We had gotten a good deal on 4 nights at PA - all incl, standard room on Expedia for about $1000 for 2 people. Our best friends were meeting us the next day out of ATL for 3 nights. I think they paid about $1400. We originally were not going to do ai but it was not much more.
We live in Naples, FL and had a very early flight out of Miami so we went over the night before and spent the night. Miami is it's own unique place. The highlight was we stopped at a Cuban bakery and had some really good desserts.
We took off on AeroMexico, uneventful flight, arrived in Cancun at 8:30am, we withdrew our pesos and the airport atm b/c we had none, and went to find our Best Day contact. I had pre-booked online a shuttle for $34.34 usd round trip for 2 people. We had to wait about 15 minutes and our van came, we were the only ones on it. It took 20-25 minutes to the ferry.
We arrived 5 minutes before the 10:00am ferry was departing. The ultramar ferry was approx $22 usd round trip per person and we sat up top and looked out over the aquamarine water and watched the frigate birds soar with the air currents. We noticed people bringing lots of paper products (paper towels, napkins, etc) on board.
When we disembarked the guys with the carts really wanted to help us with our luggage but we have duffels on wheels that can withstand our dragging. We thought we knew which way the hotel was and headed out. Outside the terminal our senses were blasted with sounds of so many people talking, golf cart motors sputtering and the beautiful cozy sights of Isla. I was alarmed to see scooters with up to 4 people on them, some adults had on helmets with their kids/babies smashed in between them and the kids did not have on helmets. We walked the 4 blocks to our resort and we were hot but living in S. Florida has some benefits and prepapred us. We were way early and could not check in (we knew that). We were given wristbands to utilize the property and told to come back at noon for our ai wristbands and then come back at 3 for check in.
We decided to go eat and went to Bally Hoo's (thank you TA contributors). We could not fins it at first and had to ask directions, it is next to/behind the Pemex gas station. We sat at the table closest to the dock and watched schools of fish in the water, pelicans assume their rightful roosts from the seagulls and boaters come and go. The fish and shrimp tacos with tamarind sauce were to die for. We sat there playing the game guessing which boat was Capt. Tony (none of them were). Wilbur was our waiter and he is a lovely young man who reminds us of a Mexican Rob Schneider. We walked alot on this trip, always felt safe. We saw some awesome things like todays catch hanging at the docks - one time a 4' barracuda and a big pompano.
After lunch we went back to the hotel and changed for the beach. We had drinks at the Casa del Mar and swam in the beautiful North Beach waters. That sand is white and soft, the water crystal clear and the waves are barely perceptible. We lounged until 3 and then checked in. We knew that the front desk staff left something to be desired and Wilfreddo lived up to his reputation. I am a concierge at a resort and know how to treat guests and smiling is #1. Jamie the bellman however made up for him. Jamie took us to our room and told us to call him for anything. We did have a nicer room than we paid for. Our view was of the ocean, and the school yard. We had a jacuzzi on our enourmous balcony (the athroom shower door opens out to the balcony). Tha maid left towel animals and flowers everyday too.
Dinner was at the hotel restaurant, Sabor (buffet). It was a 5 on a 1 to 10 scale. the breakfast buffet was there too and it was a 6.
Thursday we arose early b/c it was swim with the whalesharks day. We walked down to Capt. Tony's. To go with him, you show up at his house between 8-8:30am. He lives on Matamoros St next to Olivia restaurant. He was sitting out front, someone had just crashed a golf cart into his house a few days ago. He said he didn't have anyone else going and to come back in 30 minutes, (it was 8am). We walked to Hidalgo and came back at 8:30. There was another couple. He asked if we wanted the combo - to go to Isla Contoy too. We were game. It was $125. We were fitted for wetsuits and flippers and walked towards the beach. He said we were going with his brother b/c he had to go to Cancun to visit his daughter who was ill. His brother Luciano and nephew Noah were awesome. It was just the other couple and us.
Their boat was not huge, we headed out for about 1 hour 15 and then Noah said there they are, get ready. Just a note, none of us felt the least bit queasy during the entire trip, but it was not rough. It did get a little wavy out with the whalesharks though. We scrambled into our suits and masks. Noah was off my side of the boat first, I jumped in behind him and I have to tell you I got scared. I asked him to hold my hand. He took my hand and the behemoth swam right by us. I could then let go and worry about my husband, lol.
You could see the yellow/green bits of plankton in the water. There were only about 10-15 other boats out there. The number of sharks alludes me but at best count there were at least 60+. When you put your face in the water and these beautiful creatures swim by you, all the grace and magnificience of the sea is right there in front of you. There are smaller fish sticking by them too. My legs hurt from trying to swim to them, but after a while I realized they will swim to you. I was very worried I would accidentally touch one, as one swiped my husband. Ummm....I debated over whether to put this or not b/c I didn't want to frighten anyone but while we were treading water (all 5 of us) a 7-9' shark swam under us, it was way down below and me and my husband just looked at each other like oh s$%^! It would NOT keep me from doing this again. The only drawback was getting back into the boat. It started getting rocky and I got in fine but my husband who will be 60 and is not skinny, fell back in the water and on the way back in hit his ribs on something and it still hurts. We left there and headed to Contoy and came upon a very playful pod of dolphins. They stayed with the boat 10-15 minutes jumping, swimming and fooling with us. Reed, the guy in the other couple had never seen a dolphin in the wild. He and his wife were also scuba divers.
