It’s official.. I am a Grinch

I still remember my very first christmas here in Mexico, it was pretty significant as it was my first christmas away from home and away from my family and I have to admit that it didn’t really bother me. I spent the entire day on the beach lapping up the free cocktails and soaking up every ray of sunshine that I could… Those were the days…

I have to admit though that as the years have gone by (this year will be my 8th christmas away from home) Christmas has started to feel less and less festive. Maybe because I grew up celebrating christmas with the huge tree and the ENORMOUS pile of presents all delicately wrapped and placed under the tree while I was sleeping, maybe because I am used to spending Christmas day in my (almost always new) pijamas, crashed out in from of the TV stuffing my face with all the Christmas chocolates that my grandmother insisted on buying or maybe it’s just because I can’t get my head around celebrating away from my family.

When you tell people you will be spending Christmas in the Caribbean you always lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and the oh-so-common ‘you’re so lucky’ but I am really lucky? Would you honestly give up spending the festive period with your family and loved ones for a few rays of sunshine?

I have to admit that last year my boyfriend did attempt to snap me out of my full on grinch mode by making me put up a tree, cue lots of complaining on my behalf about how it was a waste of time and that the dogs were going to eat it BUT it was there and it did add a certain amount of festivity to the house and made for very pretty christmas photos; well it did until the dogs made it come crashing down on Christmas day!

My tree in all it's glory!

My tree in all it’s glory!

The custom Xmas photo

So as we approach the festive month of the year, I’ll be putting on that HUGE festive smile that I have to wear at work and wishing everyone Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas on the beach whilst secretly wishing that I was on a plane flying home to the arctic temperatures of London to spend Christmas with my family!

S is for Sian Ka’an

Sian Ka’an is a mayan phrase which translated literally means “Where the sky is born” It is a lush tropical heaven placed right between a huge lagoon and the Caribbean Ocean and home to thousands of different species of plants and wildlife. It became a designated Biosphere Reserve in 1986 and just a year later was declared a World Heritage Site. It is by far the largest protected area in the Mexican Caribbean.

After reading my Q blog post, most of you will now know that I have my moments of craziness when I want to go and explore places and well, Sian Ka’an was my destination of choice one sunday morning. Well not so much Sian Ka’an but the small fishing village of Punta Allen which is located right in the centre of the biosphere itself. So early one sunday we loaded up the car, my boyfriend jumped in the driver’s seat and we were off.

From the town of Playa Del Carmen where I live, it only actually takes around an hour to get to the main archway where Sian Ka’an actually starts however you have to go much further in to that area to really discover and appreciate just how beautiful it actually is. As always, my adventures have both their positive moments and their… hmm.. lets just say.. not so positive moments. Unfortunately the entire way to Punta Allen was one those ‘not so positive’ moments however I’ll get to that in a minute.

The road from hell… (although it doesn’t look too bad here)

There is a minimal fee to get in to the biosphere of Sian Ka’an, around $3usd, and all the money goes towards to the preservation of the area itself. HUGE shame that they don’t use some of that money to pave the road that snakes through the area itself. Never have I been happier to own a 4×4, there is no way a regular car would have survived the journey. So, we paid the little man at the entrance and as I have the weakest bladder in the world (probably too much info there however it is fundamental to this story) I figured it would be a great idea to use the toilet there before we set off into the unknown BUT the toilets where out of order so that put an end to that super idea of mine.

Not quite sure why I was imitating a penguin?!?!

The path itself through Sian Ka’an is a NIGHTMARE. It is a dirt track full, and I mean full, of huge holes. Due to the bad state of the road it means you can’t drive higher than 2nd gear and never go faster than abaout 10mph at the most. After about 30minutes of driving, as predicted, I needed to use the bathroom. In all fairness the huge can of red bull that I had drunk prior to leaving probably didn’t help but hindsight is a wonderful thing. So, there we were in the middle of nowhere and obviously not a bathroom in sight however we did come across a sign that said there was a tourism center just a little further up the road which of course had to have a bathroom so that becamse our next destination. Literally 90 minutes later and we had still not arrived at the tourism center and by this time I was in desperate need of a bathroom. I don’t know who was suffering more, my bladder or my boyfriend who had to listen to my constant complaining about the lack of bathroom facilities in the middle of the jungle. Well to cut a long story short is was another 30 minutes before we finally came across the tourism center. Just to recap, it took us 2 HOURS to travel the ‘short distance’ (and that’s a direct quote from the sign itself). The tourism center was a huge 3 story building with a wooden viewing tower sticking out the top but at the moment in time my biggest concern was finding the ladies room AND wouldn’t you know it, it was locked, with a huge great padlock. Turns of the tourism center had been abandoned for months, and that there is a classic example of how my luck goes. We decided to make the most of our time there at the tourism center and explore, it was pretty cool however kinda spooky at the same time. It literally looked like the people that ran the place left in a hurry, there were still cups of coffee on the side and an open newspaper on the table and LOTS of spider’s webs everywhere. It was a bit like the haunted houses you see in horror movies. The view from the wooden tower was amazing, you could see the lagoon and the Ocean and miles upon miles of lush greenery.

