An April 2004 trip
to Cancun by thestickman23
Quote: Most people know of Cancun because of its adrenaline rush of a nightlife. Few people know about the relaxation without the hangover. I can attest that Cancun is a wonderful place for culture and relaxation without the morning blues.
Tulum was wonderful. A big piece of culture and history, with a breathtaking landscape to boot, make Tulum a great day trip.
Xel-Ha is a ten-acre ecological park that is great for singles, couples, or the whole family. Built by Mother Nature, Xel-Ha has a snorkeling lagoon, underground caves, and much more.
You can not forget to visit some of Cancun's wonderful restaurants. Cancun has everything from Mediterranean to Mexican to Italian to French. Gourmet dining is a great way to experience this part of the Yucatan Peninsula.
One helpful reminder is almost all resort hotels use purified water and ice. So when your co-worker tells you, "When I went to Cancun 10 years ago I got deathly ill from the water." You can be rest assured that this is unlikely to happen to you. Be smart and carry bottled water when traveling and be careful of the restaurants you are dining in. "Pedro's Taco Stand" on the outskirts of Cancun probably does not have purified ice or water.
Once you arrive from the airport you are greeted and treated like royalty. From the moment you check in it seems every employee knows your name and face. The lobby is enormous, with palm trees and fountains, and everything decorated in marble. In the lobby you can also find a lounge area with bar, and live music in the evening. The resort has three casual eateries and two gourmet dining options. The swimming pool is over two football fields in length with three swim-up bars. There is also a volleyball net and water polo available in the pool, along with a play area with slide for kids. The white sand beach is footsteps away from the pool. Lounge chairs and tiki huts are available on the beach.
Now for the best part, the rooms, or should I say, suites!! When you enter the room all you see is marble floors, and counter tops. The bathroom had an area with sink and a two-walled mirror, with a separate room with shower and toilet. In the bathroom they had posh toiletries and hairdryer for personal use.
We chose to have a king size bed, which was a bit hard. The sleeping area also had a satellite television with English- and Spanish-speaking stations. You also found a mini bar in your room, but the prices for soft drinks, alcohol, and snacks were very high. US$7 for an Evian!!
The room also had a sunken living room area with a sofa, chair, glass coffee table and desk. The sliding glass doors lead you to your ocean front balcony; from here, the view is picturesque. Two metal chairs and table are on the balcony to help you relax in paradise.
The Coral Beach is great for couples looking for that romantic getaway, and it is also a wonderful place for families. My wife and I, without a doubt, will stay here on our return to Cancun.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 18, 2004
Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach
BLVD KUKULCAN KM 9 5 LOTE 6
Cancun, Mexico 77500
After the hostess seats you and your party, your waiter will come by and welcome you. Then ask if you would like a cocktail or beverage while placing your napkin on your lap. After drinks are served, then you will be given your menu. This is a great time to sit and watch the live entertainment. A mariachi band plays as the Mexican dancers go to work on stage. This goes on almost the entire evening, with entertainers changing after each set.
This is not your typical Mexican restaurant. The entire menu at La Joya is authentic Mexican cuisine. Let me share with you my dining experience (remember I went twice with my wife so I tasted a wide arrange of fare).
For appetizer they have lobster quesadillas with mellow panela cheese. This was incredible. The "empanadas" appetizer came with a pair of three different flavors. The closest appetizer you will get to "fast food" is the "Mexican sampler" which comes with an arrange of classic Mexican fare.
Before we get to the entrees, they serve four to five different breads with two to three different flavored butters. This is served on a silver platter and you choose whichever is to your liking. Also, they place a plate with fried banana and yucca on the table with three different dipping sauces for your enjoyment. That is not all! The chef serves all in your party a complimentary tasting appetizer.
Let's move on to the entrees, but save room for dessert. The pork loin served with garlic mashed potatoes with a "corona chile" sauce was unbelievable. My wife had the huge grilled lobster tail, with mashed and vegetables. This was wonderful. The other entree I tried was the "Cancun Tuna" this was ok, but the tuna was overcooked. If you like wine with your dinner you can choose from over 50 wines. If you can't decide the sommelier is very helpful.
After you complete your dinner they will roll over the dessert tray. Your server will explain each of the five to six desserts to you. You can also ask for a tequila tasting, which was quite interesting. You taste three different tequilas served with accompaniments to each. A very nice way to complete your evening.
