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Clarissa and Gena - March 3-6,2005
By: Clarissa (View Profile)
The last time I went to Isla Mujeres was March 2002 with my mom and (then 2 year old) daughter, and I have been trying to find a way to get back ever since. In the three years since my last trip, I have had a second daughter who is now almost 2. Several weeks ago, I saw that airfares were rather low to Cancun, so I mentioned the idea to my husband. He went back and forth, but came to the decision that he would not be making the trip as he had LASIK surgery scheduled and would not be able to fully enjoy the vacation. Being the wonderful husband that he is, he suggested that I find a friend to go with me and he would stay home and watch the kids. Well, that was all I needed…..my friend Gena was able to go with me so we booked the trip a week in advance and I feverishly began looking for a place to stay.
Gena picked me up at 4:15am on March 3 to head to the airport. It was early, but I was too excited to care. We parked in the remote parking at DFW and made it to the terminal by 5:00 am, two hours before our flight. There were three young guys, Jordan, Paul, and Grant, ahead of us in line who we started chatting with. They were also going to Isla Mujeres, so I asked if they wanted to share a cab. They told us they were with a group of seven and the others had yet to arrive. They had driven all night from Kansas City and seemed to be no worse for the wear. They amused us while we waited to check in. When we checked in, the ticket agent asked if we preferred aisle or window and I said, “As close to the front as we can get.” Well, we ended up in row 2 and the plane was not full so we had the aisle and the window seat.
After an uneventful flight, we landed in Cancun at 9:30 am. There was no one in line at immigration, so we breezed through. We got our luggage, two green lights at customs and headed out to buy our shuttle tickets. The shuttle made 2 stops in the hotel zone, one in downtown and then it was on to Gran Puerto Cancun. This was the first time I had ridden this ferry and I really enjoyed sitting up top in the open air. (Note to the pale: apply sunscreen before your ferry ride. I, being the palest person on earth, got sunburned on the ferry ride over.)
Well, remember my feverish attempt to find a place to stay. I had received several emails back from hotels on the South end of the island stating that they had rooms, so I felt we would be able to find a place. The day before we left, I got a reply from Perla del Caribe that they had rooms. I was excited that we might get a place downtown, so we walked off the ferry and headed that direction. We got a room for $55/night with 2 double beds, a/c, and a wonderful balcony overlooking the Caribbean. The room was clean and the staff was friendly. One other thing, the bathrooms have their own mini hot water heater, so there’s no waiting for the water to make its way through the pipes!
We set our stuff down in the room, changed into beach attire and headed for Playa Sol. By the time we arrived, Jordan and crew were already starting on their tequila shots. We said hi and then staked out 2 chairs by the water’s edge and proceeded to do nothing for several hours. The bay was really rough that afternoon, so we actually listened to the sounds of the waves crashing. Rogelio took good care of us. We had a late lunch of guacamole, chicken nachos for me, and a club sandwich for Gena. The guacamole was wonderful! I ordered a pina colada and all was right with the world. Around 3:30, we headed back to the room to shower and change. We went back to Sergio’s for happy hour. I stopped at the grocery store on the way for a mango-pina wine cooler to drink on the way. I have to have at least one on every trip.
Jordan and crew were still at Playa Sol, some looking very worse for the wear. They were trying to convince us to meet them later that night at La Pena. We knew we wouldn’t make it and doubted they would either! We didn’t have much of a sunset so we chatted with Jordan and Grant while finishing our cocktails (pina colada for me and strawberry margarita for Gena.)
The roughness in the bay that afternoon was a storm blowing in, so we headed over to Sunset Grill to get some dinner. One look at the menu and we decided to go elsewhere. Their prices were very high ($185 pesos for coconut shrimp.) We walked into town and stopped at Fayne’s just before the rain got too hard. Sergio came over and started flirting with us in between taking our order. (The rest of the trip, every time we walked by Sergio, he would smile and say, “Hola, Texas!”) I had chicken tacos and Gena had coconut shrimp (only 100 pesos here.) I also had 2 more pina coladas, which were very good. We waited out the rain and then waded through the flooded streets back to the hotel and into bed at the very late hour of 8:00 pm.
The next morning we woke up to sunny, blue skies dotted with a few clouds. Another beautiful day in paradise. We headed to the French bistro for breakfast. We both had eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast. After breakfast, we walked to the bank to get some money, then back to the room, into beach attire, and off to Playa Sol. I stopped on the way and bought a Ladatel card to call home. Matt was feeding the girls breakfast and they were all surviving without me. We plopped down on 2 chairs right at the water’s edge and picked up where we left off the day before…doing absolutely nothing! Rogelio came by to check on us every so often and was more than happy to bring me several Coke lights and an order of guacamole that we split for lunch.
Around 3:00 pm the “crew” arrived and started right where they left off the day before…with tequila shots. They told us what a great time we had missed at La Pena…oh well, maybe next time (although not likely!) We left around 4:00 pm to get cleaned up and come back for happy hour. Rogelio told us goodbye as he and his girlfriend were leaving for Cozumel the next day. Back to the room, showered, changed and headed back to Playa Sol. We were treated to a wonderful sunset this evening, but less than stellar service. The waiter (didn’t get his name) seemed very put out that we ordered a Coke Light and a bottle of water. Sorry buddy, we weren’t in the mood for alcohol at the time. After the sunset, we headed to dinner. We stopped along the way to do some shopping. I bought 2 dresses for each of my girls and Gena bought an outfit for one of her daughters. Dinner that night was Picus. I had garlic shrimp and Gena tried the conch ceviche. She was not a big fan so I shared my garlic shrimp with her. After dinner, we walked to Fredy’s so I could get one of his famous Pina Coladas. AHHHHHHH…it was as wonderful as I remembered. We left Fredy’s and decided to check out the dessert selection at Color de Verano. Well, it was too good to pass up. I had the amaretto ice cream and Gena had the chocolate mousse (to die for!!!) We chatted with IslaDano, his wife and daughter for a while. They had been diving and had a close encounter with a large barracuda. Gena is a diver, so they discussed different places to dive for a while. After our dessert, we were ready to crash. We walked back to the room and were very proud of ourselves for staying up until 10:00pm.
