Oh my gosh you guys… it’s almost time to meet up with Chris for our two week vacation. It’s been almost a year since we’ve been living apart and we are ready to spend some quality time together, two weeks to be exact! When we booked our trip to Mexico we decided to go with a smaller hotel instead of an all-inclusive hotel. We needed something intimate, quiet, and apparently some much needed naked time! I guess that’s what happens when you live apart. So we booked ourselves into Intima Resort, which is a clothing optional resort if you haven’t already guessed 🙂 and we ended up loving it!
Intima Resort – A Clothing Optional Paradise
Taking a little dip in our private swimup pool.
The rooms were immaculate and the maids got creative with the towels by making us different animals daily.
My highlight: playing naked yahtzee on our back patio.
Chris’s highlight: being naked all day.
Mayan Clay Spa (Bath House)
A vacation wouldn’t be a vacation unless you book a relaxing massage. My goal was to find something different; I didn’t want to go for an hour-long massage just anywhere. I wanted more, and more is what I got!
Chris was kind enough to make all of the arrangements through email from Canada, so basically we weren’t sure what we were required to bring or not to bring. You can imagine the look on our faces when Yao Yao (our treatment specialist) asked us to change into our bathing suits. Um, bathing suits? We didn’t have those with us. She said that wasn’t a problem and that we could wear our underwear. Underwear?? Who wears underwear in 30°C weather! Yao Yao reassured us that being nude wouldn’t be a problem and quickly grabbed us a couple of towels. All was good until we approached a large pool where we had to hand over our towels and jump in. At that point all I could do was chuckle because I had this strange feeling that we were going to be exposing ourselves a lot over the next few hours. And I was right!
I have to admit that even though I wasn’t thrilled to be jumping into this cold pool, it sure was refreshing! The best part was that this natural pool contains the same water as the cenotes. A cenote (say-no-tay) for those who don’t know is a natural pit, or sinkhole, formed by the collapse of porous limestone. The fresh water that they hold has been filtered by the earth, which makes it pure and clear.
Next we were led to an open room with two tables. Our treatment began with a Mayan clay treatment which was massaged into our face, neck, and shoulders. As we each got our treatment, we relaxed in anticipation to see what was going to happen next.
The massage potty room. No windows or doors for this bathroom!
Of course, a rinse was in order since we were covered in clay. As Chris remained covered, Yao Yao took my towel and directed me to a footstool where I sat exposed. I was soon treated to a rush of warm water that ran over my head and down my body. Then BAM like a brick I was hit with freezing cold water. Okay, I might be overreacting. But I have never been a fan of the hot-and-cold water treatment. On occasion I try this myself, but my attempts always fail because I hate being cold! At least I got to watch Chris have the same treatment, though his reaction wasn’t quite as dramatic as mine. Next I was treated to a sea salt and rosemary exfoliation. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? That’s what I thought until my second round of torture began. The salt was coarse and a bit abrasive but I managed to work through it. Afterwards, I was treated to another warm-and-cold water rinse.
All was good when I got to soak in a warm clay tub and watch Chris go through the same ritual as I did. Again, no reaction… can he feel anything? I may have been overly sensitive that day because my period was supposed to start that week. Yes, let’s blame it on the period! The clay bath was intimate and relaxing. We got to slather the Mayan clay onto each other, sit back, relax, and let the clay do its job. We were in heaven!
Mayan Clay Benefits
• It is a fantastic hair conditioning treatment. Chris commented on how soft my hair felt afterwards.
• It helps heal skin lesions such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, mosquito bites, rashes, and sunburn
• Exfoliates and regenerates skin tissue refining wrinkles. Dead skin cells are naturally removed, allowing regeneration of new cells to nourish your skin.
• Mineralises. The clay provides you with essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorus, which are absorbed through the skin to offer you a feeling of relaxation.
• Detoxes & energizes the skin and internal organs. Mayan clay has the capacity to pull out dirt and other toxins, which are released by the skin. It can also be applied to other parts of the body like the abdomen to help stimulate, detoxify, and remove toxins from the liver and kidneys.
• Can be used as a face wash and toner to help cleanse, tone, hydrate, and gently exfoliate.
