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We are loading up the bag (mike has a strict one bag policy – one bag per family, not one bag per person) and heading home in the next 15 minutes.  Mike has been able to surf every day (sometimes twice per day) and I have been able to spend time with the children, which was mostly great, and only sometimes less than great.

Soleil made two huge leaps on this trip.

1. Swimming – she first swam all by herself in Disneyland about a month ago, but on this trip she is squarely in the swimmer category.  She is able to swim, head down kicking and paddling, all the way across the pool – widthwise and lengthwise.  Pretty killer fo two and a half.d

2. Potty Trained At Last – We had 90% potty success on this trip (as opposed to the 15% success rate at home).  Both of our kids got potty trained on beach vacations – we think it is because they spend so much time in their swimsuits, that the parents are more relaxed about accidents, and so they learn faster.  Anyhow, with only 10% more to go, I would say we are nearly free of the evil environmentally-unfriendly diapers.  Woo Hoo!

I think everyone has had a great vacation.  Tomorrow it is rise and shine at 5:40am for Boot Camp for me, Kailani is back to school, and Mike is back to house daddy, and Soleil is back to – well, being two.  Next vacation, my vote is for a little more adventure and a little less pool/beach chiling.  The maximum number of days I can do of this chilling business is about 5, then I start getting restless.  It was good that we split up the stay to be 5 days in one place and 5 days in another.  The next blog post will be our bucket list of travel destinations and adventures.  With nothing on the books, we need to start planning.

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Traveling with kids exposes a rather ugly side of humanity — the kid-haters.  Yep, there is a shocking number of these humans walking among us.  I was just down by the pool, and we were there for approximately 3.25 minutes when Soleil yelled out in jubilation and excitement for approx 2.5 seconds, when the old grumpy lady doing swim-jogging in the far side of the pool yelled out “TOO LOUD, TOO LOUD” while holding her ears in terror.

Seriously?

On Thursday, we went in to Puerto Vallarta to have dinner with some friends who happened to be vacationing here as well, and they were staying in a condo and had been there less than 24 hours when complaints rolled in about the noise level, and the obnoxious new tenants that moved in downstairs.  Their condo was the awesome groundfloor condo that dominated the shared infinity pool over-looking the bay and city below — they spent the next 6 days shusshing their children every time they made a peep.  Is it really putting the people out who live there to listen to the joyful squeals of children for 6 days of their lives?

I honestly cannot imagine what these people find so objectionable about children.  Is it their innocent faces?  Their infectious smiles?  Their pudgy toes?  Something really bad must have happened to them in their childhood that they have such a negative reaction to… well, to children.

On our way back upstairs, I told Kailani about what the grumpy old lady said.  She said, “But we weren’t even yelling, Mommy.”  I said “I know, this lady just doesn’t like children.”  She responded, saying “But that means she doesn’t like herself, because she is a kid too.” {smile}

There are places these kid-haters can go that don’t allow children.  Hotels that mandate “no kids allowed”. Restaurants that dictate “kids uder 12 allowed until 6pm”.  Condos that have a “no kids under 12 policy”.  Adult-only pools.  To me, these places sound like the equivalent of hell.  Maybe that is where they should go.


Yesterday was our last day in Playa las Tortugas before returning to gringoville to stay in Punta de Mita for the last 4 days of our trip.  Our last few days in heaven included, in no particular order,

  • Mike getting stung by a Stingray – and us learning that soaking it in hot scalding water is the cure
  • Us taking a long beach walk and watching the local fisherman haul in a net full of fish.
  • Kailani scoring a fish of her own, carrying it all the way home, watching Daddy clean it and gut it on the beach, then going home to grill it up and eat it.
  • Taking a family kayak through the tidal mudflats – and passing crab island.
  • Visiting the local town (35 minutes away) of Zacualpan for pozole and ice cream.
  • Finishing Season 2 of Breaking Bad – which rocks.

I think Playa las Tortugas would be a great place to stay with a big group of people or a large family gathering.  Unfortunately, with just our family, we tend to fall into the same family dynamics, and it starts to feel less like vacation and more like home.  As a young couple or on your own back in the day, going on an isolated vacation was fun because you were able to unwind and be alone with your thoughts.  But as a family, we so rarely get the opportunity to socialize with people, have dinner parties, enjoy a glass of wine with old friends…  That is why we love traveling with other friends or family – because you get to do those things that now seem like such a luxury.  I know that this too will pass, and soon the kids will be grown up, and wanting to hang out with their own friends… but for now, if we are going to a remote getaway, we’re going to bring a gaggle of people along to enjoy it.

It took us 2.5 hours to drive back to Punta de Mita.  The condo Mike chose is phat – it is huge with nice furnishings and a wrap around glass deck that overlooks the entire PV bay.  We got a deal on the price because the economy sort of sucks and vacancy is running high.  It is called “El Faro Real” and is just south of the town.  The beach is spectacular, with small waves for the kids and an infinity pool right on the beach.

We walked into town for dinner right on the beach, and Mike spotted a famous surfer (the guy who starred in Endless Summer 2) Robert “Wingnut” Weaver.  He is narrating the movie on Friday night for a fundraiser so we are thinking about checking it out.  It looked like he was giving lessons to a surf camp or something, as they were climbing off a boat that was packed with longboards.

Today we’ll enjoy long walks and probably a stroll into Old Town Puerto Vallarta, then dinner with friends who happen to be here, but staying in town. Adios.


Kailani and Mike woke up and took a stroll this morning on the empty stretch of beach in their pajamas.  They returned for breakfast with tales of strange-looking sea creatures – green worms that look like seaweed, flat fish with two eyes on one side.  After pancakes on the roof deck, we bee-lined for the beach and Mike surfed all morning while the girls and I played tag in the ankle-deep white-water near the estuary.  The ocean here is perfect for little ones, with lots of small tiny waves, but it’s so gradual they can enjoy the waves without being scared, and without scaring me and getting pummeled by crashing surf.

