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Where to Eat During a Business Trip to Mexico City

Where to Eat During a Business Trip to Mexico City

If you’re going to Mexico City on business, you probably won’t be doing a lot of sightseeing. Getting around during the week is a precisely timed exercise aimed at avoiding traffic. So while you may not see many sights, you will do plenty of eating and drinking. During a recent business trip I spent almost the entire time in four restaurants in 24 hours. It was a lesson in how business is done in Mexico, and fortunately, it was a delicious one.

We flew direct out of Tijuana, which is a breeze now with the Cross Border Xpress(CBX). Parked the car in long term parking ($15-20 a night) and we were through customs and at the gate in 15 minutes. It was an outstanding experience that I hope more people departing from So. California will try.

Crossing the border at the Cross Border Xpress is easy

Take one step and you’re in a new country!

Eat at the neighborhood restaurants.

There are many famous, destination restaurants in Mexico City like Pujol, and if you have the presence of mind to get a reservation, well lucky you! Our trip was being directed by a local, so we trusted that he would point us in the right direction. He did not let us down.

After landing, our host directed us to a charming restaurant in Polanco called Emilio for a late lunch. We ordered a perfect ceviche, little rounds of foie gras with fresh fig, and what we thought was going to be a duck taco, but was more like a duck egg roll with a tangy-sweet sauce. Surprising and delicious.

Foie Gras at Emilio in Mexico City.

Little bites of Foie Gras? Yes, please.

Duck tacos at Emilio in Mexico City.

Have you ever seen duck tacos like these?

Perhaps even more delightful than the food was the environment. We sat on the open patio and the people watching was superb. Emilio’s is directly across the street from Lincoln Park (yes, there is a statue of Lincoln there). It’s a beautiful green beltway with statues and water features. Musicians stand in front of the patio and play loudly for pesos, but they moved on after five minutes or so. Emilio’s was full of locals and an excellent introduction to where to eat during a business trip in Mexico City.

Live Aqua Hotel in Mexico City

The lobby at Live Aqua is a modern stunner.

Our host showed up as we were finishing and had a quick café. Then we were off to our hotel, the gorgeous Hotel Live Aqua located in Bosques de las Lomas. A little off the beaten path, he had recommended the hotel since it was close to his office. It exceeded my expectations, in design, room comfort and service.

We left our bags and walked through the adjacent mall, ending our jaunt at Costa Guadiana. He promptly ordered tequila for the table. The second meal had begun and we had barely finished digesting our first.

But, as is done in Mexico, we sipped our tequila (El Aguila, a dangerously smooth sipping tequila) and chatted for quite a long while. We eventually ordered a few small plates, including a spectacularly colored and flavored cochinta pibil appetizer. We walked back to our hotel and had an excellent night’s sleep.

Pre-dinner tequila in Mexico City.

Now this is how you start a proper meal in Mexico City.

The next day, after a few hours of work, we went to one of our host’s favorite restaurants, Loma Linda. We headed up to the second floor patio and it was buzzing. Mind you it was already 2 pm, but lunch was really just happening in earnest at that hour. It was clear that lots of business was being conducted here. Loma Linda has five locations in the city and several are in the heart of the business district.

Lunch started with beers and wine (we had a lovely red from Adobe Guadalupe, one of our favorite wineries in Valle de Guadalupe). Have you ever heard of Jugo de Carne (meat juice)? I had not and though I was a little hesitant it was fantastic. It’s a very rich beef broth, thick but without any chunks in it. It’s served with slices of lime, Worcestershire sauce and steak sauce. A little squirt of lime was all it needed and I believe it was created to soothe what ails you.

Our waiter brought a tray of raw meat to the table and our host selected three cuts. The food was all served family style, including guacamole, pork tacos, incredibly flavorful corn and crispy, puffy small potatoes (need I say more?). The meat arrived on a smoking hot plancha that was placed in the center of the table and was accompanied by homemade corn tortillas and various salsas.

The level of service in Mexico City is something to behold.

From the time we sat at our table to being served drinks and our soup was about 12 minutes. There is such a high level of staff to customers that they can really deliver on service.

At the end of our meal, I tried a shaken Carajill – a coffee cocktail enhanced with Licor 43. I don’t know how I’ve missed this treat considering all the times I have been to Mexico, but I am so happy to have discovered it.

Lunch lasted about 3 hours. We went back to the office for some more  work and then took a quick break before heading out to dinner. I couldn’t believe it, but we were going to experience four restaurants in Mexico City within about 24 hours.

Public Art in business office in Mexico City.

Oh, just some incredible art in the lobby of a business office.

Dinner starts late in Mexico City.

We wanted to see at least a little of the city so we drove into the center of town to a restaurant called Blanco Colima in the Roma section. The whole area is beautiful, but as you can see, the historic nature of the building made this a very special place.

Blanco Colima restaurant in the Roma district of Mexico City.

The exterior of Blanco Colima is historic but the interior is very modern.

Once again I started with El Aguila, which worried me as I was already starting to get used to the idea that this was the correct way to begin a meal. Drinking while conducting business is par for the course in Mexico City, like so much of Europe.

We ordered a variety of hot and cold small plates and there were a couple of real standouts (I couldn’t get great photos as the restaurant was so dark). A tiradito of pulpo was the flavor profile I so love in Mexican food. They know how to create the perfect balance of savory, sweet, salt and acid in a dish.

But the dish that bowled over the entire table was dessert.

Imagine a small cake, not too sweet, with a slightly caramelized top crust, filled with Manchego cheese. Oh, but that’s not all. It was served on a membrillo sauce (quince paste) with a perfect quenelle of guava ice cream on the side. We all wanted another, but couldn’t bring ourselves to order it after all the food we had eaten.

I would gladly eat at four restaurants in Mexico City in 24 hours again. The variety of choices is mind boggling. You don’t have to worry about where to eat during a business trip to Mexico City. You just have to worry about having enough time to digest and sleep before the next delicious meal.


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Hotel Review: Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Hotel Review: Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Visiting an all-inclusive resort can sometimes be a juggling act of remembering what you paid for. These resorts often encourage guests to upgrade and get more perks. Sometimes guests wait to be seated at dinner because their all-inclusive level isn’t as high as their neighbors. None of these are worries at Grand Velas Riviera Maya which, in my opinion, is the best luxury all-inclusive resort in Mexico.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya poolside suites

The architecture of the rooms and buildings at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya is outstanding.

Best All-Inclusive Resort in Mexico

Located on the Mexican Riviera Maya, you get what you pay for at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, in all the best ways. At first it might seem like the prices are high, and they are. Rooms begin at around $800 USD per night for two persons with a jungle view, $1,200 per night with a pool view, and $1,400 per night with an ocean view. However, these prices include all your food plus access to five AAA Diamond rated restaurants.  Also included are 24-hour room service, a fully stocked mini bar, all drinks including beer, wine and liquor as well as a personal concierge. At Grand Velas Riviera Maya, you get a lot for your money.

