Wednesday, July 1, 2015

7 Days in Riviera Maya, Mexico (Grand Bahia Principe) - Travel Guide

Mexico is one of the world’s great travel destinations, that sometimes is singled out for crime. The truth is that there is a lot of crime along parts of the U.S. border, but the majority of Mexico’s tourism destinations are very safe. The Mexican State of Yucatan has one of the safest ancient ruins and most beautiful beaches in the world. Nevertheless, when traveling abroad it is always a good idea to take precautions and research your travel destination in advance to avoid any unwanted surprises.

There are many travel guides, blogs, along with YouTube channels that will help you make your trip more enjoyable. Here are few sites that I found very helpful when planning my 7 day trip to Mexico: Pause The MomentWoltersWorld, and TripAdvisor.

Even though in Mexico most service staff speak communicative English, it’s polite to start a conversation in Spanish.

Hola (Hello)

Buenos días (Good Morning)
Buenas tardes (Good Afternoon; used until after sundown)
Buenas noches (Good Evening)
Habla usted inglés? (Do you speak English?)
No hablo Español (I don’t speak Spanish).
Gracias! (Thank you!)
Como estas (How are you?)
Muy bien, gracias (Very good, thank you)
Así (Yes)
No (No)
Adios (Goodbye)
Por favor (Please)

Travel Tips:
  • Most tourist regions in Mexico are quite safe, but research you destination in advance to have hassle-free vacation. 
  • Confirm all reservations before your leave, including flights, hotels, and cars.
  • If possible, make room requests (e.g. beach view) and book restaurants in advance (Grand Bahia Principe Tulum offers 3 dinners in A La Carte Restaurants per week of stay).
  • Aprenda un poco de español.

DAY 1 - Cancun Airport & Driving to the Resort

We arrived at the Cancun International Airport at 11AM. Budget Car Rental desk was right at the terminal, from where we were taken by a bus to a site office. After paying $270 and quickly inspecting our small car we were good to go.

The way from Cancun to Riviera Maya is very easy. There is basically one highway with all main resorts on both sites of the road. We got to Grand Bahia Principe Tulum around 3pm.

From the first steps in to a spectacular main lobby, I felt fresh breeze from the sea. The high roof building with stone columns, no walls, and water falls, had very calming, SPA like feeling. We were welcomed with margaritas by professional front desk staff. The only down site was that our room wasn't ready yet. While waiting for our keys, we were offered a lunch at a buffet. 

On the Way to the Main Buffet

Our room in Villa 31 was nice and a good size, but nothing too fancy. We had an amazing view and only few steps to the beach. Unfortunately, the room was a little humid, but what you can expect when at the beach.
The evening we spent at La Plaza Mayor Terrace, a bar with life music and dance shows.

Dolphinarium Room View 

Our Friendly Neighbor is Saying Hello!

Travel Tips:
  • If you are booking a car don’t forget to bring an official letter from your credit card, stating that you have international car insurance, to avoid extra fees.
  • Don't waste your time on the "Privilege Club". It is a third-party run "club" promising extra benefits to people who pay up front and return to hotels associated with the club. They my use different tactics like free gifts, warnings that there are just few memberships left at this price, etc. They give the impression that the Privilege Club is somehow a part of the hotel chain or a car rental company, but it is not!

DAY 2 - Getting Around the Resort & Beach Activities

Second day we started with getting around the resort. We spend some time at the beach, and used one free hour of kayaking. Bahia Principe offers one free hour a day of any non motor beach equipment, including windsurfing, tennis, snorkeling, catamaran, kayaks, and bicycles.

 Small Trains that Run for Easy Transport Between Main Lobby and Hotel Amenities

What about a massage at the beach?

Relaxing at the Beach

Later we did paralleling for the first time in our lives. It was less scary than I expected. Even though I felt sick after a few minutes in the air, I don’t regret it. It was one of the best experiences in my life.


In the evening we had a reservation at Le Gourmet French Restaurant (Formal, Coba Restaurant, men have to be in long pants, but sandals and flip flops are ok). The restaurant has beautiful interior, very welcoming staff, and delicious food. It is my favorite restaurant at the Resort. I recommend Avocado Salmon Salad.

