The Start-of-Summer Getaway
Hello, hello! My name is Jackie Luo, and I'm a photographer who works with the Mimi Shou of Meems. We recently went on a dream trip to Mexico with our friends Garland and Mary Elizabeth—a spring break to start the summer, so to speak—and here's what we did!
On our first day, we arrived at the Cancun airport and went straight to our hotel in Playa del Carmen, The Palm at Playa. If you're ever in the area, yes, that's where you should stay! The hotel staff was beyond friendly, and they showed us to a gorgeous suite with two bedrooms. We left our suitcases and moved to the beach for a late, late lunch at Fusion Bar and Grill. Once we were sated with mojitos and margaritas, ceviche and fajitas, we went back to the hotel for a visit to the infinity pool on the rooftop.
The view of the city was unparalleled, and we met our first strangers in Mexico, Fernanda and Jonathan! We ordered fun coconut drinks and chatted with them; Fernanda was about to move to Cabo with her boyfriend, and Jonathan was her soon-to-be-former roommate, working in PR at the Cirque du Soleil. When in Playa... right? After lounging on the pool for a few hours, we went to dinner at Aroma Cilantro, the open-air restaurant in the hotel, and ordered yummy tacos of all kinds. For dessert, we walked over a block to La Avenida Quinta, the long beachside street with restaurants and shops, and stopped at a little French pâtisserie for crepes, pie, and chocolate mousse. All in all... the perfect end to our first day.
The next morning, we went to breakfast (again at the hotel restaurant), where we ordered the most delicious green juice I've ever had, along with chilaquiles and omelettes. Then, crazily enough, Mary Elizabeth announced that her dad had hired a former Marine flown from Texas to keep us safe in Mexico. What?!? Apparently, that was happening, and we met him at the hotel. Armed with our new friend Anthony, we walked to Tus Mamitas, the beach that Fernanda had recommended the previous day, and came upon a friendly local with a boat. He offered to take us out onto the ocean for seventy pesos apiece, and we eagerly got on board with a six-pack and some waters. We sailed for two hours, stopping near a reef to swim in the open water. It was as picturesque as possible, with crisp turquoise waves and a cloudless blue sky.
We returned to shore famished and stopped for lunch at the beach club. After a leisurely meal, we went to the beach beds at Mamita's to rest and tan. We ended day two with dinner at La Vagabunda and mezcal shots (Garland's personal obsession) at Don Mezcal.
As beautiful as it was, we were just about done with Playa del Carmen, and we were really, really excited for Tulum. We said goodbye to The Palm and got on the road. In Tulum, we were staying in a villa we booked via Airbnb, with two hosts named Marc and Nico. Casa Los Amigos, they called it. It took a long time to find in Tulum's winding dirt roads, but once we did, it was beautiful. Concrete floors and surfaces, huge windows, minimalist design... and a rooftop pool. We had the penthouse, and we took a moment to soak in everything before leaving our suitcases and heading to lunch at El Camello, the popular spot in the town of Tulum.
From the restaurant, we got back on the road to go to Cenote Dos Ojos, a flooded underground cave system that we knew we shouldn't miss. Snorkeling equipment in hand, we arrived to find an eerily beautiful cavern with crystal-clear water. It was also virtually untouched, with just a few other people there while we were. Just what we wanted. After swimming for an hour, we went to a second cenote, Cenote Nicte-Ha, a more open, sunny cave complete with lily pads and singing birds. Anthony, Mary Elizabeth, Mimi, and then (after some hesitation) Garland jumped off the little cliff on the side of the cenote, and we stayed until five, luxuriating in the fresh water.
After a long day outdoors, we headed to a supermarket to buy a few ingredients for cooking and then straight home to Casa Los Amigos. We cooked a delicious meal of calamari steak, tilapia, and boquinete and crashed early that night.
On our last day, we made our own breakfast! Mimi, the consummate chef (not), took the reins with that meal, making her specialty of fried eggs while Mary Elizabeth prepared avocado toast and Garland mixed yummy breakfast cocktails with mango nectar and tequila. After that, we went to Akumal Bay for some snorkeling in the ocean. We swam through the bay, gazing at giant sea turtles and stingrays and coral reefs. The water was hot and cold at the same time from the saltwater and freshwater mixing together.
Once we got our fill of the bay, we finally headed toward the beach in Tulum, driving through a beautiful, well-kept, winding road that ran parallel to it. We had heard from Nico, our Airbnb host, that we had to make reservations early for the most famous restaurant in Tulum, Hartwood. Stopping for lunch first at Casa Violeta, we had tacos and drinks. The beach was the most tranquil place I'd ever seen, the polar opposite of what we'd seen in Playa del Carmen, and we sat at a table facing the water with the sea breeze wafting toward us. The bartender sent us shots of a spicy vodka drink with whole blueberries, and we toasted the trip.
Mary Elizabeth and Mimi moved to the beachside beds after lunch, and Garland and I went to Hartwood to make our reservation. We walked for ten minutes down the beach road and finally came upon a long line of people, mostly Americans, waiting outside a gate. Apparently, the restaurant was really, really popular... Who knew? After a solid forty-five minute wait in the heat, we were able to book a table for 6:00 p.m., a lucky chance for us because the hostess had initially said the only available time was 9:30.
We went back to Casa Los Amigos to shower and change and returned to Hartwood. We ordered big because it was our last night: ceviche, octopus, flank steak, empanadas, plantains, and much more. Everything was perfectly cooked and on par for the restaurant's reputation. And the people were beyond cool, joking with us and fawning over Meems. We fell in love!
Finally, it was late, and we drove back to town to shop for some last-minute souvenirs and have ice cream for dessert. I bought a few hand-blown shot glasses and briefly considered lugging a hammock back home (but decided against it because we were already over our weight limit, thanks to me...). Mary Elizabeth got a little beaded ring, Garland bought her mother shot glasses, too, and even Anthony found some tiny little dresses and a wooden snake for his kids.
The next morning, we packed, said our goodbyes, and headed for the airport. Four days was the perfect length of time for our trip, and now we're all back home in Houston, refreshed and ready for wherever we go next. I'm returning to New York for an internship; Mimi's off to Hong Kong for classes, while Garland's doing the same in London; Mary Elizabeth's staying here for a summer job. The adventure never ends, right?