• Personal,  Travel Eye Candy

    First Family Vacation to Sandos Playacar ~ Part 2

    Yesterday, I posted the first part of our first ever family tropical adventure to Sandos Playacar Resort & Spa in the Mayan Riviera. Check it out HERE. I’m posting a ton of pictures for those who are also researching the resort and want some visual eye candy and tips.

    There was so much to see and do at Sandos.

    We spent most of our days lounging and swimming under swaying palm trees at the main pool.

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    My kids loved the mini golf which snaked it’s way into an eco sanctuary under the canopy of vegetation where monkeys would jump from tree to tree, iguana’s would scurry past, and the sounds of a peacock floated in the humid breeze. Check out the archery and tennis courts as well.

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    tip: climb up the treehouse, and there’s a couple of comfy seats up there to relax in and read a book.

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    Beside the mini golf in the La Bambola bar, there is THE BEST Crepe station filled with the ingredients of your choice made by the kindest woman named Rosalinda. She was so good to my kids, and they came back often, thank you!

    Tip: Try Nutella or Chocolate with peanut butter topped with soft ice cream. So good!

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    We booked a Hacienda suite so all 5 of us could stay together (2 double beds, and a pullout, there’s also a 2 bedroom option). The Hacienda’s are a block of 8 suites centrally located with shared access to a private pool, hot tub, and swinging hammocks. We felt like we had our very own pool, as it wasn’t occupied by other families most of the time.

    Tip: there are golf cart transports around the resort if your room is further away from the beach.

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    If you need some further relaxation, book a massage either in the Spa or right on the beach. There’s also a gym by the spa if you’d rather work than relax 😉 The trainer there is very helpful and will give you tips/advice on your workout.

    Tip: before you go for your massage, visit their steam room and hot tubs.

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    The entrance to the spa…

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    I had read that it’s a bit of a walk from some of the rooms to the beach. I loved every second of the walk and often took the long way through trails of lush green vegetation greeted by the sounds of monkeys and birds. This trip may have cured my illogical fear of birds 😉

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    Another favourite part for my kids was the cupcake cafe and the Teen club (next to the meeting point). I think they ate their weight in cupcakes and enjoyed the arcade in the evening.

    Tip: try the “Michael Jackson” cupcake, the cheesecake, fresh fruit smoothie, and the iced mocha coffee.

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    If you are looking for something to do Ocean side, try the daily Zumba, beach volley ball, collect seashells, enjoy some drinks & food at the Bagel Cafe, or kick back for a siesta on a lounging bed while you listen to the gentle ocean waves.

    Tip: try the Miami Vice slushy drink or order a Dirty Monkey

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    The food! There were many options to eat from Buffets to a la Carte. We loved the food there. You will never ever go hungry. Like ever. Breakfast was our favourite and kept us going right until supper.

    Tip: Try the Brazilian and the Steakhouse a la carte, and if it’s busy at the Festival buffet, go around the corner to the Italian buffet where you have access to both buffets (they are connected). We loved the atmosphere at the Italian Buffet.

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    The entrance to the Italian buffet…

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    I saw this on my walk, and I assume it’s used to cook.

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    We checked out bikes one day (included in your all-inclusive) and road them to the local market in Playacar which is very close (there’s even a Starbucks at the market).

    Tip: We found just as many treasures at the Playacar market than at 5th Avenue in Playa Del Carmen. I enjoyed the no-hassle atmosphere of the smaller Playacar market and the bike ride there was so pretty.

    Our biking trip before and after…My husband was so excited to find the biggest fishing hat, I laughed all the way home watching that big hat flop around in the breeze. ha!

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    In the evening there are shows to enjoy in the Theatre or by the Festival buffet.

    Tip: Check out the Circus show, we absolutely loved it.

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    We ended our trip with a family photo shoot on the beach at sunset. Because I’m a photographer, we asked someone to take a photo for us, but there is a Photoshop there with great photographers who are excited to capture your family experience. What’s a family vacation without photos to remember it?

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    There’s so much more you can do in Mexico that we didn’t even get to in our week there. We will definitely be back to explore some more!

