TRIP REPORT: ISLA MUJERES January 13TH-20TH, 2010
Day 1 Wednesday
Left Philadelphia on US Air at 7:40am on Wednesday the 13th and arrived in Cancun at around 11. All went easily at baggage claim and immigrations, green light at customs, and out to the curb where the Cancun Valet driver waited with our name on the sign. We were at the ferry terminal at Grand Puerto in time for the 11 o’clock ride to the island. It was partly sunny and about 75 degrees. The four of us walked (with luggage) up the beach from the pier to the Privileges Aluxes hotel where we found our reservation was in order. We had booked the super-saver package through Expedia, but later inquired directly with the hotel about an upgrade to a Deluxe Suite with and adjoining Deluxe Room. The suite cost $40 a night ($280 total), and the room upgrade was free. Paid with AMEX card (yes, they take it) and the rooms were all ready for us so we settled in and were at the pool by 1. It was very windy on the beach, with sand blowing on the southerly 35mph steady breeze, so we opted for the pool. It was a little cooler than we would have liked, but mostly sunny. Water temp at the pools was around 75.
By about 4pm we decided on a brief siesta since we’d been up since 3am, then dressed and headed for Hidalgo Street for some staples for the room and dinner. We walked the length of the street and into the Super Mercado, where we gathered some snacks, beer, spirits, and cups for the room. After dropping them back at the hotel it was time for dinner.
My wife and I already had our favorites downtown, but we had two Isla newbies in tow and one of them is allergic to seafood, so we shopped menus until we settled at Rolandi’s. After pizza and salads with a couple of beers, we walked down to La Luna for a look at all the changes. We all agreed that we would come back for the advertised Salsa band on Saturday night.
We explored Centro on foot for the next couple of hours, getting our newbies oriented. Some small purchases prompted a quick trip back to the hotel to leave the packages, and then it was time to shop for dinner. We settled on Angelo’s grill at the north end of Hidalgo since we have a hardcore steak man on the team. We were escorted to our table by Genaro, who was hospitable and quick to make suggestions for both food and drink. We all had excellent meals (whole fish for me, and steak and ribs from the grill for others) followed by Don Julio Blanca nightcaps. Back to the hotel, we were in bed by 10.
Privileges Aluxes rooms were great. Deluxe room was average size, but with a good sized balcony w/hot tub, plenty of closet space, and spacious marble bathroom. It connected to the Suite, which had similar bedroom arrangement (window, no balcony), with an even larger bathroom that included a Jacuzzi tub and shower, nice size kitchen area (coffee maker, mini fridge, and 2 burner cook top, but with no microwave or dishes/utensils), and an amazingly large living room with couch and coffee table. Glass slider from LR led to the balcony that overlooked the pool area. Using the two rooms together was great, since it gave us a balcony on both sides of the building with views each way. More on the room and hotel as we go.
Day 2 Thursday
Up at around 9 for the breakfast buffet that’s included with the rooms. We thought we’d check it out and then probably move on to some of our previous favorites for our morning meals. We were all pleasantly surprised with the food, variety, and service and wound up eating there every morning of our stay.
The weather was still a bit overcast and cool, so we went to see if we could get a deal on a golf cart for the next 6 days. Walking along Medina we were approached with “hey senor, you need to fish or a golf cart” by a stringer for El Sol rentals. After some conversation we got the cart for six days, including a ride to the ferry on departure day for $3000 pesos. Thought it was a good enough deal and the cart had working lights and was fairly new, so now we’re mobile. Also stopped at the cambio on the south end of Hidalgo and changed some money and now we’re off to make a quick orientation lap around the island.
As we toured on the cart and pointed out the landmarks to our first-timers the sky brightened so we decide to try the beach. PA’s beach is just south of Sergio’s pier with nice palapas, loungers, and waiter service from the Café de Mare café. It was mostly sunny, and about 78, but windy as hell, and sand blowing everywhere. We stayed about an hour and moved to the pool for the rest of the afternoon. Reading, talking, people watching, and drinking.
We had come prepared with a soft cooler to bring our own drinks down to the pool, fearing that without the AI package we’d get nailed for the pool bar drinks. After a few Pacificos we all tried the special of the day from the bar, and much to our surprise the bill was around $12. The drinks were good, and with that kind of cost we happily mixed ordering from the bar with our cooler usage.
Around 1pm we left the beach and took a ride up to the Soggy Peso for lunch. Cheeseburgers we featured and the girls went singles, the guys went doubles. The beers were cold, so the long wait for the food went easily. When the burgers came we realized that the doubles might have been a mistake. Instead of a matching pair of single burgers, we both got this 2” slice of undercooked meatloaf that exploded raw beef juice all over the place when bitten. The girls said the singles were fine, so if you go there on burger day, don’t show off.
We continued on a tour of the southern end of the island, just driving through the colonias and stopping to take some pictures. We also stopped to check out the menu at Villa Rolandi and made a reservation for the next evening for our “fancy” dinner of the trip. Clouds closed in and it got kind of cool so we head back to hotel to clean up.
