Mexico – The Barefoot Nomad http://www.thebarefootnomad.com Travel. Tech. Family. Fun. Wed, 07 Feb 2018 20:25:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Best things to do in Cancun Mexico http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/best-things-to-do-in-cancun-mexico/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/best-things-to-do-in-cancun-mexico/#respond Sun, 21 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15641 Cancun, found in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera, is an area of beautiful beaches, stunning scenery and is teeming with a range of activities.

Over the years, we’ve spent many months in the Yucatan, Cancun’s home state, and have done just about everything there is to do in and around the region.

From enjoying the beaches of Cancun with the kids, golf carting around Isla Mujeres, and walking along Quinta Avenida in Playa Del Carmen, to swimming with turtles in Akumal, wandering the ruins down in Tulum, and crossing over to the lovely city of Merida. The list goes on.

Isla Mujeres with Cancun in Background

Look closely! You can see Cancun on the horizon. View from Isla Mujeres

A favourite of ours was when we took a ferry to Cozumel, and a bus then a high-speed ferry to Belize. All of these paradises originating from the Cancun and Playa Del Carmen area.

Some of our fondest memories of Cancun include hours spent on the many beaches, mornings exploring nearby cenotes and Mayan ruins with visiting friends, afternoons enjoying snorkeling as a family in underwater wildlife sanctuaries and visiting eco-theme parks.

We loved spending evenings watching amazing shows and hanging with the locals on Sundays, and spending warm days in parks and cooler days in malls, as well as going to far flung restaurants all along the coast and even over to Cozumel.

Cancun Mexico Tips. All the best things to do and see in or near Cancun, Mexico, from cenotes to shopping. We've spent months around Cancun and in the Riviera Maya, and dish on the best day trips, things to do in Cancun centrol and the Hotel Zone and more. What to do in Cancun Mexico | Que Hacer En Cancun Mexico | Mayan Riviera | #Cancun #Mexico #travel #traveltips #exploremore

We’re even so enamored with Mexico’s beautiful gulf coast that we’ve seriously considered buying property in Mexico on numerous occasions. Once the kids are on their own, Mexico’s Mayan Riviera area will likely be our winter home. We’re also always one click away from chartering a plane to Cancun with Air Charter Service (ACS) anytime we see a hint of snow here in Canada.

With all that said, we’ve discovered more than a few of the best things to do in Cancun, Mexico, along with the Mayan Riviera. Let us know which ones are your personal favorites!

ME Cancun

Best things to do in Cancun Mexico

Hit the beaches

It might seem obvious, but if you’re visiting Cancun, you’re likely here for the miles and miles of beautiful white sand beach and warm azure waters. Before all the other once sleepy fishing beaches along the coast followed suit, Cancun was welcoming visitors from all around the world to enjoy its 14 miles of pristine paradise.

The most popular beaches in Cancun include Playa Delfines (Dolphin Beach), Playa Forum, Playa Caracol, Playa Chac Mool, Playa Tortuga and Playa Del Nino. Generally, the waves are calmer on the northern side of the hotel zone, and the powder soft sand in Cancun can’t be beat.

Playa Delfines is a beautiful spot nestled away from the bustle of the regions many hotels. Around 20 km long, and home to the always busy Cancun sign you see in every other selfie coming out of Cancun, there are also many amenities, water sport rentals and a playground for kids here.

Playa Tortuga and Playa Del Nino are two family favorites since they’re on the far northern reach of the hotel strip. Both are protected by Isla Mujeres meaning the water is some of the calmest in Cancun – great for the little ones.

Playa Forum, situated at the northeasterly tip of hotel row, is famous for its party scene. While nearby Playa Chac Mool (Chac Mool Beach) has a nice set of free palapas to hide from the afternoon sun. The water at both places can be pretty rough, so make sure to watch the flags and lifeguards are letting people in the water.

Playa Caracol, slightly north and around the corner of Playa Forum, is another popular beach in Cancun. There aren’t a lot of amenities, but it’s a great place to stretch out on the public beach.

Note: All beaches are public in Mexico so you can walk anywhere along them. However, getting from the street to the water or finding parking can sometimes be a hassle. Most of the beaches in Cancun have hotels with private loungers set up everywhere, however you’re always free to pay for a seat in one of the many beach clubs or just drop a towel anywhere you want to be. They can’t stop you.

Kids on the Beach in Cancun at Chokmal

The kids on one of Cancun’s beautiful beaches

Go deep sea fishing

Cancun is a great jumping off point for deep sea fishing, with tons of options from which to choose. There’s always something biting no matter the season in Cancun, with Atlantic Sailfish, Blue and White Marlins, Grouper, Wahoo, Tuna and Red Snapfish all calling the waters around Cancun home. If you’re interested in deep sea fishing in Cancun, check out this  handy chart to let you know which fish is in season.

Take a day trip to Isla Mujeres

The closest of Cancun’s neighboring islands, Isla Mujeres is only a 15 minute ferry ride away, but it feels like another world with its roads filled with golf carts, smaller beaches and quaint eateries strewn about the island.

Journey to Isla Mujeres in the morning, rent a golf cart and drive the entire length of the island checking out the turtle sanctuary, Mayan ruins, some of the nicest ocean side cliffs in Mexico, as well as some unique snorkeling. Or experience the islands exhilarating zip line and watercraft that circles the island to gain a unique and fun view.

You can check out this post we wrote on Isla Mujeres for more hints on what to do once you get there.

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Go shopping

With Cancun’s gorgeous temperatures, why would you want to hit a mall? Well, besides for the occasional rainy day, and when that sunburn takes hold and you just can’t handle another hour in the sun, Cancun is accustomed to its global visitors boasting a ton of international shops to accommodate them.

As well as high end malls like Plaza Las Americas, La Isla Shopping Village and Luxury Avenue Cancun, there are outlet malls like Las Plazas Outlet Cancun, as well as handicraft stores like Ambarte, that feature gorgeous locally made hand crafted items. For the thrifty, or those looking for unusual finds, there are also plenty of flea markets and local handicraft markets all around Cancun.

Zooriders Cancun Plaza las Americas

The kids having fun in Plaza Las Americas

Go snorkeling or scuba diving

Want to get away from the beaches but love being in the water? Cancun offers snorkeling and scuba diving trips right from the town centre. Most head out towards Isla Mujeres while some go south towards Playa del Carmen. With warm clear blue waters, it’s easy to spot fish and coral.

If you want something a little different, consider going scuba diving to the MUSA Underwater Sculpture Museum in Isla Mujeres. This is the largest underwater museum in the world, and seeing fish and coral make their homes among the hundreds of works of art is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Take a catamaran cruise

Prefer the water topside? There are plenty of ways to get out on the ocean that don’t involve getting your feet wet. Taking a catamaran cruise is one idea. There are plenty of boats to choose from family friendly boats to party boats. There’s even a pirate cruise featuring a live action pirate adventure. Most Cancun boat cruises include meals and alcohol so it’s up to you to decide if the party booze cruise, the family cruise or if a always romantic sunset cruise is more your speed.

Photo by Shinya Suzuki

Photo by Shinya Suzuki

Party the night away at Coco Bongo’s and enjoy Cancun’s wild nightlife

Love to party? Cancun is generally regarded as the party capital of the Mayan Riviera and as such it has a thriving night scene. From wild shows and antics at Cancun’s Coco Bongo’s to early morning nachos and cervezas at Carlos and Charlie’s there’s surely something in Cancun for the night time party animal. Cancun really gets wild during college Spring Break so if madness and mayhem are your thing, then book accordingly.

Rent a jet boat in Cancun

Catamaran not fast enough for you? Then maybe you want to rent a jet boat in Cancun and go on a jungle expedition. There are several companies in Cancun that rent two seater speed boats and take you on a follow the guide, hold onto your hat and ride with mad dashes through mangrove lagoons and rivers. You’ll also get a chance to snorkel along a gorgeous coral reef. We haven’t done this one yet, but rest assured it is on our list.

Things to do outside of Cancun

With so much happening all along the Mayan Riviera, limiting yourself to just staying in Cancun will mean you’re missing some of the best things to do on this side of Mexico. Playa del Carmen is only a forty minute drive from Cancun and even Tulum can be easily reached for a day trip.

Of course, you have the pyramids of Chichen Itza, the island of Cozumel, swimming with turtles down in Akumal and dozens of cenotes within easy reach of Cancun as well.

Playa del Carmen Mexico Quinta Aveneda Feliz Navidad

A rare quiet moment on Playa del Carmen’s Quinta Aveneda

If you like the comfort of knowing when you’re starting and when you’re returning on your excursions, there are hundreds of day tours available that will get you to where you want to be and save you the hassle of figuring it all out for yourself.

If you want to jump on one of the nice long distance buses or even one of the ridiculously cheap local buses, you can do that too. We’ve also rented cars to tour the peninsula and have taken both collectivos (local mini buses) as well as taxis on many occasions.

Quick recap of some of the best things to do outside Cancun

Some of our favorite things to do just outside Cancun include:

  • Visiting the popular Xcaret eco theme park (see our review here)
  • Exploring the newly opened Xenses park (see our thoughts on Xenses here)
  • Swimming with turtles in Akumal (see our guide on how to do it yourself here)
  • Visiting the ruins in Tulum (see how our day went here)
  • Taking the ferry to Cozumel (see things to do in Cozumel here)
  • Going swimming in limestone cenotes (see a day at a cenotes here)
  • Going for breakfast in Puerto Morelos (see how we fared here)
  • Just hanging with the locals in Playa Del Carmen (read about our love for Playa Del Carmen here).

Have kids with you and looking for things to do in Cancun with kids? Check out this post we wrote about things to do in Cancun with kids.

Have we missed anything? If you think there should be something added to our list of things to do in Cancun Mexico please let us know in the comments.

Things to do in Cancun. Our list of the best things to do and see in Cancun, with tips on exursions, activities and fun for all ages. Things to do in Cancun with Kids |Cancun excursions | Cancun activities | Cancun excursions | Things to do in Cancun Mexico | what to do in Cancun | Cancun activities | Cancun excursions | Cancun beaches | with kids | #Cancun #Mexico #travel #traveltips Things to do in Cancun Mexico. With years of time spent in Cancun and around the Riviera Maya, we share our favorite activities, excursions, and more around Cancun, Mexico. Cancun Mexcio Tips | Cancun Day Trips | What do do in Cancun | Cancun beaches |Things to do in Cancun as a couple | #Cancun #Mexico #travel #traveltips #exploremore ]]>
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Marival Residences Luxury Resort Review: Family Friendly Luxury http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/marival-residences-luxury-resort-review-family-friendly-luxury/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/marival-residences-luxury-resort-review-family-friendly-luxury/#respond Tue, 28 Nov 2017 18:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15281 marival sponsored disclosure

Last year, I was lucky enough to spend a few days at the Marival Residences Luxury Resort in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit. So, this year, when Marival invited the whole family along to check out their Family Emotion Program we were happy to join in.

When you need a break, sometimes an all inclusive hotel is the perfect choice. Winter was creeping in on us in Canada, and the idea of a stress-free vacation somewhere with a long stretch of beach and some nice warm swimming pools sounded like exactly what we needed.

 

Why a special family program? If you’ve ever traveled with kids, you know that it’s a completely different experience than traveling alone or as a couple. Days of lounging on the beach and partying the night away are long gone, and replaced by playtime in the sand and mid-afternoon naps (it’s not all bad).

How much does it cost? Click here to find out.

The Family Emotion Program at Marival does a really good job of figuring out what parents and kids want. There are plenty of fun activities, a concierge to help organize your trip, and goodies for both the parents and the kids!

The Marival Family Emotion program

Marival’s all-inclusive Family Emotion program is just for families. It includes a ton of goodies, all which are customized for your family’s needs. I’m pretty sure they thought of absolutely everything!

Family concierge service

I think the very best part of the program is that each family gets a family concierge to help with their stay. Our Family Emotion concierge, Raquel, was absolutely wonderful. She was attentive to us (but never intrusive), and always helpful and welcoming. We had absolutely first class service from her – as good as any hotel we’ve ever stayed in.

Welcome basket

Inside our room, we found a welcome basket of healthy and sweet snacks. With hungry kiddos, this was the perfect welcome!

snack basket at hotel

A stocked mini-bar with family goodies

Our full size fridge came stocked with soda, beer, juice, yogurt and chocolate milk! Even better, it was refilled every day and we could request just about anything from the resort.

Marival suite kitchen fridge

Nanny Service!

Yes, you heard me right: up to eight hours of child care is included during your stay (conditions apply). That means that if you want to go out together for anything from a special meal to a few hours at the spa you can knowing your children are in good hands.

Kids Club

Every day from 9 am to 5 pm, you have the option of dropping your kids off at the kids club. They can play video games, do crafts, and have a lot of fun while you enjoy a few kid free hours.

Gifts for the kids!

There was an adorable bath basket in the kid’s bathroom, waiting for each child. This included some tub toys and some special child friendly bath products.

kid's gift basket

Pampering for Mom

Our room came with a gorgeous basket of high end L’Occitane pampering essentials for Mom, and a gift certificate for the on-site spa (more on that later!)

moms gift basket

Beach essentials and toys

In our suite, we also found a bag filled with sunscreen and beach essentials, plus a family menu to help us select from a broad choice of beach and pool toys, as well as other vacation essentials. Once you’ve selected from the list, pass the form back to the Family Emotion concierge and they’ll deliver everything right to your room.

Family picnic

One of the great Family Emotion options at Marival Residences is that you can order a fully prepared picnic for wherever you like. You can have it delivered to the beach or by the pool. We had ours dropped off in our room to enjoy beside our semi private demi pool. The chocolate cake dessert where a huge hit with the kids and we enjoyed the mountain of guacamole they included in our specially made picnic basket.Our Marival Family Emotion picnic

In Room Family fun!

When we ventured out on our own, our kids adored the free Xbox console and game rental they provided. There are also DVD players, movies, electronics, water toys and more available via the Family Emotion program.

Outdoor family fun!

As well as the kid pool and the always entertaining splash pad, Marival Residences also has a playground area and they even rent out free bikes so you and the family can go for a family excursion. The best news, a few of them are 3 seaters so even the littlest riders don’t get left behind.

A family photo shoot

I couldn’t remember the last time that we had a family photo shoot!

The Family Emotion Program comes with a professional photo shoot, with a photo album and CD, plus a gift card to develop prints when you’re back home.

We were very happy with our family photo session. The sky was a little cloudy however the photos turned out beautifully and the photographer was fun to work with.

a photo from our family photo session

Included Tours and fun!

The Family Emotion package comes with a free off site activity for every person, as well as a free second family tour.

There are numerous options to choose from so went zip lining as a family, and also had a blast driving on a little RAZR off road vehicle over a giant swinging suspension bridge.

RAZR car over the river

Want to learn more? Check out our article on what to do in the Riviera Nayarit, with 23 wonderful experiences, from visiting the bustling surfing town of Sayulita, to checking out the idyllic vibe of San Pancho, to snorkeling the aquamarine waters off Marietas Islands (where you can see birds like blue-footed boobies of Galapagos Islands fame).

Zip lining fun

 

Our room at Marival Residences

Our two bedroom Family Emotion suite with a semi private demi-pool was a whopping 1,711 square feet. That’s huge!

When we walked into the nicely air conditioned space, we saw a modern open-plan living space with a full kitchen, dining area and a living room with a large flatscreen TV.

The two bedrooms each had a private en-suite bathroom, plus each had a flatscreen TV. Our master bedroom had a lovely deep bath and King-size bed, while the kid’s room had two double beds.

Marival master bedroom

We even had our own private washer and dryer, plus our ground floor suite had outdoor lounge chairs by the pool as well as a patio table and chairs.

Marival bedroom

The kiddos loved the fridge filled with drinks, and the fruit and snack basket. Anyone with kids knows they get hungry at the most inconvenient times so that was a huge plus when the kiddos were feeling peckish.

Marival kitchen

What about maid service? Yep, it’s included. Our daily cleaning service was always on time, and did a great job. They also provide turn down service complete with tasty little snacks like chocolate or cookies.

All of the Family Emotion accommodation is in two or three bedroom suites, with the option of an ocean view, a demi-pool, a penthouse suite, or even a three bedroom private villa.

In our demi pool ...

In our heated demi pool …

The Hotel

There’s definitely something wonderful about an all-inclusive, no worries vacation. Once we donned our cool, braided bracelets from the Marival Residences Luxury Resort, we could eat and drink all we wanted. Not only could we enjoy all of the facilities at our resort, we also had access to the nearby Marival Resort’s facilities and restaurants.

This is a great deal, as you essentially get two resorts facilities for the price of one. The Marival Resort sister hotel is just five minutes away. There’s a free shuttle that runs every 15 minutes from the main lobby and the Marival Resort also has a special area devoted just to the Marival Residences as well as the rest of the resort.