On the Way to  Le Gourmet French Restaurant 

Travel Tips:
  • Take some time to familiarize yourself with the resort. Grand Bahia Principe property is right at the beach and you can’t get bored there. You can enjoy unlimited food and free drinks, pools, gym, water aerobic, casino, SPA, golf, life music, shows, and much more. 
  • Le Gourmet French Restaurant is a must go to when staying at the Bahia Principe.

DAY 3 - Coba Maya Encounter

Since we rent a car for our whole stay in Mexico, we could easily drive to Coba Ruins, but the reason we booked a guided group tour was to take advantage of the whole package Coba Maya Encounter offered ($125 per person). The encounter started with the Coba Ruins where we climbed the pyramid. Later we were taken by the bus to the jungle for a short ritual, repelling into a cenote, 2 zip lines, and paddling through a laguna. The day ended with a tasty lunch prepared by the locals and shots of tequila. Excursion was filled with attractions that would be hard to fit into one day if we did it ourselves. I had fantastic time and I met amazing people, including our tour guide Anna that looked after us throughout the day. She gave us a lot of information about Maya Civilization and even tough us some Mayan Language. I really appreciated her help when it came to repelling. I couldn't ask for a better guide and I hope to stay in touch with her.

Nohoch Mul, the Tallest Mayan Pyramid in the Yucatan, Which Rises 140 Feet (42 Meters) Above the Rainforest Floor

Travel Tips:

  • Riviera Maya is one of these places where you want to take with you a GoPro or a waterproof camera. Guided tours often offer photographs, but they are low quality and cost money (about $60/CD).
  • Repelling is fun and easier than you think. 
  • Going on an excursion could be a great way to meet new people. 

Day 4 - Playa Del Carmen & Hacienda Doña Isabel

This morning we were tired after Coba Expedition, so we stayed in the bed longer than we planned. Around noon we decided to go to Playa Del Carmen, a small tourist city about 20 min ride from the Grand Bahia (If you don't have a car you can take a colectivo). At Playa Del Carmen we spent some time on the beach watching boats leaving to Cozumel, and walked through La Quinta Avenida. A busy promenades lined with handcraft stores is a good place to buy100% agave tequila, rum, and vanilla.

On our way back to the resort we got off the main road to see how the “Real Mexico” looks like. We saw kids playing on the street and a man in Bahia Principe uniform biking back home from work. Regular houses in Mexico are very small, colorful, and seem unfinished, but they have their own charm. I was super excited to photograph authentic Mexico, but my husband didn't let me leave the car. He thought that locals may not like me putting my lens in their private lives. 

We got back to the hotel just in time to have last few rays of the sun at the beach and swim in the sea. The evening we spent at La Fiesta at Hacienda Doña Isabel. There is $16 fee to enter, but it is well worth it. They offer games, photo booths, drinks, and finger food (grilled corn and popcorn). The show is picking up very slowly, but the Maya part is very authentic, and it is definitely on of the best night attraction at the Bahia Principe. 

Hacienda Doña Isabel

Travel Tips:
  • Buy tequila and souvenirs off the resort, perhaps at Playa Del Carmen.
  • Vendors may use different tricks to stop you by their shops. For example, they may pretend to know you, or say “almost free” just to get your attention.
  • Don’t be afraid to get off the main track, but don’t forget that you are a tourist.

DAY 5 - Chichen Itza, IK KIL Cenote, & Valladolid

Chichen Itza (the New Seven Wonders of the World), a large city built by the Maya people in about 600 AD is located in the eastern portion of Yucatán, about 2 hours ride from Tulum. We got there around 10AM, right before crowds from tour buses, thus it is one of the most visited archeological sites of Mexico (entrance fee is about $20). It was fascinating to see pre-Columbian city, but we were disappointed that we couldn’t touch or climb any of the buildings.
We found Chichen Itza to be the best place for buying folklore souvenirs. Some tourists complain about vendors being too pushy, but we liked that everyone was willing to bargain. In a result we got hand made wooden mask worth $100 for $35.

Temple of Kukulkan, also known as El Castillo, dominates the center of the Chichen Itza

On our way back we stepped by the IK KIL Cenote, one of the largest sinkholes in the Yucatan (about 80 pesos for adults). This is unfortunately also one of the most busy cenotes in this area, so if you are interested in more natural experience, Cenote Samula or Zací Mayan Sinkhole are perhaps better choices.

