103. VACATION! Our First One in Over 1.5 Years!

Ok, so many of you would probably say that our first few months here before I started working were a vacation, but I would strongly disagree. Even though we weren’t working, we weren’t doing “vacation-y” things either. We were looking for land, building a house, and living a regular day to day life minus the full-time job. We were NOT sipping drinks, sitting by the pool or beach, and lounging around in relaxation. This week we decided to actually take some time and enjoy one of our border runs. We are heading to Cancun to do exactly that- sit by the beach with a cold beverage!

Friday 11/18- Our flight today wasn’t until early evening, so we didn’t have to wake up early to head to the airport. We did a few things around the house this morning and once we had done everything that we wanted to do we were tired of “waiting” to leave, and ended up leaving the house about an hour earlier than we had planned. This time, instead of parking at the airport, we were planning to park at the nearby mall (parking was only about $8 per day at the mall as opposed to $37 per day at the airport) so we figured if we had time to spare, we could just walk around the mall for a while.

Well, it turns out that it was a VERY good thing we decided to leave that hour early!! 

For those of you who have followed along with the blog since the beginning and have heard all about our past trips up to San Jose, we’ve almost always reported that the drive was easy. Well, this afternoon’s drive wasn’t exactly “difficult”, but it wasn’t like we had experienced before. Traffic hit a snails pace from Jaco to San Jose (typically its an hour to hour and a half). Once we got about half way it was even slower, we are talking like 15-20mph the entire rest of the way to the city, and once we got fairly close to the airport and the mall where we’d be parking, it was gridlock. (Have I mentioned lately how much we dislike driving in the city- ANY city, which is the reason we moved to a rural area?) The traffic was bumper to bumper as far as we could see, and just barely creeping along. As we crept along we realized how much longer this was going to take us, and were glad that we left home early. We would no longer have that time to waste at the mall. As it took longer and longer, we began to wish we had left home even earlier because soon we were really going to be pushing to be able to make it to the airport in time. Not to mention, we still had to figure out the whole parking situation at the mall because there was a particular part of the parking ramp that the long-term parker's had to go, check in, etc.

The highway here is kind of confusing to navigate, at some points there are 3 lanes across all going the same direction, eventually lanes will just disappear and at some point you’ll be down to 1 lane, then you’ll go back up to 2 or 3 lanes again. We knew this, so we tended to stay in the left lane as much as we could so we wouldn’t inadvertently get forced to exit. As we were getting closer to our exit and were still in the farthest left of 3 lanes, realizing we may have to make it to the right lane; we couldn’t remember if those lanes “fell away” before our exit. Getting across 3 lanes of traffic could be difficult in this stop-and-go gridlock, so if we had to move over, we would have to start trying early. Google maps truly isn’t any help when it comes to this, so, since many people drive with their windows rolled down, I just yelled out to a lady driving a car next to us, and in my best broken Spanish, asked which lane we should be in to get to the mall. She told us in fast Spanish that I could only understand bits and pieces of, that we should stay in the left lane where we were, and if we let her in front of us, she would drive us right to the mall, and we could just follow her. I don’t know if she originally intended to go that direction or if she decided to go that way to help us out, but this made us feel way more comfortable about getting there without any unexpected wrong-turns that would just make us even later.

She got us to the mall, pointed out of her window where we should turn, and with a couple of waves and friendly honks of the horn, we each went our own ways. Ticos are very helpful & friendly people, and for that (and this particular woman) I am very thankful.

Ok, now that we are at the parking ramp, where the heck do we go? Ramie had received some instructions from a friend that had parked here before, and had a little bit of an idea what we were looking for, but this was a really big parking ramp. We tried to ask the attendant who was near the gate when we pulled into the parking ramp and he told us that we could just park anywhere, and then we could pay at the bank inside of the mall or at one of the kiosk ATM like machines. He had us park, and then brought us to where he said we should pay. This did not jive at all with what Ramie understood from the instructions that we received, so after wasting what seemed like an eternity when we were already running late, and probably actually amounted to 15 minutes, we went back to the car and found someone else to ask. Eventually we were pointed in the right direction and found the place where we actually had to park, check in, and pay. This took probably another 15 minutes, and then we were finally ready to head to the airport. Originally, had we had plenty of time, it was within walking distance and we would have just walked. Being in the hurry that we were, (we are now about 1 hour before our flight). We walked outside the front of the mall and found the first taxi that we could find. We hopped in, he brought us to the airport, it only took about 7 minutes, and cost about $5.