Mayan Connection

One thing I liked so much about the resort was how Grand Velas Riviera Maya embraces the Mayan culture of the region. The ceiling of the lobby areas and the walkways are designed in a palapa style, reminiscent of the ancient culture. One of the restaurants is named Chaka after local trees important in Mayan mythology. The spa treatments begin with a drink of ponche (a traditional Mayan drink) along with a Mayan blessing.  And the resort even offers a mezcal tasting, which Mayans considered a gift from the gods (and so do I!). Incorporating the heritage of the indigenous people of this part of Mexico, the resort helped me learn more about the Mayans, making my stay even more special.

covered walkways at Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Palapa-style covered walkways link the buildings of the Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Spacious and Luxurious Rooms

The resort is broken up into three sections: Grand Class Experience, The Ambassador Experience and The Zen Grand Experience. Each experience is unique and geared towards a different vacation style.

Zen Room at Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Spacious and cozy, my Zen Room at Grand Velas Riviera Maya was a perfect combination of luxury and simplicity.

I stayed in the Zen section. Every room in Zen faces the jungle area of the resort and is exactly what the section says it is. I’ve rarely stayed at a hotel where you barely see the housekeeping staff, but that’s what happened at Grand Velas Riviera Maya. It was like magical fairies made up my bed every day and did a turn down service at night. At over 1,000 square feet, my room was larger than some of the first apartments I’ve rented! There was even a private terrace with lounge chairs to relax on.

Closer to the beach are Grand Class, which is the adults section, and Ambassador Experience, which is a family-friendly area. Shuttle vans are always available and can get you anywhere in the resort within 5 minutes.

Zen Room with jet tub at Grand Velas Riviera Maya

My Zen Room even had a jet tub with louver doors looking into the room and patio.

Top-Drawer Amenities

Part of the beauty of Grand Velas Riviera Maya is the majority of the amenities are included in the all-inclusive pricing. That includes wi-fi (which was strong and never slow), the fitness center, beach & poolside food and drink service, kayaks, fully stocked mini-bar in each room and the fully supervised kids clubs, which are open late to give parents the break they deserve.

Beach activities Grand Velas

Beach activities are included in the all-inclusive cost at Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

One thing not included in the all-inclusive pricing but something every guest needs to take advantage of is Se Spa. Located in the Zen portion of the resort, Se Spa is an experience unlike any other spa trip I’ve ever had. Even if you don’t get a massage try the Water Ceremony – you get 80 minutes of therapeutic treatments like sauna, clay room, steam room and the water therapy pool. I think it’s the best spa in Mexico and since I’ve tried a lot of them, I’m a pretty good judge.

Se Spa at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Se Spa at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya is truly a work of art.

Gourmet Food and Drink

Imagine having access to five AAA Diamond rated restaurants in one place and not having to pull out your credit card.  This is what you’ll experience at the restaurants at Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

Lobster ceviche with avocado and lime salsa

Lobster ceviche with avocado and lime salsa was one of my favorite dishes at Grand Velas Riviera Maya.

I was lucky enough during my stay to experience meals at the AAA 5 Diamond restaurant, Cocina de Autor, and the AAA 4 Diamond restaurant, Frida, along with several of the other restaurants at the resort. While all the restaurants were excellent, my top favorite had to be Cocina de Autor. With no set menu, each night guests are served courses based on the chef’s inspiration and what’s available from in-season items. A meal that takes advantage of all your senses, Cocina de Autor is based on molecular gastronomy or the science of physical transformation in food. All eight (yes, eight!) courses were smaller than you’d usually expect but well worth every bite. I couldn’t get enough of how the flavors were so large even if the servings weren’t. I also had the honor of meeting Chef Nahúm Velasco and he invited me into his kitchen!

Chef Nahúm Velasco at Cocina de Autor Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Chef Nahúm Velasco invited me into his kitchen at Cocina de Autor to witness the master at work.

Beaches and Pools

Sitting on the Caribbean Sea, Grand Velas Riviera Maya has a view of the sunrise that you won’t mind waking up early for. In fact, I highly suggest you do that at least once during your stay. It’s a peaceful way to start your day. Afterwards have breakfast at Azul, one of the Grand Velas Riviera Maya restaurants – you won’t be disappointed. During the day the beach has activities, lounge chairs and concierges to get your drink orders.

There are three pools at the resort. The pool at Grand Class is for adults only, and the pools at Zen Grand and Ambassador sections are open to everyone. While each pool is slightly different, all offer chaise lounge chairs, umbrellas and cushy towels. Poolside concierges are on hand to bring your choice of drinks and appetizers. Because when you’re half asleep from relaxing, who wants to get up to go to the bar, right?

Zen at Zen Grand Velas Riviera Maya

The Zen Pool at Grand Velas was just that – so relaxing and zen-like.

Can’t Wait to Return

Overall I can’t say enough great things about Grand Velas Riviera Maya. I know it sounds like I’m gushing and I am. Because the service at this resort is impeccable, the food delightful and the architecture splendid. I’ve visited many resorts in Mexico and think this is the best all-inclusive resort in Mexico. I highly recommend this visit for singles, couples, families and groups. You won’t find better service anywhere else. I can’t wait to return!

Se Spa Grand Velas honey vanilla scrub

Everything at Se Spa is done impeccably, like the set-up for my honey vanilla scrub massage.

 

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Fly from Tijuana Airport via CBX Cross Border Xpress

Fly from Tijuana Airport via CBX Cross Border Xpress

After flying out of Tijuana Airport multiple times now with great success and ease, we’re really happy we discovered how easy and inexpensive it is to fly from Tijuana Airport via the CBX Cross Border Xpress. On a recent trip to Playa del Carmen/Cancun, our family saved almost $700!

As prices for airfare have continued to soar (excuse the pun) we’ve expanded our view to include Tijuana International Airport. Really, San Diego is a two-airport region now. With so many people from the area traveling to points around the world from here, we can see why the TJ airport is flourishing. And now with a modern renovation and upgrades to passenger terminals, the airport is really world class.

It’s always been cheaper to fly to other cities in Mexico from the Tijuana Airport, which is located just feet across the US/Mexico border. It just wasn’t always easy to get there until they built the CBX Cross Border Xpress.

CBX Cross Border Express interior

The CBX Cross Border Express building is beautiful, clean and easy to navigate.

Fly from Tijuana Airport via CBX Cross Border Express

Before I go on, please know that flying from Tijuana is completely safe and very US-friendly. If your family is anything like ours, you might have felt a little dubious about bringing your family across the border to fly from Mexico. CBX could not be safer, and you walk inside the building and across the bridge directly into the airport. No lines at the border, no walking across and then having to catch a taxi to the airport. Our experience was flawless.

