Southwest Vacations: A Snorkeling Adventure Within a Misadventure (Cancun Day 3)

Just tuning in? Be sure to first read:

Southwest Vacations: When Getting There is Half the Fun (Cancun Day 1)
Southwest Vacations: The Flowrider’s Hilarity and Beach Bumming (Cancun Day 2)


Booking our direct flight, ground transportation to and from the airport and our hotel was simple on Tougher was narrowing down their excursions because Cancun has a plethora of options such as these:

Camel Safari & Reef Snorkeling Adventure * Selvatica Extreme Canopy Adventure * Chichen Itza Plus Cancun * Xcaret eco-archaeological park full-day tour of ruins and activities * Xel-Ha All Inclusive Eco-Aquatic Park Tour (the Zip Bike looks amazing) *Swim with the Dolphins at Wet ‘N Wild.

The Adventure Before the Adventure

We ultimately decided since we were only in Cancun three days, less was more and we would spend as much time in the sand and surf as possible with the Snorkeling Tour and Lunch. Little did we know our adventure would start before we even left the Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort.

Our Southwest Vacations confirmation told us we needed to meet our Lomas Travel transportation outside of the Grand section at the resort. Ever the planners, we decided since that was about a 15 minute walk, we would take the shuttle and leisurely eat breakfast there before leaving. All was going according to plan when, just 5 minutes before we were supposed to meet our guide, I had a sinking feeling something was wrong. I approached the concierge.

“Is this the Grand?”

“No, this is the Sunrise section. Grand is on the other side of the resort.”

The other side, meaning where our room was located. We had erroneously assumed that since Sunrise was the “grandest” of the buildings with the most activities, that was the Grand. Turns out Sunrise is Grand. Are you as confused as we were?

We panicked, knowing there was no way we could make it back in time to meet our transport and we had just missed the resort shuttle bus. We would occasionally see golf carts weaving in-and-out of people on the ocean-side trail and I wondered what one needed to do to hitch a ride. Turns out you need to be an idiot.

“Get in the golf cart and we’ll take you!” the bellhop generously offered.

Golf ride for idiots

The Official Adventure

He raced us back just in time to meet our transport and we cruised down the coast on a saltwater breeze to Playa Maroma in the Riviera Maya, just 10 minutes north of Playa del Carmen.

Playa Maroma

Following a brief introduction from our snorkeling guide, we boarded our catamaran, were fitted with snorkeling gear and sailed away on waters so blue they can’t be found on any color chart.

My cerulean reverie was interrupted by my daughter.

“Mom, you look like a dork,” referring to my snorkeling mask, to which I responded to her mirror image as “the pot calling the kettle a dork.”

There was nothing geeky about our two different stops at reefs teaming with marine life. Though the coral wasn’t overly colorful, the iridescent schools of fish were. We squealed as we swam through a jelly fish field, feeling tiny pin-pricks on our skin, and lazily floated above the reef to the slow-motion balletic pulse of the water.

When we weren’t snorkeling, we were munching on chips and water provided by the friendly staff and diving off the back of the boat.

“Hey, Mom. Check-out my pencil dive,” Bode called out.

I’m not sure what happened but his pencil looked more like an ink blot when he unceremoniously plopped into the water.

“Hey Bode,” I joked back. “Why don’t we just call that one an ‘eraser dive’ so we can forget about it?”

Once back on shore, an open-air buffet lunch was included in our incursion where we were serenaded by a mariachi band.

Bode brought down the house with the very unforgettable Mexican “Chicken Dance.”

We spent our final hour frolicking on Maroma Beach’s wide open transparent water, convinced we had landed in a world of movie-set perfection.

Unintended Adventure No. 2

Though my husband and I hadn’t had an optimal first experience along the hotel strip years ago, we wanted the kids to experience at least a taste of Cancun so we had our driver drop us off downtown. However, something got lost in translation and instead of delivering us to an outdoor, touristy market like we requested, he left us at a mall–something I despise in the U.S. and appreciate even less in a foreign country. We realized this just as he was driving away with all our snorkeling gear, and the instructions to return in 1.5 hours.

I tracked down an older American couple and they pointed us in the correct direction, several miles down the road. Then we had our second misadventure of the day: We hopped on a Cancun public bus, prayed for the best (it turned out to be perfectly fine) and we eventually found a gloriously tacky tourist market.

The moment we stopped off the bus, I kid you not, an overzealous man almost crossed the street in an attempt to lure us into his store. “What is he doing?” Hadley asked, ready to get back on the bus. “Don’t worry, it’s just the way it’s done here,” I soothed, which was the only calming moment of the experience.

But our extra effort was worth it. I loved watching my kids haggle with the locals. Hadley got her hair braided and a personalized bracelet while Bode got a fair price for a shark T-shirt.

We were ecstatic when we arrived back at the resort and I asked Hadley, “So, what did you think of the market?”

She thought long and hard and then equated it to our favorite card game: “It was just like the chaos of playing Pit.”

Welcome to Cancun.


Stay tuned tomorrow for Southwest Vacations: An iguana bike ride, a too-late discovery and farewell (Cancun Day 4).

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