The bathing ritual in the secret jungle surroundings continued. The sauna and pool therapy was next, followed by a hydrating papaya body mask, a warm Jacuzzi tube filled with Epson salts to relax tired muscles, and a coconut oil application to prepare us for our deep tissue massage.
Afterwards, we got to wander around at our leisure and relax on the king sized bed set among the treetops. Our five-hour experience was blissful. After the treatment my skin felt amazingly soft and the few blemishes I had were healing nicely.
My highlight: watching from the Jacuzzi tub as Chris showered butt-naked and Yao Yao helped him rub the papaya mask off his body.
Chris’s Highlight: being naked.
• Hydrate before you have this treatment and bring your own water bottle. Even though they do give you some water and a cup of tea, I found it wasn’t enough to keep me hydrated.
• If you don’t want to be naked, bring a bathing suit.
• If you have sensitive skin then mention that you would like the exfoliation treatment to be applied lightly.
• If you aren’t a fan of deep tissue massages, you can mention this at the time of the booking and say you prefer a relaxing massage.
Tulum Mayan Ruins
When I spent months looking at pictures of the Tulum Ruins sitting over the rugged coastline with the white sand beach and blue-turquoise water below, I couldn’t wait to visit. So you can imagine my enthusiasm after entering the gates! I grabbed Chris and hurried him along so I could be one of the first people to see the awe-inspiring setting. I needed pictures of the beach before it was littered with people. When we finally approached the coastline, I just stopped and stared for a moment before running to the beach. The setting was breathtaking, the clear water inviting, and there was a peaceful silence that fell over the entire place. I could have spent all day here, if not for the jillions of people that kept pouring in an hour after the gates opened.
Look at that sand, ocean, and sky! Amazing!
Large iguanas are everywhere, from the beach to the grass, pathways, and hanging out of the ruins windows. They seem to love it here and are used to the many people that pass through their lovely home.
There are a few stone doorways around the property, so get ready to pose!
1. Arrive before 8:00am to avoid the crowds.
2. The parking lot is a 10 to 15 minute walk from the main gate, so give yourself enough time to get there. Parking costs 160.00 pesos, or $8.00 USD. From the parking lot you will walk by many tourist shops, as well as a Subway and Starbucks. Keep walking straight until you reach a dirt road. Keep left and walk down the dirt road until you come to a dead end and you will see the ticket booth on your left.
3. The entry cost is 70.00 pesos or $3.50 USD and an extra 40.00 peso if you want to film. They don’t ask if you have a camera so don’t mention it.
4. Wear your bathing suit and bring a towel because you may be tempted to go for a swim.
5. Bring tea tree oil or bug ointment if you plan to be silly and sit on the grass like I did. After three tiny red ants bit my foot it began to itch like crazy. I applied tea tree oil and it worked like a charm.
A Trip to Playa Del Carmen and Montezuma’s Revenge
Yes, we got suckered into a timeshare presentation. I guess we are too nice and the word no isn’t in our vocabulary. We learned our lesson though because it was a frustrating experience and it ruined one of our precious vacation days. Since we had to drive to playa del Carmen for this presentation we decided to stop at Playa’s tourist strip, on 5th Avenue on our way back to Tulum. The street was littered with restaurants and trinkets and you can tell the competition is fierce because the locals will say anything to get your attention. If you make eye contact and talk to them they will swoop in and try to hold your attention for as long as possible. The problem is, they aren’t selling local culture or handcrafts. It’s all from China, and you will find the same trinkets, pottery, blankets, and cheaply made sombreros littering many streets and towns.
We enjoyed walking around 5th Avenue but unfortunately for dinner we settled on an empty vibrant Mexican restaurant while it was still light out. As the sun sets the atmosphere changes, music and entertainers fill the streets and romantic mood lighting falls over the tables of many popular restaurants. We chose our restaurant too soon because as we left it was still empty and five hours later I was hit with Montezuma’s revenge.
• Never go to an empty restaurant because this is a good indication that something isn’t right.
• Do your research and make sure the restaurant you eat at has good reviews.
• Ask for no ice in your drinks.
