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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Trip Report - Akumal Bay Beach & Wellness Resort, Mexico

When Matt and I travel, it's usually not exactly relaxing. We generally like to explore new places like San Diego, Iceland or Nashville, and end up walking or driving a lot. Or we go to Las Vegas which is always fun and exciting but not exactly restorative.  

We took this picture right in front of our resort!

This time we decided to indulge our love of swimming and snorkeling and visit an all inclusive resort. We did some research and looked for places that had good snorkeling right off the beach so we wouldn't have to take excursions away from the resort to snorkel. We read about Akumal Bay, which means "place of the turtles" in Mayan. It's a sea turtle feeding ground and nesting area, and the bay is generally always calm enough for snorkeling right off the beach.  We couldn't say no to snorkeling with sea turtles so we booked it!

We stayed at Akumal Bay Beach & Wellness Resort, which is a small all-inclusive resort in the Mayan Riviera near Playa del Carmen between Cancun and Tulum.

The resort is small with only around 300 rooms in four 3-story buildings, and all the rooms are oceanfront. Each room is a junior suite with a king or two double beds, a couch, and a balcony or terrace with a hot tub. 

We were lucky to be upgraded to a penthouse suite with a private rooftop terrace with a hot tub.  It was too hot for us up there during the day but we liked to use it at night to listen to the ocean and look at the stars. 

There's one large main pool and three small plunge pools, one in front of each building.

The beach is great.  There is excellent snorkeling right off the beach at one end, and at the other end it's rocky but quiet and relaxing. 

We snorkeled almost every day and saw a dozen sea turtles, a stingray and tons of fish and coral. 

Beachfront sushi bar

But what about the food? 

One worry we had about an all-inclusive resort was that the food wouldn't be very good but we were pleasantly surprised!  This resort has a buffet open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with great fresh bread and fruit plus American and Mexican food. We ate breakfast and lunch there most days but didn't try the dinner buffet because there are four a la carte restaurants you can eat at for dinner as many times as you like without reservations.  Occasionally we had to wait a few minutes for a table, but we could usually get a seat right away.

First we tried the Mexican restaurant called Alux.

We really enjoyed the food at this restaurant.  There's a set menu where you can order an appetizer, soup, entree and dessert. We didn't always have room for four courses so we just ordered what we felt like. Matt loved the burrito appetizer, and the fresh fish grilled with pineapple was delicious. There was a nice seafood ceviche and a soup called sunflower xotchitl broth that was similar to tortilla soup. We really liked this restaurant and ate there twice.

The gourmet restaurant is called K'ooben.

They had some very interesting items on the menu, all beautifully presented. To start we enjoyed a specialty cocktail and amuse bouche.  Both the boulliabaisse and vichyssoise soups were fantastic. The hot broth was poured over the seafood tableside. We tried duck canneloni, veal breast and chicken as our entrees, and they had beautiful desserts as well. 

There is a Japanese/Peruvian restaurant as well, called Lak iin.

We really loved the service and food here. They had an amazing sea and jungle maki roll wrapped in caramelized plantain, Peruvian potato balls topped with bites of seafood, lovely soups and shrimp curry, and I really enjoyed the bass and roasted octopus dish. With our dessert we enjoyed tequila añejo which is aged tequila that is so smooth and delicious!

There's a Brazilian steakhouse called Rodizio where servers bring around roasted meats on swords and serve you all you can eat. We didn't take pictures here, but it was great. It's a lot of meat though!

There's also the beachside sushi bar and a 24-hour snack bar that serves burgers, snacks and fresh-made pizza any time. 

We were really surprised and impressed with the quality of the food, and the service was great everywhere.  We'd order cappuccino every morning from the lobby bar and cocktails are available any time. There's even a mini-bar fridge in the room stocked with soda, water, beer and snacks that's refilled daily and part of the all-inclusive price.  You can also order room service any time, but we didn't try that option. 

There are lots of excursions available from the resort: shopping in Playa del Carmen, trips to Cozumel or the ruins in Tulum, and snorkeling excursions. We were thinking of going to a snorkeling park called Xel-Ha that has a lagoon, ziplines, and all sorts of activities, but our resort recommended a different lagoon called Yal-Ku that's very close by and said it has way more fish to see and is much less expensive, so we were in!

You can walk from the resort to the lagoon in about 45 minutes, but it was hot out so we walked to the town of Akumal which is only about 10 minutes from the resort, along the beach, and rented a golf cart for the day for $40 USD.  It was a great way to get there.  The road is scenic and safe and there's no way to get lost. It took about 20 minutes to get to the lagoon and costs only $14 USD per person for the whole day.  You can rent snorkel equipment, but we brought our own. They also rent lockers and cabanas. We got a locker but the cabana was unnecessary because we spent all day in the water. 

There were so many fish to see! The lagoon is calm and safe and has many nooks to explore. We wore rash guards, a long-sleeved swim shirt that protects from sunburn and scrapes against the rocks. 

We also have an underwater camera, obviously, that takes pictures and video underwater.

Yal-ku has beautiful grounds with paths through the jungle and sea-related statues.  There are stairs to get into the lagoon which makes it easy for kids. It's actually perfect for inexperienced snorkelers, because it's shallow, calm and safe with tons to see.  I highly recommend this place!

On the way back we parked the golf cart at La Buena Vida on Half Moon Bay. We were shocked to find local craft beer on tap, so of course Matt had to give it a try. They had a nice IPA he really liked. 

We had some Mayan pulled pork tacos, fish tacos and beer overlooking the water. It's a great spot with friendly service. 

It was a great excursion for a very reasonable price. 

We had a great time at this resort. Swimming with the turtles and fish was an amazing experience.  It was so relaxing and it was great to come home from vacation refreshed instead of exhausted like we usually are. I don't think we'll travel this way all the time - there's so much more to see and eat and drink in the world - but we'd definitely go back to Akumal and to this resort.  

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