361 including one checked bag and one seat reserved.
Parking – $87
Car Rental – $172 for nine days including one tank of gas and roadside assistance coverage.
Gas – $60
Admissions and activities – $100
Food and Drink – $266 – note that I was taken out for dinner a few times (and I took others out). Also, this may be less accurate depending on how many drinks were involved.
Accommodations – $534. – this includes the approximately $220 it would have cost at The Studio at Casa Alux which was comped because of friendship.

Grand Total – $1580

The Links

Accomodations:
Casa Alux
Vista Del Mar Hotel (now Del Sol Beachfront)
VRBO.com (Vacation Rentals By Owner)

Activities:
Chichen Itza
chocolate museum
University Autonoma de Yucatan

Restaurants:
El Templo Bar
La Buena Vida Restaurant
Turtle Bay Cafe and Bakery

Shopping:
Galerias el Triunfo

Transportation:
Global Airport Parking
Hertz
Spirit Airlines

Volunteer Opportunities, Non-profits and NGO’s:
Akumal International Artist Residency
Centro Ecológico Akumal (CEA)
EZ Snorkel
Hekab Be Biblioteca (the Akumal Library)

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