We ended up at Isla Mujeres because of a hot tip from G's bro Bryan who was down a few months back and came back raving about it. We're all believers in the Isla Mujeres mojo now cuz this place is sweet, no doubt about it!
The journey for the 4 of us from Las Anclas on Cozumel was as follows: walk to ferry, ferry to Playa Del Carmen, bus to Cancun, taxi to ferry, ferry to Isla Mujeres, taxi to Villa La Bella. We were rewarded for our efforts immediately; Villa La Bella is a beautiful spot.
We were greeted by Curtis and Ashley; the über-friendly American couple who own and operate the place. They quickly showed us to our rooms where we changed into swim gear and then made our way into the pool. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent in and around the pool; lounging in hammocks, eating tacos and enjoying some beverages from their bar. In short, working hard.
In the morning G and I made the walk into town to try to secure some transportation for a few days. On this Island transportation comes in the form of golf carts. It was a long, hot walk into town, but well worth it as we scored an awesome cart, complete with head lights AND sweet light blue Hibiscus flower patterned paint. Never again (at least on this island) would we have to face the heat on foot again.
We made our way back towards Villa La Bella to show Justin and Cori our fresh new ride and luckily saw them in the window of Mango's Cafe eating lunch as we puttered past. They were in the midst of getting into some serious grind: Stuffed Poblano Chilis and Fish Tacos that were amazingly large in portion and even more amazingly large in taste. (Please see photos for more details) G and I helped them a little with their meals and I can confirm that the food tastes even better then it looks.
That afternoon we packed a few beach bags and set out to explore the island. We headed south out of our parking lot and took a lazy lap around the south point. We stopped to look at an open house, just out of curiosity, and it's comforting to note that for only about $500,000 one could buy a decent sized house with its own personal sliver of paradise-esque beach and an unbelievable ocean view. Ahhhh...some day, some day.
We ended up on the North part of the island for a beach session at the aptly named-North Beach. We arrived and it was the kind of hot that makes you just want to lay down and die, but luckily we stumbled onto a little patch of sand that was shaded under a couple palm trees and set up shop for a few hours.
The water is the type of blue you dream about and don't believe exists till you see it with your own 2 eyes; a sort of electric turquoise shading several hues up and down the blue scale and the sand is the kind of white that reminds you of snow and with a beautiful powdery consistency too. Yup, the things Corona commercials are made of.
We alternated between swimming, paddle balling and lounging for a while before the shifting sun started to make our shady oasis a blazing sand patch and our stomachs started to tell us it was time to move on.
We made a move to a new-ish establishment on Isla, but I must say one that quickly became amongst our favorites; "Throwing Down Some NYC Deli". Now you don't go to Rome expecting great Thai food and nor should you come to Mexico looking for great deli sandwiches, but I'm here to tell you that every once in a while somebody bucks the trend.
I am a sandwich snob. You may or may not know that I worked at 2 delis in college. You may or may not know that I consider the humble deli sandwich to be my favorite food. I only mention these 2 facts so that my enthusiasm for these sandwiches are not dismissed as "just another AM food rant".
I had a Reuben and Gina had a veggie supreme of her own creation. Wow. I don't even like Reubens, in fact I used to even hate making them because they stank. But this Reuben was something else entirely...
Fresh bread (baked 50 feet from the deli); cut thick, toasted hard.
Freshly (in-house) cured meat; plentiful yet not ridiculous. Delicious in it's simple savoriness.
Swiss Cheese. The real stuff, melted on the grilled meat.
House made Russian Dressing; similar to, but not to be mistaken for, your average, run of the mill 1000 Island Dressing.
Boom! Simple, but beautiful.
A bonus to the experience was meeting the owner and chief sandwich engineer, Mark, who, as luck would have it, lived for a dozen years in Oakland, CA. Coincidence? Naaa, no chance...
We spent some time in the shop enjoying our sandos and picking his brain for any local knowledge on good spots to cruise to, before thanking him and telling him we'd see him again soon.
