Caribbean and Mexico tours, restaurants, golf, activities and things to do – reports, links and information – Page 2 Debbie’s Caribbean Travel Page

Tours are listed by area and activity and are just a sampling of the many tours available. Tour prices and descriptions, Website URL’s, Phone Numbers etc are given by reviewers and may change. Please do not write us to ask for correct information. We do not know!

Cancun

  Party Hopper to Cancun   Mandy

January 2008

We did the Party Hopper to Cancun. They pick you up in a van and drive you to Congo, Senor Frog and Coco Bongo. The three bars were great and all drinks were included. Coco Bongo is sure something to see, the bar holds 3000 people and they put on a pretty good show with impersonators, balloons, bubbles, overhead trapeze artists, just awesome.
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Three 9 hole courses, Dunes, Jungle, & Lakes Paul ~ Mississauga, Canada

December 2006

Three 9 hole courses, Dunes, Jungle, & Lakes. Four (4) sets of tees ranging from a rating of 75.6 and slope of 139 for Black tees to 71.1/129 for White tees. We played from the Whites all 7 days, they mix up the various nine’s so you can enjoy the entire golf course. It is a Jack Nicklaus design, somewhat difficult. "Jungle" (nine) yardage 3,600 yards at tips to 3,100 for whites, Lakes 3,400 down to 3200, and Dunes 3,600 down to 3,150 for white tees. I am an 18 handicap and shot in the mid 90’s each day. Not a great course for beginners, but definitely a great challenge for mid to low handicap. The service at the Golf Course is 2nd to none. The BEST I have ever experienced in the Caribbean. The staff at check-in (Laura) outstanding, very quick even for 18 guys every day, they store your clubs & shoes for free, clean them every day, give you a fresh ice towel at the end of the round to help you cool down after your game. Driving range, practice area, yardage books, tees, markers, towels all supplied and very good. The staff on the golf course with beverage & food carts cannot do enough to make your golf game enjoyable, plenty of selection of food & drinks, alcohol & non, bottled water, etc (all free) and if you want something from the restaurant they will be only too kind to take your order, go and get it and deliver it right too your cart one or two holes down the line. We asked for toasted bagels with smoke salmon, cream cheese, lettuce & tomato every morning from the golf course breakfast menu (very decadent) and the cart girls were only to happy to go and get the order, deliver it hot in packages with a big smile on their face. Every person you encounter at Moon Palace (golf course & hotel) always answer your thank-you with "It is my pleasure to serve you sir" without exception over 7 days in every bar, restaurant, including room maids, everyone you meet has this response. I have never seen better service and have stayed at 5*+ rated hotels throughout the Caribbean over the past 10 years and this is without doubt the BEST.

NOTE: If you are going for the Golf, book a golf package, we were told stand-alone golf cost $250.00 US$ per day. Incidentally if you were to play one day only you would find this price very reasonable for the class & style of golf course you will experience. Rental clubs appear to be Muzzuno. (Personal preference for 18 holes was the Dunes & Lakes combo).

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  Crocs & Turtles   Greg & Brenda ~ Saskatoon, SK, Canada

March 2009

The ‘Rough Guide’ took us to a couple of the nearby bays for the incredible views (and a new Mexican Naval Base!). From there we went in the town La Crucecita. After a couple a shop visits mentioned below, we were free to explore the area. Remember that the town is only 20 years old. The main market is hidden in the block to the east of the plaza. This is one of the better places to purchase anything. On the west side of the plaza is the church. The interesting thing about the church is a mosaic in a nave along the north wall. This icon is popular among Catholics, but the interesting thing about this one is that it includes lettering that indicates that it was copied from an Eastern Orthodox version!
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  Rough Guide   Greg & Brenda ~ Saskatoon, SK, Canada

March 2009

Our second tour was the ‘Crocs & Turtles’ tour. After a long drive, it was an interesting ride around a lagoon and a turtle sanctuary. Finished with a late lunch in Puerto Angel, a lovely fishing village and bay. Our main complaint is that there are many ‘extras’ that had to be paid for, such as entrance to the lagoon, the turtle sanctuary, and of course, lunch. What did your $35 pay for? Just the ride. Minor problems included the Signature rep never mentioning to our group to bring a swimsuit and towel to swim in a bay. And while having lunch on the beach in Puerto Angel, we were bombarded with peddlars while waiting for our meal.
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  Deep Sea Fishing   Debbie & Steve ~ Port Perry, Ontario

March 2009

My girlfriend was celebrating her 50th birthday and it just so happened that that was the day we booked a deep sea fishing trip with Gregario Sanchez (“Mahi Mahi”). We had met another couple down there that decided to come with us, so in total there were 6 of us. About an hour into the fishing trip, we landed a beautiful mahi mahi – our captain said it weighed around 50 lbs. A short time later, we landed another one and then another one, all of them weighing between 45-50 lbs. So each of the guys had the experience of landing one. All in all, we caught 4 mahi mahi, and saw lots of dolphins and Tortugas. We were absolutely thrilled with our catch! We would highly recommend Gregario. We only wish we had stayed another week to do another fishing trip with him. Maybe next year.
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  Deep Sea Fishing   Bruce and Donna ~ Ontario

January 2009

The best day of our trip came when we got a local fisherman ( Gregario Sanchez/ cell # 9585833145) to take ourselves and another couple out for a morning of deep sea fishing. He was recommended to us by a couple from Calgary who had gone out with him the day before flyfishing for mackerel and bonito. They had returned with a couple 25-30 lb yellow fin tuna and a nice mahi mahi and had seen dozens of porpoises and Ridley sea turtles. They were amazed at how hard this man had worked to make it a successful fishing trip. There are fishing trips that can be arranged by the resort that depart out of the Santa Cruz marina ( inshore fishing- $220 US for 4 hrs/ deep sea fishing-$550 US for 5 hrs) but they were too pricey for our budget. The fishing boats that sit just off the pool area of the resort will take you out for a scenic tour or out fishing. Most of these boats are poorly set up for deep sea fishing. You have to be selective. Gregario charges $50 US per hour. He has excellent tackle, Penn reels and Ugly Stik rods. The day we went out he even brought live bait in anticipation of catching a large sail fish or yellowfin tuna. Marlin and sail fish are quite abundant in April and May, but the odd sail fish can still be caught. He owns his own boat and takes great pride in what he does. His English is weak but he enjoys conversing with people on his boat and learning new words. Our 6 hour fishing expedition started when he picked us up at 6:30am on the beach (Playa Tornillo). The sunrise was spectacular. We caught an 8 foot sail fish, a 4 foot Mahi Mahi (which is the name of his boat), several bonito and a 200 lb manta ray that we hooked by accident (live release). We saw many dolphins/porpoises and Ridley sea turtles which added to this amazing experience. Be sure to take a camera and video camera if you have one. The two other couples that we hung around with loved the resort and the area around Huatulco. My wife and I are planning a return trip in April/May when the sail fish and marlin return in much larger numbers to the area offshore.
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Tours booked with Teresa in Crucecita Linda ~ UK

June 2007

Don’t book any trips with First Choice because they are too expensive. Also, you can get exactly the same trips with the locals at a fraction of the price and I prefer giving the money to local people. We went into c (only £1 in a taxi to the beautiful town) and in the square, or plaza, there is a tourist information booth. The man in the booth sent us to Teresa Lorenzano to book our trips. If you stand in front of the square facing the church, Teresa is down the righthand side of the square, situated in a booth in the front of a shop with tins of paint. She is a lovely lady and we booked all of our trips with her. She made sure that we had an English guide each time and even picked us up one morning to take us to the bay cruise. If you can’t find her, ask the Tourist Information man. When some of the others saw that we were going on the same trips but much cheaper, they also went into La Crucecita and booked trips with other agents. They were also very pleased with their trips and service and mostly the lower costs.