Buying airline tickets from Tijuana Airport

General Abelardo L. Rodriguez Tijuana International Airport (TIJ) is located just across the border from the US, near the Otay Mesa Border Crossing. It is one of the busiest airports in Mexico, and handles domestic and international flights 24 hours a day. When traveling from TIJ, we’ve had great experiences booking tickets directly on the websites of Aeromexico and Volaris Airlines. There are language options in both English and Spanish. The terminology and instructions are all the same as booking with a US carrier.

Flights are cheaper from Tijuana Airport

Recently, we had a fabulous vacations at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya and before that the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba, both in Playa del Carmen. When comparing flights from Tijuana to Cancun versus San Diego or Los Angeles, there was a remarkable cost savings. We ended up buying tickets on Aeromexico from Tijuana to our final destination at Cancun Airport. The difference in cost for a family of four was hundreds of dollars, which we were happy to save!

As of April 2019, a quick price comparison shows that a flight on Volaris from Tijuana to Cancun starts at $233 USD. To fly the same itinerary from San Diego to Cancun, we would pay $400 per ticket minimum. For a family of four, those extra dollars really add up! We saved almost $700!!

Crossing the US/Mexico Border via CBX

Even more compelling, a new cross-border pedestrian bridge was recently completed that connects directly into the Tijuana Airport. The Cross Border Express buildings on the US side are architecturally gorgeous, spacious and squeaky clean.

CBX Cross Border Express entrance

We walked right up to the CBX entrance, processed our customs paperwork, and sailed through to our gate.

The process at CBX was ridiculously easy (and faster than San Diego Airport to be sure). We followed the simple directions to the CBX location, parked our car in their convenient lot for $15/day, and checked into our Aeromexico flights on the US side of the border. We paid the $14 per person fee and then walked the short distance across the border using the elevated bridge. On the Mexican side we cleared security and customs in about 10 minutes, and walked directly into the gate area of the Tijuana Airport.

walking across the CBX Cross Border Express bridge

As we walked across the bridge from the CBX building, we crossed the border and arrived in the Tijuana Airport.

The whole process took less than 30 minutes from start to finish. We were astonished to find ourselves with too much time in the waiting area for our flight, which NEVER happens in our family. (It’s usually the opposite, because someone is always rushing to pack that last thing).

US/Mexico boundary inside CBX Bridge

You can literally play Hokey Pokey on the boundary line inside the CBX Bridge between the US and Mexico.

Comparing to San Diego International Airport experience

Compare this to another experience when our family flew to Cancun, Mexico out of San Diego airport the year before last. We had to check in at San Diego Airport, show passports and fill out immigration forms, fly out of our way to Dallas, connect to a different flight, and eventually arrive in Cancun. We went through customs in Cancun, which took forever due to the crowds of visitors coming from all over. The amount of time in lines was staggering.

With the CBX Cross Border Xpress experience, we cleared customs and immigration within the bridge connection before entering the Tijuana airport, and sailed through check-in, security and onto our Aeromexico flight deeper into Mexico.

I highly recommend this travel option – we will definitely do it again. Hopefully soon!

dock at Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba

Flying out of Tijuana Airport via CBX Cross Border Express got us to the Fairmont Hotel Mayakoba all the faster!


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Mayan Experiences at the Ruins of Coba

Mayan Experiences at the Ruins of Coba

There are so many fascinating things about the ancient Mayan culture that inhabited large areas of Mexico’s Yucatan Region. Perhaps it’s the nascent archeologist in me, but I really love the allure of uncovering objects and mysteries from long ago. Recently I had an amazing experience on a tour of the Mayan culture at Coba, and it changed me.

view from top of temple at Coba Nohoch Mol

From the top of Nohoch Mol Pyramid, the Yucatan jungle stretches as far as the eye can see.

“It changed me” is a strong statement to make, but this tour of the Mayan culture at Coba did just that. There is something so peaceful in the simplicity of their culture, how they revered nature and its forces. Immersed into the Mayan culture with the local tour company Alltournative, I had the chance to see things from a different perspective. I returned home feeling more connected to nature, and less concerned about some of the modern-day trivialities that had consumed me before the trip.

So yes, my tour of the Mayan culture at Coba changed me.

The Ruins of the Mayan Culture at Coba

As our tour van dropped our group of ten adventurers at the entrance to the Coba ruins, I knew something was up. Unlike my previous visits to the ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum, Coba seemed very unassuming. Somehow more real and authentic. Yes there are some shops and a restaurant or two, but it’s not overrun with commercialism like the other two spots. Perhaps it’s the remote location of Coba, which does not seem to be near any major towns or villages.

Grand Velas Riviera Maya Resort in Playa Del Carmen

The luxury Grand Velas Riviera Maya Resort was the ideal homebase for my visit.

We were staying at the gorgeous and luxurious Grand Velas Riviera Maya Resort in Playa del Carmen, and the drive to Coba was only about 1.5 hours. Coba was decidedly not luxurious or gorgeous. Coba’s beauty comes from a different place.

Visiting the Ruins at Coba

After paying a small entrance fee, our group walked a short way as our guide Rebecca explained the significance of what we would be seeing. She told us a bit about what modern day researchers have learned regarding the ancient Mayan culture of this region. Rebecca also explained there is much still left to learn and uncover, with many mysteries still yet to be solved.

tour guide at Coba Mayan ruins

Our guide Rebecca explained the language and alphabet of the ancient Mayans at Coba

Throughout the Coba park acreage, we saw many stone blocks that contained faint or partial carvings. These stone carvings told stories about the rulers of the time, and the things they deemed so important that they literally had them etched in stone. Part of the difficulty in uncovering the answers to these stones was the way the Mayan cultures warred with each other. When a conquering ruler came into a village like Coba, they would strike the faces of the previous ruler and their histories from the stones. As we toured the grounds, we saw that all of the remaining stone carvings had their faces removed along with much of the detail.

The Ceremonial Ball Court

Without knowing for sure the exact meaning behind the ancient Mayan culture’s use of the ceremonial ball courts, historians do know a little bit. The slanted stone edifices are angled away from a center walkway. Near the top of each side is a circular stone carving with a large round hole through it. It is believed that heavy balls were moved through these holes as part of a ritual.

Coba Mayan ruins ball court

The ball court at Coba signified much more than a simple game.

Rebecca explained her own interpretation of this ball court, which had to do with the Mayan culture’s beliefs about life and death. She said they believed the sun died each night as it turned dark, and was reborn in the morning once again. That life and death were on the same plain, and just different versions of life as we know it. The ball court might have had something to do with honoring the sun and moon, day and night, life and death. Fascinating.