WiFi: There’s WiFi Internet access throughout Marival Residences Luxury Resort. I had great luck with my connection, which rarely dropped, and worked reliably in my room and all throughout the resort. That said, if you find your internet connection to be slow, ask for an upgrade, as they do have faster speeds available.

The Food at Marival Residences

In general, we found the food quality well above what we’ve had at a typical all inclusive in Mexico.

The all inclusive program includes all snacks, breakfast, lunch, drinks and a la carte dinner specialties, plus national and international brand drinks.

There are five restaurants on site, plus the VIP beach club, room service and poolside service, in addition to six restaurants at the sister resort, Marival Resort & Suites.

As vegetarians, the kids and I were very happy. There were always vegetarian options available, which is wonderful, because we often have a difficult time at resorts!

There’s really not much bad to say about the food here, but we’d love to see a few more family friendly menu items always available at the hotel, like pasta or pizza. Since the menu for the Lemmon Grass was a set menu, there wasn’t a lot for kids there. When we went inside to Omaggio, the theme night was Asian, and like many US and Canadian kids, ours don’t love Asian foods. When we went upstairs to Insu, we found a few items that the kids loved, but it would be nice if the main restaurant, Omaggio, always had a few kids’ items available, or a separate kids menu.

Room Service!

Room service is included with the all-inclusive package at Marival, though you do pay a 10% surcharge. Being able to get room service 24 hours a day, seven days a week was one of my favorite parts of staying at the Marival Residences. The kids loved it too!

We had great luck with room service, as it came quickly and everything was the correct temperature and quite tasty. Our room was close to the main lobby, so that may have made it especially fast. Their breakfasts were especially tasty.

Insu Sky Lounge

Insu was my favorite restaurant at Marival Residences Luxury Resort. It’s located in the penthouse of the main building, above the lobby, with an impressive view overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Menu items are all bite size to share, and we all found everything to be delicious. My kids adored the bite sized Caesar salad and especially the grilled cheese while Charles raved about their great sliders.

Omaggio

The largest restaurant at Marival Residences is Omaggio. The menu is huge, with a great selection, and it offers a themed evening menu for each day of the week.

Lemmon Grass

Located outdoors, Lemmon Grass is a casual and elegant poolside restaurant. It has a set menu at night however the menu varies by day.

Lemmon Grass Restaurant Marival Residences

Grill al Fresco

Grill al Fresco is outside by the pool, and has plenty of dishes for breakfast, including Mexican delights, an omelette station, and a selection of fruits, juice and pastries. At night the Grill al Fresco transforms into a barbecue.

Brunello Lobby Wine Bar

Brunello Lobby Wine Bar is a lovely, intimate spot to enjoy tapas and a glass of wine (some wines are not included in the all-inclusive plan).

Poolside snack service

If you’re in the mood for a snack by the pool, just wave over a server, and they’ll bring you snacks and drinks poolside. Our family can wholeheartedly recommend the chips and dip as well as the fries. The guacamole everywhere in the hotel is extraordinary!

Mozzamare Beach Club

The brand new, ocean side Mozzamare Beach Club serves up (my favorite!) tasty guacamole and chips, fresh seafood as well as gourmet dishes and beverages. They were still partly under construction when we were there however the area was already looking gorgeous and, judging by all the smiling people, a huge hit with the crowds.

Mozzamare beach club

Mozzamare Beach Experience

There’s beach access, a Palapa Restaurant and another gorgeous pool here, and this beach section is only a few minutes walk from the main area, conveniently on site at the Marival Residences Luxury Resort. Charles and Cole both grabbed a free boogie board and enjoyed the waves while we all enjoyed watching dolphins jumping out of the water in front of us. The Mozzamare beach club is new this year, and it’s a fantastic addition from my trip last year.

We also enjoyed a special night time celebration at the Mozzamare Restaurant and think that it would be the perfect location for an outdoor wedding!

Food at the sister Marival Resort

Guests of the Marival Luxury Residences can also eat at the sister hotel, the Marival Resort. The Marival Resort has several restaurants, including La Pergola (the large buffet restaurant), Piazzetta del Forni (thin crust pizza), Las Palmas (Mexican cuisine), La Palapa and Miramar Bars, La Bamba Rodizio, and Amalfi (Italian).

The Melange World Spa

If you’re a spa lover, then the onsite Melange World Spa is for you. The spa treatments and decorations are based on therapies from around the world so if you love choices, then this is the spa for you!

At Melange, you can enjoy a specialized World Spa Experience from Mexico, Italy, Japan, Turkey, Russia, Bali, India, Thailand, or the USA. Each spa is unique, and based on the spa history and culture for which it’s named.

Italy Spa at Melange World Spa Marival Luxury Resort and Residences

Italy Vendimia Wine Experience

We had a wonderful time with the family spa package. Both of our kiddos (aged eight and twelve), enjoyed a facial and massage with us. I think that our daughter may have found one of her new favorite things to do on vacation.

Our little girl enjoying a chocolate facial

Our little girl enjoying a chocolate facial

If you’re interested in a few of the other World Spa experiences, these two definitely stand out as all around faves:

The Italy Vendimia Wine Experience starts with a wine therapy bath in an original wooden winebarrel, where you enjoy a wine tasting, followed by a full body relaxing massage.

The India Shirodhara Spa Experience includes a Shirodhara treatment with herbal oil that is poured in a steady stream onto your third eye, and a gentle scalp massage to help relax the nervous system. All of this is done on a traditional wooden table (with padding to make it comfortable) that was imported from India. Following the oil treatment, there’s an Abhyanga therapy whole body massage with warm herbal oils, followed by a steaming hot water bath in a luxurious copper tub.

Melange World Spa India Shirodhara Experience

India Shirodhara Spa Experience

All of the spa treatments are uniquely customized to the area of the world where they originated. For instance, the Mexico Agave treatment (which I enjoyed last time) featured a facial and body wrap with the native agave plant, cacao, honey, aloe vera, and Mayan mud, with a facial and body exfoliation and a light body massage. There’s also a specialized couples massage, or a men’s wellness & renewal treatment.

Melange World Spa Couples Massage room.jpg

Couples Massage

Melange also offers traditional spa treatments, including facials as well as hand and foot treatments.

Marival Residences Family Emotion

The beach in nearby Sayulita

Where is Riviera Nayarit?

The Riviera Nayarit, which includes Nuevo Vallarta, is the northern neighbor of well-known Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico’s ruggedly beautiful Pacific Coast. The Puerto Vallarta airport actually serves both areas and is actually closer to Marival Residences (around 15 minutes) in Nayarit than some of the downtown hotels on the Jalisco state side.

The bottom line

Like many Canadians, we’ve been to many all-inclusive resorts, and we’ve visited Mexico many times over the years.

The Family Emotion Program at the Marival Residences Luxury Resort was, hands down, one of the very best family programs we’ve ever enjoyed. It’s a perfect place to visit for a stress-free, relaxing holiday with the kids!

Want to book? Just head over to the Marival website to book directly with the hotel.

We even have a great deal for you with the Marival 100 Free Extra Ahhs promotion.

You can get a $100 Spa Credit to relax and celebrate the brand new Marival Residences Beach World! There’s a 5 night minimum stay.

You need to know:

Hotel: Marival Residences Luxury Resort

Where to book? You can book directly with the hotel.

Online Reviews: TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Address: Av. Paseo Cocoteros Lt 53 Villa 8, 63732 Nuevo Vallarta, Nay., Mexico

Location: Half-hour drive from downtown Puerto Vallarta

Nearest Airport: 15 minute drive from Puerta Vallarta’s PVR airport, the Licenciado Gustavo Díaz Ordaz International Airport

Phone: +52 322 226 9740

This trip was in partnership with Marival Residences Luxury Resort and the Riviera Nayarit tourism board.

Riviera Nayarit All Inclusive Family Luxury Hotel Riviera Nayarit All Inclusive hotel ]]>
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Things to do in Isla Mujeres http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/things-to-do-in-isla-mujeres/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/things-to-do-in-isla-mujeres/#comments Sat, 25 Nov 2017 18:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=15372 It’s no secret that we love Isla Mujeres on Mexico’s Gulf Coast. Warm blue waters, fantastic beaches, good snorkeling, and a great selection of restaurants all make Isla Mujeres a must see if you’re on Mexico’s Mayan Riviera.

Located only a short 20 minute ferry ride from Cancun, Isla Mujeres makes a great day trip and an even greater longer mini escape from your Cancun vacation.

Oh yeah, have I mentioned you can drive the entire island on a golf cart, in half a day? We did it the first time a few years ago and it’s still one of our favorite family travel highlights.

Beach in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Likewise, if you find yourself down in Playa Del Carmen, Akumal, Tulum or even staying on Cozumel, then Isla Mujeres is pretty easy and inexpensive to get to. We’ve done the trip from Playa del Carmen more than a few times now and have enjoyed our trip to Isla Mujeres every single time.

Now, we’ve written about Mexico‘s Isla Mujeres a few times over the years and, to be honest, not much has changed. Of course it’s grown, but that only means more golf cart rentals and more options. We don’t find that it’s gotten any busier and it seems there’s just more to do there these days with a lot more places to rent from.

Isla Mujeres

Things to do in Isla Mujeres Mexico

So, without any further ado, here are our things to do in Isla Mujeres.

Rent a golf cart on Isla Mujeres

Haha, if you read our previous Isla Mujeres post you don’t think I’d miss this one. There are now dozens of golf cart rental companies on Isla Mujeres, and though they do still occasionally run out during the holidays and busiest times of the year, most days you’re fine as long as you arrive before noon.

You can pretty much drive to every place on the island, and if you’re there for multiple days, you can spend lazy afternoons on different beaches every day. You can walk or take a taxi most places on the island, but if you want true freedom, rent a golf cart and enjoy yourself.

Sea birds at Isla Mujeres

Relax on the beaches on Isla Mujeres

Since we just talked about beaches, there are around six semi-official major beaches on Isla Mujeres and a bunch of smaller ones. Some, like Playa Norte, feature bars and beach chairs and on many you can rent SUPs, kayaks, water toys and even snorkeling equipment.

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres

Playa Norte (North Beach) is by far the most popular and is often rated one of the best in the Caribbean. Playa Norte is just minutes from downtown, and the palm trees and luxurious white sand make Playa Norte muy hermosa. Playa Norte has almost no current, and kids and adults can wade pretty far out and the water will only reach their waist.

Playa Posada, found along the west side isn’t as crowded, however the water isn’t as clear, and Playa Media Luna is a beautiful crescent shaped beach but the water can be rough.

Playa Indios, Playa Paraiso and Playa Lancheros are all more secluded beaches found on the west side facing Cancun. You can rent beach chairs and umbrellas there, and open air restaurants, gift shops and public bathrooms are close by.

kids playing in the sand in Isla Mujeres Mexico

Stay in one of the many lovely hotels in Isla Mujeres

There are lots of hotels to choose from on Isla Mujeres, and they cater to every taste and budget. You can stay on the beach or off, with a family or as a couple, at places like Beloved Hotels, an Adults-Only Boutique All-Inclusive. With swimming pools and all inclusive plans, staying at a hotel in Isla Mujeres can be a great way to start or end a long day seeing the sites.

La Tortuga Granja (The Turtle Farm)

Love sea turtles? So do we, and that’s why we always stop by the Turtle Farm in Isla Mujeres. Since large sea turtles have made Isla Mujeres their breeding ground for generations, the Turtle Farm gathers up the eggs it finds along the beaches and incubates them at the Turtle Farm thereby greatly increasing their chances of survival.

It's turtles all the way down at La Tortuga Granja

It’s turtles all the way down at La Tortuga Granja

Depending on the time of year you’re there, you can see hundreds of turtles in the tanks growing up in the large tanks around the property. There is a great celebration the day they’re released back into the wild.

Hands on at the Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm

In the main building there is also a small aquarium with sea horses, lobsters, crabs, tropical fish and even an octopus. There are also a few land turtles and family of iguanas who hang out along one side of the building.

Sea Turtles at Tortugranja

Sea Turtles at Tortugranja

The Joysxee Floating Bottle Island

If you’re looking for quirky things to do in Isla Mujeres, you can check out the Floating Bottle Island. Created a few years back by Richart Sowa, this floating recycler’s dream is completely built using used plastic water bottles and recycled materials, including a three story house and an outdoor bar. You’ll need to talk to the locals about its current location, since the floating house moves around the island from time to time. There is a small entrance fee.

Punta Sur

Located at the far southern edge of Isla Mujeres, Punta Sur features not only the highest elevation in all the Yucatan, but it’s also the easternmost point in all of Mexico. That’s right, the sun hits Punta Sur before anywhere else in Mexico and we’ve heard that it’s a glorious sight.

Punta Sur on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Featuring an ancient Mayan temple honoring the Mayan Goddess Ixchel, it also boasts a lighthouse and dozens of modern sculptures around the property. Due to some of the most dramatic sea cliffs in all of Mexico, Punta Sur makes a great place to grab a bite to eat while looking out to sea.

Punta Sur Coast

Punta Sur

MUSA Underwater Sculpture Museum

Conceived by Jason deCaires Taylor, Isla Mujeres is home to the largest underwater museum on earth. The clear waters off Isla Mujeres make a great place to scuba dive or snorkel while seeing how thousands of underwater sculptures change in time in regards to coral growth and marine interaction. The scope of the project is mind blowing and the combination of art and marine conservation is great to see.

Garrafon Reef Park

The Garrafon Reef Park is a great place to spend an afternoon. Its all-inclusive packages include a buffet lunch and an open bar. Not only do they feature zip lines over the clear aquamarine waters, you can rent kayaks, snorkel equipment, life jackets and they have plenty of hammocks to lounge on as well as relax in their infinity pool. Admission includes bathrooms, lockers, showers and entrance to the Sculpture Garden and Punta Sur.

Garrafon Natural Reef Park

Garrafon Natural Reef Park

Garrafón de Castilla

The Garrafón de Castilla is right next to the Garrafón Reef Park at the south end of the island, and your entrance fee includes lounge chairs with beach umbrellas, restrooms and shower areas. You can rent snorkel gear and lockers here. They have a small snack bar and a restaurant right on the property.

The Zocalo (Town Square)

Located in the center of town, the Zocalo or Town Square comes alive most evenings as celebrations, dances and events kick up with local Mexican families and tourists alike sharing in the celebrations. You can eat tacos and pastries from the vendors lining the park, as well as pick up souvenirs from local artists. The kids will enjoy the small playground.

Isla Mujeres Mexico pier

Fun on the water in Isla Mujeres

We’ve talked about the beaches, but there is also world class deep sea fishing in the water of Isla Mujeres. From deep sea fishing for marlin, sailfish and dorado to spear fishing tuna and barracuda, Isla Mujeres has some of the best sea fishing in the Mexico. Tours and guides can be hired for the day or the week.

Isla Mujeres with Cancun in Background

Look closely! You can see Cancun on the horizon.

Fun under the water on Isla Mujeres

Being surrounded by water means some of the fun things to do in Isla Mujeres occur under the water. You can snorkel and scuba dive all around the island and there are dozens of companies that will take you out on a scuba or snorkel tour to see many types of corral and colorful tropical fish including sailfish from December to June.

From June to September you can swim with giant Whale Sharks and anytime of the year is great to swim in the National Park that’s filled with the MUSA Underwater Sculpture Museum’s sculptures. Most tours include lunch buffets as well as snorkel gear.

Have you been to Isla Mujeres? Do you have any tips? Let us know!

 

Things to do in Isla Mujeres Mexico. We've written about Mexico's Isla Mujeres a few times over the years and, to be honest, not much has changed. Of course it's grown, but that only means more golf cart rentals and more options. We don't find that it's gotten any busier and it seems there's just more to do there these days with a lot more things to do and see. Isla Mujeres Mexico things to do plus tips secrets and photography. ]]>
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Expanding Our Senses – An Xenses Park Review http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/expanding-our-senses-an-xenses-park-review/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/expanding-our-senses-an-xenses-park-review/#comments Tue, 25 Apr 2017 17:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=13100 As you walk into Mexico’s newest Mayan Riviera ecopark, Xenses, you’ll know right away that this isn’t your average theme park. With giant granite balls floating in water and rubber ducks bouncing in the waves, you’ll almost think you’re heading into a children’s discovery center.

After checking it out for ourselves, we can definitely say it’s not just for kids, however there are a lot of things for children to discover here. I can also guarantee that by the end of the day you’ll be questioning your perceptions as the park challenges all of your senses.

Tip! We found the cheapest ticket prices for Xenses on the Xenses website, where you can find tickets for about 10% off gate admission.

See Xenses prices here.

You see, as part of the Xcaret family of eco-parks, the designers of the Xenses Xcaret park wanted something a little more out there than what their other parks, namely Xcaret (check out our Xcaret review), Xplor, Xplor Fuego and Xel-Ha offer.

