Cancun was the end of the line for our road trip, and once we dropped off our rental car we took a taxi to Ikarus Kiteboard Center, just north of the city. Our interest in kitedbaroding started in 2013, after our first trip to Baja and to the town of Los Barilles (a well-known kiteboarding destination). Since then, we’ve daydreamed about learning to kite, but never really committed to the process. The BT seemed like a great time to learn, and it was John who came up with the idea of going to Ikarus Kiteboard Center.
Ikaraus is the kind of place that people return to over and over again, and it didn’t take us long to figure out why. The location, the wind, the lagoon (it’s waist deep), the personable staff, the quality of the equipment, the instruction, the food, the kiters, and the overall vibe, create an atmosphere that you don’t really want to leave. And, it was that vibe, that sense of inclusion and safety to learn, that drew Ellie into wanting to learn how to kite too. We didn’t really intend on the girls taking lessons, but once Ellie decided she wanted to learn, she was persistent in having us find out if she could. And then, when we were told she could take lessons, her excitement and enthusiasm exploded and we could hardly say “no”! Isla was a little bit more hesitant to learn, a little bit more afraid, but I think she picked up on her sister’s energy because she decided to take a lesson too.
With the girls being young, and not very heavy, they had to wait until the conditions were just right, meaning not too windy. And, unfortunately they had to wait out the first two days because the wind was too strong. The girls were bummed, but Ceci, their incredible teacher, was kind, patient, and encouraging, and told them not to worry, and kept reminding them that the wind would change. In the end, the girls took lessons on two different days and by the time they were finished with their second lesson, they were both standing up on a board, with the kite flying high above them! It was absolutely amazing!! They were overjoyed and had so much fun learning! I can honestly say that they got “hooked” on kiteboarding from their experience. Both of the girls want to go back to Ikarus to continue to learn how to kite, and I would say, it wouldn’t be a hard sell!!
John signed both of us up for nine hours of private lessons and by the time we were both finished, we were actually kite boarding! When it all finally came together, it was such a great feeling. The sensation of being pulled by the wind in your kite, while gliding on the water, is absolutely exhilarating! I now know why people get so addicted to this sport! But let me tell you, although we were “kiting” by the end of our lessons, there was a lot that happened between that first hour and ninth hour that was NOT pretty! Wind, as you know is strong, and we were thrown around like rag dolls! We had numerous face plants and other crashes that can’t be named. We swallowed water, got dragged, lost our boards, and were smacked around! I got hit by the board, and got pretty good gash on my shin. John left with bruised ribs! Like I said, it wasn’t always pretty! Yet everyday when we finished our lessons, we walked out of the water, red-eyed and water logged, but humbled and happy to be learning a new sport.
Our experience at Ikarus was truly memorable, and not just because of the kite boarding. Life there was pretty simple and basic, and I loved that! There were people there from all over the world, and I loved that too! When we would sit down for meals we would be surrounded by conversations that were happening in Spanish, Dutch, German, French, and English - and all at the same time! It was such a great experience, especially for the girls! When we weren’t kiting, we just relaxed. We laid in our hammock, played cards, listened to music, chatted with people, read books, or watched kiters on the water. The girls felt really comfortable there and they would wander off freely eager to hang out with others. Sometimes we would find them making bracelets for other guests, sometimes we would find them sitting in the grass just talking to people. Whatever it was, it always made me happy to see them having their own kind of experience.
From Ikarus we went to Isla Mujeres for three days, a small island in the Gulf of Mexico off the Yucatan Peninsula. We actually stayed at an all-inclusive hotel (which is totally NOT the Shaw-way of doing things), and it turned out to be great! There were many reasons that led me to choose an all-inclusive, but primarily I chose it because of the girls. I was really hoping we would meet other families with kids, and I was hoping the girls would take advantage of the “kid activities” that were offered every day.
On our first day, the girls met two girls from Iowa, Macey and Finley. Ellie was the one to reach out and ask them to play, and from then on, it was full steam ahead! Day after day the girls would bounce back and forth between our chairs on the beach, and the Kids Club activities. At breakfast, they would find their friends and then plan out there day, based on which activities they all wanted to do. The girls LOVED it and their time there was full of kid-centric fun… beach volleyball, water ballon fights, diving for chips in the pool, face painting, making crafts, snorkeling, etc. I loved how the girls dove into the activities and as a result John and I were able to get some time to ourselves. Scoring time together isn’t always easy, but at Mia (the hotel) it was, and we really enjoyed the feeling of being a “couple”.
Being at Mia I really felt like I was on vacation! The ease of the all-inclusive was really nice. We stayed in a great “villa” (that sounds fancier then it was) with a porch right on the water. Every night we fell asleep with the sea breeze blowing in our room and the constant sound of waves crashing against the rocks. It was heaven! We spent most of our time lounging at the hotel, but one morning we decided to rent a golf cart to drive around and explore the island (it’s not big). We stopped at a few places along the way, but we could NOT have imagined that the highlight of this excursion would have been the “ICE BAR”!!
The girls were the ones who really wanted to check out the ice bar. We had heard about it while on the beach, but we didn’t actually know much about it, or what to expect when we arrived. When we were outside the actual bar we sort of hummed and hawed about going in (well, John and I did, not the girls) as it looked like a total tourist trap. Nevertheless, we went in and had SO MUCH FUN! We laughed and giggled and danced the whole time! The bar is completely made out of ice (the walls, tables, chairs, bar, bar stools, etc). There are ice sculptures, cool lighting, music playing, and a bartender at your service! It’s fun! The temperature inside the ice bar is minus 18 degrees! We managed to stay in there for twenty minutes before our toes couldn’t take it anymore! When we decided to leave the bar, we stepped outside, shed our “fur” tops, and walked directly to the beach to thaw our toes in the ocean.
We spent our final week in Mexico on Riviera Maya, which is south of Cancun and north of Tulum. The hotel where we stayed was full of kids and had an awesome family vibe! Like the Mia Reef Hotel on Isla Mujeres, this hotel had daily activities just for kids, both during the day and at night. We had a lot of great family time, but the girls LOVED the “Exlplorers Club”! Their days and/or evenings were filled with treasure hunts, pool games, karaoke, glow parties, crafts, and other fun stuff! John and I, in turn, got time together and enjoyed adult conversation, meeting people, cocktails at sunset, and even dinner alone!
One day we took a taxi to Tulum (about 40 minutes south) and spent the day on the beach. It was a nice change from the busyness of the hotel and I loved hanging out and playing with the family all day!
Another day we went on a half-day snorkeling trip which turned out to be one of the best snorkeling experiences we’ve had! We saw moray eels, tons of sea turtles, sting rays, and endless tropical fish as we navigated in and around a beautiful live coral reef. At one point, John and I were distracted by a high-pitched noise that we could hear in the water. Neither of us could figure out who or what it was, but then suddenly we realized it was Isla! She was screaming through her snorkel, with her face in the water, as she watched the sting rays swimming just a few feet below her! We all started laughing (including Isla) when we realized it was her making the noise and she realized what she was doing!
With the week quickly coming to an end, and our chapter in Mexico coming to a close, we only had one more thing on our “to do” list, “swim with dolphins”.
And, on our final afternoon, two of the ladies from the Explorers Club surprised us with a picnic lunch. It was so sweet and kind and the girls felt really special. The ladies also made a scrapbook for the girls and a picture frame for a family photo.
It’s been about six weeks since we left Mexico and I’m clearly behind on the blog - again! We’ll get caught up soon! In the mean time, be well, laugh a lot, and enjoy the early days and signs of Spring!!