Saturday, November 15, 2014

ME Cancun

We’re back from a long weekend in Cancun, our last hurrah for the year. We stayed at the ME Cancun, an all-inclusive hotel with a South Beach vibe. The modern lobby had a Starbucks-style coffee bar, water fountains and lots of odd black sculptures of either women or cats, I was never quite sure which. Ron said he thought they were aliens. :-)  One thing that a lot of people mentioned on Trip Advisor was how good the lobby smelled. I caught myself taking a deep breath a few times when we walked inside. Very spa-like.

ME Cancun

ME Cancun lobby

When we booked the hotel, we’d decided on a lagoon-side room instead of ocean view. We just couldn’t see spending the extra money for a weekend trip. I was disappointed when we checked in and were assigned room 310 because I was really hoping to be on a higher floor, but once we saw the room, we were happy. It was at the far end of the hotel so we actually had a side view of both the lagoon and the ocean! Plus, we didn’t have to worry about being kept up all night by the elevator bonging or people talking loudly outside our door. The room had a comfortable king-sized bed, a couch, flat screen TV, Wi-Fi access and a minibar. The bathroom was on the small side but the shower was huge with a wonderful rain shower head.

Aura room

Aura room

The hotel had two swimming pools – a main pool with a swim-up bar and giant faucet fountains and an adults-only, infinity pool. But the best part of the hotel was the location. Cancun's Hotel Zone is in the shape of the number 7.  We’d stayed in Cancun twice before, at Beach Palace on the long side of the 7 and at RIU Palace Las Americas at the top of the 7. We definitely preferred the long side. The beach was wide with soft, white sand, and the water was the most beautiful shade of turquoise. Oh, that color! It almost made me cry, it was so pretty. ME Cancun was right next door to Beach Palace so it was neat seeing our “old home” again.

ME Cancun main pool

water feature


ME Cancun infinity pool

ME Cancun from beach

Cancun beach

Cancun waverunner

Ron in water

Susan in water

Susan in infinity pool

There were four restaurants – the Beach House, Water Grill, Silk and Salt. We didn’t have any problems getting reservations and ate dinner at Water Grill, Silk and Salt. Water Grill was a Brazilian-style grill where the waiters brought around skewers of meat and plate after plate of side dishes. Silk was an Asian fusion/sushi restaurant. Salt, my favorite, was gourmet Mediterranean. My one complaint was that all the restaurants were really dark. I’m all for mood lighting, but that was ridiculous. Good thing I brought my little flashlight or I wouldn’t have had any idea what I was ordering! For lunch we ate at the Beach House, an open air restaurant next to the main pool that served seafood and Mexican dishes. The ceviche and fish tacos were delicious! The breakfast buffet at Salt had just about everything you could wish for, including a smoothie and juice bar. Jenny would have liked that.

Beach House
Beach House

fish tacos

chicken flautas

On Saturday and Sunday, we didn’t do anything except enjoy the beautiful beach and pools. We took walks and played in the ocean. When we stayed at Beach Palace, the waves had been huge but this time it was very calm. On Sunday, we managed to snag one of the sunbeds next to the main pool, conveniently located near the swim-up bar so we could hop in for "uno mas cerveza". One strange thing about the hotel was that it had absolutely no entertainment. We’ve never stayed at an all-inclusive that didn’t at least have yoga, water aerobics or live music. It was definitely the kind of place for people who just wanted to relax and do nothing or for groups who brought the party with them. Ron did manage to join in a game of beach volley one day with a group of 20-somethings who gave him a pretty good workout. :-)