At Contoy, we stopped to look at barracuda then docked. We explored the island. We saw some scat on the walls and wondered what animal it could belong to. We soon found the culprit, iguanas. You can snorknel there too. Ay lunch time we were called to the big palapa. Luciana and Noah made us chicken and pompano on the grill along with a salad/pico de gallo that was so good my husband must have eaten a pound of it. We also had chips, rice and guac. Any leftovers went to the hundreds of hermit crabs and iguanas scarrtered around the palapa. Have you ever seen a begging crab or lizard? It was funny. We had one more dip in the crystal waters before getting back on the boat. There were fish swimming all around us, queen angels, grouper, needle fish and others that we don't know their names.
We made one more stop at a reef to snorkel that had brain coral, sea fans, cuda, tangs and more. What a nice day! The couple with us had an underwater camera and are going to send us the pics after their trip.
Our friends came in from ATL so we planned for dinner at Satay in the hotel. They had also booked a standard room and were upgraded to a suite with a pool view. 3 of us had great starters, bff's hubby had a wire brush bristle in his seafood soup. They were really sorry and replaced it. All of our entrees were excellent, my red snapper was superb. However the desserts were a hoot, since 2 out of 4 desserts were out, 3 of us ordered the "coffee jam" which is squares of coffee jello, yes coffee jello topped with vanilla ice cream and kahula. It made us giggle for days.
Friday we rented a golf cart at Ciro's for $40, 9-5, 4 seater all forward facing. We went to the Turtle Farm and I was enthralled by the white turtles. It seemed as if they were performing for us, dancing, swimming, showing off. The shark and big turtle out in the pen was a surprize. The shark looked a lot less intimidating from the pier. We drove to Punta Sur and looked out over the cliffs lined with iguanas. We visited some of the vendors and purchased a few things. I bought a rosary made from shells and wish I would have bought another since I never saw another in town. I also bought a bracelet made from one solid piece of a queen conch, very unique.
Lunch was back at the hotel and was a BUST, shrimp tacos consisted of oversized flour tortilla, a smear of mayo and 4-5 little tastless shrimp. After eating at Bally Hoo's, let's just say I was heartbroken to waste a meal choice at the hotel. We spenty alot of time in the water just floating around.
We went back to Bally Hoo's for dinner and took our friends. The sunset was so pretty. I had the fish tacos...again. Hubby had a steak, bff had fajitas and bff hubby had the snapper. Everyone loved it. Wilbur was our awesome waiter again too. After dinner was shopping and strolling Hidalgo, then music and drinks at Cafe del Mar.
Saturday, our last full day...we walked the beach up to Avalon Reef bridge. As we were walking I noticed a bunch of paw prints, I am an avid dog lover so I was paying attention. As we got closer, a group that I assume are a beach patrol rescue had 4-5 dogs - shepards and bull mastiffs with rescue emblazoned vests on, training in the water. How cool is that? We searched the little tide pools as our bellman suggested and found snails and zebra fish. There were some spiny things too. We walked up the steps there and took pics of the tremendous views and the houses. There were some locals swimming and little kids having fun. It was nice watching the families.
We walked back through town and stopped at the cemetary to take pics. BFF's hubby said it was bad luck, we were very respectful. He atill wouldn't go in. When it started to rain when we were in the pool he told us it was our fault! I thought the cemetary was a beautiful tribute.
Our last night..we walked Hidalgo in the rain and decided on Brisas for dinner. My husband said he heard it was the best charcoal grill on the island. I told my bff he heard that from their sign (and he did), lol! It was excellent. We had shrimp, fish, surf n turf, garlic shrimp, guac and pico de gallo. The service was great and the price was good. They even brought us a round of tequila shots after dinner. woo hoo! Be prepared for huge portions, the boys steaks were 1 1/2 lbs each. A little dog came to visit and I named her Conchita Renee Alonzo Hidalgo. She got some steak, shrimp, fish and potato. When the mgr tried to run her off she hid under my table and sat on our feet. She was so pretty and obviously well fed. A couple of blocks north of the ferry is a white stand selling aguas refrescos and ice cream. The pina aguas refescos is the best. It comes in a bag or a styrofoam cup. They have mango, lime and several other flavors for $15 pesos. They are addictive and super refreshing.
Sunday....last day - our friends leave very early but we have until the 4pm ferry. We can't get a late checkout so after hanging out at the beach until time to go, we store our bags and head out. We wander the Flea Market. If we went in one shop we had to go in all of them. They would say, now mine. We had some pesos to burn anyway. We had lunch at Brisas Grill on the water, I had shrimp kebabs and my husband had chicken. It was so flavorful and yummy. There is a pattern here, every meal we had outside the hotel was awesome!!!
When time came for the ferry we sucked it up and left. It started to rain 1/3 across and we took it as a sign. The Matre d' from Sabor sat across from us on the ferry. Our ground trans was early by 15 min which worked out for us.
For any last minute shoppers....do not shop at the airport unless it is duty free. Buy your Mexican souveniers from the shopkeepers, the airport prices are crazy.
We loved Isla Mujeres and cannot wait to come back. What a beautiful place. I learned more Spanish, gained a couple of pounds, made some friends and some forever memories. I think next time we may stay somewhere else and not do ai. I know I was lengthy but what could I leave out?