• If you order bottled water, make sure it is sealed because I’ve heard of restaurants refilling bottles with tap water.
The day after my unpleasant experience I needed some Raw Love! A juice or smoothie would go down nicely, but I couldn’t decide which one I wanted so I ordered a green juice and a smoothie bowl. The Refresh juice was just what I needed. It was refreshing, hydrating, and a perfect option for my upset tummy considering it had ginger, lime, and honey in it.
I also decided on the Healthy Belly bowl because again my tummy could use all the digestive help it could get. And how can you say no to papaya, ginger, turmeric, banana, and coconut milk. Put those together and you get deliciousness and an anti-inflammatory effect. Chris decided on the Maca-Vanilla Milkshake bowl because he is a sucker for anything that sounds like a dessert. It definitely tasted like dessert, but was healthy and loaded with protein and hormone balancing goodness.
And they didn’t cheap out on the toppings! It was so loaded with fruit, granola and nuts.
Raw Love is a quaint little place surrounded by palm trees, hammocks, and wooden tables. The staff members were friendly and the food was both healthy and delicious. It wasn’t the cheapest restaurant but it was comparable with prices back home. The smoothie bowls will run you anywhere from 150.00 – 190.00 pesos, that’s around $8.00 or $9.50 USD a bowl. But they are worth it!
After our afternoon snack we headed towards the ocean, which was only a few steps from Raw Love. As you can see, the beach and water are gorgeous. We set up our towels under a coconut tree. Thank goodness we weren’t any closer, because soon after a coconut fell three feet directly behind my head. Those things are dangerous!
The white sand is actually made up of parrotfish poop, from the coral that they eat. So on hot days the sand doesn’t get hot like other beaches. Pretty amazing!
We even experienced a sand tornado about 10 feet away from us. I only got the tail end of it on film, but you can see the sand in the air and the towel in the far right of the picture floating as well.
• If you don’t want to eat or order drinks at a restaurant then find a quiet shady spot down the beach somewhere. Most places will charge you a minimum of $20.00 USD to use their beach lounge chairs.
• Leave your valuables at the hotel. Chris and I brought our backpacks and didn’t want to risk anyone stealing them so we went into the ocean separately.
Mayan Pyramid At Coba
You can still experience climbing the tallest Mayan temple in Mexico, at least for now. It’s one of the few pyramids open to the public, but that is about to change very soon. It is being damaged by thousands of visitors, and the steps are starting to wear down in the middle where the rope extends from the bottom to the top.
Most people scramble up the 42-meter, 120-step pyramid, gripping the rope in fear of falling. Chris and I didn’t find it as bad as people made it out to be but that could be because we are used to climbing the steep mountains of North Vancouver. My knees did shake a little after climbing half way and turning to look at the spectacular view. I’m afraid of heights so I had to find a wide step to stand on in order to take a picture. All you can see is a green carpet jungle stretch as far as the eye could see with other ruins peeking up from the trees. Watching the sunrise or sunset would be amazing from the top.
The descent down the middle was a bit tricky due to the worn down stones, so I made my way out to the side where the steps were a little wider. I found it easier climbing down than up because going up made my fear of heights kick in, and on the way down I focused on one step at a time. Before I knew it I was back on the ground.
Because the bikes at the gates were still locked up when we left, Chris and I chose to walk to the pyramid. It took us about 20 minutes (we walk fast), and we ended up arriving at exactly the same time as another couple on their bikes. As you travel through the jungle there are two pathways, one for walking, and one for bikes. There are smaller ruins along the way, so if you choose to bike you may want to take it slow and enjoy the scenery.
• Wear comfortable walking shoes with traction. Even if you don’t walk there, the steps on the pyramid are smooth and worn down.
• You can rent a bike or hire a pedicab for $5.00 USD to transport you.
• Make sure you stop at the other ruins on your way out. They are pretty cool too.
If you want to visit a quiet cenote, then Nicte-Ha is for you. The area is very spacious, except for one small cave. If you choose to swim through, you will be rewarded with beautiful rock formations. The water here is crystal clear, and very refreshing! We could even see little fish everywhere (they might nibble on your legs if you stand still for too long). There were very few people when we arrived, which meant that our visit was very quiet and serene. Water lilies floated on the surface making the place feel magical.
