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Cancun-hotel By Lena Katz

At last count, I had roughly 1 zillion Mexico vacation deals and Caribbean all-inclusive sales and Hawaii hotel packages in my files for summer 2009. And that’s a great thing…I mean, who doesn’t love a good deal, especially in times like these? But it got me thinking. What stands out in my memory when I consider all the vacations gone by is not “Wow, I got a great rate!” but rather, “I remember that moment. And that one. And OMG, I hope nobody still has the YouTube video of that one time…” So for this month’s Mexico column, I am not going to expound on the deals they’re offering — which are absolutely outstanding — or the trials the country has gone through — which break my heart — but rather, some of my favorite memories from 20 years of Mexico vacations.

1. I never understood what the Cancun fuss was about till I saw the beach at the ME by Melia Cancun at sunset. The sand is thick and creamy gold, the waves have extra-strength foam, the beach itself seems to stretch on and on forever…and
at sunset, the sky turns all shades of pink and blue. All you can do is
stand there and gape. I love the ME’s ocean-fronting terrace, love the
fountains that play out their hourly dance…but my favorite thing to do
is ride the elevator all the way up to the beginning of the penthouse suites, where nearly the entire ocean-facing wall is glass, and get a birds-eye view of the whole spectacle.

2. My friend Teresa Rodriguez-Williamson of Tango Diva and Huffington Post is seriously the most glamorous travel writer in the world. She wears couture and serves on charity boards and frequents the Four Seasons. However the first time we met, we went on the pirate ship adventure in Cancun. In short, this is a pirate-themed booze cruise featuring a sword and cannon battle between the crew of your ship and an “enemy” crew out in the harbor. After the battle, the two boats start blasting disco music and everyone dances wildly all the way home. All I can say is, when she’s not decked out in a full-length Versace gown, Teresa’s got moves.

Mexico-vacations 3. The ME by Melia in Cabo San Lucas is so chic and elegant, yet such a debauched party at the same time — it’s brilliant. You need a few things for a Mexico vacation here to compete with the sultry, multi-national, dressed-up crowd that frequents the poolside sunbeds and Nikki Beach bar at night. For men: A shiny but still stylish shirt, a certain amount of hair product, a hip-shimmy for the dance floor, and a beauty who’s not afraid to wear white. For women: Scandalously low-cut gown, artfully poufed and upswept hair, designer cocktail, and a random Latin man whispering unintelligible things in your ear. I was fortunately in possession of all the necessities when I visited — in fact, I had a random Latin man who poufed and upswept my hair while whispering unintelligible things in my ear. Surely that earned an extra point?

4. My entire family stayed at the Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan. My parents made friends with an Italian couple, leaving me and my sister free to flirt with two cute boys from Mexico City.
They wore Speedos (we forgave them), we wore bubblegum-pink lipgloss
hastily applied in the stairwell so our dad wouldn’t completely freak
out…We spentendless hours by the swimming pool, feeling oh so
sophisticated. My sister kissed the taller of the two, but stayed
friends with the younger, who had freckles on his nose and weighed
about 90 pounds. Due to the miracle of Facebook she re-connected with
him last month. He still lives in Mexico City, but now has two Masters
degrees and practices international law. Not sure whether he still has

5. Everything about Isla de Mujeres is magic to me. Even the ferry ride over from Cancun is fun, and if you’re lucky enough to travel on a catamaran or some other private craft, it’s sheer bliss on the open sea. Then, once you get there, all the quaint little island hotels, the pods of snorkelers floating around in the shallows, the casual open-air bars right on the sand. It’s so picturesque and restful — Cancun’s very own little Caribbean island. It even has a dread pirate or two buried in the tinycemetery. And for families, an aquatic park with dolphins and beach hammocks and the cutest pet sloth ever.

Mexico-vacation 6. One of the prettiest hotels I’ve ever visited in my life is the Azul Sensatori in the Riviera Maya. I have a mild obsession with pastel buildings, and the Sensatori has painted each of its freestanding restaurants a different color: robin’s egg blue, candy pink, persimmon, etc. Each color is just slightly more saturated and vivid than pastel, but still with that same Easter egg sensibility. Here’s my definition of Nirvana: Lounging with someone you love on uber-comfy chaises by an adults-only infinity pool, amidst a rainbow of happy-colored restaurants, while Café del Mar-sounding lounge music plays all groovily and your personal butler plies you with raspberry margaritas. Can you come up with anything better? Oh wait, I can — the place is all-inclusive.

7. If you’re a hedonist and you haven’t been out to Tequila on your Mexico vacation yet, you haven’t really earned your overindulgence stripes. I’ve been a few times — have sipped from the bullhorn, ruined a pair of sandals planting a token agave in a field, met the Herradura donkey (who eats handbags, incidentally), and luncheoned inside the beautiful and enormous Mundo Cuervo estate. Moreover, I have actually gotten behind the counter at the main dive bar in Tequila Town and exchanged air-kisses with the bandito-looking bartender. For this, I am the envy of all my friends. But, friends, you too can do this. Tequila’s an hour from Guadalajara, and well worth the trip. Though the premium tequila business is only now beginning to take off, the Tequila Commission has been working to set up a “Tequila Trail” for years, and most of the big distilleries offer tours.

Related Orbitz resources:

More Mexico vacation ideas:

Lena Katz lives on the Left Coast and writes about tropical islands, beach clubs and food, but her heart belongs to NYC.

Tagged: Family time, Mexico

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