Christmas in the Riviera Maya

by Lydia Linton Pontius (January 2013)

I have been countless times to the Riviera Maya and beyond, but never have I traveled during Christmas. I made travel arrangements for our Best Man and his family and they in turn invited us to join them. We made sure that the trip had a balance of adventure and relaxation. I knew that this would be a very busy time given that not only was it the holidays but it was the end of the Maya Calendar Cycle, or as many had misinterpreted, the end of the world. Over the next several months we will highlight and review many of the places we stayed and things we did. This will give you an overview of the trip.

We arrived in Cancun on December 18 and picked up our rental car from Blueway Car Rental. I had never used them before but since we needed a car and our friends needed a van, they had the best price. The car was fine; the van was old and quite beat up. They did not have the van which was reserved ready when they arrived so the group crammed into a smaller van and the next day the correct van was delivered to them—but not until they first tried to get someone to come back to Cancun to get it. Our problem was returning the car: the employees were 20 minutes late in arriving to open and we had an early morning flight. I would keep that in mind for anyone with a very early flight; after all it is Mexico.

First stop was Costco in Cancun. We wanted to pick up some dog food for Tierra De Animales and decided to also grab some beer, wine and other non-perishables which we knew we would use during the week.

Tierra De Animales is a wonderful dog sanctuary about 25 minutes inland from Cancun or Puerto Morelos. We have been promoting Ricardo's work here for quite some time but we wanted to visit and get a firsthand look at the facility and to meet Ricardo finally. I was a little leery about the visit, only because Mike and I are both softies for animals and I was worried that I would be starting my vacation off on a sad note. That was the furthest from reality! Instead I left thinking how fortunate those dogs and cats were and what a wonderful facility is there. It is not just a holding ground for unwanted dogs but it is methodically planned out, and Ricardo knows every dog by name and personality. There are separate areas depending on the needs of the dogs. It is well laid out with plenty of room to roam. What he has managed to do with these dogs is amazing. He explained that dogs, more than any other animal, are our responsibility to care for because we have so domesticated them. And he went on to explain how forgiving they are—even the most abused are able to love again. We will be sharing more about TdA and Ricardo in a separate article.

A little dirty from loving on all the dogs, we headed south on a different route and ended up just on the south side of Puerto Morelos. On to Tulum where we were spending two nights at the new The Beach, a sister property to Cabañas Tulum (link to review). We arrived and were greeted warmly with a welcome drink and total understanding of why we were late and why we were in need of a shower. One way I know I am going to like a place and its people are how accepting they are of animals.

We had a fantastic two nights at The Beach Tulum, a new property nestled between Cabañas Tulum and Ziggy's. Ziggy's is one of our favorite restaurants and the first night we arrived was Tequila Tasting Night; the second was Lobster and Fish BBQ. More about those in later stories! But I will say, I tasted my new favorite margarita that evening; if you're lucky, I'll share the recipe along with our review.

The greatest thing about this property is where it is situated on Tulum Beach. You can head off in either direction and have a wonderful long walk on the beach. The beach here is nice, wide and very flat. Our second day after breakfast at Ziggy's, which is included with your stay at The Beach, and a long morning walk on the beach, we headed back to the beach stores and grabbed a light lunch at Zama's. We had plans to explore more of Tulum but the call of our quiet beach couldn't be resisted.

The next morning was much the same, breakfast at Ziggy's and long walk on the beach, but we topped it off with a private dip in our rooftop tub. Yes, the superior deluxe rooms come with their own private rooftop with two large beds and a double tub.

Then it was off to Akumal, where we spent an incredible evening at Azul Riviera. This villa is one we have been familiar with since we first starting coming down. Now it is a Bed and Breakfast and we must say it is the perfect property for that. We grabbed our friend Alex and hung out by the pool and Yal-Ku Lagoon. After a relaxing afternoon we headed to Lol-Ha to hear Arpason and to have a great meal, wonderful entertainment and awesome company.

Our second day in Akumal was 12/21/12—the day that many people whom we encountered on Tulum Beach were here for! Sherwood had a fabulous End-of-the-World Party with El Indio, Juan, and his daughter, Ruby, conducting an amazing Maya blessing and explanation of this important date (link to video). That night we spent at our home-away-from-home, Hotel Akumal Caribe, in one of the bungalows. Lately I have been staying in the beachfront hotel and it was great to be back in the bungalows; I forgot how much I like them. If you are looking for bright and spacious accommodations, with a great price, these are perfect.

Saturday, we headed up to Playa del Carmen to meet our friends, grocery shop and get settled at Villas Flamingo. We had the entire property to ourselves and it was perfect for this group of three generations. Everyone had plenty of room and there were spaces for dining together as well as places to be alone. Our group had people who like to cook, myself included, and I was most impressed by not only how well stocked the kitchen was, but can I say the knives were sharp!!! Extra points for that!

That afternoon we headed over to Taj Kumal to take a look at the changes and new additions. It is now also a Bed and Breakfast—which is a great idea for those who would love to be right on Akumal Bay but can't justify renting the entire villa; you can rent by the room or the entire villa.

Sunday was a day of relaxation; we spent some time snorkeling and hanging out. That afternoon was the Akumal Christmas Pageant. It was lovely, with blessings, caroling and a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus! (See videos in our Just for Fun section.)

Monday, Christmas Eve, we took a sunset tour of Sian Ka'an and if you have never done this in the late afternoon, I highly recommend it. We arrived at Bird Island just as a number of fabulous birds came home to nest for the evening. I have done the canal and Muyil tour several times and enjoyed it very much; I found the sunset tour to be simply magical.

Tuesday was Christmas Day and we chose to spend part of it snorkeling in Yal-Ku Lagoon. We were surprised by the number of people who had the same idea.

Wednesday we headed to Tulum for breakfast at Ziggy's and on our way back, we stopped at Parque Selva Maya, one of the newest zipline, cenote and cave snorkeling places. With 5 swinging bridges, 9 ziplines, 2 cenotes, and an underground cave to snorkel, it was a blast ... but wait they are adding more! So we can't wait to go again.

Thursday we headed to Playa del Carmen for a few hours of shopping. That evening we attended Gynn'AK's third anniversary soiréeée complete with buffet, drinks and BELLY DANCING.

A great time was had by everyone, and we want to thank all who made this trip so incredible! As you can see, we have lots of great articles, highlights and reviews to share in the months to come.

One thing I will add is that after seeing the number of people who were at Akumal we feel an even stronger commitment to conservation and sustainability, and will be hoping to help educate more people through this site. There were cars parked as far away as the highway and along the roads to North Akumal. There seemed to be a steady stream of pedestrians coming and going from the beach. Protecting paradise while promoting it is more important than ever.

Sian Kaan Sunset Christmas Eve 2012