By 2004, I'd finally caught the Isla bug. I think my message board addiction had something to do with it. Those sites can be a promoter's dream.
We booked a 10-day return trip to the island, but decided to try Playa del Carmen for a few nights on our way to Isla Mujeres, thinking we'd find someplace we liked better than Isla. While we loved staying at Hotel Secreto on the first trip, we wanted to try a new place and discover a different part of the island. I scouted all the rental listings and decided on an upstairs studio at Casa del Sol al Sol, a newly built home on the airport strip.
I'll skip the Playa del Carmen leg of the trip because that turned into a fiasco. I ate the shrimp tacos at La Tarraya the first day at lunch and got the worst food poisoning I've ever had in Mexico. Playa del Carmen was not our thing -- Isla on crack! We did manage to drag ourselves down to Tulum the last day. I had just enough energy for a brief walk around the ruins before we headed back to a collectivo van.
Our initial plan was to take the bus back to Cancun and a taxi to the Gran Puerto ferry dock, but I was in sad shape. The desk clerk helped us find a private car to transport us direct from PDC to Gran Puerto to ride the new yellow ferry. There's something magical about that ferry trip to Isla Mujeres. Once I'd gazed at the turquoise water and breathed the salt air, I was 100% and good to go.
We arrived at Casa del Sol al Sol and Marcela, from Isla Beckons, was waiting for us at the front door. She beckoned us into the downstairs and explained there had been complaints the week before from people in the upstairs studio we'd booked because of the construction next door. She wanted to know if we'd agree to take the downstairs instead of staying in that upstairs studio. Uhhhh -- that sounds okay to us! After she left, we practically jumped up and down on the sofa! Our own Caribbean villa for less than $70 a night? Craig just laughed because I seem to have a knack for finding the most amazing places.
In the photo above, Craig's standing in front of Casa del Sol al Sol with the red and yellow bikes we rented that year. We rode them all over the island that trip. Instead of renting a golf cart for one day, we toured the island everyday on the bikes. Casa del Sol al Sol was beautiful! The back wall of the downstairs was totally framed by huge glass sliding doors that showcased the beautiful Caribe behind.
It was our first experience staying in a private house on the Caribbean and we were hooked! No crowds on the beach, and no one saving loungers at the pool. Muy tranquilo! We had the property all to ourselves for the first half of our stay. Later in the week, a couple from the regatta moved into a studio upstairs, but we rarely saw them. They were big-time party people, and the party was somewhere else!
One night in the wee hours, we heard pounding on the master bath exterior door. (A handy feature if you didn't want pool users to wade all the way through the house to use the bano.) We ignored it and went back to sleep. The next morning, a golfcart was parked out front with assorted women's clothing and a pair of pumps spilling from the front seat onto the gravel. When we returned a little later from our bike ride, the sexy sandals had disappeared. We figured the unattended shoes had walked away, much like our water shoes had disappeared from the back door earlier in the week.
Other than that, we never heard a peep from the regatta revelers, which seemed odd. I did notice two guys and a girl at the pool once, but they quickly evaporated. Finally one afternoon, they came around the corner to the pool when we were sitting there. They apologized and started to scatter. Long story short. They assumed we were the owners of the house and they were boat crew friends of the couple in the upstairs studio. They'd been sleeping on futons upstairs on the porch. So the group was quiet because they thought they had to be sneaky. We all laughed, they took a dip in the pool, and they headed off to the boat because they were leaving that day.
Playa Norte was so quiet that trip! I took this photo early one Sunday morning. Notice the guy in the foreground planting a small palm tree? They filmed a Corona commercial on the island right after we left.
We went to Garrafon Hotel one day and had the beach all to ourselves. The dock was still intact in 2004.
El Pueblito was one of our favorite lunch stops that trip. The enchilada suizas were amazing! One day we met a couple from Alabama at the next table who were staying at Posada del Mar. They offered us some margaritas from a cooler on their golf cart for the bike ride home, and we invited them back to the house for an impromptu swim.
The new malecon, completed since our 2002 trip, was a nice breezy walk to town. This photo shows what Juarez looked like from the backside at that time. It's changed a lot in the last eight years. We'll be staying at Caribbean Casa in June, so I'll have to take a photo from the same spot and compare! Shortly after the 2004 trip, that new malecon was ripped up by a tropical storm and had to be rebuilt.
While almost everything's changed, one thing has stayed the same! The tik n xic at Playa Lancheros is still wonderful! The serving portion might have been a little larger back in 2004, but it's still tasty!
Recognize this building? It's now Pita Amore. Back in 2004, it housed a small tienda on one side and a moto rental shop on the other.
Our heavenly week in the villa by the sea went by too quickly and soon we boarded the new yellow ferry for home, all the while knowing we'd be back again.
(By early August of that year, I'd booked my first solo trip to Isla for October of 2004. More to come!)