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.

Beautiful Belize

April 2014. Semana Santa.

“With one foot in Central America and the other dipped in the Caribbean Sea, Belize is home to the second-largest barrier reef in the world, jungles that teem with wildlife and mysterious Mayan ruins”.
Mara Vohees, 
Lonely Planet Writer

Yup, that just about covers it. Our time in Belize was absolutely amazing, on so many levels. For this post I’m going to write a few words about each step in our adventure and include some  recommendations / links  for anyone else who is interested in traveling to Belize (which I would highly, highly recommend). This trip is definitely in our top 5 ever.. it’s up there with Bali, Thailand and many of the incredible places we’ve visited in Mexico.

We took the overnight ADO bus from the Cancun – Belize City. You can’t book the ticket in advance, so we went to the bus terminal with hopes that there was space on the bus. No problem. We used this website to get all of our information about transportation to and within Belize.

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Arriving in Belize City was a bit insane. Actually, a lot insane. We waited in the bus terminal (which was sketchy) to catch a local bus to San Ignacio. It’s very unclear which bus to get on, you don’t pre-buy tickets (you pay on the bus), and it feels like there are 1,000 people trying to get cram into the same bus. It took a while for us to successfully get on a bus, but with some patience and help from an American local, we finally made it. It was so crazy that I didn’t even take pictures!

San Ignacio: We stayed at Rainforest Haven Inn for four nights (booked through http://www.booking.com, which we use religiously). This gave us ample opportunity to explore this beautiful little town, some delicious restaurants, and some of the unique excursions in the area.


ATM Caves:
An absolute MUST do. The caves are a Mayan archaeological site, with preserved skeletons and ceramics. We weren’t able to take pictures on the tour (apparently someone dropped their camera on one of the skeletons and cracked the skull a few years back), but check out these photos that I borrowed from Trip Advisor. Hands down, this was the coolest thing we did in Belize! (It was much more physically demanding than it looks, and not a trip I would recommend to just anyone).


Tikal (Guatemala): It’s a long day trip from San Ignacio, but worth it if you have the time.

Green Iguana Exhibit: A place where iguana eggs are hatched and iguanas are released into the wild. Amazing opportunity to learn more about iguanas in Belize and see the reptiles up close.

Cahal Pech:  Up high on a hill, looking over San Ignacio. We took a taxi to get here and then walked back into town as the sun set over the city.

We really liked the taxi driver who took us to Cahal Pech, so we asked him if he would drive us to Belize City the following day. For 100 USD, he said he would pick us up at 7:00AM, take us to a few places along the way, and drop us off at the dock where we needed to get a boat to the Cayes.

Xunantunich: The best views!

Belize Zoo: I’m not someone who enjoys zoos, or usually supports zoos, but I had heard that the Belize Zoo was different, and it was. All 0f the animals here are from Belize. There is a strong sense of genuine care for animals and their habitats. There was so much information about the many species in Belize, how to protect them and conserve their natural habitats.

After leaving inland Belize, it was time for some R&R, ocean breezes, scuba diving, seafood, and cocktails.

Ambergris Caye, San Pedro: We stayed at Ocean Tide Beach Resort. Rooms were nice and spacious, it was right across from the turquoise ocean, and had a swimming pool! There were busy beaches near the main ferry dock, gorgeous waters (not the best for swimming from shore), and beautiful jewelry for sale. I couldn’t decide on on one, so I bought two.

One afternoon I decided to take my camera and capture some shots around town. These are some of my most favorite travel pictures ever. Such a beautiful place.

Scuba Diving: We did our first dive with a company called Amigos del Mar Dive Shop. We weren’t impressed with the lack of instruction and everything felt rushed and hectic. We decided not to dive with them again. Instead, we took our business to Ecological Divers and didn’t regret it one bit! We dove with this company for 3 days and loved it!

Hol Chan Marine Reserve: 

Food & Drinks:

One of the best things about San Pedro was the food. Lonely Planet has rarely let us down, so we took on the challenge of eating at as many restaurants listed in our guide as possible. They were all incredible! We stumbled upon this place one night when we went for a stroll. It was amazing! We had the most beautiful sunset view, the owner kept bringing us free food (which was delicious beyond words), and her son loved chatting with us. So lovely!

Overall, an amazing trip to Belize. As always, it wasn’t long enough and there was so much more to see, but we loved it and can’t wait to go back!