Playa Maroma, Mexico
This year we decided to visit Mexico again, a place full of history and culture.
JIn 2012, I was also lucky to be in Mexican lands, but in another area further to the south, at the Gran Bahia Princípe Tulum hotel. On that trip, we ended up not enjoying the magnificent beaches of this country as we should have, since we visited numerous Mayan constructions such as Chichen Itza (one of the 7 wonders of the modern world), Tulum, Coba, Ek Balam... and so we decided right away that we wanted to return but in order to get to know and spend more time at the beach in another region of Mexico (since the Bahia Príncipe's beach did not fully please us).
On the 23rd of July, we arrived at the airport early, already avoiding the long queues and setbacks that are usual at Lisbon airport. We left around 4:00 pm, about half an hour late for Cancún airport. We traveled by Orbest, where after an hour of flight we were served lunch (gourmet airplane food... LOL) and later a small snack. The flight was calm and around 1:00 a.m. in Portugal, and 7:00 p.m. in Mexico (minus 6 hours in Mexico than in Portugal) we landed. As I said, this time we were looking for a gorgeous beach (despite having, as always, low expectations and happily accepting what we found, we had done our homework...) and that's why we chose the Catalónia Playa Maroma, a hotel with a beach that has already been classified as one of the 10 most beautiful beaches in the world by National Geographic (and, in fact, you can understand the reason for this distinction!!).
This is a 5-star hotel and it is not inferior compared to other 5-star Caribbean resorts I've been to. Because it is smaller, it turns out to be more exclusive and less crowded, which provides holidays with higher quality. The bus journey from the airport to the hotel takes between 20/30 minutes (including a stop at the Iberostar, another hotel very close by). We arrived at the hotel around 3:30 a.m. Portuguese time, 9:30 p.m. local time (we lost a lot of time at the airport waiting for the bags and waiting for the transfer to depart, here the pace is different... but we have to respect and get in the wave - LOL), and already quite tired. When we arrived at the hotel, we checked in quickly and left our bags in the room. The next step was to go to the buffet, which was open until late, to eat some sandwiches, pizzas, and other snacks (if you prefer, if you arrive at the hotel quite late, you can ask for a meal to be brought to your room, a service available 24 hours a day - service for only Privileged customers - which was our case, but we preferred to go and enjoy the environment). We stayed in the sixth block, on the third floor, as previously requested. Since my sister and I are considered adults (LOL), we were divided into two rooms, 6301 and 6302. The rooms were spacious and very nicely decorated. Between these two rooms, from the balcony, we were able to see that we were on the first line near the sea and we managed to communicate, which turned out to be quite pleasant... The rooms were cleaned twice a day and the bathroom was normal. They have a minibar, LCD TV, hairdryer, air conditioning, fan, cafeteria, free safe, bathrobes, slippers, alarm clock, ironing board, towel service in the room, pillow menu and internet (the internet throughout the hotel was really good, although after lunch it became a bit weaker, perhaps due to the higher number of people trying to access. I even made video calls with my friend OMAR at the beach, eheh!). The location of the rooms was excellent, we were next to the beach, the pool, and the four themed restaurants, but a little far from the buffet (we had to take a very pleasant walk full of fauna and flora where we found coatis, some iguanas, squirrels and other cute animals that wander the resort - the journey takes about 5 minutes). The heat was enormous as is typical in the Caribbean and the mosquitoes were also very present but nothing extraordinary. At night, a repellent was essential to avoid being eaten by mosquitoes. :)
On the first day in paradise, we had breakfast at the buffet around 7:00 a.m. (buffet opening time - El Pajarito). The buffet is smaller than in other Caribbean hotels, but that is understandable since it is a smaller hotel. With our bellies full, we went to the normal meeting of the first day, which took place in the lobby (we ended up not buying any excursions since this year the objective was to enjoy the beach and the hotel) and, in the end, we went to the beach with some enthusiasm. Simply spectacular, water above 30ºC, coconut trees close to the water, thin white sand... paradise! There was also a seaweed strip (algae) that stretched along the beach, a situation that was solved with tractors that every day in the morning removed the algae and buried them. The rest of the day was spent on the beach, resting from the long journey. At night, we decided to try the Tortuga restaurant (steak house), one of the themed restaurants available. The dishes were all excellent, but be aware that if you order a dish and are told that it doesn't have any spice flavor, it certainly has a little bit of spice! If you order a dish and they tell you it's a little spicy, it's because it will be quite spicy ;)! This is usual not only at Tortuga but also in other restaurants. In fact, I even think this is normal, after all, we are in Mexico, the country of spicy food!
