Craft the Travel

This is not the Cancun I remember! It’s better. It’s the Riviera Maya.

The last time I was in Cancun, Mexico I was in my twenties. We did a typical ‘hotel zone’ stay off the strip, tanned on the beach and visited Mayan Ruins in Tulum. I remember getting off at a small airport and taking a small school-bus type van to our hotel. The guys on the van had a cooler full of iced down Corona and liberally distributed them during the ride. Long gone are those basic days for Mexico. It has clearly ‘grown-up’ in the world of tourism.

We flew on Sun Country.  I hadn’t used them since my 20’s but the tickets were a great price and I thought I would try them again. The flight going to Cancun was delayed twice, so they did rob us of having a real dinner at the resort our first night. We settled for room service after check-in. The airline did complimentary upgrade us to exit row seats and functioned on-time returning home. I want to note that with this airline if your flight is delayed – it does NOT mean you can check-in later than the 2-hr window from your original flight time. We did not know this and waited at home during the ‘delayed’ time. Come to find out we checked-in with 8 minutes to spare. Since charter, vacation airlines only fly a specific route/day/time they don’t keep a schedule like the majors (AA, United, Southwest) do. While this doesn’t mean all charters are late and all majors are on-time, I do think the fact that the majors have a schedule to keep helps them stay on time more often than not.  Just my two cents when choosing who to fly!

To my pleasant surprise, we stepped off our plane and into Cancun’s fully updated and modern airport. It was clean, air-conditioned, fast and efficient at handling the tourist. If you are ‘carry-on only’ you are through lickety-split. They have craftily created an area that you must pass through full of small lectern-type desks. It appears that these are here to help guide you or give information…..while they will happily give you info, it is not agenda-free. These are representatives of ‘Mexico Tourism’ and the Mexican-owned ‘time-share’ property Vidanta. They want you to buy/stay in Mexico-owned properties versus foreign-owned. They will entice you with all kinds of good freebies or discounts on tours/excursions for a mere 90 minutes of your time (try more like 5 hours). Just keep walking! If you have prearranged transfer or need a taxi, they will be waiting for you just outside the exit, so again KEEP MOVING.

We had pre-arranged, private transfer with Lomas Travel and they did a first class job at getting us to and from our resort. This was my first time to stay in an ‘Adult-Only’ property as I typically travel with my son. I was interested in staying here because of my desire to investigate the ‘Palafitas’ (which I will cover later), but the generous travel agent discounted rate on the suite helped seal the deal to take the trip. Oh, the demands of the travel business! 😉

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First to note when leaving the airport is that you go LEFT or RIGHT. LEFT takes you North up to the ‘Hotel Zone’ and while there are new and renovated properties – it is likely what you remember from your college days as ‘Cancun’.  Hotels lined up on the strip one after the other across the street from Senor Frogs and all the other clubs/restaurants. Now as an adult and/or with a family go RIGHT to Riviera Maya! All the resorts are set back off the street, on much larger acreage, and behind massive security gates. The majority of these properties are all-inclusive and have their own selection of restaurants.

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We entered our resort, El Dorado Maroma and found that past the gate was still another 4-6 minutes drive to the resort lobby. We were greeted with complimentary champagne and seated at a lovely, comfortable check-in desk. We were quickly checked-in and escorted to Villa 3, Room 321 which housed the exact style of room we reserved, the ‘PRIVATE POOL JACUZZI® SUITE‘.

We loved our room. This was also a first to experience the ‘in room’ balcony pool. As you will see later in pictures the suites on the ground floor also have a pool but they are connected along the front of the patios. This would be a fun set-up for multiple couples or a large group. I have since learned that this type of feature in a room is not all that new or exclusive, but quite readily found at various resorts in the area. Be sure to treat yourself/family and book a room with a pool!

The property was lush, lovely, and well-maintained. We saw many lizards, iguanas and furry creatures that looked like raccoons. The El Dorado Maroma can hold about 260 guests. We struggled to ever see more than 20 people or so at the pool or a restaurant. The biggest ‘crowd’ may have been at the beach dinner when maybe we saw 60 to 80 guest over the course of the evening. The property was very tranquil and relaxed, very private and non-hurried.

They have a full-service spa, Naay Spa, that offers complimentary Hydrotherapy with each massage. You get to use the ‘Hot-Medium-&-Cold’ plunge pools to stimulate your system, before relaxing with a hot tea and being escorted to your massage room. You are given the complimentary option of indoor massage or outdoor in a semi-private setting on the beach. Beach beds were abundant poolside and on the beach at no additional charge. Service was offered to us at chairs or beds on the beach or pool. They provided complimentary paddle boards and had there own tiny island you could wade out to.

