Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca

Matt and I couldn’t have picked a better place to celebrate New Years Eve and our third anniversary than Puerto Escondido. Originally we were planning to travel with our parents, so we tried to choose a “parent-friendly” destination. To our surprise, this Pacific coast town turned out to be one of our top travel destinations in Mexico! We filled our days by hanging out with locals, taking surfing classes, beach hopping, whale watching, exploring the bioluminescence lagoon, and of course eating seafood and drinking margaritas.

Hanging Out With Locals: 

While sipping tequila and eating dinner at a local join one evening, we bumped into our condo manager, Juan. After a few more rounds, he asked us to join him the next day for a celebration in the mountains with some of his friends. One of our number one travel rules is, “As long as it feels safe, always say yes.” So, to his surprise, we said “Yes.” He later confessed how pleased he was that we came. He said that he always asks people to come to things and they always say no. He was trilled!

The next morning his nephew, Alejandro, picked us up before sunrise… and off we went on one of the best travel adventures of our life.

The drive alone was worth the journey into the mountains. The scenery was lush and the roads were windy. We stopped for quesadillas cooked on an open fire along the way. After a few hours, we drove into a small community. Alejandro parked the car and toured us through a small market and carnival. We ended up sitting in a square outside of a church, waiting to meet up with our new friend Juan. As we waited, we still didn’t know what kind of celebration we had been invited to. Eventually, we learned that it was Juan’s god son’s First Communion. We felt so honored to be invited, and embarrassed that we weren’t dressed nicer for the occasion!

While the women prepared the meal, we were taken to a local rodeo, paraded around on horses and treated like celebrities. People were constantly giving us beer (which I can’t drink… so Matt drank his plus mine), taking our pictures and talking to us about our experiences in Mexico and how cold Canada is. After the rodeo, we went back to the home and shared a celebratory meal with their entire family, friends, and neighbors. The meal ended with homemade Mezcal, Matt eating the goat’s balls, and a live turkey in a potato sack accompanying us for the car ride home.

This was the most authentic experience traveling in Mexico that we’ve ever had. We are so glad that we said “Yes” and I know we’ll never forget this day!


Surfing: 

We had been talking about learning how to surf for ages. We signed up for 3 days of surfing lessons with a family-run company called Puerto Surf Lessons. Three days gave us a chance to give surfing a go, try out a few different locations, and burn off our calories from drinking margaritas! Our first lesson was at La Punta beach (the end of Zicatela), where the waves are much more manageable. On day two, we advanced to Zicatela (which was slightly terrifying). Surfing is a lot harder than it looks. 99% of the time I wiped out before standing up!

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Playa Zicatela: 

The perfect spot for people watching, sun tanning, and drinking. Zicatela is not great for swimming because the swells can be so big, but it’s an exciting place to hang out. We loved watching the surfers, hang gliders, and waves crashing. It’s also a great spot to watch the sunset.


Playa Carrizalillo:

Playa Carrizalillo is a gorgeous bay with calm, relaxing waters. This beach is perfect for trying out paddle boarding or surfing, eating ceviche, and spending an afternoon lounging. The steps down to the beach are fairy steep and exhausting on the way up, but  it is well worth it. Playa Carrizalillo is not a very big beach, so I recommend getting there in the morning to make sure you have an umbrella and beach chair. If you stay all day, or are looking for the perfect place to watch the sunset, Villas Carrizalillo on top of the cliff serves perfect margaritas with the best view in town. We watched the sunset and rang in 2015 here, celebrating three years of traveling together, and a lifetime ahead of us!


Whale Watching: 

We had heard from a friend to book a tour with Omar’s Sportfishing for whale watching. We were a bit nervous since we had hear horrific things about tourists and whale watching in other parts of Mexico. We were hopeful that our experience with Omar’s wouldn’t be anything like some of the stories we had heard. Luckily, Omar’s didn’t disappoint. We were the only boat out, the captain gave the whale plenty of distance (I used a 85mm zoom lens for the whale shots below), and the experience felt peaceful and surreal.


Bio-Luminescent Phytoplankton:

Our friend Juan arranged for a friend of his to pick us up and take us to Laguna de Manialtepec one night. Again, we put complete trust in the random guys who picked us up. They were blasting rap music, driving way too fast, and drinking beer in the car… totally uncool. But, we made it there in one piece and lived to tell the story.

When we arrived (it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere), we paid someone at the dock, and piled into the boat with a group of other tourists. Cruising over the glass smooth water in the moonlight, pulling into an area covered by trees, jumping out of our boat in the dark, and watching the phytoplankton light up with each movement of our bodies was incredible. We loved it!

Eating and Drinking: 

Seafood, seafood and more seafood! At first it seemed that our condo between Playa Carrizalillo and Puerto Angelita was too far away from the action, but it turned out to be perfect. Within a 10-15 minute walk, we found some great restaurants along Boulevard Benito Juarez. Years later we still think about the sea food at Turtle Bay Cafe. It’s worth a trip to this incredible restaurant!

Overall, Puerto Escondido was a win. Matt’s parents just got back from spending a few weeks here and also raved about it. I can’t wait to go back!

