We just returned from a week long trip, and I wanted to thank the folks here on the forums. The information here really helped make the trip wonderful. It was one of the best trips we've had, and we definitely hope to go back someday.
I have a very long trip report, but I'm going to do a shorter/highlights version here. We are a family of four. Husband, me, and two girls (ages 4 and 9).
~Arrival Day Highlights~
*All travel went smoothly. Settled on Thrifty, and was very pleased with how quickly they processed everything.
*Arrived at Residencias Reef and made our way down the beach. We headed to Carlos and Charlies because we only had a short time. We weren't that hungry, but we ordered some ceviche and chicken fingers.
*Early to bed after a long day of travel.
El Norte and temps around 73 so we took forum advice and headed to the East Side. Went to Chen Rio and spend the day on the beach. Worried it would feel cold, but with wetsuits, we were totally fine.
*Loved the gasp moment when the coast comes into view coming from the south. Amazing.
*Chen Rio was lovely but we didn't eat there because it was a little too busy, too expensive, and too slow for our tastes that day.
*At at Casa Mission, which was our favorite restaurant. Everything was amazing, and the atmosphere was lovely.
*Attempted Salsa Sunday but we were too tired to stay late enough for anything to get going.
~Day 3 Highlights~
El norte with lowest predicted temp of the trip, around 68. Opted for non beach day and went to San Gervasio.
*We loved the ruins. I know lots of people don't, but it was a perfect weather for a walk with nature and history. The site was the perfect size for us. I think we spent over 2 hours walking the ruins.
*Spent the afternoon shopping, stopped for smoothies and coffee.
*Had dinner at Casa Denis, which we did not like. I know lots of people do but my review is up here already. Found it expensive and service wasn't that great.
*Finished some shopping and returned to the condo early, pretty spent from all the walking.
~Day 4 Highlights~
Preplanned day at Chankanaab. Got there a little later than we should have because it was a busy day. Still, we grabbed a spot in the shade, but without chairs.
*Husband and older daughter took a turn out snorkeling and came back very happy. Little one and I played in the sand. Later, we switched, and I went out with the oldest. For a first snorkel experience in Cozumel, it was a great reef.
*Yes, we did the dolphins. I do know all the arguments against, and no, I wouldn't do it again. Plus it ate up our time at Chankanaab, and in the end, we decided it would be worth it to pay their regular admission to return because it had a little something for all of us.
*Dinner at La Veranda, which was lovely as well. Good food and a kid's menu which was nice.
*Walked around downtown again. Stopped for ice cream at a lovely shop next door to the church off the plaza. Highly recommend. Mercedes provides excellent service and is just a sweet lady.
~Day 5 Highlights~
Starting to warm up, definitely needed to get back to the beach. Lots of cruise ships in port, so we opted for the east side and crossed our fingers that it wouldn't be too choppy. There was definitely a difference from Sunday.
*Stopped at Playa Bonita for a while. Played in the sand mostly there as it was too rough for swimming. Little one liked that there was a playground. Ate ceviche and chicken fingers again (liked them better at Carlos and Charlies).
*Moved back to Chen Rio for swimming. Stayed for about another hour before heading back to the condo to change.
*La Choza for dinner. Delicious. My #2 spot for the week. Kids were less enthused, but they weren't paying.
*More downtown walking. Decided we really like the area around the Plaze by the clocktower best.
~Day 6 Highlights~
Still heating up. More beach time needed. Hmmed and hawed for a while in the morning, but I pushed for Palancar in hopes husband and daughter could take the boat out to the reefs. Unfortunately, two problems arose. First, husband had a migraine, and second, water was too choppy, and the operator didn't think it would be good for the 9 year old.
*The kids and I enjoyed Palancar a lot. I don't think they ever brought us a menu or asked us to buy anything, and I don't think we did. The kids played with another family from Seattle (hello if you're reading. We had a blast!).
*Returned to the condo and tried to process what we planned to do for our last day because it would impact dinner/late afternoon plans. Oldest really wanted to hit Paradise beach, but husband and I did not. So, at about 3:30, we ran down for just an hour so she could play on the equipment. They tried to charge me full price but I refused, since it was so close to closing (and I'd just heard him negotiate with another guy in Spanish), so we only paid for one wristband. It was perfect. Beach was dead by then, and we did all the toys in an hour, realized we'd never want to spend the whole day there, and got by very cheaply.
*Dinner at La Mission, which wasn't as good as Casa Mission, but we still liked it. Daughter loves their queso fundido.
*Back to our favorite ice cream shop by the church.
~Day 7 Highlights~
Last full day. Snorkeling was a must. Considered a return to Chankanaab. Water still looked a little rough for a boat trip. Decided to drive the stretch between Corona and Money bar and just see what we liked. Money Bar won based on playground.
*Money Bar ended up being one of our favorites. Decent snorkeling for us, plus lots of shade, and the cute playground. We were there from 10-3, I think. Had lunch which was obviously more Americanized, but tasty. Nachos, a chicken sandwich, and a corn dog.
*Back to condo to change. We were all getting pretty sad. Kids were already crying, and we wanted to do more. Planned to hit Discover Mexico before dinner, but they'd closed early for the holiday apparently. Bummed, we drove on, not sure where we were going, but ended up driving all the way to the north end to see what it was like and then back down south to Albertos for dinner. Unfortunately, clouds came in at sunset, so we never got a good shot. Albertos was not that impressive to us either. Food lacked some flavor, but service was good, and it was lovely atmosphere for our last meal.
*Last stop at Chedraui for a couple of morning/trip essentials and then back to the condo to begin packing.
Nothing special to report. A quick walk on the beach, a fast trip to the gas station and the airport. Everything went smoothly (until O'hare, but that's typical).
A few final thoughts:
1. Definitely go to the East Side during an El Norte.
2. If going in winter, consider wetsuits (I got all 3 shorties for under $80 and we never felt cold. There were days we didn't need them, but it was worth it for the peace of mind.
3. It was a bit of an emotional trip for me. I'd forgotten how much I love Mexico, and I spoke more Spanish than I had since college. Loved that. Be sure to let yourself see past the tourist traps. It's a lovely place. Talk to people. Set a good impression. Let them know all tourists aren't crazy and rude.
4. Use the boards. There were so many tips I got from here, and I couldn't imagine not having access to that information.
5. Get a map. I don't usually, but since I knew I wouldn't be using my phone there, I purchased one, and it was a great lifeline all week.
I'm sure we'll be back. Not sure when, but we really had an amazing trip. Thanks for all the planning help!