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.