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Old 12-11-2016   #1 (permalink)
beachaholic
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
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3 Days in Isla Mujeres; 7 Days in Playa

Intro

This trip was a long time coming and a much needed vacation after a really rough couple of months.


First, in September, our cat Cheeto passed away. He was 18 and we had him for 18 years. He was like our child and we had to have him euthenized. It was heart wrenching and I was despondent for some time after that. Then, later in September, my best friend's mom, who had been in a nursing home and declining for some time, took a turn for the worst and was put into hospice with the expectation that she would pass within days. So I spent days bedside with my best friend, who is like a sister to me, watching her mom go through the process of dying.

Then, in early October, my dad (whose health also had been declining) had heart pains and was taken to the hospital. He had a heart attack and the doctors said he needed a triple bypass surgery to have a chance at survival as 3 of his arteries in his heart were clogged. He was scheduled for the surgery a few days later (after blood thinning medication had cleared out of his system), but while in this hospital awaiting surgery, he had another heart attack and died the next day. My mom, brothers and I were at his side when he died and it was an absolutely horrible ordeal, followed by several days of funeral plans, the funeral, the burial, etc. That threw me into an even worse depression.


And then, as if all of this was not bad enough, we had the horrifying U.S. Presidential election on November 8th which was the final nail in the coffin of my misery.

Our vacation had originally been scheduled for mid October, but we postponed it when my dad had his heart attack. We were very lucky that the rescheduling worked out and both condos we had rented were available at the same time, and the flights could easily be rescheduled. Amazingly, the entire additional cost for me to reschedule everything was only $58.

Now onto the fun stuff.

We have been going to Playa del Carmen (PDC) for a number of years and have always enjoyed it a lot. It has become our home away from home and we especially love the condo complex we stay at, Natz ti Ha, which is in the north part of town, right off the beach behind Mahekal Beach Resort. There is no other complex like it in Playa (that I am aware of) that is so tropical, loaded with Mexican charm (i.e. not slick and modern) with a nice big shaded pool, just a few steps off the beach and in our favorite section of town.


We have been getting concerned about (what we feel) is the overdevelopment of Playa in recent years and it was starting to look like the time may come when we will have to move on and find our new favorite place, so we decided this trip to start with 3 days in Isla Mujeres and end with a week in Playa. We figured, this way we could "sample" Isla and see if we like it, in the event the time comes that we must leave Playa behind.

So I did a lot of research into Isla Mujeres (IM) and we agreed we wanted to stay on Playa Norte, which is the most beautiful (and very swimmable) beach. We went back and forth between renting at Nautibeach or Ixchel, 2 condo complexes which are right next to each other and right on the nicest part of Playa Norte. Normally, we would go for the more Mexican/less modern place (which would be Nautibeach), but we ended up selecting Ixchel because there was a particular condo, #701 in Ixchel II building (a penthouse), that had the most amazing views and patio. We rented through VRBO and my communications with the owner were extremely pleasant and he was very responsive. He was also very flexible when I needed to reschedule due to my dad's illness.

Last edited by Sassygirl18; 12-11-2016 at 07:44 AM..
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Old 12-11-2016   #2 (permalink)
beachaholic
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
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We arrived in Cancun at around 2:00 p.m. and got through Immigration and Customs pretty quickly. After that, we headed out to the taxi area and looked for our shuttle (CARM). He was right there as we exited the doors and within no time at all, we were at Puerto Juarez to get the ferry to IM.

It was a pleasant ride. The weather was sunny and hot and we sat outside on the top of the ferry. There was a guitarist who was playing classical music.





Once we arrived in IM, it was a pretty easy walk to our condo. We packed light (carry-ons only) so that made it easy to get around without having to deal with taxis.



We were so excited when we entered the condo at Ixchel. The view was even more beautiful than in photos and the condo was really nice - very clean and comfortable with pretty much anything we needed. The views were panoramic...we could see just about the entire island from our patio! And that turquoise water. Is there anything more beautiful? (I would say NO).

View from our condo

A tour of our condo at Ixchel

Once we dropped the luggage and took in the beautiful view and said "HURRAY, WE'RE HERE!", we decided to go to dinner early because we were starving. We decided to go to Lola Valentina just as they were opening for dinner, and everything was fantastic!


After dinner, we walked around the main drag, Hidalgo Street, just for a short time. We were both pretty tired from a long travel day and having got up very early, but it was fun to get a quick overview of the main drag. We both agreed it was like the best of what Playa del Carmen's 5th Avenue used to be...quaint, laid back, charming, Mexican - a smaller version.


After our short walk, we headed back to the condo. We were super tired, but the pool looked so inviting! It was lit a dark, flourescent blue at night. To me, there is nothing more inviting than a pool at night time, when it is lit up. So I took a short swim while hubby sat and watched. He was too pooped.