The wooden viewing tower

To sum up the bathroom side of this story, lets just say, I had to man up and make my way into the jungle to do my business. Being the girly girl that I am, that didn’t go down to well with me but you know a girls gotta go what a girls gotta do.

The lagoon at Sian Ka’an

2 hours later we finally arrived at Punta Allen, by this time we had been on the road for almost 5 hours and we were absolutely dead tired. Punta Allen itself is very pretty, its a quaint little fishing town right on the beach. The kinda town where everybody knows everybody. It is so remote that they have no phones and definitely no cell phones, everyone has to make their way to the little minimart right in the centre of the town where they have a satellite phone that people can use to make and receive calls. We only actually stayed in Punta Allen about 90 minutes which was more than enough time to look around the entire town and have lunch right on the beach. The beach itself is pretty but nothing really extra ordinary, definitely not worth travelling 5 hours for. There are much nicer beaches much closer to home!

Birdlife at Punta Allen

Punta Allen

On the way back we found an abandoned dock by the lagoon side of the road and we just happened to be there as the sun was setting. It has to got to be one of the most beautiful sites I have ever seen. It was one of those moments that really takes your breath away and you know that no matter how many photos you take, you will never be able to capture the true beauty of what you are seeing.

Sunset in Sian Ka’an

By the time we got home it was late, we were both exhausted but the day had been worth it! There are some great excursions available in this region that take you to the biosphere and the lagoon and I think it’s safe to say that when I do decide to go back I’ll definitely be taking one of those rather than subjecting my car to that journey once again! Oh, and I’ll definitely use the bathroom before we leave!

B is for Beach

Day two and the letter B.. living in this caribbean paradise the first word that sprung to mind was Beach. The Riviera Maya coastline stretches from the north end of Cancun all the way south to Tulum. I have to admit that even though I live here I definitley don’t go to the beach as often as I should. However, everytime I do go to the beach I always think to myself  ‘I really should come more often’.

The white sand and cristaline waters of the Caribbean are what makes this part of Mexico so popular and there are tons of beaches that are ‘hidden’ away from the tourists and are no where near as populated as the beach clubs you’ll find in the centre of town. That being said the beach clubs offer a great atmosphere if you’re going to spend the day drinking and listening to dance music in the sun. They also host some of the best concerts around.

Mamitas Beach Club – Playa Del Carmen

Playa Esmeralda is also located right in the center of Playa Del Carmen however it tends to be much more popular with locals rather than with tourists due to its location. It offers none of the facilities that the beach clubs offer however it is still a great place to go and soak up some sun. Sunday is day to give it a miss though as you’ll find that 90% of the locals spend their day there and it is impossible to find a spot to lay down your towel.

Playa Esmeralda

If I had to narrow it down to my top 3 beaches in the Riviera Maya it would have to be following:

  1. XpuHa – Without a doubt one of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen. The white sand stretches, undisturbed, for miles and the water is the most amazing shade of blue. It is definitely one of the places that is a must do during any visit to the Riviera Maya.

    XpuHa

  2. Tulum – The perfect mix of culture and beauty. The mayan ruins of Tulum are situated right on the beach itself and the views are phenomenal. Just a short drive south of the ruins and you arrive to Playa Paraiso which is absolutely stunning. You can rent a cabaña right on the water front and it makes the perfect weekend getaway!

    Playa Paraiso

  3. Akumal – The advantage of Akumal is really the colour and clarity of the ocean not to mention the soft white sand. If you have the chance to visit Akumal don’t forget to take your snorkeling equipment as you will almost always find sea turtles right there on the coast and snorkeling with them really is amazing! FYI Akumal is actually the ancient mayan word for ‘Place of the Turtles’

    Akumal Bay

    So there you have it.. B is for Beach and day 2 of the blog challenge is complete.