Feeling good and well fed we headed back to the house for a little pool and happy hour session. We enjoyed one of Curtis' famous Cadillac Margheritas (maximum 2 per person per day!) and a few cold ones before cleaning up and heading out for a sunset session at one of Mark's friends recommendations: Hotel Casa de Los Sueños. It has a great deck down by the water with the perfect view looking West towards Cancun to watch the sunset and we enjoyed it over a platter of fish tacos, plenty of chips and salsa and a few cold beers.
On our way out we bumped into the owner who insisted on giving us the grand tour as she'd just bought it 2 weeks earlier and was eager to show it off. It's a 'boutique hotel' which I always thought just meant small. I realize now that is not the case. She showed us each of the free rooms which were all unique and beautiful in their own right and which each had their own stunning views. The tour eventually took us to the Presidential Suite which was sort of occupied, but by one of her friends so she took us in for a spin. Complete with it's own private infinity pool, full kitchen, etc. this place was like no 'hotel room' I've ever seen in person. She mentioned casually that it was available on Sunday night, which was our last night on Isla Mujeres and the one night we'd not made plans for yet...
Long story short: Leste negotiated a rate in the Presidential Suite, and even though it was still well above what we had budgeted for accommodation per night we sort of said screw it and before we drove our trusty Golf Cart off into the Isla night- a credit card had been swiped and we were confirmed for one night of luxury in El Presidente. I blame Curtis' Cadillac Margheritas for altering our judgment sufficiently to make such an awesomely irresponsible decision.
We took the long route back that evening just happy to be cruising with the night's cool air in our faces. There is something invigorating about taking on the island by golf cart at night. The top speed is probably about 15 mph, but it may as well have been 150 mph.
We woke up on Saturday to realize it was Cinco de Mayo. It turns out that in Mexico it's not the excuse for tequila fueled mayhem that it is in most US college towns. Still, there was a fiesta planned that evening and on top of everything it turns out that the moon that evening was to be the 'Super Moon' meaning it would be not only full but also bigger, brighter and altogether more spectacular then a normal full moon.
We decided that the day should be dedicated to hard core R&R. To that end Justin and Cori took up positions in the hammocks with their books while G and I cruised into town to do a little shopping. To their credit J&C, true to their word, hadn't moved an inch when we returned about 2 hours later.
For lunch we made a run back to town for another of Mark's sandwiches and unsurprisingly he nailed it again! God bless that Reuben.
The afternoon was spent poolside with a couple of Premium Tequilas from Curtis' bar along with a side of his famous Sangrita (spicy tomato juice blend).
One thing that we'd noticed by this point was that the soundtrack at Villa La Bella rarely deviated from Jimmy Buffet; something I was OK with, but my companions found irritating. Judging from the kind of guy Curtis is I'd bet one of the reasons he bought this joint was so he could bump that JB all day, everyday.
The 'Super Moon' rise that night was spectacular. We had front row seats as it rose above the Caribbean sea. Super!
We took the cart out for one last night spin that evening to a taco shop that we'd heard was good. It was. Our last, of many Al Pastor taco session of the 10 day trip with Justin and Cori. We went heavy on the Habanero salsa again too...we just never seem to learn.
We tried to go to the Soggy Peso for the Cinco de Mayo fiesta, but it was pretty deserted when we got there except for some dogs that went crazy barking and even tried to chase us as we peeled out of their driveway in the golf cart. We heard something about dogs acting especially crazy on "super" full moons...
We woke up to our last morning at Villa La Bella, enjoyed our last of Curtis' patented cinnamon coffee/super rich breakfast and then after a last dip in the pool, packed our bags and thanked Curtis and Ashley for having us. We headed out and loaded ourselves plus all of our luggage onto the golf cart 'Beverly Hillbilly's style and made our move to Casa de Los Sueños for our date with luxury and a 24 hour session in Presidential Suite.
The rest as they say is History!!