A warm Christmas always sounds so dreamy…
And it fully is in reality! The Parentals have been saying it for a while, but they didn’t book it far in advance like they usually do. Sometime after we arrived home for our Hawaii trip, we got an email that Poppa Bear had booked our warm Christmas…but we’d come back on Christmas Eve. I don’t mind, either way, I just anticipated if we were going somewhere we’d miss Christmas in Sacramento altogether. But we didn’t, so we got the BEST of both worlds — warm vacation in December and home for the holiday!
Oddly, the trip threw off my whole Christmas obsession. It basically was non-existent this year! I was a little sad about it, but I just couldn’t find the excitement to decorate, send cards, shop for gifts, etc. Also, my budget was tight this year because my car has been in the shop since the middle of November with a VERY hefty price tag for the fix. So financial stress added to this mixture of emotions as well.
If I had to sum this warm Christmas trip in one word it would be: RELAXING! Which is exactly what I needed after the whirlwind of the last three months I’ve had. This trip was a blessing in itself because I was able to be so carefree and enjoy time with my favorite humans.
I thought I’d share about our trips and some thoughts on traveling to Mexico in general, since now I can say we’ve visited Cabo, Cancun, & Puerto Vallarta.
Airports in Mexico
They are such a damn sham. We learned this the hard way with our first visit to Puerto Vallarta, but have since never made our rookie mistake of being tricked. So, when you get off the plane, excited with luggage in tow, to get to your destination, you walk through a section where there are tons of men and women who want to sell you adventures. Or whatever they are trying to sell. They make it seem like you have to speak with them before you can leave this section. Each section looks different at different airports, but in general, the scheme is all the same. You HAVE to walk through these tricky salespeople to get to your transportation. DO NOT STOP! Keep walking, no matter what they say to you. During this trip, one man told my mom, “You better stop here, there are only Mexican’s on the other side of the doors.” What? Are you serious? Scare tactics? Overly aggressive salespeople? I don’t understand how the government allows this behavior at the airports, and I’m sure plenty of people don’t know to just walk past these jerks.
Transportation to Your Hotel/Resort
I’d highly suggest you have this arranged before you arrive in MX. Again, this section is a shit show and there are more people who will try to take advantage of you. Secure transportation before you leave, both ways, so you don’t have to deal with this headache. Also, I loved that Cabo has two bars by the transportation bay where you find your company and wait to leave. Genius, I tell you!
The idea that when you arrive you’ve already paid and you won’t have to get out your credit card again is ideal. But in reality, its a little different. Again, there are such discrepancies between resorts, I hope you do your research. Trip Advisor seems to be the best resource for international travel. But Yelp may help too. We’ve been to three different ones now and one thing I can safely advice: don’t expect too much from the food. We’ve stayed at average, medium-nice resorts, and the food is still mediocre at best. You can stay at the high-end ones and get gourmet food, but you will pay a pretty penny. Just remember this when booking. Also, you’ll be required to put a deposit for your stay, which is completely normal. BUT, also be prepared for them to sell you adventures. They sell them hard, almost as much as the airport people. Two of the resorts we stayed at gave us credits as part of our stay, but the last one didn’t. Instead, we could listen to a 90-minute speech about their vacation packages and then we’d get discounted adventures. It all depends on the resort and who you book the stay through, but expect at some point to hear about adventures you can pay for. And they always sound SOOO fun!
Grand Fiesta Americana Los Cabos All-Inclusive Golf and Spa
Our resort was about 45 minutes from the airport. This resort has security upon arrival, which also shares the property with two other resorts and a Hyatt currently being built. We learned they have the resort/hotel area, where we stayed, but beyond on the hill are where are the ‘vacation homes’ are, which are essentially the timeshares. If you’re interested in seeing it, look at their website. Overall, I thought the resort was really nice. It wasn’t anything fancy, but the property is huge. We had the option of a variety of pools — adult, sport, two other pools for everyone. They also had a couple of hot tubs scattered around the various pools too. Sadly, the two larger pools were colder than we’d hoped for because they were working on the pool maintenance, so they couldn’t keep them warm 🙁 They had different events all throughout each day and some evenings, many of which we didn’t partake in. I did run into a grand Christmas tree lighting, then the last night we were there they were doing a huge pinata party right outside of our room. And we LOVED the pool towels, they were large enough to cover their loungers. They were perfect. We also had beach access, which we used around 4:30 PM every day when the sun started to hide from the pool area. It was pretty, but the sand was really corse so we didn’t spend too much time in this area.