Thankfully, once we got into the airport things went as smoothly and as quickly as you could hope going through security could go. Once we were inside security, we could relax a little bit. We had originally planned to grab some food before we came to the airport, but with the traffic delays and everything we had just been through, clearly we didn’t have time for that. We grabbed some stupidly expensive airport hamburgers, made our way to our gate, and got ready to get this vacation started.

Well, wouldn’t you know it- our plane was running late.

By the time we landed in Cancun, it was about 40 minutes later than our expected arrival time, which wasn’t so terrible. What ended up being much worse was the length of time it took to get through immigration. They were super slow here, and we ended up being near the very end of the line. While we were in line we tried to get in contact with the shuttle company and despite our efforts, we weren’t able to. We then got a hold of the hotel directly, they told us that the shuttle was a 3rd party hired service, and not actually through the hotel, and that we were probably SOL on the shuttle and we should just find a taxi to get to the hotel. It took over an hour to get through immigration and we didn’t have high hopes to find our shuttle driver outside of the airport, but figured we’d take a quick look around before we went looking for a taxi to get us to the hotel. Wouldn’t you know it, there was a guy standing there with a sign with our hotel name on it.

Hallelujah!! Something went right for us today!!

We hopped into the shuttle van, it was just the 2 of us, and our driver got on his way. Boy, this guy was in a hurry!! I was sitting in the seat behind the driver, and over his shoulder I could see that the speedometer was showing about 90 KPH (about 55 MPH), but it felt MUCH faster on these residential and in-town (non-highway) roads. The speed limit signs showed 40 KPH (about 25 MPH). He made good time for a while, and he even blew through a Police check point!

Suddenly we are at a crawl again. It was 11 pm, what could possibly be going on that would cause traffic to be backed up like this?

Well, it didn’t take long and we found out- we were driving through the “Hotel District”… the party center of Cancun. I soon saw why this is such a Spring Break destination! There were strippers on stages right on the sidewalk, all of the big name restaurants like Senor Frogs & Hard Rock Café were here, and every-other-building was a dance club or some sort of bar. Each bar had their own music blasting trying to outdo the one next to it. It looked like a lot of fun……if we were in our 20’s. This type of stuff doesn't appeal to me or Ramie anymore. Once we were through this stretch, we were once again flying down the road at 90 KPH for another 10 minutes or so before we got to our hotel.

We finally got to the hotel, got checked in, and got to our room sometime after midnight. We were exhausted after our high-stress afternoon & evening and were ready for a good night’s sleep.

Oh, and BTW—it’s raining. We were hoping to get out of the rain by coming here! Fingers crossed it stops during the days when we want to enjoy the sun, sand, & calm Caribbean Ocean waters.

Saturday 11/19- I’m usually an “up before dawn” type of person, but since we were up late last night, I was able to sleep in a little bit (probably got up at about 7am). Our plans for the day were to check out the hotel, sit by the beach, and that’s about it. I expected the beach lounge chairs to get full early like we were used to from our years of cruises, but there were only a couple of other people out there this early.

Take your pick!
These waves are so small!

After spending some time checking out what else was in and around the hotel, we went and changed into our swimwear and then to go find a couple of chairs and an umbrella to call our home-base for the day. There still weren’t very many people out there, so we were able to take our pick. We found a spot and spent all day there. We ordered some cold beverages from the pool bar, some food from the grill, and enjoyed a relaxing day on a resort beach. Aaahhh Vacation Mode on!!!

Where is everyone?
We miss the calm and clear Caribbean waters!
Of course it wouldn't be Mexico if you didn't have the military patrolling the beach. These poor guys and girls had to be dying of heat all geared up like that.

Oh, and it was a beautiful day. Only a couple of short rain showers came through, but it worked out fabulously because it cleared out many people (afraid of the rain?? Not us- we’re from Costa Rica where rain means almost nothing changes), and it cooled us down a little bit from sitting in the heat.

