View from Ceiba del Mar Beach and Spa

DAY ONE — I’m wishing I was on the hammock on one of the two balconies in our suite, overlooking the turquoise blue pool and the ocean, palm trees swaying, birds chirping.

But it isn’t so bad working either in our suite at the 88-room Ceiba del Mar Beach and Spa resort, (, a scant 20 minute cab ride from the Cancun airport and about a 20 minute walk into the tiny town of Puerto Morelos.

A memorable feast of mangrove-grilled Snapper

Yes this is an all inclusive resort, but a different style—no rowdy games by the pool, no kids’ activities, though there are kids here—just a lovely beach, friendly staff and suites that have nice touches like Mexican tile and rattan doors in the  bathrooms.  In the morning, they leave coffee, juice and pastries for us in a compartment carved in the door. On the beach, the staff goes out of their way to be helpful — even bringing us a plate of fruit from the kitchen when we’ve missed breakfast.

No big buffets here—just two restaurants.

It’s easy to see why this place is so popular for weddings—an average of one a week. I think it would make a great spot for a family reunion too — within an hour of Mayan ruins, Mexico’s version of Sea World,  Xcaret  (, XPlor ( and  Xel-ha  (, and world-class diving, snorkeling and golf nearby. (

There are tennis courts right here at the resort and a small, lovely spa where the relaxation area is covered by a thatched roof.

But is Mexico safe? This region certainly seems to be, though travelers do admit to nerves before they arrive. Suzi Hall, here with her husband Jack from Dallas, their 15 month-old daughter Alice and her mom Lorene Hurt, admits she was nervous and nearly cancelled the trip after seeing some news reports about the dangers in Mexico.

But they were coming to Cancun for a wedding, did some more research and decided a few days here along the Riviera Maya offered no more dangers than anywhere else they might travel — “and I’m research obsessed,” said Suzi, a church administrator from Dallas.  “This place is great,” she said, looking around the beach—the comfortable cushioned beach chairs under the thatched coverings, the clear ocean, her daughter happily playing in the sand.  The fact that they got a good deal helped of course.

And she doesn’t care at all that there aren’t organized children’s programs or babysitting. “I wouldn’t want to sacrifice that for the intimacy,” she explained.

In fact, the two are surprised that given the great deals, the natural beauty, the ocean, the good weather that the place isn’t packed (it’s just about half full). “I would think more people would be taking advantage of the cheap flights and services,” she said.

“We just laugh at people who say they are afraid,” said Jeff Richard, who with his wife and daughters, shared a beach house in Puerto Morales with another family from Michigan.

A short ways down the beach, 12 year-old Sascha Reynolds is reading alongside her mom Caroline. Here from Atlanta for spring break, Caroline Reynolds said this is the family’s first trip to Mexico and they couldn’t be happier. Her two teens don’t mind the quiet and are content with the beach, the sun and the tennis courts. As far as safety—“I wasn’t at all concerned,” she said. “And we really like it.”

I love the Spa too. My Mayan Thai Facial — anti-stress that they tell me is a Mayan-Thailand fusion complete with vegetable peeling masque, deep face massage and nutritive massage with hot steamed compresses infused with grains and herbs. Was this the best facial ever? Maybe.  My friend said her massage was the best she’s ever had.

The two pools are shaded by palm trees overlooking the turquoise-blue water; two restaurants, one overlooking the ocean where we had a delicious lunch—gazpacho, chicken fajitas and ceviche.  Last night, we ate dinner in the other restaurant and while the food wasn’t amazing (fresh grouper in mole sauce, hearts of palm salad with lobster, it was certainly more than adequate. The fact that they kept pouring the wine—included in the price—certainly didn’t hurt.

This morning I walked down the beach to Puerto Morelos past elegant homes, people getting ready to go out diving and fishing, children building sand castles with their parents—locals as well as visitors. In town, people were having coffee—everything you’d expect in a small Mexican town on a beautiful sunny morning. Nothing out of the ordinary.

And that’s a good thing.

Next:  Exploring Mayan ruins