One of the features of this property is their ‘Gourmet Inclusive‘ food and dining service. We were thoroughly impressed with the quality and selection of food and premium drinks. We started our days at Papitos with our favorite breakfast foods and an array of fresh-squeezed juices. Enjoyed lunch by the pool and dinner at one of the restaurant options. We loved that the portions were modest because it allowed us to order and try more things. There was also 24-hour, complimentary room service and they kept our room fridge full of beer, drinks & snacks.

El Dorado surprised us with their weekly dining and entertainment schedule. This was an added bonus. We saw an ‘illusionist’ show, fire dancers, had a lovely beachside dinner and were entertained at ‘Rick’s Bar’ by dueling guitarists & a casino night.

We also enjoyed touring the wedding areas found on the property. They had a small chapel just off the beach, a beach-side wedding arch and a rooftop arbor with gorgeous views and scenery. What more could a couple want?

What initially caught my eye about this property was the offering of ‘Palafitas‘ which means bungalows. They are ideal for a honeymoon, babymoon, anniversary or romantic get-away. These unique dwellings are only two years old, only for double, adult occupancy and the only ‘over the water’ dwellings in the area. You have 24-hour butler service included with your stay in the Palafitas as well as daily laundry service. A nice in-room bar, snorkel equipment, luxury robes & linens and private pool with loungers complete this truly luxurious experience.

On the palafito peninsula is located a ‘pier-end’ restaurant with views of the ocean below your feet and at the horizon. Meals here are included for guests of the palafitos and $100 per couple for the rest of the property guests. Additionally, the guests of the palafitos enjoy their own private spa located on the pier as well.

While we could have easily stayed in complete relaxation at El Dorado Maroma, we did decide to venture out and learn more about the area. We took a tour of the Cancun area provided by Cancun City Tours. Our driver, Arturo, and guide, Nikky, picked us up in a new, air-conditioned Mercedes van. We started the day driving up to Puerto Morelos, a small fishing village and a great place to stay if you want to get away from the hotel/resort scene and stay in an authentic, Mexican beachside town. While here you could catch a catamaran out for snorkeling. Two hours is about $25/person. You could also base from Puerto Morelos and take day trips to Isla Mujeres about 45 minutes North and a short Ferry hop East or to the island of Holbox about 2 hours Northwest.

We drove up to the Cancun ‘Hotel Zone’ and through the main strip. The area is busy and modern with many restaurants, shopping and lots of hotels filling the area. We did make a stop to check out Playa Langosta a popular public beach just outside of the hotel zone. You will find clean restrooms, food vendors & seasonal attractions. Our next stop was just North of Cancun in Playa Juarez at El Meco, Mayan Ruins. It is a smaller site that just opened to the public in 2001. NO ONE was there! It was fantastic to just quietly sit and reflect on such interesting people & times.

Next, we made our way to Parque de las Palapas in Cancun and to the fantastic, fresh Mexican food vendors where we had Salbutes & Panuchos. Each generously filled taco was only 15 pesos which is less than $1 (About $0.75/ea). After a stop into La Fresa “Michoacana” for an ice cream cone, we headed over to Mercado 28 to look through the vendor’s open-air stalls of Mexican goodies.

I really enjoyed my time touring Cancun and staying in the El Dorado Maroma. I had forgotten what a fun, beautiful and culturally rich area the Yucatan peninsula and specifically Quintana Roo are. I would return and stay in Puerto Morelos, snorkel, visit Isla Mujeres and Holbox. Another trip I would stay farther south in Tulum and visit Chitiniza, climb Nohuch Mul in Coba, float the Xenotes & day trip to Playa del Carmen & Cozumel. I am already finishing up a training for the area and specifically for the Dreams, Excellence, Melia & Riu properties. Lots to recommend and share about the Yucutan if you want to know more about booking a trip! If you prefer to be escorted around the area, Victory cruise line offers a 11-night Land & Cruise Safari departing from Miami and touring all over the Yucatan starting in 2019.

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I know many who have had Mexico off their list for a while, you may rethink that and consider a visit to Riviera Maya. With the short 120-150 minute flight from Dallas, it is still full of welcoming, hospitable people looking to re-earn your trust and re-assure you of the safety the area provides.  Viva Mexico!

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Natalie, Founding Author

We are breaking the chains of conventional education. Leaving behind common core, standardized testing and institutional buildings to give our son something different. In our minds, something far better. Welcome to our worldschooling adventure. If you want assistance finding your next great adventure, contact me at CrafttheTravel.com.

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