ME Cancun pool beds

pool bed

view from 10th floor of ME Cancun
view from the 10th floor

pool area

our bed by the pool

ME Cancun

For the most part, the weather was wonderful – warm and sunny with low humidity. The only bad weather was on Sunday afternoon, when the clouds and drizzly rain rolled in. We retreated up to our room with a cup of coffee from the coffee bar, showered and checked email on the iPad. After about two hours, I couldn’t stand being stuck in the room anymore so we walked down to La Isla Mall, about a block away and browsed the shops. But then it started raining again so we had to run back to the hotel. Ugh, I hate getting rained on!
Thank goodness the sun was back on Monday because that was the day for our Snorkel Xtreme tour with Aventuras Mayas. I’ve wanted to swim with sea turtles for a while so before the trip Ron and I talked about renting a car and driving down to Akumal, a protected bay about an hour and a half south of Cancun where green turtles come to eat the sea grass. Ron was a little hesitant about driving in Mexico so when we heard about the tour, we signed up. The tour had everything I wanted – not only snorkeling with the turtles, but also a swim in a cenote, an underground cave that is part of the Yucatan Peninsula’s vast aquifer system. I was really excited!

The tour company picked us up right on time in front of the hotel, but then the confusion began. Just past the Hotel Zone, the van stopped by the side of the road and the driver told us to get out and get in another van because everyone in our van was going to Tulum. So we got out and climbed into the other van, but no one in the new van was wearing a bathing suit. Were we on the right tour bus?? I started to worry that we were going to end up in Chichen Itza. I didn’t mind a little adventure but if I didn’t get to see turtles, I was going to be mad! At the tour company’s office in Playa Del Carmen, we stopped one more time and everyone switched vans again. But this time we were finally with the right tour group and met David, our driver and guide for the rest of the day. Off to see the turtles!

When we got to Akumal, David walked us to a small building with lockers and changing rooms, where he handed out our snorkeling equipment. Then we watched a short video on turtle etiquette – don’t touch the turtles, don’t chase the turtles, don’t surround a turtle, don’t stand on the coral reef. It seemed like common sense but we still saw one moron standing on the reef while he messed with his Go Pro. Dude! Fortunately, one of the snorkel guides saw him too and chased him off.

I thought we might be lucky enough to see two or three turtles, but they turned out to be everywhere! We must have seen at least a dozen. I tried to stay near David and the snorkel guide because they were good at spotting the turtles and other sea life. They even pointed out a spotted eagle ray. But the best part was when one of the turtles decided to surface right in front of me – totally amazing! It doesn’t get more up close and personal than that.





turtle takes a look

turtle close up


Akumal reef

spotted eagle ray

After we were done snorkeling, we piled back into the van for the very bumpy ride into the jungle for the rest of the tour – the cenote swim, zip lines and rappelling. First was the cenote. The cave was dimly lit with sunshine filtering through the entrance and a few lamps. Some sleepy fruit bats napped on the ceiling. David told us about how the underground river system was formed by water dripping through the earth, forming stalactites and stalagmites over hundreds of years. The water wasn’t as cold as I was expecting but it was definitely refreshing. I couldn’t believe how clear it was! You could see the columns of limestone rising up from the bottom 15-20 feet down. Ron dove down a few times but I just floated on the surface, being careful not to bump my head on the stalactites.

When everyone was sufficiently chilled, the group got ready for the zip lining and rappelling. Ron and I are not fans of heights so we decided to forgo this part. By then, I was ready to put on some dry clothes and get warmed up anyway. While we waited for the others, we explored a little. David had pointed out the entrance to a dry cave and said we could take a peek. We climbed down the wooden ladder but it was dark and kind of creepy so we didn’t go all the way in. I did enjoy taking a swing on one of the hammocks. The jungle was surprisingly pleasant – not hot or buggy at all. Probably it’s a different story in August. :-)

photo by Aventuras Mayas

photo by Aventuras Mayas

photo by Aventuras Mayas

zip line platform

Ron in cave

When the rest of the group was done zipping, we all ate lunch together, a Mexican buffet with grilled chicken, rice, tortillas, guacamole and salad. And then it was time to pile into the van for the 2-hour ride back to Cancun. We got to the hotel at 5 o’clock as the sun was setting. We picked up drinks at the swim up bar and took them down to the beach for one last walk. We weren’t ready to go home yet! It was such a wonderful weekend and such a beautiful place. I can’t wait for our next trip to Mexico!

infinity pool at dusk

ME Cancun at dusk

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