Late afternoon we decided that we were going to go walk around outside the hotel grounds and to see what we could find nearby. We wanted to see if we could find a convenience store to pick up some drinks and snacks (that would undoubtedly be cheaper than the pool bar), and then find somewhere for dinner (we didn’t find anything on the hotel restaurant menu that looked super appealing). Well, about the time we were going to head out, it started to rain. Even though we are used to doing things in the rain in Costa Rica, I didn’t particularly want to go walking for the next hour or 2 in the rain, and then find a place for dinner. Instead, we grabbed some snacks and a couple of drinks from the hotel convenience store (which was less expensive than the pool bar, but likely more expensive than a non-hotel convenience store) and went back to our room for a little while. When the rain mostly slowed down, we went to walk down the street to find a place for dinner, and wouldn’t you know it, just on the other side of the next hotel was an outdoor restaurant with a view of the ocean and the docks where some of the big catamarans and boats come in. This place looks as good as any, there were quite a few people already there, so it must be good, so we stopped. I think we got the last open table in the place, ordered some dinner, and had a couple of drinks while we watched the boat tours come in from their day-excursions, and then some other ones leave again for their evening dinner cruises.

One of the evening shows was a Pirate ship dinner cruise. This is the boat heading out.

Sunday 11/20- Today was almost an exact replay of yesterday. We didn’t have to explore the hotel in the morning, so we started out the morning by going straight to our beach chairs, got our same spot as yesterday, and did the same thing all over again. We even went to the same little restaurant for dinner, but this time we had the place nearly to ourselves. The waiter at the restaurant recognized us from yesterday and we got a couple of free drinks out of it. There was also a super cute resident puppy here, so Ramie did everything he could to play with this little guy, only the pup was a little too skittish and Ramie couldn’t quite get close enough to play.

Monday 11/21- Since we’re on a “vacation” border run, and not just one of our overnight stays outside of Costa Rica, we decided to actually go do some sight-seeing. We’ve always liked doing excursions and tours when we have gone on past vacations, but we knew that there was a ferry that left from a dock nearby and went to Isla Mujeres, an island just off the coast of Cancun that is supposed to be a nice sight-seeing place, and we decided to just catch that ferry and spend the day on the island.

As we were walking to the ferry terminal we just happened to walk past one of those booths set up along the street selling tour and excursion packages. I didnt want to stop since we had less than 10 minutes to make the first ferry ride. Ramie decided to stop just to see what was being offered, and ended up learning that there was a sailing catamaran tour leaving in about a half hour that offered snorkeling, time at Isla Mujeres, drinks & and dinner, all for a price that was only slightly higher than what we would have expected to pay for the round trip ferry ride & dinner. We figured that wasn’t such a bad deal, so we signed up for it and then had to run back to the hotel to get our swim suits on and snorkeling stuff (we didn’t plan to do any swimming so were completely unprepared for that part of the tour), then made it to the dock with time to spare before the catamaran left.

It was a pretty big catamaran and there were about 150 people on this tour. By the time we boarded most of the regular seats had been filled and the only room left was sitting at the bow on the edge of the trampoline, but we were completely OK with that!! Once we were underway with the breeze on our faces and hearing the sounds of the waves, it felt like the excursions we used to go on when we went on Caribbean cruises. 

Lets get this party boat going!

Our first stop was snorkeling. This is an activity that Ramie & I both love, and unfortunately there isn’t really anywhere easy to snorkel near us in Costa Rica (due to the very wavy water here our coasts are more suited to surfing than swimming & snorkeling) Once we were able to jump in it brought back all of those fun memories of past vacations. It really made me realize how much I miss being out in the middle of the calm ocean, in the water with the nearest land being the bottom of the sea. This snorkeling area had some underwater sculptures to look at and we saw some fish and coral. 


We were only in the water for maybe 30 minutes, which for us definitely wasn’t long enough, but to be fair, we don’t particularly like snorkeling in these tour groups very much either because most people don’t know what they’re doing. After our brief soak in the ocean, everyone was back aboard to finish the sail (well, motor, they didn’t actually put up any sails 😞 ) to the island. The bar opened up, everyone had the chance to get a drink or 2 before we landed (and boy were there some people on the boat that were ready to get their party on!), and then we were on our own for a couple of hours to explore the island. 

