30th birthdays are always a celebration, and this past weekend, I was able to embark on a trip to Riviera Maya, Mexico with a group of girlfriends to celebrate one of my college roommates 30th birthday. Being that we live all over the US, it’s always a rare treat to be in the same city for multiple days. And while I have been to Cozumel on a Carnival cruise, this was my first inland trip to Mexico.
Sidenote: Since this trip, I’ve added Cabo to my list, and it has become my favorite city to visit in Mexico. You can read about my trip to Cabo by clicking here or book your room at Secrets Los Cabos by clicking here.
After reading reviews and perusing through several destinations and resorts in Mexico, we opted for the fairly new and renovated El Dorado Seaside Suites, an adult only, all-inclusive resort near Tulum. From the private infinity pools, modern decor, expansive bathrooms in each suite to the swing bar and fancy restaurants, and 24 hours room service with bomb ass quesadillas, this resort was one of the better all-inclusives of which I have stayed. In every building, guests were greeted with champagne, and the resort itself was just the right size for walking, if you didn’t want to wait on the shuttle. The beach near our resort was still under construction, as much of this resort was built on coral reef (great for snorkeling, not so fun for distance swimming), however, the finished beach had a great bar and impeccable service that kept beach patrons with a fresh drink in their hands, even though I was drinking Mexican Cokes like water. We were also connected to a nude beach, but due to time constraints, we didn’t make it over to that side. Not saying I’m a nudist, but I am saying I might have went and took a little peeky peek. And I can’t help but to mention the way that we walked into almost every club on the resort and took over the DJ booth and the dance floor.
Note: Riviera Maya has become one of my favorite quick and cheap getaway destinations, and while El Dorado Seaside Suites was a great resort, I have fallen in love with the Secrets and Breathless chain of hotels. From the service to the amenities, you can’t go wrong with any AM Resort, and you can check prices and book your room directly from my website by clicking here.
Similar to my planning for any trip, I set up a board on Pinterest and mapped out the must-see/must-do things in and near Riviera Maya. Usually, I create a list and if it is too lengthy, I consult the locals on arrival to help narrow it down. The list for this trip was fairly short though, as there were only 2 main attractions that kept popping up, Chichen Itza and Xcaret. So, I shot my suggestions over to our group message, we voted, and the majority of the group decided to also purchase tickets to these attractions.
Note: There are two other excursions that I highly recommend, especially if you are an adrenaline junkie, like myself. You can zip line, ride ATVS, and swim in a cenote at Extreme Adventure Eco Park or up the anti at Xplor with swimming in underground caves and driving amphibious vehicles through the jungle terrain.
Since our arrival to the resort was marred with the news of the death of music icon, Prince, we spent most of it at the bar or in our private infinity pools swimming under the influence. There’s nothing like being the bearer of bad news to the other vacationers that had been disconnected from the media, while coercing them into purple shots. I mean, it was an all inclusive, drink to you can’t drink anymore. And I must be honest and admit, I didn’t get to fully enjoy the grand splendor of our resort or our suite until the next day due to my level of alcohol consumption that first night. #RIPPrince
For relaxation purposes, we decided to plan our excursions in the middle of our trip, leaving room for 2 resort days. In hindsight though, I wish that we would have stayed an extra day or 2. I feel like I didn’t get to enjoy enough of the resort, sober at least. On our first excursion day, we embarked on a journey to Mexico’s premiere adventure park, Xcaret. Now, let me be honest, in the same way that I kept referring Chi-ch-en Itza as Chicken Itza, in my mind, Xcaret was a water park. Yeah, I mean water park like Splashtown or WaterWorld (if you’re from Houston and old enough to remember). Yet, on arrival and entrance I quickly found out the meaning of “adventure-park.” Xcaret offered everything from snorkeling, to swimming with dolphins and sharks, underwater fish watching, jaguar and puma exhibitions, cenote tours, a recreated Mayan city and Mexican cemetery, along with a host of other “adventurous” activities. The way our sleep was set up, we didn’t get there until the afternoon, but it was easy to see how a whole day could be spent at Xcaret. One of the highlights of the park is their award winning night show, Mexico Espectacular, which details Mexico’s history from Mayan times to today. One of the most powerful parts of the show was seeing Mayan warriors being converted to Christianity. While we were too tired to enjoy the show in all of its glory, we realized the next day on our tour of Chichen Itza how many of the shows historical references we were able to connect to our tour.
Being that I graduated with a Bachelors in History and its on my bucket list to see the 7 Wonders of the World, Chichen Itza was a must see, even though there was much group debate about going to Tulum instead. However, after reading the reviews and debating life experiences, we chose Chichen. I was leery of the trip, due to reviews from my brother about the long drive, however, we all packed good books and a couple of snacks and set out on our 12-hour excursion. I’m convinced that I have a case of car narcolypse, so true to my fashion, I slept most of the way to Chichen Itza.
I’ve always had a sick fascination with gory historic events and unexplained phenomenons, and the visit to Chichen Itza combined components of both. As the brutal sun took its time trying to convince us to strip out of our clothes and try our luck in the Sacred Cenote, we embarked on a tour of one of the most popular Mayan cities of all times. From viewing Chichen Itza, and learning that it was actually a temple and calendar used to keep track of the days and seasons, viewing the sacrificial statues, the Wall of Skulls, their sports colosseum where participants fought to their deaths, literally and figuratively, to the Sacred Cenote, an underground river where humans dead and alive were sacrificed to the Mayan water God, Chaac, I can see why Chichen Itza it designated as a world heritage site. For 3000 years, a civilization thrived, only to be reduced to myth and speculation. Included in the tour to Chichen Itza, we also had the oppurtunity to wander through Valladolid to view the colonial landmarks and to have lunch and swim in one of the most famous cenotes, Ik Kil.
For those travelers that prefer a low key trip with shopping, purchasing souvenirs, and enjoying food outside of the resort, I definitely recommend heading to 5th Avenue in Playa del Carmen. Whether you’re in the market for some authentic Mexican vanilla to up the anti with your baked goods, perusing the racks at Zara and other high end shops, or bar hopping to find your favorite haunt, 5th Avenue is the place to be.
As the members of our college crew enter their 30s, I realize that it won’t be too long before our girls’ trips become family trips. I’m cherishing each and every one of these moments, even though the family additions will be welcomed additions.
Restaurant Highlight- Yo Amo Tacos
Let me first say, I might be the only Texan alive that doesn’t really like Mexican food, unless Taco Bell counts. But I have started to dabble in rice and beans and love tacos. Yo Amo Tacos, located on 5th Avenue, offered a large selection of tacos and authentic Mexican cuisine, and not one of our crew of 6 had any complaints. Between the lively patrons and savory tacos, Yo Amo is a must visit the next time you’re near Playa Del Carmen.
P.S. If you would like help planning your next vacation, click here.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this blog are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.