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The place of the turtles, a day in Akumal

Did you know that there’s a beach hideaway in the Riviera Maya that is actually called “the place of the turtles” in Maya? That’s right, Akumal (ak means turtle and lumal place in Maya) is a picture-perfect bay protected by a chain of coral reefs where green turtles can often be spotted swimming. They also venture into the bay to graze on sea grass beds and come ashore at night during the summer to lay their eggs on area beaches.

Akumal is a perennial family favorite; its sheltered waters and gentle surf are perfect for children. Spend the day on the palm-lined beach building sand castles with them – Mayan pyramids, mermaids, fish, dolphins and turtles are all popular subjects – and swimming and snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of the bay.

Don a snorkel mask and flippers and head out towards the reef. You don’t have to go very far before you start to see a variety of colorful fish such as sergeant majors, butterfly fish and French grunts and you may even spot one of the turtles. Watching one swim by in the distance is a truly amazing experience.

Take a break from the beach to shop for Mexican crafts, textiles and jewelry in the stores and galleries clustered under the palm trees a short walk from the bay. You’ll find plenty of sea turtles carved from wood, modeled out of clay or as metal wall hangings and there are evocative pictures of Akumal and its turtles by local painters.

If you are feeling hungry, fresh seafood, shrimp tacos, tasty salads, sandwiches, homemade cakes and ice cream are all on the menu.

A short drive along the coast road to the north of Akumal beach is Half Moon Bay, a rocky cove where the reef comes closer to the shore. The snorkeling is good here too and the views just as beautiful. There’s a quirky tropical beach bar with swings, hammocks, thatched lookout towers and tables and benches made of tree trunks. Order a beer or margarita and enjoy the view. The water is so clear that you can sometimes see turtles coming up for air and spotted eagle rays and parrotfish swimming in the shallows.

Follow the coast road further north to the shores of Yalku, a turquoise-colored caleta or inlet of crystal-clear waters constantly replenished by cenotes and underground rivers, hence the refreshingly cool temperature.

A variety of colorful reef fish feed and breed among the mangrove roots and submerged rocks in the lagoon. You’ll be surrounded by inquisitive sergeant majors as soon as you enter the water. Start swimming and you’ll spot blue tangs, damselfish, angelfish, porkfish, parrotfish and barracuda, among others.

A local cooperative manages Yalku and charges a fee for admission. Life jackets are available and there are restrooms and a little open-air cafe.

Ask your Concierge

Your Concierge can help you arrange a day trip to Akumal. There is a small admission charge per person to the bay to fund conservation projects, including turtle protection. And why not stop off in Playa del Carmen for an early dinner and more shopping on the way back? You could also take your children to Playa Aquarium to see more of the colorful marine creatures that they saw earlier in the day in Akumal.

 

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Chichen Itza Equinox and the return of the feathered serpent

As the sun sets in the west and the shadows lengthen in the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, a collective gasp of amazement goes up from thousands of people who gather at the foot of the Pyramid of Kukulcan on the spring equinox in March. They are witnessing an incredible sight, the mysterious shadow of a serpent rippling across the stone, the symbol of an ancient deity returning to earth.

Also known as El Castillo, the Pyramid of Kukulcan is a feat of ancient engineering and a solar clock, aligned to catch the rays of the setting sun on the days of the spring and fall equinoxes in March and September. Triangles of light and shadow form along the side of the north staircase and the figure of a snake appears, merging with the head of a stone snake at the foot of the pyramid. The illusion is created of a gigantic serpent slithering down from the heavens and across the plaza in the direction of the Sacred Cenote.

The snake symbolizes Kukulcan (also known as Quetzalcoatl in central Mexico), the feathered serpent god, who returns to earth to give hope to his followers and heralds the time for spring planting and fall harvest for the Maya.

Your Concierge can help you arrange a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Chichen Itza for the Equinox, or at any other time of the year.   The spring equinox officially falls on March 20 in 2019. The light and shadow snake is visible the day before and after the equinox, cloud cover permitting.

Chichen Itza is not the only Mayan ceremonial center in the Yucatán to have temples with solar, lunar or planetary alignments. The doorway of the Temple of the Seven Dolls at Dzibilchaltun (13 miles north of Mérida) makes a perfect frame for the rising sun on the day of the Equinox.

 

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Guide to great fishing spots in the Mexican Caribbean

Calling all fishermen out there, mark your calendars. March is the start of the sport fishing season in the Mexican Caribbean.

The fastest predators in the sea, reaching speeds of over 68 miles an hour, sailfish and marlin move through area waters in the spring and summer in pursuit of huge shoals of migrating sardines, anchovies and mackerel. Snapper, dorado, bonito and wahoo are also plentiful and your captain and crew will take you right to where the fish are running.

Puerto Morelos and the Cozumel Channel

You don’t have to go far from Grand Residences to cast your line as some of the area’s best fishing grounds are right offshore from Puerto Morelos and south along the Riviera Maya coast. Marked by a line of indigo-colored water, an ocean trench called the Cozumel Channel runs between the coast and the island of Cozumel and is used by migrating big game fish.

East of Isla Mujeres

Fishermen also set sail from Cancun and Isla Mujeres heading for the Yucatan Channel, another ocean trench between Mexico and Cuba, which reaches depths of nearly 9,200 feet. Marlin, sailfish, shoals of tuna, manta rays, pods of dolphins and migrating whales are often spotted here.

Other boats head for the Arrowsmith Bank east of Punta Cancun, an underwater plateau rich in marine life.

Holbox

Just off the north coast of Quintana Roo in the Gulf of Mexico, the island of Holbox is another good place for fishing enthusiasts. After a day at sea, local fishermen are happy to sit on the beach at the end of the day and share stories of their lifelong quest for the biggest fish.

Costa Maya

Further south along the Costa Maya, the fishing villages of Mahahual and Xcalak also attract sport fishermen.

Fly fishing

Hidden in the mangroves, the shallow lagoons that stretch along the Quintana Roo coast offer a different challenge – they are rich in bonefish such as tarpon, permit and snook and attract fly fishermen from all over the world. There are fishing lodges in the Boca Paila area and Punta Allen in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Holbox and the Isla Blanca wetlands around Laguna Chacmochchuc to the north of Cancun are also good spots.

Catch and release

Local marinas adhere to the catch and release policy to help conserve fish stocks and we urge you to join their campaign. The thrill of being out on the waves in pursuit of sleek marlin and sailfish should be enough and we hope that you will liberate any game fish you catch.

Planning your fishing trip

If you enjoy fishing and are planning a day out on the high seas or want to go bone fishing, the concierge will help you organize fishing trips and boat charters.