    Thank you to the wonderful staff at Sandos Playacar, you made our stay perfectly memorable. I will always treasure ever memory we made there as a family.

    If you want to book yourself a little trip, check out their website: http://www.sandos.com/hotel-playacar-in-playa-del-carmen.htm

    or find them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Sandos.Playacar.Resort?ref=br_tf

    From my happy heart to yours,

    Christine

  • Personal,  Travel Eye Candy

    Our First Tropical Family Vacation to Sandos Playacar Mexico ~ Part 1

    Living under a direct flight path near the Edmonton International Airport in snowy cold Alberta, I see many planes fly overhead everyday and I always wonder what magical destination they are flying to. We have happily dropped off many a family friend to the airport, yet our family of 5 has dreamed of our very own tropical vacation as we have never travelled outside of Canada together. We finally saved our pennies, and as our oldest son will be 18 this year, we figured 2014 was our year to fly. I’m a researcher (it’s annoying really), and for weeks I researched different resorts and destinations. I quickly realized it’s no small task finding a nice yet affordable resort that is family-of-5 friendly. Most resorts tailor their room bookings to maximum occupancy 4 (thank you Tanya Schneider, at Fareconnect for all your help). Our friends recommended Sandos Palyacar, a convenient 40 minute drive from beautiful and sunny Cancun, Mexico. I spent weeks pouring over reviews and searching for photos. This is the main reason for this lengthly post, in hopes other families will find it useful in their research.

    After much annoying research, I was confident that Sandos Playacar was a perfect fit for our family as there are many activities for our kids (ages 9, 12, and 17) plus lots of perks for us adults too. We booked a Hacienda suite for all 5 of us, which included a smaller pool, hot tub, and hammocks right outside our door (shared pool space with 8 other suites, but we mostly had it to ourselves). My kids were over the moon excited, they have never been on a plane or dipped their toes in an ocean. We needed this time together as a family.

    Finally, the much dreamed about day arrived, and we travelled to the airport through a typical Alberta spring blizzard. My kids giggled in their seat as our plane took off. My daughter wrote a special entry in her journal during the flight…

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    Five and half hours later we arrived and the heat hit us like a warm welcoming hug defrosting the Alberta icicles of our soul (we’ve had a loooooong winter, no exaggeration). The sun was setting as we travelled to Sandos Playacar, the palm trees were gently swaying in the humid hot breeze and we pulled up to the resort.

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    Check in was quick and we were all served something cool to drink. We were whisked off to our “Hacienda” via a lively little golf cart ride. It was dark at that point, so the next morning carried with it so much eye candy this photographer geek didn’t know what to do with herself.

    We awoke to the sounds of birds of paradise as beams of sunlight flooded our room. My husband and I enjoyed a fresh cup of hot coffee on our patio as the kids quickly wiped the sleep out of their eyes and jumped into the little pool outside our room.

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    Palm trees, coconuts, pools filled with happy families, mayan ruins, a peacock, monkeys, donkeys, papaya trees, vibrant flowers, and the most pristine beautiful white sandy beach along the crystal clear blue green ocean awaited us just a few sandy steps away.

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    Peacock WEB

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    The first thing we did was take our kids to see the ocean.

    This moment right here? My kids very first toes in the sand ocean wave experience…

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    Yay I have long arms, they come in handy…

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    We quickly learned the staff at the Sandos Playacar resort are very kind, friendly and helpful. We booked an excursion through the resort with “Mystic Adventure” to see 2 Cenotes via Quads. The word “Cenote” is derived from the Mayan word “dzonot” which means sacred well.  A cenote is a natural phenomenon, a fresh water sink hole that the ancient Mayan civilization used as their main source of fresh water. The Mayans also believed the Cenotes had healing properties and considered many of them to be sacred; an portal to the underworld to communicate with the Gods.

    The first Cenote we quadded to was small, refreshing, and beautiful.  A private paradise in the middle of the jungle rich in history and meaning.

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    The second Cenote we went too is called “Dos Ojos” meaning “two eyes”. It’s actually two circular cenotes which provides many areas to scuba dive, snorkel, swim, and explore under a canopy of limestone. It was amazing!