We did 4 trips with Teresa. Four of us went on the Crocodiles and Turtles trip. We had a private car with Teresa’s brother as our guide, and the trip also included a visit to Zipolite beach and Puerto Angel beach where we had lunch. We passed the First Choice crowd on the lagoon looking for crocs, and they had paid around £40 each including lunch, whereas we paid £50 for 4 of us in our own aircon car with guide. This did not include lunch, but it wasn’t expensive anyway. We saw lots of crocs and beautiful birds, and then went onto Mazunte to the turtle aquarium. They have big open tank laboratories at the back where they breed the turtles to preserve them and return them to the sea.

We also did the Waterfalls and Coffee plantation trip, and again we passed the First Choice crowd on the way. We went with a few Mexican people in a car with a guide who translated into English for us. He even made us sit in front so that he could talk to us. This trip was £15 each whereas First Choice was around £38. Also, it was really nice for us having our authentic Mex lunch at the plantation with the Mexican people, who showed us how to eat the food. We also got to visit the Butterfly House, which was really interesting, whereas First Choice people did not.

We went on the 7 bays cruise with snorkelling and a visit to Maguey beach for lunch (not included) at a cost of £7.50 and had a great day out. (First Choice £28!) We were the only English people on the catamaran, but one of the boat staff came and translated everything into English for us. The Mexican people love to party and they were line dancing on the boat to the music. It was great fun.

And Teresa arranged for us to go birdwatching one morning with a guide (£12.50 each, First Choice £25 each). He spoke excellent English and took us to a jungle area near La Bocana at 7 am, and we spent a few hours looking at wonderful birds. He provided binoculars, charts and fruit for breakfast, which we ate at a high point overlooking 2 wonderful bays and the Copalita River.

We visited La Entrega beach ourselves by taxi. This is a lovely beach, great for snorkelling, but try to go in the week when it’s quieter. The Mexicans descend on it at the weekend. While we were there we met GilbertoAlegria who told us about his boat for fishing and bay trips. We hired him to take us fishing one morning. It was £50 for 4 hours for just my husband and myself. This was the cheapest price as most of the locals were quoting £80-£100. He was very good and picked us up at our hotel in his brother’s old banger and took us to Santa Cruz where we picked up his boat. He provided the rods and bait, and he had a young lad to help him. I just went for the ride, and my husband caught bonita and mahimahi. Gilbert filleted the fish for us and dropped us off right on Tangolunda beach in front of our hotel. We took it straight to the restaurant and they agreed to cook our fish for us for lunch on that day and the next day free of charge. The kitchen not only cooked it to perfection but also presented it on the plate with vegetable flowers and small mounds of rice and it looked wonderful. Needless to say we tipped the cook who had really put a lot of effort into it. She did the same the next day too with a different presentation and it was delicious.

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Los Cabos – Cabo San Luca

Wild Canyon Adventures Cathy ~ MAarkham, Ontario

January 2009

We went zip lining with Wild Canyon Adventures – Ekopark in Las Cabos and my family had an amazing time. WE FELT VERY SAFE! We booked it through Walmart which was only a 10 minute walk from the Sante Fe and where we found the best prices. The cab ride which was part of the price picked us up on time and there was no problem getting there and back to the park. Fernando Ortiz was so friendly and helpful and was always reasuring the whole way! My kids ages 10 & 12 had the time of their life. The view from the main grounds was breathtaking as you could see the ocean and the dessert from one spot. They also took beautiful pictures while zip lining which you can of course purchase for a reasonable fee. My husband and son also went Dune buddying on the beach – a little pricey but highly recommend it. They will hit you up for $35.00 extra for insurance once you get there and the guy at the Walmart tour booth does not tell you this. The insurance is worth getting because if you even !
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Neuvo Vallarta/Puerto Vallarta

Rhythms of the Night and Sierra Madre Dave ~ Canada

December 2008

Sierra Madre tour.
A drive through rural Mexico in the back of a UniMog, similar to an army truck, with seat belts,a canvas roof and very knowledgable guides. Up close and personal with small town Mexico, farms and farm homes, a jungle tour and a pristine beach with an excellent meal. If you do not mind wind in your hair, bugs in your teeth, rock and roll rides then you will love this tour. If you have a bad back, are picky about your hair or dislike being up close and personal with strangers then find another way to see rural Mexico. Rhythms of the Night. Taxi to the Marina, basically go through customs again for $15 pesos, out to sea across the bay on a large catamarran. Staff does their best to entertain you over the one hour boat ride across the bay to Los Caletas, once the home to film director John Houston, where they entertain you with a spectatcular show and a candlelight dinner. In our opinion the boat ride conflicts with the romantic evening. The staff on board the boat do their best to get you pumped up and dancing to the music serving snacks and booze then when you arrive on the beach it is all candlelight and romance in the dark. The show is spectacular without a doubt and the candlelight meal is nice but with 3 boat loads of 100 people each there is a definite feel from the staff of round em up and move em out. If you have any motion sickness issues at all give this one a pass as you have one hour on a boat each way. No idea of rain out status of this tour.
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City Tour & Pirate Ship Christina ~ Canada

July 2005

We did two excursions, the city tour which included the tequila tour, and the Pirate ship. Both of them were great, however, the Pirate ship does not include your transportation to the Arena and does not include the fee to get into the Marina. Apparently, the taxi drivers don’t let buses into the resort to take guests places, another charm to this whole experience, We were never informed that the Marina would charge us admission to get to the Pirate ship, and luckily we all brought money with us, that is extra money after paying the cabbie to get there. We went on the Pirate ship at night and the view and fireworks were spectacular. A cool night out nonetheless.

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Mayan Riviera

March 2009

Just a quick note that we travelled by the collectivo bus almost everywhere. It’s defintiely the cheapiest and is super easy. It cost 25 pesos/person each way. We went to Xel-Ha one day and another adventure park called Hidden Worlds another day. Hidden World was particularly fun, you get to ride their sky-bike, zipline across the jungle as well as zipline into a cenote, as well as rapelling into a cenote and finally snorkeling in the cenote. They provide all the gear for you at each station so you really don’t have to bring anything! WE also went to playa del carmen for half a day as well as Coba.
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  Coco Bongo – Playa Del Carmen   Chuck and Sharon ~ Saskatchewan, Canada

February 2009

We went with the Iberostar Paraisio Star friends one night to Coco Bongo, in Playa Del Carmen. It was $60US / person and we left by bus at 10:30 pm and came back at 4:30 am. We had VIP seats and all you can drink, except for shots from the wandering waitresses which were $5. The bar is 5 levels with seating on 3 sides and elevated stage on the other. The music is loud, and the people there to have a good time. The show runs until 3 am and is a blend of cirque du solei, lip sinking, videos, and dancers. We’re not into clubbing but we had a blast and the crowd is mostly tourists. The show is awesome and it beats Senior Frogs by a mile.
Check them out at www.cocobongo.com.mx
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  Catamaran trip to Tulum   Karl

July 2008

Board the biggest catamaran in the Mayan for a 2 hour, all you can drink, trip to Tulum. It was a very windy and wavy day, which for most of the people made it quite interesting and fun. But for some people, they didn’t have so much fun and were quite seasick. Once arriving at Tulum, the catamaran weighs anchor for some snorkeling at a huge reef system and then its lunch time. Lunch is a buffet on board and it isn’t anything too special, but good none the less. Small boats then take everyone, 10 people at a time to a really sweet public beach. You get a little time to play at the beach then everyone is taken by van to Tulum for a guided tour of the ruins. Tulum is definitely something everyone has to see as it is the history of the Mayan People.
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  Jungle Crossing Tour from Alltournative   Karl