This was our favorite restaurant in Cancun. We ate in other fine establishments but this experience was a notch above the rest. I hope you enjoy La Joya as much as we did.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 19, 2004
Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach
Cancun, Quintana Roo
Before dining at the Club Room you can stop and have top shelf tequilas, single malts and a Cuban cigar in the lounge. In the lounge area, you will be entertained with soothing music from the live band.
The dining room is candlelit. Which gives the feeling of a soft romantic evening. All utensils are sterling silver and the glassware is crystal. After you are seated by your hostess, you can order a cocktail from the bar. While waiting for you cocktails your server will discuss with you the chef specials for that evening.
When dining at Club Grill you will be waited on like royalty. Even the house water is bottled. Your menu will than accompany your cocktails to your table. Take your time browsing the menu; this is your special evening.
Before your appetizer is served, you will be given a complimentary appetizer from the chef. You can also choose from four types of breads and three different butters, which are served on a silver platter.
For starters I ordered a pan-fried scallops with a truffle sauce, which was simply elegant. My wife enjoyed a crab cake on lemongrass infused lobster sauce with sautéed zucchini.
Along with the chefs specials for the evening the entree listing is a tough choice. The Club Grill Seafood Medley was extremely rich. Lobster, grouper, shrimp, mussels, and clams accompanied my entree. This was in a coconut milk based sauce. Outstanding! My wife ordered the filet mignon with wild mushroom ragout and truffle port wine sauce. The filet was so tender that you could cut it with a butter knife and the truffle sauce was a masterpiece. If you enjoy wine with dinner, you can choose from the extensive wine list.
The dessert menu has a separate soufflé section. My wife and I chose a chocolate cake with melted chocolate inside served with a raspberry sauce and caramel ice cream. Phenom!!
The Club Grill is a must stop for any person who enjoys gourmet dining. Of course with gourmet dining comes gourmet prices. A credit card will be your best friend at the Club Grill. I hope I portrayed my evening at the Ritz Carlton Club Grill thoroughly. I hope your dining experience will be as pleasurable as ours.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 19, 2004
In the Ritz-Carlton Hotel
Restaurant | "Lorenzillo's - the Live Lobster House"
The staff at Lorenzillo's is friendly and accommodating. The waiters are always checking to see if you need a refill, or they are making sure your food is to your liking.
If you can, request a table by on the deck outside. Located on the railing of the dock, next to your table, is a festive conch shell, which holds pieces of stale bread. This is "fish food." Throw the "fish food" over the rail and watch the fish down below go into a frenzy. This is a fun way to pass time between courses. But enough with the nonsense, lets get down to business.
The menu at Lorenzillo’s is quite extensive, with almost any kind of seafood you can think of. For people who choose to pass on seafood, don't fret, there are a couple of pastas to choose from, along with meats and poultry.
For starters my wife chose the shrimp cocktail. The five or six extra large shrimp were served on a half pineapple. The center of the pineapple was scooped out for the tangy cocktail sauce. I chose the stuffed blue claw crab. This was stuffed with crabmeat, breadcrumbs, peppers, and olives. Very tasty. Hot bread and breadsticks were also served before dinner.
The pricing of the Lobsters are set at the market value per pound. This evening the price was $28 per pound. I personally prefer Maine lobster over Caribbean lobster because of the extra claw meat. Instead my wife and I chose to order the nine-ounce lobster tails. A small pasta and vegetables were served with our lobster tails. Also served was melted butter and melted garlic butter. Which, by the way, was great. The portion of lobster was the perfect size. You also had the option of ordering the 19-ounce tail.
Lorenzillo’s is a perfect family restaurant and a great casual night out. The seafood is "out of the water" fresh and the staff is wonderful.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 19, 2004
Before your menu is presented your waiter will take a cocktail order as a plate of miniature pastry breads is placed on the table. A sommelier is available if you would like to look at the wine list. The menu at Le Basilic is unique fusion of Mediterranean and French dishes. As you are browsing through your menu a waiter will approach with a silver platter including assorted breads and butters. You will notice that all silverware is exchanged after each course and that all items brought to your table will be served on a silver platter.
Before I forget, you will also enjoy a complimentary tasting appetizer from the chef after the bread is served.
Le Basilic has a generous array of choices for appetizers. I started with a skewer of sea scallops served with a house sauce. The scallops were fresh and tender. When accompanied with the house sauce the flavors melded wonderfully. My wife enjoyed a crayfish cake with fennel.
