Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Get an adrenalin rush at the Riviera Maya's newest park - Xplor!

While in Cancun this trip we decided to visit the park Xplor.   The park is operated by the same group that has Xcaret and Xel Ha - we have been to these parks multiple times and always enjoyed our time there.  Xplor is a very 'active' park.  There are no shows or relaxing activities (unless you take some time to enjoy the hammocks).  It is not a place for small children.  Be prepared for lots of walking, swimming and paddling...and also lots of fun!
All activity areas can be reached from the 'heart' of the park

We booked a private van from the hotel zone in Cancun to Xplor.  There were 6 of us in the group and the cost was $121 pp.  Gate entrance to Xplor at this time of the year is $99 pp.  If you have a car, or are staying in the Riviera Maya, you could save a few dollars and drive yourself or take a cab.  We don't like to do the 'public' tours as you waste hours picking up other passengers from different hotels, organizing the groups, waiting around and having to endure rest stops.  With a private van you pick the time you want to leave in the morning and return on your schedule.

When you get to Xplor you check in and get your helmet and locker key.  Everything is included at this park- equipment, locker, food and drinks.  There is a small gift shop and you can purchase photos if you want.  Be prepared to get wet and stay that way all day.  A bathing suit is a must and water shoes or sandals that strap on your feet are important.  Running shoes can be worn, but in areas that you have to swim they can be heavy.
Flowers lining the walkways - taken with our Kodak mini waterproof camera

Photos - your helmet has a chip which captures your photos.  They tell you not to switch helmets or pictures will be mixed up.  If you only want to purchase one set of photos - you might want to 'share' the helmet.  Not all the zip lines have photos so plan accordingly.  The other activities you can get couples or small groups in the photos.  There are a few places around the park that you can trigger the cameras with a button and take all the pictures you want.  Do this!  The picture packages are priced per helmet - no matter how many pictures are taken. If you buy the photos they are on a thumb drive (not actual photos, but files).  There are monitors around the park that you can hold your helmet up to and view what pictures have been taken.  We all bought the photos and got a better price for 6 helmets worth of photos.  We had our laptop in our condo and just downloaded them onto our drive, loaded copies onto one couple's SD card and gave the drive to the third couple.  They do allow waterproof cameras to be carried on the activities.  We used ours....but Dennis had our Kodak mini wash out of his pocket on a zip line (the pocket has a Velcro closure).  Luckily one of the workers had a snorkel and found our camera AND our room key!
Double lines, automatic brakes - very safe!
Water landing - or how we lost the camera!
There are some VERY long runs

There are 2 sets of zip lines (with about 7 or 8 zip lines each).  Once you are on the course you have to finish.  Use the bathroom and get a drink of water before you start.  It took us 2 hours to complete the courses and there were no real lines (at most 10 people ahead of us).  Make sure you look around when up on the lines.  The views are great!  You can see Cozumel, zip over cenotes, jungle, roads, through water and down into a cave!
Some of the zip line towers
Down into the cave
There is a lot of walking up on some of the towers
Water flows though the bottom of this ramp and into the caves
There is a water slide in the middle of the zip line course!

The 4 wheeler course is a great way to dry off a little.  You drive through the jungle and also through some caves.  Our vehicle didn't have much power up the hills....we barely moved along.  On one part another vehicle stalled in the water in a cave and we were stuck in a line waiting for them to get some help.
Crossing a bridge in the jungle
Going into the cave though the water
Driving inside the caves

The rafts in the cave are fun - just don't get close to those who don't know how to paddle.  You have a choice of single or double rafts and there are 2 different courses to paddle through. 
You paddle with your hands

The cave swimming was beautiful!  There are 2 different swim courses.  One long and one short.  The long swim has great cave formations to see and even a few bats!  We have been in many caves over the years and the caves here at Xplor have many formations to enjoy.
Photo taken with a 35mm waterproof camera

Coati looking for treats

The smoothie bar was a great place to take a break and get something to drink.  There are also cookies and fruit at this location.  If you just want juice or water it is self serve at this location.  Hammocks, chairs and a small swim area are close by if you want to relax.
Walking though the caves between activities

If you like to zip line, are ready for a bit of walking, climbing, swimming and rafting...this is the park for you! 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Off the beaten path (WAY off - but worth it!)