What we spent today (converted to US dollars at 18 pesos/dollar):
Tip for US airport shuttle driver: $5
Breakfast $30
Tip for CARM shuttle driver: $5.55
Tip for luggage assistance - ferry: $2.22
Tip for ferry musician: $5.55

Dinner at Lola Valentina:
2 Cadillac Margaritas $6.66
Mojito: $4.17
Fish Tacos: $8.61
Quesadillas: $7.50
Guacamole: $9.72
Chocolate dessert: $5
Havana Club Rum: $4.17
Total: $49.72 + $8.61 tip = $58.33

Total Spent Today: $106.65

Last edited by Sassygirl18; 12-12-2016 at 09:40 AM.. Reason: Adding info
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Old 12-11-2016   #3 (permalink)
beachaholic
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 338
11/30/16

For our second day in Isla, we decided to relax and enjoy a nice, laid-back day of beach, pool and eating. No excursions planned. Actually, for almost our entire vacation there were no excursions planned. We've been to the region so many times (maybe 12 at this point), that we've done pretty much all the usual things...snorkeling, ATV, cooking class, ruins, cenotes, jungle excursions, boat trips, etc. This trip was just about decompressing and getting ourselves back into a happy frame of mind.

Breakfast was at Rooster. It was delicious! We both had fresh squeezed OJ. I also had a smoothie (yum). I had the veggie eggs benedict and hubby had the huevos rancheros. We also got a side of potatoes. Everything was rustic, wholesome and delicious.




We took a walk around the main drag a little and found a cute little liquor store on Madero run by a sweet, elderly lady. Hubby picked up a bottle of tequila. We also stopped at the little supermarket at the end of Hidalgo and bought some miscellaneous snacks and drinks for the condo. After that, it was time for the beach.







Playa Norte is SUCH a GORGEOUS beach and it's just the kind of beach I love...calm - almost like a swimming pool, and the most beautiful bright turquoise color (my favorite color in the world!). The sand is very soft, fluffy and creamy in color. Just gorgeous!

My only complaint is that Playa Norte is a pretty busy beach with lots of people. Even though we weren't in high season yet, it was pretty crowded and there were lots of chair hogs, which is a pet peeve of mine.

For dinner, we opted for a casual waterfront experience at Ballyhoo. We shared fish tacos, guacamole and coconut shrimp. The food was great, although the coconut shrimp were perhaps a little overcooked (hard/dry). Hubby got a Cuba Libra and Havana Club on the rocks, and I got an Isla Mujeres Margarita. The view was lovely at sunset.








After dinner, we strolled around the main drag. Hubby got a cigar and I got gelato, which was delicious! (I had lots of gelato on this trip - my FAVORITE).





As always, the pool looked so inviting at night, so we took a nice swim.


What we spent today (converted to US dollars at the rate of 18 pesos/dollar):

Tip for Maid: $2.22

Breakfast at Rooster:
2 OJs: $5.77
Smoothie: $3.61
Veggie Eggs Benedict: $6.66
Potatoes: $.56
Huevos Rancheros: $5.83
Total: $27.44 + 3.94 tip = $31.38

Bottle of tequila: $13.88
Supermarket - misc. snacks and drinks: $12.33

Dinner at Ballyhoo:
2 fish tacos: $5.00
Guacamole: $4.44
Coconut Shrimp: $12.22
Cuba Libra: $4.44
Margarita: $4.44
Havana Club: $4.44
Total: $40.56 + $7.22 tip = $47.78

Cigar: $4.44
Lg gelato, including tip: $5.56

Total Spent Today: $117.59
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Old 12-11-2016   #4 (permalink)
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Great start, nice you made it after all your ordeals.
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Old 12-11-2016   #5 (permalink)
toe in water
 
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Yes! So happy to read another trip report. Thanks for the reflections and info on Isla Mujeres. Artful photos too. Very nice.

Sorry about all you have been through. Too much for such a small expanse of time. I also felt a great loss on November 8th.

Looking forward to hearing more about your trip.
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Old 12-12-2016   #6 (permalink)
beachaholic
 
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Thanks, Dori.

Last edited by Sassygirl18; 12-12-2016 at 09:44 AM..
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Old 12-12-2016   #7 (permalink)
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Oh how I needed a new report after all this snow in Cleveland! Your pictures are beautiful and you write so well. LOVE LOVE LOVE the breakdown of what you spent! I know that's probably a pain to track, but it's awesome for planning purposes for everyone else
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Old 12-12-2016   #8 (permalink)
beachaholic
 
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Thanks, Erica. I am glad you find the breakdown of expenses helpful. I keep track to help others, but also for my own records for planning future trips! Of course, what you spend depends on the exchange rate at the time, so you have to adjust accordingly.
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Old 12-13-2016   #9 (permalink)
beachaholic
 
Join Date: Feb 2016
Location: Vancouver, Canada
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Nth

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sassygirl18 View Post
Intro

This trip was a long time coming and a much needed vacation after a really rough couple of months.