The sign reads “The water in this drinking fountain is perfectly clean, and the toilet has never been used. So why do you hesitate before taking a drink?”

Sure, there’s a zip line and water slide at Xenses, but that’s about all Xenses and the other parks have in common. You see, Xenses isn’t just about filling your adrenaline needs, it’s about opening up your body and mind to everything around you.

They say that by the time you’re done at Xenses you’ll be a Xensei or a master of your senses. I’m not sure about that, but if you’re curious to know more, read on for our thoughts and a full Xenses review of Xenses park in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Where is Xenses

Tucked just across the driveway from Xcaret, the Xenses park is around 10 minutes south of Playa Del Carmen in Mexico’s Riviera Maya and about 50 minutes south of Cancun. Compared to the older, more mature parks of the Xcaret family, Xenses still hasn’t hit its stride yet, however that’s a good thing if you don’t like big crowds.

Scanning bracelet at Xenses

Scanning your wrist tag to get into Xenses

Our Playa Del Carmen taxi driver didn’t even know where it was exactly. Luckily, we’d spent the day at Xcaret the day before (read our latest review of Xcaret here), and saw a bunch of Xenses signs as we pulled into Xcaret, so we just told our driver to go towards Xcaret and follow the signs to Xenses. That said, the park is so new that it’s to be expected, and I’m sure it’ll be a popular place for those looking for alternatives to the more adventure aimed themed parks in the area.

A half day excursion

Another notable difference between Xenses and most of the other parks is the other parks are all day long events. In the case of Xcaret, it’s a very, very long day when you factor in the late show espectacular. Xenses, on the other hand, can easily be done in four or five hours, so it still gives you lots of time to hit the beaches in Playa Del Carmen or even check out a cenote or two. It’s also priced less than the other parks in the Xcaret family so it’s also a little easier on the wallet.

Xenses checking out the tubes

Exploring your senses at Xenses

As you can probably guess, the whole inspiration for Xenses is to explore all the senses, with a strong emphasis on touch, sight, sounds and smell. The taste aspect comes into play when you check out their lunch and snack area and stop for food, but I’ll get back to that in a bit.

Xenses kids playing in the upside down swimming pool for fun

As you walk into Xenses, you’ll see the main building is circular in design with exhibits, the exits to the other areas, and even the lockers in a confusing spiral of directions. They call this area the Pinwheel and you’ll understand the term as soon as you see it for yourself.

Each section blends into the next and it’s very easy to get turned around. If you get lost, don’t worry, they want and expect you to get turned around here. Luckily, there are plenty of helpful guides in every area of the park whose sole job is to help point you in the right direction.

Lockers are included

Another similarity to the other parks in the area is that chances are very high that you’re going to get wet while checking out Xenses. It’s possible you can enjoy some of what the park offers without donning a bathing suit, however if you really want to get your money’s worth, a bathing suit (and, ideally, water shoes) are a good idea.

Tip! Don’t forget your water proof camera or water proof cell phone bag if you want to capture some memories of your day here. If you don’t want to take a camera, opting for their photo package might be a good idea but I’ll talk about that towards the end of this post.

One of the many sensory rooms at Xenses

When you first get your ticket, you’ll be issued a few things for your time there. One is a locker key, another is a wristband, and the final is a little waterproof fob that goes on your wrist. The locker room in Xenses is accessible from the main hall in the Pinwheel.

Note: The locker areas are communal and the male and female change room/washrooms are to the left and right of the locker rooms. I only say this since we saw a little more skin in the shared locker area than we expected to that morning, so please don’t change in the shared locker rooms.

The Main Hall – The Pinwheel

As I already mentioned, when you first enter Xenses, you’ll find yourself in the main hall called the Pinwheel. While you’re still dry, now’s not a bad time to check out all the crazy exhibits here. There are a dozen or so rooms for you to wander around, through or over. You’ll find everything from standing in a dry swimming pool while water flows overhead to upside down rooms to rooms so filled with lights and color you’re not sure where the walls and floors end.

The center hub of Xenses, otherwise known as the Pinwheel. Each spoke of the wheel leads to a different room or area at Xenses

I don’t want to spoil all the surprises but rest assured your perceptions will be tested and you’ll be delighted by a few of the halls. You might find others a little underwhelming without pretty specific camera placement for you to get the full effect and this leads me to our next section.

Xenses corazon heart

A lot of love went into the creation of Xenses.

Cameras at Xenses

You’re fully allowed and encouraged to bring your own waterproof camera to Xenses (we brought our GoPro for the water activities) and the gift shop even sells see-through waterproof cases for your cellphones so you can keep them with you throughout your stay, however a lot of the exhibits require pretty specific camera placement to the get the full effect of the room.

Xenses colored doorways

Fortunately, the designers at Xenses understood this and there are dozens (if not hundreds) of cameras found throughout Xenses. This is where the wristband fob I mentioned comes in. Just place your unique fob over the specially marked sign and look at the camera wherever it may be hiding. You have about three seconds before the camera flashes to get your pose on.

All your pictures from the day get saved to their network and the nice part about this is you can check out your pictures anytime at one of the hundreds of huge TV’s adorning the park. We used this system the whole day as well as took our own pictures as we went.

The nice thing is you don’t need to purchase the pictures if you don’t want to but the kids loved setting off the camera in each zone and I think our daughter Jordan had a few hundred herself by the end of the day. Each person gets their own wrist fob however all the pictures of the group are available as a bundle deal if you want to purchase them at the end. We never priced out all the packages however I think you can get a USB stick with all your combined memories of the day for under the $100 mark.

Important tip! You can save about half off the photopass if you buy your photopass online on the Xenses website. When we looked, you could add on the photopass for $58 USD when you buy your park tickets. Even better, one photopass includes all photos of a group up to 10 people who are registered at the same purchase.

The lockers and bathroom

After you check out all the rooms off the Pinwheel in the main hall, it’s time to head to the lockers to throw on your swimming suit. True to the spirit of Xenses, even the trip to the lockers was a shock to the system. To get to them you have to walk through a dizzying spinning crossway that even I, with a decent sense of balance, had a hard time getting through without almost falling over. Micki, who’s prone to car sickness, just looked at it, shouted “Hell No!”, closed her eyes and walked through it while holding the railing.

Xenses bathroom

Once inside the communal locker room, we found an amusing collection of central sinks with curved mirrors and odd contraptions from a toilet bowl water fountain to mock toilets. The locker room itself is a playful area, with fake peek-a-boo slits in the stalls to giant half-bottomed statues that also work as seats.

The kids really loved this area, and there are also private shower stalls in each male and female wing as well as family change rooms. You can come back to this area at any point during your stay at Xenses.

Xensatorium

The first real attraction at Xenses is the Xensatorium. In the ads they’re very secretive about what exactly it is, however I’ll give you a hint. Imagine walking through a very, very long tunnel without a speck of light, while your other senses get turned up to about a thousand. If you ever wanted to experience the four corners of the world with just your sense of touch, hearing and smell then you’ll definitely love this area.

IMPORTANT: If you’re afraid of the dark, or claustrophobic, think hard and long before you head into here. Seeing that Jordan is only eight, I stayed with her and there were more than a few times when I had to convince her to keep going. Cole on the other hand, at 11, blazed through it and loved it so much he wanted to go again.

This is what you will see in the Xensatorium at Xenses however your other senses are going to go through the roof.

If you run into trouble, there are also infra red cameras placed throughout the Xensatorium and if you ever feel the need for help, you can just need to raise your hand and staff will be there in moments. Jordan and I had a moment of indecision and staff appeared before we even had the chance to raise our hand.

You’ll feel like a giant on the way to the Xensatorium

I will say that it was a unique experience and the walk through the beautiful lighted cenote cave system, the Eden, on the way out should make even those afraid of the dark willing to brave it just for that part. It’s a fairly long twisting route through a semi open cave with plenty of spots to take a picture, regroup with your fiends and check out the parrots.

Parrots on the way out from the Xensatorium

To get the full effect of the Xensatorium, they recommend that you take off your water shoes/sandals to be able to really feel your way through it all. Cole, Jordan and I took ours off however, Micki chose to keep them on. We both say that our way was better, so feel free to do whichever you feel comfortable with. There is a bit of a walk to get through it all, however the floors were easy on the feet.

Cave system on the way out from the Xensatorium

Tip! Remember to grab your shoes from the two way lockers that are next to the washrooms on your way out from the Xensatorium. (We forgot to grab ours and I had to run back through to grab them again.)

Once you’re through the Xensatorium, it’s a bit of a walk back to the Pinwheel so make sure you grab a few glasses of lemonade in the Xitric Gardens. It seems that at Xenses, lemonade comes directly from the tree and it’s tasty and free so enjoy!

Lemonade trees? Only at Xenses

Crooked Town

As the old rhyme goes, there once was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile. Well, the beautifully recreated old Mexican town of Townville in Xenses must have been designed for him. After figuring out how to get to the town (I’ll give you a hint, look for the beating heart of Xenses back in the Pinwheel), and walking through a waterfall, you enter the crooked town of Xenses.

Exit to El Pueblo Town Xenses

This amazing piece of architecture will skew your sense of up and down. Is the little stream actually flowing upward? Are the houses slanted or straight? Am I walking uphill or downhill? Why are the stairs so awkward to climb? You’ll ask these and a dozen more questions as you make your way through the picturesque town.

The crooked town of Townsville will test your senses

Along the way you’ll read amusing stories, and get a chance to walk into some of these peculiar buildings. Make sure you take some pictures, because if seeing is believing, you won’t believe what you’re seeing!

Umm, what’s up with the liquids in crooked town?

The kids especially enjoyed walking through the crooked town and took a picture (or three) at every opportunity.

Stairs don’t work quite the same way at Xenses

Hammocks

After you get through the crooked mile and cross behind the old church, you’ll come across a huge sand-filled area with dozens of hammocks strewn about everywhere. If you’re like us, at this point you’ll be a little hot. The thought of laying down in the blazing sun won’t sound too appealing, but, as you’ll soon find out, they make a great stop after exploring the Xenses Riviera Maya underground adventure zone.

The Adventure Zone

I called it this simply because Xenses doesn’t really have a name for it. Essentially, it’s a group of activities you do in a certain order. The pathway starts in the hammock area just past the crooked town and also ends here. Most of the adventure zone takes place in a labyrinth of a cave/cenote system except for a few parts. The Adventure Zone is also the most lively area of the park and you’ll soon find out why.

The Slip Waterslide

Remember when I said a swimming suit was fairly crucial at Xenses? Well, as you climb to the top of a small hill you’ll realize there’s only one way down, via the Slip. The slip is a nice water slide that starts off little slowly and speeds up as you go along. Did I mention the latter stages are in the dark? Well, they are, and as you exit the slide into the light you’re not going to know whether you’re up or down. Of course my son Cole wanted to do it again and again. 😉

The pool at the end of the waterslide

Bird Flight

Think face forward zip line and you’ll understand what the Bird Flight is all about. In it, they strap you into a harness and you glide down a limestone cavern ending back in the original cave you started in.

It’s a great feeling as you soar like a bird over trees and around corners however watch out for the end since it can be a little abrupt and it gave me a good wedgie. A staff member will fit you into your harness and help get you out so it’s a fairly quick, easy and safe process as well.

Riverlaxing

Now this was one was truly enjoyable for all our family. In it you choose one of three channels and lay back in a foot and a half of warm, salty water as you float on your back through blue bliss. Along the way you’ll pass through a variety of cave systems, but the temperature is just perfect as the slow current weaves around the bends.

Riverlaxing at Xenses

Tip! Make sure you leave a bit of space between you and the people before you, since not all people float at the same speed and you don’t want to have to put on the brakes while you’re floating so they can stay ahead of you.

Sludgerie

As relaxing as Riverlaxing was, the next activity, gliding through the Sludgerie was a stark contrast. Like Riverlaxing, you’re supposed to lay back in the cool mud and let your body soak in the natural moisturizer. The reality is that most people slip and slide their way through this one as fast as they can.

Time to get muddy!

The temperature is a little bit of a shock after the lovely Riverlaxing activity and though I suppose this fits in with Xenses shock to the senses ideology, it would be nice if they heated the mud a little more. Luckily for me, Jordan wanted to skip it, so I got to skip it with her.

The Showers

As you exit the Sludgerie, there are many buckets hanging down from the cave roof. To rinse off all the mud, all you have to do is brave the water that comes out of them. My son Cole and I had a little fun pulling the buckets down on each other.

The Sauna

Feeling a little chilled after your cool shower?

Not a problem, because as you follow the pathway Xenses leads you through a well heated cave. Don’t worry, just as you start to feel a little overheated, you’ll start cooling off again. There is only a tiny alcove to show where the cave sauna ends, so if you’re still chilled, walk slowly through this part and you’ll be golden.

Fast Forward

A great thing about the Adventure Zone at Xenses is that you can easily skip any activity. This is perfect for those with small children or people who don’t feel all that comfortable with a particular activity. Jordan opted out of a few of the activities and it didn’t really slow the process down or force us to reroute everyone.

There is a waiting area off to the side of the major activities where you can wait for others to catch up. The vast majority of the way is paved and easy walking except for the slide and zipline. Even those have smooth floors, however they have a bit of an incline in places so walking to them requires a little extra work.

One of the exits in Xenses. Pics of the day show up on the top screens and follow you along as you walk.

The Hammocks (Part 2)

As you exit Xenses Adventure Zone you’ll find yourself in the Hammocks area again. Now is a great time to unwind and warm up. Just be careful because that hot Mexican sun can roast you before you know it.

Marbles

As you exit the Hammocks and re-enter the Crooked Town you’ll pass through the marble area. In it there are dozens of giant marbles making there way around a cavernous room along pathways and machinery. It’s a loud room, however it was fascinating watching the round balls make their way around the whole room.

The Xnack

Located just off the Pinwheel, the Xnack housed a decent collection of snacks, from sandwiches to chips, and it also included a huge selection of healthy gluten free and vegetarian foods and even some bulk food options. The kids were impressed that you could fill your own beer glass from their fountain and that they had a warm nacho cheese dispenser as well.

Quirky outside seating at Xnack at Xenses. The bus in back features air conditioning if you want to get out from the sun.

Outside, there’s a small barbecue area where you can purchase hamburgers and hot dogs as well as drinks and candy. There are also several areas to eat outside, including on a giant typewriter or under a canopy of floating umbrellas. For those that want a little air conditioning, there’s a retro-fitted air conditioned bus complete with seats and tables.

The menu for the outside grill at Xnack. There’s tons more options inside.

The Giftery

When you first enter the Pinwheel, you’ll notice a large gift shop in the center. The Giftery is stocked with everything from tshirts to water bottles.

Xenses Gift Shop in the Pinwheel

What makes the Giftery stand out from all the other souvenir shops is all the puzzles and oddities it stocks. Remember at the beginning when I mentioned Xenses could be mistaken for a discovery center? Nowhere is this more evident than in the Giftery. Our kids love science things and they spent more time in the Giftery checking out the cool things than in some of the activity areas. Luckily, we were still traveling for another few months otherwise I know our suitcases would have grown another few inches.

Final Thoughts and Review of Xenses

Through and through, we all enjoyed our half day spent at Xenses. It was so different from Xcaret and the other nearby parks that it really didn’t feel like them at all. It’s like the designers of the park had a slew of fun projects they just couldn’t make work at the other Xcaret family of parks, but wanted to see come to fruition. The result? Xenses. A place that definitely challenges all the senses.

Seeing that we had just spent the previous day at Xcaret, we didn’t feel like Xenses was a letdown in comparison. We’ve been to Xcaret a few times now and the kids always love it, however Xenses is so unique that when asked which park they’d like to return to next time we’re in Cancun or Playa del Carmen, they both say Xenses just because it’s so unique. Cole even says the Xensatorium was his favorite activity so that came as a surprise as well.

There’s no doubt that Xenses has a different take on an adventure park, however no one ever said they all have to be a certain way. Xenses is different, in a good way, and considering how much cheaper it is than its main competitors, it should definitely be on peoples radar, especially those looking for something different or those with only a limited time in the area.

Quick Information about Xenses

Xenses entrance

Xenses entrance

Location

10 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, or 50 minutes south of Cancun in Mexico.

How to get to Xenses

You can take anything from a taxi (easiest) to a collectivo (hardest) to get to Xenses. You can also buy a tour directly from Xenses that includes everything from transportation to your entrance fee. Xenses Cancun access is especially easy when you arrange transportation with the company directly.

See Xenses Cancun transpiration prices Xenses here.

Taxi: The easiest way to get to Xenses is to take a taxi from Playa del Carmen. It costs around 150 pesos ($10 dollars) for a taxi anywhere in town right to the front gate of Xenses and 180 pesos to get back.

Collectivo: You can also take a collectivo ($2) from the collectivo stand on 2nd calle and you can be asked to be dropped off at the gate. Just note that there is a very long walk from the highway to the park itself. This post on seeing wild sea turtles in nearby Akumal has a good section about taking collectivos from Playa del Carmen.

