Great Parnassus

 

Hi all. It’s been a long time since I’ve Blogged. So I’m going to do baby steps first.

Dec. 2012 my Photographer Janell Ploof-Michel of J Michel Photography and I stayed at the Great Parnassus for 2 weeks. It was my 1st All Inclusive experience.

Here are a few interior pictures:

 

Buying Ferry Tickets online with Ultramar: The Results

 

Ultramar

With my confirmation print-out I arrived to Ultramar ferry 10 minutes before the next boat was scheduled to depart. There were MANY people in line to purchase tickets and a representative was stationed at a podium in the center, which I had never seen before. I showed her my print-out and she told me I still needed to wait in line to get a ticket.

[Read more…]

Ultramar Ferry: Should I buy my Tickets in Advance?

 

Ultramar

We get asked often about purchasing Ultramar ferry tickets in advance, opposed to purchasing them at the booth upon arrival to the dock. I have always said that it is fast and easy to buy your tickets at the dock so there is really no need to pre-purchase them online, however, I thought we should test this out and see which method of buying tickets is the best.

[Read more…]

The BEST Snorkeling in Cancun

 

Well, actually the best snorkeling is not in Cancun at all.  It is just south of Cancun, about a 30 minute drive, to the little town of Puerto Morelos. Here the reef is very close to the shore and very shallow, which makes for perfect snorkeling conditions.

Trina Snorkeling on the reef

Trina Snorkeling on the reef

I’ve snorkeled in Cancun, Puerto Morelos, Playa del Carmen, and Akumal countless times over the years and I have to say yesterday I had THE BEST snorkel experience. I met with the boat owner who introduced me to our guide, Paz. Paz is very passionate about the ocean, sea life, snorkeling, and he made sure that everyone on the boat had good time. He gave personalized attention to each snorkeler, ensuring that everyone was comfortable in the water and that they could see the amazing underwater world that he so loves.

All of the snorkel boats in Puerto Morelos are the 8-12 passenger panga boats. I like being in smaller groups when snorkeling, so this worked out well for me. They have to use the smaller boats because the large boats cannot get close to the coral reef. Once in the boat, Paz fitted each person with snorkel gear and gave us instructions about the coral, safety, and general snorkeling etiquette.

Coral Reef in Puerto Morelos

Coral Reef in Puerto Morelos

The boat ride from the dock to the reef only took us less than 10 minutes. When we reached the reef there were 5-6 other boats there with snorkelers in the water. Paz said that we would avoid the others by swimming against the current for a few minutes then drifting back along the reef. This worked out very well for all of us.

I was amazed at the sea life we saw and the condition of the coral reef. It is so vibrant and alive! The schools of fish are brilliantly painted by mother nature and I felt thankful to be in her presence. We saw fish of every size and shape and color, one fish in particular caught Paz’s attention because it literally sparkled! I don’t think the photos do it justice, you have to see it for yourself.

Fish on sandy area by the reef

Fish on sandy area by the reef

We snorkeled for almost 2 hours on the reef in Puerto Morelos. I was so impressed with this snorkel trip that I am adding it to my list of featured tours.While taking underwater photos we came upon an angel ray. This was the highlight of the trip. I was able to follow it at a pretty slow pace for several minutes. Just amazing.

So the video quality is terrible, but about half way through is where I started following the ray. I’m sorry about that, I will try to get better quality underwater video soon.

 

 

If you have your own transportation to Puerto Morelos, the snorkeling is only $49 per person. If you are staying in Cancun it is just $50 for round trip transportation (1-10 people). Book your Snorkel Trip today!

 

 

Isla Mujeres day trip on the Lupita Catamaran

 

One of our goals is to actually GO on all of the tours we sell at CARM Tours & Transfers. This week we joined the catamaran “La Lupita” on their day trip from Cancun to Isla Mujeres. We had a wonderful time. You can book the catamaran Lupita for only $53 USD here.

Turquoise waters between Cancun and Isla Mujeres We checked in at Cancun Bay Resort & Marina, located at KM 3.5 in the Cancun Hotel Zone. Check in was fast so we had about 30 minutes at the palapa before the start of the tour. This worked out well since we had skipped breakfast and the palapa sold croissants and bottled water. We split one of each which cost us $36 pesos (~about $3 USD).Lupita Catamaran

At 10:00 AM we boarded the Lupita catamaran and headed to Isla Mujeres. With the sail raised it took us about an hour to get to the island. We were all given snorkel gear and jumped in the ocean at “El Farito” reef, which means “little lighthouse”. We saw tons of fish including the biggest barracuda I have EVER seen. Amazing. The snorkel guide had a sandwich baggie filled with something the fish really liked so we were surrounded by a school of brightly colored fishes. Large parrot fish, small trigger fish and lots that I could not identify.

snorkeling Isla Mujeres CatamaranBy 11:00 AM we were back on the boat, heading over to the island. Our first stop was at Isla Contoy dock. We had 1 hour free time on the island to shop, rent a golf cart, or hang out at the bars/restaurants. We skipped the golf carts and just walked around a bit, then ended up at the Isla Contoy dock bar where we watched an English fellow eat a scorpion pickled in Tequila. Good times!

