Here’s a quick overview of our 2008 Christmas adventure in Mexico. Since our February wedding will be held at the same hotel we stayed at during that trip – Aventura Spa Palace, I thought I’d make an overview of our last trip there. Hopefully you’ll see what made us enjoy it and want to come back.

Click on the links for more in-depth accounts of each. Click on the links by the accompanying images for our photos and descriptions of each place. More information will surely be added as I remember it! I also included the guidebook we used and some study materials I liked. If you can think of anything I left out, please add it in the comments below!

Day 1: Cancun

Jen and I flew into Cancun a day earlier than what our Aventura reservations called for. It was much cheaper to fly out of Charlotte on a Thursday night and stay in Cancun for a day than to fly out on Saturday morning. I know, I know, how stressful, right? Such a pain to have to go on vacation a day early.

Day 2: Adventura – Where James Bond Would Vacation

Mom and Dad had been telling us about this hotel for years but we never really believed them. It should have dawned on me that any place Dad chose to go to, willingly, multiple times had to have great service. I just didn’t believe them.

Why didn’t I just listen to my parents sooner?

Other Days

To be honest, the rest of my Christmas week is sort of clouded in a rum-induced haze. Here are a few of the trips we did in between sunbathing, playing poolside volleyball, kayaking, and eating ourselves silly at the hotel.


You can about the history of Tulum here. For me, it was a great chance to wander around ruins – my first since returning from Israel in March of 2008 AND to go swimming in the Caribbean sea -something made exceedingly difficult by the hotels on the Yucatan for some reason.

Now, until the end of my days I can talk about going swimming with my brother and father alongside Mayan ruins on Christmas!

Chitzen Itza

Again, Chitzen Itza has a long and storied history. More on that here. We decided to forgo the free tourist bus and instead rent our own car and make our own way to the iconic Mayan pyramid. Like they say, getting there is half the adventure. We drove through many villages and the city of Merida along the way.


We visited Coba on the return trip from Chitzen Itza. This is a far less visited city than Chitzen Itza and on a direct path from there en route to Tulum. It gave me better insight on to what the Mayans were all about plus you could climb on things! You can really get a sense of the jungle from on top of these giant pyramids! This was my favorite site that I visited in Mexico. More on Coba’s history here.


Xpu Ha is a jungle-themed hotel owned by the Palace group – the same people running the hotel where we stayed, Aventura. The great thing about this was that intra-hotel transfers were free as were all of our food, entertainment, activities, and of course drinks.

Stuff that Helped

I didn’t really study up on Mexico like I have done before my other trips. Still, there were a few items that helped me out along the way.

Lonely Planet Guide to the Yucatan

Lonely planet does a good job finding places for the young and adventurous. The history overviews in this book beat the hell out of what passed for education in my 8th grade American Studies book. And the cultural overviews gave me a pretty solid grounding in what was going on around me. The Yucatan (Regional Guide) really influenced our choices on going to Chitzen Itza, Tulum, and Coba and I hope to use it again this year when we visit Isla de Mujeres and any ceynotes that we decide to scuba dive in. Of course we didn’t check the hotel listings but the book gets 2 thumbs up!

The Other 1492: Ferdinand, Isabella, and the Making of an Empire

I love the Teaching Company. They just make great stuff. For those who don’t know, they get the world’s best professors teaching their favorite course and then tape them. It must be what college was like for liberal arts majors; you just sit and learn about stuff you are interested in. Awesome.

For me this course was more a bridge of our 2006 trip to Spain. There, we got a sense of Imperial Spain. This video series began with the reconquest of Spain and the discovery of the new world. Professor Ruiz does an excellent job of presenting history in an all-encompassing manner explaining how events would be seen by multiple cultural groups. Very enlightening.

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