Thursday, February 25, 2010
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Aside from wind and waves, the one constant noise seems to be the crunchy hum of a golf cart motor, hundreds of them dotting the island, touristas with one hand on the wheel and the other wrapped around a Corona. Jeff and I joined the masses and rented a cart for the day (just 550 pesos for 24 hours!). There's something about getting behind the wheel of a "car" and exploring an unknown place - It feels all your own, all its corners at easy reach.
And it's amazing how much can happen on one little 7-kilometer island on any given day.
Rising up out of the Caribbean, its north end (Playa Norte) is all soft white sand and calm, turquoise water. The south end (Camino Punta Sur) is a violent sea, churning and deep blue, waves crashing against enormous jags of salt-battered rock. Downtown, the north, feels like a Latin Old Montreal while the south feels like Scotland or Nova Scotia or something more celtic. The weather, too, is unpredictable and wide-ranging. From blazing sun to fluffy clouds to misty soup, icy cold water raining down for a few minutes here and there. So much packed into 1100 square kilometeres.
Between stops at the roadside bar (for drinks to-go, how crazy!) we zig-zagged across Isla's 650 meter width, peeping the locals and taking in the incredible eastern views toward Cuba. We had lunch and (more) drinks at Zama (a beautiful beach club) and were back downtown in time for dinner.
Tomorrow we leave beautiful Isla, nearly as classy as we found her, and prepare to withstand the last few weeks of winter with grace and dignity. I hope these memories bolster that seemingly insurmountable task.
(Oh, and if you're wondering: No, we were not the gayest people on the island, despite our fruity beachwear.)
Monday, February 8, 2010
If you're so done with gigantic all-inclusive resorts and the Spring Break contingent, consider a smaller hotel that allows you to skip the cheap booze and 3-times-daily buffet.
Tip #1: Choose a hotel that's new. Sure, there might be a few hiccups, but we find the service top-notch (their need-to-impress high) and the prices rock-bottom. Rates are low until they get enough reviews and work out all the kinks, then jump to compete with other luxury hotels. We would never normally stay in a place like this, but couldn't resist the rate, location, and quality of the rooms.
Jeff (the trip-advisor in our household) spends weeks researching places, reading customer reviews, plotting flights and seeking out the best value. He stumbled upon Isla Mujeres, the 5-mile island off the coast of Cancun, by chance. The Privilege Aluxes has been open for one year and sits at the northern end of the island, in the state of Quintana Roo, 360° views of Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Exceptional.
Tip #2: While Expedia got us a great rate including flight, you should definitely inquire about upgrades when you arrive. If the hotel isn't fully booked, you can score deals that aren't offered online. For $60 more per night we upgraded to a two-level penthouse suite with our own plunge pool and 900 square foot terrace. We couldn't resist.
Though the Aluxes offers all-inclusive packages, we opted out. The hotel sits smack-dab in "downtown" Isla Mujeres, surrounded by all kinds of adorable cafés, restaurants and bars. And it's cheap. The two of us can eat a beautiful organic breakfast (fresh squeezed everything) for $12USD, have dinner for less than $30, and drink for next-to-nothing, all while enjoying and supporting a plethora of local businesses. While the convenience of 24-hour buffets is handy, the food is almost always boring and repetitive. Skip it.
I'm starting to feel like I work for The Island of Women Tourist Association, so I'll stop for now. Stay-tuned for a golf-cart tour of all five miles.