Monday, May 31, 2010

Mexican Dreaming (Part III)

The last stop we made on our cruise through the Mexican Riviera was Puerto Vallarta.

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Puerto Vallarta was unique to me out of the three ports due to the fact that the land beyond the beach was green and lush. We chose to book one of the excursions through our ship, taking us on an early morning catamaran ride to Mahajuitas for snorkeling, then to a little fishing village called Yelapa. The village is only accessible by boat so it is free of crowds. More on Yelapa later.

We got up really early for the boat ride out of port. It was a beautiful morning, and it felt good to have the fresh sea air whipping across my body. We stopped along the way to view two islands covered in birds. Pelicans & blue-footed boobies were in abundance. These islands were also very stinky.

Bird Heaven

A Home for the Birds


Our next stop was Mahajuitas where we went snorkeling. Despite seeing jellyfish everywhere, I took the plunge, and boy was I rewarded. Our guide dove down to the bottom and picked up a blow fish. Of course it inflated itself instantly. It was almost the size of a basketball! He also found a spiny puffer fish. They were both very stunning creatures. Not too long after that we saw a school of at least 50 manta rays cruising along the ocean floor. It was definitely a tremendous sight! David and I took photos that I'll post as soon as I get my hands on them. It was definitely one of the best snorkeling experiences that I've had.

Our last stop of the tour was Yelapa, the fishing village that I mentioned earlier. The plan was to hike up through the village to a waterfall in the rainforest. There were some beautiful sights along the way.

Yelapa Harbor
Harbor in Yelapa.

Kafferboom Tree
A Kafferboom tree.

Part of Yelapa

David captured this cute little puppy along the way.

Blankets for Sale
More blankets for sale.

Rainforest Wonder
An incredible tree.

Daily Life
The way of life in Yelapa.

Yelapa Waterfall
Yelapa Waterfall.

Coconut Palm
Coconut palm.

David in Yelapa
David, exploring Yelapa.

We spent a little bit of time at Yelapa Waterfall and then continued on our journey to the beach. I got a sneak preview along the way...

Yelapa Beach

When we got to the beach, I walked around for a while, finding plenty of stuff to shoot. It wasn't crowded, and turquoise waters crashed against the coarse sand on the shore. Plenty of beach chairs were spread out, just waiting to be occupied.


Yelapa Village

Mexican Paradise


David and I took a seat to enjoy two of our favorite Mexican beverages, relaxed, and played in the water until it was time to leave.

Cocktails of Choice

Water Taxi in Yelapa

On the ride back, the catamaran turned into a party boat. The bar was open, the music was rockin', and the sun was shining. It was definitely an amazing way to end our exploration of the Mexican Riviera. So until my next adventure...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Mexican Dreaming (Part II)

Cabo was great, but who needs the tourists, right? So we stopped by Mazatlán. Mazatlán is Mexico's largest commercial port, also with some very good beaches...but you have to find them. The view from our cruise ship of this port wasn't quite as welcoming as the view in Cabo.

View of Mazatlán
Where do we begin?

My mom, the vacation research guru, had found a review recommending Stone Island. As soon as we got off of the ship we were again bombarded by locals offering taxi rides to the beach. We chose to keep walking and left the safe haven of the tourist shopping center. We started off with a quick walk on a sidewalk just outside of the terminal. Instantly, I became uneasy. Barbed wire lined fences, and strange looks were plentiful. I was definitely out of my comfort zone. We reached the water and saw several fishing boats lining the shore. One man was filling buckets full of bloody water and tossing it out of his boat! Of course I was thinking the worst at this point because there were no other tourists around besides me, David, Allison & Bryan. (I later found out that there were several sharks lining the beach so the bloody water was just a product of shark fishing.) We came upon a run down little yellow building offering water taxi rides to Stone Island for $2. Sounds like my kinda price, but I was still a little sketched out from the blood incident. Allison & Bryan bought their tickets first, so David and I followed after we realized everything was probably safe enough. We all boarded into a worn little boat and headed off to Stone Island. When we arrived, and cautiously walked up the dock, we were standing on top of a dusty jetty.

Water Taxi
Our boat to Stone Island.

Mexican Fishing Boats
Fishing boats...from a safe distance.

Mariner of the Seas from Stone Island
Far away from our ship.

ATVs and Pizza

Much to our surprise, there was a long, beautiful, mostly empty beach on the other side. The water was so beautiful and blue, I couldn't wait to dive in! We walked a ways down the shore until we found a suitable place to camp out for the day.


Do people actually use this boat??

Golden Sand
Golden sand.

Clear Waters

When we stopped, we were instantly greeted by several vendors...again. I had to get a few shots of these guys just because it's so ridiculous to me. Why would I want to buy a giant, thick Mexican blanket while sitting on the beach in 95 degree weather? Or how about a kite that has Superman parachuting on the end of it? That's an authentic Mexican good if I've ever seen one...God bless them for trying to make a living in such a difficult way though...

Want to Buy a Purse?

....or a Superman kite?

Vendor on the Beach

The highlight of the day? I'd definitely have to say the banana boat ride. You see, the thing that amazes me about Mexico is that pretty much anything goes. In the States, liability waivers have to be signed, there are restrictions, etc. But in Mexico, if you want to sit at the bow of a catamaran and take on the risk of potentially falling off, nobody's gonna stop you. If you want to take a banana boat out into the middle of the ocean and risk being devoured by sharks if you flip over, all the power to you. So we decided to go for it. Banana boat rides are pretty popular in most vacation destinations, but this was my first time on one. It's essentially a big cylinder shaped blow up boat with handles on it that you straddle. It literally does look like a banana. We were dragged all the way out to the rock formation visible in the previous photographs. When the boat driver turned around, the rope went under our "boat" and we flipped! He didn't help us or anything, it was pure teamwork to get all four of us back up on that thing. Luckily, sharks left us alone and we were all safely back on the shore within a few minutes. Although, safe isn't necessarily the word considering there were Portuguese Man-o-Wars (jellylike marine invertebrates with a powerful sting) all over the place. You don't want to touch one of those!

