World Travel Wednesday ~ Mexico

Cancun & Riviera Maya 

marachi riv maya

Cancun is located on the Yucatan Peninsula. Its international airport makes it a major hub for people looking to travel along the Caribbean side of Mexico. The area along the coast, south of the city is called “Riviera Maya”. There are several cities from Cancun to Tulum that give the region its authentic Mexican flare. They offer shopping, flea markets, Mayan ruins, beaches, snorkeling, endless seafood and plenty of sunshine. Riviera Maya has a variety of places to stay, from small boutique hotels, to all-inclusive resorts.

Cancun Flea Market 28 Photo Credit; Angela Hoseney – Journey Travel

The Grand Sirenis Riviera Maya is an all-inclusive resort, located south of Playa Del Carmen and North of Tulum. poolThere are several things that make an all-inclusive wonderful and this resort had them. Upon arrival we received a wonderful fruit drink, so refreshing on a hot humid day. The staff was very welcoming and helpful getting us to our room. There we had a welcome note with a plate of fresh fruit and an authentic bottle of Mexican Tequila!

The choices for fun at this resort are endless. Swim with Dolphins, snorkel with sea turtles and tropical fish, lounge by the pool, have an ocean side massage, walk or bike the grounds, or have lunch by the Caribbean sea. beachOne of our favorites; meet new friends in the spacious commons area where they serve refreshing cocktails, coffee, tea, and cookies all day long.

foodThe resort had an amazing buffet, and options for A’-la-carte dining. Choices included; a Brazilian, American, or Japanese steak house, New Orleans, Italian, Mexican and Caribbean cuisine were also available. Our favorite was the Brazilian Steak house where they cut the meat at your table from large sticks that had been slow roasting. After dinner our evenings were spent mingling in the commons area where we met fellow travelers from all over the world. Around 9pm each evening a show was put on in the amphitheater by the hard working staff. My favorite being “Broadway Hits”! The costumes and performances were surprisingly well done. After the shows were over there was live music in the commons area.

Playa Del Carmen

playa del carmenOn Sunday evening we ventured north by way of resort taxi to Playa Del Carmen.  Known for its outdoor shopping, swimmable beaches and ferry rides every ½ hour to the island of Cozumel, this city has something for everyone. Cool off oceanside at Sr. Frogs taking in the beautiful views.making cigars The city had an authentic, yet international flavor. The dinning choices were endless with Mexican, Middle Eastern, Indian, American and Italian cuisine. The sounds of Mariachi playing wafted through the air as we meandered in and out of the shops on the famous 5th Avenue. Sales men pleaded for our attention as we noticed this gentleman quietly rolling cigars for sale. Be careful when you bargain prices, know what you are looking for, and looking at. Don’t be afraid to use your smart phone to look up suggested prices on products you are buying from the market. I bought our daughter a cute white dress with flowers embroidered on the front. I thought $20 was a fair price. I found the same dress in the airport for $56 – I was glad to see that I had gotten a good deal!

ceviche fleamarket 28The region has a lot to offer. We really could have used about 2 or 3 more days to take it all in. The one thing I wish we had done was visit the Mayan ruins. Our concierge had suggested an early morning visit to beat the heat of the day. Somehow those late night shows didn’t lend themselves to early rising. Over all we had a wonderful time exploring this destination. I would certainly go again if the opportunity presents itself.

Thinking about planning a trip to Mexico? We would be glad to help.

Thanks for stopping by today!

Journey Travel ~ where your journey begins

World Travel Wednesday

St. Lucia

Freestyle on a Budget in St Lucia

By: Lea Ann Fessenden

St. Lucia is one of the most beautiful islands of the Caribbean basin with its breathtaking natural resources such as the emerald green covered Piton Mountains, dense bird- filled rainforests and mind blowing waterfalls. Most tourists end up in the northern area of the island near the capital city, Castries. Rodney Bay, Cap Estate and Gros Islet are home to some of the most sought after luxury resorts in the world, where celebrities are frequently spotted winding to some good reggae, Soca or calypso music

But you don’t have to be a celebrity to enjoy the luxuries of this exceptional vacation spot. Some truly hidden gems that will not pinch your pocketbook can be found in the south of the island. The best sites of the island are near Soufriere anyway. One thing to keep in mind about St Lucia, that unlike some of the other Caribbean islands, this island is not known for a lively night scene, except on weekends. During the week, spend your energy hiking, swimming, snorkeling, walking, diving, wind surfing, sunbathing, taking leisurely drives and relaxing under waterfalls. Most of these activities are very reasonable, some even free.

