It’s fashionable to grunt disapprovingly when people say Cancun. Fair enough. It is a jumble of development — and if you are looking for romantic isolation — this might not be your first choice. But I was providing some romance for my family: my daughter and her boyfriend and my step daughter and her husband and child. My son and I completed the party but we were without our significant others.
The Westin Lagunamar in Cancun was actually a wonderful answer to the “how do you combine romance and family” question. The Westin Villa formula on this site provides a good answer. The twenty-thirty-something contingent had studios with Jacuzzis — just about big enough for two (rather small) people — really good views of the pool, and beyond that, the ocean and beach. Critically, they also had kitchens — so everyone could have their leisurely morning alone time — and at night, we piled into my one bedroom that had a dining room that seated all seven of us.
My room in building number nine had an especially romantic view. I was almost on the beach and the welcome sound of the waves (audible in most of the rooms) was especially present in mine.
The two young couples were happy just getting the usual drinks either in or near the very large infinity pool — but occasionally the itch to see Mexico presented itself. We sucked in our breath and managed to get all of us in our rented Dodge station wagon and headed out with a few trepidations: the staff at the hotel seemed to be quite shocked that we were driving instead of going on the huge buses that ferry most tourists to the major attractions. We were a little nervous too: I opted for the daily insurance coverage on the car, something I never do in the states.
Our outings were almost total successes. We all loved tubing down the river and lagoon at Xel-Ha, a snorkel park and natural aquarium on the Caribbean sea. There was a portion that went through a mangrove where the couples (in tubes built for two) could snuggle and play — and adrenaline moments in the more open water — such as jumping off cliffs into the water at resort-approved spots (my son did that one) and farther down the inlet, a place where couples could walk over the water on ropes (while holding onto ropes overhead (none of us dared to do it). Since adrenaline does actually make the heart grow fonder, the couples seemed to be substantially more affectionate with each other by the end of the day.
We were mindful that you could have too much family and not enough romance. So at night we looked for places that the couples could feel their hearts beat as one. My romantic restaurant find this time was Thai — serving food of the same name, located in the shopping mall, on the bay, across from the Westin. I know, it was in a mall, but Thai is composed of a beautiful series of gently lit open air rooms and the nicest ones are private and cantilevered over the water looking back at city lights.
A few days later, we went to the Mayan ruins — and even though I had been to both Tulum and Chichen Itza, I continue to be amazed at the sophistication of these ancient temples (some built as early as the 6th century, A.D.). Both ruins had significantly more archaeological excavation since I had been there eight years ago, and that was the good news; the bad news was that you can no longer go into the main temple — and the magnificent jade jaguar is no longer on public view.
So, I said our outings were “almost” perfect. Well, driving back after a long day at the archaeological sites we got to meet the local authorities. We were going about ten miles per hour over the limit: not a good idea in Mexico. Yes, we got waved over by the police. And no, we didn’t want to go to the police station. And yes, the policeman would accept our cash. In fact, he would accept less cash than he asked for because we didn’t have a lot of money on us and he didn’t take MasterCard.
Oh well, this made it the official Mexican tourist experience. Everyone still had a great time and the young couples said they’d do it again in a heartbeat.