Bus: Those coming in from Cancun or Tulum to Xenses can take an ADO bus to the station in Playa del Carmen and then grab a taxi from outside the terminal. Since Xenses is a smaller park than its siblings, getting a taxi from Xenses back to your hotel can take a few minutes. Just purchase your taxi fare at the admission office and they’ll arrange for one to come get you.

Car: If you have a car, there’s lots of free parking and the signs from Playa del Carmen make the place hard to miss. Just follow the first signs that point to Xcaret and follow the smaller signs to Xenses once you get off the highway.

Ferry: Xenses Cozumel access is by ferry, and then by one of the methods above. Since Cozumel is an island off the coast near Playa del Carmen, just take the ferry from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen, and bet a taxi, collectivo, bus or car.

Time to do Xenses

It takes around four hours to do Xenses Riviera Maya if you don’t go back and redo any activities. The whole park is set up with long walking paths and it helps to think of your day there as a series of activities you do in the order they’re presented in. It’s not easy to jump around doing different activities and we never even bothered trying.

Xenses Hours

Xenses Mexico is open from 8 to 7 Monday to Saturday, however they recommend entering the park between 8:30 to 10 or 1 to 2, since Xenses is considered a half day event and you’ll need that time to do all the activities.

Who’s it for

Xenses is great for everyone. Our family of 4 (kids 8 and 11) enjoyed themselves tremendously and even younger kids would enjoy what Xenses offers. Some areas like the Xensatorium might be frightening for those afraid of the dark, however parents can opt to go with the kids if it helps. The staff suggested I follow along behind my daughter, however she got too scared so I went before her and held her hand the entire way.

In the Adventure Zone, you can opt out of any activity and there are walkways to go from zone to zone if you choose to skip them for whatever reason. The stafff at Xenses suggest the place is for kids aged five and up and continually ask if you have a heart condition, epilepsy, claustrophobia and so forth since some of the activities can be a bit strenuous and lots of them take place in the underground cave system at Xenses.

Special Notes

There is a ton of walking at Xenses and though the vast majority of the park has smooth walkways, there are inclines at different points that some may find tiring. There are also numerous times where you’re required to go barefoot so those with sensitive feet might find it a bit of a challenge at times however if you wear water shoes you should be fine.

On-site amenities

There are numerous washrooms on site including free lockers, showers and change areas. They also have family change rooms. There is also a restaurant/snack bar called Xnack located in the main building as well as a souvenir market in the center where you can purchase everything from water shoes and shirts to waterproof cellphone cases.

Visit Xenses Park Test your mind and your senses while you slide, fly and immerse yourself in fun.

Prices and where to buy Xenses tickets

Tip! When we checked, buying online on the Xsenses website saved about 10%.

We couldn’t find an online Xenses coupon code.

See Xenses online discounts here.

Right now, the regular at door price is $59 for adults while kids 0 to 5 are free. Children 5 to 11 are half price at $29.50.

Purchase your tickets online before you go directly from Xenses Xcaret via this link. Buying online on the Xenses website should save you around 10%.

If you’re interested in going to more than one park, the Xenses Mexico website also has some great deals when you combine other parks like Xcaret, Chichen Itza, Xenotes or Xoximilco  with your Xenses ticket. Check out the combo deals on their website here.
Xenses+ Xcaret Park Combo of two parks: awake your senses + mexican culture, folklore at Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Is there anything you’d like us to add to our Xenses review? Did you find something cool at Xenses you’d like to share, or do you have Xenses reviews to tell us about? Let us know!

Xenses Park Cancun Mexico

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Xcaret in Cancun Mexico: Our Review http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/xcaret-in-cancun-mexico-our-review/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/xcaret-in-cancun-mexico-our-review/#comments Thu, 30 Mar 2017 17:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=13099

After spending more time in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera area this winter we decided to check out some of the nearby eco-parks. Our kids loved our last visit to Xcaret Cancun so much that we decided to go back again.

There’s plenty to see and do at Xcaret, which is just outside Playa del Carmen, including floating down the underground river, lounging on hammocks by the lagoon, enjoying a buffet lunch, touring the aviary, checking out the many animals and marine life as well as all the cultural centers and the huge Xcaret Mexico Espactacular night show.

Important tip: If you’re looking for the best price, we’ve found the best discounts online through Xcaret’s website, where you can get 10-15% off booking at the gate. Click here to check prices.

Our Review of Xcaret in Cancun Mexico. Includes how to get to Xcaret, the underground river, the Espectacular night show, plus restaurant and attractions.

Since it’s been a couple of years and a few things have changed, including some great new attraction additions, we’re writing a brand new review of Xcaret in Cancun Mexico, with plenty of information to make your visit easier and more affordable.

In this Xcaret review, we’ll tell you:

Before we get to our Xcaret review, let’s take a quick look at how to get to Xcaret from Cancun or Playa del Carmen.

Xcaret Transportation Information

Xcaret is 37 miles (60 km) south of Cancun, 4 miles (6 km) south of Playa del Carmen, 20 miles (30 km) north of Akumal and 34 miles (55 km) north of Tulum.

We’ve spent a lot of time in the area, including several weeks in Cancun, and months at a time as a family in Playa del Carmen.

By far, the simplest way to get from Cancun to Xcaret is to get a transportation included package from Xcaret. They’ll pick you up at your hotel, drive you to the front door at Xcaret, and pick you up after the evening show to whisk you back to Cancun. You can also get transportation to Xcaret from Playa del Carmen and practically anywhere in the Riviera Maya. The cost is currently about $27 USD for return transportation from your hotel, however that varies on which package you go with.

Tip! If you book through this link you can get up to a 15% discount on your Xcaret transportation and admission from Cancun. Click here to check prices.

Click here to see options further down for driving yourself to Xcaret, taking the bus to Xcaret, or taking a taxi to Xcaret.

Our Xcaret Cancun review

First, we’ll talk about our trip and what Xcaret has to offer, and then give you some helpful tips to make your trip easier (and hopefully save you some money, as well).

Animals everywhere!

Xcaret tapir

Our kids are huge animal lovers, and Xcaret doesn’t disappoint in this regard.

There are plenty of animals scattered throughout the park, including a huge variety of butterflies and birds like parrots, macaws and flamingos. There’s also tons of animals like monkeys, jaguars, panthers and deer as well as marine animals such as stingrays, sea turtles, sharks, manatees, and a sizable aquarium full of colorful fish and jelly fish. A lot of the animals, like the giant tapir above, are native to the area so it’s nice to get to see them up close as well.

Aquarium with many different fish

Xcaret aquarium

Be sure to set aside a good half hour to walk through the Xcaret aquarium. We’ve seen quite a few aquariums worldwide, from the wonderful Vancouver Aquarium to the Aquarium in Lisbon, Portugal, and we still enjoyed Xcaret’s display with over 500 coral reef structures, hundreds of colorful fish and varied marine life.

Inside, besides for the fish exhibits, there are shark and jellyfish exhibits as well a touch pool for the little ones complete with starfish and sea cucumbers.

Xcaret fish in aquarium

Outside exhibits house giant sting rays, a manatee lagoon, and, our favorite, sea turtles. Not only can you see baby sea turtles, but large adult ones as well. The sea turtle lagoon where they stay is gorgeous and we could sit and watch the sea turtles swimming around the natural pool for hours.

Xcaret turtle

Bat cave!

Both times we visited Xcaret, the bat cave was a huge hit with our kids. Unlike most bat exhibits, this one is in a real, underground cave. To see the bats you enter via a long set of stairs and stand in semi-darkness until your eyes adjust to the lack of light. Once your eyes are acclimatized, you realize you’re in a real bat cave with live bats flying around you.

Bird aviary

Xcaret girl at waterfall in aviary

Waterfall in Xcaret aviary

Xcaret’s bird aviary sanctuary is gorgeous, with waterfalls and ramping pathways on multiple levels. We visited this as one of our last stops in Xcaret, but I really wish we’d had time to linger more. There are over 1,500 birds in here, most housed in one giant aviary, with verdant vegetation and blooming tropical flowers everywhere. It’s well worth an hour or so to visit if you’re a bird lover.

Xcaret colorful bird in aviary

Butterfly Pavilion

Right next to the Bird Aviary is Xcaret’s Butterfly Pavilion. Here you can see 20 different species of butterflies in one of the largest butterfly enclosures in the world. Similar to the aviary, there are pathways and waterfalls aplenty, as well as a hatching area complete with explanations of for all stages of the butterfly life cycle.

Monkey Island

Xcaret features both spider monkeys and howler monkeys in the park. Though they tend to quiet down in the heat of the day, you can see them climbing around in the morning and right before dusk.

Xcaret Underground River

Xcaret lazy river

One of the most popular attractions at Xcaret eco theme park is their underground river. The river winds its way through naturally formed caverns and caves under Xcaret. The water is a crystal clear aquamarine, and you can even find little fish along the bottom. Floating from beginning to end can take about an hour, however there are numerous locations along the way to get out if you want to.

Tip! We found that the water got a little cool for our eight-year old after a while and we decided to exit around the 3/4 mark. Because of that, it’s a good idea to rent or bring flippers to speed up your journey (we didn’t have any) since the water slows down in certain areas and the flippers will help you along. If you get a Xcaret Plus pass, snorkeling equipment is included in your ticket price. Life jackets are free (and mandatory) for everybody.

Xcaret Plus River entrances

At the start of the underground river, Xcaret staff put your belongings in a duffel bag, and transport it to the end of the lazy river for you to pick up. You’ll get a waterproof label with your number on it for pickup, and the duffel is stored in an area with Xcaret staff at the end of the river. You’ll need to show the number to pick up the duffel.

We did find that the duffel bags were slung around and piled on top of each other. If you have any breakable equipment or valuables, you may want to rent a locker instead of using the free duffel bags. Because we were going to the lazy river, but we had our DSLR camera with us, we elected to use the secure locker area. It’s $5 for the day and there is also a $10 key deposit that is returned once you leave.

Locker rental at Xcaret

Locker rental at Xcaret

Tip! You may want to bring water shoes or waterproof sandals for the Underground River. Charles found that the rocks along the underground river were a bit hard on his feet, and sandals or water shoes would make standing up in, and getting out of, the underground river much easier. I was wearing my trusty waterproof Keen sandals (with an enclosed toe), so I had no problems.

There are showers and washrooms at the main exit point of the underground river, however it’s a long walk back to the rental lockers if you need to pick up any of your other personal belongings. It’s definitely a good idea to throw some sandals or shoes in the provided duffel bag if you elect to go barefoot or use flippers down the river for your return walk.

Lagoon and hammocks

Xcaret kid playing in hammock

Xcaret has a gorgeous location on the Caribbean sea, with a calm-water lagoon between the beach and jungle areas at Xcaret. There are lots of hammocks along the beach to the right of the lazy river exit, as well as lounge chairs and tables set out around the inner lagoon.

Xcaret sign and blowhole

We loved lounging in the hammocks on the white sand, watching the little blowhole spray and looking out over the ocean. There’s also a protected lagoon for swimming nearby and some fantastic photo opportunities all along the water.

Xcaret Children’s World

Xcaret Childrens World signs

Xcaret’s new Children’s World area is lots of fun for kids aged 0 to 12. There’s a playground, a small splash park, a small beach, a parakeet habitat and a cenote (natural freshwater pool). We found the cenote to be a little full of leaves the day we visited, but otherwise looked like a great way to cool down in the hot afternoon.

Our eight and eleven year old both loved the Children’s World Secret Adventure area, which has four water slides, hanging bridges, a waterfall and lots of rope climbing. It’s like a mini adventure for kids and is a good distance from nearly everything else in the park so it’s a fairly quiet area.

Xcaret Childrens World climbing

Parents can walk alongside on a separate path around the activities, but the adventure area is meant for 4-12 year olds and most adults won’t fit through the ropes even if they wanted to join in.

Note: To get the most out of the area, kids should wear water shoes, otherwise their feet could get sore on the ropes and rock walkways. Ours didn’t have any and had to be a lot more careful where they stepped and while playing in the water than other kids we saw wearing some. The cenote is a natural pool and as such, there are rocks and sharp areas along the sides as well if they decide to explore a bit.

Gift shop in Childrens World at Xcaret

Gift shop in Childrens World

The Children’s World zone also has it’s own washroom and a small store complete with drinks, small snacks and beach toys. There’s also a small sandy area for the little ones and lots of seating for everyone in the shade. The children’s area is not near the ocean side of Xcaret and is off to the side, far away from the crowd. Expect a bit of a walk getting to it.

Xcaret restaurants, buffets and snacks

Xcaret Restaurante Laguna

Xcaret natural adventure park has many snack areas and several buffet restaurants.

Tip: We found it a much better value to get Xcaret Plus than to pay for the buffet and flippers separately.

Both times we’ve visited Xcaret, we’ve eaten at the largest buffet restaurant, La Laguna. There’s a wide variety of food there, and it seems to be restocked quickly. Our kids loved the desserts and the soft serve ice cream bar.

The first time we were at Xcaret, we ate around 2 pm and it was quiet. On our second visit, we ate right at 12:30, and it was very busy. Servers were constantly re-stocking the buffet, though we only needed to wait ten minutes for items to be refilled, as the restaurant looked to be at full capacity. I’d suggest eating slightly before or after noon to make sure the buffet was less busy.

Soft drinks, coffee and tea are included in the buffet price, but you’ll pay extra for fancy drinks or additional alcohol at the bar.

Xcaret restaurant Jaguar coconut mug

Jaguar coconut mug

Here’s a list of the restaurants at Xcaret.

Dos Playas

This is the restaurant at the beach area, where you can get a Mexican snack or a Caribbean buffet.

La Península

La Peninsula specializes in seafood and offers a buffet.

La Laguna

A large restaurant near the center overlooking the Jaguar exhibit, La Luguna is an international buffet, with plenty of pasta, pizza and sushi.

La Cocina

A smaller restaurant near the park entrance, La Cocina offers Mexican snacks and is a great place to sit and watch the daily equestrian show while enjoying a cold beverage.

La Orquídea

This restaurant offers a la carte breakfasts and snacks.

La Caleta

If you’re a carnivore, this is the buffet restaurant that specializes in meats.

El Manglar

El Manglar is only open during high season, and focuses on seafood.

La Isla

This is a restaurant for private events, like weddings, that seats up to 500.

Mexico Espectacular Dinner

This is where you’ll sit if you opt to buy supper with your Mexico Espectacular night show tickets.

As well as the above, there are many other smaller snack areas and bars all throughout Xcaret Park Cancun.

Cultural activities in Xcaret

Xcaret with kids

If you’re interested in Mayan or Mexican culture, there’s a lot to see at Xcaret. The big draw, of course is the Mexico Espectacular show at night (more on that later), but there are also many interesting smaller attractions in the park like watching the high flying Voladores.

Unfortunately, we always seem to be in a hurry to finish and grab supper before the nightly show when we visit the Mayan villages and colonial Mexican areas. It’s a shame, because the traditional Mayan mini villages, with displays of traditional houses and cooking, look interesting.

The Mexican graveyard, next to the bird aviary, is colorful and gives a glimpse into Mexican culture, though I do wish there had been more signs explaining its significance.

Colorful cemetary at Xcaret

Colorful cemetery at Xcaret

We saw the equestrian show on our last trip to Xcaret, and it was well done and interesting. I suggest you check out our previous Xcaret review if you want to read up a bit more on the traditional aspects of the park.

Some of the cultural highlights in Xcaret include the Mayan archaeological sites found throughout the park, the Hacienda Henequenera with its 19th century story, the views from the St. Francis of Assisi Chapel overlooking the bay and the Mayan Village with its fascinating take of pre-Hispanic living.

Xcaret Mayan ruins culture

There’s also a chocolate cafe, and chocolate and coffee workshops. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have time to visit them on this trip, but it’s high on my list for our next visit!

Xcaret sign Chocolate Cafe and workshop times

Nightime Xcaret Mexico Espectacular show

Xcaret Park Night Show Witness the best show at Cancun and Riviera Maya over 300 artist on stage.

This is a huge draw for Xcaret, and it’s easy to see why. The show is two hours long and it has a cast of hundreds, colorful and varied costumes, plus a spectacular lighting show. The performances showcase Mexican culture and history, from the time of the ancient Mayans, through the arrival of the Spanish, to modern Mexican culture and music.

You can buy tickets for the night Espectacular show only, if you don’t want to visit the Xcaret park. Click here for our link to get 10-15% off tickets to the show. The Xcaret at night includes admission to Xcaret from 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm so you can see a few exhibits before the big show.

Xcaret Espectacular night show

Xcaret Espectacular night show

You can also add the Xcaret Xclusivo to get a reserved seat at the Grand Tlachco Theater, a selection of dried fruits, one bottle of sparkling wine, soft drinks for kids and personalized attention.

