Experiencing Our First “Real” Vacation In Mexico’s Mayan Riviera

Last Updated on September 5, 2015

Beautiful beaches bathed by the warm, turquoise-blue waters of the Caribbean Sea make the Mayan Riviera an appealing destination for some fun, sun and relaxation. With the myriad of activities available, there really is no question why our first two-week trip together (2006) had us bitten by the travel bug, fueling much traveling since. Mexico gave us our first taste of the beauty of travel: we learned how to slow down, enjoy what and who is around you and to absolutely live in the moment.


Staying at the Occidental Allegro Playcar, the all-inclusive resort with Polynesian-style bungalow houses was located only minutes away from the picturesque town of Playa del Carmen and only steps away from the crystal clear water and pristine white sand.




We experienced a lot of “firsts” in Mexico, as this was what we considered to be our first “real” vacation, not remembering much from vacations (or lack there-of) when we were children.

Parasailing in Mexico is often described as an adventurous, high-adrenaline activity. You get absolutely superb views of the Caribbean sea coastline while you are in the air while attached to a parasail above the water, being ‘towed’ behind a speedboat. Parasailing looks scarier than it is. For someone like Debbie who lives for adrenaline, such as skydiving and bungee jumping from a hot air balloon, Parasailing seemed a tad bit boring and slow. We were definitely moving, but it really did not feel like we were moving very much. For the view alone, the cost was worth it.

Do keep in mind that Parasailing is not for everyone. If you want to try it, always ask for a proper safety briefing before getting strapped in. If you have any doubts (beyond just being scared because you’re chicken), it is best to just walk away until you find a provider you are comfortable with.

Once you are fully suspended in the air, you could find yourself 500 feet high, observing those enjoying the beach from a bird’s eye view.

Debbie had the opportunity to swim with two eight-year old dolphins at Xel-Ha Park. Xel-Ha Park tries to provide dolphins an environment almost identical to theirs; this allows you to swim with them as if they were in their natural habitat.

The session started with an interactive orientation where participants are taught about the dolphin’s anatomy and characteristics. The instructors go over hand signals and forms of positive reinforcement.

Participants get into the water and the interaction with these brilliant creatures begins. It was immediately apparent just how smart dolphins are; you couldn’t help but to stare in awe. Participants witness an incredible view of the dolphins as they speed and spiral through the water below you, demonstrating their amazing agility.

Looking at dolphins, it is a common thought to think they would feel slimy. Not at all; the dolphins suprisingly felt like rubber.

The dolphins did many tricks: singing, jumping over our heads, and pushing each of us across the pool by the bottom of our feet.It was an adventure full of adrenaline swimming with these majestic animals.


Xel-Ha also offers encounters with Manatees, Sting Rays, and options to snorkel, snuba, relax in a hammock on the beach, tube town the ‘river’ and more.

We loved our day at Xel-ha and would definitely return if we ever had the chance.



Horses are creatures of beauty. There is something extremely powerful seeing horses gallop through a field.

It had been years since getting on a horse, and neither of us had any prior experience that we can credit to give us any confidence.

At first, getting on bare back to go into the water was a bit scary. It felt as if any moment you would fall off the horse.

After the photos, the saddles were put on and we all became a little more comfortable.

Going around ‘trails’ by the beach, we eventually got the hang of directing the horses. That is, until one of the more experienced riders decided to gallop past Debbie’s, spooking it. Debbie’s horse stepped up the pace a lot, making the ride a little uncomfortable until re-gaining control. You have to earn the respect of a horse.

Riding a horse also gives off a sense of freedom and power and renew your sense of wonder. Horses are graceful, glorious creatures.


With long hair that easily gets matted, our first day in Mexico was enough to encourage Debbie to get her hair braided. She did burn her scalp, but it was a lot more comfortable than having to fight with a matted mess every day.


Our first ATV experience in Mexico was an exciting one. We rode the ATV through the ‘jungle’ and then on to a crystal clear cenote, sacred Mayan cenote of Xunan-Ha, where we were able to take some time to swim around , enjoying the cool feeling of the water, before getting back on the ATV go get even more dirty!

The guides were great and made sure we were all comfortable on our ATV’s before taking off. Everyone went at a different pace and that was totally okay. Luckily there were not any crashes that ended up too, too bad. We luckily didn’t crash! It is amazing how powerful and invincible you feel as you rip around in an ATV.

Coco Bongo is one of the clubs you have to visit in Cancun. It’s a “Las Vegas meets Mexico” style show where celebrity impersonators (including Elvis, Madonna, Michael Jackson) take the stage with backup dancers and each perform a montage of songs. All performances are really over the top, with many of the acrobats and dancers hooked up to flight harnesses; it is incredible to watch. Girls are picked by bouncers and invited to dance on the stage by the video screens. Debbie discovered that once you were liked, the only way to get the bouncer to let you down from the stage was to say you had to use the washroom, but you would come back. Escaping wasn’t so easy as the bouncer found again soon after and tried to get her to dance more when hanging out with new friends seemed more exciting. Even if clubbing isn’t really your thing, Coco Bongo seemed more about the experience and the show than anything else.



Xcaret is a natural park that showcases the traditions and culture of Mexico. With plenty of underground rivers, natural pools and attractions, we happily spent a full day experiencing Mexican culture. In the late afternoon we saw more than 300 actors take a ‘stadium’ through a musical journey through the history of Mexico; a grand festival of light and color. The park also offers many animal interactions and the option to lounge in a hammock on the beach.

Mexico was a magical adventure. To this day, we love looking back and reminiscing about our first trip together. It was the trip that cemented our love and desire for travel and a trip that made us discover how compatible we really were!


Where was the trip that gave you the travel bug?