If you have a car then you can drive down the dirt road and park right in front of the cenote entrance. When we arrived there were a couple of guys sitting at the entrance to take our money. They never gave us a ticket stub, so who knows if we were supposed to pay them or someone else. The price to get in was 100 pesos or $5.00 USD per person. It seemed a little expensive for this smaller, lesser-known cenote but after we jumped in, we realised that this beautiful jungle cenote was well worth the price.
• Bring snorkelling gear if you have it. You will be able to swim into the cave and see the cool rock formations through the crystal clear water.
• There is an entrance fee of 100 pesos, so make sure you bring cash.
• Bring an underwater camera to take fun pictures.
• If you have a rental car, drive to the small parking lot at Nicte-Ha.
• Dos Ojos (which we never went to) is not far from Nicte-Ha. It is a more underground cenote with a larger cave and cooler water.
• I would highly recommend that you visit a cenote even if you don’t visit this one. They are all different and relaxing in their own way.
Xel-Ha is a touristy adventure park and the only reason we went was because of all the great reviews on trip advisor. Next time I will read the negative reviews as well, because those comments were exactly how we felt. The park is beautiful and the jungle trails that lead you around the park were well kept and nice. The concept of the park is sound but it didn’t impress us. It is an all inclusive, so your meals and drinks are all free. This apparently included alcoholic drinks as well. Not really up our alley. The food was mediocre at best, including the usual scrambled eggs, toast, pancakes, French toast, fresh fruit, and some not very tasty Mexican dishes to choose from. Nothing really special but we were expecting that.
One of the reasons we decided to visit the park was due to the many people that raved about how clear the water was, and the many different fish they saw snorkelling. I have to disagree. The water was murky, and the variety and quantity of the fish was lacking. There were a lot of fish that hung out by the steps where you enter, but only because they get fed there.
There is a lazy river that you can float down, and different activities along the way (jumping off cliffs, rope walking, zip lining into the water) but none of these interested us because it seemed like they were made for kids. The cliffs weren’t that high, the ropewalk was suppose to be suspended in the air but hung in the water because of the many people challenging themselves, and the zip line was short and very slow. None of the activities seemed very thrilling for adults.
• The snorkelling gear is free, but if you lose it you will have to pay for it. You can bring your own gear but I don’t recommend that; I briefly dropped mine at the entrance of the river float, and someone took it.
• They give you a locker to put your belongings in. If you bring your own snorkelling gear ask for a larger locker and keep it in there until you are going to use it.
• They encourage you to wear all natural sunscreen that is biodegradable to protect the reefs. If you don’t have this then they will give you a sample bottle to use, which is pretty cool.
• Bring a towel, as they won’t have any there for you unless you are borrowing snorkelling gear.
• The extra water activities (dolphins, manatees, stingrays, scuba etc.) are extra and expensive. If you want to snorkel with dolphins, go to Hawaii where they tend to rest in the inlet. I’m not a big fan of keeping these animals in captivity.
• I can’t recommend the snorkelling at this park – there is no live coral, there aren’t many fish, and the bottom of the lagoon is nothing more than sand and cloudy water. Save your money and book a day trip to Cozumel, or hire a tour guide to take you to a reef if you want to see fish in clear water.
• Get there before it opens or you will be waiting in line forever to get your gear, locker, or food. This place gets insanely crowded!
• The lazy river does not end in a lazy way, so bring your fins with you or expect to get off of your tube and swim the rest of the way. As soon as you turn the corner you will be fighting against a current and many people were not making much progress by just kicking with their feet.
• Expect to pay around $89 USD each plus more if you plan to do the extra activities.
I can’t recommend this place but there might be a lot of people that disagree with me. If you are looking for something for the kids to do then this may be the place for you, but just plan for an expensive day out.
Charly’s Vegan Tacos
Charly’s vegan truck was one of our favourite restaurants. The kitchen is a food truck, but the atmosphere was incredibly gorgeous, romantic, and cozy (you’re in the middle of the jungle with soft lighting hanging from the palm trees). The food was fresh, creative, and flavourful! Chris and I shared the guaco-mango appetizer, and it was super yummy! Even if you are a meat eater, don’t turn your nose up at this place. It just might convert you 😉
The sauce table. Be careful, some of the sauces are extremely spicy.