Walk, Bike or Ride to the Temple

After visiting the ball court, we were given the choice of how we wanted to continue our tour. On our own, we could either walk to see the remaining archeological sites. We could also pay a fee and be driven there in the back of a bicycle rickshaw, or we could pay a smaller fee to rent a bike and pedal ourselves. Our group opted for riding bikes up the pebbly dirt road to the remaining ruins.

bicycle ride through jungles of Coba Mayan ruins

Biking through the jungles of Coba was a fun experience.

After paying the rental fee, which amounted to less than $1, we hopped on and pedaled away. It was the perfect means to experience this site, viewed from a path through the jungle that ancient Mayan villagers also had used. In just about ten minutes of very easy riding on flat ground, we reached the Temple of Nohoch Mol.

Climbing the Ruins at Coba

Unlike the better preserved Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza, which are very impressive, Coba contains the Temple of Nohoch Mol. It is the tallest Mayan pyramid in Mexico. Visitors are allowed to climb to the top of this temple to take in the view of the overall site and surrounding jungle. So of course we did!

climbing Nohoch Mol Temple at Coba

Climbing the Temple of Nohoch Mol at Coba is no easy feat.

The stone steps leading to the top of the temple are not regular, equal steps. Rather, they are very steep steps, some crumbling in spots, and enormously uneven. It’s some 120 steps and 140 feet in all – in the hot sun and humidity. Needless to day, this climb is not for people with heart issues or folks who have trouble walking. By the time I picked my way to the top, I had carefully inspected each step for proper footing on the way up. It was still super fun, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

climbing down Nohoch Mol Pyramid at Coba

After climbing 137 feet practically straight up, you have to go back down.

At the top, the view is unimaginable. I could see what seemed like forever, looking across the green jungles of the Yucatan and Quintana Roo. Every so often, there was a small green hill that rose above the jungle. Rebecca had told us to be on the look out for these rises from the jungle floor. They are actually other Mayan ruins and temples yet to be uncovered and studied. There were dozens of them!

Blessed by a Mayan Shaman

The Mayan culture and language has been diminishing for centuries. In this modern world, most of the Mayan people have moved to cities for work and resources. We were fortunate to meet a Mayan Shaman along the path at a site outside of Coba. He stood with smoky incense burning and an altar of sorts made of sticks and flowers. Then he blessed our group using the traditional Mayan language. From what the translators were able to tell us, he was blessing us for safe travels and healthy lives. I’ll take it!

Mayan Shaman blessing at Coba

Being blessed by a Mayan Shaman was a very moving and spiritual experience.

Swimming in a Mayan Cenote

Used throughout Mayan history for rituals and worship sites, the cenotes that dot the Yucatan Peninsula and Quintana Roo are beautiful and impressive. (Cenotes are deep swimming holes containing fresh water – the Yucatan hosts more than 3,000 of them). We visited a special underground cenote, reached via a cave and constructed staircase. The cave was well lit, which did not seem to bother the bats hanging from the rocky ceiling. Even the waters of the cenote were lit from beneath, giving the whole room an unearthly blue glow.

swimming at Mayan cenote underground

Swimming in this underground cenote was a refreshing highlight.

We stripped to our swimsuits, rinsed off any modern chemicals from our bodies, and plunged into the refreshing waters. Have you ever had the chance to swim inside a cave? It was like being on another world, and we all loved it. No one wanted to leave, despite being famished from all our morning activities.

Traditional Mayan Cuisine

We had worked up quite a hunger, and the lunch spread was beckoning. Our cooks had prepared a number of traditional Mayan dishes, made with local herbs and spices unique to this region. Chicken, pickled red onions, rice, small fried tortillas kind of like sopes, and other delicious vegetable dishes were set out in a buffet. We descended like locusts. Nothing was left in our path, and it was all so delicious.

Mayan lunch at Coba

We were famished, and a lunch Mayan favorites was the perfect solution.

Mayan Spirituality

As I stated at the beginning, I left this experience changed. I had a newfound respect for the ancient culture of this region, and had fallen in love again with Mexico. There are so many things to learn and places to visit in this fascinating, rich and diverse country. I can’t wait to see what more there is to discover. But on this visit, I left with something important: a healthy respect for the Mayan culture and people, and a strong desire to return and learn more.

I can’t wait to return to Coba for more exploration, and I’ll be contacting Alltournative again to guide me on my next adventure here.

stone carvings at Coba Mayan ruins

Stone etchings at Coba are partially visible in the Mayan ruins


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The Spa at Grand Velas Resort Riviera Maya: An Obstacle Course of Water Therapies

The Spa at Grand Velas Resort Riviera Maya: An Obstacle Course of Water Therapies

By “obstacle course of water therapies”, I mean only good things. The Se Spa at the Grand Velas Resort Riviera Maya is without a doubt one of the best spas I have ever experienced. That’s saying a lot, considering I am a complete spa addict and have visited a great many in my years. The Se Spa has perfected its services, with an important feature being their variety of water rituals and therapies. It’s really that good. I consider the Spa at Grand Velas Resort Riviera Maya to be the Best Resort Spa in Mexico.

hydrotherapy pool at Se Spa Riviera Maya

The hydrotherapy pool at Se Spa is enormous.

Best Resort Spa in Mexico

There are a lot of amazing spas at resorts scattered at destinations throughout the country of Mexico. However, the Se Spa at Grand Velas Resort Riviera Maya is the best resort spa in Mexico for several important reasons.

Se Spa overview at Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Entering the men’s side of the Se Spa, guests look down into the cavernous pool area.

Obstacle Course of Water Therapies

Upon arrival, guests who have booked a treatment are shown to the locker rooms and invited to enjoy the vast hydrotherapy areas as a complimentary inclusion. With separate facilities for men and women, the sheer size of this spa is mind boggling particularly when you learn that these are mirror images of each other. All hotel guests can visit this portion of the spa for a fee, and stay all day if they want to by paying a $50 fee even without booking any treatment.

Here is the obstacle course that the spa calls the Riviera Maya Water Ceremony, combined with the therapies in the Experience Sensation Pool. This is truly a luxury all-inclusive resort experience.

hot sauna Se Spa Riviera Maya

The Hot Sauna at Se Spa combines heat with designer sweating.

I was invited to try them all, and happily followed along:

  1. Dry Sauna – cook out the impurities
  2. Ice Room – ice cold room with frozen tile chairs
  3. Sensation Shower – alternating sprays of hot and cold water
    hot sauna Se Spa Riviera Maya

    The Hot Sauna at Se Spa combines heat with color therapy.

  4. Color Therapy Steam Room – more sweating
  5. Clay Treatment – full body treatment
  6. Sensory Pebble Foot Therapy – walking troughs of hot and freezing cold water
    foot hydrotherapy at Se Spa Riviera Maya

    Warm water on the right and freezing on the left, these troughs are hydrotherapy treatments for the feet.