We’ve been to see the night Espectacular show twice, and enjoyed it both times. It’s fun for adults and kids, and both our kids watched the entire two hour show without fidgeting in their seats. It may have helped that we fed them cotton candy from the snack shops outside.

Tip! Head over to the night show by 6 pm if you want to be near the center lower down for a better view.

Xcaret Amenities

Photos

There are plenty of photo ops throughout the park. When you enter, you’re given wristbands that are tied to your ticket. Throughout the park there are locations that allow you to scan in your wristband and take a picture with fixed cameras. The online system keeps track of your photos throughout the day. There are also photographers on site at various locations, with distinctive yellow shirts and plenty of signs indicating they work with Xcaret.

Xcaret photography scan wristbband console

At the end of your visit, you stop by a kiosk, and can get all your photos. The cost onsite is $100 USD for digital photos of your entire group, or you can opt to pre-pay for them as part of your admission.

We found the onsite cost for photos a bit pricey for us, so we just used our own phone cameras at their photo op locations (since they’re so well placed). That said, there are plenty of photo stations throughout the park and it saves you from having to carry your camera throughout the day so they can be a great way to keep your memories alive once you leave the park.

Tip! The best deal for photos is online, where you can buy a photo pass with your park tickets for around $59 USD. Even better, that photopass covers ALL the photos for up to a group of 10. You can get details on the photopass here.

Souvenirs

Xcaret gift shop at front entrance

Xcaret gift shop at front entrance

There is no shortage of souvenirs at Xcaret, ranging from T-shirts to stuffed animals to magnets and postcards.

Pick up your souvenirs before the nightly Mexico Espectacular show. We were busy during the day, so we decided to pick up a small souvenir for Jordan on our way out of the night show.

Unfortunately, after the Espectacular show, the gift shop was so packed with people leaving for the front gates that we decided it wasn’t worth the wait. It would have been much easier to pick up a souvenir during the day when the gift shop was quieter.

Need a break?

Hammocks white sand and the lagoon at Xcaret

Hammocks white sand and the lagoon at Xcaret

Xcaret is a lot of fun, and it’s also a lot of physical activity like walking and swimming. Our favorite place to take a rest are the hammocks on the beach, which are a beautiful place to relax for a while. However, if you have little ones, the new Children’s Area is a great place to unwind away from the crowds and in the shade.

Sunscreen

Xcaret sunscreen booth

Xcaret wants to encourage using biodegradable sunscreen. You can deposit your regular sunscreen at a booth when you get there and they give you biodegradable samples for free. Be sure to remember to grab your own sunscreen on the way out. You’ll need to show the claim ticket they give you.

Lockers

Lockers are by the Xcaret Plus zone. The cost for lockers is 100 pesos (about $5 USD at the time of writing), with a 100 peso deposit fee for the key. There are changing booths in the locker area, along with benches and shade. Because we were going to the lazy river, and had our DSLR camera with us, we elected to use the secure locker area.

Xcaret Spa

Xcaret Xpa massages

Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to check out the Xcaret Spa, but it definitely looked inviting. It would be a great way to spend a few hours away from the kids and be pampered so maybe next time!

Weddings

While we were there, we happened to see a wedding by the lagoon at Xcaret! It’s a gorgeous setting, and I would have loved to see more, but unfortunately we had to leave for the evening show. You can contact customer support if you’re thinking of having a wedding at Xcaret to find out what kind of services they offer.

Xcaret Admission Plans

Xcaret Plus

Xcaret Plus signs snorkel locker life vest river entrance

Regular (Basic) Xcaret admission doesn’t include lockers, flippers, or any food (but it does include life jackets for the underground river).

When you get an Xcaret Plus admission, you get lockers, flippers, snorkel and mask, towels, and a buffet meal, as well as access to the Xcaret Plus locker area. It’s a good value if you’re planning to do the underground lazy river and eat at one of the buffet restaurants.

Your buffet meal includes one beer and unlimited beverages (soft drinks, flavored waters and coffee) while consuming food at the buffet.

The Xcaret Plus admission was $109 USD at the time of writing, while basic admission is $84. Both prices are the discounted online price you’ll pay, 21 or more days in advance, on the Xcaret website.

Xcaret Optional Activities

You can add on optional activities like SNUBA, the Adrenelina jet boat, the Mexico Espectacular Dinner, Dolphin Ride, Swim with Sharks, Stingrays Encounter, Sea Trek Stingrays and Adventure Kids, a children’s ray and shark encounter, when you buy your tickets online, or buy the Xcaret Total admission (more details just below), which gives you one of three optional activities.

You can see all of Xcaret’s optional activities here.

Xcaret Total

Xcaret Cancun Park Admission & Optional Activities at special price.
The Xcaret Total admission package, which will get you one optional activity from three Optional Activities: Adrenalina, Sea Trek® or Snuba®. You also get the buffet and Xcaret Plus admission. This is a great deal if you’re already planning to check out one of these activities anyway.

Xcaret Tips!

Xcaret is a big park, and planning a bit before your trip can help make it a lot more comfortable and fun for the whole family.

Plan your day

Xcaret is a huge place with lots of walking. We found that with kids, it just wasn’t possible to see and do everything we wanted in one day (though we came close!). You may want to make a list of must-see items, and do those first, to ensure you don’t run out of time. Our must-see list this time included seeing the animals, checking out the aquarium, lounging in the hammocks, floating down the underground river and watching the Xcaret Espectacular Show.

Xcaret sign aviary jaguars butterflies school and town

Prepare for the heat

Even in Mexico’s cooler season, it’s hot. Make sure you wear lots of sunscreen, a hat, cover up, and drink lots of water or non-alcoholic liquids.

Wear comfortable shoes

Xcaret is big, so you’ll be doing a lot of walking, with some of it up and down stairs. Make sure your shoes are comfortable.

You may also want to bring water shoes or waterproof sandals. These will make standing up in, and getting out of, the underground river and some of the play areas much easier.

Xel-ha vs Xcaret

Xel-Há Park at Riviera Maya Admission + Optional Activities at a special price.

We get a lot of questions as to whether Xcaret or Xel-Ha is best for kids. While Xcaret is a huge park with an underground river and lagoon, it also has a lot of space devoted to aquarium, cultural and animal displays. Xel-Ha’s focus is much more on water activities and adventure, with snorkeling, zip lines over the water, caving, cliff jumping into the water, rope swings, and more.

It very much depends on your children’s level of activity and adventure, but parents of children under six, or kids who aren’t as comfortable in the water, will probably enjoy the activities at Xcaret more than Xel-Ha. Teenagers or those kids who crave wilder adventures might prefer Xel-Ha however, that said, no one is too young or too old to enjoy Xcaret.

Xenses vs Xcaret

If you only have a limited amount of time, you can read our upcoming Xenses review as well. (Subscribe to our newsletter above to be informed when that gets posted in the coming days).

Just across the road from Xcaret, Xenses is a unique park, owned by Xcaret, that delights in shocking your senses. If you have around 4 hours to spare (it’s also cheaper than Xcaret) and you’re looking for a different experience, then this newly built park might be for you.

I don’t want to spoil too much but if you like to experience new things, have a sense of humor and a sense of adventure then you’ll probably enjoy Xenses. It’s such a different take on a theme park that Xcaret vs Xenses can’t really be compared but to give you an idea, our older son actually prefers Xenses while our younger daughter says Xcaret is still the reigning champ of eco-parks.

Xcaret coupon code

Xcaret ticket booth and prices in MXN pesos

We’ve found that the cheapest and easiest way to get tickets for Xcaret is to buy them online on the Xcaret website. Click here to check prices now.

You can get Xcaret discount tickets that are between 10 to 15 percent off when you buy online, and the park also offers package discounts if you buy multiple parks or add on transportation to Xcaret. You can check out the package discounts here.

Kids are half price! If you buy online, there’s even a weather guarantee that will let you rebook any day within one year.

You can use our link or click the graphic below to check out the online discounts.

Experiencias Xcaret. Create your own combo with the best attractions in Cancun & Riviera Maya.

Important! We have a few special Xcaret coupon code deals for Mexican residents and Mastercard.

If you’re a Mexican resident, you can get up to 25% off packages. Click here for details (this page is in Spanish).

You can also get an extra day’s admission for free if you pay by Mastercard. Visit this link for details (English). You must present your official Mexican national ID (IFE / INE or original Passport) at the ticket office or tour guide.

Click here to book now.

How to get to Xcaret park cancun

We talked about this at the beginning of the article, but the easy button for getting from Cancun to Xcaret is to get a transportation included package from Xcaret. They'll pick you up at your hotel, drive you to the front door at Xcaret, and pick you up after the evening show and drive you back to Cancun.

If you book through this link you can get up to a 15% discount on your Xcaret transportation and admission from Cancun.

Driving from Cancun to Xcaret

If you want to self drive, it's an easy, flat road from Cancun past Playa del Carmen to Xcaret. The 50 miles (80 kilometres) should take you about 60 minutes from the Hotel Zone in Cancun. The highways are in good shape and signs are everywhere for Xcaret. Parking at Xcaret is free.

Tip! Whenever we rent a car, we quickly do a search on Expedia to compare costs for different rental car companies.

Driving from Playa del Carmen to Xcaret

It's just a short 15 minute (6 mile/10 kilometer) drive from Playa del Carmen to Xcaret. Just head south down Highway 307 (the main highway) and follow the signs to Xcaret. The turn is on the right from the highway but veers over. Parking is free.
Xcaret Eco Park mexican Culture, Folklore and Typical Flavors, Underground rivers at Cancun and Riviera Maya.

Taxi from Cancun to Xcaret

Few people opt to take a taxi all the way from Cancun, because of the cost, which should run between 60 and 100 USD one way. You may also have trouble finding a taxi at the end of the day outside Xcaret that's willing to drive you all the way back to Cancun.

Taxi from Playa del Carmen to Xcaret

From Playa del Carmen, it costs about 150 pesos ($8 USD) to get a taxi to Xcaret, and typically about 180 pesos ($9 USD) to get back. You can hail down a taxi anywhere in the city however if you're having a hard time finding one you can try outside either of the ADO bus stops or outside any of the larger stores like Walmart or Chedraui. Like anywhere, it's not a bad idea to agree on the price before you get in so there are no surprises when you get there.

Uber to Xcaret

Uber has just started operating in Cancun, but isn't in Playa del Carmen as of mid-2017. You'll need to check the Uber app to see if a driver is available to pick you up in Cancun for drop off at Xcaret, but you may need to arrange alternate transportation back to Cancun.

We have a FREE Uber ride for you! Sign up to get your first ride free (and we get a credit too) https://www.uber.com/invite/mickik91ue

Bus from Cancun to Xcaret

You can take the ADO bus from Cancun Airport or the downtown Cancun bus terminal to Playa del Carmen. It's about 114 Mexican pesos, or 6 USD).  Once in Playa del Carmen, you'll need to transfer from the Playa del Carmen bus terminal to either the ADO bus that runs past Xcaret (ask at the terminal), or grab a collectivo (shared van/taxi) for about 3 USD on Calle 2.

However, and this is important, the collectivo will only drop you off at the highway. There's a tunnel you need to walk through off the highway and then there should be an Xcaret bus waiting that will shuttle you to the park entrance. If for some reason the shuttle is not available, I estimate that it's at least a 20 minute walk (1 mile) from the highway to the Xcaret entrance.

On the way back to Cancun or Playa del Carmen, you'll need to grab the ADO bus back since there are no collectivos available then. It was a long wait, and we were all tired and worn out, so we took a taxi. It cost us about $10 USD to get back to Playa del Carmen from Xcaret via taxi.

 Staying near Xcaret

Thinking of staying at Xcaret? While the park doesn't have its own official hotel, the all-inclusive Occidental at Xcaret Destination (also known as the Occidental Grand Xcaret Hotel) is right next door. It gets great reviews on TripAdvisor (we may even stay there the next time we're in Playa!) and features 10 bars, 11 restaurants & 5 outdoor pools to keep you busy as well as their own jungle excursions and Mayan ruins. If you like, you can even get their Unlimited Xcaret Xperience which gives you full access to Xcaret for the entirety of your stay.
You can book the hotel here or check out TripAdvisor reviews here. Click here to check prices.
Are you thinking about going to Xcaret? Do you have any questions? Ask us in the comments below and we'll do our best to help you out!

Visit Xcaret Park. A tour through mexican culture, traditions and more.

Where is Xcaret?

A Review of Xcaret Cancun Mexico. We look at the best transportation options, the most fun things to do and see, and even give our helpful tips for visiting Xcaret in the Mayan Riviera

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. If you book after clicking on one, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

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The Ultimate List of Family Things To Do in Cozumel http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/the-ultimate-list-of-family-things-to-do-in-cozumel/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/the-ultimate-list-of-family-things-to-do-in-cozumel/#comments Sat, 25 Feb 2017 18:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=12919 Thinking of visiting the beautiful island of Cozumel with your family? Whether you’re in port for the day, or on the island for a week, there are plenty of family things to do in Cozumel with kids.

We just finished up a five day stay on the island. Between this trip and another visit a few years ago, we’ve found a lot to keep our family of four busy.

Fun family things to do in Cozumel

Cozumel is an island in the Caribbean sea that’s famous for some of the world’s best snorkeling and scuba diving, and it’s only a short 15 minute ferry ride from Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

This all means that there’s a lot for families to do in the area, whether you’re looking for beach fun, shopping, or exploring ancient Mayan ruins.

Find a beach

Fun family things to do in Cozumel Kids racing in the Sand in Cozumel.

Our kids racing in the sand in Cozumel

Two of the things that make Cozumel kid friendly are its beautiful climate and small beaches. With crystal clear water and white sand, beach time is probably the most affordable and fun thing to do with kids on Cozumel. Because Cozumel is such a relatively small island, it’s easy to reach most beaches from a great vacation timeshare.

If you have smaller kids, you’ll want to stick to the sheltered west side with its reefs to protect against crashing surf. Southern beaches like Playa San Francisco or Playa Palancar are a good choice.

Kids enjoying an oversized drink in Cozumel at Carlos And Charlies

Kids enjoying an oversized drink in Cozumel at Carlos And Charlies

With only a few decent beaches to choose from compared to nearby Playa Del Carmen, Beach Clubs are huge on Cozumel and they can be a lot of fun with the family. We had a blast at the typically touristy and fun Carlos and Charlies beach bar on our first visit to Cozumel.

Often there’s an admission charge for beach clubs, and you’re definitely expected to order food or drinks there if there’s not, however nearly all of them offer you a lounge chair and shade.

Water trampolines and water parks!

If your kids are big enough to enjoy them, there are some fun water trampolines at Mr. Sancho’s Beach Club on Paradise Beach, which is just down the beach from Carlos and Charlies beach bar.

Playa Mia Beach Club will also keep you and the kids occupied. There are water slides, kayaks, water toys, an on-water trampoline park, and the little ones will love Bucanneers Bay, which has a kids lagoon pool with a pirate ship, water spray-cannons and all the fun they can handle.

You can get a day pass to Playa Mia Beach Club with a Viator tour here, or just show up at the gate.

Snorkel or SCUBA dive

If your kids are too little, skip snorkeling and SCUBA in favor of beach time. That said, Cozumel is home to some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world. If your kids are old enough to snorkel, they’ll find an abundance of colorful fish and corals at Cozumel’s Mesoamerican Reef.

Older kids and teens will love snorkeling at the Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park, while smaller kids will likely do better snorkeling from shore somewhere like the Money Bar Beach Club.

We only snorkeled on our own in Cozumel, but if you’re looking for an organized tour, ScubaTony Cozumel gets great reviews from families. Check out the ScubaTony Cozumel reviews on TripAdvisor here.

San Gervasio Mayan Ruins

Despite its small size, Cozumel has an interesting Mayan site, the San Gervasio ruins. Check out the video below for a walk through the site.

Atlantis Submarine

We took an Atlantis Submarine ride in Oahu, and absolutely loved it. In Cozumel, Viator offers a 40 minute Atlantis Submarines tour. You can check out Atlantis’ reviews on TripAdvisor here.

Shop Plaza del Sol

Plaza del Sol is the zocalo (town square) in San Miguel, Cozumel’s only square.

There are plenty of souvenirs to be found in the streets around the Plaza del Sol, including hammocks, embroidered and lace clothing, silver jewelry, and little wooden toys for the kids. There are also plenty of places to stop for lunch or ice cream.

Kids will enjoy the street performers and musicians who are ever present in the square.

Chankanaab Adventure Beach Park

Chankanaab is located inside Cozumel´s National Marine Park. You can swim, snorkel in the lagoon at the Chankanaab reef, grab a snack and check out the exhibitions, spa or zip line. Cost is $21.00 USD  for adults and $14 for kids age 3 to 11.

