Seventh Heaven

February 16, 2017
A year after we wed, we honeymooned in Playa del Carmen, MX. Many newlyweds chose all inclusive resorts, but I knew that wasn't our style. Instead, I booked our stay at Playa Maya, a small hotel, directly on the beach. "Beach access! How quaint?," I cheered. The first couple nights I booked a jacuzzi suite, then the rest of the trip was a room on the top floor so we could be perched above it all. It seemed so perfect.

Twelve years ago, Cancun airport was pretty basic. Highway 307 was paved but otherwise fairly primitive and loaded with topes. We suffered a bit of culture shock when we first arrived. Driving... the whole deal was a bit overwhelming. It was our first time out of the US. Well, that's not true, we had been to Windsor, Canada. But this was a totally different experience. Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas any more. I remember Frank being pretty miserable and I had my doubts.

The first morning we were eager to see the beach, we walked the shore. We didn't find the tranquil waters we imagined. It was littered with people, fishing boats and not at all relaxing. To make matters worse, I was naive, and did not apply sunblock. Big mistake. Huge. I was toast on the first day. Blisters and all. I couldn't move without wanting to cry. A complete waste of that jacuzzi suite.

The following morning, I booked us an ATV/Snorkeling excursion. I was in so much pain, I wanted to cancel. But I overcame it, we went and had a blast on the ATVs. Hot & sweaty, we walked down to the cenote as a group. I stepped on a rock that gave way; I twisted my ankle and earned myself a pretty large gash while doing so. I bled steadily. A kind amigo, cleaned me up, gave me a bandage and teased me about watching out for sharks in the sea.

It was our second full day and I was a complete mess. I was red as lobster, blistered like bubble wrap, bandaged like a mummy; All the while, my ankle doubled, and later tripled in size. I should have taken it easy. Especially, in hindsight, but no, we pressed on and did everything on our checklist. We wandered all over the Tulum ruins, explored cenotes and splashed in the sea. I was convinced we'd never return. I had to see it all.

We did catch a break when we abandoned Playa del Carmen and headed south to find somewhere peaceful. We stumbled on Xpu-ha, the powdery white sandy beach and aquamarine waters were irresistible. It was heaven on earth. Most days, it was only Frank and I on the beach and it was there we discovered, Al Cielo. It began as only a restaurant, but had recently started renting out its four rooms to lucky travelers.

There in Xpu-ha, I felt no pain. I was mesmerized by the beauty. We bounced in the sea like kids on summer break. We squealed and bolted when a sea turtle came riding in on a wave. It was simply the best.

We finished out our stay at Playa Maya, it was a nice enough place. It just wasn't well suited to us. Trudging through the sand with my busted ankle was torture. I cursed, "Beach access!" The third floor walk up was a really bad idea. It just was not meant to be.

Two years passed, I swear it nearly took that long for my ankle to heal - I had really done a number on it. We returned to Xpu-ha, we stayed at Al Cielo. It was wonderful. It was everything I hoped it could be. That is, until, Montezuma's revenge had a stranglehold on me. I was so sick. I had taken a beating in Mexico, but we continued to return. Al Cielo was too special not to. We watched it grow over the years, sadly, it was ultimately sold to Escencia, the luxury resort next door. They painted it, made a few changes and started charging double.

We thought we'd sworn it off, but Xpu-ha's siren song would lure us back. Our initial plan was to visit Thailand this month, but a poker event changed locations and Frank could no longer take the time off. It left us with only a week to take vacation if we squeezed it in immediately after Superbowl. This has been an ideal time for travel in the Riveria Maya - Plenty of sun, warm temps, cool sea breezes. Southwest Airlines offered a good fare to sweeten the deal. We still couldn't pull the trigger on Al Cielo, but I found an Airbnb on the same beach, and another in Tulum. We thought we'd shake it up and try something new. And just like that, we booked our seventh trip to the Yucatan.


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