I totally forgot to mention that with the rocks as decor for the pool area, meaning that there were plenty of areas for iguanas to hide AND the come out when the sun was out. I sat by two for a while, never realizing they were right there. Until later when I went back to sit there and actually investigated the nose that I saw earlier. Then I was too scared to sit there again! BWAHAHA!
The Food at the Grand Fiesta Americana
So, we’ve come to have manageable expectations for the food at an all-inclusive. This one was on the better side with some serious room for improvement. I love breakfast, like huge portions and lots of options. So, I happily ordered a fresh egg white omelet each day. Whereas my parents were over the breakfast buffet by day two. I loved it, but I’m not that hard to please for breakfast. They offered fresh green juice with all the good fruits and veggies, which was an extra bonus too. I also enjoyed a fresh crepe or two as well. They had a lot of ‘weird’ options that I didn’t really eat, but I always took a peek at what they offered. My other favorite was the chilaquiles and mini quesadillas for breakfast.
They had a variety of restaurants on the premises:
- Blu – We ate here the last night and loved it. If we tried it earlier, we probably would have gone here multiple times. You have to take a golf cart ride from the main property since this is more near the vacation home villas. It doesn’t have much seating, but the food was good.
- Tapas Bar – Did not try, I didn’t even realize you could order food here.
- Vina del Mar – This is where we ate breakfast each day, but also tried the seafood buffet at night on our first night.
- Sushi Sky Bar – Did not try
- La Cevicheria – Did not try
- El Mexicano – Did not eat here, but we were sat here for breakfast one morning.
- Cigar Bar – Did not try, but I am sure Dad did
- Rosato – This is their Italian restaurant, which was one of our faves. I loved the bolognese lasagne. Their focaccia was delicious and their steak dish, which I cannot remember the name, was better than the dumb La Bodega.
- La Bodega – GROSS! This is their steakhouse which costs an additional $30/person. We all ordered the New York steak and it was tough (not because of overcooking) and not worth a dime.
- Bikini Swim-Up Bar – We only hung out at the adult pool for one full day, but we all ordered drinks from here. They don’t serve food 🙁 But there are so many poolside servers it didn’t matter. I ate it walking up to the bar because I didn’t realize the flooring leveled up to the seats!
One fun thing about all-inclusive is that you can order as much as you want of ANYTHING! One night at Rosato I ate the lasagne, but then decided to order a second entree. Somewhat unnecessary, but I wanted to try their pesto so I did. It goes for every course of any meal, you can get as much as you want, just like a cruise. Also, you can get room service 24/7, which is included. The menu here was small and not that great, so none of us decided to take advantage of it.
Some resorts come with booze (hard alcohol) in the room, this one did not. However, there was a mini-fridge stocked with sodas, water, and beer. They also had Oreos, Nature Grain granola bars, and chips too — all of which were in the fridge, kinda silly.
The main lobby had the cutest candy cart set-up too. They also had a coffee cart in the AMs too. They also had a Starbucks on-site, which offered complimentary regular coffee and pastries. But they also sold Starbucks fancy drinks and other treats too. I planned to try an iced coffee, but never got one. We got the free coffee a couple of times and tried a few pastries from there too.
Adventures in Cabo
So, basically every ‘adventure’ or activity company sells the same adventures at their specific facility – ATV, horseback riding, boat rides, snorkeling, and fishing. It honestly comes down to how much their pamphlet can sell you or their pricing. Maybe you booked prior to arriving in MX, but most likely you were sold at the airport or your hotel on one of these.
Since the Parentals took one for the team and listened to the speech, we got three discounted adventures of our choice. We didn’t have to do all three, but we could. But Dad wanted his time’s worth so we did three.
I loved them all equally. We asked each other which was our favorite, but I couldn’t just pick one. Each one was a good amount of time spent adventuring and had us laughing. All very different, but all fun for me!