 

Thankful for Tulum

We spent American Thanksgiving in Tulum, it was lovely… busy and expensive, but lovely. We flew into Cancun and rented a car at the airport with a few friends. From Cancun, the drive to Tulum is simple and stress-free. We even stopped in Playa del Carmen for lunch! There are buses that you can take, but we decided to go with the car because it would allow us to travel in and around Tulum conveniently.

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Matt and I stayed at Hotel Cabañas Los Lirios Tulum for four nights. The room was spacious and comfortable and the hotel was right on the beach (and had a pool!). Breakfast was delicious (and included, which always feels like a bonus) and the bartender made perfect piña coladas!

Here is a list of some things we did: 

Went for a run on the beach, then lounged on the beach all afternoon and made friends with bartenders (so much for the calories burned) and of course also made friends with a golden retriever.

Ate dinner at the most delicious and romantic restaurant I’ve ever been to, Posada Margherita. A colleague recommended this Italian restaurant to us and I’m so glad we took her advice. If you ever find yourself in Tulum, Posada Margherita is a MUST.

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Visited the Mayan Ruins of Tulum. Many people biked or walked, but we decided to drive to save time. It was incredible! We went first thing in the morning before the huge crowds and heat of the day.

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We tried our best to search for some cheaper food alternatives than the beach-front hotels. One of our favorite places was called Mateo’s Mexican Grill.. where we found ourselves eating fish tacos and burritos more than once.

We also took a drive to Akumal to swim with the sea turtles. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone. There were turtles to see, as well as what felt like 100s of people paying for life-jackets and snorkeling gear (which is mandatory to enter the beach site). Overall, it was touristy and what felt like a very unnatural way to experience sea turtles.

Matt went scuba diving in the cenotes (I was too scared and opted out to lounge on the beach a little bit more). He loved it and luckily over a year later I was able to make it back to this region to check them out for myself.

Overall, Tulum is a “must” in Mexico. The vibe is laid back, hip, and has a backpacker feel with a hit of luxury at the same time.

Loved it!

 

Guanajuato & San Miguel de Allende

September 2014. Road trip from Monterrey to Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende.

It was a long drive, but well worth it. We spent 4 nights in Guanajuato and travelled to San Miguel for a day trip. The pictures below will show you why everyone raves about these two colorful cities!

Guanajuato:

We stayed at a lovely place called Casa Zunga B&B which we would highly recommend. It was above the city with incredible views!

Juarez Theater:

Going nowhere and getting lost along the way:

Hidalgo Market:

Museo de las Momias (Mummy Museum):

Cemetery:

El Callejon del Beso (Alley of the Kiss):

Views from above:

Silver Mine Adventure:

An afternoon of wandering:

Lighting off firecrackers from the rooftop at our hotel:

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San Miguel de Allende: 

We only spent an afternoon in San Miguel and I wish we had more time! We walked around, ate some burgers, peeked into cathedrals and art galleries and did some Christmas shopping in an artisan market with expat vendors selling jewelery and handicrafts. This city has so much charm and I would love to go back.

Both places are a MUST see in Mexico! There is so much to see and do.

Isla Mujeres

April, 2014.

Before starting our Belize adventure, we spent a few days resting, relaxing and rejuvenating on Isla Mujeres (a small island off the coast of Cancun). It was a great spot to avoid the ‘Spring Break’ scene but still enjoy Mexican sand, sunshine and beach life.

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Our Morning View

The food was incredible (but expensive), Playa Norte was beautiful and the island vibe was very laid back. We were slightly surprised by the influx of tourists and the notable Americanization of the island. While local cuisine and small town areas could be found, Isla is definitely designed to meet the needs of American and Canadian tourists happy to spend 5 USD for a beer!

At the North end of the island, you find vendors selling souvenirs, restaurants lining the streets and beach, massage booths, hotels and hundreds of tourists driving rented golf carts and parking anywhere they can find space! On the beach, we were charged 150 pesos for two reclining beach chairs, an umbrella, bathroom access and an open concept shower to rinse off at the end of the day. It was perfect!

On our first full day on Isla, we rented a golf cart for 24 hours (650 pesos). Driving from one tip of the island to the other, cruising along the coast and stopping at our leisure was a highlight for me. We went to Punta Sur, the Turtle Sanctuary and stopped at a ocean side bar for a refreshing drink. When you arrive at the southern tip, it costs 30 pesos to enter the park. We debated and eventually decided to go for it and we were so glad we did! You can look at all the sculptures and walk along the coast, so close that the waves sometimes splash you.

Isla Mujeres is a more relaxed alternative to Cancun, but still expensive and full of tourists. Not our favorite Mexican beach vacation spot, but definitely fun for a weekend!

Via Ferrata, La Huasteca

March 2014. Via Ferrata, Cañón de la Huasteca, Monterrey

I can’t describe this adventure in words and pictures hardly do it justice. This route is basically in our backyard and hands down the most incredible thing we’ve done in Monterrey.

It was challenging, both mentally and physically (mostly mentally for me). There were some moments when all I could think was, “What the hell am I doing up here? This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.” But once I pushed those thoughts aside and focused on the moment, I was able to enjoy the experience immensely.

Over the past couple of years, several groups of teachers have done the route multiple times. For me, once was more than enough. I’m glad I have these pictures to relive the experience.. but you won’t find me up here again any time soon!