It was gorgeous, first of all. We stayed at an all-inclusive in Riviera Maya, about an hour and a half south of Cancún, on the Yucatán Peninsula. We rented a car to get from the airport to the resort because the whole bus/shuttle thing seemed like more trouble than it was worth, and I'm so glad we did. The weather was perfect, sunny and hot the whole time, with mild and breezy evenings. I didn't bring my DSLR camera; I get a little nervous taking it to unfamiliar places. Ultimately it was a good decision, but I definitely missed it while we were walking through the ruins of Tulum. The shots below are from my old little point-and-shoot and Matt's and my phones.
Obligatory airplane-window photo. We thought this might be a sandbar off the coast of Cuba, but we weren't positive. Saw a lot of cruise ships from the air, which was kind of cool.
The main lobby of the resort was open-air; a huge entry behind where I was standing and another on the other side of this fountain were both doorless. The roof here and in most of the other communal buildings was straw thatch, and it was so charming.
They had to close down a portion of the main buffet one morning to do repairs on the roof. It was really cool to watch the guys through the hole and see all the straw drifting down.
Of course, no resort is complete without a towel critter on your bed each morning. It was a swan when we checked in, which I promptly forgot to take a photo of. We also had a dog and something I couldn't figure out. We passed on room service one day because I was sick (Protip: When in Mexico, use hand sanitizer after washing your hands and definitely don't wash your hands and then eat a bunch of finger food. Yuck.) so we'll never know what funny towel critter we missed out on that day. Oh, the loss.
Of course there was plenty of beach time! The Caribbean Sea is just gorgeous, with the clearest water I've ever seen. (Granted, I'm comparing it to the Outer Banks, Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach...but still.
Iguanas in Mexico are like squirrels in the States--they're everywhere. We saw them (and geckos and other lizards I couldn't name) constantly, both on and off the resort. The one we're holding were outside the ruins of Tulum; we paid 50 pesos (a few dollars) each to take our photos with that guy. Cheesy, yes, but still pretty cool.
Two other animals were really common at the resort: coatis (the ones with the long tail) and those other rodent-looking things that I can't identify. The coatis were super really bold; I didn't realize that one had snuck up behind me until some random lady came up to take a picture of it.
As we were leaving Tulum, I saw a guy holding something furry and pestering tourists to hold it for pictures. Thinking it was a coati, I dragged Matt over...and then we realized it was a lion cub. It cost a bit more than 50 pesos to take our pictures with it, but it was worth every penny. I reassured my guilty conscience by imagining the little lion all grown up, enjoying a lazy day in her pen at a very nice Mexican zoo. Because honestly, when would we ever get another chance to hold a baby lion?
Jungle selfie! This was on the government road that led to the Tulum ruins. The jungle was so dense even beside the road, I could hardly believe it.
We didn't hire a guide because of time constraints, but we overheard one saying that the true name of this ancient Mayan community was unknown; it's referred to as Tulum, the Mayan word for "wall," thanks to the stone wall that surrounds it.
The main temple of Tulum. You couldn't walk up into this one like you can at Chichen Itza or some of the others, but it was cool nonetheless.
The city itself was situated on the edge of a cliff, maybe 30 or 40 feet high, that overlooked the sea. There were walkdowns and slopes to the beach, but we stuck to the high ground to strike a few Captain Morgan poses (of course).
Outside of Tulum is a bit of a tourist trap-style market. It's filled with Subway and Hägen-Dazs stands and souvenir shops (full disclosure: we bought souvenirs and I even haggled one vendor down to a great price on a gorgeous dress), but there was one redeeming booth: A real-deal taco spot. We saw several locals chowing down, so we got some delicious, authentic chicken tacos. I think Matt was more excited about them than the ruins themselves!
That same afternoon, we went scuba-diving on the reef just off the coast. We bought a CD of photos from the company, but when we got home we realized the CD is blank. We're working with the company to have all the images emailed to us, so I hope to be able to post them soon!
That night, we ate in one of the resort's "fancy" restaurants. Most of the nicer restaurants were semi-casual at best, but this one was French-themed, had an actual dress code and was on-par with any four- or five-star establishment in the U.S., I'd say.
They started us off with shrimp cocktail with mango mousse and passionfruit jelly. For the salad course, I got smoked duck and sweetbread (which is way more delicious than you'd think) drizzled in truffle oil. Soup was a seafood bisque with goat cheese--unexpected, but also really good.
We ordered a great bottle of Malbec. Presentation of everything was incredible, from the plating to the wine service to the dessert.
My main course was filet mignon with fois gras and potatoes. I'd never have fois gras before and it was so amazing! Matt had sea bass, I think--I don't remember because we were both preoccupied with his ear. It had been bugging him since the dive and still is, actually. (He's going to the doctor, rest assured.) Dessert was strawberries flambé over vanilla ice cream. It had the most gorgeous presentation of flaming liqueur cascading down a long, curly strip of orange peel...and my phone's memory filled up just as he was about to light it, ending my video prematurely. Didn't make it taste any less incredible, though.
Leaving was definitely hard. With my accidental water consumption via hand-washing (and later, Matt's via rinsing his toothbrush in tap water on accident), we lost a full day of activities. We weren't even halfway to the airport before we made a full list of all the things we want to do on a hypothetical return trip to Riviera Maya!
Still, we're glad to be home and settling back into life. I won't say I wasn't tempted to just never leave Mexico, but Spazzy would have missed us too much, so coming home was the only option, I suppose ;)