The currency used on the island is Eastern Caribbean (EC) which is currently 2.65 to 1 US dollar. Basically, if something is 15EC, divide by 3 to get a price of US5.00. On a calculator it actually translates to $5.66 US dollars, but I just divide by 3 to make it easy on my brain. When you are visiting the craft shops in Choiseul, and there are several, this will help you to quickly calculate how much that beautiful wood carving will cost.

Budget accommodations are easily found if you know where to look. Try the Villa Caribbean Dream in Vieux Fort which offers rates as low as $45 (single) or $55 (double). Included is a stunning view of the ocean and perhaps a Salsa lesson or two. Just minutes from the Hewanorra International Airport are The Reef Beach Huts and Café. Rates are only $50 (single) and $60 (double) and this includes breakfast on the beach. The Reef is located on a beautiful stretch of white sand beach overlooking the Maria Islands where leatherback turtles and the rare turquoise and black zandoli iguana reside. This is also the perfect spot to kite and windsurf the Atlantic Ocean. Meals at The Reef are also reasonably priced: lobster in season is about $13.00 and a cheeseburger with fries will run $5.00. This is also a free Wi-Fi spot so don’t forget your laptop.

Renting a car is the best way to enjoy the island but for budget conscious travelers, there is island wide bus service that is very affordable. The buses will have license plates that start with an M and the fare to ride from Vieux Fort to Castries, about a one hour, trip runs $3.00 each way. Typically they just run along the one main highway but if you need to go off this road a short ways, ask the driver and they will usually comply. Tip them a little if they do.

The town of Soufriere has some fantastic attractions. Among my many favorite things to do is a visit to the Diamond Falls Botanical Garden which has mineral baths from the days of King Louis XXIV, where you can soak and take in the therapeutic waters that pour straight from a volcano in a breathtaking waterfall. Entrance to the Gardens is $5.00, mineral bath in outdoor pool is an additional $4.00 or for a private indoor bath the cost is $6.00. The gardens are a visual treat with luscious tropical flowers, homemade benches and stunning waterfalls.

Some of the very best snorkeling on the island is in this southwest corner near Soufriere. Anse Chastanet has a buoyed off snorkeling area called Fairy Land which drops from 20 to 140 feet into a wall of coral and spectacular underwater life which is an underwater photographer’s paradise. Nearby Jalousie Plantation also has some fantastic snorkeling, hit their spectacular wall dive, Superman’s Flight beneath the Piton Mountains. The wall drops to a depth of 1600 feet and boasts excellent visibility via the crystal clear waters. You can get equipment rental and directions at any local dive shop.

Across the street, the new Hotel Chocolat, on the historical Rabot Estate, is busy growing and harvesting the best cocoa for delicious chocolates and treats. Two more excellent working plantations that encourage visitors are also in this region: Fond Doux Estate, which includes guest cottages, restaurant and hiking tours, and Mourne Coubaril, a reconstructed 18th-century village which provides visitors with a historical glance into Creole life.

On the road to the Jalousie Plantation Hotel, be sure to stop at the Piton Falls. Entrance to this little paradise is only about $2.00 US. A 10 minute walk through the tropical gardens leads you to a mineral waterfall cascading into a refreshing waist high pool. After you take in the warm thermal waters of this pool, all of your aches and pains will melt away. Therea’s also a cooler pool to invigorate your senses. Be sure to go to the Sulphur Springs Volcano and take their short tour of the bubbling sulphur and the volcano’s history. Treat yourself to some sulphur soap hand made by locals while you are there, it is great for aching joints and those who have arthritis pains.

Enjoy southern St Lucia, there is so much rich culture and beautiful scenery, there isn’t enough time to see all the waterfalls, snorkel all the coves or hike all the trails that abound. Plan to go back, really soon.

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