Punta Sur Park Ecological Reserve

Photo by Jared Young

Punta Sur is Cozumel’s largest ecological reserve. It boasts a gorgeous white beach and reef for snorkeling as well as tons of wildlife on the lagoon side. In the lagoon you can see crocodiles, turtles and tons of birds including flamingos and there is a free pontoon boat ride available. The cost is $14 USD for adults, and $8 for children age 3 to 11. It’s open Monday to Saturday and there are change rooms, hammocks, chairs, showers, restaurants and even lifeguards on duty there. The Faro Celerain lighthouse is also at Punta Sur.

Faro Celarain lighthouse

One of Cozumel’s most iconic buildings, the Faro Celarain lighthouse is located in the Punta Sur ecological reserve. It’s included in your admission to the park and you can climb to the top for some of the best views on the island. It’s a bit of a climb though so make sure you and the kids can handle it. There are nearby hammocks at the bottom for those that prefer to wait for others in comfort.

Cozumel Pearl Farm

If you’re looking for something unique and memorable to do in Cozumel, a visit to the Cozumel Pearl Farm may just be it. This is around a six hour tour that gets stellar reviews on TripAdvisor, where you learn how pearls are made and farmed, with time to relax on a private beach, eat lunch and play in the water.

I only wish I’d seen this while we were in Cozumel. It’s a must-do for our next trip. Reviews say it’s good for small children, as well as older kids.

Cozumel Glass Bottom Tour

A glass bottom boat is a great alternative for those who don’t like to snorkel, or if you have little ones that are too young to SCUBA or snorkel. Viator offers a three hour glass bottom boat tour in Cozumel.

Find out prices and more here.

Drive around the island

If you have a little time on your hands, you can rent a car in town and see most of the sites above all in the same day. Prices for cars are decent and there is only the one ring road so it’s hard to get lost. The road only covers the south side of the island so if you want to see the northern end you either need to take a boat or rent some atvs. In both cases it’s better to take a tour.

For those on a more tight deadline, you can always hire a private driver that will take you around the island. Most cruise ship day tourers opt for this to make sure they’re back in time for departure. You can often just hire a taxi driver to take you where you want to go however the taxis aren’t metered on Cozumel so make sure you agree on the price before you get in.

Day trips from Cozumel

While Cozumel is a lot of fun in and of itself, there are quite a few family friendly day trips from Cozumel that are worth checking out.

See our day trip suggestions from Cozumel here.

Day trip to Playa del Carmen

Art on Quinta Avenida Playa del Carmen

Art on Quinta Avenida

It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Playa del Carmen, returning every couple of years to spend a month or two. It’s just a 15 minute ferry ride from Cozumel, with the pedestrian friendly Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue) just in front of the ferry terminal. With plenty of shops and restaurants, there’s also many family friendly activities in Playa del Carmen itself, and lots of free things to do.

There are also miles of beaches right in town that are free and easily accessible for families with children.

Xcaret Theme Parks

Xcaret Park Night Show Witness the best show at Cancun and Riviera Maya over 300 artist on stage.

While you’re in Playa Del Carmen, you may want to check out one of the parks in the Xcaret family, including Xcaret itself (our favorite for kids), Xel-ha (where you can snorkel and swim to your hearts content), Xplor (which has some fun ziplines, ATV tours and swimming), or the new and quirky Xsenses, which we loved.

IMPORTANT: You can get 10% to 15% off admission to the parks if you book online through this link.

Day trip to Tulum

Tulum Ruins by the Sea

Tulum Ruins by the Sea

While most first time visitors make a beeline for the Mayn Ruins at Chichen Itza or Coba, the ruins at Tulum are closer and are perched spectacularly at the edge of the Caribbean sea. Make sure you make time to visit the seemingly endless stretch of beach in Tulum, and nosh at some of the good restaurants on the main road through town.

Visit a Cenote!

Charles and Jordan Cenote Dos Ojos Mexico on Platform Entrance

Charles and Jordan planning a jump at Cenote dos Ojos, north of Tulum

The most popular cenotes (clear, natural, freshwater limestone pools) are located on the mainland near Playa del Carmen and Cancun. If you’re looking to visit one, blogger Anna Everywhere has a helpful article on the best centotes in Mexico and we’ve visited more than a few ourselves including nearby Cenote Cristalino and Cenote dos Ojos.

Cancun

Kids on the Beach in Cancun at Chokmal

Generally, we prefer Playa del Carmen to Cancun, as we find Cancun to be more touristy, its beaches are rougher and the town less walkable. That said, there’s a lot to do in Cancun for kids, and it can make for an exciting day out. Cancun is also a quick and easy bus ride from Playa Del Carmen and the main ADO bus terminal is only a few blocks from the ferry terminal.

Day trips to Coba or Chitzen Iza

Dad and son descending the pyramid at Coba Mexico

Most visitors to the Mayan Riviera make a beeline for the famous Mayan Ruins at Chitzen Iza and the massive El Castillo pyramid.

We loved our time at the smaller, but definitely impressive Coba Mayan ruins. It was an incredibly important site for the ancient Mayans, and because it’s a little less known than Chitzen Iza, you can climb many of the pyramids with fewer other tourists around.

Viator has some fun tour options for both Chitzen Iza departing from Cozumel and a fun looking tour that takes in cenotes, Coba and the ruins at Tulum.

What to bring

 

You can rent masks, snorkels, and fins at any hotel or beach club, or simply bring your own. We haven’t had a chance to try them ourselves, but we’ve heard great things about the adult full face Tribord EasyBreath mask and the kids Cressi DELUXE Youth Mask Snorkel Set.

Most tour operators include children’s and adult life jackets, but inquire first to be sure.

Also make sure that you have waterproof sunscreen on hand if you go snorkeling. Xcaret and most of the nature reserves require you to use biodegradable sunscreen when swimming in the water however we haven’t loved the biodegradable sunscreen we’ve tried so far. Our friends swear by the Badger Sport Sunscreen Cream and it gets great reviews on Amazon so we’ll give it a try next.

Another great option for kids (and even adults) is to get a SPF 50 rash guard t-shirt like this one. We’ve used rash guard shirts on our kids for years and they’re so much easier to deal with rather than constantly applying sunscreen. Our kids love them and they’re great when snorkeling or even just hanging by the water. We plan to pick up one like this for ourselves when we get back for when we go stand up paddle boarding or kayaking.

When we’re in a beach destination, we also like to have two sets of swimwear for everyone. That way, one swimsuit is always dry, and we don’t have to deal with putting on a cold, clammy suit.

 

Most hotels and tour operators provide towels, though we carry a lightweight travel towel that works as a cover up, towel, and a lightweight blanket for cold airplane rides. It also makes a great impromptu fort for the kids.

Looking for something else?

If you can’t find something that suits you above, check out all of Viator’s Cozumel Tours and Activities.

Click here to see tours.

Where to Stay in Cozumel

Cozumel Palace family loft suite

If you’re looking for more fun family things to do in Cozumel, be sure to pick a family-friendly hotel.

We stayed at the Cozumel Palace all-inclusive, and the kids loved it. It’s an intimate all inclusive, with a kids’ program (yay, for free time for Mom and Dad!), and kid-friendly swimming pools and restaurants. It’s also nice and close to Cozumel town, giving this Cozumel family resort one of the best locations in town.

Cozumel Palace family suite Ocean View at Cozumel Palace Riviera Maya Review

Ocean view from our family site at Cozumel Palace

Tip: If you’re looking for easy, cost-effective help with family activities in Cozumel, ask about the offer for a Palace Resorts credit with every stay.

You can read about our stay at Cozumel Palace here.

See prices and availability for Cozumel Palace.

Check out Cozumel Palace reviews on TripAdvisor.

Looking for a great price on a last minute hotel in Cozumel?

We’ve had great luck finding cheap hotels via TripAdvisor.

See TripAdvisor prices for Cozumel here.

What you need to know

Nearby airports: Cancun (CUN) and Cozumel (COZ)

Language: Spanish, but English is widely spoken in tourist areas

What to do: If you can’t find family activities in Cozumel that suits you above, check out all of Viator’s Cozumel Tours and Activities.

Family things to do in Cozumel

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Pressing The Easy Button: We Review Cozumel Palace Riviera Maya http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/we-review-cozumel-palace-riviera-maya/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/we-review-cozumel-palace-riviera-maya/#comments Sat, 04 Feb 2017 18:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=12917 A Review of Cozumel Palace All Inclusive Resort Mexico

Sometimes in life it’s nice to hit the easy button.

Cozumel Palace on the beautiful island of Cozumel just off Mexico’s Mayan Riviera is one such option. Close enough to town, but far enough away from the hubbub of nightlife, you can walk from Cozumel Palace to almost every major area in the area in under 15 minutes.

Check latest prices here.

We Review Cozumel Palace Riviera Maya

Situated only a few blocks from the main cruise ship docks and 10 minutes walking distance of the hourly Playa Del Carmen ferry, it makes a good base while you explore the island.

It’s smaller size means you’ll get to know the staff well and after a week they’ll be like family.

In our review, we’ll show you inside our suite, introduce you to the restaurants, pool area, activities and amenities.

Our room – the loft family suite suite

Cozumel Palace family loft suite

Our room at the Cozumel Palace was a two level loft family suite that overlooked the ocean.

The nicest part was that the kids had one level with their own queen beds, a nice bathroom, a well stocked mini fridge as well as their own flatscreen tv while we had all that except a super comfy king sized bed instead.

Did we forget to mention we also had a very large two person jetted tub right in the room complete with bubbles? Yup, we had that too and Jordan spent hours lounging in it after long days spent by the pool and exploring the island.

Cozumel Palace family suite Ocean View at Cozumel Palace Riviera Maya Review

The view from our family loft suite at the Cozumel Palace

As a matter of fact, every room at Cozumel Palace overlooks the ocean so you can’t go wrong no matter which room you stay in. They’re all clean and well equipped, but I’ll get back to that in a bit.

Cozumel Palace pool

Pool Cozumel Palace Riviera Maya

This all inclusive resort features two heated pools overlooking the ocean, docks where you can go swimming in the ocean from and lots of areas to sit on a chair and enjoy the beautiful sea. You can even throw on the included mask, snorkel and fins and do some snorkeling right in front of the resort.

Cozumel Palace beach

Ocean View at Cozumel Palace Riviera Maya

Like most places on the island, Cozumel Palace doesn’t have a real beach. There are lots of sandy areas complete with comfortable chairs and umbrellas but when you come to Cozumel, you’re mostly coming for the excellent snorkeling and diving the island offers. Of course, jumping into the ocean from one of the two docks is a great way to cool off during the day if you crave your water more salty than the pools offer.

Cozumel Palace meal plan

In terms of food, the Cozumel Palace has numerous options for a hotel its size. There are three main restaurants, as well as a snack shack and buffet restaurant for breakfast, lunch and supper. There is the Italian restaurant (Turquesa), the Oriental-inspired restaurant (Momo No Hana), and the Mexican restaurant (Bugambilias). We had the opportunity to sample all three, and the Italian restaurant ended up being our favorite.

Tiramisu Meal Plan Cozumel Palace

There were also generous amounts of dessert options that we tried on a daily basis. The black and white chocolate cake was a big hit, and the coconut and strawberry non sweetened bar was delicious. The first few days we ordered four different desserts then shared them all, however by the time we left we each had our favorite.

Restaurant menus at Cozumel Palace all inclusive resort

Restaurant menus at Cozumel Palace

One of the nicest Cozumel Palace features (at least for us) was that free room service was included in our stay. You could order food 24 hours a day and it turns out that their lunch time menu was some of the best food we enjoyed while staying at the resort.

Tasty Chocolates in our room at Cozumel Palace Riviera Maya

They also provide a nice menu card for ordering breakfast. On it you can select exactly what you want to eat for breakfast (and how many of each) and tell them when you want them to deliver it. The only catch is it needs to be completed by 3 am the night before. That said, one morning we just called into room service and got them to bring us breakfast however there weren’t as many options as the breakfast card permits.

Inside bar area at Cozumel Palace Resort

Another feature that was really nice was the in room mini bar.

Unlike most all inclusive hotels that offer you a few beverages in your room, our room came with 2 mini fridges (one up in the loft and the other on the main floor) stocked with different beers, pop and water. They refilled the fridges twice a day. Once while they cleaned our room and the other during the nightly turn down service complete with delicious chocolates for each of us.

The stocked mini fridges were nice but what sets Cozumel Palace apart from the rest is that they also provide two cabinets with four liquor decanters, each loaded with full sized bottles of premium liquors such as whiskey, rum, scotch and vodka.

When we checked in they said we can request any liquor on site and they would swap the bottles out for whatever we wanted. Awesome!

Poolside drinks Cozumel Palace Riviera Maya

We also received a nice bottle of bubbly in a bucket of ice to enjoy when we checked in so having a few drinks while staying at the resort is basically called for and they made one of the best mojitos I’ve ever had outside of Cuba.

The kids enjoyed their own special drinks while staying at Cozumel Palace as well. No matter whether we were swimming in the pool, lounging by the water or having our meal, the super friendly waiters were happy to fulfill any of our drink orders and offered some excellent suggestions for us and the kids to try out.

WiFi Internet Access

The free WiFi in the hotel was some of the best we’ve seen at a resort and working online from the comfort of the hammock on our balcony overlooking the ocean was a personal highlight during our stay there.

Children’s Program

While we there, we also put our two kids into the kid’s club one morning. The Cozumel Palace offers this service free of charge. They have a rotating schedule of activities featuring everything from painting to building sandcastles to playing in the pool to playing with the numerous gaming consoles they have for when the kids have had enough sun for the day.

The morning we went our kids were the only ones scheduled for that time and as such got to decide what they wanted to do. They opted for a little drawing and some gaming on the Wii. After having spent the entire previous day outside by the pool we didn’t mind the kids spending a few hours inside and it gave us a few hours to get some work done so it was a win-win situation for everyone.

Activities

Resort activities at Cozumel Palace

In terms of activities, there’s plenty to do at the resort itself. The pool activity team has a daily rotating list of activities they set up to keep you busy and entertained. The nice part was that compared to a lot of large resorts, the pool activity schedule wasn’t overbearing and it was easy to find quiet times just relaxing by the pool or playing ping pong.

If you wanted to partake in the more non traditional pool activities (like sitting on a donkey statue and trying to lift a bottle of tequila off the ground with a rope and loop), you can also win prizes like t-shirts and bottles of alcohol just for playing.

At night, there were also activities for those looking to interact with the other guests. From shows to bands to karaoke to a hilarious him vs her competition the staff will keep you amused as the well stocked bars keep you from getting too thirsty.

Cozumel Palace Dive Shop Aqua Safari

One of the biggest draws at Cozumel Palace is the on site dive shop, Aqua Safari. Cozumel is known as a diving mecca and there were daily excursions that left directly from the dive shop. If you opted to go with a different company, they could also pick you up and drop you off on the private dock in front of the hotel.

That’s right, whether you’re going on a diving, snorkeling or fishing trip, you can typically arrange it in Cozumel for them to pick you up and drop you off directly on the dock in front of Cozumel Palace. It’s definitely very handy not having to deal with shuttle buses and long loading times if you want to get out on the water and since Cozumel tends to attract people looking for water activities, there are a lot of tours out there revolving getting your feet wet.

Amenities

Gift shop at Cozumel Palace hotel

Aside from the pool, the spa, the kid’s club and the restaurants, Cozumel Palace has a lot of different amenities.

On site, you’ll find a gift shop, an professional photographer, a small playground outside for the kids and free snorkeling gear. There’s also a workout room and a spa called Awe Spa.

The rooms at Cozumel Palace include all the usual amenities, including a blow dryer, laundry service, a personal safe and quality toiletries provided for you. The resort also provides unlimited long distance calls so it’s easy to keep in touch with family and friends back home.

Cozumel Palace Resort Credit

Nachos We Review Cozumel Palace Riviera Maya

When we stayed, Palace resorts offered a Palace Resorts credit with every stay. The amount you received was based on the length of your stay, so stays of 5-7 nights were $1,500 in resort credit, and three night stays were $300.

You could use the resort credit on activities and excursions from the hotel, including spa experiences, day trips and diving tours.

Entrance to Spa at Cozumel Palace resort mayan riviera

Tip: You do have to pay taxes on any experience or activity you book with the resort credit and the value could be higher than similar tours so always check the tax value to make sure it’s worth using the credit!

Free access to other Palace resorts!

One of the things I really like about Palace resorts is that they offer full access to their other resorts during your stay.

Guests at Cozumel Palace can use the facilities of any of the other Palace Resorts while staying at one of their properties. Unfortunately they only have the one place on Cozumel, however a short ferry ride will get you back to the mainland and you can check out the one in Playa del Carmen or one of the five up in Cancun. Both Playa del Carmen and Cancun are easy to get to and can make a great day trip from Cozumel.

Cozumel Palace day pass

Unfortunately, Cozumel Palace isn’t offering day passes right now.  

