Once upon a time in Mexico
Overworked and in need of a break
In much need of a bit of sun and relaxation, my wife Laura and I decided to visit Mexico for the first time. We booked into an all-inclusive hotel called Sensimar Seaside Suites and Spa in Riviera Maya. The holiday was perfect, the only downside being that we only had a week rather than a fortnight.
Dreamliner – perfect way to start the trip
We booked the trip through Thomson after spotting a great deal online and got to fly on the Thomson 787 Dreamliner for the first time. The flight to Cancun airport was about 10 hours and we couldn’t fault it. Smooth flight, ample leg room and excellent service including complementary food and drinks. So we enjoyed a couple of cans of Stella’s and a few gin and tonics whilst watching the on-board movies and listening to the passenger next to us getting louder and louder as he got drunker and drunker.
We briefly spoke to a couple of passengers in front of us and later realised they were also stopping at our hotel. It was fortunate as we struck up a good friendship over the week and spent most of the holiday having a laugh with Viv, Nick ‘the president of spoons,’ Sam and Jody.
The hotel – above and beyond our expectations
When we arrived at the hotel we were greeted by bell boys in golf carts who took our bags and brought us to a check-in area. We were given a glass of prosecco and went through the particulars before we were shown to our rooms. Our room was located bang smack in the centre of the complex which made it ideal when we were going anywhere. The room was huge compared to anything we were used to with a large Jacuzzi bath in the bedroom. We were on the second floor and our balcony overlooked one of the many pools. This particular pool had a swim up bar and those guest that had splashed out a bit more to get a ground floor room benefited from a terrace straight out into the pool!
The quality of the hotel was exceptional. Each block of rooms had their own dedicated concierge to deal with requests. There were staff everywhere cleaning and tending to the gardens. The bar and restaurant staff were attentive and every person we met smiled and merrily greeted us with a ‘Hola.’ The facilities were also great. Two good sized gyms, lots of swimming pools with varying atmospheres from quiet and relaxed to a lively sports pool with a swim up bar. We spent a lot of time here soaking up the sun and enjoying the fun atmosphere and joining in the water polo, volley ball, etc.
The hotel boasted its own idyllic white sandy beach that stretched beyond the lengths of the hotel grounds. The sea was clear turquoise and the water was so warm it was like stepping into a bath. Lying on the day beds looking out into the ocean made us feel like we were in paradise!
Food – Fajitas for breakfast? Why the hell not!
There was a great selection of restaurants at the hotel, many of which needed to be booked but some we could just walk in and eat. Most mornings and at lunch we tended to eat at the beach BBQ which had plenty of variety and excellent quality food including chicken fajitas for breakfast! During the evening we tried to visit a few of the different a La Carte restaurants. Our first night we tried the Mexican restaurant – LA Carreta and enjoyed some authentic Mexican tacos and enchiladas. We also sampled the Gourmet Pub and were impressed by the quality of the food. The most impressive of the restaurants was Klay Talay which served beautiful Asian cuisine. The presentation was first class and taste was far better than we expected from an all-inclusive restaurant. The only place we ate that we weren’t overly impressed with was the Cullinarium Restaurant. It wasn’t that the food was bad, but it was nothing special and the atmosphere in the restaurant felt a little cold.
Something of note was the Mexican night at the hotel. A Mariachi band dressed in ‘traditional’ attire conjured up a Hispanic party atmosphere. We worked our way through an unbelievable selection of perfectly barbequed meat and fish all seasoned with spicy and tasty Mexican flavours – chilli, garlic, paprika, onion, pepper, oregano, tomato and much more. The meat and fish was accompanied by a fantastic variety of tacos, fajitas, nachos, enchiladas, salsa, guacamole, salad and rice. The beachfront location was beautiful and having built up a bit of a rapport with two couples on our table the company was excellent! Particularly when Nick upset the tetchy groom of a newly wed young Scottish couple when he misheard the groom say… “I didn’t like the dress…” “What you didn’t like your wife’s dress? That’s a shame.” The groom stated “No, I said I didn’t like the stress!” then oddly stormed off. (Perhaps he didn’t like his wife’s dress and Nick had hit a nerve).
Drinks – Oh tequila it makes you happy…
Actually, as it happens tequila doesn’t make me, or my wife happy – it makes us gag! That said, when in Rome do as the Romans do. When in Mexico, drink tequila. And there was no shortage of tequila to go around – about 20 different varieties at the various bars. As Nick, Jody, Viv and Sam were accomplished drinkers we found ourselves drinking more tequila shots than I care to remember and whenever we felt we couldn’t face anymore tequila Nick would pop up with a cheeky smile, a strange dance and Sambuca shots instead.
It was an all-inclusive package with branded drinks and cocktails included. This, combined with the party animals we met on the plane meant the five or six books I bought with me were left largely untouched!
Day trip – Chichén Itzá one of the New Seven Wonders of the World…
Having travelled half way across the world it would have been remiss not to take in a bit of culture. A day trip to one of the New Seven Wonders of the World was the ideal fix. It was a three-hour coach trip to Chichén Itzá and a 6am pickup. The early start was well worth it as we got there ahead of the droves. Once there our tour guide walked us around the ancient Mayan ruins and told us tales against each of the archaeological ruins which centred around the imposing and impressive Kukulkan Pyramid. Whilst walking around there were hundreds of market stalls selling ‘traditional’ Mayan tat but they weren’t too pushy and generally left us get on with wondering around.
After a few hours in Chichén Itzá we got back on the coach and headed to Cenote Hubiku. A cenote is a sinkhole caused by limestone bedrock collapsing and exposing the groundwater underneath and is more interesting than it sounds! As we entered an old lady offered us some handmade tortillas with a spicy habanero dip (for a tip of course). It was very nice but very spicy! There was something a bit mystical about the cenote itself as the sunlight burst down into the water from about 40m above and the fish swam around your feet in the clear waters. The water itself felt freezing when I first dived in, but once acclimatised it was pleasant enough and very refreshing. After a quick shower and dry off we were treated to a tasty buffet lunch and a couple of beers whilst being entertained by traditional Mexican dancers. Cenote Hubiku is well worth a visit, especially for the swim.
The next leg of our trip was to a town called Valladolid, a small city in Yucatán not far from the cenote. Whilst it was a nice enough city this part of the tour organised by Thomson seemed a bit pointless and forced. It almost felt like the tour guide had family in the area where the coach stopped and was trying to encourage us to spend money there! We were all cultured out and ready to get back to the hotel for our all-inclusive drinks! Did someone say tequila???
Delphinus Riviera Maya – swimming with Dolphins
A short minibus ride from our hotel was Delphinus Riviera Maya, the headquarters of the Animal Welfare Program for Research on Marine Mammals. The staff were friendly and helpful and clearly look after the dolphins well in a relatively natural environment. The experience of interacting with these incredible animals was amazing. They were much bigger than I imagined and unbelievably powerful! The dolphins kissed, cuddled and hi-fived guests, did tricks and finished by propelling us across the water. It was a unique and special experience. The only downside was the extortionate price of pictures.
Everything about our trip to Mexico was perfect – the flight on the Dreamliner, meeting two great and crazy couples, relaxing on a tranquil beach, eating great food, drinking too much, and visiting one of the modern wonders of world. The only slight regret is that we didn’t get chance to go to Coco Bongo which our friends informed us was wild and wonderful. Well, that is reason enough to go back!Tags: beach, dolphins, experience, holiday, Mexico, Riveira Maya, travel