A Magical Zack Experience

11 04 2010

Zack singing with Maribelle and his mom, last year about this time....

 Anyone who lives in or has visited Puerto Morelos probably knows Rosy (Juicy Rosy’s Juice Bar) and her delightful son Zack who lives with several challenges, one of which is blindness….

 We all know how much Zack enjoys music, and he was at Hotel Posada Amor with his mom last Thursday listening to a local band. I was wearing oil of lavender as an attempt to ward off mosquitoes as well as a sarong skirt sporting a mariposa/butterfly motif. Zack and I hugged, with me chatting —  Hola, Zack  ~ Buenas noches ~ ¿cómo estás?  In usual Zack-style, when he is pleased he begins to sway and smile and speak — and this evening, saying more to himself than to anyone else:  Flores ~ mariposas ~mariposas ~ muy mariposas….

 If only we could all be as special as Zack….

Cenote Boca del Puma/Mouth of the Puma

8 04 2010

Entrance to Cenote Boca del Puma

Boca del Puma -- Reflections, peace, and awe....

Above-ground cenote

The term Cenote comes from a Mayan word – dzonot – which means deep well. In the Yucatán, these are wells of fresh water created by erosion of limestone. For the Maya, cenotes were the source of life, providing fresh water and gateways to the wonders of this world. Cenotes were the center for the Maya’s communication with the gods.

 Cenote Boca del Puma

This posting is not about food, but about experiencing, as my friend Susan Harrison puts it, “a sense of peace and awe….”

 After breakfast at Ixchel Beach Bar in Puerto Morelos and having soaked in more than enough sun for the day, Susan and  I loaded a cooler with beer and chips, heading for Cenote Road in Sophie, my ’05 Chevy LUV Truck….

 Our goal: Explore a cenote neither of us had visited before.

 Our intended outcome: a magical day.

 We accomplished both.

 Having passed several attractions we’d visited in the past, we came upon Boca del Puma at kilometer 16 – offering ziplines and cenotes. First impression was positive  – a delightful young man met us to answer questions and provide prices, and the area was developed ecologically with native-stone structures and paths that appeared to belong in the jungle. We were told that one cenote was above-ground, the other a cavern; the 80 peso price included both. We were allowed to wander, explore, and photograph at our leisure.

 Visualizing more of an Oklahoma farm pond than a Mexican cenote, we were initially dubious about the one above-ground and planned to quickly breeze by it. Wrong. Tucked into the last bend of a fern-lined path of sacbe (white powder)  appeared a large, multilevel stone-lined well with a moving stream, waterfalls, and beautifully constructed steps guiding us down into the natural rock formation and fresh water glistening jade in the afternoon sun. We relaxed, swam, chatted. Susan sighted a brilliant Blue Morph butterfly.

 Not realizing that even more magnificent surprises awaited, we reluctantly climbed back to the path, commenting on the massive ceiba trees and pausing briefly at a palapa-covered Chicle Museum.

 The initial sight of the mouth of the second cenote (boca del puma) was less than impressive – a small wooden sign, narrow opening barely wide enough to crawl through, a rope. As we bent to peer inside, the lights came on, illuminating and reflecting caverns opening up and winding three directions, as deep as 150 meters. Sunlight streamed through natural limestone tubes draped in vines of emerald. Staring in wonder, we realized that the water was so still, so pristine, so crystal, that what we thought were stalagmites rising from the bottom were actually reflections. A tiny fish glided beneath a ledge. I gingerly stepped in, resulting in reflective ripples.

 Yes, Boca del Puma is definitely a place for reflections, peace, and awe….

 Getting to Cenote Boca del Puma

From Puerto Morelos, drive on Ruta de los Cenotes, km 16, on the right.

Open 9:00 – 5:00 every day

Nice bathrooms – interesting compost concept. Check them out.

Costs to visit both cenotes, 80 pesos/adult, 70 pesos/child.

Although we did not use the ziplines, they look impressive, safe, and fun! The highest is 24 meters with a panoramic view above the treetops. Cost for the five ziplines (with more being constructed), bicycle, and both cenotes: $680 pesos/adult, $580 pesos/child. If you’re a resident of  Puerto Morelos, take documentation and ask for the significant Locals Discount.

Special Desserts – Where to get them

7 04 2010

Fresh coconut flan by Susan Harrison

Homemade caramel topping

 We’re on vacation – or living here in paradise – and sometimes want a special dessert yet hate to heat up the kitchen or forego beach-time– and let’s not even discuss the random nature of ovens here….