Still stuffed with burgers, and with the weather looking like rain, we decide to just stroll for a while around 7:30. We walked the beach side of Medina and our surprised to see how many places have closed early. Instead of shifting over to Hidalgo we decide to try Bally Hoo for drinks and see if anyone is hungry. Appetizers and sandwiches we ordered after a couple of drinks as the wind kicked up again. We walked a little more and off to bed.
Day 3 Friday
The day started out overcast and cool, but after breakfast the skies were promising to clear so we decided to sit at the pool, get some sun, and test the bartender. We read, talked, and drank until about 4, with good results from both our room-prepared cooler drinks and the mojitos and margaritas from the bar, then it was upstairs for a nap and dinner prep.
The girls insist on a cab rather than our golf cart for the 7:30 Rolandi reservation, and we arrived with most of the hairdos intact. There was hardly anyone in the restaurant and we were seated and served drinks promptly. Appetizers were fast and delicious (the octopus and beef carpaccios stood out), and then the entrée’s were delivered in a coordinated “ta-da” moment as four waiters lifted four silver covers from the plates. We all had some kind of pasta, from mushroom ravioli to gnocchi to fettuccine alfredo. It was great, but left us way too full for deserts. Stuffed, happy, and sunburned, we called for a cab and headed to bed.
Day 4 Saturday
Awoke to sunshine and warmer temperatures, with light breezes for the first morning of the trip, so we make some use of our cart and head to Zama beach club. We get there about 11 and were quickly informed that they had a wedding at 2pm and we’d have to leave by then, so we didn’t settle in for swimming in either the bay or pool, but just had a few drinks and stay dry for now. Zama is a lovely place, great backdrop for a wedding with nice clean modern facilities, but on this day the service was a little slow and preparation for the wedding was obviously way ahead on the priority list, so off we go to the turtle farm.
We spend about an hour walking around a watching the turtles and other sea creatures. There was a nice crown since it was Saturday. From here we get back on our cart to continue south.
Next comes one of my wife and my favorite places….Playa Lancheros/Casa Tix-n-Chix. This has always been one of our must do afternoons on Isla, so we’re anxious to show our friends. The place has really been upgraded, with new walls on the road, a fresh coat of paint, and the move of the old fire pit into a fully enclosed building. We park an walk into the main hut, only to find that the soul of the place is gone. No more vendors’ stalls on the beach, vending machines and video games, and worst of all….name tags on the staff! Since our companions aren’t fish eaters, we decide it’s not even worth testing the signature dish and just move on.
Down the road to another of our must-do’s….El Pueblito.
We were relieved to find that El Pueblito retains its personality even though it’s bigger than when we were last there. Super cold beers, good mojitos and margaritas, and the best fish tacos I had on this trip. We stay for an hour or so and just enjoy the setting.
We continue on around Punta Sur, and ride back up through the neighborhoods locating places we’ve noted on Laura’s maps but never been to. We stop at the new drive through Modelorama beer store to restock our fridge, and then back to the room about 5.
Tonight we want to check out La Luna both for dinner and for nightlife. We get there around 8pm, and find that it’ the first night they are serving full dinner menu in the courtyard. There is some confusion and shuffling around, but the staff is certainly eager and attentive and they keep the drink glasses full while we wait for out food. This place has really become the nightclub of choice on Isla. We first listened to an amazing guitar player and his female percussionist (?), but the real show started at 9:30 when the Salsa band came on stage. The girl lead singer/dancer is like Charo on speed. She’s perched on what appear to be 9” stiletto heels, and is in constant motion. By about 11 the crowd is really coming in and it’s time for us old folks to make room for the youngsters. The folks who re-opened the old La Pena as La Luna deserve a lot of credit for making this a really nice late-night attraction. This is our latest night yet and now it’s time for bed.
Day 5 Sunday
After breakfast we all get in the cart and head out for some exploring. We head south on Medina, stopping to shop and take pictures anywhere that catches an eye. By lunch time we are at Oscars de Veradero on the main road in Colonia Gloria. We stopped because we spotted some of the cypress bar stool from El Pena at the bar. We ordered drinks and lunch, burgers for the meat eaters and fish tacos and civiche for the rest. The food was excellent and we sat for quite a while watching the world go by.
Now we continue south, and stop at the Punta Sur shops for some coconut ice cream and a walk through the sculpture garden and along the cliff trail. After a lot of picture taking and strolling we continue on, driving up the east coast of the island and sightseeing.
By 5 o’clock we head back to the hotel to freshen up and then go in search of dinner. Things are happening along Hidalgo, so we decide to eat inside and at the window at Momma Rosa’s.
This was a new place since our last visit and the menu had some intriguing items on it. Good lasagna, pizza, and salads, paired with an inexpensive Chilean Cabernet. We ate a leisurely dinner and watched the fire dancers and other street entertainers as they went by.