The rest of the day was spent snacking, swimming, reading, pool-lounging, strolling, more snacking, more swimming, more reading and more strolling.  Having absolutely no demands on your time has its advantages.  I’ve already finished my first book – Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother – which was a great read.  While I could never be a tiger mother, I do think there is a lot to learn from her about raising strong resilient children. 1) Expect effort – don’t let your kids think that low effort represents a “good job” – you need to teach them what doing a REAL good job looks like.  2) Don’t underestimate the power that comes from realizing you can do more than you think you can – we tell our kids that they can’t hike a full mile, or climbing the tower is too dangerous – but without that confidence, they will sell themselves short later in life.  3) I don’t have what it takes to make a musical prodigy – it is way too much effort for the fleeting moments of parental pride.  My kids will have to settle for knowing how to surf, having firsthand experience in nature and being damn good little travelers.

After dinner and a movie all four of us snuggled up on the roof deck to hunt for shooting stars.  Lying next to Kailani, my head on her chest gazing up at the expansive sky, I felt at once connected to the vast universe beyond and at the same time smaller than the speck of dust burning up in our atmosphere creating the brief streaks of light that painted the black sky above.


Our journey started out at 8am in San Francisco – our kindhearted driver, Mr. Mark Prince, showed up in a bow tie to drive us to the airport.  After an uneventful 3 hour flight, we arrived in PV and after bags, customs and car rentals, we were on the road at 4:15pm. Playa las Tortugas is 2-2.5 hours north of Puerto Vallarta, and we knew it was going to be remote, so we stopped at the grocery store to stock up.  The drive is a pleasant highway for 84 km, then you turn off into small quaint Mexican towns dotted along a one-way road for another 25 km (there were even cowboys and rodeos along the way).  You are instructed to then drive 20 minutes (10km) along a dirt road to our destination – 10 houses spaciously nestled in a coconut grove along a desolate stretch of beach – in the middle of nowhere.

 It was dark on arrival, but we were still eager to explore, so we donned our swimsuits, grabbed our flashlights and went for a walk on the grounds, out to the beach, and then a night swim in the pitch black pool – under a sky of stars so bright you could see the milkyway.

This morning we had pancakes on the roof deck, three levels high and level with the tops of the palm trees.  Lying there with Soleil, listening to the birds, the gentle breeze of the palms, the air feels about 72 degrees and the ocean can be seen through the palm trees crashing on the sand in the distance – I felt blessed, truly blessed.  Blessed to have the resources and wherewithal to be able to enjoy such a spectacular and remote place.  Blessed to have children and a husband willing and able to adventure to this destination with me.  Blessed to be on this beautiful and volatile planet – to witness its momentary blip in infinite measure of time.  Blessed to know that is doesn’t suck in the middle of nowhere.


We decided to spend our Virgin America auction tickets to fly to the Mexican Riviera for a week on the beach. We drove south for an hour or so to Akumal Beach, which is significantly quieter than Cancun and the now ever-expanding Playa del Carmen (fastest growing city in Mexico).

We ran into a nice couple that was  on the plane with us in the car rental place and completely coincidentally they were staying at the same small condo complex (Villas DeRosa Resort) as us (only 20 units in the whole place) – exactly the same flight, car rental and lodging – what a coincidence!

On our first day we visited our first cenote – Gran Cenote –  with the girls.  They were both a little hesitant at first, but Kailani ended up jumping in and saw a fresh water turtle along with the cool cave with bats inside.  Later on we visited the Tulum ruins.  Tulum was the first place Mike and I ever traveled together as a couple nearly 15 year ago, and boy have things changed.  Back then, there was only two rustic places to stay on the beach, and now Tulum has turned into a pretty high end place to stay, with tons of McVillas and fancy zen-like places for honeymooners.  The ruins used to be pretty dilapidated and you were allowed to climb all over the stones – but not anymore.  Now there are paths and little ropes everywhere, so the girls weren’t interested in looking at a bunch of old stones.  But we did climb down to the northern beach and have a great swim in the sandy-bottom ocean, which Kai said was her favorite thing that day.

One of the days we visited a nearby deserted (protected) beach called Xcacel – it was saved from development several years back and is now just for the turtles.  It is a beautiful sandy bottom idyllic beach – I hope they are successful at keeping it protected.

We visited Turtle Bay in Akumal and despite the heavy number of tourists in the water there is hundreds of Turtles eating the sea grass at the bottom of the bay 10 feet below.  Kailani went out snorkeling with Mike for 30 minutes and saw like 20 huge (3-4 feet long) turtles. I was so proud of her – great swimming abilities, quickly taking to snorkeling, and complete lack of fear in watching these large animals swim gracefully below her – what a great kid.  Soleil took a 2 hour nap on the beach, meanwhile – also a great kid!

Mike did a cave dive at the Ponderosa cenote one day, while the kids and I snorkeled on the top.  This time Kailani jumped in first and Soleil struggled with her innate fear of the menacing water and her strong desire to follow her sister out into the middle of the cenote – her love for her sister won out and despite being completely petrified, she swam out with me holding my hand while I snorkeled with Kailani around the edge of the cenote.  When she got out, she was super proud of herself and what she accomplished in overcoming her fears.  We were there to watch Mike come out of the cave in his dive gear which delighted the girls immensely to watch Daddy underwater with all that gear.

Returning to the hotel, Kailani braved the stormy open ocean with Mike again to explore a nearby reef once more – my heart bounded with pride.

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