Friends of ours took us to this restaurant last year - now we love to go there with them every time we are in Cancun!  Coyote's is waaayyyy out of the hotel zone and downtown area in SM 233.  They don't get tourists here and no one speaks English.  Andy & Nancy Meyer (our friends that live in Cancun) found this place when they were taken here by one of their employees.  We thought you might enjoy seeing one of the local places that the residents of Cancun enjoy.
Our first visit for this trip
The dining area
Our second visit this trip!

Coyote's is small, but with a great seafood menu.  It can be crowded - especially at lunchtime and on Sunday when families are out dining together.  The prices are reasonable and the food keeps us coming back!
The prices are reasonable
Garlic shrimp and a crab tostada
Coconut shrimp
Many types of sauces

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Who remembers the drive-in?

There is a drive-in theater at Bass Lake, Indiana which has been open since 1959.  The Melody Drive In is still family owned and a great way to spend an evening.  The prices are $7 for adults, kids 5-11 are $3 and under 5 are free.  This price is for TWO movies!   We enjoyed spending an evening watching movies while we were in the area in August.

The concession stand/washrooms/projection building has not changed in 50 years.  It is still an all grass parking area and many people sit out in their lawn chairs to enjoy the movies.  The only difference between when we were kids and now is that they have added a second screen and  you can tune in your car radio if you don't want to use the speakers. 
Setting up an area to watch screen 2 from the back of a truck

We watched 'Friends with Benefits' and 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'.  They were actually playing on two different screens (Friends was billed with 'Change-Up' and the Apes was with 'Mr Popper's Penguins').  There is no fence between the different parking areas as there is only one concession/washroom building.  We watched the first movie on screen 2 and then turned the car around and watched the next on screen one!  It is a great way to spend an evening and not very expensive...especially if you bring your own snacks and drinks.  They are open every night in the summer and on weekends during the spring and fall.   There is also a Sunday morning drive-in church service.  If you don't feel like getting dressed for church you never have to leave the car!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Shark!!! (teeth anyway)

While exploring the beaches in Florida we decided to check out the self-proclaimed "Shark Tooth Capitol".  Caspersen beach is in the town of Venice - south of St Pete and north of Sanibel/Captiva.  We had spent a few hours in the morning on Sanibel and decided to head back to the mainland for some lunch (there is an Aurelio's Pizza in Ft Meyers) and then head further up the coast. 

There had been a few postings on Trip Advisor about hunting shark teeth in the area, so we stopped at a Wal-Mart to pick up a couple of supplies.  The locals use a long handled wire basket to dig in the breaking surf...we used a pasta colander and a kitty litter scoop.  We also had a small lingerie bag to place our finds in.  I would bring a pill container or bison tube next time as the shark teeth can be tiny.

The beach here is free - no toll bridge to pay and no parking meters!  (Sanibel is $6 for the bridge and $2 an hour to park IF you can find a parking space!)  There are picnic tables but we didn't see any concessions in the area we were.  There are a few more public beaches along this stretch of coast so maybe there were washrooms and food available somewhere else. 

The whole process is to scoop up the sand/shells/rocks/teeth along the shore break, seine the sand out and pick through what is left looking for the teeth.  The beach has dark colored sand here so you can dump your finds up on the beach and pick through them there if you would like.  We spent about 1 1/2 hrs here - would have liked to spend more time but there were storms rolling in.  Didn't want to stand in the water during lightning!
Sorting through the finds - nice shells here too!

Shark teeth we found

This was a free and fun way to spend some time while on the Gulf coast of Florida.  We will definitely return and plan to spend more time here.  We also located a dive operator who will take certified divers out looking for Megalodon teeth!  There is supposed to be a fossil bed located off shore where these items come from.