July 2008

Jungle Crossing Tour from Alltournative tours. You start out in a picturesque bay near Akumal into which you kayak out and have a guided snorkeling tour at a nice reef. After the snorkeling you have a snack and drink on the beach and prepare for the next part of the tour. It is a drive into the country side on a crazy 4×4 army type vehicle, the ride is wicked bumpy, and you end the trip at an authentic Mayan village. At the village you go on a guided snorkel tour through an underground river system. You then go for a short walk, watch out for the acid trees and mosquitoes, and you end up at another Cenote for a cool swim there. After you return to the village, it’s lunch time and an authentic Mayan meal. Very tasty, make sure to try the hot sauces, they aren’t so hot, LOL!! After lunch you go back to the beach where you started for some rest and relaxation and a chance to purchase pictures they have taken of your day.
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  Tulum Ruins, Dos Ojos, Xel-Ha   Stephanie

April 2008

TULUM RUINS
We went to Tulum Ruins on Saturday morning at 8am. Taxi is 7$ (well 70 pesos, most drivers will convert that to 7$ American, but one wanted 8$ and another 10$!) and entrance is 48 pesos (I’m pretty sure you need to pay in pesos, not American dollars). The ruins are open every day from 8am-5pm. There is no extra fee for professional camera but there is for videocamera. A guide costs 400 pesos (this is for 1-6 people, then slightlight higher for more people, for example 450 pesos for 7-9 people, etc). We didn’t bother getting a guide since it would have been 45$ for our group of 8 people. It was already quite hot at 8am. We walked around half an hour to an hour then hit the beach. There is no washroom near the beach, so where your suit under your clothes, otherwise you can change behind a big rock with the help of a towel. As said many times before the beach here is absolutely stunning. There are no rocks in the water, the water is crystal clear and the waves are large. Everybody had a blast swimming, the half hour in the water is one of the highlights of our trip (especially getting our parents out there with us!). Everybody started getting ready to leave at 9:45am and my fiance and I were going to stay behind and enjoy the beach for a few hours, but within 10 minutes throngs of people were filling the beach and so we ended up leaving with our family. Really, it’s insane how this place fills up at 10am when the tour buses arrive. There must have been a 500-1000 people dropped off there right at 9:45 or 10am. You cannot take wedding pictures at the ruins (more on this below). If you walk in wearing your dress they make you take it off and put it in your locker. XEL-HA
Xel-Ha (pronounced Shell – Ha) is a 10 minute, 10$ taxi ride from the hotel. Entrance is 75$ all inclusive (food, snorkelling equipment included, but does not include snuba, scuba or dolphin swim). They used to have a simple admission (no food or equipement) for approx half the price but they got rid of that. You can also buy your admission ticket at Tulum Ruins for 10% less (67,50$). We had been before 3 years ago, and I don’t know if it’s because it was our 2nd time or because there was really less fish but I was a bit disappointed about the snorkelling. The water is very cloudy (I’m told from the salt-water mixing with the fresh water) and the only place where we saw lots and lots of fish was near the little bridge where people can throw food in. There was also lots of really big fish near the big bridge separating the park from the ocean. We saw fish elsewhere but not huge groups of them. For people who haven’t snorkelled much you’ll probably love it but for people who have snorkelled lots you may not find it that great. The lazy river is really really slow, takes half an hour to go down the river part but then you are still far from the main part of the park and it can take another hour or so to get back! I pushed my mom in her tube back to the main part because we wanted to go eat, it must have taken almost half an hour of swimming and pushing! So don’t bother unless you have lots of time. The tarzan rope is awful, it’s actually quite dangerous as the rope is in a small area so not much room to swing around and jump off. There are 2 other cliffs (which you go by when doing the lazy river) to jump off and these are much better than the tarzan rope. There is no beach, if you walk all the way to the ocean it is a beautiful view of dark blue water with huge waves crashing on the rocks on the shore, and there are some hammocks to relax and have a nap. What a great way to end our day. Overall the park is really beautiful and a definite must if you’ve never been. I still enjoyed it the second time, but not nearly as much as the first so I don’t really think it was worth going back but we still had a really fun day with the 3 family members who came with us (none of them had been). Oh yeah, lastly, I bought a skirt from a store in Xel-Ha, it was marked at 30$ and I offered the lady 25$ (unsure whether they bargain or not at these stores) and she took my 25$ without a word and gave me the skirt, so obviously they do bargain a bit. Made me wish I had offered 20$!!! And finally for the sunscreen, as most people know you need biodegreadable sunscreen. I had brought the Hawaiin Tropic one but had heard that they don’t accept it. I could have used it anyways since there was nobody checking bottles. But since I had heard they didn’t accept it I asked and sure enough they said it’s not acceptable because it takes over a year to degrade whereas their brand degrades much faster. So they took my bottle for the day and asked how many people we were, I said 5 so they gave 5 samples of SPF 30 (you probably need 2 samples to do one adult’s full body). At the end of the day you can go back and pick up your bottle, but I forgot mine there. Their sunscreen goes on very white and is hard to rub in. In works very well but should still be re-applied regularly. We didn’t reapply (we had none left) because I had read from other people that it worked amazingly well, and some of us burnt our shoulders a little (well we were in the water and sun from noon to 5pm). DOS OJOS
Dos Ojos is a Cenote (pronounced SEE-NOTE-A) 5 minutes from Dreams Tulum, the taxi cost 15$ to get there (obviously ripped me off, even though I paid in pesos!) and 10$ to get back. This place is the same as “Hidden World” theme park. When I had asked the concierge about it she warned me that it’s the same place, but if you enter through the theme park (owned by American company) you pay 75$, if you enter through the Dos Ojos entrance (locally operated) you pay 10$ (basic admission) or 30$ (equipment, guide and ride from entrance to the cenote). The entrances are about 1-2 minutes apart on the highway. We brought our own equipment expecting to pay the cheap price (the concierge said it was 5$ but it was actually 10$) but it’s a 2km walk to the actual Cenote from the entrance. You can take your taxi, but ours left as we were talking to the guy at the entrance and there was no others there (although we could have waited since they show up regularly). So you would have to tell your taxi to wait while you pay your 10$ entrance fee, then the taxi can drive you close to the cenote. Maybe the reason the taxi charged us more on the way there was because he thought he was brining us the whole way, I don’t know. We decided to pay the 30$ per person to have a guide go with us, this includes getting a ride to the cenote, snorkelling equipment, and flashlights. The more expensive admission was definitely worth it. The flashlights are needed it you want to go a little deeper in the cave rather than stay at the entrance where there is daylight. We tried to bargain a bit on the price since we are 3 people sharing one guide and since we brought our own equipment but they wouldn’t bargain, they said during busy season it’s actually 40$ per person with equipment or 35$ without snorkelling equipement but that during less busy season it’s 30$ with or without equipment. We found the whole experience really cool. The water is fresh water (not salt water) and is a bit cold (75 degrees), the guy offered us wetsuits tops but we declined. You don’t go that deep into the cave (it’s not like a river which I hear some of the other cenotes are) but it’s still really cool. We were there about an hour or two and definitely thought it was worth the 30$ per person.
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December 2008

We bought the Coba excursion package for $119 USD per person. It lasted from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. We had fun but the tallest ruin in Coba was the only attraction compared to the many ruins available in Tulum or Chichen Itza. I would not pay $119 next time because it should have been worth no more than $60 per person.
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February 2008

If you are in this area do not miss the Coba Mayan Village tour. It is a full day but is well worth the time. Our guide Louis was fantastic. During the 2hr bus ride he told us the history of the Mayan people and many many other interesting facts. We were able to climb the pyramid in Coba and then visited a family in the Mayan village. If you are thinking of doing this tour they ask that you bring pencils, books, or other supplies for the village children. They ask that you don’t give the children money as that encourages them to beg.
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January 2008

