We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

First Timer's Trip Report to Isla- early August 2011

Saskatoon, Canada
Destination Expert
for Riviera Maya
Level Contributor
12,682 posts
49 reviews
Save Topic
First Timer's Trip Report to Isla- early August 2011

First off, thanks to all you Isla veterans out there for all your helpful tips and hints- you helped make our trip even better!

Although it's hard to get better than utterly and completely FAN-TAS-TIC-O! What a great little island Paradise. We are total Isla converts!

We were there from July 29-August 5th, and the weather was just great. We had rain twice for about a half hour downpour both times, on our first full day there, Saturday July 30th- that was it. Lovely and hot and sunny blue skies, only a couple slightly breezy days. No bugs to speak of.

We stayed at the Posada del Mar and I will get the hotel review submitted today. It was a solid 'good'. The best points- the location was unbeatable, king bed was comfy (we stayed in a 'new building' room), it was quiet at night, the hot water was plentiful and the A/C worked liked a charm. The downsides, (not that they were major), were that the desk staff weren't overly friendly or helpful, the beach club was MIA, and the continental breakfast was only from 7:30 -8:30 and fairly disappointing. Oh, and the palapa bar and ROMY- he was THE best part about the hotel. What a great bartender! For a first trip to get acclimated, it was a good choice- we likely would not stay there again but will go back to visit Romy for sure!

Food- was just awesome!! Great restaurant selection for a small island. Had dinner at Olivia twice. Loved our dinner at Rolandis and one night we had really good BBQ ribs and carbonara at Alfredos on Hidalgo. LOVED the pitas at Pita Amore. Had the best chicken enchiladas at Varadero de Oscar on our golf cart tour, and also the best mojitos EVER at the other Varadero restaurant. Don Chepos- fairly good.

The guys went fishing with Captain Fausto (HANDSOME OR WHAT??) one 8 hour day (cost- $500) and caught 5 dorado/mahi mahi, a bonita, a small sailfish, and a few blackfin tuna. They cooked it up for us at Brisas Grill on seafood row and did a great job. We didn't think blackfin was supposed to be as good as yellowfin, but it was done in some smoky marinade and melted like butter in our mouths, very tasty.

Great breakfasts at Rolandis, Jax, Casa Louise Ixchel, and La Cazuela M&Js.

We went for drinks at Sunset Grill one night for the sunset but opted to not have dinner there- seemed quite overpriced. And were not impressed with the Soggy Peso overly, either, for some reason....just not as good a vibe compared to other places we went.

The only mildly disappointing meals were enchiladas pibil at Sancochos and the ribs from Tinos on Sunday weren't that great, we didn't think...our friends went to La Lomita (I think it was called??) one night and were not impressed either. The tikinxik at Playa Lanchero...meh....it was okay but we all said we would not get it again. The fish they used was amberjack, we asked. I am sure it would vary according to the fish used.

best dessert- churros from the cart on the square one night- yum!!

We hung out with our friends who were staying at Privilege Aluxes a few times at their pool and even used loungers at their beach club, free of charge- that was nice. We also hung out for two afternoons at the Sunset Grill beach club- two loungers and a palapa was 250 pesos but that was deducted from your bill, and buckets of 4 Sol were only 60 pesos- great deal!

As mentioned many times before, the island dwellers are a big part of what makes Isla special. They are so warm and welcoming. In general people sure were a lot friendlier than many other places we have been in Mexico....and more laid back. The vendors on Hidalgo and the beach took a polite no for an answer and never were persistent or seemed put out. At least for the most part.

Whalesharks- we went with another couple from Ohio with Captain Tony on Sunday. The ocean was a bit rough but it was a great day. There were only about ten whalesharks where we found them, which was a bit disappointing, and most were juveniles- but we got a LOT of time in the water and it was a wonderful experience. Tony worked hard to manoever the boat into the perfect position so we could enjoy watching them and swim alongside them without tiring. I counted 46 boats in the vicinity the day we went. Tony and Lee make great ceviche too, and we had rice and chips and beer as well! We anchored near the Avalon on Playa Norte to enjoy lunch, and we stopped on the ride back on the reef to snorkel (no Contoy stop for us).