Now it’s off to Miguel’s Moonlight for drinks and music. We haven’t been to the new location off Hidalgo on Morelos yet, but found it easily since Miguel still stands out front and invites you in. He as celebrating and anniversary in the new location and had a two man band playing music us old folks remember, so we had a several good drinks, read the graffiti on the walls, and enjoyed some appetizers. We even got to gain more fans for his Pomegranate Margaritas! We ended the night with a slow stroll back to the hotel.
Day 6 Monday
We get up to sunshine, 80+ temperature, and very light breezes…..beach weather! We dress accordingly, pack some drinks in our cooler, and head for breakfast. We’re on the beach by 10 to soak up some sun. The beach amenities at the Privileges are very nice. Comfortable loungers, small palapas for shade if you want it, and prompt (for Mexico) waiters make the day go easily. We read, take the occasional cooling dip in the bay, people watch, and drink.
With a show of hands we vote to stay on the beach through lunch and plan an early dinner. About 4 we leave the beach to shower and have a cocktail in the suite before dinner.
We head for Hidalgo and look for some local fare. We intend to have tacos and tortas at Medina, but they aren’t open yet so we stop to chat and have a tequila or two with Genaro at Angelo’s, our new best friend. When informed of our dinner plans he makes a face and advises we shift our meal to Brisas grill down the street. It was an excellent suggestion. We got there as they were starting the charcoal grill, and took a table right on the street. We ordered drinks and chips and browsed the menu, finding fajitas, ribs, and the barbequed mixed grill for two. Once again, wonderful food! The mixed grill was served on a plate the size of a manhole cover, and included 2 each of steaks, pork chops, chicken halves, and cheriso with rice, beans, salad, and soft tacos. What we couldn’t finish we shared with a black pug who politely sat under our table through our meal and left full, and with a new name….George.
Once we were stuffed we walked back down the street for some souvenir shopping. Presents were procured for friends and family back home, and the girls made a quick trip back to the room to drop the packages. This allowed for another stop at Angelo’s bar for tequila and more conversation with Genaro. The girls return and join us for a drink or two, and by now it’s time to head back to Miguel’s as we had promised the night before. The other guy in the group is a volunteer fireman, and had brought along some t-shirts to exchange with the ‘bomberos’ on the island. Upon finding out that there were none (apparently firefighting falls to the Navy on the island), he decided that the next best thing would be to take pictures of various Islanos holding up the shirt. We had already immortalized the several bartenders and beachgoers in such a manner, and now we were off to hang the shirt on the band and proprietor at Miguel’s. On the way, we also got a couple of the local policia to pose with it. We spent a couple of hours enjoying the drinks and music at Miguel’s, got our shots with the band, and left the shirt with Miguel who promised to hang it on the wall for us.
We left about 10 and stopped for some gelato on the way home for the evening.
Day 6 Tuesday (our last full day)
Once again the weather is beautiful when we get out of bed, but today we decide to spend the day at the pool. The pool complex at the Privileges is so calm and comfortable that we did not regret the decision. Once again packing our cooler (got to use up the booze and beers), we grab our books and just chill out in the sun until late in the afternoon.
Just as we left the pool at about 4 the clouds closed in and there was a heavy rain for about 20 minutes. It proved to be the only rain we saw for the trip, but the sun was gone and the clouds didn’t clear to show us any stars the rest of the night.
Since we skipped lunch again, and had promised Genaro that he could provide our last dinner for the trip, we were on our way to Angelo’s by about 6. By that time it looked like there still seemed to be an outside chance of rain our host seated us just inside, where we could still enjoy the street scenes but wouldn’t have to run for cover. Genaro and my friend talked sailboats and tequila as we ordered drinks and appetizers. (The antipasto with artichokes was killer.) Dinner was once again delicious (I remember having the fruiti-de-mar over linguini), and we just sat and talked and ate for a couple of hours. Since we still have to pack it’s decided that once around town to walk off some dinner and then back to the hotel is the plan. We don’t have to catch the ferry until 10, but after two days of sun and gluttony discretion is the better part of valor.
Day 7 Wednesday
Unfortunately it’s time to go. We’re up a little earlier than usual, and pack our bags. I go to the desk to settle accounts for our bar tab and checkout, being pleasantly surprised at the small tab…$183 for drinks and mini bar costs for four people for the week was pretty reasonable considering we had at least four drinks each a day for seven days.
Breakfast at the buffet, and then I take the golf cart and find our stringer Jesus. He’s right on time and takes me and all the luggage to the ferry dock, then loops back to his shop for my drivers license, and collects the rest of the group as they are leaving the hotel. By 9:45 we’re all at the dock so we take the 10 o’clock ferry, watching Isla shrink in the distance the whole way. We have to kill some time at Grand Puerto since our transfer is arranged for 11, but the Cancun Transfer driver arrives a little early and we’re off to the airport.