The last excurion we did was the Tulum Extreme, it started with each of us doing three zip lines over the jungle ceiling, then swimming in an underground cenote, repelling down a cliff, then lunch, then they take you to the ruins of Tulum and give you a tour. I’ve been to Tulum before so skipped the history lessen and went right for the Tulum beach, gorgeous. Just something amazing about frolicking in the rough ocean waves and staring up at the grandeur of the Mayan temple. Breathtaking.
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January 2008

We did two excursions. One was the Tulum Extreme. This was well worth the $100 price. This included, swimming on the cenotes (underground water caves) propelling off a cliff, 3 zip lines across the jungle and the tour of the Mayan ruins. This is from 8 am to 3 pm. Then we did a parasailing trip to two snorkel spots. Very fun, that one was $50 a person.
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Coba, SeaLife Plus, Xcaret & Xel-Ha Shell

December 2007

EXCURSIONS: I know everyone has different experiences on tours and what they find interesting, so this is just my opinion on what’s good to see & remember I’ve been here twice. Xel-Ha – (less than 20 minutes from the Barcelo) awesome, worth seeing every time. I recommend doing a whole day here and not the half day in Xel-ha & half in Tulum. You can not see all of Xel-Ha in 1/2 a day. Xcaret – (less than 30 minutes from the Barcelo) awesome, & here’s a money saving tip – bring food from the hotel. Buying food there is expensive & to pay for it with your tour isn’t worth it, pack some sandwiches, snacks & bottled water & save up to $60.00 or more. The underground rivers are chilly but more than safe (you must wear a lifejacket), it’s a relaxing float. Above ground it’s like a big zoo, aquarium, and historical park all in one. My suggestion is opposite from the guides – I suggest you tour the above ground first & then do the underground river, that way when you’re tired, hot & sweaty from the above stuff you can cool down & relax in the river. Just put you end of the day dry clothes in the supplied bag & it will meet you at the end of the river float. The guide suggests the river first but if you do that then you will be walking the park in a wet bathing suit. It’s all up to you. The night show (2 hours long) is a must, 260 dancers/singers, it’s wonderful & interesting. Coba – (about an hour from the Barcelo) we took a large bus to Coba (amazing guide Geraldo) hiked 2km into the jungle, learning & seeing the Mayan culture along the way, then climbed the highest pyramid in the Yucatan. We then had lunch at a little restaurant (o.k. food-I brought some from the hotel just in case), our guide fed an alligator some chicken. Then we went to a small Mayan community where we gave the kids the presents we brought. If you want to bring stuff they love anything – when we go back I will bring crayons & coloring books, that way they have a gift & they learn. After the village we went to a cenote in the jungle, it was very green and "refreshing" (cold) water but it felt good after climbing the pyramid and being in the hot village. Definitely worth the money for the all day tour. SeaLife Plus – ( less than 10 minutes from the Barcelo) Probably the most disappointing of all our tours & the one that cost the most money. Unlike the dolphin swim where you just swim with the dolphins, SeaLife Plus you swim with Manatees, touch a Sea Lion & swim with the dolphins (2). You also get to waste a lot of time sitting around while they set up their video of you swimming with these animals. This sitting around happens twice – once after the manatee/sea lion swim & once after the dolphin swim. Before you swim you also have to sit & watch a video about manatees & dolphins. If you want to buy your video it’s $60.00 and if you want to buy the pictures they take they are between $12.00 & $15.00 per picture. NO UNDERWATER CAMERAS ALLOWED. It also seems like the staff are very disorganized (do not get separated from your group) – although the trainers are very good. Another money saving tip the Catamaran is included/free if you do the tour on Wednesday otherwise you have to pay extra & for how much the tour originally costs, the free catamaran eases some of that. Please take motion sickness pills if you even think you’ll be sick, we had to come back early because people were sick. You can also drink lots on the Catamaran but the lunch is just a sandwich & a bag of chips. Although it was a wonderful experience swimming with the wildlife, overall it was an extremely overpriced, nickel & dime you, poorly run tour.
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July 2008

Playa Del Carmen, 5th Avenue. You must visit the city and tour the famous 5th Avenue. It is $20US to and from the Lindo. Playa Del Carmen is getting pretty commercialized and is turning into a small American city, with McDonalds, Burger King and Subway everywhere you look. There are some nice little shops selling cheap trinkets and souvenirs that are neat to visit and haggle for better prices. The beach in Playa is fantastic and the view of Cozumel is cool, as you can see the high rise buildings on the island. We spent a couple of hours walking around, spent a little bit of money, and had a good time.
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January 2008

This is only a 20 minute walk from the hotel (Riu Playacar) or a 5 minute, $5 taxi drive. We walked it the first time during the day. It is a great walk, you can look at all the pretty houses and it is very safe. 5th Avenue has lots of shopping, bars and restaurants. Since the hotel is all-inclusive we didn’t eat out anywhere. We did stop at a Cuban bar and Senior Frogs for some cocktails. Both bars had a great inviting atmosphere! We shopped at 5th avenue 3 nights. This place is a must!!!
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Playa Del Carmen Aaron ~ Canada

August 2007

Playa De Carman – we went to the famous 5th avenue in Playa de Carman and it was a GREAT spot to haggle prices and find souvenirs for family and friends. If you are buying silver SHOP AROUND I bought a chain that was 85 USD at one store and I finally got the exact same chain from another vendor for $25 USD. Don’t be afraid to make them an offer they are expecting it. Haggle and bargain with them and know that you could possibly be getting ripped off but if you like it and pay the right price for it who cares. Getting to Playa from the resort was simple and very cheap. Take the Collectivo, this is a form of Mexican public transportation that runs along the highway from Cancun to Tulum. Since you are in the middle you can just walk to the highway, the collectivo will flash its lights at you and you just waive it down it will stop and you tell the driver where you are headed. The Collectivo does not leave the highway and you have to walk short distances to get to the areas that you want to go. It was a 2 minute walk from the Collectivo depot in Playa De Carman to the shopping area. And it only cost us 20 pesos each which was 2 bucks each each way. It was going to be 26 USD each way for a taxi.
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Chankanaab Park/Dolphin Encounter Mary

March 2007

Chankanaab Park/Dolphin Encounter
This is Cozumel’s Marine National Park, and a 10 min and $10.00 taxi ride from resort. You have 3 dolphin discovery activities to chose from. Encounter (basic package) at US$79.00, then there is the Swim Adventure at $99.00 I think (handshake, kiss, snorkel and belly ride), and the most expensive is the Royal Swim Adventure (ride with 2 dolphins). We participated in the Encounter (kiss, hand shake, touch and watch it perform). We pre-booked our activity with our air canada rep. This must be pre-booked because of popularity. Was told cameras are not allowed during the encounter, but in fact are, as long as they are waterproof. Pictures and video of your group will be taken by park staff. Look for someone wearing the dolphin discovery shirt at entrance to park, and make sure to check-in with dolphin staff 1 hr before your scheduled activity. Your entrance to park is incl in cost, as well as taxi ride back to resort. Will be given life vests to wear, and receive a 5 min explanation of what to expect. Showers, washrooms and lockers are to the right of dolphin gift shop. Lockers are free of charge, key incl. Everything is very clean and is of course new since being rebuilt after the hurricane destruction. We also got to see a 4 day old baby dolphin with it’s mommy. Ahhhhhh, so cute! Were in ocean (waist deep) with 2 dolphins for approx 25 mins. Wear water shoes or will have to go barefoot if you have sandals of any sort. There is a white line at edge of the platform. Trainer will tell you when to step forward for an activity as a group or 1 by 1. Ocean is 9 ft deep beyond the platform. Chain link fence behind you to grab onto to keep your balance. Wonderful encounter, dolphins are beautiful, skin is amazingly silky soft! Once done, you will be led to viewing room to watch video. Very well done DVD, $30. Expensive, but worth it. Pictures of you shaking hands/fins, and kissing are $15.00 for 1, $28.00 for 2. Gift shop has some very nice items and reasonable prices. There were several dolphins swimming in the center large ocean compound area where the activities take place, as well as their coming up for air in their individual pens along the 2 sides of center compound. Even if you don’t participate in any of the hands-on activities, you will still be able to watch from a distance. As for the rest of the park, majority of activities are also in the ocean. You have swimming, snorkeling, diving, snuba, seatrek or just sit back in the shade and enjoy the scenery. Walk around the park and take in the reproduction of mayan ruins. Not much else to see.

