International TravelThings You Should KnowWining/Dining


Continuing on with the rest of our stay in Mexico’s Riviera Maya (specifically Mayakoba area), the trip’s big and only pre-planned activity was an excursion provided by 4 Worlds Expeditions.  This was a wonderful combination of activities in an area south of Playa del Carmen and not too far from Tulum.

Our first stop was the Kantun-Chi EcoPark to explore the remarkable caves.  
Down the hatch!
The water is fresh and there is no sea life, but the owners have installed plenty of light to view the formations while we navigated the rocks, stalagmites, low ceilings – all the while trying to maintain balance and not get hurt!   Our wonderful guide Silvia was extremely patient.  Remarkably, there were no thoughts of claustrophobia in this rather tight space.
Sting ray on the left side of photo

From there it was on to the Akumal area.  Many visitors come to the region and stay only in Akumal, which is excellent for scuba diving and snorkeling (our activity this day).  We particularly were hoping to see sea turtles, and I am happy to report they were completely visible not very far from shore.  Again, Silvia was most accommodating, even putting on the flippers for the hubby (who has no balance, not to mention a strong aversion to salt water).  It was hard to tell how large the turtles were that we saw.  There are very strict instructions not to touch them or get directly above them.  One had a sucker fish attached to it’s back – we were told the fish is rather lazy so it was taking advantage of the turtle stirring up things for the fish to eat!   There was also a fairly large ray which thankfully kept his distance.

Sea turtle with sucker fish attached



Tiger Fish

Our last stop was snorkeling in a very large inlet that had tons of fish in very clear water, followed by lunch at the beach — although I’m not sure encouraging diners to climb up into their tree house while drinking beer in the sun is the best idea.   We then enjoyed “Taco Night” back at the hotel, complete with mariachi band and freshly made churros; muy deliciosa!

Lunchtime view in Akumal

Wanting to see the other hotels in our immediate area led us to dinner at the Fairmont Hotel”s El Puerto, the middle property in Mayakoba and by far the largest of the three (Banyon Tree is the third, comparable in size to Rosewood).  While all three properties are distinct and separately operated, there is reciprocity — even to the extent of charging the Fairmont meal to our Rosewood account (can you imagine that on the Vegas Strip?).  Of course all of the properties will gladly transport guests in one of their luxury SUV’s.  During the day, there are ferries that go around to all three properties on an hourly basis.

This meal was an interesting mix of hot and cold, from sushi and ceviche to

Tuna sashimi with sesame slaw


Great finish to the meal

steaks, etc.  We enjoyed an array of really fresh and light seafood, followed a cheese plate for dessert.  A side note that seemed curious: the restaurant was decidedly formal – courses were wheeled out to the tables via a cart.  Except whoever designed the restaurant should have ditched the stairs – it took two servers continually raising and lowering those carts for each service!  Not the best planning …

And now for the one oopsie of the trip (there’s always at least one).  Each day we were happily enjoying ourselves in a poolside cabana.   The one we selected was on the far side of the pool, away from most other guests but very well attended by the pool staff for delivering endless amenities, towels, drinks, etc.  However, little more than 2 hours after settling in, more and more activity was happening with people gathering about – practically inside our cabana – and looking at us as if we were invading their “space.”  Finally one of the hotel personnel informed us that there was a poolside lunch event in this immediate area, with loud music, lots of alcohol, food and many guests (all there for a wedding).  Absolutely fine, but there was no reason to get us all situated as if for a typical day when we were to get the boot a short time later.  Better yet, the area should have been roped off and designated for a private event.  What ensued was awkward for the wedding guests and not too pleasant for us.  For a resort that is so service oriented, this was very un-Rosewood like, and the staff frankly did not know what to do — I think they were a bit embarrassed by the gaffe.   A very nice conversation took place thereafter with the hotel’s General Manager, followed by a complimentary lunch at our new cabana at the beach pool and exceptional, “Rosewood” service.    There was even an uninvited guest in the next cabana .. 

A coati (raccoon family) enjoying guacamole and likely going for the pizza next …


We also had the opportunity to dine at Banyan Tree’s Saffron restaurant for excellent Thai food.  The rains wrought a bit of havoc for the folks who thought they could dine outside; many a meal was brought inside mid-way as the water persisted.  This hotel is very exotic and inviting from what we saw.  They were expecting Tiger Woods, among others, for a PGA tournament starting a couple days after our departure.

Spicy chicken with fried brown rice and vegetables

Thai tapioca … this was not your grandma’s version

Some final thoughts on the stay here, much of which we shared with the General Manager.  The staff was uniformly happy.  You can’t fake that.   Separate from doing whatever they could to make their guests’ every wish come true, we spoke to many and found them to have a great work ethic and seemed to genuinely enjoy their jobs.  One even shared with us that for the upcoming high season, he was sending his wife and two toddlers to the in-laws in Arizona so he could work double shifts and not put a strain on the marriage by being away so much.  He would talk to his kids daily via Facetalk, and felt he could do this while they were still young so the family could get “ahead.”  

After yesterday’s “oopsie,” the management was even more attentive.  Cabanas were reserved for us both at the main pool and beach pool.  This reinforced my long-held business philosophy that everyone makes mistakes, but what separates successful businesses is the manner in which they remedy those mistakes.  Rosewood lived up to their well-deserved reputation in their responsiveness and we look forward to visiting their other properties!

At one with his tunes …