  7. Cervical Neck Jet – jets in the giant pool to massage your lower and upper back
    hydro therapy at Se Spa Riviera Maya

    The super forceful hydro jets at Se Spa are meant to massage and relax the neck and upper back.

  8. Bubble Volcano – rapid bubbles in the pool to aid leg circulation
  9. Full Body Bubble Bed – beds built into the pool with gentle bubbles all over
    bubble beds at Se Spa Riviera Maya

    The bubble beds at Se Spa are so relaxing, I pushed the button three times to repeat the process!

  10. Waterfall – douse your head and neck with gentle waters
  11. Hot Tub – very warm and bubbly
  12. Cold Plunge – really chilly and bubbly

And all that was before I even reported to the treatment rooms for my massage!

Mayan Rituals and Spiritual Connections

When it was time for my massage, I waited for my therapist while drinking a delicious Mayan concoction called Ponche, believed to open the senses and calm the body. (As if after all that water therapy I needed more calming!) It was delicious, and just the sustenance I needed after my hydrotherapy immersions.

Traditional Mexican Ponche Drink Se Spa at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya

The traditional Mexican Ponche drink is a hot “tea” made from tropical fruit and spices.

My therapist Liliana led my to my treatment room, which was both peaceful and luxuriously zen. Incense was burning, which I later learned is an ancient Mayan ritual ingredient made from tree resin called Copal. It smelled so good I wanted to bring some home.

traditional Mayan cleansing ceremony Se Spa Grand Velas Riviera Maya

Crushed herbs, Mayan incense and Shaman-blessed water all helped to set the tone.

Many elements in the room had Mayan significance, from a ceremonial rain stick to vanilla poured in the bathwater to the music playing in the background. The entire experience was culturally fascinating and educational at the same time.

Innovative Treatments with a Mayan Flavor

I received the Organic Kaab Honey Experience, with elements important in the Mayan culture. The local honey bee has been a source of food and trade since ancient times, and is revered throughout their history. The bee itself, I learned later, is stingerless and tiny – the size of a mosquito. Together the Melipona bees produce a large quantity of honey that provides a source of commerce to local villages. I brought some home, and it is uniquely delicious and not cloying with sweetness.

honey and vanilla ingredients at Se Spa Riviera Maya

Locally sourced honey and vanilla are important ingredients in

As I relaxed on the table, Liliana spread honey all over me like a massage oil. She then began the massage, with just the right amount of firmness and relaxation. I melted into the bed, teetering on the edge consciousness. I did not want to fall asleep and miss this amazing experience!

After massaging both sides, Liliana led me over to the hot bath nearby. Yes, there was a bathtub in the room with gentle jets and relaxing waters. While I soaked, she poured several concoctions into the water. My so-so Spanish only caught one of them – it was a large pitcher of vanilla, which honey-colored the water and smelled divine.

warm millet foot treatment at Se Spa Riviera Maya

Getting ready for my massage, I put my feet in warmed millet seeds to bring calm and serenity.

After the bath was drained and I dried off, I got back on to the massage table and waited for what came next. The final part of this experience was an invigorating application of smoothing lotion. Feeling exfoliated, hydrated and fully pampered, I was officially cooked – a limp noodle.

All in, I had been at the Se Spa enjoying treatments for nearly four hours. Every minute was perfectly executed and managed at the highest level of service and comfort. Definitely the best resort spa in Mexico.

See here for the menu of services available at Se Spa.

Stay at the Grand Velas Resort Riviera Maya

Let’s face it – this is a luxury 5-star resort, and it is not inexpensive to stay here. Having said that, the price is definitely worth the experience and I consider it money well spent. As a Riviera Maya all-inclusive resort, the nightly room rates at the Grand Velas Resort Riviera Maya start to make more sense when you consider that all meals, drinks and some activities are all included. The restaurants are world-class, with Michelin-starred chefs and 5 Diamond ratings. The grounds and facilities are gorgeous and impeccably maintained. Staff is extremely friendly and accommodating, and seem truly dedicated to every guests’ needs.

pool rooms at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya Resort

Rooms overlook the pool and ocean at the Grand Velas Riviera Maya Resort.

And yes, room rates are on the higher side. Rooms begin at around $800 USD per night for two persons with a jungle view, $1,200 per night with a pool view, and $1,400 per night with an ocean view. When you consider this price is all-inclusive with 5-star restaurants, alcohol and activities included, guests really get a lot with their stay.

To visit the Se Spa at the Grand Velas Resort Riviera Maya, hotel guests can enjoy the water therapies for $80. Spa treatments and massages range from $236 to $342 USD.

I’m already saving up for my next trip to the Grand Velas Resort Riviera Maya. It’s 100% worth every peso.


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Releasing Baby Turtles in Puerto Vallarta

Releasing Baby Turtles in Puerto Vallarta

Sometimes those unplanned activities turn out to be the best memories of a vacation. When our family was in Puerto Vallarta recently, we were invited by the Marriott Puerto Vallarta to visit their onsite Sea Turtle Rescue Program. Of all the amazing things we did in this great destination, this was truly a very special experience. Releasing baby turtles in Puerto Vallarta was a huge hit with our whole family – and it’s free and open to the public!

family at baby turtle release Marriott Puerto Vallarta

Those baby turtles at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta beach were so darn cute!

Releasing Baby Turtles in Puerto Vallarta

We’ve been fortunate to swim with sea turtles in several places around the world, including Kauai, Costa Rica and Playa del Carmen. Puerto Vallarta delivered a plussed-up experience that we will never forget. By the time the girls were nudging these little critters into the water, we were all smiles with maybe a few happy tears.

girl holding baby turtle at Marriott Puerto Vallarta

At the Marriott Puerto Vallarta, Ava bonded instantly with her baby turtle as she prepared to release him into the sea.

In 2002, the Marriott Puerto Vallarta established a Sea Turtle Rescue Program on site at the hotel. The beach in front of the hotel is a rich breeding ground for Olive Ridley sea turtles, with hundreds of mother turtles crawling on to the beach each season to lay her eggs in the sand. Predators knew this too, and would prey on the eggs and baby turtles before they could make it into the water. Heartbroken from watching this happen, the folks at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta did something about it, working in conjunction with the National Institute of Fisheries and the Fishing & Marine Biology Station of the University of Guadalajara.

Puerto Vallarta Turtle Conservancy

Marriott Puerto Vallarta established a true Sea Turtle Rescue Program, hiring a trained staff and biologists to oversee the program. Each night during the season, which stretches from May – December, the team watches mother turtles lay their eggs on the beach. Once they depart, the team carefully extracts the eggs from their original nest and relocates them to a protected enclosure nearby. Safely buried in the sand there, the eggs can mature in their natural habitat and release around 100 baby turtles per nest. Once the babies start hatching in about 45 days, the Marriott team gathers them each night, releasing baby turtles in Puerto Vallarta warm ocean waters of  Banderas Bay.

baby sea turtle release with girl in Puerto Vallarta

Sophia named her baby turtle “Sophia”, and her namesake was soon paddling away into the sea.

