Posted by: stacylynn12 | April 17, 2012

Shades of Blue

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Ahhhhh…. Akumal, Mexico!

Where have you been all my life?

In all of our amazing travels, there was just one teeny, weeny little thing missing. One little piece niggling in my mind telling me – you are not done yet. There is one more place to go. I wanted my picture perfect beach. My warm, tropical breeze. My crystal clear, calm water teeming with marine life where I could snorkel the days away and then wind down with a tasty beverage. I wanted my Relaxation and Rejuvenation. Dammit! It was on the list of goals.

I’d made up my mind that we were going to the beach long before I ever broached the subject with Randy. I knew I could twist his arm. I began to do my research. It’s not easy being so picky. There were plenty of islands in the South Pacific that would fit the bill but the problem with that was, well…the bill. Way too expensive and much too far to go for one last little hurrah on the way home. (It would have been hard for me to sell Tahiti as “on the way home”.)

I turned my sights to the Caribbean. There’s certainly no shortage of idyllic locales there but every place I looked was just out of our “almost at the end of a year of travel” budget.

Enter… Mexico.

Randy and I had passed through the area known as the Riviera Maya several years ago on our way to Belize and Guatemala. I knew there had to be a little “just right” spot somewhere. It didn’t hurt that the flights to Portland, Maine from Quito, Ecuador were actually cheaper if we flew through Cancun. How convenient. I won’t put you to sleep with the agonizing details of how I came to choose Akumal as “the spot”. It was hours and hours of Internet searching, looking at reviews on Trip Advisor, emailing friends and scrutinizing beaches, hotels, snorkeling options, swimming reports and more. I will however tell you why I love Akumal… just in case you too are in search of a little paradise.

Akumal, Mexico is about an hour south of Cancun. I know Cancun is a very popular place to visit but it is just not for me. It’s a bit too big, too developed and too crowded. At least that’s my perception. Of course I could be wrong. Outside of flying into the airport twice, I’ve never actually been there. But I believe everything I read in the media so it must be true.

Akumal is much of what I imagine Cancun is not… It’s just about the right size – sleepy but not totally asleep. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants but none that are giant, super size me, mega resorts. I like that. One can walk or ride a bike to any place in the town. It’s flat (my kids like that) and there is not much traffic. My husband likes that.

I found a wonderful little hotel on Half Moon Bay and with my bargaining skills honed after 6 months in Latin America I secured us a room at a sweet rate – $80 / night, and it was right on the beach… literally.

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The view from our hotel room in Akumal – I snapped this photo while sitting on the bed.

Vista Del Mar is not luxurious by any means but it was cute and I like cute. There is always a moment right before I walk into a hotel room where I hold my breath and wonder if it’s going to suit me… to give me that warm and fuzzy feeling. Like I said, it’s not always easy being picky. Sometimes it doesn’t really matter but this time, it did. Amen. Exhale. It’s cute.

The beach in front of our hotel was not crowded. In fact, it was quite empty. A few people strolled by here and there – just enough so that we didn’t feel like we were completely alone. The sand was great for castles and the boys set to work almost immediately upon arrival. Once their masterpiece was complete we ventured into the water where we discovered our paradise’s first flaw. Rocks. Now don’t get me wrong, I like rocks. I like to climb them. I don’t really like to swim with them. They made the beach somewhat less than perfect for swimming but that was fine really because it kept the crowds at bay. We discovered that there was a nice reef that we could snorkel out to and if we wanted to swim, it was a very short, pleasant bike ride to the main beach in Akumal where the swimming was spectacular albeit accompanied by modest crowds.

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The beach in front of our hotel on Half Moon Bay

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Akumal Bay – sweet and sandy

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The boys play in the sand on Akumal Bay while Randy and I enjoy a beachside beverage. A storm looms in the distance.

Our days were decidedly and intentionally slow. We awoke and made coffee and breakfast which we lazily enjoyed on the beach in front of our room. We occasionally hopped on our bikes, which we could rent for a buck an hour from the hotel, and rode into town to The Turtle Cafe for delicious smoothies and decent breakfast. We spent one day at the Yal Ku Lagoon where we found quite a few people and not quite so many fish but it was a perfect introduction for the kids as the water was calm and clear.

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Yal Ku Lagoon

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Bodhi snorkels, minus the snorkel. He had trouble mastering that pesky tube.

Anytime after 3pm was officially declared “Beer: 30”. Randy and I cut limes while Corona and Dos Equis battled it out for the prestigious honor of “Best Mexican Beer”. There was much debate and extensive sampling. In the end Dos Equis won. Meanwhile the children were practicing their bargaining and Spanish skills. They’d wander over to the corner store, return to request “just one more peso” and then hurry back to procure some special treat. Ice cream, lollipops and chocolate milk were tops on their lists. After a couple of Dos Equis, I didn’t much care.