Back on the boat for the trip to the beach club for lunch at 1:00 PM. The buffet was good food, as good as most all-inclusive resorts. Drinks here are not included, so be sure to bring some cash. We went back for seconds, then hit the lounge chairs. I loved this part of the day, so relaxing. There were hammocks in the shade and lounge chairs. We cooled off in the ocean, then just relaxed some more.

Isla Mujeres CatamaranWe boarded the boat about 3:00 PM to head back to Cancun. Just before we got there the captain set anchor and put up the spinnaker. The spinnaker is like para sailing, except you are anchored. The video shows it better than I can describe it. It is not very easy, however it looked well worth the effort.

The Lupita catamaran docked back in Cancun at 4:45 PM. I have to say that for only $53 per person, this was a fabulous day on the water, on the island, and it is a great value. This tour is not for the party crowd. The music was current, yet not so loud as to blast your eardrums. The crew was accommodating, yet no one was telling me to put my hands in the air and scream. For us (upper-30-something-couple) it was the perfect day getaway without some 19-year-old throwing up on my shoes.

For more information and to book your day trip to Isla Mujeres on the catamaran Lupita for only $53 USD, CLICK HERE TO BOOK THE TOUR.

Whale Shark season officially begins May 15, 2013

 

Snorkel with Whale SharksIn Cancun we have the unique opportunity to snorkel with Whale Sharks when they migrate through our area from mid-May until mid-September every year. For the 2013 season, tours begin May 15th.

Whale Sharks are not actually “sharks”. They feed on plankton and they have no teeth. The average adult whale shark is 32 feet long and weights 9 tons.

Tours leave from Puerto Juarez, just 10 minutes north of Cancun. The boats are small and usually only hold 8-10 passengers. It takes 45 minutes to 90 minutes to get to where the whale sharks are swimming in the ocean. Once there, we take turns snorkeling beside these giant fish.

The tour costs $179 per person. You should be a good swimmer for this tour since you are out in the ocean. Every time we have gone out to see the Whale Sharks we also see lots of sea turtles and manta rays too. You can book your Whale Shark Snorkel here.

Immigration and Customs forms Mexico and United States

 

When you leave the US or Canada for your vacation in Mexico, be prepared to fill out Customs and Immigration forms. It is helpful to know what these forms look like and what questions you will be asked.

The first two scans are your FMM, or Tourist Visa. You will be given this form to fill out while on the plane before you arrive to Mexico. This is a simple form that just requires the info directly off your passport.

When you arrive to Cancun International Airport, the first stop after getting off the plane will be at Immigration. Here the immigration officer will take the FMM form you filled out, keep the blue side and give you back the green side. The blue side is your Entry into Mexico and the green side is your departure visa when you leave Mexico. It is VERY IMPORTANT to keep the green part (with your passport) as you MUST have this to leave Mexico. What happens if you lose your FMM Tourist Visa while in Mexico. Every person must fill this out.

Also during your flight to Mexico you will be given a Customs Declaration form. Each head of household needs to fill this out. Again it asks for your basic passport info, how long you will be in Mexico, and how much luggage you have. Most importantly it asks if you are carrying 10,000 US Dollars or more, any meat, food, plants, chemicals, weapons, or merchandise for which you need to pay duty.

After you land and clear immigration, your next stop will be to pickup your luggage and go to customs. Your luggage will go through x-ray and you will hand the customs agent the form. There is a button that each person must push. If the button light turns green then you proceed to pickup your scanned luggage. If the button light turns red, your luggage will be searched.

When you leave Mexico you will surrender your FMM Tourist Visa and you will fill out the US Customs Declaration form. The US wants to know about your travel, where you’ve been and where you are going. The form asks again if you are bringing cash, meat, plants, merchandise, etc. You will give this form to the Customs agent when you land in the US.

For more information about traveling to Mexico and the paperwork you need to fill out, please visit http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information.

Chichen Itza Light & Sound show renovations

 

The Light & Sound show at Chichen Itza ruins closed down back in August of 2012 for renovations. Their expected down-time was 6 months. It is a shame that the show was closed during the winter solstice when Chichen Itza saw record numbers of visitors.

In my opinion this was a long-overdue renovation. For many years the light & sound show was sub-par by most people’s standards. It was not a laser light show, instead they just lit up the main pyramid with different colored lights. The “sound” portion of the show was a looped recording in Spanish. There were translator headsets available for rent for 25 pesos each, however they were first-come-first-serve and were not guaranteed to work. Seating was very limited with most people having to sit on the ground. Many visitors to the light & sound show were disappointed over the last several years.