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Travel on your own Dave & Cheryl

March 2007

Tours are expensive but are very structured and take the worries away. We did the sights ourselves. For example, a tour may cost you $85.00 US per person, but the reality is that the entrance fees to the sights can be quite cheap, like $4.50 to see Tulum or Coba. We preferred doing it ourselves as we did save a lot of money, and we weren’t on someone else’s clock. If you do the math, 3 of us X $85.00 = $255.00 US. (Coba tour price). 3 X 65.00 = $195.00 US (Tulum tour price). Total is $450.00 US. We rented a car for $100.00 and paid a total of $27.00 to see both Tulum and Coba ruins, a savings of $320.00 dollars or more. Another worry with booking the tours is you have to book when you first arrive and if it’s raining on the day of the tour, you have to go anyway. Let’s say your going to Xel-ha ( water park – a must see). It wouldn’t be much fun in a down pour. It did rain 4 of 14 days were there and there are always high clouds each day with frequent afternoon storms. By renting a car, you can see what the weather is going to be the next day or so and rent the car at the best time. The Bell Hop stand at the very front entrance of the hotel has a Miami / Cancun paper each day so you can check the up coming weather reports there. Also, if you do a tour and are expecting a nice comfy tour bus, you may get a white van instead. Ask which mode of transportation they will be using.

To see Cozumel, you will take a 35 minute ferry ride from Playa. There are 2 different operators. One is regular boat and the other is a huge catamaran We took the regular boat if the wind is blowing it does get tossed around a bit and we got a bit sea sick on the return trip. I would recommend the catamaran as it is wider and more stable. It is a little bit more money but worth it. Sit up top if you can, as you get a much better view and it will lesson any sea sickness. Go a few blocks into town to escape the tourist area. This is a whole day trip and you can rent mopeds if you don’t want to walk anywhere. The town by the ferries is quite a busy little place but to really get a feel for Cozumel you have to rent a moped and travel around the island. Driving in the town may look intimidating because it’s so busy but I’m told it is much better once you get away from the main area.

A must see is Xel-ha. If you buy the all all-inclusive day package, please note that you will still need to provide a $20.00 US deposit once you’re in the park, in order to get your snorkel gear (you get to keep the snorkel). Also, when you enter the park, stop at the information desk to swap your sunscreen. You cannot (well your not supposed to but there is little control) wear your own sunscreen as the park is eco-friendly, so they will hold your sunscreen until you leave, and will provide you with eco-friendly sunscreen at no charge. It’s a small packet, but it goes a long way. Get a locker and put everything in there. The park supplies large towels but don’t bother to get one until you get out of the water. They are readily available in the locker areas. Take the ride down the river early as it gets pretty busy in the afternoon, it’s really fun. You can take a tube down, or just wear a lifejacket. Skip the tube, it’s too much work and we heard a lot of people complaining about how hard it was – way more fun floating down with just a lifejacket. Part way down the river, watch for the photographer to take your picture. If you stop and pose, you will end up with a great photo which you can purchase at the end of your day ($12 US for photo and optional $8.00 US for frame). Also, make sure you go across the floating bridge and look on the sea word side to see some really big fish as you cross. Don’t forget your underwater cameras. Snorkeling is great here. They provide you with the equipment (deposit necessary) but the snorkel isn’t that great. You get to keep it when you leave but if I were to do it again I would have brought a better snorkel from home that doesn’t continually fill with water.

Coba is where the big ruin is. If you drive, make sure that when you get to the fork in the road where the Coba signs are, you stay left. That is, you will approach a large turn circle in the road. Keep to your right and go all the way around the circle until you exit to what would have been your left as you approached it. Most of the sites in Mexico are not marked well. Tulum is a good example. There is no large sign that says “Tulum Ruins” you just have to turn left at the junction of Tulum and follow the road down a block and its there. You will drive right through the small town of Coba. Watch out for more killer speed bumps here. Follow the road to the lake and go left. 1 block down on the left is a large gravel lot with a small sign that says “ruins” or “historical sight”, there will also be some vendor stalls there. Again, there is no large sign or advertisement and we actually drove right past it twice before realizing that it was the right spot. You will pay 15 cents to park your car and $4.50 per person to get into the ruins. It’s quite a hike to get to the big ruin, so rent a bicycle or bike taxi (believe me it’s worth it) If you rent the bike taxi, the driver will stop at all of the smaller ruins on the way to the big one. If you are not afraid of heights, climb to the top, as this is the only significant ruin that you can climb in Mexico – and the government is going to ban climbing of this ruin in a few months. I’m told it is the highest point in the Yucatan, a must see. Remember to look down frequently as you climb. It’s easy to go up but really scary coming down. Many people were doing the bum slide on the way down.

Tulum is only $4.50 US per person. You can take the $2.00 collectivo and it’s an inexpensive day. The ruins and beach are beautiful. You cannot climb any of the ruins. Bring mosquito repellant as there are a few bugs when you walk through the jungle to the main property.

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Travel on your own Andy and Anne – London, UK

February 2007

We did two independent trips one to Cozumel and one to Tulum. Just go to the Hacienda and go outside the resort. There are the Collectivo buses waiting or at least come along very frequently. They cost $2 usd each way and take you to Playa del Carmen one direction and Tulum the other. If you fancy going to Cozumel get the bus to Playa del Carmen and then the Ferry which is about $20 return trip. Once there we caught a taxi to the national park and did some fantastic snorkelling. The taxi costs $10 each way. It was a great day out and a change of scenery. Tulum – get the bus and go to the ruins and take a costume for the lovely beach there. We also went to Xcaret which was a fantastic day out. Snorkelling in underground caves, dolphins, Mayan village, and best of all the fantastic show in the evening. What ever you do do not miss this show. It was awesome and truly spectacular. It was worth paying the entrance fee for alone. See the Mayans playing their ball game and see them playing the ball game with a flaming ball up and down the arena, the singing and dancing were fantastic. Highly recommend this. Every night there is a show in the hotel but nothing like this one!

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Isla Mujere Patrick and Libby