Okay, I’m going to rant for a second. They charge you for the adventure. Then they charge you a fee to enter their facility, THEN they DO NOT allow you to bring your camera or phone! They have figured out how to squeeze every single dollar out of tourists in MX! They have professional photographers on the courses, so they can sell you photos at a very crazy price! It’s so unfair…
Adventure: ATV w/ Wild Canyon
We chose to go with Wild Canyon because their pamphlet had a suspension bridge that you could ATV over. Let me tell you it’s as COOL as it looks. I’m so glad we did it! We’ve done ATVs before, but it’s not something we do regularly, so I’m always a little hesitant at first. And let’s not talk about how they didn’t warn us to wear shoes. So I convinced Shell to wear flip flops. They tried to get us to wear these gross, used shoes. I wasn’t having that, so my McGuyver skills kicked in and I wrapped a bandana around my foot and slipped it back into my flip flop. The gear was hard to shift, so shoes or not, it was still going to be a little painful on my bony feet, always.
Going across the suspension bridge on the ATV was amazing. It was so fun and so cool. It wasn’t as scary in actuality, as I anticipated. And I didn’t even think we’d get to go over it twice. They did this as one of the first things, so it was cool. Then we made our way through the desert terrain, toward the beach. I was trying to see how fast I could get my ATV to go, but the leader was right in front of me so I had to be cautious. I got mine to 44 kph, but I think Lil got hers to 45 kph. At one point, I didn’t understand his hand signal to turn and I kept going, thus making me have to turn around and end up at the back of the pack. I wasn’t having that so I went back to my spot and of course, the guides weren’t the happiest with that. Oh well!
It was extremely fun and dusty. We had to wait for a dumb about of time for our transportation to take us home, so we got all bit up by mosquitoes. We bought one digital picture for $15 since it would have cost us $90 for all the images of anyone in our group (re family).
Adventure: Horseback Riding w/ Cactus Tours
Our next adventure was horseback riding, which was party since Lil missed doing this in Hawaii for her birthday. Again, the weird feeling of riding animals for our enjoyment weighed on my heart. But I did go through with it, but their lifestyle and job did not go unnoticed by myself and Lil. We are still conflicted.
But this journey was pretty amazing too, despite my old lay hips discomfort. I knew this would probably happen, so I was really fidgety on my horse. My lovely Chapito was a great horse for me. Only until the very end, did the guides tell me he is their ‘crazy boy!’
This was a slow adventure and I enjoyed taking it all in and slowing down. It was exactly what I needed. We leave from the facility and then head through the desert terrain. I love the Cabo desert terrain, it’s very green and with lots of cactuses. Our group was really small, almost private, with six of us and four being our family. They try to upsell you with a private tour, but we weren’t paying more for that. But our luck had it to be just that anyways!
Eventually, we could see the Pacific Ocean and it was perfect. I’ve always wanted to gallop/run with the horse, but I have NO experience. I’ve always shied away from asking the guides to do so since we were beginners. But Lil did not hesitate this time, so I jumped on the bandwagon. The guide assumed we had experienced until we told him we didn’t. He said ‘Jesus!’ HAHA! But we did it and it was scary but exhilarating. It hurt, so I didn’t do it too much. But mi Chapito was excited and enjoying it and didn’t really want to stop. But he calmed down and we got back into the line and toured the beach a bit more.
Since we knew how this worked, I negotiated the price of the digital images from the tour. We ended up buying them all since Dad said we’ll never see him on a horse again. Seems like the consensus was that we were all sore from riding!
Adventure: El Arco & Whale Watching w/ Pezgato
Our last adventure was to see the famous arch in the Pacific Ocean and whale watching. Mom really wants to go to Maui during whale season, but we hoped this would just as cool too. We took a taxi down to the marina and drove through the downtown area. It was quite cause it was really early. Our adventure included breakfast and drinks. Breakfast was breakfast burritos and fruit plus coffee. You could drink as much as you like, but barely anyone did.
