To Raul: I’m sorry that I never returned to the resort beach to claim my spot under the palapa.
To Luís: I’m sorry that I undertipped you at dinner on the first night of our vacation–we made up for it, though.
To everyone on our plane flying into Cancun: I’m sorry you had to stay in Cancun.
And that is the truth. I mean, I was never going to be excited about spending time in Cancun, and I was especially never going to be excited about spending time in Cancun during Spring Break. Mr. Pretty and I never liked to hang out around drunk strangers even when we were in our twenties. Now that we both turned fifty, the idea of dealing with loud, vomiting co-eds is a special kind of torture. But every problem has a solution–and the solution to having these Plan B tickets to Cancun turned out to be a twenty minute shuttle.
Yes, we opted for the less-traveled path: the Hotel Casa del Puerto in Puerto Morelos. It’s on the same stretch of beach as Cancun . . . but a much different atmosphere. Of course, pictures online always make hotels look amazing, but we did start to wonder when the shuttle turned off route 307 and then onto a bumpy gravel drive that took us past a bunch of different schmancy resorts and highly-fortified single homes hidden behind what seemed to be a jungle. Had I been alone, I would have been worried that I was being driven to my death. But finally, at the end of the lane, there was our hotel (Casa del Puerto). And . . . it was good.
The hotel–which is beachfront–is only 14 rooms, and every (huge) room has a perfect view of the Caribbean Sea and a massive balcony with a chaise lounge and a hammock. The staff is incredible. Seriously–I don’t know that I’ve ever stayed at hotel with better staff. The room was relatively inexpensive at around $80/night, especially given that it’s sandwiched between two of those all-inclusive resorts that come in between $250/night and $750/night. I wasn’t expecting much–a place to sleep at best. But in a world where the pandemic creates a situation where you have to worry about COVID-19 exposure, it was the perfect open-air situation: it was easy to leave the balcony door open at night (if you’re not on the first floor) and the restaurant was completely open, adjacent to a small pool with loungers–and feet from the beach. And because we were so close to other resorts, there was easy access to cabs.
Not that we needed a cab, mind you. Maybe that would have been a different situation had we stayed longer than a few days–you know, been there long enough to get bored of being lazy. But as it was, we both just needed to just . . . hang out for a few days. Breakfast was part of the hotel rate, so we started every day with a really excellent breakfast of scrambled eggs made to order, coffee or tea, fresh orange juice or fresh fruit, and toast. The restaurant was open all day until around 9PM, so we’d wander out to a lounger after breakfast, and maybe get a few mojitos mid-morning. Lunch and dinner–for me, at least, was the same thing: ceviche. The restaurant had the best ceviche, different with each meal–they used whatever was fresh caught, and the cook enjoyed doing something different each time.
There was exactly one downside: the beach was sort of out of the question. Due to climate change, a massive amount of sargassum was hitting Quintana Roo, all up and down the coast, while we were there. It was so bad the Mexican Navy sent over half of its seaweed collection fleet to collect it, and there were installing seaweed barriers. Even the schmancy hotels next door didn’t bother to clear the beaches since it would have been a constant, all day job. And that’s how we met Raul. Poor, sweet Raul. We took a walk down the beach to see what the resorts were like (crowded, full of chrome), and I was curious about whether we could rent a palapa all day, like we did in St. Martin. Raul was totally down for it, but Mr. Pretty decided at the last minute that he didn’t want to hang out with the beautiful, rich people. Who can blame him when our hotel was all but deserted, and the mojitos were a delight?