Protecting Olive Ridley Sea Turtles

It’s amazing to see all the baby turtle nests, organized in lines within the enclosure and labeled by date and number of eggs. Another number indicates the count of how many nests have been rescued within the season. When we visited the latest count was 871 nests this year alone! Figuring an average of 100 eggs per nest, that’s a total of nearly 90,000 eggs rescued in 2018. That is a LOT of baby turtles!

The rescue team carefully recreates the conditions of a turtle nest in the sand of the enclosure, carving a hollow jug-shaped pit in the wet sand about 12-14 inches deep. Inside, the eggs are carefully laid together with a small opening like the mouth of a jug – this is how the hatchlings exit to the surface.

The Sea Turtle Rescue Program at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta has been very successful. In natural circumstances, about 40% of the baby turtles might hatch and make it into the water. In this program, they release more than 95% of their baby turtles in Puerto Vallarta waters. After about 20 years, the mothers return to the exact spot on the beach where their egg was first laid – and they lay their eggs in that spot too. Nature is so amazing.

turtle hatchery at Marriott Puerto Vallarta

Inside the turtle hatchery, this starburst-shaped hole in the sand is a turtle nest where the babies had already surfaced.

Baby Turtle Release

On the night we visited, Sophia and Ava were very lucky to learn that two baby turtles had recently hatched and were ready to be released. On a night in mid-season, there might be hundreds. We visited in November, at the end of the season when almost all the hatchlings had been released into the sea.

After scrubbing their hands vigorously with wet sand from the beach, Sophia and Ava were first allowed to each hold a baby in their cupped hands. Our new friend Cristina from the Marriott Puerto Vallarta told the girls to name their baby turtles – Sophia chose “Sophia” (go figure) and Ava chose “Gael”. Wishing them safe travels and with a tearful goodbye, the girls placed each baby turtle at the edge of the waterline.

baby turtle released on sand at Marriott Puerto Vallarta

Baby Turtle Sophia makes her way to the water’s edge, planning her first swim in the warm Puerto Vallarta ocean.

From there we watched, waiting patiently for a gentle wave to come up the beach and give “Sophia” and “Gael” their first taste of saltwater. And we waited. Finally, a stronger wave made its way up the sand, and whoosh – little Gael was  swimming his heart out. We waved goodbye with no small amount of emotion. But Sophia the Turtle was still beached and waiting, so Sophia the Girl helped her out by moving her closer to the water. And just like that, the next wave carried her out to sea.

A Tearful Goodbye

We stood and watched the waves, imagining our new little friends swimming instinctively out to sea. Would they stick together? Would they go it alone? We prefer to believe that all their brothers and sisters were out there waiting for them, so they could swim together like those baby sea turtles in “Finding Nemo”. With a last wave goodbye, we walked back up the beach towards the Marriott for dinner.

Beach sunset at Marriott Puerto Vallarta

As the sun set, our little baby turtles swam away from the beach and off to adventures under the sea.

Celebrating Over Dinner at Mikado

At the Marriott Puerto Vallarta’s excellent Asian-inspired restaurant, Mikado, we celebrated the release of Sophia and Gael with a spirited dinner. Sitting at an exhibition-style kitchen surrounding a hot cooktop, we reveled as our chef put on a show with knives, fire and incredible feats of cooking showmanship. It was a delicious and entertaining meal, and Ava and Sophia even got into the act.

Cooking demonstration at Mikado Puerto Vallarta

Sophia got into the action, cooking us some dinner alongside her new chef friend (!)

First Ava and then Sophia took turns cooking with our chef, and they did a great job! Feasting on their hard work, we all enjoyed a delicious meal of many courses and lots of interesting Asian flavors. We highly recommend Mikado at the Marriott Puerto Vallarta if you get a chance to visit.

See You in 20 Years

Our family made a pact right then and there. In 20 years, we are coming back to the Marriott Puerto Vallarta to visit the Sea Turtle Rescue Program at night. We’ll sit on the beach and wait for Sophia and Gael to return, as Sophia crawls up to lay her eggs and Gael stands guard from the shallow waters. Our turtle experience will have come full circle!

*For other things to do with kids in Puerto Vallarta, read our story Puerto Vallarta Won Our Family’s Hearts.

Bailey-Klugh family at Mikado Restaurant Marriott Puerto Vallarta

After our dinner at Mikado, they presented us with this amazing rendition of our logo made entirely from sugar. Wow!


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Puerto Vallarta Won Our Family’s Hearts

Puerto Vallarta Won Our Family’s Hearts

*This post was sponsored by Visit Puerto Vallarta and the opinions expressed here are our own, as always.

The last time Triton and I were in Puerto Vallarta was before the kids were born. Part of a large group of 14 people, we rambled around the city en masse as we tanned, swam, feasted, caroused and slept. Largely in that order. Recently back for our first time to visit Puerto Vallarta with kids, we experienced a fun and more family-oriented vacation. It could not have been much more perfect.

Westin Puerto Vallarta pool at sunset

Sunset lounging by the pool at the Westin Puerto Vallarta – both beautiful and relaxing.

From the ideal weather to the fun activities and delicious food, our family fell in love with this sweet Mexican town. Truly, Puerto Vallarta won our family’s hearts. Our decision to visit Puerto Vallarta with kids was an ideal way to spend our Thanksgiving holiday.

Puerto Vallarta Won Our Family’s Hearts

As a family, we’ve visited quite a few destinations in Mexico, and there is something special about Puerto Vallarta. Maybe it’s the warm, swimmable ocean and fantastic undersea views. Or maybe we love the array of activities for families both in downtown and out on the water. Maybe it was the plentiful wildlife and colorful tropical birds. There are so many reasons to visit Puerto Vallarta with kids, we’re already planning to go back!

Here’s a few things that made our visit really special.

Boat Trip to Las Caletas

We really didn’t research our trip to Las Caletas very much. Hosted by Vallarta Adventures, the tours to this remote private beach are only reachable by boat. As we boarded the boat with about 200 other visitors, we got worried this was going to be “one of those” tours. Visions came to mind of men in Bermuda shorts and black socks alongside women in giant sunhats and zinc-covered noses. (Well ok, maybe there were one or two of those couples.)

Vallarta Adventures boat to Las Caletas Puerto Vallarta

Vallarta Adventures’ boat to Las Caletas was cozy but really fun. The entertainment was pretty hilarious (in a good way).

