Paradise Found: Playa del Carmen

My passport expired more than six years ago. That’s about when I gave up on “travel” in general. I hate to fly. Other beds are never as comfy as mine. And I hate to fly. Did I mention that? It’s probably the number one reason why I’ve chosen a grounded lifestyle. That, and I’ve been waiting for someone to hurry up and invent a “beam me up Scotty” to get me where I need to go sans plane. Since that’s yet to happen, I realized the only way to get anywhere is to get on a plane and just go. So I did. On a trip to Mexico I’m calling the “honeymoon-I-never-took/hubby-finished-first-year-of-law-school-way-overdue vacay.” Destintion: Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Just an hour and a half away from Miami. Something to think about with upcoming Memorial Day madness descending on our fair Miami Beach sooner than later. Here’s how it went down, my virtual home movie of the greatest vacay I’ve had in more than a decade. Seriously.

Waiting for the plane in my American Apparel dress, Lucky Brand denim top and vintage fedora. Sure, I look calm, but in my head I’m totally freaking out that I’m getting on a plane.

The hubby. I remembered to pack him along, too.

There it is, my view of the world outside my Jet Blue window. But I did it. I made the trip and my generous reward was …

Arriving at the stunning Grand Velas Riviera Maya resort, where each room is a marble palace and the shower is as big as my whole bathroom. And the blinds are controlled by remote. And a magic phone that delivers anything you can dream up rests next to the bed. Why did it take me so many years to get here?

My home for the next four days in the jungle. Or, as we said the whole trip: Bienvenidos a la jungla. The resort sits on more than 80-acres of environmentally protected mangroves, which means I saw all kinds of cool animals. It’s so big, you have to take a shuttle from one end of the resort to the next, of which there are three main stays, eight fine-dining restros and enough beachfront property to make you wish you could run away and never go home again.

First stop at the resort: the bar. Margaritas for everyone. And since it’s all inclusive, you can actually get away with that.

Each day is greeted with a weather report. So this is how they do it in paradise. None of that logging into the Weather Channel business.

Our room came with a plunge pool overlooking the ocean. Yeah, I could get used to this.

Dinner: Margaritas. Mango margaritas to be exact. I don’t even like mangos, and I drank this whole thing. Happily.

Oh yeah, I had some food from Piaf, the resort’s French restro, between margaritas. The restro situation is pretty stellar, like a trip around the world. There’s Mexican at Frida, Italian at Lucca, Molecular at Cocina de Autor and Asian at Sen Lin. This salad tasted as pretty as it looked. Those are real flowers in there. In paradise, you eat flowers.

Day two started off on the patio with a little light reading of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. I literally laughed so hard at the raccoon in the sink bit that I cried. Actual tears. Add it to your summer reading list.

Then, a tour. I mean, seriously, how beautiful is this? Hello, postcard.

How can I get a pool that looks like this in my backyard?

We were told deer come through here for a sip of water from time to time. Of course they do, this is paradise.

After the tour, it was off to the spa. This is the path to the spa. A path this beautiful can only lead to something great.

Oh look, I was right. And by spa, I don’t mean just any spa. I mean a mega spa with 40 treatment rooms. And a water journey, where you experience water in nearly every form it comes in: solid, frozen, gas, liquid. The journey starts with a trip to the sauna. Shhh, don’t tell them, but I did some yoga in the sauna because it felt right. Then, they whisk you off to the ice room, where ice tumbles out of a faucet and the room is chilly, like sitting in your fridge, which is heaven after the sauna. Next, off to the clay room, where you cover yourself in clay in a steam room. Then, to the hot and cold shower (starts off hot, then unexpectedly shoots you with cold) to wash off the clay. Then, off to another steam room, this one with twinkling stars on the ceiling, followed by a dip in the cold plunge pool (pictured below), then off to the big, warm pool (pictured above). It’s more of an adventure than a journey. And your circulatory system with thank you. Especially after you submerge yourself into warm water right after taking a cold plunge.

Said plunge pool. Ice, ice baby.

Yup, I saw this in real life—fish pedicures, where tanks of fish exfoliate the skin on your feet.

I skipped the fish pedicure and opted for something even more in tune with nature: the Cocoa Ritual. Each treatment starts off with a Mayan transition to help put you in touch with the elements: water is placed on hands as your essence, a rock is placed in your hand as the form your essence takes, heat is placed on the back of your neck, shells are placed near ears so the sea-sound inside mimics your breath. Your feet are then placed in a bowl while bird seed is poured over the top to complete the transformation. And then the Cocoa Ritual began. After a full exfoliation, I was covered in chocolate, like a strawberry dipped in chocolate. It smelled delish. Then, after the chocolate dried, I showered it off, and returned to the table to be coated in an equally tasty-smelling cocoa lotion. Afterward, I felt like a walking dessert. And my skin felt smooth, like, well, silky chocolate. A perfect refreshing treat.

Rain set in after the spa treatment, but even that was beautiful.

So I grabbed an umbrella and headed for a little souvenir shopping at Playa del Carmen’s Fifth Avenue.

Fifth Avenue is like Espanola Way, Lincoln Road and Ocean Drive all wrapped into one. Yup, it’s tourist trap city, but you’re a tourist, so it’s OK to enjoy it.

You’ll find tons of jewelry.

And, some stores will let you play putt-putt for a discount.

There’s also baby animals on leashes that shouldn’t be, like leopards, tigers and panthers. But you have to pay to take a pic with them (I told you it was a tourist trap). I pet a sleeping baby tiger until the guy who was holding the leash got wise and tried to charge me.

Day three: Rain. But I knew that was going to happen because my weather card told me so. But who cares, I was still in paradise with a mega spa. I was going to conquer all that Grand Velas Riveria Maya Resort had to offer.

Just as soon as I got out of the cloud bed. Did I really think my bed at home was more comfy than a hotel bed? How sadly wrong I was.

Breakfast in cloud bed. I seriously need to get one of these bedside phones where anything you want is magically delivered to your door and placed before you.

Day two at the spa. Today’s adventure: couple’s massage. Hubby and I opted for a Therapeutic Velas Maya Massage, which was a customized massage and pure bliss that we got to share together. How romantic is that?

Afterward, off to dinner in this dress I designed using vintage Christian Dior fabric, my Webster for Target bangles and Nordstrom platforms.

For dinner: Asian cuisine at Sen Lin. The setting was amazing, with pool-sized fountains, dark wood, booths where the servers greeted you on both sides. David ate nine courses here. Nine. It was like he was Godzilla attacking a small Asian village. His favorite of the nine: tempora soft shell crab. Not a bad way to end the last night in paradise.

The next morning, we bid farewell to paradise. And I realized, that amazing things are just an airplane trip away. A plane trip, that’s all.