With the drumbeat of bad news coming out of Mexico, one could be forgiven for thinking that tourism in our southerly neighbor had completely dried up. In fact, millions of Americans continue to visit Mexico each year without incident, including members of the Andrew Harper Travel Office.
Most recently, travel advisor Paula Dunlap took her 12-year-old son on a vacation to the Riviera Maya. We sat her down to chat about her experiences:
Mexico has been getting a lot of bad press lately. What made you decide to go with your son?
Paula: We had heard a lot of the bad press, but this primarily seemed to be an issue in the border towns and some of the western coast. Not having traveled there before, I wanted to make sure it was safe, and checked the State Department website. There wasn’t an advisory against travel to the Riviera Maya. Some of our friends were going — actually, quite a lot of people in my neighborhood had gone down, and I heard great things from them, so we decided to go. Our travel partner, Journey Mexico, told me it hadn’t experienced any problems in that area of the country, and said that even the taxis were safe! Of course, I felt better taking them between resorts, as I’m sure resorts have favorite taxi drivers that they use.
Once there, did you feel safe?
Paula: Absolutely. For the most part, we stayed at the resorts and on the main strip between Cancún and Tulum, going out only during the day, and it was just fine. Like anywhere, you don’t want to venture into unknown areas at night — you have to be sensible.
Where did you stay, and did the properties live up to Andrew Harper’s descriptions?
Paula: We stayed at Rosewood Mayakoba and Maroma Resort and Spa, both of which are recommended by Mr. Harper, and Dreams Tulum, which is not recommended but is still a very comfortable all-inclusive. My 12-year-old son really enjoyed Rosewood Mayakoba in particular. He was able to golf at its course, El Camaleón, the first course in Mexico to host a PGA tournament.
How did you get around while you were in the Riviera Maya?
Paula: We took taxis between hotels, and we had some friends there who had a rental car. To get to and from the airport, we arranged transfers with Journey Mexico. I really liked its new SUVs, and the drivers were very personable. Journey Mexico’s vehicles were a lot nicer than the taxis, of course!
Was it easy traveling with your son in Mexico? Do you think the Riviera Maya is a good destination for families in general?
Paula: It’s a great destination for families. We had a fun time at Xcaret, a natural eco-archaeological water park that offers swimming in the cenotes and snorkeling into the mouths of caves. You can see lots of sea life and other animals that are local to the area. Another big draw is the option to swim with dolphins. The Tulum ruins are incredibly picturesque, set right on the water, and though the weather can get a little hot, touring them with a guide provided by Journey Mexico is fascinating for kids and adults alike. You can also swim from the beach right by the ruins. Be sure to book a snorkeling trip with the concierge at your resort. The reef off the Riviera Maya coast spans from the Yucatán Peninsula down to Honduras, making it the largest barrier reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
Was one of the resorts better suited to families than the other?
Paula: There were a lot more families at Rosewood Mayakoba, and that resort seemed more used to having kids. But it’s also extremely romantic. The resort is very contemporary and “spa chic,” and the rooms very large. After checking in, they take you by boat through a series of lagoons filled with wildlife. We were lucky enough to see a few crocodiles, turtles and many species of birds. It’s just a 10- to 15-minute walk (or a short golf cart ride) winding through the gardens and mangroves from the lobby to the beach. It also has adults-only Spa Rooms on their own island, which had a very quiet and Zen-like atmosphere.
I also stayed at Orient-Express’s Maroma, which was smaller and more intimate. It had more of a traditional Mexican ambience — I truly felt like I was in Mexico. The spa was amazing, the food was excellent and Maroma definitely has the best beach, with gorgeous sand and beautiful water. The resort allows children now (new in 2012), but only a handful of rooms will accommodate additional guests. There aren’t many activities for children yet, but they do have a small game room and pool table.
I really loved both properties. I might even suggest booking both, since they each have such a different feel.
You mentioned the food — what were some memorable dishes you had while in Mexico?
Paula: Both resorts offer different dining options. At Rosewood Mayakoba, I remember really enjoying the tlayuda, which is a sort of Oaxacan pizza topped with shrimp, avocado, marinated red onions, beans and Mexican cheese. Maroma had really excellent shrimp tacos, and the best margaritas in the world!
What is your favorite memory from the trip?
Paula: Spending time with my son, snorkeling off the coast of Tulum and exploring the barrier reef. But everything was wonderful — the people, the food, the resorts and the colors of the water in the sea.