First, in September, our cat Cheeto passed away. He was 18 and we had him for 18 years. He was like our child and we had to have him euthenized. It was heart wrenching and I was despondent for some time after that. Then, later in September, my best friend's mom, who had been in a nursing home and declining for some time, took a turn for the worst and was put into hospice with the expectation that she would pass within days. So I spent days bedside with my best friend, who is like a sister to me, watching her mom go through the process of dying.

Then, in early October, my dad (whose health also had been declining) had heart pains and was taken to the hospital. He had a heart attack and the doctors said he needed a triple bypass surgery to have a chance at survival as 3 of his arteries in his heart were clogged. He was scheduled for the surgery a few days later (after blood thinning medication had cleared out of his system), but while in this hospital awaiting surgery, he had another heart attack and died the next day. My mom, brothers and I were at his side when he died and it was an absolutely horrible ordeal, followed by several days of funeral plans, the funeral, the burial, etc. That threw me into an even worse depression.


And then, as if all of this was not bad enough, we had the horrifying U.S. Presidential election on November 8th which was the final nail in the coffin of my misery.

Our vacation had originally been scheduled for mid October, but we postponed it when my dad had his heart attack. We were very lucky that the rescheduling worked out and both condos we had rented were available at the same time, and the flights could easily be rescheduled. Amazingly, the entire additional cost for me to reschedule everything was only $58.

Now onto the fun stuff.

We have been going to Playa del Carmen (PDC) for a number of years and have always enjoyed it a lot. It has become our home away from home and we especially love the condo complex we stay at, Natz ti Ha, which is in the north part of town, right off the beach behind Mahekal Beach Resort. There is no other complex like it in Playa (that I am aware of) that is so tropical, loaded with Mexican charm (i.e. not slick and modern) with a nice big shaded pool, just a few steps off the beach and in our favorite section of town.


We have been getting concerned about (what we feel) is the overdevelopment of Playa in recent years and it was starting to look like the time may come when we will have to move on and find our new favorite place, so we decided this trip to start with 3 days in Isla Mujeres and end with a week in Playa. We figured, this way we could "sample" Isla and see if we like it, in the event the time comes that we must leave Playa behind.

So I did a lot of research into Isla Mujeres (IM) and we agreed we wanted to stay on Playa Norte, which is the most beautiful (and very swimmable) beach. We went back and forth between renting at Nautibeach or Ixchel, 2 condo complexes which are right next to each other and right on the nicest part of Playa Norte. Normally, we would go for the more Mexican/less modern place (which would be Nautibeach), but we ended up selecting Ixchel because there was a particular condo, #701 in Ixchel II building (a penthouse), that had the most amazing views and patio. We rented through VRBO and my communications with the owner were extremely pleasant and he was very responsive. He was also very flexible when I needed to reschedule due to my dad's illness.
What unit do you stay in at NTH ? The picture you posted looks straight at my balcony
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Old 12-13-2016   #10 (permalink)
beachaholic
 
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Posts: 338
Hi Badcompany,


We stayed in G201.
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Old 12-13-2016   #11 (permalink)
beachaholic
 
Join Date: Sep 2011
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12/1/16

In IM, the recommended way to get around is golf cart, so for our third day on the island, we rented one. It seemed like a good way to get a broad overview of what the entire island is like.

We rented our cart from a little shop right behind Ixchel called Luxury Car Rentals, which cracked us up because what they rented were golf carts, not cars, and they were by no means luxurious.



We had a MapChick map in hand and used her special map for a Golf Cart Tour.

We started to drive south, down the eastern side of the island, and our first stop was the Mango Cafe, which is highly recommended for breakfast. I just had to try the Coconut French Toast, which I have read a lot of glowing reviews about, and it did not disappoint! Hubby had the Breakfast Quesadillas which he said were delicious. We both had fresh juice and hubby had some coffee. It was a very nice experience.






Next: the Turtle Farm, which repopulates the sea turtle population. It was a nice little stop.

Baby turtles!









We hopped back into our golf cart and proceeded further on to Punta Sur, which is the southernmost point of the island, and a place to explore for spectacular views. There is a general area that is free to visit, and another area of the park that you must pay to enter (only 30 pesos, or less than $2USD) and it is well worth it to gain access to all the various walkways with drop dead gorgeous vistas! We spent a lot of time walking through the park and I took tons of beautiful photos.







Boy were we hot after that!

Then we headed back north on the western side of the island. Our goal was to visit one or two beach clubs. I was curious to see what the beaches were like, outside of Playa Norte. First we stopped at Captain Dulce's beach club, but it didn't grab us, so we moved on to Zama Beach Club, which we knew had a pool. It's always good to have the option of swimming in a pool, in the even the ocean is cold or otherwise unpleasant in some way (seaweed, etc.).