Another attraction of the day was driving trough Valladolid, a small city with many colorful colonial style buildings, and narrow one-way streets full of activity. I wish we would have had more time to explore the city on foot.

Travel Tips:

  • If you are interested in buying souvenirs at Chichen Itza know how much you are willing to spend, thus almost everyone is willing to bargain.
  • If you do make your way toward eastern portion of Yucatán, be sure to stop by Valladolid.
  • Consider choosing less known Ek Balam and Cenote Zaci over crowded Chichen Itza and  Cenote IK KIL.
  • The Yucatan has quite good highways, you just need to pay attention to bumps.

DAY 6 - Valentines Day at Tulum Beach

Tulum, ancient Maya City built on cliffs overlooking the beach is the perfect place for a romantic day. Beautiful Tulum Beach with a paradise like feel and turquoise water is one of our favorite places in Riviera Maya. Enjoying a calm water protected by the Grand Maya Reef was one of these moments that will stay alive in our memories. 

Tulum was One of the Last Cities Built by the Mayas

Tulum - Pre-Columbian Maya Walled City Served as a Major Port for Coba

Iguana is a Moderate Sized Lizard Endemic to Mexico

Tulum Beach is One of the Most Beautiful I've Seen

We finished the day at the Cenote Dos Ojos (250 pesos fee to enter). Dos Ojos (from Spanish meaning "Two Eyes") is a flooded cave system located north of Tulum, on the Caribbean coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. The surveyed extent of the cave system is 82 kilometers and there are 28 known sinkhole entrances, which are locally called cenotes.
It was my first snorkeling experience and it was amazing! DosOjos is the best cenote, for beginners in scuba diving and snorkeling, in a close proximity from Grand Bahia Principe. My advice would be to take your own towels, and leave all belongings at the car, including clothes. A tour guy that came with a bus full of tourists from Europe moved our clothes, thus he thought that they belonged to his group. Luckily everything ended well, but you don’t want to worry about your stuff when you are relaxing in the water. 

Refreshing Water of Cenote Dos Ojos

Dinner at Don Pablo Restaurant (Tulum, formal) was’t as good as I expected. The waiter was stressing on purchasing non house wine and dinner special for an extra cost. Food was just average and we had to wait very long time for our meal. In fact, three course dinner took over two hours. We would rather eat at the main buffer, especially that on our way to the restaurant we saw Mariachis playing life music.

Travel Tips:
  • If you are going to visit Tulum archeological site, make sure to take advantage of the magnificent beach. Bring with you water and sunscreen!
  • On your way to Tulum Ruins some locals may try to stop you and offer you a tour. You don’t need a guide for this one, so just keep going and pay the fee by the entrance.
  • When going to a Cenote don’t take anything with you beside swimming gear, flip flaps and possibly a towel.

DAY 7 - Enjoying All-Inclusive Hotel

On our final day we decided to have a lazy day at our all-inclusive hotel, enjoying palm trees, hammocks at the beach, barbecue by the pool, and free drinks.

Barbecue by the Pool

Snack Turned to be a Serious Meal

Happy Feet :)

In the evening we had at reservation at Gran Tortuga Restaurant (Tulum, Brazilian, not formal). To be honest, I think that this place is overrated. Salad bar is limited, and meet cuts are nothing special.

Travel Tips:
  • Having a rental car gives you the freedom to explore on your own and experience the “Real Mexico”! We were able to see some of smaller towns, and stop off the road whenever we saw something interesting.
  • In Riviera Maya most places accept US$,  but you will be better off if paying with pesos, especially at the gas stations. 

If you have any questions please let me know in the comments bellow, and I would be happy to answer. I hope you will have as much fun in Mexico as we did :) XOXO

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Bold Birds Pattern and a Pop of Yellow

Yellow, freesia, tropical, and floral-inspired patterns are present in many spring collections. Although yellow can be worn from head to toe, accessories are a great way to incorporate this vibrant color into an outfit. Birds inspired pattern is incredible, and it's one of my favorite new fashion trends this spring.