If you’re looking for a day pass only, search the options on the resort for a day website.

Check prices on resort for a day.

Who would love this hotel?

Sunset from our Family Suite Cozumel Palace Riviera Maya

Cozumel Palace is a cozy, welcoming all inclusive resort. It sports several pools, several restaurants, and grounds that are easy to navigate, unlike some other huge all inclusives.

This would be a great resort for you if you like a relaxed, intimate stay. It will appeal to families, couples, and divers.

Want to find out more?

Check out the Cozumel Palace official website here.

You can also find Palace Resorts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Cozumel Palace is consistently one of the highest rated hotels in Cozumel. Check their reviews on TripAdvisor now and Booking.com here.

Check latest prices here.

How much does Cozumel Palace cost?

A loft suite runs about $500 per night, which includes all-inclusive food and amenities for two adults, and two children. Palace Resorts offers a Palace Resorts credit with every stay. It’s $1,500 for a 5-7 night stay, and you can use it on “spa treatments, rounds of golf, tours and other above-the-ordinary experiences.”

Be sure to watch out for specials and promotions on the Palace Hotels website.

Check latest prices here.

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What To Do In The Riviera Nayarit – 23 Reasons You’ll Love It Here http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/what-to-do-in-the-riviera-nayarit-23-reasons-youll-love-it-here/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/what-to-do-in-the-riviera-nayarit-23-reasons-youll-love-it-here/#comments Thu, 17 Nov 2016 18:00:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=12585 things to do in the Riviera Nayarit Mexico

Wondering what to do in the Riviera Nayarit? I found plenty to see and do, from outdoor activities like snorkeling and golfing, to more relaxed pursuits like shopping, spas, and checking out the charming colonial towns.

One thing that I didn’t find in the Riviera Nayarit Mexico were throngs of tourists crowding its beaches and attractions. Located just north of Puerto Vallarta on Mexico’s West Coast, the Riviera Nayrit does have plenty of visitors, but you’ll find that there’s generally a relaxed vibe, and plenty of space on the beach.

What to do in the Riviera Nayarit

The Riviera Nayarit’ sweeping swath of coastline that’s about 100 miles wide attracts nature lovers, surfers, golfers, fishermen, beach lovers, culture lovers and deep-sea fishermen. There’s plenty to see here in towns like charming Sayulita, idyllic San Pancho (San Francisco), and colonial San Blas, plus lovely resorts, and marine and bird life aplenty at the stunning Marietas Islands.

Sometimes you’ll hear the area called Nuevo Vallarta. Nuevo Vallarta is a residential area that makes up part of the Riviera Nayarit, extending only up to the lovely Marival Residences Luxury Resort.

Where to stay:  I stayed at the fantastic all-inclusive Marival Residences, where all the rooms are residential suites, ranging from 1-4 bedrooms. You can book on Booking.com, check reviews on TripAdvisor, or directly with the hotel.

Cruise to the Marietas Islands

what to do in the Riviera Nayarit Mexico Riviera Nayarit Marietas Islands snorkeling

Just a few miles offshore, the Marietas Islands are accessible by boat with Punta Mita Expeditions. If you’re lucky, you’ll see dolphins and whales on your trip.

At one time, the Mexican military used the islands for bomb targeting practice, decimating the local flora and fauna. Today, the islands are now a protected bird sanctuary, within Isla Marietas National Park, and teeming with life both above and under the water.

You can’t set foot on the island with out special permission, but you can cruise by its scenic coves and caves, and watch the teeming bird life from the comfort of your boat.

See the blue-footed boobies

what to do in the Riviera Nayarit

Blue Footed Boobies

Did you know that the Galapagos isn’t the only place you can see a blue-footed booby in the wild? I found flourishing colonies of them on the rocky shoreline of the Marietas Islands.

Visit Hidden Beach

Hidden Beach (also called Playa del Amor or Lover’s Beach) on the Marietas Islands is only accessible with special permission. Unfortunately you can’t access the beach during high tide, which was when we visited. I’m putting this on the bucket list for my next visit!

Snorkel the Marietas Islands

One of the best ways to see the islands are to snorkel by their caves, arches and hidden beaches. I was greeted by stunning views as I snorkeled through arches and past caves, watching tropical fish swim by in the clear, aquamarine water. Take a look at the video above, which gives you an idea of how beautiful this area really is.

Paddleboard

what to do in the Riviera Nayarit Marietas Islands Punta Mita Expeditions Paddleboarding

After snorkeling, we went over to the protected side of the islands to try our luck at paddle boarding. I was nursing a sore foot, so I didn’t do much more than sit down and paddle, but it was a lot of fun to get out on the clear water.

Visit Sayulita

A bustling surf town, but with a relaxed vibe where tourists mingle with locals, Sayulita is home to great restaurants, picturesque beaches, and plenty of local charm. I was only here for an afternoon, but I found plenty to do, and I’d love to come back again.

Try a tequila or wine tasting

Sampling Tequila at the Sayulita Wine Shop Mexico what to do in the Riviera Nayarit

Walking into the Sayulita Wine Shop, I was greeted by the friendly owner, who sported the perfect handlebar mustache. I ended up staying for an informative, helpful tasting of tequila and agave. I may just end up enjoying tequila yet.

Eat right on the beach

Mexico Riviera Nayarit Sayulita beach beside Don Pedros restaurant

With the perfect location right on Sayulita Beach, Don Pedro’s serves up tasty Mexican fare, and ice-cold drinks. This is the place to see and be seen.

Tip: If you’re a veggie lover like me, Don Pedro’s makes a delicious grilled artichoke. If you’re a seafood lover, my table mates were raving about the delicious shrimp tacos.

You also can’t go wrong with a taco snack at the informal and inexpensive Pedrito’s, or at one of the dozens of other highly-rated restaurants around town.

Check out the eclectic local stores

works from a local artisan at Revolucion del Sueno Sayulita what to do in the Riviera Nayarit

At Revolucion del Sueno

There’s a strong commitment to local artisans and sustainable practices in Sayulita, and it shows in the local shopping experience. There’s a fantastic Mercado del Pueblo (Farmer’s Market) brimming with locally sourced food and works by local artisans, and the streets of the town are peppered with unique shops.

Surf

Sayulita Mexico beach sufer kids in sand what to do in the Riviera Nayarit

I didn’t have time for a surfing lesson in Sayulita, but the waves looked like a lot of fun for a lesson. Next time I’ll be sure to catch some surf! If you’re a little more adventurous, there’s also windsurfing and kite surfing.

Spend some time on the beach 

The main beach in Sayulita is long, curved, and perfect for a quick dip in the ocean, paddle boarding, or just lounging in the sun. If you have time, take a walk to Playa los Muertos, which is a little bit quieter.

San Pancho (San Francisco)

San Pancho lifeguard tower what to do in the Riviera Nayarit Mexico

Just down the road from Sayulita, the town of San Pancho (San Francisco in English)  is the kind of place you could while away a lifetime, just lazing on the beach, reading a good book, and eating at the little restaurants in town.

Hang out on the beach

Beach and woman on sun lounger San Pancho Mexico Riviera Nayarit

San Pancho’s idyllic vibe and quiet beach make it perfect for watching sunsets. The waters here have a stronger undertow than in Sayulita, meaning few water sports, so activities in town tend to be a little more relaxed.

Yoga

In keeping with San Pancho’s chilled vibe, yoga is big here with studios like El Estar and Yoga San Pancho.

Enjoy the local culture

The mural of Saint Francis in the centre of San Pancho made of thousands of bottle caps in San Pancho Riviera Nayarit

The mural of Saint Francis made of thousands of bottle caps

You can find excellent art galleries like Artesanias Silvia’s with Huichol handicrafts made by locals, and even interesting sculptures and street art in San Pancho.

Do some good at Entreamegos 

EntreAmigos San Pancho Mexico Riviera Nayarit

Entreamigos is a community-based organization that aims to help children and families learn through educational programs. They offer scholarships, a free public bilingual lending library, a recycling center, after-school tutoring, and even a shop that features the work of San Pancho artisans, plus a thrift store.

When I visited, Entreamigos was bustling with children and families.

It’s a non-profit community development organization that relies on volunteers and donations to survive. You can find out more about volunteering at Entreamigos here or donate online.

Sea turtle rescue and nesting programs

Hands on at the Isla Mujeres Turtle Farm

Turtle hatchling at Isla Mujeres

We’ve been lucky enough to swim with sea turtles, and even see a Leatherback laying her eggs by moonlight in Costa Rica. Just outside San Pancho, a non-profit group operates sea turtle rescue and turtle nesting programs, protecting Olive Ridley and Leatherback Turtle eggs.  I was sad I didn’t have time to visit this trip, but I’m impressed with the results. In the last  20 years, the sea turtle population has increased from 200 to 1,170 nests.

Live music at night

San Pancho may be relaxed and serene, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do in the evenings. There’s always some sort of live music in the evenings at local restaurants.

Relax and Enjoy

After the business of exploring Sayulita, Marietas Islands, and San Pancho, I enjoyed taking some time enjoy the beach, some great food, even a spa experience. The Riviera Nayarit definitely has some fantastic ways to unwind.

Pool time!

Marival Luxury Resort and Residences Swimming Pool

My favorite pool time was spent floating in the crystal clear, relaxing pool at the gorgeous all-inclusive Marival Residences.

Massage

Melange World Spa India Shirodhara Experience

I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon at Melange World Spa, with specialized massages from around the world. You can have a World Spa Experience from Mexico, Italy, Japan, Turkey, Russia, Bali, India, Thailand, or the USA.

I had the Mexico Agave treatment, with a facial and body wrap with the native agave plant, cacao, honey, aloe vera, and mayan mud, a facial and body exfoliation, and a light body massage. Heaven.

The Italy Vendimia Wine Experience starts with a wine therapy bath in an original wooden barrel, where you enjoy a wine tasting, followed by a full body relaxing massage.

Spend a day at a VIP beach

Marival Residences Luxury Resort VIP Beach Club View

With so many great beaches in the Riviera Nayarit, you’ll have a lot of choices for where to relax.

I spent my time at the VIP Beach Club at Marival Residences Luxury Resort. It’s exclusive to guests of the resort, and offers plenty of loungers and sun beds, and personalized service to bring drinks and food to your beach chair.

Golf

I’m not a huge golfer, but I heard from several other travelers that the Riviera Maya has some fantastic courses. They include the Vista Vallarta Golf Course (home of the EMC World Cup in 2002 and the 2006 PGA Seniors Tours), Tom Weiskopf Golf course and Jack Nicklaus.

More things to do in the Riviera Nayarit

If you’re looking for more activities in Riviera Nayarit, check out the Riviera Nayarit tourism board’s helpful website. Local towns like San Blas, La Penita, Lo de Marcos, Punta de Mita, Bucerias,  San Sebastian del Oeste and Talpa are well worth a visit.

Riviera Nayarit Essentials

Location: half-hour drive from downtown Puerto Vallarta

Nearest Airport: PVR, Puerto Vallarta

Reviews: TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Where to stay:  I stayed at the fantastic all-inclusive Marival Residences, where all the rooms are residential suites, ranging from 1-4 bedrooms. You can book on Booking.com, check reviews on TripAdvisor, or directly with the hotel.

Average beer price: 20 to 40 pesos ($1-2 USD) for Corona in a restaurant or bar

Trip in partnership with Marival Residences Luxury Resort and Riviera Nayarit tourism board.

What To Do In The Riviera Nayarit Mexico

 

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The Marival Residences Luxury Resort Review: Home Away from Home http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/home-away-from-home-at-the-marival-residences-luxury-resort/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/home-away-from-home-at-the-marival-residences-luxury-resort/#comments Tue, 01 Nov 2016 19:30:00 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=12408 First view off my balcony at Marival Residences Luxury Resort

View from my balcony

I feel like I’m leaving old friends.

I’ve slept at the Marival Residences Luxury Resort for only four nights, but it feels like a second home. Maybe it was the friendly smiles, the relaxed vibe, my enormous suite, the pools, or even the long, expansive swath of sand and sea. Maybe it was everything.

Tip! Want to check prices and availability? You can book on the Marival Residences website, where they often have exclusive deals, or check reviews on TripAdvisor.

Sigh… When can I come back?

Jose Luis Marival Residences

Jose Luis, my friendly and helpful concierge

But let’s go back to the beginning, when I first arrived from Canada, weary from my flight …

“Welcome!” I stepped out of the taxi and smiled at the cheerful bellboys. From the instant I arrived there was one constant: gracious, attentive, friendly, service. It’s the difference between an ordinary stay and feeling like you’ve come home.

About the resort

Marival Residences Luxury Resort is a four star diamond all-inclusive luxury resort, with spacious one to four bedroom residences, unlimited gourmet dining, free tours, golf, and a VP beach club.

It’s located is in the heart of Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit. Riviera Nayarit is a 200-mile stretch along Mexico’s Pacific coast, packed with lovely beach towns, colonial history, and what seems like an endless swath of beach.

Want to learn more? Check out our article on what do do in the Riviera Nayarit, with 23 wonderful experiences, from visiting the bustling surfing town of Sayuilta, to checking out the idyllic vibe of San Pancho, to snorkeling the aquamarine waters of Marietas Islands (where you can see birds like blue-footed boobies of Galapagos Islands fame).

My stay at the Marival Residences Luxury Resort

Living and dining area in my two bedroom suite at the Marival Residences Luxury Resort

My first impression of my room was that it felt like I’d arrived home. Well, at an impeccably stylish and modern home.

You won’t find a typical hotel room here. At Marival Residences Luxury Resort, all accommodation is in residential-style suites. All rooms have spacious terraces with garden, pool, or ocean views. Bedrooms have flat-screen TVs with premium satellite channels (not that I had much time to watch TV; I was too busy playing in the pools and eating at the restaurants).

There’s free WiFi Internet access throughout the hotel. I had great luck with my connection, which rarely dropped, and worked reliably in my room and all throughout the resort.

Marival Residences Residences and Luxury Resort Kitchen in two bedroom suite

My suite had a full kitchen and dining area with all the comfort of home, including a washer and dryer. The fridge was stocked with water, soft drinks and beer. The bathroom featured a rain shower, double sinks, a deep soaker tub, and high-end L’Occitane toiletries.

Did I mention the bathrobes, pillow menu and personalized turn-down service?

Master bedroom with a view Marival Residences Luxury Resort

During my stay, one of my favorite things to do was to sit on my spacious private balcony, and watch the sun dip into the Pacific Ocean.

Sunset view from the fifth floor overlooking the ocean at the Marival Residences Luxury Resort

This is the lush tropical forest view from the back of the resort, facing away from the ocean. I loved this, especially since it meant that the resort is quiet and free of noise from passing cars.

Lush tropical forest view from the back of the Marival Residences Luxury Resort

What you’ll get with the all-inclusive package

The all-inclusive includes accommodation, gourmet meals, snacks and beverages in restaurants and bars (scroll down for details about restaurants and food). Entertainment, sports and tours are also included.

Alcohol was a cut above most all inclusive resorts, with national and international brands available, and tasty cocktails and wine.

You also have complete access to the facilities and restaurants at Marival Resort & Suites sister property, which is a short three minute ride away.

There’s too much to list that’s included with the all-inclusive package, including nanny services. You can find more details here.

Tours and sports

Marietas Islands blue water view from boat with Punta Mita Expeditions

Marietas Islands

Each guest gets one FREE tour per person, per stay, arranged through your concierge. Tours include a world-class catamaran boat ride, a canopy river tour, and a city tour of Puerto Vallarta, plus more.

There’s a tennis court on site, with free lessons available.

Pools and jacuzzis

Marival Luxury Resort and Residences Swimming Pool

The adults-only pool is the perfect place to grab a quiet dip, while the family pool is perfect for families.

There’s full food and drink service by the pool, making it a fantastic place to spend the afternoon.

A special thanks to Felix, who took such great care to all of us poolside!

In a quiet corner, and easy to miss, I found one of my favorite spots to relax in the evening: the Jacuzzi.

Marival Luxury Resort and Residences Jacuzzi

The all-inclusive package also lets you access pools at Marival Resort and Suites sister property.

VIP Beach Club 

Before I arrived, I was a little concerned that the resort wasn’t directly on the ocean. I’m a huge water lover, and I was worried I’d miss being oceanfront.

Turns out, that wasn’t a problem. Getting to the VIP beach club, which is exclusively for guests of Marival Residences, was just a three minute shuttle.

I took the shuttle five or six times, and there was a driver waiting at the door each time.

Marival Residences Luxury Resort VIP Beach Club View

The Beach Club is on a long, sweeping expanse of sand, with plenty of lounge chairs and sun beds. There were moist towels, cool water and a fruit drink at the front entrance, with personalized service to bring drinks and food to your beach chair.

Marival Residences Luxury Resort VIP Beach Club View

Golf

If you’re a golf fan, you get a special green fee deal at these three courses.