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    I wasn’t sure how my 9 year old daughter would do with her first snorkelling experience, but I should never have doubted her, she did great.

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    We all loved it, definitely one of the highlights of our trip.

    We attempted an underwater family shot…

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    After noticing our family flailing around in the water with a camera, our tour guide offered to get in the water and take one for us 🙂

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    After enjoying a hot tamale we headed back to our resort to explore even more that Sandos has to offer.

    Read more about Sandos Playacar in PART 2 of our family adventure: click HERE 🙂

    From my happy heart to yours,

    Christine

  • Just for fun,  Love,  Personal,  Photography,  Travel Eye Candy

    Couples Negril, Jamaica Part two

    A follow up from my first post about our time at “Couples Negril” in beautiful Jamaica.  You know when someone returns from a trip and they invite you over for a slide-show of pictures complete with stories for each one?  I’ve become that girl, only I’ll use this blog so you don’t even have to pretend to be listening to me if you don’t want to… 😉  I can’t help it, I’ve spent many months in a sea of white snow so seeing colour was mighty delicious.  I took so many pictures!  Every where I looked there were so many interesting lines, tones, colours, and character.   There was joy to my right, peace to my left, and love all around.

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    This group of men had so much character! They played during supper time with so much joy, and you couldn’t help but smile through every song they played.

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    In the morning, I would go sit on our little terrace and enjoy the yummy golden light of the morning while listening to the soft waves from the ocean.  Here’s some views that were only steps from our little terrace.

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    This is a lime tree.  The staff would come every morning to pick limes to add to the drinks.

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    One morning a nice grounds keeper named Aaron asked if I wanted to try some coconut milk.  After nodding yes (while sporting sticky-uppy morning hair I might add) he climbed a tree and brought me a coconut.    He quickly whipped out his pocket knife and expertly cut away at the coconut until there was a nice little hole to sip the milk through a straw.  It was refreshing and sweet.  Little tip for future visitors to the resort: if you take your coconut to the bar, they will fill it with coconut Rum…Yummmm.

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    On our third day there, my hubby and I booked Swedish couple’s massages.  We chose to have our massages in the Tree House with views and sounds of the ocean.  I’ve secretly always wanted a tree house (as kids my little sister and I spent countless hours trying to build our own…it was pathetic) so the ambiance was greatly appreciated even though I had my relaxed eyes closed for most of it!  🙂

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    On the first day I walked by this tree stump, it was just a tree stump.  It magically grew a face by the next day.

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    This was another favourite view.

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    Mmmmmm…food.  There’s a reason I returned home and wasn’t hungry for days.

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    Another view of the stair case I fell in love with.  Love, love, love the lines.

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    One of the resort photographers who, if I remember correctly, told me she has been a resort photographer for over 15 years…now that’s a good gig!  🙂

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    Part of the all-inclusive package included at Couples Negril resort is the option to go on water excursions.  We booked the glass-bottom boat tour which was really interesting.

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    They took us to a choral reef which you can also visit via scuba diving (next trip we will scuba for sure).

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    Do you see the goat in the window?  A 1/2 hour later when our boat traveled by again he was still in the window.

    On our last night we booked a Catamaran excursion….a.k.a the “Booze Cruise”.  One rum punch will have you giggling if you can get through the initial sip.  Two rum punches will have you seeing double, and the third will knock you on your tanned tush.

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    I asked our bartender for the trip if I could take his picture and this is what he did.  Then he admired my hubby’s “Canadian” hat.  My hubby gave it to him.  I hope he wears it!

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    The boat stopped so we could swim into these caves or take a ride down the water slide on the boat.  For a small fee, you could climb up and jump from the top of the caves into the crystal clear waters below. I was not so brave.  See the splash to the right in the picture below?  I guess someone took the plunge, but I missed it.

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    I had hoped to see someone getting married at the resort.  As we were sitting on the wicker swing awaiting our taxi to take us to the airport to fly home, I looked down and there they were…a bride and groom just married.  Love, love, love.

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    This was the last picture I took.  The sun was setting as the airplane took off to return home.  The bright sunset shone through the plane window.  Ahhhhh…it was a great vacation.  Have you booked your trip yet?