But my gosh, were we surprised when we skirted the coastline south of Puerto Vallarta and passed the famous Los Arcos National Marine Park. What came into view was a tropical paradise, and a huge one at that. We didn’t realize this private beach and playground was dedicated solely to our boat full of people. Suddenly, 200 guests seemed like a tiny number.

There is so much to do at Las Caletas. After settling into comfy lounge chairs on the beach, Triton and the girls swam out to a floating pier complete with hammock and umbrella. I stayed on the beach and nursed a gigantic piña colada, watching a flock of green parrots settled onto a nearby post. Kayaks, paddle boards, boogie boards, snorkel sets and even scuba equipment were all available for our use. Later, Ava and I walked up the stone stairways along the water until we reached another beach. Strewn with hammocks, this beach is restful and away from the laughter and happy squeals.

Las Caletas private beach Puerto Vallarta

The view looking North along the beach at Las Caletas, with the swimming beach on the right.

Around the bend further are the kids and teens areas, each with their own set of activities. Kids can play all sorts of fun games both in and out of the water. In the teen area, guests can zipline, ride the waterslide, jump onto a giant water pillow and more.

Even the food is great here, all included in the ticket price of $49 per person. Really, this place is a must if you visit Puerto Vallarta with kids.

man swinging hammock on floating platform Las Caletas Puerto Vallarta

Guests can swim out to several floating platforms off the beach at Las Caletas.

Tips:

  • Bring your own towels – they don’t supply them for you.
  • Sit on the main floor of the boat near the front left – there are surprises and you’ll be happy you did. Plus good views from the left side.
  • Tip the staff – they work hard to please.
Dinner at Casa Kimberly’s Iguana Restaurant

For a truly nice dinner in downtown Puerto Vallarta, make advance reservations at the Iguana Restaurant at Casa Kimberly. This place ranks among the best meals and restaurant experiences our family has ever had.

family dinner at Iguana Restaurant Casa Kimberly Puerto Vallarta

Everything about our dinner at Iguana Restaurant was fabulous. Look at that view!

I guess we should have expected something special when we learned Casa Kimberly is located in movie star Elizabeth Taylor’s former home. While filming The Night of the Iguana in Puerto Vallarta with her future husband Richard Burton, they fell in love with each other and this town. She bought this home high on the hills overlooking downtown and the ocean. To be discreet since they were still married to other people, Burton bought the house across the cobblestone street. They built a bridge between the two houses over the street to enable their midnight trysts – how Old-Hollywood of them!

Elizabeth Taylor painting at Casa Kimberly Puerto Vallarta

The Lady Elizabeth herself presiding over our dinner at Casa Kimberly, famous violet eyes and all.

The 5-star Iguana Restaurant is all white linens and china, with impeccable service and the highest quality of food and drink. Open air and with gorgeous views, the main dining room is elegant and casual at the same time. Serving delicious dishes with a hint of Mexican influence, the chef has created a broad menu even this kids were happy with.

But then came the mariachis – my family and friends know I am not a fan. However, these mariachis are another level. With at least a dozen quality musicians, this band put on a spectacular show that stunned us all. Even the vocals were exemplary, backed by a group of six violinists and the rest. Go. Go for the view, the food, the history of this building. And go for the mariachis. (I never thought I would actually type that sentence).

mariachi violinist Casa Kimberly Iguana Restaurant

The mariachis serenaded our table at Casa Kimberly’s Iguana Restaurant.

Tips:

  • Take an uber because it is very hard to find and some taxis even get lost.
  • The front entrance is unassuming. Pull the rope to ring the large bell and someone will come to open the gate for you.
  • Walk around the courtyard and gander at the old Hollywood photos and posters from Taylor’s own collection.
The Original Downtown Tour

Our family loves a good taco, and this food tasting and cultural walking tour of downtown Puerto Vallarta did not disappoint. We met our guide Shawnie of Vallarta Food Tours in the gazebo of Lázaro Cárdenas Park, and she handed us a map of the eateries we would visit. There were nine of them! From there, we were off to our first stop and our tummies were happy all day.

Taco stop at Bierreria Robles in Puerto Vallarta

Taco stop on our food tour – catch the tshirt on our guide in the back: I wonder if tacos think about me too!

I’ll go into more detail on another post dedicated to this tour, but suffice to say it was a fantastic collection of deliciousness. From street tacos to fresh seafood and everything in between, our taste buds were singing from start to finish.

A quick overview of our tour (the routes and stops can vary):

  • street tacos
  • aguas frescas
  • seafood tacos
  • local chocolates
  • ceviche tostadas
  • mole enchiladas
  • and much more
walking food tour downtown Puerto Vallarta

Our last stop on the food tour in Puerto Vallarta was a house-made candy shop.

Tips:

  • Eat a light breakfast that morning. The tour starts at 10:30 and supplies plenty of food.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. I wore flip flops which was a mistake.
  • Bring your swim suits. The tour ends back at the beach and you can take a nice dip.
Swimming with Dolphins in the Wild

At another location in Mexico, we had an unfortunate experience with captive dolphins. The girls were super upset at that place because the dolphins were kept in a swimming pool-like tank. In the case of Dolphin Tour by Wildlife Connection in Puerto Vallarta, the experience is completely opposite. These bottlenose dolphins are observed in the wild, part of a large pod numbering at least 60 members. Our guide and boat captain took us out to the bay where this pod lives, so we could observe them in their natural habitat.

They were majestic, and as we approached it seemed almost that they were welcoming us! Some dolphins jumped completely out of the water and dove back in, while others swim gently in the waves. We saw dozens of them, and at some points they were everywhere around us.

swimming with dolphins Puerto Vallarta

Dolphins swim off the coast Puerto Vallarta, and if you are lucky you can swim with them!

After the dolphins got used to our boat, we slipped into the water quietly so as not to disturb them. Armed with scuba gear and flippers, we swam out into the group. Playful as ever, they surrounded us and swam circles around our family – they were curious about these humans in their midst. We could even hear their calls to each other, that unmistakable high squeal. Some dove beneath us, encouraging us to come along. Others jumped in the air near us, daring us to do the same. Our favorites were the friendly ones that circled us, very close but never touching.

Of all the things our family experienced in Puerto Vallarta, this was a true highlight. Rarely do we see both our teen girls smile so broadly at the same time. Winning!

Tips:

  • Small boat. If you get a little seasick, prepare in advance with Dramamine or wrist bands.
  • The marina where the boat picks you up is random without good signage. It is directly across the street from the Westin Puerto Vallarta if you get lost.
  • Be respectful. Do not touch or try to feed the dolphins – they are wild animals and will not benefit from too much human interference.
If You Go

There are so many great places to stay and things to do when you visit Puerto Vallarta with kids. We wished we had more time to do them all!

Westin Puerto Vallarta from water view

From the water, the view of the Westin Puerto Vallarta architecture and grounds is impressive.

