Traveling Cleverly Since 2001

on Friday, May 18, 2012 | 1 comments
Here are some additional photos from the trip... wishing we were there now!

on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 | 2 comments
I first heard about Isla Mujeres about seven years ago, while researching somewhere to go between taking the bar exam and starting my first job. For a variety of reasons, we chose to go on a cruise, but Isla Mujeres (IM for short) has always been on "the list." My husband's cousin, also a close friend, and her fiance decided to get married there, and we definitely didn't want to miss it.

So, we decided to pack up the kids and hit the road. Our party consisted of myself, Mr. Nomad, the two wee nomads (7 months and 2.5 years), and our 18 year old sitter. IM is a small island, about five miles long, that sits just off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. IM is reached via ferry and the main mode of transport on the island is either a scooter or golf cart. There are cars and taxis, but not all that many.

Our flight to Cancun arrived early, around 10am, and we were on the 11:30am ferry. We arranged a private transport from the airport to the ferry dock with USA Transfers. I'd highly recommend this company if you need a private transport from the airport to anywhere in the Yucatan. Professional, on-time and economical ($75 round-trip for five people in a private, air-conditioned van).

Penthouse View
We rented penthouse unit 504 at Ixchel Beach Hotel from a private owner on VRBO. We wanted to rent directly from Ixchel Beach Hotel, but they were out of penthouse (PH) units. We wanted a PH since we were traveling with small kids and would spend a lot of time in the room. Ixchel Beach Hotel is located on North Beach, just North (duh) of the main town and in easy walking distance to all manner of restaurants, stores and golf cart rentals. Secluded paradise, it certainly wasn't, but it was beautiful.
Penthouse Hot Tub

After being met at the ferry dock, we were checked in by 12:30pm. The management company really pushed to make sure we could check in early as we were traveling with small kids who needed naps. That courtesy was much appreciated and we quickly settled in and put the kids down for a nap. After the kids were soundly asleep, Mr. Nomad and I went out to rustle up some lunch for ourselves and our sitter (who stayed back with our sleeping kids). We decided to forego the on-site restaurant in favor of a place on North Beach called Chimbo's. We had beer and margaritas, and yummy tacos. Oh, and guacamole. Good lord, did we eat some guacamole.

The pictures of Playa Norte (North Beach, for you non-Spanish speakers) are stunning. In person, I wasn't a huge fan of the beach. The beach is fairly crowded by Caribbean standards and there are lots of large sand-bag berms placed strategically along the beach to catch sand. They've done their best to make these look like rocks, but they are sandbags. On the plus side, the beach is very shallow and calm, and is perfect for little ones. You can wade very far out and only be up to your waist. This area is great for a friends getaway or a family vacay. For a romantic vacation? I'd look elsewhere.

Wee Nomad #1 on North Beach

Since we were traveling with children, our days were somewhat standard and fairly boring to most. We woke early, got breakfast and hit either the beach or pool. Usually in by lunch, the kids went down for a nap and we hung out on the terrace or perhaps got a drink. Late afternoons were spent in the pool usually. We did fit a few adventures in, however:

Mr. Nomad and I received a couples massage by Mary Ann Burns and another therapist she engaged to assist us. Her massage dome is on the south end of the island, almost directly across from the infamous Shell House. The dome did not have A/C, but none was necessary. Ocean breezes cooled us as Mary Ann and her friend did their magic. After an hour, I was complete putty.

The bride and groom had scheduled a afternoon snorkel cruise one of our days. This ended up being on a double-decker power boat and not a catamaran. The alcohol was included, as was the snorkel gear. We did get to see a turtle, but honestly the snorkeling was below average. I think I'm spoiled, so perhaps I'm not the best one to review this excursion. We did have a great time socializing though, which was really the whole point of the trip.

We rented a golf cart for 48 hours - what fun! We admittedly packed the baby and toddler on the golf cart - not the safest activity in the states, but in Mexico it was very common to see little kids of all ages on golf carts. We hit Chedraui, a small Wal-Mart type store, and stocked up on groceries, diapers, etc. We also did a full island circumnavigation, which was a lot of fun. IM honestly lacks in natural beauty. Being used to the rolling hills and emerald mountains of St. John, St. Martin, and other islands, the flat scrubbiness of Mexico seems unattractive. But, I've been to Mexico before, and know that the star is always the beaches and culture.

The people on IM were really lovely. Traveling with children in Mexico is a pleasure, because most people really love children and they get lots of attention. Our boys have extremely big eyes and long eyelashes, and the women couldn't get enough.

We ate out a few times, and I found the food on IM to be better-than-average. In no particular order, here are our eats:
Qubano: on Hidalgo in downtown. Ate there for dinner, had the grouper. It was decent.
Barlito: breakfast and lunch joint in downtown. Picked up breakfast one morning. HUGE portions, great breakfast paninis and the best cinnamon roll of all time.
Dos Amigos: On Hidalgo, Mexican - good food, very friendly, great guac
Chuuk Kay: This restaurant was on the lagoon, a bit expensive, but delicious margaritas. The food was okay, but the drinks were outstanding. Best mango margarita I've tasted ever.
Chimbo's: North beach, great tacos and guac
Liedy Palapa: North beach, good tacos

Tacos at Chimbo's

The wedding itself was at Zama Beach Club. This beach club is located on Sac Bajo, a small strip of land that sits between the lagoon and ocean. It's clear that this is the high dollar area of IM. Some of the nicest hotels and homes are on this stretch. I wish I'd discovered Zama earlier - everything about this club is what a Mexican vacation should be. Huge palapa covering the bar and restaurant area with a beautiful tiled floor, a two-tiered pool, a smallish beach cove with beach beds and nice loungers spaced at just the right distance from one another. I loved it, and it was a perfect location for a wedding. The wedding itself was a huge success!

We had a great family vacation on IM. It surely doesn't replace St. John as my favorite tropical destination. I'm not sure I'll be back in the next few years, but if I ever have occasion to visit IM again, I'll eagerly look forward to my return.

on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 | 0 comments
We just returned from five nights to Isla Mujeres, Mexico. For those unfamiliar with this small island, it sits just off the coast of Cancun. While IM is certainly not calm and sleepy, it is world's away from the bustle of Cancun. Very few cars, no nightclubs and only a handful of large resorts, it is still considered a "getaway" from Cancun. We were there for a wedding and enjoyed our time immensely. We took our two wee nomads and a BABYSITTER. God have mercy, what a luxury that was! I'll be back in the next week or so with pictures and a full review.