Zama was a nice beach club and the pool area was really pretty. The pools were not heated and were chilly, but in the mid heat of day, it felt really refreshing to jump in. The service was attentive and the food was good. Not "out of this world" good, but good enough. We shared some guacamole and fried fish quesadillas and we also had some drinks.


The beaches on this side of the island are (in our opinion) not that impressive. The water isn't anywhere near as pretty as Playa Norte, and the beaches are not visually stunning. But it's still a nice, relaxing place to hang out and we enjoyed ourselves.

While we were there, a particular bird was hanging around posing for my camera and I got some pretty shots.






We also saw a large rabbit while we were there. I have never seen a rabbit before in any of our travels to Mexico. I didn't get a photo of him because he was hanging out under a lounging bed in a dark area, but the staff said he is friendly and likes to be pet.

After a couple of hours, we started to head back into town and end our trip around the island. We were both feeling overheated (it was really humid and quite hot) and a little tired. We parked our cart on the street (we had it for 24 hours) and went back to the hotel to relax awhile before dinner. We decided to spend some time at the beach and it was nice. The water was warm and calm and it wasn't too crowded. Late afternoon is definitely the most beautiful time at the beach in our opinion.



(I was taking a photo of hubby here (he's the guy floating on his back in the ocean), but this bird photo bombed him!)

We also took a nice dip in the pool.

For dinner, we went to a highly recommended restaurant called Olivia. It is a Greek/Mediterranean restaurant. We enjoyed this meal immensely! The atmosphere is really pretty, romantic and tropical, in a garden setting with thatched roof and tiki torches. It's very dark, so my photos are a bit dark (I didn't want to use a flash and ruin the atmosphere) but you get the idea.









We had a couple glasses of wine and shared a large appetizer of tapas, which was so delicious - I could have eaten just that and been happy as a clam! Hubby had a chicken dish with olives, and although I was tempted to get my favorite - spanakopita - I decided to get a fish entree instead, which was quite delicious.

I was tempted to get dessert there too, but had it in my mind that I wanted to try a street food called marquesitas. They are thin, crunchy waffles, made on a large waffle iron, and then filled with a variety of fillings and rolled. Apparently these are very popular in Isla. I got nutella and banana and it was soooo yummy!





After that, we walked around a little and then headed back to the hotel. I guess by now you can tell we are not party animals who "do the town" or go bar hopping all night. We are more about chilling!

What we Spent Today (converted from pesos to US dollars are a rate of 18 pesos/dollar):

Tip for maid: $2.78
Golf cart rental (24 hours): $44.44

Breakfast at Mango Cafe:
Coconut French Toast: $5.56
Breakfast Quesadillas: $6.11
Watermelon Juice: $1.67
Mango Juice: $1.67
Coffee: $1.67
Total: $16.68 + $2.77 tip =$19.45

Entrance Fee, Turtle Farm (2 people): $3.33
Entrance Fee, Punta Sur (2 people): $3.33
Banos, Punta Sur (2 visits): $.56

Lunch/Drinks at Zama Beach Club:
4 Coronas: $8.89
1 Havana Club: $5.00
1 Coke $1.67
1 Mojito: $5.00
Guacamole: $6.67
Fried Fish Quesadillas: $5.56
Total: $32.78 + $6.11 tip =$38.89

Dinner at Olivia:
2 glasses of wine: $7.78
Tapas Sampler: $6.39
Chicken entree: $8.61
Fish Entree: $8.61
Total: $31.39 + $6.39 tip =$37.78

Marquesita: $1.94

Total Spent Today: $152.50
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Old 12-13-2016   #12 (permalink)
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This trip report is reallllllllly making me consider splitting my time between Isla and Playa this summer. The water is just so beautiful!!
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Old 12-13-2016   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EricaBrooke View Post
This trip report is reallllllllly making me consider splitting my time between Isla and Playa this summer. The water is just so beautiful!!
We've taken a few years off from PDC and done Isla. We had a good time, but they are very different experiences. If you like a more laid back experience Isla's great. For us its back to PDC this year to see the changes!
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Old 12-13-2016   #14 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EricaBrooke View Post
This trip report is reallllllllly making me consider splitting my time between Isla and Playa this summer. The water is just so beautiful!!
The past couple years we finished our trip with a week on Isla. After 2 or 3 weeks in PDC we were ready for the slower pace of Isla. And yes, the fantastic beach.
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Old 12-14-2016   #15 (permalink)
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Great trip report and I'm so very sorry about the loss of your Dad and darling little Cheeto. father. I can imagine how much it meant to your friend that you were there for her. Glad you took the time to go to Mx for some healing!
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