There is still no reopen date for the Light & Sound show, but when it does open we will go check it out for you. I will post photos and video of the new show. I hope to be amazed. It would be wonderful to recommend this tour to people traveling to Cancun or the Riviera Maya.

Road Trip to Mayan Ruins – Part 2 Chichen Itza

 

Chichen Iza

We left Ek Balam and headed back to the toll road, Hwy 180, and headed west toward Merida. There will be another toll plaza, where the right lane exits to Chichen Itza and pay $59 pesos. You have 10-15 minutes to go and just follow the signs. We encountered some road work in the town and it was hard to see the sign. But you make a left where you must go left or right. This trip is roughly 50 km / 35 mi. and just under an hour. Parking was $22 pesos.

Chichen Itza Ruins

Chichen Itza Ruins

Entrance tickets to Chichen Itza were $177 for Foreigners, $125 for Nationals and Students with an FM2 or FM3, and $38 if you have the INAPAM (basically a Mexican AARP card). Students must have serious proof to get the lower rate, being Estudiante on your FM2 or 3, or a valid student ID from your school. Sundays are free for Nationals, Students and those with INAPAM cards. This is quite a commercial place as you will see. Guides are available and the prices are posted. $60 US but you can share that with a small group. We were approached by a man, 84 years old, who was not an official guide and offered to guide us for $400 pesos, came down to $300 and, after we visited the restrooms, came at us again for $200. We later saw him with a group of four people so free enterprise seemed alive and well.

Chichen Itza is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and is most depicted in photos of the majestic El Castillo (The Castle), and is 25 meters/82 feet high. It is straight ahead as you enter the park and you are drawn to it. It is a captivating experience and we could not get enough pictures of this marvelous site. You can no longer climb El Castillo. If you stand in front of the pyramids as you travel around Mexico, you will often see guides and visitors clapping in unison. The acoustics reflect the sounds back [Read more…]

Day Trip to Playa del Carmen

 

We’ve seen the beaches in Cancun, ate at the popular restaurants, and we’ve been to the shopping centers here, so we decided to spend our day off this week in Playa del Carmen. Playa del Carmen is located 1 hour south of Cancun. It is referred to as simply “Playa”. Since a few margaritas were in our future we opted to take the ADO Bus instead of driving ourselves.

ADO bus depot in Cancun

ADO bus depot in Cancun

The bus costs $48 pesos ($3.70 USD) per person each way. From the hotel zone you can take the R-1 Bus to the ADO bus depot. At the depot you can buy a ticket to almost anywhere. We only had to wait about 2 minutes for the next bus to depart Cancun. The bus was comfortable and quite. In 1 hour we were arriving to Playa del Carmen. The bus depot in Playa is right on the famous 5th Ave, very close to the ferry dock that goes to Cozumel. We did not need any other transportation while in Playa.
If you hover over the little blue square on the map you can see the ADO Bus Depot. From there we walked northeast on 5th Ave. Our first stop was 3 blocks away from the beach to this cool little area with a handful of food carts in a small park. For only 20 pesos we got lechon tortas (pulled pork & onion sandwiches) that were really tasty.

The shops on Playa’s 5th Ave. are super chic and you can buy almost anything you need. Silver, swimsuits,  cigars, clothes, hammocks, jewelry, in addition to souvenirs of all kinds. While we do get some of the aggressive sales tactics of the vendors on the street yelling “Come into my shop, I have what you need!” it is less aggressive than the markets in Cancun.

After we walked the entire length of 5th Ave and we were done shopping, we cut back to the beach. The beach is Playa is wide and perfect white powdery sand. The waves roll in with less force than in Cancun’s ocean side hotel zone. Playa’s beaches are full of beach bars  and restaurants with lounge chairs and umbrellas. There are relaxing cabanas where you can get a massage for about $18 USD for 30 minutes. By this time is was afternoon and we were ready for a cold beer on the beach. Beers are about 30 pesos each and that was just what we needed.

Beach at Playa del Carmen

Beach at Playa del Carmen

Females have the freedom to go topless on the beaches of Playa del Carmen. This is not the case in Cancun. Playa has many European vacationers [Read more…]

Road Trip to Mayan Ruins – Part 1

 

Recently I went on a Road Trip with three friends. We visited ten of the Yucatan’s most special locations.

In order, we visited the archaeological zones of Ek Balam, Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, Xlapak, aka Xlapac, Labna, Izamal and Coba. We also visited the famous caverns of Grutas de Loltun (31 km after Labna).

Join us on our journey . . .

. . .  We began early on a Friday. Hopping on the toll road it was an easy 1:45, 150 km / 95 miles to the Tizimin exit. This is immediately before the loop exit to Valladolid. There is a toll of $241 pesos a bit before the exit.

Mayan Ruins at Ek Balam

Mayan Ruins at Ek Balam

Heading north, you take a right after about ten minutes.

This road is a slow drive with lots of [Read more…]