We did the golf cart tour one day too and that was a blast. Our friends got it at 5 the day before and drove around that evening as well- so renting from 5-5 for 24 hours is a good idea. We stopped at Garrafon de Castilla and paid 50 pesos each to go snorkeling. Saw 3 rays and a big barracuda and a lot of friendly reef fish who are all obviously used to being fed! No coral reef of course, but still a bit to see, well worth 50 pesos.

The one thing we never got to do is dive.....we know it is not a premier dive destination but I was very excited to see the cave of the sleeping sharks, but the guys at Aqua Adventures said the sharks are not around right now....also wanted to see the Underwater Museum, but sand gravity set in, and we never did any diving. But we will dive our next trip there, which might even be as soon as early December, fingers crossed!

It did get a bit busy in town especially on the beaches with the Cancun day trippers- the best part of every day was seeing them load up and leave. I can imagine being such a small island that it is too packed with people sometimes, we will avoid it over xmas and Semana Santa, for sure! Overall, we loved it, it's right up there with our favourites of north PDC and Akumal and Zihuatanejo...and we will definitely be back.

new york
Destination Expert
for Isla Mujeres
Level Contributor
19,867 posts
98 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: First Timer's Trip Report to Isla- early August 2011

Thanks so much for a great trip report. So glad you caught the "Isla bug" :)

I guess by the beach club being out of commission you mean that there were no loungers or umbrellas for guests? I heard rumors back a while ago that the PDM beach club concession had to be straightened out with the local government/powers that be, so I guess they did not do that. Apparently they needed to pay fees for running the concession, which some felt was a political ploy to take the beach club away from them. Not sure what is the truth but it's a shame that guests don't have that anymore. I never used it (prefer Sergio's) but still, it was a convenience for people.

ITA with you on so many of the restaurants that you mentioned; both the positives and the negatives. I never understood the whole rave thing about some of the places that are really just mediocre at best.

LOL, about 5 boatfulls of people per whale shark? Poor things :)

Overall, sounds like a great trip! Too bad I don't fish; Captain Fausto sounds interesting ;-)

Edited: 08 August 2011, 16:46
Ontario
Level Contributor
7,206 posts
165 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: First Timer's Trip Report to Isla- early August 2011

Fantastic reading and honest/candid...excellent! Pita Amore..yum..great pitas..even nicer people! :-)

Sounds like you had a great time! Thanks for your review..I really enjoyed reading it. :-)

Healy, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Level Contributor
39,263 posts
44 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: First Timer's Trip Report to Isla- early August 2011

I really enjoyed reading your trip report. Hadn't heard the term "sand gravity" before, but realize I have been a victim on every Isla vacation! :) Glad you loved Isla - hard to imagine people not loving Isla, but that does happen. :)

Saskatoon, Canada
Destination Expert
for Riviera Maya
Level Contributor
12,682 posts
49 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: First Timer's Trip Report to Isla- early August 2011

Thanks, guys!

Yes,WIBS, the owner of Pita Amore WAS a really interesting guy. We also met an ex-pat who said he was from Vegas in there that night, seemed like a regular. He had some neat stories about Isla for us too. Loved all the graffiti to read in that little 'raunt, too.

And great pitas....I had the chicken with apples and curry one Mapchick recommends....mmmm...the curry smell was what drew us in to begin with. Not a big place, and no liquor license, but we just ran around the corner to the Super Express and got a 6 pack of Sol.

TNY- Fausto is part Mayan, part Italian and I think some Irish in the woodpile it was, too? A VERY handsome man, but with the height of the Mayans, so hotness in miniature. :) Capitan Tony is also very handsome. :)

I should have written that a bit better about all the boats....when we first got to the general area of where the sharks were, I counted 46 boats, but most were way off in the distance, presumably with their own smaller group of the sharks I suppose. There was about 4 other boats in our little group of aabout 10 whalesharks, so it wasn't crowded. It was nice that there were just 4 of us, we all got lots of 'face time' with the big creatures. Mark from Ohio on the tour with us got some great video of me with one resting that he is hopefully going to stick on a memory stick and mail to me...fingers crossed!

