Honeymoon in Mexico
Secrets Akumal, Riviera Maya
What better first trip to write than about my honeymoon? It was by far the most relaxing vacation I have ever been on. Unlike most of my trips, I left all the planning up to Bryant for this one. He looked at a whole bunch of different options, including Hawaii, Costa Rica, Jamaica, St. Lucia and of course, Mexico. A lot of people seemed surprised when we told them we chose to honeymoon in Mexico, but it was honestly the best all-around decision for what we wanted to do. It checked all the boxes:
»Beautiful beaches with white sand and clear water
»Opportunities to go zip lining
»Potential to explore a new city (Cancun or Playa del Carmen)
»All-inclusive without being outrageously expensive
*I know Mexico has a bad rap for being dangerous, and in a lot of the country that may be deserved, but definitely not where we were.
After we settled on Mexico, we started looking at resort options. We wanted to relax harder than we have ever relaxed in our lives. After planning a wedding, I had no desire to cook, clean, or really do anything except lay on the beach with a drink in my hand. After reading hundreds of reviews and comparing dozens of prices, we finally decided on a Secrets Resort in Akumal, Mexico, about 65 miles south of Cancun. Secrets Resorts are similar to Sandals resorts, but they are a lot less expensive, and tend to be newer. We ended up booking through Cheap Carribbean because they were able to package airfare in for a great price. Altogether, the total for hotel and direct flights round trip came to about $3,400 for 6 nights. When comparing that to some of the other places we considered, it seemed like a steal. I wouldn’t say that Bryant and I are penny pinchers, but we are all about making the most of the money we spend, so we were pretty happy with that price. Instead of booking our transportation ahead of time, we decided to wing it once we landed in Cancun in an attempt to save some money. That worked out for us; transportation wasn’t hard to find, and after paying for a bus ride from Cancun to Playa del Carmen, a taxi ride from Playa del Carmen to Akumal and back, a zip lining excursion and all of our souvenir shopping, our total came to only about $3,900.
And it was worth every penny.
We arrived well before check in and without any paperwork confirming our reservation whatsoever (whoops, rookie mistake), but we were greeted by friendly hotel staff who invited us to go ahead and enjoy food at any of the restaurants, help ourselves to drinks and to spend some time at the spa. We happily did all of the above. First, we stopped at the Seaside Grill. The food was delicious, and we ended up eating there for lunch every week (more on the food later!). After filling up our bellies we headed to the spa for our couples massage. I liked the spa; it was very clean, cool and calm, and it had a very tropical feel to it. The massage was amazing, but the hour went by way too fast – I definitely could have laid there for another hour!
By the time we were finished, our room was ready and our luggage was waiting for us inside. Originally, we booked a standard room with a swim out that had a tropical view towards the back of the property, but because we arrived early and asked about what else was available, Secrets upgraded us to Preferred Club Access, so we got a larger room that was closer to the ocean, had access to spa amenities and an additional lounge… for no extra cost! It’s definitely worth trying to get to this resort early to request an upgrade. If you do a little internet digging, you’ll find that there are plenty of other people who have visited Secrets Akumal and received the same upgrade that we did. It’s worth asking; the worst that can happen is you get to your vacation early, and it’s so worth it if they say yes! The room was fantastic. King size bed, jacuzzi, large shower with three heads, and of course the swim out. I loved it!
Once we got settled, we were ready to check out the beach. Our room wasn’t right on the beach, but after the upgrade it was just a quick walk past the pools to get there. Secrets Akumal has a large section of the beach reserved just for resort guests, and they have chairs and umbrella service reserved for guests every day at no additional cost. There were a lot of people staying at the resort, but the beach never seemed crowded, and we never had a problem finding a place to sit for the day. It was perfect, and the beach was BEAUTIFUL. The water was clear and the sand was white and clean; we didn’t have to deal with any rocks or gravel.
I wasn’t under the impression that we were going to be staying anywhere that would be great for snorkeling, so we didn’t pack our gear. However, when we were laying on the beach the first day, we noticed a ton of people snorkeling just north of the resort. After talking to some staff, we learned that part of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the second largest reef in the world, was right in front of us. We felt so dumb for not bringing our own snorkel gear, but we found out that if you stay at the resort, you actually get free access to snorkel gear and kayaks that are used for excursions. I wasn’t super excited about sharing snorkels with strangers (it was probably fine, I might be a germaphobe), so we ended up biting the bullet and buying two new snorkel sets so we could check it out. The coral was pretty and there were some colorful fish, but the coolest thing was getting to swim with the Loggerhead and Green turtles. They were so cute and all over the place! It was so fun. Definitely pack snorkel gear if you visit this beach!
The beach was so great that we really didn’t feel a need to do any excursions. Like I said, we wanted to relax harder than ever, BUT we did end up talking ourselves into leaving the resort to go zip lining one day. Neither of us had zip lined before, so we had no idea what to expect. We rode in a bus to Playa del Carmen, where we had tickets to XPLOR. We chose a package that included transportation (the bus), zip lining (which we really wanted to do), an ATV tour (which we didn’t really care about), access to the underground river, and lunch. The zip lining was great! We did all of the courses, which added up to a solid hour and fifteen minutes of zip lining. The park was very crowded, but the lines were not long, which was a nice surprise. You are literally in the jungle, so it’s pretty scenery, but it’s also great breeding ground for mosquitoes, so bug spray is necessary.