After happy hour we’d stroll down the beach to one of the nearby restaurants or hop on the bikes for a ride into the village for dinner. It was really a whole lot of not too much and we loved it. But after a few days of lazing around on our tushies the all-tuckered-out-from-too-much-traveling-Earlywine-family got a little restless and needed an adventure. We decided on a day trip to Isla Cozumel.

Cozumel is purported to be one of the best diving and snorkeling spots in the Caribbean and in my quest for the best, I had to go. We arrived on the island and rented ourselves a sweet 1970’s era, bright orange, convertible VW beetle. As we tooled around the island the kids enjoyed some of their last days of seatbelt-less freedom.

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Crusin’

Our first stop was at The Money Bar, formerly known as Dzul Ha. Pronounced Zool-Ha this is the Mayan name for the god of the sea and until recent times was the name of the beach and the offshore reef nearby. How it came to pass that the name of the entire area is now associated with a mediocre restaurant that just happens to inhabit a small piece of the shoreline is beyond me but nevertheless, it was supposed to be the best spot on the island for shore snorkeling so there we went.

Bodhi and I headed out and did in fact see an amazing variety of very cool fish. Much to Bodhi’s dismay I also saw a stingray elegantly flying through the water after he returned to shore. Randy took a turn with the mask and fins though after a near death (really) experience snorkeling in Puerto Rico, he’s slightly less keen on the sport than I am. Perhaps the most amazing thing we saw at the Money Bar however was Joshua. J-man has made remarkable strides with his swimming on this trip. When we left Seattle he all but refused to even enter the water, any water. He has slowly become more comfortable and now generally swims comfortably with his trusty life jacket on. He likes to stay close by Mom or Dad though.

But on this day, inspired by who knows what, Josh headed out. He got into the water and started floating. He floated further and further from shore and we kept waiting to hear him screaming for help. We weren’t afraid he was going to go anywhere as there was almost zero risk of various marine perils such as strong currents, rip tides, undertows or great white sharks. He wasn’t going to get away from us and he wasn’t going to drown, what with being buckled and snapped snugly into his coast guard approved PFD and all. We waited but he didn’t scream. He simply turned around once in a while bobbing happily along and waved with a smile on is face. We were stunned. And then he did start to get a bit far away. Why wasn’t he turning around? I decide to go after him. When I caught up to him it seemed as though we were in the middle of the ocean… and he was the happiest clam in town.

After we all felt satisfactorily waterlogged, we continued our tour of the island. The eastern side of Isla Cozumel is the untamed, wild cousin of the developed west side. It was remote and wonderful. Driving along in our convertible, with nothing to see but ocean for miles I felt like we should be blasting some Beach Boys song with surf boards strapped to our trunk. Alas we came upon “Coconuts”, a bar perched on the cliffs above the teal blue water and a favorite Caribbean haunt of my cousin Brent. The plan was to stop in for a snack and then go hit another snorkeling spot. Well… after one blue margarita, it was clear that my snorkeling was done for the day.

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Blue margaritas and piñatas (virgin piña coladas!)

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Shades of blue – the view from Coconuts

Well my friends, the story is coming to an end. We returned from Cozumel late with two sleeping children. We had a few more days of lazing on the beach and an amazing experience snorkeling with sea turtles in Akumal Bay. Akumal is a Mayan word meaning “Place of the Turtles”. Joshua surprised us again by deciding that he wanted to see the turtles enough that he was willing to put his face in the water. Until then that had been a big “no way”.

Then, just like that it was time to go. If ever you want to know more about Akumal, let me know. I’ll regale you with more of her splendors while we drink Dos Equis or blue margaritas, or something…

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Sea turtle munching on sea grass. I did not take this photo, I found it on the Internet. I’d give the photographer credit but I don’t know who it is. I’m sure this violates some sort of copyright law. Don’t tell.

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Joshua and Randy at Yal Ku Lagoon

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Happy Snorkeler

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The sign says it all!

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Josh loves the trail-a-bike

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Bodhi helps pedal the tandem

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Yahoo!

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Randy checks out the turtles in Akumal Bay

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Fun with Feet!

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Adios Akumal

Relaxation and Rejuvenation – Check.

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Responses

  1. It sounds so wonderful!! Reminds me a little bit of our tropical Christmas but it sounds like Akumal met your needs even more. I know there is some sadness as your year begins to come to a close, but I am so looking forward to having you all back in town. I can’t wait to see you! I look forward to more great stories from the road as you make your way back overland. Lots of love, Earlywine Clan! Love, Tía Kelly

  2. love that photo of Randy with the snorkel, he could be in the sports illustrated swimsuit issue with that look!! The beach sounds amazing, maybe next year. I love that Joshy is a water baby now!! yippee!! See you soon!

  3. I’m voting for Corona! Your shot is billboard material (and is making me thristy). Best wishes on your remaining travels. And tell Randy I expect him to shave his head before returning to work


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