The Riviera Maya was never like this. Or maybe it was exactly like this before all the giant all-inclusive hotels lined the waterfront. If glitz and glamour are what you seek you may want to skip Taninah Resort.
I’m reclining on my king size bed with my new netbook thinking about how lucky I am. Looking up at the thatched roof overhead I know I’m in a “different” place. The wide open screened windows let in the sound of the late evening birds as they settle in for the night. I hear a few voices as some of the late arrivals drift in to find their own private residences for the week.
My little guest house has two king size beds, a rod with hangers for my clothes and a small stairway up to the bathroom. I’ll probably turn on the ceiling fan over my bed when I retire just in case the screens don’t stop all the mosquitoes. I haven’t heard or seen one yet, but this is in the jungle.
I just arrived this afternoon and, having been served a very tasty margarita upon my arrival I’m just waiting for a few more arrivals before dinner. I probably could skip dinner because Leopoldo, the chef, whipped up some delicious quesadillas to go along with the margaritas. And there was that brownie . . . or did I have more than one?
The reason I’m waiting for more people to arrive before dinner is because this place has a very special characteristic that makes it much different from the other hotels along the coast. This is not a place that you can call today and show up tomorrow with your spouse and kids. To visit Taninah you need to stay with a group. They can be friends, relatives, even your small business group, but the fact is you have to reserve the whole resort. That means everyone will likely know each other before arrival or at least have some sort of connection other than just being at the same resort at the same time. I haven’t walked around the whole property yet, but so far I have found a tennis practice wall, a basketball court, a terrific volleyball area with a real net, a swimming pool, what looks to be a hot tub (it was covered), an exercise room with equipment including free weights, a pool table, a ping pong table and lots of other stuff. And that’s mostly for the adults and big kids. The little guys have several play areas, including a tree house, swings, slides and all kinds of stuff. Even a ground level trampoline. This place is going to be fun. I haven’t even had a chance to think about what is off the property.
But, what’s missing? How about television? Internet access? Will you miss those things or will your kids rebel and refuse to participate in anything? Maybe, when they’re greeted by Luna, the resident canine greeter, they’ll relax and be ready to get with the program.
After an excellent fish dinner prepared by Leopoldo it’s time to retire and think about the coming day. We’re scheduled to begin the day with a fabulous breakfast of Mayan Toast – Taninah's version of French Toast.
When the birds begin to sing and the other jungle noises begin to subside daybreak comes and awakens me with the promise of the day’s adventures. After the Mayan Toast comes a drive to what can best be described as an adventure camp. The morning’s activities begin with a zip line. And this is not just any old zip line. We begin by climbing a 50 ft. tower, hooking up to the line and zipping almost 600 feet to the second tower. This one requires a climb to a height of 60 ft and then a fast 726 ft ride to a third tower. This one requires a climb to 70 feet with a very rapid descent for almost a quarter mile along the last zip line to the end. If you’re thinking it must have been an exhilarating ride – you’re right. But that’s only the first adventure of the day.
Now that everyone is getting used to climbing high towers there is one more. But this one is not a zip line tower. Now we get to use those zip line harnesses for what turns out to be a bit more challenging task, at least in the eyes of a few who decide to pass on this adventure. This final tower is used strictly for rappelling. Leaning backwards off a high tower and stepping into the open air is more than a few of these weekend adventurers bargained for. Those who took the challenge all seemed to agree the zip line was much more exciting. The initial fear of stepping off the platform was immediately overcome and the slide down the rope was really pretty tame for most.
If you are lucky, while you’re in the area the Los Voladores group from Vera Cruz will be there and you can catch their high flying act. They climb a really tall pole tie their feet into a harness of sorts and then unwind as they fly down toward the ground, with the leader standing on top while playing a flute.
The third adventure of the day was probably the most appealing to many. This part of Mexico has hundreds of cenotes. These are essentially limestone caves with water and many of them are great for swimming and snorkeling. The caves have stalactites and stalagmites and many have been lighted for swimming. In this one our group hiked a short distance down into the cave, entered the water and, following a guide, swam deeper into the cave. We were able to snorkel along the way and view some of the underwater formations as we passed by.
This was my chance to use a new dive mask from Liquid Image. It’s has a 5 megapixel camera built into the mask. It’s great for snorkeling because the waterproof feature is good to a depth of fifteen feet. If you want to follow a particular fish or turtle you can swim along underwater and snap away with the camera. It has cross hair viewfinders built into the lens. But, be sure to test it first to get used to how the viewfinder lines up with the subject and to get used to using the shutter release. If you were wondering, the answer is yes, it also takes video.
Back at Taninah, I was delighted to learn that they have their own cenote. It’s a very special place and has even been lighted to see the special formations. And, would you believe, even a water slide built into the rock. Just ask when the generator will be on so the lights can be turned on.
There is even a miniature golf course. And, if this isn’t enough, you can always take a hike down the dirt road from the entrance. Or, try the miniature zip line – probably best suited for kids, but strong enough for an adult.
Taninah doesn’t have its own beach. That’s not surprising because it’s in the jungle. But, don’t worry, there are great beaches nearby. It’s just a short drive to the Xpu Ha beach where you can snorkel some more, swim or just lie in the sun. And some are even topless for the more adventuresome.
After a morning in the sun and a nice lunch back at the resort it’s probably time to get in a bit of shopping. Nearby Playa del Carmen offers a chance to spend all your extra cash along the famous 5th Avenue walkway. Or you can just walk along the waterfront and watch all the people enjoying the sun and sand.
On another day you’ll probably want to get out on the water. There are excursion boats that will take you out for a sail with the chance to do a bit more snorkeling and test your new dive mask or other underwater camera. The folks at Taninah will assist you with all these arrangements. If you do go out on a long afternoon sail, be sure to take a light jacket. Even if it’s a warm, sunny day, it can get cool on the water by the end of the sail.
But, I have saved the best for last. At least for me it was probably my favorite activity of this trip. I really thought the zip lines were great and the cenotes were very special. However, it isn’t everyday that you get to visit a Mayan ruin and the Tulum site is exceptional. I hope you’ll give yourself at least two or three hours here. There is a lot to see and you don’t want to miss any of it. When will you have another chance to explore this magnificent pre-Columbian walled city?
If you decide to join in all the fun you’ll still have time to relax and enjoy the evenings at the resort. To help you wind down after a busy day Taninah staff can also arrange for you to enjoy a nice massage – all you have to do is ask and they’ll schedule it for you. . . Keep on Traveling!