Ok, so I'm going to cheat and instead of doing a lengthy trip report, I'm going to let our photos do the talking, organized into a slideshow here:
And a few notes to go with them:
We were on IM for a week - our first trip - and it definitely won't be our last! I know there has been some chatter on here lately re: changes (not for the better) on IM, but since this was our first trip and we have no frame of reference for comparison, to us it was nothing short of paradise.
We stayed at the Bahia Chac Chi and absolutely loved it. The views from the balconies are truly, incredibly spectacular. It is on a main street but with the door shut at night the street noise didn't bother us at all. It was immaculately clean, the staff were AMAZING, the kids loved the pool (too cold for me, but perfect after a long, hot day in the sun) and even though the breakfast was basic, the simplicity and convenience were welcome - it was nice not having to find a place to eat every morning with kids in tow. It was a bit of a hike to Playa Norte, but that hardly mattered to us because we only really spent 2 days there; the rest was spent on golf cart tours, Playa de las Pangas & Playa Isla Bonita on the West side, wandering through town, and walking the West Shore (Malecon and La Gloria).
Of the two days spent at Playa Norte, one was spent at Tarzan's and one at ChiChi n' Charlies. I think the loungers cost the the same (about 150 or 200 pesos). We preferred the service at Tarzan's, the cheaper drinks, and the menu choices, but for us ChiChi n' Charlie's won based on location - the chairs are a little more spread out, you can see around to the West Shore, there are more birds and less people. We solved the menu problem by sending my husband to bring back our favourites from the loncherias. :-)
We also spent half a day at Captain Dulche's. I do not have one bad thing to say about this place. I would recommend aqua socks if you plan to wade in as there are a lot of broken corals, but the beach and pier are beautiful, the service and food were great (and reasonably priced), there is no charge for the loungers and palapas if you are drinking/eating, there is gorgeous art all over the property, and the bathrooms...wow. We didn't do the museum, but we did wander up to see the parrots. I loved it and hoped to spend a second day there, but we ran out of time.
We did a lot of shore snorkeling at both Avalon Reef (just southeast of the bridge across to the hotel) and Garrafon de Castilla. For kids and first-timers it was pretty much perfect. We saw lots of rays, barracudas, and reef fish and since the waters were relatively calm the kids had a lot of freedom to explore. They loved it. I loved it. We had initially thought about leaving the island to go to Akumal, but we will save that for a separate trip. Avalon and Garrafon were more than enough fun for a week-long vacation.
We also loved the community on IM. The people were amazing, friendly, helpful, polite. We have very little spanish, but they gently encouraged us to use what we had and helped us to learn more. We loved the food everyplace we ate. We ate at Justicia Social (right across from our hotel), Picus, Mango Cafe, and a lot of other places that I am at-the-moment forgetting. We gorged on a lot of new-to-us flavours of gelato (like cinnamon at ParadICE, soooo good) and we loved the street vendors -- marquesitas, churros, pineapple pie from the back of a truck -- mmmmm. Delish.
We were lucky enough to chance upon a basketball game in the square on Monday night. Since we already had churros in hand and it was a beautiful night, we sat in the bleachers and watched for a while. We're glad that we did.
What else? My husband got a massage on the beach at the tents near Tarzan's (great); we did many a sunrise walk along the Malecon; we stalked iguanas and pelicans everywhere (I love them, but never got a really good pic of the pelicans), and we hung out in La Gloria where we bought a chicken and ate it in the park.
The biggest surprise for us was probably Punta Sur and all of the east side of the island. We moved to Ottawa from Victoria, BC 5 years ago, and the rocky shoreline, crashing waves, little crabs, and tiny tide pools reminded me so much of home. It made me super homesick! It is such an amazing thing to have such incredibly different shorelines separated by such a thin strip of land - rough and rocky on one side and tuquoise water with soft white sand on the other. Not to mention spectacular sunrises and sunsets every single day - it was amazing.
I'm sure there is more that I am forgetting, so if you see something in the pics I didn't mention, don't hesitate to ask.
*sigh*. Home for a week and I miss it already. :)