The next day around 6 am I was already in the beach! This year, it was really to enjoy, so I went to see the sunrise! FANTASTIC! The sun rises right in front of us in the sea! Moments I will never forget! After a good breakfast, we went for a walk through the right side of the beach, towards Punta Maroma and the place that tourists, who are not staying in this area, come to when they visit the famous "Playa Maroma". The beach is virgin and, only at the end, can we see a small marina and some bungalows. Between the marina and the bungalows, a small artificial island was built and despite having a certain beauty, it makes the beach look not completely natural. Due to this island, there are also large accumulations of sargassum in this area and the sand looks like mud in certain places, and in others, we find small remains of corals. It was a surprise for us, as this seemed to be a spectacular place due to the surroundings of the bungalows, but after all, the beach of our hotel was much better than what we found there. At lunch, we tried Terrace Tapas, the restaurant by the beach exclusive for Privileged customers. Again a good surprise, we all ordered different dishes and we were all satisfied, from the paella to the hamburger, the noodles, and the tuna tacos, all dishes with high quality and an excellent presentation. In addition, I want to highlight the friendliness of Carlos, one of the employees (in general, throughout the hotel, we were treated with great sympathy by the hotel staff), always very humble and helpful. For example, at the Tortuga restaurant, we ordered a tomato salad that they didn't have in the restaurant, but they sent, in a fast way, an employee to the buffet, in order to bring us the tomato... The afternoon was again devoted to the spectacular beach and, in the evening, we decided it was time to try Toscana (an Italian restaurant). Once again a lot of quality in the dishes presented and the restaurant had impeccable decoration. In conclusion, everything was flawless, at the end of the second day.
It was time to visit Playa del Carmen, a town about 19 km from the hotel (the Catalonia Playa Maroma is located between Playa del Carmen and Puerto Morelos, in the south of Cancún), a journey that takes between 20 and 30 minutes. It used to be a fishing village, but with the development of tourism it has grown and, according to the locals, in a few years it will be bigger than Cancún. Currently, 5th avenue is the busiest in Playa del Carmen and is full of shops, a paradise for souvenirs and where you can find many American stores, my sister's dream...
So, the next day, we got up early again, saw the magnificent sunrise, took a dip in the pool, and had the chance to observe a squirrel running away, between coconut trees, from one of the blackbirds that always walked along the beach and we continued for breakfast, always in a good mood. Around 9:00 a.m., we called a taxi (around 760 Mexican pesos for a round trip - around 38 euros) and, at 9:30 a.m., we were in Playa del Carmen (if you prefer, you can take a transfer next to the road, which will be cheaper, but be aware that the path between the hotel lobby and the road is still relatively long and along a road in the middle of the tropical jungle!... It's up to you, but personally, I think it's preferable to call a taxi since I was carrying a heavy backpack and it was unbearable heat...). It was soon agreed that, around 1:00 p.m., we would meet again in the same place to return to the hotel. It was my second time in Playa del Carmen and honestly 5th avenue seemed even bigger... there are hundreds of stores along the entire avenue! Here we can find the most different types of souvenirs or branded clothing in the new shopping centers. The three and a half hours we had there seemed a lot of time at first, but we actually had to hurry. There are several large stores with souvenirs, but they all end up having more or less the same products, while the brand stores are many (and some repeated, for example, there are at least 3 Nike stores in this street), but very expensive and many of them with little interest. In short, Playa del Carmen is becoming more and more focused on tourism, which inflates prices and makes the town no longer typical, as I remembered it. Still, it's a place to visit. In terms of security, there are frequent shootings, almost always related to drug traffic. For example, when we arrived at the designated place to take the taxi back to the hotel, a municipal police pick-up truck passed us at high speed towards the busiest area, where we had been just moments ago. Later, we got to know that there had been another shooting... and deaths...
In the afternoon, it was all about the beach, volleyball (exciting games with people of various nationalities, from Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, Mexican, and North American, where the good mood always prevailed), and the foam party in the pool. Honestly, this foam party didn't surprise me. The hotel pool seemed to have a strange structure from the beginning... stairs in the middle of the water, spots with a depth of 2.35 meters (which was a bit unpleasant, since the pool was not that big), and a floor made of cement, which was not very comfortable. In addition, the water was extremely hot (I dare say that it would not be very far from 40ºC). Undoubtedly, it was one of the negative points of the hotel. Furthermore, they sent the foam to an area where there were stairs and there was not much emotion. Also, the animation team was very weak. I've been to hotels where the animation was simply spectacular, like in Bayahibe (at the Iberostar Hacienda Dominicus) or in Brazil (at the Iberostar Bahia), but this animation was not surprising. Everyone didn't show much energy, didn´t convince anyone to participate in the games and sometimes it even seemed like they were there obliged... volleyball and several team games, on my last day, were the only fun activities! There was still time to try some crepes and ice cream from the creperie by the pool... excellent!
In the evening, it was time to try Tio Pedro (the Mexican restaurant), where they presented us with a wide range of traditional Mexican dishes that were completely unknown to us (be careful with the spicy) and with traditional music. Once again a good surprise, the combination of colors, aromas and flavors, the atmosphere, and live music (every day in the 4 themed restaurants) were factors that contributed to dinner with refinement, good mood, and very pleasant!