 The posting on Shangai Pizza featuresTres Leche Cake, yet Puerto Morelos has other magnificent options….

 Coconut Flan

Susan Harrison at 801 Avenue Ninos Heroes has perfected a recipe for Fresh Coconut Flan with homemade caramel — and I’m grateful to have been part of her rigorous taste-tests (the sacrifices I make for my readers!). Susan now takes custom orders for this creamy, caramel-drizzled deliciously sinful treat created with organic sugar, Mexican vanilla, and coconut from her own tree (thanks, Frederick, for the deft machete action!). Contact her via cell at 998 218 4135. And be sure to check out her original arts and textiles….www.shouldertoshoulder.net/

 From-Scratch Cakes

Diane at Mama’s Bakery on Avenue Rojo Gomez creates yummy from-scratch cakes and desserts. For various family birthdays, I’ve personally enjoyed her carrot cake with the traditional cream-cheese frosting yet wonderfully different caramel-coconut filling as well as her banana rum bundt cake. Other offerings include coconut cake with lemon curd filling, praline, fresh apple, orange with orange curd filling, apple coffee cake – – basically, whatever-you-can-imagine. Daily, she also makes fresh yeast-breads (don’t miss her amazing flax-seed bread), sticky buns, muffins, scones, and brownies.  Join her for breakfast or lunch. Her cell is 998 845 6810.

 Ice Cream

Puerto Morelos also has two ice cream shops which sell in-bulk – There’s one in the “mall” by the grocery and another across The Square beside Alma Libre Book Store.

 Anyone knowing of other take-home desserts, let me know!

Shangai Pizza

12 03 2010

Shangai Pizza –just the name makes me smile….

 Although not in the actual village of Puerto Morelos – it’s on the highway by The Colonia – Shangai Pizza delivers! So one of its most attractive features is that you can enjoy its delights wherever you might be playing!

 And –

Yes, it has pizza.

Yes, it has comida China.

But its true claim-to-notoriety is – are you ready for this? – an authentic Mexican dish that’s one of my most delectable sinful delights: tres leche cake! And those in-the-know here in Puerto Morelos know that the place to get it, is Shangai Pizza.

 I’m certain someone’s Mexican mom can make it even better, but for those of us without Mexican moms….

 Since I’m always last-minute in placing my order (read: walk in, hoping they’re not sold out), I get to watch the assembly  — they often have several rows of five-high stacks of pound-cakes waiting for assembly. Juanita deftly slices one horizontally and pours on the three milks (sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, cream), gently patting before spooning on the even creamier filling, pouring/patting once again. Then the frosting –primarily whipping cream. 

 How does one describe such pure culinary ecstasy? Sweet, yet not overly so. Moist, moist, moist, yet still cake, not pudding. These cakes have the feel of Mexican art – created by hand with serape-bright frosting – perhaps slightly off-kelter – -and totally delightful!

 Getting there

Phone 998 206 9245

 A taxi is about 30 pesos, round trip. To drive from Puerto Morelos, go to the highway, taking the roundabout toward Playa del Carmen — past ADO/Paris Pharmacy, past Consultario Medico– Shangai Pizza is set back a bit from the road.

 For Tres Leche Cake

Shangai Pizza is often swamped with cake orders, so although it’s not absolutely necessary, try to place your request at least a day before you need it. So far, I’ve never planned ahead and have always had luck walking in and getting one. They speak only Spanish, and my Spanish is embarrassingly non-existent, but we’ve always managed.

 Before ordering, decide:

(1) Whether you want large/grande ($150 pesos), medium/media ($130 pesos), or small/chica ($100 pesos).

(2) What color or colors you want on the white base-frosting – red/rojo, blue/azul, yellow/amarillo, pink/ rosa, green/verde, etc.

(3) What you want written on it. (They custom decorate!)

Here’s Charlie….

18 02 2010

By popular demand – here’s Charlie.

 Actually, this delightful beach dog has now been adopted by Brett and Chris (Dive In Puerto Morelos). They will tell you his name is now Junior – but he stops by my place occasionally on his way to the beach — so he’s still Charlie.

Ixchel Beach Bar

16 02 2010

Charlie’s tail wagging on my screen door this morning announced the pending dawn and a reminder that we hadn’t recently shared a walk and The Morning Show (the sun rising from the ocean of Puerto Morelos) –this day’s Show was magnificent!

