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A TRIP TO THE MAYAN RIVIERA, DECEMBER, 2006
December 11-18, 2006
The Lagoon at Aventura Spa Palace resort, on the Mayan Riviera
In the spring of 2005, we made plans to celebrate our 55th wedding anniversary with a trip to the " Aventura Spa Palace" resort on the Mayan Riviera, south of Cancun, Mexico. Friends had given rave reviews for this all-inclusive resort and we thought this would be an interesting change from cruises.
Unfortunately, 2005 was "the year of hurricanes" in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. In July, Hurricane Emily roared ashore right smack over the Aventura Spa Palace, and pretty much destroyed the southern half of this huge 1266-room resort. The resort had about half of its rooms open for guests by October—and who should show up but Hurricane Wilma on October 22! This time the hurricane zeroed in on Cancun, and closed the airport for a couple months. At that point, we gave up trying to book this trip and took a December cruise to Baja California on the WEST coast of Mexico instead.
By April, 2006 we were ready to try again to visit the Mayan Riviera and re-booked at the Aventura Spa Palace. Mark, Karen and Glenn's cousin, Anita, were to come with us. Unfortunately, health problems prevented Anita from making the trip, but the four of us flew to Cancun on Dec. 11 and enjoyed a restful, warm and sunny interlude in the middle of winter.
The Aventura Spa Palace is one of several huge resorts in the "Palace" group which are strung out along the Caribbean from Cancun south. It was about an hour's drive to the resort, located just north of "Puerto Aventuras" on this map:
This was our first experience with an all-inclusive resort and we found it wonderful to be totally free of concerns about menu prices, tipping, etc. When we finished dinner at one of the resorts' many restaurants, we just got up and left—no waiting for the check, and all we had to leave for the very helpful waiter was a friendly greeting of "Adios!"
Our rooms were "all-inclusive" too, from the bathrobes hanging in the closet, to the refrigerator, always stocked with water bottles, soft drinks and beer. Thoughtful toiletries included shaving kits and toothbrushes, besides the usual soaps and shampoo. Even bubble bath to use in the 2-person spa bathtub that took up a significant portion of our room. Hanging on the wall was a cabinet containing four different kinds of liquor, with a dispenser. Oh yes, and if you still found something wanting, there was 24-hour room service! We never got around to trying that.
At check-in we were handed a glass of chilled champagne to say "welcome." A yellow bracelet (similar to hospital I.D. bracelets) was slipped on our wrists. That entitled us to all guest privileges and told the staff that this was our first visit to the resort. If we had been honeymooners, we would have been issued a pink bracelet, while return visitors sported a gray band.
As guests at one of the many "Palace" resorts, we could visit the other resorts and use all their amenities. We took advantage of that one day to visit the "Xpu-Ha Palace" resort, a few miles south of the Aventura Spa Palace. Xpu-Ha was set up as a more "natural" resort, with hotel rooms looking much like the typical Mayan homes, complete with thatched roofs. A zoo and aviary on the resort grounds housed many of the animals to be found on the Yucatan Peninsula.
We were also given a "passport" which entitled us to book guided tours to several of the Mayan archeological sites, snorkeling trips, nearby islands and water parks. Wow! With only a week, we had to make tough decisions about the tours so that we still allowed for plenty of "lolling" time.
We had developed an interest in Mayan archeology after a car trip to the Yucatan in 1995 and so everyone agreed on two tours: to the recently-excavated Mayan city of "Ek-Balam" and to "Coba" a huge Mayan city site, once home to more than 150,000 people which has the highest (132 feet) of all the Yucatan Mayan pyramids.
By the end of our week at the Aventura Spa Palace, we had managed to:
Enjoy the many swimming pools
Do a little snorkeling
Visit Ek-Balam and Coba Mayan archeological sites
Hold our breath while Karen successfully ascended and descended both the 100-foot pyramid at Ek-Balam, and the REALLY high (132-foot) and REALLY steep "El Torre" pyramid at Coba.
Eat at least once in each of the resort's seven full-service restaurants
Drink beer, margaritas, daiquiris, wine, soft drinks, flaming "Mayan coffee" and more!
Consume an amazing amount of guacamole and chips with those drinks
Attend many of the evening shows, including Mariachi band, Folkloric dancers, Mayan dancers, acrobats, and a spectacular "fire show"
Figure out how to use our free Wi Fi Internet connection (sit out on the balcony with our laptop computer)
Spend absolutely NO cash except for a replacement hat for Glenn and souvenir tee shirts, plus tips for tour guides, bus drivers, and a bit extra for the maids.
See what Hurricane Emily did to Xpu-Ha's former guest rooms and beach
See many birds plus Yucatan animals in Xpu-Ha's zoo that we would never have spotted in the wild (in the case of the crocodiles, we really DIDN'T want to meet them in the wild!) Karen also saw a Spider Monkey right on the resort's grounds.
What impressed us the most? The unfailingly friendly, polite, professional and very hard-working resort staff. The best service we've ever had at any resort, hotel or on a cruise ship.
You can share the trip with us through the photos in this album.
This aerial view is just of the north section of this huge resort. Our rooms were in the "Clarin" section just to the left of the swimming pools (blue water).
This is the south section which adjoins the village of Puerto Aventuras
This map shows the two Mayan ruins we visited: Ek-Balam north of Valladolid and Coba, northwest of Tulum.
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