My husband, 11 year old daughter, and I visited Isla for the third time over Labor Day 2012, and it was the best trip ever. We booked Penthouse 503/504 several months in advance through the owner and VRBO. (The last time we were on Isla we were also at Ixchel, but in Penthouse 701, and we had booked through the hotel.) The owner, Cecilia Heard, was very easy to work with, and the management company she uses, Mundaca, was great. For a full review of this unit, please see the review I've posted on the property's VRBO web address.
Anyway, it was a beautiful unit, and the terrace was fantastic. They even set up a movie projector for us up there, and we relaxed on the king-sized, cushy sunbed and watched movies under the stars. Very fun with kids especially.
For the rest of my report, I'm just going to get into the highlights of the trip if that's okay with all of you, and then I'll tell you about what we brought back from Isla.
1. Meeting DMartin, his wife Michele, and his lovely parents. DMartin was kind enough to invite us, sight unseen, to dine at Lolo Lorena's with his group. For all he knew, we could have been a family of ax murderers or double dippers, but he took the chance on us, and we got to spend time with great people as a result. Meeting them really added joy to our vacation, and I'm hoping to get on their holiday card list because it sounds as if their annual cards are worth the price of admission. :-)
2. And that transitions nicely into dinner at Lolo Lorena, which was one of our best experiences on Isla ever. Dinner was superb, and the company was fantastic. I was a little worried that our daughter would be out of place in this kind of supper club setting, but Lolo reassured me that it would be fine, and that her 9 year old son would love to visit with her. However, when we get there, Lolo's son turned shy, and wouldn't sit at the "kiddie table" Lolo had prepared for the two of them, so our daughter sat with the adults, all of whom were very gracious to her. We met Vivian from Qubano briefly on our previous visits, and she is one of my daughter's favorite people on Isla, and although we'd never met Steve from Casa. Sirena, he is witty and charming. Other than the Martins, there was another couple with us who were very nice company, as well. The fire dancers and the beautiful dessert were the perfect ending to the evening. In short, it was just one of the best experiences on Isla or anywhere, and we highly recommend it. It's also very close to the Chedraui, so it's easy to pick up a bottle of wine or two to accompany dinner. (And the mojitos at Lolo's are delicious!) I can't say enough good things about Lolo Lorena's, Lolo herself, or the night we had.
3. Fenix. We waited until our last night and went for tapas. Loved the food, the drinks and the ambiance. Next time, we will hang out here more often.
4. Meeting Tiffany at Barlito. Shortly before we arrived in Isla, someone posted something on this board that I found disturbing and caused me to question our choice to return to the island. I don't know why it affected me so much, as we've never had anything but a feeling of security on the island, but I was disturbed by it. So, knowing Tiffany has small kids, lives on the island, and is a regular on this forum, I sent her a private message asking her about the real situation on Isla. She reassured me greatly and put my unfounded concerns to rest. Tiffany is so helpful and friendly, and it was fun to talk to her. Also, once on the island, I did feel very silly to ever have had concerns. My daughter and I walked all over the island with dogs from Isla Animals with no issues whatsoever. Again, Isla is one of the friendliest places I've ever been, and I wouldn't hesitate to send any of my friends or family with kids to the island. And YUM to Barlito. Oh my gosh. Their breakfast panini are awesome and huge. We loved the sauce-- picasita, I think-- and it was just wonderful.
4. Qubano and Vivian. What is there to say? Vivian just keeps on serving up incredible food. It is a highlight every time we are on the island. And it's worth the trip just to get to visit with Vivian herself. When God handed out personality, he gave Vivian a triple portion for sure.
5. Misc. great food at Mango Cafe, Bastos (super good), Pita Amore, Bally Hoo (fish tacos), Kash Keken Chuc, Maria's pepitas. We still have places we need to go check out. We also went to the Chedraui a lot and tried to eat one meal at the condo each day. It was a good plan.
6. Rented a golf cart from the week from Julio on the corner of -- I have to look-- adjacent to the Lavenderia near Ixchel. Julio helped my husband negotiate a bike rental from a guy who didn't speak much English, and my husband was having a hard time explaining that he wanted to put his own pedals on the bike (for his bike geek shoes). So as a thank you for doing that, when he tried to make us a golf cart deal, we rented from him. I think the cart ended up being from Rentadora, and we paid a very reasonable price, even with a middle man. Incidentally, my husband rode all over the island, as fast as he could go on that rusty bucket of a bike, and had a great time. No real issues at all with golf carts, traffic, etc., although he rode early before it got too hot.
7. Captain Dulche. This was really fun for us. The museum is interesting, and the grounds are gorgeous.
8. Snorkeling with Ariel from Sol Zorro. I had never been out in the open water to snorkel, and had only done snorkeling from the shore. But I love to snorkel. So we were sitting on the beach in front of Ixchel and Ariel came around trying to sell snorkel trips. We weren't really in the market, primarily because our daughter is petrified of boats. Even the ferry scares her silly. Given that, although my husband and I really wanted to snorkel, we told Ariel it was pretty unlikely. But we started chatting with him about things, and we found him really nice, and we were pleased to hear that the people next to us booked his boat for a sunset cruise. The following day, after working on my daughter, my husband asked DMartin if he and Michele wanted to go snorkeling. They said yes (but we could tell DMartin was a little hesitant to go with just any dude we started chatting up on Playa Norte. ha). In the end, my daughter reluctantly got on the boat, and we had a fantastic day snorkeling and then eating. This is all chronicled in DMartin's trip report, so I won't bore you with the details. I know the snorkeling is only fair compared to, say, Cozumel, but it seemed pretty cool to me! And swimming next to a school of barracuda? That was something special. And seeing a huge barracuda about 3 feet from me-- also special. ha ha.
9. My daughter and I volunteered at Isla Animals. This is a great organization. She and I walked dogs and socialized puppies. My daughter fell in love immediately with one of the puppies. Her name was Plum, and she had one blue eye and one brown eye, and looked like a stuffed animal. She sat in my daughter's arms for what seemed like hours at a time. I told Rebecca at the house that I was happy Plum was adopted or we'd have some trouble. Rebecca informed me that Plum hadn't been adopted. Oh boy. My daughter immediately asked if she could have Plum. I told her no. We needed another dog like I need another pound of body fat. We already had three dogs at home. Yes, three. One is 15 1/2 and has probably outlived his life expectancy by at least 4 years because he's not a small dog. He has been with my daughter since she was born, and the thought of losing him makes her, frankly, inconsolable. The other two are a smallish matched set. One is a Chihuahua/pug/terrier mix and the other is a Beagle stray who found us one day. They are both about 6 years old. Despite this overabundance of canines at our home, my daughter kept asking. I kept saying no. My husband kept saying no. But then I started getting attached to the puppy, too. But again, four dogs? That's CRAZY TALK.
To be continued!