 Slightly chilled through the morning damp, with sticky salt in my wind-styled hair , I was making my way toward home when I close my eyes to feel — more than hear — the gentle rustle of the whitecaps and the occasional whoosh of a pelican dive-bombing for breakfast. I open my eyes to visually drink in even more of this moment — a kiteboarder silhouetted against the recently dawned sun — lovers strolling, toes in the surf, fingertips lightly touching , with an occasional glance to the other, oblivious to all but themselves and the sea – Charlie dog frolicking with his beach-dog-buddies…. If nothing more, just this morning moment could be enough….

 Ahhh….I’m drawn by the seductive scent of frying bacon and brewing coffee melding with salt and seaweed….How could one resist being led into such a delectable temptation?  Ixchel Beach Bar with the lively chatter of Helene, the more-subdued Ben, and steaming coffee….Burly Newfoundland Kanya settles herself behind the counter.

At a little after 7:00 am, Helene’s already dusted the bar, jiggled tables into sand, clothes-pinned plastic cloths to the tops, and trapped menus beneath the condiments.  Locals chat. Tourists glance as they walk the beach, perhaps wondering if this rustic shack could possibly withstand today’s wind. A variety of dogs play tag around the tables, occasionally finding reason to joyfully leap into the waves….

 The limited menu choices are exactly right for the capabilities of this jungle-pole constructed, extension-cord powered,  magnificent “joint” – Eggs any style with toast and bacon or sausage, pancakes, French toast, yogurt with granola–  each dish individually prepared with seasonal fruit.

 I’ve been diligently working my way through the menu. Today: The Duo – two eggs over-easy accompanied by the initial temptation — crackly bacon fried to the perfection point of not-quite overdone, along with whole-wheat toast and slices of watermelon, pineapple, and starfruit….

 The breeze is a bit strong this day , and the hide-and-seek sun with clouds cause sunglasses and cover-up clothing to be on-again/off-again. Sand sticks to my sea-damp legs. Charlie vainly anticipates a dropped bite of something more savory than coffee….

 This meal —  the food, the setting, the people, the overall experience — could not possibly be more glorious….

 Ixchel Beach Bar


As with most Puerto Morelos establishments, hours depend solely on the weather and mood of the proprietor. Don’t even think about reservations.

 In general – Ixchel Beach Bar is open every day with breakfast served 7:00 am to 10:30 or 11:00, followed by a delightful bar experience with beer, wine, mixed drinks and snacks until dusk. If it’s crowded, be prepared to wait. Bacon and sausage is generally ready, but everything else is prepared as it’s ordered.

 Getting There

Stopping at Ixchel is the perfect complement to a morning stroll – To find it from town, remove your shoes and walk north on the beach past Hotel Ojo de Agua, Playa Sol, and mustard-colored Hotel Arrecifes —  you’ll see this rustic shack on the other side of Ocean Homes….


Eggs, bacon or sausage,  fruit, pancakes, French toast.

Coffee, tea, fresh-squeezed orange juice, various boxed juices

Full bar

Tables and lounge chairs in the sand with a view of the amazing ocean


Definitely a family-friendly and dog-friendly place, as children dig in the sand and locals with dogs congregate for morning coffee and conversation….

Energy Conservation Awareness

16 02 2010

According to large posters around town, Carnival was to begin at 7:00 in The Square….complete with a beauty contest and crowning of Princess Puerto Morelos – young girls in ball gowns. A Must-Attend event!

 There’s a massive stage on the basketball court, yet by nearly 7:00, it doesn’t look as if any major production is happening soon. The area, however, is filled with parents strapping stilts onto children’s legs and helping with elaborate costumes. Not sure what happened to Carnival, but I hear that the elementary children will perform and hand out flyers to promote the upcoming School Benefit Musical. I notice a few random, hand-made posters about Energy Awareness.

 So – kids are milling, parents are hovering, and a few of us are seated on the bleachers… at 7:00 pm, the lights — go out! In the infinite wisdom of the planners, the performance coincides with International Energy Conservation Awareness Hour – and the show goes on in the dark – Children high-stepping in stilts, brochures in hand, but distributed only to each other because the tourists, now nervous, have disappeared – and I’m on the bleachers laughing laughing laughing – where else but Puerto Morelos….

 I love this town.