  • Vista Vallarta Golf Course, home of the EMC World Cup in 2002, and the 2006 PGA Seniors Tours at Puerto Vallarta
  • Tom Weiskopf Golf course
  • Jack Nicklaus

You pay an access fee of $69 USD, meaning a savings of up to $135 USD off the regular price.

Wedding

I think this is a fabulous deal for those thinking of a destination wedding. When you stay with the Marival Residences Luxury Resort all-inclusive plan, you get a $2,000 USD wedding package included at no cost.

Family amenities

Mexican show entertainment at the sister resort Marival Resort and Suites

It was just me on this trip, so I didn’t get a chance to try out the children’s amenities. There’s quite a lot for the kiddos here, including a nanny service, an on-site playground, kid’s splash area, family pool and kid-friendly restaurant menus, and extensive entertainment options at the sister resort.

I was really excited to see the Family Emotion package, which has to be, hands-down, the most appealing family package I’ve seen at any resort. Since I was there by myself, I didn’t get a chance to try it, but know my family would love it!

Family Emotion program

The all-Inclusive Family Emotion program is an optional program geared just for families. It includes a lot of goodies, all which are customized specially for your family’s needs.

  • exclusive family concierge
  • welcome basket of healthy and sweet snacks
  • bundle of beach and pool toys, and other vacation essentials
  • a FREE activity for every person, PLUS a free second family tour
  • a basket of bath and beyond pampering essentials for Mom
  • a spa saver discount
  • family picnic
  • specialized family concierge service
  • entertainment items, including Xbox consoles and games, DVD players, movies, electronics, land games, water toys and more
  • a professional photo shoot, with a photo album and CD, plus a gift card to develop prints when you’re at home

Melange World Spa

Italy Spa at Melange World Spa Marival Luxury Resort and Residences

Italy Vendimia Wine Experience

Any great resort needs a world-class spa, right? Well, the Melange World Spa at Marival Residences Luxury Resort definitely fits that description. Melange offers specialized therapies from around the world based on the origin and traditions of spa history.

At Melange, you can enjoy a specialized World Spa Experience from Mexico, Italy, Japan, Turkey, Russia, Bali, India, Thailand, or the USA. Each spa is unique, and based on the spa history and culture for which it’s named.

The Italy Vendimia Wine Experience starts with a wine therapy bath in an original wooden barrel, where you enjoy a wine tasting, followed by a full body relaxing massage.

The India Shirodhara Spa Experience includes a Shirodhara treatment with herbal oil that is poured in a steady stream onto your third eye, and a gentle scalp massage to help relax the nervous system. All of this is done on a traditional wooden table (with padding to make it comfortable!) imported from India. Following the oil treatment, there’s an Abhyanga therapy whole body massage with warm herbal oils, followed by a steaming hot water bath in a luxurious copper tub.

Melange World Spa India Shirodhara Experience

India Shirodhara Spa Experience

Each of the other massages are uniquely customized to the area of the world where it originated. The Mexico Agave treatment (which I was lucky to enjoy) featured a facial and body wrap with the native agave plant, cacao, honey, aloe vera, and mayan mud, with a facial and body exfoliation and a light body massage. There’s also a specialized couples massage, or a men’s wellness & renewal treatment.

Melange World Spa Couples Massage room.jpg

Couples Massage

Melange also offers traditional spa treatments, including facials and hand and foot treatments.

Wine tasting

I had the pleasure of enjoying a private wine tasting at Brunello Lobby Wine Bar, which is something new at the Marival Residences Luxury Resort. It was definitely the perfect evening after a tough afternoon at the spa.

My wine tasting featured Mexican wines, produced in Casa Madero Cellars. Casa Madero is a five century old winery (established in 1597), which is considered the oldest in North America).

I’m lucky enough to live in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada, which is one of world’s best wine regions to visit. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many of our local, award-winning wineries, and I was impressed with the quality of many of the Casa Madero wines.

Private Wine Tasting at Brunello Lobby Wine Bar.jpgPairing menu:

  • Casa Madero Chardonay 2015, elaborates with organic grapes – Brie cheese toast with xoconostle jam
  • Casa Madero Cabernet Sauvignon Pink V – Zarandeado shrimp toast with local organic tomatillos
  • Casa Madero 3V 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo – Sliced tuna scented with regional chili
  • Casa Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 – Slow-cooked duck sope (fried corn dough) with avocado sauce
  • Casa Madero Shiraz 2011 – Chicken taco with pineapple and chocolate mole

I’m vegetarian, and Chef Alfredo and Brunello also provided delicious vegetarian options for the pairing menu for me.

The wine tasting experience is not included in the all-inclusive plan.

Food and Drink

It’s almost a winter tradition for Canadians like me to visit an all-inclusive hotel in Mexico. Usually, an all-inclusive offers a fun break from the cold, but typical all-inclusive buffets leave a fair bit lacking in terms of food taste and quality.

That’s definitely not the case at the Marival Residences Luxury Resort, where the food is gourmet, fresh, and delicious.

The all inclusive program includes all snacks, breakfast, lunch, drinks and a la carte dinner specialties, plus national and international brand drinks.

There are four a la carte gourmet restaurants on site, plus six restaurants at the sister resort, Marival Resort & Suites.

All of the restaurants at Marival Residences Luxury Resort operate under the keen eye of Executive Chef Alfredo Jimenez, who has worked with Marival for over fifteen years.

As a vegetarian, I loved Marival’s generous selection of healthy vegetarian options. There are choices for many different tastes and dietary needs – even gluten free!

Vegetarian tapas at Marival Residences

Vegetarian tapas

Insu Sky Lounge

Located in the penthouse of the Marival Residences Luxury Resort, Insu’s impressive views looking over the Pacific Ocean are the first thing I noticed. The restaurant also has an infinity pool, and posh modern decor.

Menu items include roasted duck spring roll with Hoisin sauce, gratin spicy lobster sushi roll, grilled lamb chop with mint jelly, fois gras with brioche toast and candied shallots, and mini crab cake with preserved lemon aioli.
Table setting Insu Sky Lounge Marival Luxury Resort and Residences
Omaggio

Omaggio is the hotel’s largest restaurant, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner. I found the menu to be huge, with a great selection.

Breakfast at Omaggio Restaurant Marival Residences
Lemmon Grass

Located outdoors, Lemmon Grass is a casual, elegant chalkboard restaurant. It offers a great selection of simple and delicious cuisine.

Menu items include salmon burger and caramelized pecans, spicy tuna tartar, watermelon gazpacho, and crispy calamari rings.

Lemmon Grass Restaurant Marival Residences
Grill al Fresco

Located outdoors, Grill al Fresco is open two times a day, with a wide variety of dishes for breakfast, including Mexican delights, omelette station, selection of fruits, juice and pastries. At night Grill al Fresco transforms into a barbecue, with NY steak, fillet, pork, catch of the day or chicken off the grill.

Brunello Lobby Wine Bar

Brunello Lobby Wine Bar is the perfect place for wine lovers to relax and enjoy a glass along with Montaditos tapas.

There are wines from around the globe, as well as excellent Mexican wines to enjoy.

Pairings include Mexican duck confit and avocado sauce bites, Pernod-scented shrimp and rose sauce bites, Brie, and Xoconoxtle jam, Sesame crusted Ahi Tuna and  Crispy wonton.

Some wines are not included in the all-inclusive plan.

Beach Club

Marival Residences tasty panini and strawberry daquiri

Delicious vegetarian sandwich

If you’re in the mood for sun and sand, you can also get tasty guacamole and chips, fresh seafood and gourmet dishes and beverages at the VIP Beach Club. It’s located a short three minute ride at the sister property, and exclusive to guests of Marival Residences Luxury Resort.

Room Service

Room service from the extensive room service menu was probably my favorite indulgence at Marival Residences Luxury Resort. Room service operates 24 hours a day (with an additional 10% charge on your total bill).

The bottom line

Like many Canadians, I’ve visited Mexico many times, and I’ve even been to many all-inclusive resorts. By far, the Marival Residences Luxury Resort was the best I’ve ever stayed in. It’s a four diamond property, with service and amenities that match, but manages laid-back luxury without being pretentious.

Above all, it’s the great service and personalized attention from friendly, attentive staff that will make you want to come back.

Marival Luxury Resort and Residences

a friendly goodbye…

You need to know:

Hotel: Marival Residences Luxury Resort

Where to book? You can book on Booking.com, check reviews on TripAdvisor, or directly with the hotel.

Reviews: TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence

Address: Av. Paseo Cocoteros Lt 53 Villa 8, 63732 Nuevo Vallarta, Nay., Mexico

Location: half-hour drive from downtown Puerto Vallarta

Nearest Airport: PVR, Puerto Vallarta

Phone: +52 322 226 9740

Trip in partnership with Marival Residences Luxury Resort and Riviera Nayarit tourism board.

Marival Residences Luxury Resort Riviera Nayarit Nuevo Vallarta Mexico

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Day Trip to Colima and Comala, Mexico http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/day-trip-to-colima-and-comala-mexico/ http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/mexico/day-trip-to-colima-and-comala-mexico/#comments Fri, 12 Feb 2016 00:53:50 +0000 http://www.thebarefootnomad.com/?p=10884 Right before the holidays, I had the opportunity to travel to Manzanillo, Mexico with my sister. We both had a great time learning about the area and sampling everything from amazing Mexican food to driving up a mountain on an ATV. You can read my first post about things to do in Manzanillo here.

On our second day in Manzanillo, we were whisked off to Colima and Comala to check out what both places had to offer.

The city of Colima

Colima, the capital city of Colima State, is a clean, thriving city with an eye on the future. Driving down its paved boulevards gives you a good sense of an economically rich Mexico and the city boasts the best upscale shopping in the state.

Colima is also home to the University of Colima that’s equally popular with locals, exchange students and visitors learning Spanish. As a result, the residents of this small Mexican city are some of the most educated in Mexico.

People and cars on the clean streets of Colima

Streets of Colima

Due to the large abundance of agriculture surrounding the city, and the close proximity to Mexico’s largest commercial port in Manzanillo, Colima is thriving. With the future expansion of more highways and train lines running to Manzanillo, Guadalajara and even Mexico City, the city is poised to double its population of 130,000 in the next decade.

Unlike its smaller neighbor, Comala, Colima City isn’t known as much for its historical district as it is for shopping and good standard of living. In fact, Colima City even ranks as one of the best small cities to live in Latin America.

Cathedral Bell Towers

Colima Cathedral Bell Towers

If you crave a little old world charm in a modern city, there’s nearly always something happening in the old city square of Jardín Libertad (Liberty Garden), and though the adjacent Colima cathedral, the Basilica Menor, has been rebuilt many times since its 1894 construction, its neoclassical design is still beautiful to see.

Front of Cathedral Basilica Menor in Colima, Mexico

Cathedral Basilica Menor

Next to the Colima cathedral is the former state government palace. The two story building is currently undergoing renovations, however the inner courtyard, with its stone arches, is a good example of French Neoclassical design and the main interior stairwell includes huge floor to ceiling murals by Coliman artist, Jorge Chávez Carrillo, representing Mexican independence.

Mexican Independence mural by Jorge Chávez Carrillo in Colima Government building.

Staircase Mural by Jorge Chávez Carrillo

The city’s oldest and most-renowned hotel, the Hotel Ceballos, just off Jardin Libertad, is equally beautiful with its arching columns and colonial charm. Walking under its arches. you can grab an ice cream while watching the world go by. or take in some of the best shopping in the city only a block away.

Hotel Ceballos

Hotel Ceballos

Across from Hotel Ceballos is the Museo Regional de Historia, the regional museum of Colima. It features a self- guided tour that tells you everything you’d want to know about Colima and its people.

The nicest part about our time in Colima was the fact that the streets weren’t teeming with tourists, so walking around gave you a good sense of the local people going about their regular lives without pandering to tourism.

For a good view of what a clean, thriving, smaller, non-touristy Mexican city looks like, I can’t think of a better example than Colima.

The town of Comala

Only a few kilometers away from Colima, but a million miles in terms of vibe, Comala is a great example of old world Mexico.

With its whitewashed buildings and river rock streets, driving into Comala is like stepping back in time a few hundred years. Every building in town is painted white and small, and one-way streets crisscross the entire town.

White walled buildings of Comala

White walled buildings of Comala

It’s definitely an interesting place to check out, with colorful doors offsetting the whiteness of its walls and red tiles covering each roof. Because of this, the central plaza seems like a bounty of color and it’s easy see how people fall in love with this small town.

The ever-popular Don Comalon restaurant, right next to the main plaza of Benito Juarez is popular with locals and tourists alike and it’s easy to see why. They offer a great selection of appetizers, called botanas, that include empanadas, taquitos, ceviche tostados and chili relenos as well as a few others that come free with your ice cold cervezas and margaritas. Trust me, you’ll walk away both full and extremely satisfied and was one of the highlights of the tour.

Drinks and taquitos at Don Comalon Restaurant

Drinks and taquitos at Don Comalon Restaurant

Most tours to Colima and Comala include a stop at Don Comalon, so if you’re driving yourself it might be a good idea to go earlier or later to avoid the small crowds.

From Don Comalon, you can check out the main square and cathedral before taking a short stroll around town. If you have a few spare minutes, definitely check out the local panaderia (bakery) and pick up some fresh local bread or buns to take on the road with you.

Comala Cathedral

Comala Cathedral

You can also sample some of the locally produced ponche a few doors down from the main bakery. Similar in some ways to tequila but with less alcohol content, it comes in a variety of flavors (14 at last count) and is unique to Comala. Some flavors are better than others though so make sure you try some before filling your bags with it.

Colima Volcano

If you love volcanoes, both Colima and Comala have great views of the Colima Volcanic Complex in the distance. In truth, there are actually three volcanoes that exist in here. There’s Nevado de Colima on the north, Colima Volcano (Volcan de Colima) on the south, and the eroded and extinct El Cantaro that sits between them.

Most visitors will only see the younger, cone shaped Colima Volcano from Colima and Comala, however both it and Nevado de Colima can be seen from a distance.

Colima Volcano near Zone Magica

Colima Volcano near Zone Magica

To make matters a little more exciting, the Colima Volcano is once again active. There have been numerous eruptions over the past few decades, and on most days plumes of smoke can be seen rising in the distance. In fact, this volcano is currently the most active in Mexico and one of the most active in all of Central America.

Just a little past Colima on the way to the volcano, you can drive over the Zone Magica where gravity seems to be defied, and both cars and water appear to flow uphill. Due to the claimed magnetic properties of underground lava, things will roll forward even when it appears they’re going uphill. Is it a hoax? Is it unexplainable science? Check it out for yourself on a tour of Colima and Comala.

Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo University Museum at Nogueras Hacienda

Just outside of Comala is the Nogueras Hacienda, the former 17th century home of local Mexican famed artist Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo. Hidalgo was best known for his popular UNICEF cards based on his paintings back in the 50s and 60s, as well as the furniture he created. Some of the more popular UNICEF series’ he created were Christmas through the Ages and Angels of this World.

Hidalgo's Nogueras Hacienda

Hidalgo’s Nogueras Hacienda

Walking through the now converted museum that was donated to the University of Colima upon his death, you can’t help but be amazed at the painstaking process by which Hidalgo created the majority of his paintings. Instead of the traditional painting stroke, Hidalgo was famous for laboriously dabbing each area of the canvas. It’s probably why his paintings resemble modern computer drawings more than traditional paintings of his time.

Hidalgo Painting

Hidalgo Painting

Aside from being a world famous painter and furniture crafter, Rangel Hidalgo was also a curator of local pre Columbian artifacts. Some of the local pottery he collected goes back as far as 500-600 BCE. His paintings, furniture and pre-Columbian artifacts can be seen at Nogueras Hacienda for a small fee. Unfortunately, cameras aren’t allowed in the building.

How to get there

From Manzanillo: Colima is just over an hour from Manzanillo proper and Comala is just a few kilometers past Colima. It makes a great day trip from Manzanillo and the highway to Manzanillo is fast and new. If you don’t want to rent a car and check them out yourselves, there are several tour companies in Manzanillo that do day trips to both places. Be advised that a portion of the highway charges a toll, however it’s reasonable considering the quality of the road. We stayed at the Las Hadas by Brisas resort in nearby Manzanillo.

From Guadalajara: Colima is just under three hours from Guadalajara by car down a gorgeous four lane highway. Be advised, the highway has toll charges for all vehicles, so if you’re arriving via your own vehicle, you’ll need to pay, however the fees are reasonable.

Special thanks to Alfonso Olivares Rojas of Tlaloc Tours for a great day of touring and for sharing your vast knowledge of the area and people. You made it a great day!

Want to learn more?

Mexico’s official tourism website, VisitMexico, has some helpful information on visiting Manzanillo and art and culture in Colima, specifically. You can find VisitMexico on FacebookTwitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

 

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