March 2006

We only took the included tour to Isla Mujeres– we were going to go to Tulum but instead decided to stay at the resort and take the 90-minute sales pitch tour so I could get a discount for the spa. We took this vacation to relax, and didn’t feel like being herded around. The trip to Isla was okay. We took a tour bus down to Cancun, which is really devastated from Hurricane Wilma–most of the hotels were still closed, and the ones that are open are still under construction. From Cancun, you get on a party boat to Isla that takes about 40 minutes. They have beer, water, and soft drinks on the boat, and a very enthusaistic and entertaining crew, although they were a little over the top on the jokes about homosexuality, especially with so many kids on the boat. I was a bit offended, but not enough to complain about it to anyone other than here. Once at Isla, the herding began–we were told that we’d have to register for snorkeling right away, so my husband and I ran over to the little booth to wait a poorly-organized line. All of the various mini-tours and activity registrations were out of that booth, so it was hard to tell which of the 7 lines we should be in. Eventually we got checked in and told where to go, but we didn’t really have time to stop for towels. The snorkeling was fun–it was the first time I’d ever been. I’d like to try it again with my own gear, in a place a little less crowded. When we got back, we stuffed ourselves with taquitos. They had a buffet with some other foods on it, but none looked as good. There was no really good beach there for swimming, sadly–the water was very seaweedy and dirty looking close to shore. We just sat around and drank beer and ate until it was time to board the boat to go to the shopping area. We ended up getting 3 t-shirts for $10. Don’t bother–out of the 3, one of them got ruined the first time we washed it. They’re not very good quality. The shopping was boring–I’m just not a big fan of tourist traps. Luckily we only spent an hour or so there. On the boat ride back, the tour guides put on a crazy show. Part of it involved some sort of crazy mix of tequila and fruit punch that they ran around squirting into people’s mouths. It was fun watching other people do, let’s just put it that way. I was getting tired and wanted to get back to our resort. Back in Cancun, we had to wait for the buses, and then I found out that the bus we were on didn’t have a bathroom. I ran back to the bar we were at and used the public restroom there, but other people didn’t, and it had to stop halfway back. About 10 minutes after we got back on the road, the bus almost got into a wreck and something went thump when we swerved. Next thing I know we get pulled over. The driver has a 3-minute conversation with the police officer and then restarts the bus, and the transmission is obviously ailing. The low gears just weren’t working…and the trip had a lot of stop and go traffic. By the time we got to Playacar Palace to drop off a few people, we were wondering if we were going to make it back. We ended up getting back about two hours later than scheduled. After that, I figured I’d go to the spa instead of Tulum.

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March 2009

We took the Xel-Ha tour which was good. Snorkelling was a little disappointing because there was a lot of sand but some fish around the rocky areas. The most exciting thing I saw was a stingray which was pretty cool. The neat thing about Xel-Ha is that it is all inclusive (75 USD) and that includes your food, booze, towel and snorkel equipment while giving you a new snorkel every time. Dolphins were very cool but at a very expensive cost. For 30 minutes, you could go in the water with them for 109 USD and for 149 USD, you got to spend 40 minutes with them. Although I wanted to do it, I didn’t and kind of regret it now but we simply ran out of time. As it was windy, the lazy river was a lot of work but the initial part of the river was really, really cool as it’s a natural park with cool critters (on the shore such as crabs). You can also use bicycles and there is a play area for kids … it’s a really cool place to visit and am glad we did it. Longer bus trip than expected though as it stops at other hotels too.
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  Xel-Ha   Chuck and Sharon ~ Saskatchewan, Canada

February 2009

We went to Xel-Ha for the day from the Iberostar Paraiso. It is some of the best snorkeling in Mexico (sheltered, lots of fish) and a great way to spend the day. There’s also lazy river tubing but unless to plan on spending hours floating wear you fins or cut the trip short once the river opens. They’ve introduced all inclusive entrance fees which for $75 US which also get you all the food and drink. The food was great and I especially liked the Mango Margarita! We paid $119US at our resort which included bus transportation. Snubba and related scuba activities are at an additional cost but weren’t active our day because of rough seas.
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  Xel-Ha   Clive ~ Calgary, Canada

December 2008

I highly recommend Xel-Ha. Great snorkeling, ALL INCLUSIVE park. Don’t book at the hotel… save yourself money and just take a taxi to Xel-Ha which is just ten minutes away, and pay at the entrance gate. No need to bring towels or food. This includes food and drinks at about three different restaurants, lockers, fresh towels, inner tubes, kayaking, and snorkel gear. Everyone gets a new snorkel that you can keep and take with you. We spent five full hours snorkeling and ran out of time to take advantage of other activities at the park. GREAT DAY!
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July 2008

Xel-Ha Ecological Park. This was our second time here. This is a great place to spend the day snorkeling down the fresh water river, towards the ocean, looking at fish and other aquatic animals and plants. The park is all inclusive meaning all food, drink, snorkeling equipment, towels, showers and dressing rooms are included. Along with the water activities, there is plenty of stuff to see on land, with nice restaurants and bars, shops to visit, hiking thru the park is great and there is so much to see. You also have to try and walk across the floating bridge, it’s a blast in a wavy day. This is one trip I definitely recommend everyone try.
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April 2008

Xel-Há/Tulum at $139.00 US + tax each was a bit of a disappointment. It would have been much cheaper to rent a car and pay the admission. Xel-Há was in the morning hours and there was a small-guided tour of Tulum in the afternoon. Our tour guide mentioned you’d probably need a waterproof camera and eco-friendly sunscreen that they sell at the water park. Amazingly, he just happened to have both for sale onboard the bus for a discounted price as well as soft drinks, water and beer! The refreshments were needed in the 37 degree C heat. No one at Xel-Há checked to see if we actually had eco-friendly sunscreen at the park. Our guide also pushed some jewelry that they sold at Tulum with your personalized name in “Mayan letters” (hmm…can you say commission?). Xel-Há, though enjoyable and picturesque, wasn’t as impressive as the videos and brochures would lead you to believe. Many things are extra like SNUBA and interacting with dolphins. Our meals, refreshments, lockers, snorkel equipment and towels were included with our particular package. By 10:00 am things get pretty crowded. Not as many colourful fish as we’d like and it was murky due to the fresh and saltwater mix, but that may vary depending upon the area. Lots of clean washrooms in the park and floating down the lazy river in an inner tube was rather relaxing. As soon as you get off the bus at Tulum the vendors are on you like flies. It is wise to take the train to the ruins, because it is a very hot walk to get there. This should be included in the price of admission, but it is not ($2.00 US). The washrooms in the small shopping centre at the Tulum site as well as the ones in the visitor center near the ruins are quite disgusting. No toilet paper, few paper towels, often no seats, overflowing plugged toilets and disgusting smell. They are truly awful! The ruins are impressive set against the turquoise sea and the beach is lovely. Many of the ruins are now roped off to prevent further decay. It was a long day from 7:30 am pick-up to drop off at 6:00 pm but we would have regretted not trying it.
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Chichen Itza Clive ~ Calgary, Canada

December 2008

Chichen Itza… Great historic site. One of the "New Seven Wonders" of the world. Chichen Itza is about two hours from the resort. This is the one trip worth booking through the hotel. I am not too sure young children would enjoy this trip, but this is a truly amazing place and is worth the day trip. I would go back!
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Chichen Itza Diane & Dave

September 2004

The other trip we did was to the Mayan ruins of “Chichen Itza”. It’s a long bus ride but the bus is air conditioned and the seats were very comfortable. The ruins were unbelievable! You have to see them for yourself! One thing we do recommend is to buy the Chichen Itza guidebook in the hotel shop and do a little reading before you go and bring the book along with you. You only have around 2 ½ hours at Chichen Itza. They provide a wonderful guided tour but this really cuts in to the limited time you have to explore. We wished that we had a guidebook so we could have skipped the tour and had the whole 2 ½ hours to explore on our own as there was much that we did not get to see. The ruins are fantastic and are endless! It’s awesome to see them and imagine what life was like back then! We strongly recommend this trip but we strongly recommend getting a guidebook and reading about it ahead of time then going to see what you want to see on your own. Be sure to grab all the bottled water from your room before you go on either trip as its very hot in Mexico and you need to replenish your fluids constantly! In fact, we brought insulated water bottle holders to Mexico with us and it was definitely good to have them so you didn’t have to walk around looking for bottled water. We filled them with the bottled water in our room and we took a couple of extra bottles too! Get the kind that have straps so you can sling them over your shoulder or the kind that are attached to fanny pack belts so you don’t have to carry them in your hands.

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May 2004

My husband choose to come to Mexico because he had always wanted to see the Mayan ruins. So we booked the full day trip to Chichen Itza. . We met in the lobby at 8:30 am and we did not return until after 7:00 pm. But is well worth the money. We took 4 bottles of water and ended up buying 4 more because it is very hot and there is no shade here. We also booked swimming with the Dolphins. We went to Puerto Adventuras ( a resort about 10 minute down the highway) Our tour guide operator recommended it because the people to dolphin ratio is very small. There were 5 of us in the water with 4 dolphins. Truthfully the most amazing experience of my life. I think everyone else felt the same way. We got to take our camera but the pictures and video they take are so much better. However they want $50 USD dollars for the video and $15 per picture. You are also given a free day pass to the Xcaret Park which is attached to the resort. Be prepared to spend the entire day here. There are amazing under ground caves that you may snorkel through at no extra cost.