My Tamarind drink was refreshing and delicious!
Charley’s signature tacos were tasty and full of flavour. I heard the kale salad is also delicious but we didn’t have the opportunity to go back and try it.
• Do not write this place off if you are not vegan, the food is delicious!
• If you have allergies to soy, corn, nuts, wheat, gluten, etc. then don’t eat there.
• If you have kids then I would probably recommend going elsewhere, unless they like unusual and flavourful food.
Burrito Amor has a great curb-side appeal, which drew us in. It is an open-aired café off the main street of Tulum city. It wasn’t on our list of restaurants to visit but we were starving one day and it had just started to rain, so we slipped in for a bite to eat. We are so glad that we did! The veggie burritos were very satisfying. They were stuffed full of veggies, beans, and rice and were reasonably priced at only 65 pesos, or $3.50 USD. The freshly squeezed juices were also reasonable, but had a little too much pulp on the top for my liking. Once you get through the pulp they are very tasty! This restaurant is for everyone. It has vegetarian, vegan, and meat options.
This vegetarian restaurant had a backyard hangout feel. There were tables, but also couches and lounge benches to chill out and eat on. We chose a table because the couches are exposed to all sorts of weather and people, and honestly didn’t look that welcoming.
I had mixed reviews about this place. The juices that we ordered were very good. The falafel salad was tasty but the sandwich lacked filling, we felt like we were basically eating bread. A couple days later when I wasn’t feeling well, Chris went back for a kale love salad and he said it was delicious. I would probably give this restaurant another try because I don’t think we ordered their most popular dishes.
After you have finished eating you can wonder into the little health food store and browse around. There isn’t much in there but if you need soap, toothpaste, or some nuts and seeds then you should find it in there.
What do you do after being sick? Yes, you guessed it… indulge in waffles and gelato. We were running out of time and didn’t have any treats our entire trip, so we had to try it!
Campanella Cremerie is a cute little place off of the main street of Tulum city. Our waitress was adorable, friendly, and very helpful. We aren’t gelato experts, so she took the time to explain and even gave us samples of whatever flavour we wanted. It was very tasty, the portion size was good, and it was served in an artful way. It was a bit on the sweet side but we hadn’t eaten anything for a few days, so it’s probably safe to say that it’s no sweeter than any other gelato.
Things I liked and didn’t like about the Yucatan coastline.
• The beach and ocean were absolutely stunning
• The locals who don’t run the big chain establishments. People were friendly and helpful.
• The food. Most of the food we tried was creative and flavourful. I would go again just to try more restaurants.
• Affordable. We could get a glass of freshly squeezed juice for only a few dollars, and a 10-gallon jug of water for a couple of dollars.
• The long beaches.
• Car rental. My credit card covers insurance on car rentals, but we were told that it was the Mexican law to purchase insurance, and I could pay the cheaper option of $350 USD instead of $650 USD. Upon return I found out that my card would have covered everything! Do your research before you go, and bring the necessary papers to show that your credit card will cover any damages made to the rental car.
• Timeshare traps.
• Tourist traps.
• Steer clear of souvenir shops. Most often, the goods are mass-produced in another country entirely, and lack the authenticity that you are probably looking for.
• The lack of sidewalks down the main jungle street because it can get busy with cars and make it difficult to walk. But there is the long beach on the other side to make up for it.
On your last night don’t forget to walk along the beach, watch the pelicans,
breathe the salty sea air and let the wind play with you hair!
And think to yourself, what a wonderful world…
Unfortunately, we were unable to eat at many local restaurants because Chris and I both got Travelers diarrhea (just our luck) and our intimate bed time turned into bathroom time. We left Tulum wanting to spend more time together and explore more of the surrounding area. If anyone has been to Tulum please leave a comment to let us know what you liked or didn’t like… restaurants, cenotes, snorkelling spots, hotels, drop-in yoga retreats, etc. because I’m sure one day we will be back!