We heard you had snow in Milwaukee on Monday and it was in the 20s and 30s for most of the week. Shit, March is a tough month. But maybe it will cheer you up to see what we did in Mexico?
Our first-ever OnMilwaukee OnVacay kicked off on March 5, as we ventured to Mexico’s Riviera Maya with 20 lucky readers to spend seven glorious days at El Dorado Casitas Royale, an adults-only all-inclusive dining resort.
Here are some of the things we have experienced so far during our tropical vacation week.
1. Magical sunrises (and sunsets)
First light in the Riviera Maya hits around 6:40 a.m., with sunrise around 7:00 a.m. Early risers had the pleasure of watching the sun rise (and set) over the Caribbean waters.
2. Breakfast on the private patios of our Casitas
Each of our 700+ square foot Casitas featured a private balcony furnished with a daybed and outdoor dining table. It was the perfect place to enjoy our morning coffee or a leisurely breakfast served in the room.
3. Our white-themed happy hour
Who doesn’t love happy hour on the white sands of a Caribbean beach? This golden hour gathering gave us time to get to know each other while enjoying refreshing drinks, lingering sunshine and tropical breezes.
4. Rappelling in Cenote Maya
On a Tuesday excursion, our group “took the leap” and descended 12 meters into Cenote Maya (the largest vaulted cenote in the Yucatan Peninsula) to reach the clear, cold limestone waters of the Limestone Cave . Matt Mueller, pop culture editor and co-host of FoodCrush, found the fall exhilarating. But (for me, at least) it was also a bit horrifying, as I had to overcome my longtime fear of heights to get to the bottom of the cavern.
5. A Mayan blessing ceremony
Ritual and ceremony continue to play an important role in the traditional customs and daily life of Yucatan people. We were privileged to participate in a ceremony led by a Mayan sage (one level below a shaman), who burned copal, a sacred resin-based incense, and offered prayers for our safety as we we were going to Ek Balam.
6. A visit to Ek Balam
Unlike Tulum or Chichen Itza, Ek Balam has yet to become a tourist attraction, making it one of the best places to do a bit of jungle hiking, while exploring Mesoamerican culture. We were lucky enough to experience an exceptional tour led by an archaeologist from Alltournative Native Parks & Expeditions.
This long-hidden Mayan city (which reached its peak between 770 and 840 CE) is among the most recently discovered Mayan ruins in Mexico. In fact, it is estimated that only 30-40% of the city has been discovered so far.
It is not only an archaeological gem, which helps solve the mysteries of the ancient Mayan culture, but it is a magical place filled with stories of the life of the Mayan elite, their steam baths (used in much for ritual smudging), their ball courts where nobles rocked 9-pound rubber balls with their hips and elbows, and their “acropolis” (El Torre), which is one of the most tall Mayan structures in the Yucatan.
Only a handful of our group had the courage to climb it (it’s a long climb and a grueling journey to come back down, due to its narrow but high rocky “stairs”). But those who did were rewarded with a glimpse of incredibly well-preserved glyphs (pictured above) and stunning views of the jungle and ruins below.
7. Something new at every meal
El Dorado Casitas Royale is a “gourmet included” resort, which means there’s no shortage of food for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
In fact, you can choose from 13 restaurants serving a variety of cuisines ranging from Indian and Pan-Asian dishes to Italian and Mexican dishes.
8. So much fun at the pool(s)
Our casitas were steps away from private pools, with swim-up bars (plus 13 additional pools on the multi-resort campus, including a natural saltwater pool). So, you can imagine how we spent our afternoons (hint: drinking caipiríssimas).
There was even a foam party at the main pool the day we arrived.
Bonus: Little surprises every day
Among them were the towel sculptures left behind by our housekeeping staff who diligently restocked our complimentary mini-bars and kept our rooms and patios tidy and fresh.