Finally, we decided it to call it a day and head back to the dock to get picked up. As I was walking back, I noticed an old beater car -- with a Washington license plate! What the hell??

Washington Plates??

We hopped in the rickety boat and were back to the port in no time.

More Taxis

Water Taxi Port
The water taxi dock.

What a day! As unwelcoming as it seemed at first, Mazatlán turned out to be a great destination! The beach on Stone Island was one of my favorites. The tourists were few and far between and I was able to relax and play in the water without the hustle and bustle of resorts nearby.

Next stop: Puerto Vallarta

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mexican Dreaming (Part I)

I love summer, and I love TRAVELING! Finally I got the opportunity to get out of Jackson to search for some sunshine and warmth. This past week my family (including David, and Allison's boyfriend Bryan) went on a cruise to Mexico. It was absolutely fabulous. Of course I was incredibly excited to take my camera along so that I could get some shots of something that wasn't cold and snowy. We visited three ports, so I will begin with stories of Cabo San Lucas.

On May 15, David and I packed up our stuff and headed down to Los Angeles, California. We spent a night in San Pedro before our ship took off the next day. We were all incredibly excited to board our floating home for the week, Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas.

On the plane.

Prepared for Travel

Allison & Bryan
Allison & Bryan on the way to the ship.

Mariner of the Seas
Home for a week.

After we boarded, it was time to check out our living quarters. We all had indoor staterooms with views of the Promenade, the ship's gigantic interior, complete with bars, restaurants and shops. It was the perfect way to people watch.

Room for a Week
David checking out the view.

The Promenade
The Promenade.

David and I couldn't wait to start celebrating so we bellied up to the bar at the Wig & Gavel. We instantly befriend the bartender, Dillon, who was from Jamaica. He gave us free drinks. What a great start to the trip! Next we went up to the top deck to watch the ship sail out of the cloudy San Pedro port into much sunnier skies. The area around was super industrial. I couldn't wait to get to those secluded beaches much further south.

San Pedro Port

Sail Away


Me & my camera.

The next day was spent at sea, enjoying the sunshine by the pool. There wasn't much to do besides lounge around and drink fruity beverages to that's exactly what we did. That night we had dinner in the beautiful dining room.

Dining Room

The next morning we arrived at our first port, Cabo San Lucas. The city is located at the tip of the Baja California peninsula and is a popular place for spring breakers and tourists. It's known for its beautiful rock arch El Arco de Cabo San Lucas and white sandy beaches. The weather was warm and sunny.

View Larger Map

Classic Cabo Rocks
The famous rock formations of Cabo San Lucas.

Don't Look at Me

City of Cabo San Lucas
The city of Cabo.


We walked around the city for a while to try and find Medano Beach. We were instantly bombarded by Mexicans working in the tourism industry, offering to take us to "The Arch" in a "glass bottom boat". We did our best to ignore and continued on our journey. About halfway around the harbor, Bryan was just strolling along when one of the locals shoved a small iguana at him. Bryan thought it was cool and my mom took a picture of him. Should have known better. The guy started following us asking for a tip. I later found out that it's completely illegal for the locals to be doing that because iguanas are endangered. They should be up in the trees in their natural habitat, not being tossed around by tourists. Lesson learned.

We reached the other end of the harbor and saw some fins poking out of the glassy water. A seal! First animal of the trip :)


Finally we made it Medano beach where we were looking to rent sea kayaks so that we could go to Lover's Beach, which is a small beach tucked into the famous rock formations. The kayak prices seemed a bit steep so we settled for one of those glass bottom boats. We were all excited to get away from the stressful atmosphere at Medano Beach. Vendors were coming at us left and right, selling us anything from necklaces to giant glass salad bowls (that the lady was wearing!).

We got to the beach finally, spread out our towels, and went exploring. One side of the beach is the Sea of Cortez, which is safe for swimming, and the other side is the Pacific Ocean side, which had massive, dangerous waves. Still, the rock formations were absolutely stunning and it was so peaceful just to sit and watch the waves crash onto the shore.

Lover's Beach.

Pacific waves.

Lover's Beach on the Pacific side. Complete solitude.

It's always a good time for a back tuck!

David & me on the beach.

Playing in the waves.

Soon, our sunburns were telling us it was time to go, and we packed up our stuff to wait for our water taxi back to the harbor. Sure enough, "The Bad Boy" (the name of our boat), decided to show up 20 minutes late. I'm pretty sure that he did it on purpose so that we would get worried and take another company so that we would have to pay again. Patience paid off though, and he ended up coming around. Oh and for the record, if you ever go to Mexico and they offer to take you on a glass bottom boat tour, don't think for a second that you will be able to see anything out of the glass bottom. You are moving to fast and the water is too deep and cloudy to see any sea life. Plus the glass bottom is nothing more than a small window with lots of scratches on it. Go snorkeling instead.

Our final stop was at a restaurant where we all quenched our thirst with Pacificos and margaritas. Best deal I've ever seen: A beer and a shot of tequila for $3! Of course that will get you drunk pretty fast, but what does it matter when you're just going back to a ship? They also had some of the best guacamole and pico de gallo I've ever tasted.


Next stop: Mazatlán.