We’re the type of people that like to go the opposite direction of where everyone else on a tour goes. If the group is going to the right, we’ll go left, and that’s precisely what we did! Isla Mujeres is a very small island, you could rent a golf cart or get a taxi ride to go sightseeing, but we decided to just walk around. Within less than 10 minutes we made it from the side of the island that we docked at to the opposite side of the island. It is a very narrow island, but long. 

Already made it across?!?! That was quick, time to go home!

By golf cart you can make it from one end to the other in about 15 minutes. The waves were stronger on the opposite side of the island, and instead of nice sandy beaches the coast was a rocky shore. 

As we adventured around we stopped at some shops, bought some cold cervezas to go, and found a few souvenirs to buy (Ramie got a crocodile tooth necklace, and I bought a sundress that the woman custom made for me after I picked out the fabric & the style). 

We had to laugh seeing the Vikings and Packers masks.

We discovered that this was a very cute Island and if we ever again want to vacation in a place that has calm, Caribbean swimming waters, that we might look into spending a few days here. We walked almost every street on the North end of the island, of course stopping at a couple more little convenience stores for more cold adult beverages. 

The town square was getting ready for what looked like a Christmas celebration.
There were workers decorating the church, setting up a Nativity and hanging decorations on all the surrounding buildings.

When the explore time was up, we headed back to the catamaran for a short sail to where we’d be having dinner. It turns out it was at the same place where people who bought the add-on “swim with dolphins” package did that part of the tour.

As we ate and had a few more cold beverages from the open bar we had this funny feeling of being watched. This curious iguana  came right up to the table and wanted some of our food. 

Then we grabbed some more drinks from the bar and went down the the dolphin area to watch some of the trainers work with the dolphins. 

After a full day of sunshine, walking, drinking and eating, we were exhausted and ready to get back to the hotel. It was time to get back on the catamaran and head back to Cancun. There were a lot fewer people on the catamaran on the way back because there was a second catamaran that offered to take people who did the swim with dolphins and who just had enough fun for the day back earlier, so we had a little bit more space to spread out. Since there were fewer people, I ended up actually getting a spot on the trampoline and got to relax on my favorite place on one of these catamarans (we really do miss being out on the ocean in a boat, I think we could have enjoyed living on a sailboat)! 

It just wouldn't be Mexico if  the boat crew didn't turn on the party-mode! The crew came around with tequila shots & more free drinks. They cranked up the stereo and played the party type music.

The last time we were on a catamaran in Mexico it ended up turning into a booze cruise as well! Once the party atmosphere was turned up, though, we quickly noticed that all of those people who were so eager to “get their drink on” at the beginning, were now all curled up napping and weren’t in such a party mood anymore (I guess they shouldn’t have drank so many expensive drinks at Senor Frogs on Isla Mujeres!) We had a low-key party all the way back to Cancun, then headed back to the hotel for the evening.

Tuesday 11/22- After our enjoyable tour day yesterday, what did we decide to do today? You guessed it, a repeat of Saturday & Sunday. Sitting by the beach all day, eating and drinking at our lounge chairs, and dinner at the same little outdoor restaurant with the little resident puppy. We kept going back to this restaurant because the food was very good, price was right, and it was walking distance to the hotel, plus the cute puppy!

Waiting for delicious wings!

Wednesday 11/23- Travel day! Today we traveled back home to Costa Rica. Travel days are always the worst. We didn’t have any particularly bad experiences on the flight home, no major delays or anything like that, but it’s always a long exhausting day (especially when you start to add in things like being at the airport 2 hours before your flight & our 3.5+ hour drive from the airport back to our house). The drive back from San Jose to Uvita took longer than usual today because it was raining for the majority of the trip. (Oh, by the way, other than a handful of brief showers when we were in Mexico, we actually did have very nice weather, I’m ready for the green season of Costa Rica to be over!) We ended up getting home around 8:30pm and being as exhausted as we were, went straight to bed. We’ll go pick up Breeze in the morning.

Overall it was a nice relaxing 5 days in Cancun. Oh, and this was our first ever time flying on the day before Thanksgiving which they claim is the busiest travel day of the year. We didn’t notice that the airports were any busier than normal!

(Yes, I’m being sarcastic, of course I know that this day would only be busy in the US…..)

Pura Vida