Oh oh, Mexico!
The original exotic getaway. My dreams started when the Love Boat cruised into Puerta Vallarta for the first time. I’ve been to Mexico 3 times if you count crossing the border to check out Tijuana and 4 times if you count an afternoon in Cozumel off a cruise ship. This is a land of beauty and mystery with so much more to be explored.
Destinations….Click to Jump
Cabo San Lucas
Located on the wild Baja Peninsula on the pacific coast of Mexico, Cabo San Lucas is totally separate from the rest of the country.
It is an oasis in the desert with dozens of time-share condominiums and full-service resort properties.
I might not have ended up here because I prefer boutique properties or smaller mom-n-pop hotels which I don’t think exist in Cabo. But alas, a friend had a week of timeshare that was going to expire and what kind of friend would I be if I let it go to waste?
The ocean is amazing to watch but dangerous and near impossible to swim in. You can sit on the sand and soak up the sun, but the shadow of constant local vendors pedaling junkie souveneirs will limit your exposure. My least favorite thing about travel to Mexico. Better to stay at the pool where there is ample cocktail service.
There are lots of booze cruises to choose from, and of course deep sea fishing. Neither are really my thing, but I did take a sunset cruise on a catamaran to see Arch of Cabo San Lucas and got some great photos.
The highlight of my trip to Cabo was food. I did the research ahead of the trip and only was able to convince the group to try a few of my picks…but one of them turned out to be a “Top 10” meal of all time and a place I long to return to.
Where Jenny Ate
Taco joint on the side of the highway. I purposely went here and it was freaking off the charts. Fresh tacos of all varieties being made in what was essentially a garage. The choices of meats, veggies, toppings and sauces was perfect. The grilled octopus taco was sublime. I don’t have to tell you this was also dirt cheap. A must for the taco fan.
An outdoor restaurant on the side of a cliff within the Pedregal, a Waldorf-Astoria property.
From the arrival to the last step out it was pure magic.
A meandering path through a rock landscape dotted with cactus and leafless desert trees, whimsical ornaments decorating the spiky plants and strategically placed potters and fountains eventually brings you to a lounge-like area with a champagne bar. While your sampling the bubbly, you can peruse the daily catch in the nearby glass cases. Above them is a chalkboard with a famous quote from Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea.
I remember having an excessive meal where we splurged on a little of everything. But this is that kind of place – plan for it, save for it. The seafood was possibly the freshest I’ve ever had – I remember the razor clams and the yellowfin tuna. I remember a mole soup. I remember warm and gracious service. I remember the sun setting and the sky shifting from bright blue, to slate to dark and hearing the ocean crashing behind me.
It is one of the most romantic restaurant locations I’ve ever been too. An absolute must. Tip: Reserve a table and start early while the sun is still in the sky. You want to be here to see the colors as its sets behind the cliff.
Spanish for “Island of Women”, Isla Mujeres is a hidden gem. It dates back to the 1500s when it was believed to be the sanctuary of the Goddess Ixchel. Legend has it that when Francisco Cordoba discovered it in 1517, the only inhabitants were the Goddess and the women of her court. I’d never heard of it which seems odd since it is just off Cancun, but I was looking for a laid-back beach getaway and an Island of Women sounded good to me. This island was perfect for me as a solo female traveler. I was a little nervous to go to Mexico alone, so I did extensive research before selecting this destination and I can confirm it is very safe, especially relative to larger tourist districts in Mexico.
For me, living in Louisiana, this is literally a 2 hour flight. Easy. From the airport you can hire a taxi or pre-arrange a service to take you 20 minutes to a boat launch. There are no roads leading to the island which means boat arrival…love that!
I picked a small boutique all-inclusive that was really perfect and a good value (see below).
I did explore the island by bike one day, first heading to the southern tip to Punta Sur where their are some Mayan ruins. It has an entry fee so I just checked it out from the parking lot and continued on. I looped up the back side of the island which was a gorgeous ride along the coastline, fairly unpopulated. The island is only 5 miles long so it was an easy ride to arrive in the main town at the North end. This is a more populated area with bars, shops, restaurants and hotels. Tour companies base here for the typical island boating options. There is a huge public beach with open-air restaurants that was beautiful. It is clean and safe, though obviously one must always be vigilant.
As I headed back toward my hotel, I passed the Navy base which is still active. This is one of the reasons the island is so low crime. The Mexican Navy uses this as a training site and patrols daily.
I think this would be a great couple’s destination. I didn’t see many families with kids except possible day-trippers from Cancun but it felt more like an adult destination to me. Would definitely go back.
Zoetry, Villa Rolandi
In the world of all-inclusive resorts, you don’t find many boutique properties. Because I prefer small hotels and also value high-quality food I usually don’t even consider all-inclusives.
Then I found the Zoetry brand, a small collection of boutique properties in Mexico, Jamaica and Dominican Republic. The websites always make these properties look amazing so I researched very carefully.
I was not disappointed. I would rate the hotel as 3.5 to 4 stars. It is smaller than it appears on the website which is typical, but it was a sweet little property with a lovely location facing toward the mainland and overlooking the Bahia Mujeres, the Bay of Women. The beach was small but it was clean and there was enough space for those who wanted to use it. I waded in the water…it was clear with some sea grass. Considering how petite the property is, they managed to squeeze 3 pools in, all facing dead on the western horizon which sets up the perfect late-day sunset cocktail nicely. There is a spa on site, also very nice and I had above average services at moderate prices.
My room was huge and they are built so that everyone has a private balcony that is staggered so you can’t see your neighbors. I had a huge bathroom, a large 4 poster bed and a sunken living room. I had a 2-person jacuzzi on my balcony (I did use it but found out that it takes about 2 hours to fill it and heat it up, lol). The room was immaculate but starting to show slight signs of aging. Perfectly adequate, really comfortable and great views.
There are 2 restaurants to choose from. Again, considering the size of the property, that is pretty good. One is the main dining area where breakfast, lunch and dinner are served. Drinks included. The menu was pretty diverse and better than average for an all-inclusive. I also asked for 2 entrees one night because I had skipped lunch and they didn’t hassle me at all.
The second restaurant is a smaller, intimate dining room with a higher-end wine selection (that is an additional cost). It is romantic with an option to sit at a candlelit table by the pool. It is more of a set menu that changes nightly but for a foodie like me, it was a treat. I chose that menu 3 of 4 nights.
The staff were very nice, although at times service was a little slow – particularly for poolside or beach service. There is a cute little gift shop with some great jewelry available for purchase.
I’m providing a link to the property and to the island’s website because there were many things to do that I did not experience…I was there to sit, read, eat, drink and get spoiled in the spa so that is what I did. I would return here for a similar recharge weekend for sure.