Playa del Carmen in the Winter
Updated: Apr 18, 2019
Living in the Pacific Northwest has it's many perks, like fresh, clean air and no extreme temperature swings. With that also comes the oppressing gray clouds and rain that can linger from November to April. (Though March was pretty warm this year! We had a couple of weeks that averaged 65 and sunny!) If your schedule allows, please do yourself a favor and head south or as far as you can to get some much needed vitamin D. Chris and I have finally appreciated the pleasures of flying south for the winter, specifically to the Yucatan peninsula in the Quintana Roo state of Mexico. Why did it take us this long to visit Mexico? I know what you're thinking, it's not a truly authentic experience or representative of this region. But you know what? I really don't care. (There will be more opportunities for authenticity, I assure you) This hard-working, sun-deprived Seattleite needs some warmth and sunshine! For the past 3 years, we have been sunning ourselves like an iguana on a rock, at the lush and beautiful Mahekal Beach Resort. As with any vacation, I did some extensive research before deciding on this one. It needed to be an overall good value, small and relaxing.
During our first visit back in 2017, I booked a basic room via Expedia.com for $277 a night. This rate included a half-board, which includes breakfast and the choice of a free lunch or dinner. The free dinner is a buffet at their La Cocina restaurant. Or you can swap the free dinner for a $25 per person credit at Fuego, a nicer and more refined dining experience. They serve Asadero-style grilled meats and seafood, like Caribbean lobster. The vegetarian dishes were quite impressive and delicious. I highly recommend using the dinner credit, as we were not very impressed with the dinner buffet selection. And you can change your mind daily. You don't need to decide your meal selection ahead of time. If we end up having a slow day at the beach, which is most days, and eat later, we choose to have a free lunch.
Going back to the room. They are not spacious, around 250 square feet (by American standards), but most come with a patio or a balcony, which gives you the additional outdoor space. You shouldn't be spending your time in your room on a tropical vacation anyway! I take that back. This is your vacation. Do what you enjoy. Their rooms feature a rustic, Tulum-style decor, which we love. Even with a basic room, we were treated like royalty. With a 4 -star rating, it is not the Four Seasons, but that's what I like about it. You experience first-class service, without the pretentiousness. The resort is completely covered with lush trees and plants, so it feels like you're on a tropical island. A tranquil and relaxing atmosphere were the top criteria in deciding where to stay. I didn't want it to feel like a cement jungle. And of course, the staff is really what seals the deal and keeps us returning. They are friendly, personable and truly remember you when you return. We have some favorites guys that are just the sweetest!
For the subsequent visits, we decided to treat ourselves. Last year, we stayed in the Penthouse. These are quite larger at around 500 SqFt. They have an expansive balcony with a 180 degree view of the Caribbean, plus an outdoor shower. I did use the shower, but with my bathing suit on. I'm not quite ready for that kind of exposure, nor is anyone else! The room is beautiful and I shouldn't complain, but I would have much preferred to be on the beach. Logistically, it was a pain to go up and down the stairs, especially for Chris with his disability. We also visited in January, which we learned, is not the best for weather. On our first night, it felt like we were in a hurricane, with torrential rain beating violently against the sliding glass doors. I prefer immediate access to the beach. So this year, we stayed in a beachfront room with a splash-pool. There is no going back. It was simply fabulous. I think we had one of the best beachfront rooms too. It was more quiet, located towards the end of the resort. You also get your own reserved beach chaises that come with comfy cushions. Each morning, they are dressed with a new towel. And if anyone tries to use them, they get shooed away by security. That's another thing with this resort - security is top-notch! There is a significant number of security cameras that are actively monitored. So if you are not a guest, you will be asked to leave.
The resort has 3 main pools to choose from when you need a break from the ocean. They all have a restaurant or a bar with servers happily ready to take your drink order while you relax in your chaise. The Las Olas pool is our favorite. This infinity pool faces the Caribbean ocean with plenty of seating and shade for everyone. With a beachfront room this year, we didn't find the need to lounge by the pool. So we would position ourselves on the beach, making the rounds with a dip in the ocean, shower off (by the pool) then a quick dip in pool and head back for drinks on the beach. And when it gets too hot, we take a splash in our little pool and repeat the process. We always order lunch on the beach and the drinks keep coming. A concoction I came up with is a Hibiscus and Pineapple margarita. I can just taste it now. I tease Chris about this, but all he ever thinks about is their steak quesadilla. He will have this for lunch everyday. I, of course, need variety, so I try something different each day. My favorite lunch dish has got to be the Pescado frito. It's a pan-fried whole fish of the day, served with a salad, veggies and rice. Now, that is a dish that I could actually eat often.
If you're looking for a low-key, high-quality, good value tropical vacation, I highly recommend the Mahekal Beach Resort. And definitely book a shuttle directly with the hotel. They take care of the logistics and you don't need to stop by any other hotel along the way!
This blog post also marks the resurgence of Destination Hungry. I'm excited to start it again! Over the past few years, I've been travelling, working and hiding. I've visited London twice and rode a seaplane for the first time! The first visit to London was a spontaneous trip with my girlfriend. It was just a blast and I loved the city so much, I had to return with Chris the following year. Chris and I took a seaplane to Victoria, BC for a 4 day getaway this past October. The plane ride was so beautiful and relaxing (once you put those earplugs in!) It was a truly unique experience to see the Puget Sound from a new perspective. I can never take the Clipper again. I'll take a 40 minute seaplane ride vs a 3 hour ferry ride any day. Though, it is expensive and considered a treat for us! At around $350 a person, round trip, it's a special occasion experience. I'm looking forward to doing it again!
During my "hiatus," I was sharing my experiences via Instagram, but have decided to close all social media accounts entirely. I think it's an entertaining platform to share experiences, but it's just too much energy for me handle. I may return, but for now, I like the quiet seclusion of being "offline." You can tune in here for the latest adventures. If we're personal friends, you know where to reach me!
Here are some more pictures from our most recent visit to Maheka Beach Resort.