After zip lining we figured we may as well ride the ATVs through the jungle since we paid for it. They were kind of fun, but they didn’t go very fast and it was easy to get stuck behind people who were going very slow (Bryant was not happy. Lots of road rage involved.) The underwater river was cool, clear and refreshing after spending all day in a humid jungle, but we really needed water shoes. I cut my foot open on a rock while swimming in it, and that pretty much ended any other fun we were going to have at the park. Instead of waiting for the bus to take us back with the other resort guests, we paid for a taxi to take us back early so we could hang out on the beach for the rest of the day. Overall at XPLOR, I 100% recommend the zip line through the jungle, but everything else is pretty secondary to that. Bring water shoes and bug spray!
Most of the rest of our time in Mexico was spent sleeping, drinking and eating (I told you I’d get to the food!). I’m no foodie, but I thought the food was delicious and much better than expected, and so did Bryant, and he is a picky eater. There are nine restaurants and seven bars at the resort:
Market Cafe: International Buffet – We ate here most days for breakfast. There were lots of normal breakfast options (eggs, toast, bacon, the works), but there were also some more “adventurous” breakfast foods. I mostly stuck with the traditional stuff, and it was good.
El Patio: Mexican Cuisine – When in Mexico you have to eat Mexican food right? We ate here one night. You really can’t go wrong with Mexican food, and we enjoyed our dinner, but I’m not sure if you could call it “authentic” Mexican Cuisine.
Himitsu: Pan-Asian Cuisine – There were hibachi, sushi and regular menus here. You have to reserve the hibachi ahead of time because spots are limited. We enjoyed one dinner there, and the food was great. We also enjoyed talking to the super friendly chef.
Portofino: Italian Cuisine – Italian food is one of my favorites, so I may be biased, but I loved this place! I could have eaten there more than once if we had not been so determined to try every restaurant.
Bordeaux: French Cuisine – I don’t typically eat French food, but I the food here was good. We even tried escargot (snails)… something I definitely never would have thought I would try for the first time in Mexico…
Seaside Grill: Gilled Specialties – Like I mentioned before, this is the first place we ate, and we came back almost every day for lunch. There were plenty of yummy sandwiches and salads to choose from. We also had breakfast here a couple of days. It was a nicer breakfast, we were served rather than going through a buffet. It was also very good!
Oceana: Fresh Seafood – This was my favorite restaurant. I love seafood and it is usually so expensive, but because everything is all inclusive at Secrets I did not hold back when ordering. Another place I would have loved to have eaten at more than once!
Coco Cafe: Coffee & Snack Bar – We never actually sat down to eat here, but it was a great place to grab snacks on the go if you needed it!
Barefoot Grill: Light Lunch Specialties – We usually liked to get off the beach during lunch, but if you are looking to eat on the beach or at the pool, this was the place to order some lunch to take with you.
As for the seven bars, they were large and well-staffed, so you never had to walk (or swim) far to get a drink. There are four around the pools, one of which is a swim up bar, one at the beach, one in the lobby, one in a lounge-type area, and one in the theatre.
Yes, there was a theatre; the resort had entertainment almost every night. Bryant and I went to a few shows, and they were good. Not Broadway of course, but definitely good resort entertainment. Other than the shows, there were plenty of other activities going on during the day and at night, including volleyball, ping pong, pool and a bunch of random contests. If you are the type of person who gets tired of laying on the beach (not me), there are plenty of things to do there to keep you from getting bored.
When Saturday rolled around and it was time to leave, I was sad to go, but excited to explore one more spot before we headed to the airport. Because Playa del Carmen is on the way to Cancun, we decided to roam around the city for a little bit before we had to catch our flight.
Our taxi driver, Victor, was one of the nicest people I have ever met. His English was a lot better than my Spanish, so we were able to tell him what we were interested in doing that afternoon. He told us exactly where to go, and said he would wait for us for an hour so we wouldn’t have to carry our luggage or find another cab. Gotta love helpful locals! Victor dropped us off right downtown where there are brick roads and lots of little open shops and restaurants. He held our luggage in the car while we did some souvenir shopping and found a taco stand called Don Sirloin, where I ate the best taco I have ever eaten.
Leaving the resort early to explore Playa del Carmen was worth it; we got to see and taste a little bit of the “real” Mexico that you don’t get at a resort.
After exploring Playa del Carmen for an hour or so, we reluctantly went back to Victor, then the airport, and then finally to Atlanta, where I started dreaming about our next vacation!
I would absolutely recommend visiting Secrets Akumal. The one thing I will say that may be a drawback to some is that you aren’t getting the “authentic Mexican experience” if you never leave the resort while you’re there. I was fine with that because we were on our honeymoon; I was in more of a chill-mood than an explore-mood. If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, it’s the perfect place for that. I hope to return for at least a 5 day stay in the next couple of years… fingers crossed!