We were on a catamaran with about eighteen people, total. There were four tour guides for the trip. Everyone and the entire adventure was so chill. Mid-December to Mid-March/April is the whale season in Cabo. We are just at the beginning, but we got to see a group of about eight of them during our boat ride.
There were so many different sized boats and watercraft on the water. The funniest one was the pirate ship. The size of our catamaran made it so we had to be at least 80 yards from the whales, but smaller watercraft were much closer. And everyone was chasing them to get a good view. I asked why we couldn’t go through the arch and apparently about six years ago there was an accident and now no one can go through. There’s always someone who messes up something!
The water here is so beautiful. The ride was relaxing and enjoyable. Whale watching was so serene, those animals are beautiful, from what I could see. I really enjoyed this adventure, especially for how low key it was!
After we got off the catamaran we walked around the plaza a bit, before we grabbed a taxi back to our resort. Everything was so colorful!
Rest & Relaxation
How did my parents know I would need this trip so much? It was the most relaxing and rest I’ve gotten in awhile. Despite the three adventures we booked, it wasn’t rushed and we did what we wanted. These adventures were partial day, so we didn’t have to be gone for more than a couple hours at a time. Every day we were able to be poolside, weather permitting. Some days were overcast, so we’d be out there, but it was a little cool. Other days we were sweating it out in the 80-degree weather. All enjoyable and I was really able to reset and relax.
I got through two books and almost a third:
- “Dear Girls” by Ali Wong
- “The Other Woman” by Sandie Jones
- “Ethical Slut” by Janet W. Hardy and Dossie Easton
This is like a new record for me. The first two were a breeze to get through. The third one, as you could imagine by the title already, was a little tougher to get through. More so because it is self-help and educational, not chick lit. I actually plan to write a blog post on my thoughts after reading this, so I’ll save that for another time. But the faces, stares, and comments made by other resorts guests by seeing the book were interesting. I suggest everyone read this book for better sex-positive thoughts, ideas, conversations, and overall sexual health.
Working Out on Vacation
Okay, I’m proud of myself for working out every day of our vacation. The only exception was the day we arrived. We didn’t get checked in until after 5 PM and were starving, not to mention I had to be at my parents by 7 AM. I took this as a travel day. But I did work out before our flight back home on Christmas Eve. I used saved IG posts from a college friend for some workouts, some days were just weights and machines I had at my disposal, and one day we ran the hilly property for about 2.2 miles. Working out never felt like a chore, it was always something I wanted to do. Some days we woke up early to fit it in, one day we slept in and went when we woke up, and a couple of days we laid out all day in the sun and hit the gym after the sun went down. It was awesome and I loved that I used all of the gym clothes I packed.
We treated ourselves to a sunrise sendoff on Christmas Eve. I feel like this has become Lil and I’s tradition. We make it a point to watch the sunrise on the last day of our vacation(s). It is serene and calming to sit and watch as the sun rises with all the beautiful colors and stillness.
Whew, SIX days of Cabo wrapped up in on blog post. Did you make it here? Cause if you did, kudos for sticking through this long-winded posts. And if I lost you back at the top, thanks for at least stopping by and hope you enjoyed some of the bazillion pictures!
Despite our travels on Christmas Eve, everything went fairly smoothly. Our second flight was slightly delayed, but nothing to be upset about. My uncle picked us up at the airport and took us home. We then went straight to Ruth Chris for a lovely, yet very informal Christmas Even dinner at the bar.
The best part is we woke up in our own beds on Christmas morning. We still had our traditional linguica and rice for breakfast and I, of course, brought the Starbucks order too. Then we were off to see the entire family for a normal Christmas celebration. Even this was different this year too, we did a Filipino food theme, which we’ve never done before. It was sooo good! And for the second year, I brought back Ganiban Christmas BINGO! Even though its all luck, the family was still competitive as heck, but fun was had by all. Even the four-year-old who won $5 as the first kid to get a bingo!
This has been an absolute roller coaster of a year for me, Christmas season being much of the same. But I loved how it turned out. Very non-traditional for me and the family, but I enjoyed it. There was some apprehension, some weird feelings about all the differences, but it was relaxing, enjoyable, and peaceful. Exactly what I needed.
A warm Christmas is a MUST, at least once…or more…