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Xcaret Clive ~ Calgary, Canada

December 2008

Xcarat.. nice big park/zoo, some good swimming, good night show. Good for all ages. It was good but I won’t be going back. If you are in the area for a long time and looking for something to do, it might be worth visiting, if you are not in the area very long, visit one of the other attractions in the area first.
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July 2007

Best part of staying at this resort is the free tickets to the park. You must get tickets the day of or day before from the X caret office in the lobby. It’s a 5 min walk to the park side entrance. Make sure you go early. This is good to avoid crowds in the underground river and the blistering heat. Went to the underground river with my 3 yr old and 5 yr old daughters. Initial a little concerned if they would be able to do it. But it turned out the 3 yr old loved it. You get a large bag to but all your belonging in and this will be given to you at the end. I wrapped my camera in there, as I didn’t want to walk back to get the camera. The bag is locked so it’s ok, just pad it well. Go to the river on the right side (natural). It’s much better and is where everyone goes. The water is cool. If you have your own flipper it helps you move faster and float.

Beach had lots of hammock. Snorkeling area, swim with dolphin area. The park was too hot and huge. Even just to get to the butterfly area took a good 15-20 min walk thru the scorching heat. Inside the pavilion was a waterfall and free flying butterfly. Very nice but I don’t think it was butterfly season as not too many. Saw the village and then the cemetery. Struggled to the rest of the park as too hot. Did finally get to the nice Air Conditioned aquarium, which was nice, both internally and to cool off. Back to the stifling hot and saw the massive sea turtle. There was dozens of 10 ft turtle. Couldn’t wait to get back to the resort after 2-3 hrs. Walked back and got ice-cold beers to guzzle down at the buffet and drank it within a minute. Ahhhhhh. Wanted just to hang out there all day with the nice A/C. Went back to the pool and relaxed in nice pool. You could either have an early dinner or alternative wait till after the show. Got stuck at the end but still ok seats. If you get there early you can take pictures with all show people from the front entrance leading to the theatre. HINT: bring a portable battery operated fan. It’s hot in the theatre. The show started at 7pm and went thru the history of the Mayan civilization right up to the current society. Very entertainment. Little long sometime esp for kids. 2 hrs long with intermission. At they end you run back to the resort and catch the buffet for dinner if you didn’t eat before.
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April 2005

The park opens at 8:30 am, we arrived a few minutes after it opened which is a fantastic idea. Bought the tickets at the hotel for $49 US per adult and both of my kids were free. Took a taxi from the lobby (just ask the bell boy to get you one) and it cost us $10 US each way. It was cheaper for us to buy our tickets and take a taxi because the tour package price was $65 US. We liked the idea of just leaving whenever we wanted from Xcaret, and the taxi’s are just waiting to take guests back to their hotel in the parking lot. I took one stroller but my 3 1/2 year old still likes to be pushed around so I rented a large stroller for him, it cost $12 US and you need to leave a $30 US deposit. The stollers were awesome with 3 huge rubber tires that would run over anything. My kids did love to walk around too, but be very very careful, there are some spots that they could fall into water (ie/ the turtle area and manatee lagoon), I was surprise not to see someone fall down in there, it’s easy to get bumped. The beach area was deserted early in the morning and we had any choice of spot to pick, we chose some chairs in the shade and played in the water. This is the perfect place for young children to play in the water. It’s really like a large swimming pool with little fish the kids can chase. My kids didn’t want to leave after hours of playing. My husband and father in law put on the lifevests and floated/swam down the underground river……they had a great time. There is also a boat that you can take down a river for those of you who don’t want to get wet or for young kids. I would recommend this excursion to anyone, they even had wheel chairs to rent, the pathways are easy to get around and early in the morning wasn’t busy. We left the park around 3pm. I also packed up our drinks from the minibar and made the kids jelly sandwiches at the buffet before we left, Xcaret charges $2.50 US per pop and hotdogs were $4.90 US, so I was glad to have packed up lots of water, pop and food. We left around 3pm after doing some t-shirt shopping (only $5 US), it’s less than 10 minutes from the resort. I’ve been to Mexico before and had already done Xelha and Tulum, I knew the kids would enjoy Xcaret and we also enjoyed going for a second time. My father in law said it was "awesome".

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September 2004

A must do trip is to “Xcaret”. It was awesome! It’s a huge facility located on the Caribbean. It’s a short bus trip from the resort and you can leave in the morning and stay only until 1:30 PM or you can get a bus back at 5:00 PM or stay through until 9:30 PM!!!! The park has all kinds of attractions and exhibits, a Mayan Village replica, Mayan ruins to explore, an Aquarium, an underground river you can float down, a beautiful boat ride through the jungle, many wildlife exhibits and many swimming lagoons and beaches right off the ocean. There are places to eat and lockers to keep your stuff in and lots of outdoor showers to rinse off in and places to change etc… At night they put on a fabulous show with over 200 performers in a covered open air theatre. It was great fun and lots to see and do and many beautiful places. A MUST visit!

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Tulum Ruins Juan — Texas

July 2004

This was the highlight of our trip .Tulum is about 45 minutes away we contracted with Lomas to provide the transportation, it was a huge European Bus the tour guide Manuel spoke so many languages that I lost count. Both of our parents were born in Mexico so to us it was a chance to visit our ancestral past. The ruins are more breathtaking, totally stunning then the many internet pictures that are available. Word of caution: It is "mucho & I mean mucho caliente !!" (very very hot) take or buy bottle water, sun glasses , bathing suit ,your most comfortable walking shoes, sun tan lotions, mosquito spray sun hats/ caps, & dress appropriately for extreme heat conditions. The bus will unload you approximately a mile and 1/2 from the actual Ruins entrance & next to a souvenir shopping center, you have a choice if you feel like walking up a dusty gravel road or pay 20 pesos each to ride a tram . Considering my heart condition & extreme heat we chose the Tram . At the Ruins entrance there is a "last chance" potty break & bottle water is sold at the book store or from a little old man with a cart the guide will wait. Once you get past the main entrance there are no restrooms or water fountains & limited shade except near the ocean where there are palm trees The tour is approximately 1 hour (if you last) , You will be given a chance to jump in the ocean next to the ruins. We also saw a skinny snake so watch where you step your invading their territory.The following is very important: Be sure to remember the pick up time AND PLACE , bus number & description , bus color, license plate etc. and start looking for it about 30 minutes or more before your departure. We almost were left there because we couldn’t find our bus and guess what by pick up time there will be a lot more buses in the parking area then when you arrived. One couple on our bus was left at Tulum after a good faith search by the bus crew failed to locate them.

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Coba Jungle Tour Ted & Kelly

January 2007

We did the Coba Jungle Tour ($85 US) which includes a visit to a Mayan Village, Cenote swimming and the Mayan Ruins of Coba. My husband thought the village was a waste of time, but I liked it. The cenote swimming was fun although you’re not there very long. By the time we got to Coba’s ruins it had clouded over and was threatening rain. We started off on the walking tour (about 3 miles but you can rent bikes or get rides), and it started to pour. We were 1/3 of the way there and there was no place to take shelter from the jungle downpour so we all decided to keep walking. By the time we got to the pyramid we were all soaked but some people still wanted to climb it. All in all it was a good tour, but having done Tulum we were a little disappointed. We thought that Chitchen Itza was too far but maybe we will do that next time.