Making the decision for the main course was difficult for my wife and me. Everything on the menu is unique in its own way. I chose the duck breast and duck leg served with an orange wine sauce. The duck leg melted away from the bone and into your mouth. This was one of the best duck dishes I have ever tasted. My wife had a cracked pepper filet of beef. Like a hot knife though butter. Wonderful.
Le Basilic's dessert menu featured about seven items and an after dinner liquor selection. The liquor selection featured fine tequilas, ports, single-malt scotches, and cognacs. We decided on the sorbet sampler for dessert. This featured three homemade sorbets.
Le Basilic is a great alternative to the Club Grill at the Ritz Carlton. The prices at Le Basilic are a tad less expensive (a hair, maybe). The service was excellent, and the staff courteous and friendly. My wife and I would definitely return to this top-quality establishment.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 20, 2004
Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach
998 - 881-3200
We only ate at Isla Contoy during lunch hours. The menu at lunchtime has quite an array of choices. For instance, there are a few ways to enjoy a seafood ceviche. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to taste the ceviche, but it looked excellent. It was served in a cocktail glass with fresh tomatoes, onions, and cilantro, along with your favorite seafood. This included shrimp, squid, crab, and fresh fish.
Before each meal, you get an array of fresh bread served at your table along with a basket of tortilla chips served with fresh pico de gallo. One other thing I thought added a nice touch at Isla Contoy were the ice buckets to keep your cerveza cold.
Let me tell you about what I ate for lunch the two times my wife and I dined at Isla Contoy. The first time I had beef fajitas (chicken available also). This was served on a hot cast-iron skillet with peppers and onions accompanied by fresh guacamole, refried beans, just-made pico de gallo, and eight tortillas. The meat was tender and the condiments were great. An excellent light lunch, so you can get right back to the beach or pool.
On our second visit to Isla Contoy, I had the pan-fried grouper served on a roll with tartar sauce. The grouper was flaky and tasty, but I thought the bread could have been better. This was served with your choice of fries, onion rings, or a couple of other sides.
La Isla was a perfect place to enjoy a comfortable lunch. You can go and have a couple of beers or a margarita and take in the views. This might be a stretch if you are staying in another resort, but ideal for a Coral Beach guest.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 23, 2004
Fiesta American Grand Coral Beach
Attraction | "Tulum"
We met Olympia at a previously discussed location at 7:45am and boarded our bus at 8am. The ride was in a new deluxe air-conditioned bus. The trip from Cancun to Tulum was about an hour and a half long. Our guide Victor discussed Mexican and Mayan cultures on the journey to Tulum.
Once you arrive at the ruins you will board a tractor-train that leads you to the entrance (about a five-minute ride). This is a great time to get your camera ready.
The walled city of Tulum was occupied mainly between the 14th and 15th centuries. Within these walls the view is breathtaking. Located on a cliff over looking the ocean the scenery is outstanding. Our tour guide sited facts and scientific theories pertaining to the Maya culture and construction of the ruins. After Victor's hourlong class, we had about 25 minutes to walk around and shoot photos of the ruins and surroundings.
Tulum's ruins can no longer be climbed upon because of erosion. Some ruins are not fully restored. The main building, which is known as El Castillo (castle) is in good condition. El Castillo is the focal point of Tulum. Located behind El Castillo is a cliff. Below you will see beautiful white sand beaches. The view from here is incredible.
In front of El Castillo is the Temple Of The Frescoes. This building contains wall art, but accessibility is barred.
When your time allotment has expired head for the exit. You will be directly in front of the tractor-train. This will take you back by the parking lot so you can meet your tour group and bus.
This was our first time visiting an ancient Maya civilization. Tulum is a must see. We found Olympia to be an excellent tour service. On future trips to Cancun my wife and I plan to use Olympia for other daily excursions.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 20, 2004
Tulum Mayan Ruins
Attraction | "Xel-Ha"
The main attraction at Xel-Ha is the 10-acre lagoon, where you can snorkel, tube or just go for a dip. We brought our own snorkel gear, but we did wait on line for the free life jacket rental. The lagoon is anywhere between 9-12 feet deep, with most fish congregating by the rock formations scattered about the lagoon. The tropical fish pay no mind to you as you admire their beauty in their natural environment. One great area to see larger fish, such as snapper, is to snorkel by the floating bridge, where the Xel-Ha people throw feed into the lagoon.
Another option at Xel-Ha is the "Swim with the Dolphins." To swim with the dolphins costs a fee of about $115. If you plan on this you should make reservations at least 24 hours in advance. You can also watch the dolphins around the fenced area as they play with the paying customers.