The next day we started by trying breakfast at Terrace Tapas (a Spanish restaurant). There are no words to describe the feeling of having breakfast with a panoramic view of that beach full of coconut trees and turquoise blue waters... Regarding the food, it was 5 stars, but for those who don't like to eat eggs for breakfast, bacon and other foods of the same type, you end up not having much choice (they have one or two lighter dishes available like fruit or cheese but it's not enough). Anyway, if you are not satisfied, you can always choose to go to the buffet instead...)! After breakfast, I went to talk to the gardeners... I was in the mood for fresh coconuts, picked at the moment! With great sympathy, they immediately went to get a bamboo cane and with three or four blows the coconuts fell from the trees... Then it was just a matter of opening them with a machete, placing a straw, and enjoying that spectacular flavor... it resulted in a huge photo session on the beach with the coconuts and my family... hahahah!
Later, it was time to try out the water sports offered by the hotel: catamarans and kayaks. For each room, we could use the catamaran for half an hour a day and the kayaks for an hour a day. For those who don't know how to ride a catamaran, for 39 dollars an instructor will teach you the essentials to be able to go around and have fun in this paradise. In our case, Captain Pena (my father) took us to sail by catamaran in the Caribbean Sea.... it was fantastic although I think he needs some more lessons... (LOL) The rest of the day was spent hanging out enjoying the beach and some natural juices at the Ma Loo bar right next to the beach!
At night, we decided it was time to try the last themed restaurant! The Terrace Tapas, but... Honestly, it was the worst dinner of all! For breakfast and lunch, the dishes were very good and served with what I call the Caribbean charm. But, at dinner, we were served what they called tapas, but they were nothing like real tapas! Out of 16, yes 16... dishes that were served to us, only 4/5 were actually tasty... the others weren't surprising... but we were already tired and in the end, we went straight to our room.
Another day, another wonderful sunrise on the beach... and we went for another walk. This time to the left side of the beach towards the Iberostar Hotel. Along the way we passed an unfinished hotel and then some corals... for my surprise in that area, the seawater must have been minus 5ºC that in our hotel beach!! Continuing, when arriving at the Iberostar beach we can again verify that the Catalonia beach was MUCH superior... In fact, for anyone looking for a perfect beach, Catalonia Playa Maroma is a must. However, for those who prefer swimming pools, the Iberostar will certainly be a better option...
Before lunch, I still had time to take a catamaran ride, but this time with a friend I met in Mexico, Sara, with whom I was lucky to have fun and go on great kayak and catamaran rides every morning! The wind was weak but even so, she had the dexterity and ability to provide us with incredible moments! All the water sports staff were super friendly with the exception of a French woman who was a little arrogant, not believing that we could manage the boat correctly... (it was enough to know the maritime feats of the Portuguese to have looked at Sara with other eyes ...)
Also during the morning, there was a small party on the beach with music, dancing, and food... an interesting show. The afternoon was again spent on the beach, with the company of many natural juices and great volleyball games!
Another day, another sunrise in this paradise, and more catamaran and kayak trips with my sister, Sara, her father, and brother! Incredible moments, where we rowed to the corals and enjoyed the magic of this place, where we saw the fish swimming among the corals and enjoyed the unique atmosphere of this place... just fun!! The rest of the day was spent on the beach, with great dives and lots of entertainment!
On our last night, we were offered a night party on the beach, with lots of music and lots of entertainment! There was even time to explore the closest hotel (the Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa) with Sara! A great looking like hotel and, from what I thought, quite exclusive. In the end, we still had to run away because we were caught by a security guard.... hahahah!
The next day, there was the last sunrise (I miss you so much!!!!), the last dives, the last photos, the last volleyball games, the last walks by the sea, and finally some fun games organized by the animation team! It was the farewell to paradise and see you soon...
Still, on the last day (me and Sara) we decided to visit the abandoned hotel that could be seen in the background... We went for a morning run along the beach. It wasn't easy to get there since there was a lot of vegetation and plants with thorns that stuck in your feet.... but we managed to get there... Empty pools, fantastic views from the second floor, and lots of iguanas were some of the details that jumped out of sight throughout the visit, with some setbacks! For example, we went up a staircase and when we got there, we thought we heard a person! They were exciting and suspenseful moments, but, in the end, it was just seabirds that also flew around. ahahaha!
One of the few negative points of this hotel was the fact that on the last day, we were forced to shower in the pool showers and change clothes in one of the bathrooms, after being informed that supposedly they had a room available before our departure. The hotel does not have an area intended or prepared for those who want to enjoy it until the end, having only one courtesy room that is a solution for half a dozen of people, forcing other guests to get dressed at lunchtime before an intercontinental flight. .. which takes place at night... Around 5:30 p.m., we headed to Cancun International Airport. We took off without delay, around 21:30 (3:30 in Portugal). The flight was calm, without much turbulence but I managed to see some lightning (I thought it was spectacular to be able to observe that phenomenon from above)! We were served dinner and breakfast during the flight and on the 31st of July, around 12:30 in Portugal, we landed in Lisbon!
In short: A very nice and small hotel which makes it more exclusive. It was a good surprise! The beach is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the world! For those who want to travel to an all-inclusive beach destination without confusion, this is the ideal place! In addition to the beach, Mexico is a country that has a lot to visit, but, in my opinion, to see the majority of the interior and enjoy the beach, the ideal is to go for more than a week. Otherwise, you will end up not fully enjoying the beach or you will not get to know much of the interior of this magnificent country.
*The pictures are taken by me and do not present any type of edition.