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Tours

May 2004

For about $60 to $100 CDN per person, the hotel offers various tours including an active volcano, several cities and an especially adrenaline generating trip to what is called the Mombacho Canopy Tour. You are suspended high in the trees to a wire cable by a harness outfitted with a clamp and pulley contraption. You jump off the platform and ride the cord to the next tree, hundreds of feet away, using your left hand as your brake. My claim to fame is that I will be forever known as the Canadian Pollo (chicken) because I insisted they get me the he_ _ down from there after four of these harrowing runs. (Trust me, that’s the only tree available to do it on and it’s not easy!) This trip also included a nice lunch, and a stop at a scenic view of a massive lagoon.

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Panama Canal
Restaurants
Tours – Decamero Explorer

Tours – Decamero Explorer S & B ~ Ottawa, ON

March 2007

Tours
We did alot in the week that we were there. Decamero Explorer is the tour company offered at the hotel. The staff is great. Most speak pretty good English and many can often switch between English, French and Spanish without skipping a beat. When you have orientation, they will give you the days the tours are available. Some tours are only available once a week or on particular days. They offer a number of tours but here are the ones we took.

Anton Valley-takes you to a crater of an extinct volcano. You visit the El Chorro Macho waterfall, walking through the rainforest. The walk is pretty uneven so make sure you wear shoes with a good sole and can keep your balance. Not for somebody who can’t walk well. You also go to a zoo and botanical garden. Lots of animals and birds. The "Golden Frog" is on display there. We didn’t see it…I guess it was vacation. They stop in a little town that has a couple of good shops. Most of the women went shopping while the men went to the bar next door. The beer is about $1.00 but if you go across the street to the grocery store, it’s alot cheaper. You leave around 8:00 AM and your back at the hotel around 2:00 PM.

Old Panama City & Panama Canal-I really enjoyed this tour. Seeing the Panama Canal in action was great. There was a freighter going through the first lock and in the second lock was a submarine. The freighter was suppose to have covered it going through the locks but the ship was too slow and the submarine was already down at the other end. The 15 minute movie giving the history of the canal was interesting. We got to see "Old Panama" and some historical sites throughout the city. We had a great lunch at a Lebanese Restaurant that was included in the package. Our guide was great and gave a very realistic view of life in Panama. Bring your passport. They stop at the end of the Amador Causeway which has a duty free shop that is excellent. None of us has our passport so we couldn’t buy anything.

Embera Indieginous Community-this was very neat. You drive about 2 hours from the resort. When you get there you are picked up by the Embera people in piraguas (canoes) They have motors attached and you take a beautiful ride through the river to the waterfall. Keep your camera out as there is lots of beautiful scenery and birds to photograph. You go to the waterfall first. It’s about a 15 minute walk to it. There is a lot of climbing over rocks and going through shallow streams to get there (wear wet shoes or old shoes because of the mud & water and wear your bathing suit) The waterfall is beautiful and you can have a great swim. After the walk back, you are taken to the village where you are greeted by the Indians. They are dressed in native attire. They serve lunch of fish and plantains, perform a dance and have a craft area set up where you buy their hand made items. The guide will take you on a tour of the village and then you head back to the bus. You leave around 8:00 AM and are back around 7:00 PM.

ATV Tour-they have a number of different tours set up. We took the 2 hour tour that went down the beach, up the air strip and through the back fields of the area. You went through streams, up and down hills etc. It was a lot of fun and the guide made sure everybody kept pace and enjoyed it. It was the first time I actually drove an ATV and it was a lot of fun. It was around $50 USD per person but worth it.

Deep See Fishing-my husband and his buddy went on this. They left around 7:00 AM and returned around 12:30. The cost was $150.00 USD. It included food, drinks, guide, equipment etc. They only brought back 1 fish but the day before 4 fish were brought in.

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Panama Canal Sandra and Byerbill

January 2009

We chose the Panama Canal Partial Transit which gave us a 4 hour trip through two sets of locks in a 300 capacity boat combined with a lunch on board. At $110 each it might have seemed expensive until you hear what it costs to take a boat through the Canal. This trip runs Friday and Saturday with alternative days going north or south. The excursion was great but I wished that we had locked with one of the larger ocean vessels instead of the smaller yacht that joined us. Such is luck of the draw. I have posted a few pictures here: http://www.worldisround.com/articles/351162/index.html After the trip we went to a duty free shop and although the prices seemed good they were actually much higher than we found at the airport later on.
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Panama Canal Chris – Canada

December 2004

There are a number of side trips that are available, quite a number of them revolve around the Panama Canal. We took three trips Jungle Boat, Partial Canal Transit and the Panama Express and all three involved the Canal. We saw the canal three different ways, we crossed it on a small boat at the bottom end of Gatun Lake (a man made lake which feeds the canal with water) on the Jungle Boat excursion, we went through two sets of locks on the Pacific side on a boat in the Partial Canal transit. Our boat was late in coming for us so we made a stop at the Gamboa Rainforest hotel, an absolutely beautiful hotel laid out on a hill overlooking the Chagres River (one of the main rivers feeding the canal) but because this hotel is in the rainforest it does rain there constantly. We were fortunate that the day we went was very sunny and hot. Then we traveled by train from the Atlantic side to the Pacific along the side of the canal. This tour is very long and you travel by bus to the Atlantic town of Portobello, then on to Colon, the largest Duty Free zone after Hong Kong. This is followed by lunch at the Melia Panama Canal, a tour of the Gatun Locks and then you board the train at 5:15 pm.

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Restaurants Chris – Canada

December 2004

Stayed at Royal Decameron Costa Blanca

Lastly, after being at a resort for two weeks you may get tired of the food. No matter how well it’s prepared or how many choices you have sometimes you need a change. And if you are a seafood lover, the Decameron does not serve lobster and very limited shrimp and crab. There are two choices, there’s Pipa’s Beach Bar (about 35 minute walk down the beach near the Barcelo Hotel) and they will come and pick you up. Or there’s Restaurante La Fogata about a 5 minute walk from Lobby 2 past the spa and again Jurg will come and pick you up.

Pipa’s is owned by a lady from Costa Rica named Sonja. It’s a very casual restaurant and you eat right on the beach (bring bug spray, mosquitoes can be bad) the service was good and for $25 you get a Pacific Lobster, rice and salad. Pacific Lobster is much smaller than its Atlantic cousin, the meat is not as firm and is a little darker. Overall a very good meal. The beer is $1 and wine is $2 a glass or you can bring your own.

Restaurante La Fogata was my favourite. Swiss born Jurg and his Panamanian wife Luz own this restaurant and Luz does all the cooking herself. She is still in the process of perfecting her English and will come out and have a chat. Jurg is fluent in French (his native tongue), English and Spanish and is a fountain of information. The specialty of the house ($25) is a four course meal starting with an appetizer, your choice shrimp cocktail, clams in garlic (Panamanians love their garlic) or ceviche (marinated seafood in lime juice), the appetizer also comes with garlic bread. Then comes the salad in a very nice home made dressing, followed by half an Atlantic lobster, three large tiger shrimp and a dozen or so of the smaller shrimp accompanied by coconut rice (house specialty). Then dessert (I never made it to dessert, too full).

We enjoyed this restaurant so much we went back the next day (last night) this time my husband had Caribbean King Crab for $35 (cousin to the Alaska King Crab) weighing in at 5 lbs., Jurg tells us that often they can be closer to 10 lbs. The shell is very hard so they provide you with a wooden board and a covered rock but the reward is a very sweet tasting meat that just melts in your mouth and Luz makes her own garlic butter sauce, that has no match and is so good you could eat it on it’s own with bread (as long as you’re a garlic lover). I had a large bowl of Clams with the garlic sauce and a large helping of bread. We both thoroughly enjoyed our meal. We made it to the restaurant on our own power Jurg drove us back both times, Thank you, Jurg.

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