Zendaya Maree is Mixing High Fashion With Urban Fashion at NYFW

Zendaya Maree likes mixing high fashion with urban fashion. At New York Fashion Week Maree wore Christina Dior Coat, Rag & Bone Sweatpants, Saint Laurent Boots, Basic White Tank, and a Baseball Cap.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Street Style: New York Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2014

During NY Fashion Week many people worn their coats wide open despite freezing temperatures. Fashion Blogger Zina Charkoplia matched salmon Zara coat with Celine bag, Nike sneakers, and completed the look with a long grey scarf.

Fashion lovers worn camel, grey, pastel, or even white, or pink coats as opposed to black very characteristic to NYC.
Another distinct trend seen in street style is that destroyed boyfriend denim cuts take over skinny jeans.

Folk style is going global. All around the world fashion houses like Tory Burch, Oscar de la Renta, and Burberry presented collections that were folk inspired and rich in knitting patterns. I am looking forward to seeing more folk inspired clothes in chain stores!

Another noticeable trend on the streets of NY was Chinese plaid pattern, whether on coats, scarfs, or whole suits.

Chriselle Lim rocked Tommy Hilfiger plaid suit.

During Fashion Week most of the days were very cold, so I wasn't surprised to see at Lincoln Center a parade of colorful furs. To my satisfaction most fashion lovers chose faux furs.

Polish Fashion Blogger Jessica Mercedes in a pastel blue fur vest.

While some people dressed for the slushy weather, many continued to dress up for fashion shows.

A unique artist Martha Napier promoted her Marnani Design Studio on hard sidewalk outside Lincoln Center by illustrating street style with paint. In spite of cold wind and frozen paint, her proved skill to print fashion quickly draw attention of the press.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Lancôme Beauty Box 2013

Lancôme offers Beauty Boxes every holiday season. This year collection includes 12 full size products, 2 samples, and a train case (a $315 value for only $59.50). Regular price for my two favorite Lancôme products alone, Bi-Facil Eye Makeup Remover ($28) ‎and Hypnôse Star Mascara ($28), equals the cost of the case full of luxury goods.

Black case with red lining has two zipped pockets, and it’s big enough (8 x 12 inches) to hold all my makeup. Smaller top pocket has a perfect size to storage makeup brushes when traveling. You could definitely find more luxurious train cases on the market, but considering the price it is a good quality.

Blush Subtil in Rose Fresque (Lancôme Blush Subtil in Rose Fresque) is a very supple universal matte dusty rose that will truly complement every skin tone.

Color Design Lip Shades (Lancôme Lipsticks)
Love It is a dusty nude cream pink.
Fashion Icon is a berry metallic lipstick that matches the dramatic/night collection.

Juicy Tube in Miracle is a sheer pink with icy sparkle (Lancôme Juicy Tube in Miracle).

Hypnôse Drama Mascara, as the name suggests, is perfect for creating dramatic night looks. I am fan of the Lancôme Mascaras, because it’s the only brand that I am not allergic to. My all time favorite is Lancôme Hypnose Star, which makes my lashes long, carbon black, nicely separated, and fabulous!

Bi-Facil Eye Makeup Remover is another Lancôme product that my highly sensitive eyes love! The
Lancôme Eye Makeup Remover bought alone it’s on a pricey side ($28), but it is well worth the price!

Le Crayon Khôl Eyeliner in Black Ebony glides on easily and blends beautifully. I like to use it on my waterline.

All over Shadow and Liner brushes are my least favorite items in the set. You will probably not use them, if you already have your favorite professional makeup brushes. All over the shadow brush is almost too big for this purpose, but not fluffy enough for blending. 

Color Design Mono Eyeshadows are sensational!
(Lancôme Color Design Mono Eyeshadows)
Drama is a violet with a blue sheen. I was worry that it may be too bright for me, but I couldn't be more wrong. The unique purple shade complements my blue eyes as no other eyeshadow I had ever own. I always get many compliments on my eyes when I wear it. 
Off the Rack is gregarious, shimmery, very light pink with a cold/icy undertone. It appears more metallic when applied wet. The shade can be applied all over the lid. 
Clock Strikes 12 is a perfect, easy to blend, matte grey for the smokey eye.

La Base Pro Makeup Primer Sample
I am still trying out Le Base Pro Primer. I would recommend this silicone based primer for dry or mature skin.

Deluxe Sample of New Advanced Génifique Youth Activating Concentrate