One, Two, Three
26.02.2017 - 27.02.2017
This is our third trip to Mexico, second with kids, and each visit has been vastly different. The first for obvious reasons. A vacation to Mexico for a couple in their twenties is fueled by swim up bars, sunset booze cruises, and accepting the challenge of “endless” buffet dessert tables. Our second visit was when Desmond had just turned a year old. It was a return trip to Cabo, but we stayed central to the marina on that visit in lieu of an all-inclusive, spent most of our time navigating searches for food between naps, and unwinding on our balcony after Desmond went to bed. This third trip sparked the decision to visit a new part of this beautiful country, so the Yucatan it is.
We knew we didn’t want to stay in Cancun, but we also knew we didn’t want to spend more than an hour or so in the car to get to our final destination while here. After being relatively on the go in Australia (and all our other trips with Des) we decided we just wanted to fly in, park ourselves somewhere relaxing, and not travel around much. Sure, we can explore the area and venture forth, but with regard to packing up and moving apartments or driving half a day for sightseeing? Nope. Not going to happen.
We decided to stay in Akumal because it seemed like a nice mix of beach and jungle access without all the flash and booze of Cancun. Playa Del Carmen wasn’t really our vibe either, and Tulum sounded great, but the town itself is inland a few miles and Zac wanted to be closer to the beach. The condo we rented is actually just south of Akumal pueblo by a couple of miles and is located in a big resort complex. I know, I know. Hear me out though, we’re not actually staying in the resort. Our condo is in its own complex with restaurant and pools and even a fitness center (and free yoga, but fuck yoga). There is no hustle of a resort. No traffic of snow birds or annoying couples with kids just running about (ha!). It’s quiet and feels somewhat residential. Yet we have access to all the resort amenities.
If I’m being honest. I love it.
I know. I know.
What the hell happened? A penthouse condo with private rooftop deck and jacuzzi tub happened. This doesn’t exist in a backpacker’s paradise. This exists in the world of a mom with two kids, a Starbucks travel mug, and enough cellulite to keep her humble.
Seriously though, our condo is pretty nice. Even Des is impressed with the rooftop baths he’s been “earning” each night with good behavior. Why might he need to earn it, you ask? Because he’s been a serious asshole for like, 80% of this trip.
On our first day in Akumal he enjoyed the pool and splashed about before we fully settled into the condo. From there we decided to eat lunch at the onsite restaurant. Des was curious and playful at first, wanting to explore. We gave him his space with a few boundaries, all of which he ignored or tested. The meal ended in Zac and I doing the quiet parent whisper yell. What? That doesn’t make sense? You don’t have kids then. It’s the angry whisper you use when you’re right up in their face trying to get your frustration across with some sort of threat quietly enough so no one around you can hear you lose your shit. You wouldn’t want to look like a bad parent when your kid is running around a deck trying to jump over the side of it, would you?
The next day we decided to try and take the kids to the beach clubhouse where we could use the resort’s beachfront location and capitalize on the shaded chairs and palapas. We figured Des could play in the sand before we used the pools. Sand play? Check. Went well. Ready for the pool? Check, both kids in and having fun. Time to get out? Check, everyone is cooperative and we all get dressed. Sudden meltdown and tantrum out of nowhere? Check, three year old explodes and decides he doesn’t want to leave after he’s fully dressed. Said three year old runs off from parents and jumps into the pool. He fucking jumped into the pool, you guys. I was behind him in a flash, screaming like a lunatic for him to not do it, which did nothing to stop him, as any parent likely knows, because once a strong willed child decides to do something, he fucking does it.
I probably came pretty close to pulling his arm out of its socket as I reached into the pool and dragged him out. He was unfazed and went right back to tantruming that he didn’t want to go. Quiet parent whisper yell? Yeah, forget that--this mom did the full on, in your face, everybody-look-over-here-because-there’s-a-show yell.
Wet and screaming, we all scurried off to our rental car in an embarrassed exit. Audrey, exhausted and overdue for her nap at this point, started falling asleep while I was wearing her. Meanwhile I’m yelling at Desmond, probably to keep me from hitting him at this point. Zac and I aged about ten years that afternoon. The water may not have killed him, but I wasn’t certain that I wouldn’t.
That afternoon we gave him lots of quiet time to play. We didn’t do much or make many plans. It’s not a ridiculous conclusion to reach that a good chunk of his assholery is likely from being out of his routine and the stress of traveling. Later in the evening we wanted to give him a chance to make up for the crappy day when we went to buy some groceries. Did I mention that earlier in the morning we had attempted a trip to the store for supplies, but had to leave because Desmond was being absolutely terrible and out of control? Yeah. Take two? We’re brave people.
We decided to head into Akumal Pueblo, the side of town opposite the beach and across the highway. This is where the locals live, shop, and eat. It’s where I feel comfortable when I’m traveling in a touristy area. It’s the kind of area where I want to take my kids, especially as they get older, so we can sit and eat street tacos and drink cold sodas while chatting with locals.
Des behaved in the store because we told him he could have a Kinder surprise egg from the store if he did. We bribed him with chocolate, sure, but at this point it really seemed like he needed a win to help build him back up and mitigate some of that negative behavior. It was just feeding off of itself and snowballing, and he needed to earn back some of his self-esteem to lob him back into the world of somewhat decent behavior (hi, therapist mom here, clearly). So chocolate egg it was. He earned it, we celebrated it, and then we crossed the highway into Akumal to join our tourist brethren.
As popular as Akumal may be for Americans like ourselves, it sure is an adorable little beach town. As you come into town you pass through a large arch way. We parked outside of this so we didn’t have to pay for parking (pro tip, you save like, $2). There’s a pedestrian path through the town, so we loaded up the stroller to contain Des and headed to the beach.
Akumal Beach is a popular public beach, and as the sunset we saw families bringing their OXXO coolers full of dinner and drinks as they camped out on the sand. Local kids splashed in the water and entire families sat and visited. It was very crowded on a Sunday evening and we sort of parked ourselves between two families so Desmond could dig in the sand.
I took Audrey on a walk along the road to Half Moon Bay. We had contemplated staying in Half Moon Bay, about a 15 minute walk from Akumal Beach, but opted not to because the beach there is rocky and filled with washed up coral and all kinds of spikey sea creatures, so wading into the water for the kids would be unrealistic. Hence staying further down closer to Akumal Bay. The walk was really lovely though.
We popped into a small taco stand for dinner before heading home. Des earned his rooftop bath, both kids went to bed, and Zac and I hung out under the stars as we tried to decompress from a day that felt as if it were actually four.
Third visit to Mexico? It will likely be our most memorable one yet. However coming to the Yucatan has left me certain that we will for sure be back for a fourth time. It’s beautiful here.