Not sure about the beach club thing....funny, we walked out there the first day, saw nothing other than a big stack of yellow loungers, and walked down to the PA beach club and pitted in there with our friends instead. And after that, we never even bothered asking about it. The beach farther northwest was just better, so no need! :)

Sigh.....I sure wish it was a ten or 14 day trip instead of only 7.....I sure would love to still be there. Isla in summer was GREAT....might have to make this a regular thing.

Saskatoon, Canada
Destination Expert
for Riviera Maya
Level Contributor
12,682 posts
49 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: First Timer's Trip Report to Isla- early August 2011

Thanks coalminer! I agree, I can't imagine anyone not loving it- what's not to love, right? :)

That term 'sand gravity' is not my own, I am afraid....I first read it on this forum, I think either TNY or DMartin said it? Very fitting though!

TX
Level Contributor
5,720 posts
28 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: First Timer's Trip Report to Isla- early August 2011

What a great report! So glad to hear that you too became an instant Islaholic! So ... when will you be booking your return?

:-)

new york
Destination Expert
for Isla Mujeres
Level Contributor
19,867 posts
98 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: First Timer's Trip Report to Isla- early August 2011

Wish I could claim credit for the sand gravity lol, but alas, I can't :) I also loved a term Moongrrl from another, now defunct board called it: Isla Laziness Syndrome, or ILS.

everett wa
Level Contributor
806 posts
22 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: First Timer's Trip Report to Isla- early August 2011

Aahhh..Love the Churro Cart Guy!! I stalked him all over the Island. Cant wait to go back. My favorite place on earth!

Chicago, Illinois
Destination Expert
for Isla Mujeres
Level Contributor
10,225 posts
134 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: First Timer's Trip Report to Isla- early August 2011

Thanks for the report--I never tire of reading these, especially from first-timers. So fun to hear your initial reactions.

Way back in 2002 when Michele & I were planning our honeymoon, we read about the "Cave of the Sleeping Sharks" but decided we were more interested in doing things like Chichen Itza than in planning our honeymoon around one dive site. So when we finally got around to visiting Isla, we remembered the Cave and looked into it. Turns out the cave largely collapsed during Wilma, and the sharks are not really found there any more, at least not with the regularity of the past. So much for that dive site--the Isla dive ops don't really do it any more.

Glad you got to try the whale sharks though--they are responsible for our last-minute change from Cozumel to Isla last year. What an experience!

As far as the tikinxic, yours is a very common reaction. I thought it was great, but my 3 co-conspirators were not overly impressed.

Saskatoon, Canada
Destination Expert
for Riviera Maya
Level Contributor
12,682 posts
49 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: First Timer's Trip Report to Isla- early August 2011

haha, I LOVE that term too, ILS- perfect. Especially in the summer! Whoo boy, but it was hot. But not unbearable. We actually commented daily how wonderful the weather was.

I agree abpout those churros, they were great, but very sweet...we ate a couple of them and then found a couple of cute little kids and asked their mom if we could give them the rest. They were pretty happy!

Not sure when we will get back to Isla, Baja, but the sooner the better, IMO! :) We are taking my mom and stepfather on their very first trip to Mexico in early December and were planning on just taking them to Playa. Now, we are thinking Isla might be the better choice for them....so nice and quiet and small and easy to get around....so you never know, it might be just 4 short months we have to wait!

DMartin- that would explain the lack of sharks, then. :) We also heard that the U/W museum site was 'not very clear'....but I do still really want to see that one day.

How did you get to Chichen Itza from the island, can I ask? Reason is, if we do take my mom there in early December, she really wants to see CI. I did notice a place on Hidalgo offering tours, but I never stopped to get details.

I forgot to add- we landed at the 'new' Terminal 3, first time coming into that terminal....it was a breeze, we were through everything and were waiting with our checked bags for our Best Day transfer in under a half hour. The one strange thing was we came into the large unsecure gate waiting area of the terminal and walked across it to get to Immigration lines....strange!

Also, immediately after clearing Customs and exiting, a couple of people dressed like airport staff immediately accosted us and tried to tell us they worked for airport security and we HAD to talk to them before going on....but I knew they were timeshare people from a recent thread on TA and we all ignored them and kept walking. After them we never noticed any more sharks the entire trip.....heavenly!