Woke up on Saturday to another beautiful day. We were both a little sad that it was our last full day on Isla. We headed to breakfast at Bamboo. I had the Hungry Man breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, toast and hash browns) and Gena had the French toast and we both had a glass of OJ. Breakfast was excellent. When we got our bill, there was a 15% tax added. I assumed this was the tip, but I still left a little extra. Hopefully I was correct and did not stiff our waitress. Today was our golf cart day. We rented a cart for $45 for the day from Prisma’s and headed South. We drove past Mundaca’s and headed back North to the Sac Bajo area. We stopped at the Turtle farm and I was almost reduced to tears. I had heard that it had been closed down at one point and it appears to be only somewhat operational now. Two of the large tanks are not in use and shut off by a “Private Property” fence. You can no longer go out on the pier over the water; there aren’t any large turtles there anyway. There aren’t any tour guides anymore and the gift shop looked like they had just reopened. I am glad that the turtle farm was spared being shut down for good, but it was sad to see the decline since my last visit.
Back out on the road and down to Punta Sur. We parked the cart and walked all along the trails. I am always amazed at the beauty and power of the sea at this place. Looking at the ocean inspired me to snorkel, so we hopped back into the cart and drove towards the Hotel Garrafon de Castillo beach club. We stopped right across the street at El Pueblito for some lunchtime tacos (chicken for me, beef for Gena.) After our lunch, we went on to the beach club and I snorkeled for about 10-15 minutes. During my brief stint in the water, I did manage to see plenty including a 3-4 foot barracuda hanging out under the pier. I got out and offered my snorkel and mask to Gena, but she was content to relax in the sun. I joined her in relaxing and we had a nice conversation with a woman named Linda, who was down from Vegas for a month. Linda’s friend had just purchased a condo in the building just before the hotel and she was helping her paint and fix the place up. Sounded like a pretty sweet deal to me – a few hours of manual labor for a month long vacation in paradise. Where do I sign up???
We hung out at the beach club for about an hour and then headed around the South end and back North along the Caribbean side. We made several stops - the obligatory picture of the Shell house, and twice to walk on the beach and look for shells. Back in town, we stopped at our room to shower and change before returning the cart. We headed towards Playa Sol and ran into Jordan and Paul coming out of Jax. Surprise of all surprises, they had been doing tequila shots! They once again tried to convince us to go to La Pena that evening. We graciously declined and wished them well on the rest of their vacation. We got to Playa Sol and were greeted with an eye roll from our lovely waiter from the previous evening. We sat at a table and waited for 30 minutes before he came over to take our drink order! This was clearly not an oversight on his part as he approached us and asked if we were just planning on taking up a table for the night. I informed him that I wanted a drink and he said “So what are you waiting for?” Well, I was on vacation, so I decided not to get into a shouting match with him. I ordered a margarita and Gena ordered guacamole. He just looked at her and said, “no.” After going back and forth several times, he finally informed her that the kitchen was closed – why he couldn’t have told her that in the first place is beyond me. After another 15 minutes, he finally brought me my margaritas, trying to blame the slow service on the bartender. Well, I had watched the bartender make my drinks right after I placed the order – PLUS they were completely melted by the time I got them. Needless to say, the super friendly waiter got no tip from me. Despite the horrendous service, we enjoyed another spectacular sunset.
Dinner that night was at Chile Locos. I had chicken shish-ka-bobs and Gena had beef fajitas. I also ordered a Pina Colada – 2x1 happy hour 11am until you’re drunk! (One side note, the 2x1 is not like other places where they bring you both drinks at the same time. You have to order 2 separate drinks and are only charged for one. Gena ordered only 1 pina colada and was charged 30 pesos instead of the 45 pesos for 2.) The pina coladas were excellent – I dare say as good as Fredy’s! The food was wonderful and there was plenty of it. We could have easily split one entrée between the 2 of us. Our waitress that evening was Donna and she told us they opened for breakfast at 7:00 am which solved that dilemma for us. We walked slowly back towards the hotel, stopping at shops along the way. We packed up our stuff, set the alarm clock for early the next morning, and hit the sack.
I woke up on Sunday just as the sun was rising – my first sunrise on Isla. I went out on the balcony and took some pictures before getting ready to leave. We left the hotel right around 7:00 am and headed to Chile Locos for breakfast. I had pancakes and Gena had bacon and eggs. The pancakes were delicious and came with a side of fresh fruit – YUM! We hated to rush, but we had to catch the 8:00 am ferry. We made the ferry with a few minutes to spare and I managed not to cry as we left the dock. Back on the mainland, we agreed to split a cab with two other girls and then got ripped off by the cab driver. He tried to tell us that the posted prices were just for locals. I tried to argue with him, but he was the ONLY cab driver there, so we were at his mercy. We finally agreed on $35 US for the 4 of us. Made it to the airport with plenty of time, boarded our flight and took off back towards reality. I got one last look at Isla from the window as we flew over. Gena and I had a great time doing next to nothing for 3 days, and I think I just might have made an Isla convert out of her. As soon as I got home, I gave my husband and kids a big hug and then started trying to figure out when I could go back!
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