A popular area in Xel-Ha is the "Hammock Park". Here you can just relax or take a nap on one of about 50 hammocks. Next to "Hammock Park" is a picture taking area. Here you can take pictures with beautiful Macaw parrots. The handler will place as many as three on your head and arms. To take a picture is free, but if you want the picture it will cost about $9. Be smart have your camera ready to take a picture quickly and you can save yourself a couple of bucks.
Other areas of Xel-Ha include an underwater cave. This was very cool. The cave is in a "U" shape and is not very big. There is also a Xel-Ha employee there to take a picture of you for a price. Here is a quick tip. There are sinkholes on a trail over the cave. Here you can see down into the water, get a family member or friend to take a picture of you as you swim by the hole. Along one of the trails (on the trails you will see plenty of iguana, so watch your step) you will come to a Tarzan swing. You can also get your picture taken here by a Xel-Ha photographer (they also take pics of you as you swim in the lagoon).
Your food options in Xel-Ha are decent. There is a buffet, a couple of sit-down restaurants, and a couple of fast-food places, if I remember correctly. There are also a few ice cream stands around the lagoon.
I would say Xel-Ha was one of the highlights on our trip to Cancun.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 21, 2004
Xel-Ha Aquatic Park
Km 240 Carretera Chetumal-Puerto Juárez local 1 y 2 módulo B
Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico
+52 (998) 883-3293
They had quite a few retail stores that are highly recognizable anywhere. Let's see if I can remember any. There was a Benetton, Guess, Zara, Tommy Hilfiger, Mossimo, Quicksilver, and I think a Banana Republic.
There were a couple of restaurants in La Isla, along with the typical fast-food venues. I am sorry I can't remember the names of the sit down restaurants.
Also located in La Isla was a small supermarket where you could buy bottled water at a much cheaper rate than your hotel. They also sold alcohol, cigarettes, cereal, candy, sodas and souvenirs.
Next to the small mini-mart was a gigantic souvenir shop. They had anything from glassware and sombreros, to crazy t-shirts and shot glasses. One thing I found amusing about this shop was the tequila shots as you enter the store (tips requested). You can take a shot (lime and salt included) before you shop. Cool.
The last area at La Isla, that I can remember, is the aquarium. The aquarium also has a "Dolphin Swim" feature and a "Shark Feeding" option.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on April 21, 2004
La Isla Shopping Village
Boulevard Kukulcan Km. 12.6
When you first enter the aquarium there are a couple of tanks which hold various aquatic life. You have seen most of the fish in these tanks at your local "home" aquarium store that carry salt-water fish. Nothing spectacular. Don't get me wrong the fish are beautiful, but we have all seen this before.
In the same area the aquarium has a glass case which features a large amount of seashells and crustaceans (all dead).
When you are complete with the first room head outside. Here you will find an open-air tank holding sea turtles, stingrays, and a couple of small sharks. Children of all ages can feed the stingrays or just stink your hand in the tank to touch them. You will be told not to touch the turtles because they may bite and the shark was resting on the opposite side of the tank when we arrived. Next to the stingray lagoon you can also touch starfish, sea urchin and other aquatic life.
When you are finished at the "petting zoo", your next stop will be the dolphin tank. You can observe the paying customers "Swimming with the Dolphins" from a small bridge and walkway. The tank that holds the dolphin is quite small. I wouldn't say that you were "swimming" but more like "taking pictures" or "petting" the dolphins was more like it. But everyone in the "dolphin pool" was smiling, so it must have been fun.
I found the next area to be the most enjoyable. A large tank holds a few bull sharks, brown sharks, nurse sharks, grouper, a very large moray eel, and other large sea "pisces". I can stand for minutes on end watch these amazing creatures. If you are interested you can feed the sharks for a fee (I think it was like $70 USD)! You can choose to watch the sharks from a platform above or you can head down the stairs and take a view from below.
Where do you think the aquarium ends? You guessed it, the gift shop. No aquarium is complete without the "finish line" souvenir store.
Interactive Aquarium is a great place to visit when you have had too much sun. Otherwise, it was just all right. The exhibits were decent but the educational experience was low. Most exhibits had just a brief "billboard" with little information pertaining to topic you were looking at. Obviously this is my opinion. Hey, if you enjoy aquariums, enjoy yourself. Maybe your experience will be better than ours. Enjoy.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on April 27, 2004
La Isla Shopping Village Boulevard Kukulcan Km. 12.6
Saddle Brook, New Jersey