Our home base at the Westin Puerto Vallarta was an ideal location. Near enough to the airport that we could get there in 10 minutes, it was easy to arrive and exit. Downtown was a short uber or taxi ride, and the dolphin encounter is directly across the street. If your family plans a lot of activities in Puerto Vallarta proper, we suggest not staying farther north than Nuevo Vallarta. The drive times are long and you will have to leave your hotel very early to reach the excursions on time.

Westin Puerto Vallarta rates start at $108 USD.


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Hotel Review: Live Aqua Urban Resort in Mexico City

Hotel Review: Live Aqua Urban Resort in Mexico City

I hadn’t been to Mexico City for about 25 years, and that initial trip was not my favorite. (Suffice to say I had eaten something that did not agree with me.) All I can remember from that trip is a pink sea of Pepto Bismol. So I was really excited to visit Mexico City again, knowing the city has changed and advanced so remarkably. We booked rooms at the luxurious Live Aqua Urban Resort in Mexico City for our recent trip, and I can’t wait to go back.

In fact, many friends have visited Mexico City recently and every single one comes back singing rave reviews about the food, people, culture, and architecture. And it’s all true. 26 million inhabitants, and somehow CDMX (Cuidad de Mexico) makes it all work.

 

seating area in Live Aqua lobby CDMX

There are plenty of nooks and crannies in which to sit around the lobby of the Live Aqua Urban Resort in Mexico City.

 

Mexico City is World Class

This world-class city reminds me of a cross between New York and Paris. There are huge areas of the city crisscrossed by wide avenues with parks and tall trees down the middle. Sidewalk cafes spill out from buildings of historic architecture, with sophisticated and extremely well-dressed men and women strolling, dining and discussing.

book column at Live Aqua Urbam Resort

This interior column in the lobby of the Live Aqua Urban Resort is artfully decorated with books as a design feature.

 

Interspersed with all this, tall and architecturally significant skyscrapers of gleaming glass and impossible angles dot the skylines of this surprisingly hilly city. Yes, like any large city there are areas of poverty. Driving through the roadways from the airport into town, we viewed neighborhoods of working people struggling to create better lives for themselves and their families. There is a broad difference in Mexico between the have and the have-nots, and many good residents of Mexico City and other areas are working hard to close this gap.

Live Aqua Urban Resort Location

In the Bosques de las Lomas neighborhood just near the famed restaurants, galleries and history of the Polanco area, Live Aqua Urban Resort welcomes discerning guests. Urban Resort is a good moniker for this hotel, because its location connected to a mall and business park is not a typical tourist experience. In fact, the hotel is more geared for international business people. No pool, no playground, no kids.

 

Live Aqua Urban Resort bar patio

Just off the main lobby of the Live Aqua Urban Resort, the patio bar is stylish and private.

 

Connected via glass-enclosed footbridge to a high end shopping mall with world- class restaurants, Live Aqua Mexico City delivers a 5-star luxury experience.

High Design

The lobby and public areas in Live Aqua are just stunning. Entering the lobby, I didn’t know where to look first since there were so many interesting things to see. Gigantic columns are wrapped into the design with whimsy, including one surrounded by seating and sheathed in a stack of real books. An interior reflecting pond and open seating areas are located to the right near the registration desk. To the left, the lobby bar spills out on to an outdoor deck with interesting wood accents. Enormous billowing drapes of cloth hang in curvy rows from the ceiling, a design feature that made me feel under-the-sea. And in the back, the hotel’s signature restaurant and open kitchen are tucked behind impressive florals.

Really, I could have sat in this lobby to drink in the design for hours.

 

lobby Live Aqua Urban Resort

The gorgeous lobby at the Live Aqua Urban Resort is a feast for the senses.

 

Spacious Rooms

Not to be outdone by the lobby, the guest rooms continue this theme of high design. More subdued than the public spaces, the rooms are decorated in warm woods and muted colors. Since the views from the large windows don’t offer anything exciting, the room takes over in the visual department. Every detail was perfect, every corner, every cabinet latch, every amenity – all perfection. At check-in, the staff even asked me what organic scent I would prefer in the room – mint, chamomile or citrus. I chose chamomile for relaxation.

Live Aqua room scents

Guests are asked if they would like to pick the scent of their room at Live Aqua. I chose “Relax”.

 

I don’t know about you, but I’m really picky about hotel beds. The mattress has to be the right combination of hard and soft, and the linens have to feel like butter. Oh and the pillows? When they are too hard, it feels like I’m trying to rest my head on a sand bag. Too soft, and my neck gets zero support so I wake up with a crick. But Goldilocks would have been happy with this bedding, and so was I. It was juuuussst right.

Live Aqua Urban Resort guest room

Muted colors and warm woods are accented by soft white bedding at Live Aqua Urban Resort.

Bathrooms To Die For

A true design feature in itself, the bathroom in my room at Live Aqua Mexico City was as large as some bedrooms. The wall and corner facing the bedroom was floor to ceiling glass, covered with wooden slat shades you can raise or lower at your whim. I positioned the louvers open to let in natural light, and checked to see that no one from outside could see me naked. (They couldn’t).

Live Aqua Urban Resort guestroom bath

Even the bathrooms at Live Aqua CDMX are stunning examples of design.

 

Also floor to ceiling glass on two sides, the enormous walk-in shower had a rainshower head and luxury bathroom amenities. If you like baths, you will love this bathtub which would easily fit more than one person.

The Little Things

For me, the signs of a good hotel are the little things we sometimes take for granted. At Live Aqua Mexico City, the elevator lobbies on each floor have a refreshment center complete with turntable and spinning vinyl. On the table next to that, morning refreshments include an urn of fruit infused water, fresh coffee or tea, and apples. In the evenings, the coffee is replaced with a bottle of Mezcal and some shot glasses. (You know, in case you need a quick pick-me-up before hitting the lobby bar.)

 

Mezcal sampler at Live Aqua

A little sip of 400 Conejos Mezcal is available in the elevator lobby of each floor at the Live Aqua Mexico City.

 

In my room, filtered water was served in a colored glass bottle with cork. Nearby, a zen-inducing sand box with rake was available in case I needed stress relief. All the appropriate plugs and outlets are available to charge my devices, and the hotel WiFi is free.

If You Go

Rooms at Live Aqua Urban Resort start at $174 USD. The hotel is located on the other side of downtown Mexico City from the airport, so plan on about an hour with light traffic to get there. Traffic in this city can be pretty jammed, so give yourself proper time to get anywhere.

If I return to Mexico City on business, I will absolutely book at Live Aqua again. I learned they have hotels in other Mexico destinations, so I’m absolutely going to take a look at those too. Can’t say enough good things about this fantastic hotel.

 

Live Aqua CDMX breakfast buffet

Each morning, the breakfast buffet they set out at Live Aqua Urban Resort is overwhelming and delicious.