by Stephen Johnson
It is rare to stay in a place that features the luxury of an all-inclusive resort but still offers the opportunity to see wildlife in a natural setting. Azul Beach Resort The Fives Playa Del Carmen by Karisma delivered on all counts.
It has become a yearly ritual for us to seek someplace warm to break up the winter season. The Riviera Maya is a favorite destination for us as my wife Sandy is from Mexico and our son David loves seeing the nature. When choosing a resort, I knew that David would love a place where he could see animals. After reading online reviews that a person could see spider monkeys and iguanas at the Azul Beach Resort The Fives, I knew we had found our place. As a bonus, the rooms and swimming pool looked pretty nice for mom and dad as well!
Located near Playa Del Carmen, the resort is about a 40-minute drive from the Cancun airport. As we pulled into the hotel lobby, David was already eager to see iguanas. I don’t think the hotel concierge gets asked very often the best location to see iguanas!
As it was later in the afternoon, the iguanas had retired for the day. Our stomachs were rumbling so we decided to check out the sushi restaurant at the resort. Without exaggeration, it was the best sushi I have tasted in my life. Our waiter happily obliged as we ordered a variety of different sushi. By the end of the evening, my tastebuds were telling me to stay but a full stomach said it was time to go.
The next morning, David was eager to try our luck seeing animals. Azul Beach Resort The Fives has done a great job of developing a high-end resort while maintaining a large portion of the natural environment. There is a cenote (natural sinkhole found all over the Yucatan) onsite lined with untouched jungle where it is possible to see spider monkeys. Guests can walk around the cenote along a beautiful wooden boardwalk.
After eating a hearty breakfast, David and Sandy were off to walk the cenote in search of spider monkeys. I was feeling a bit tired so decided to rest in the hotel room. After about an hour or so, David and Sandy returned and David provided me a full rundown of his adventures. “Dad, guess what,” David said. “We saw five iguanas and three lizards. No spider monkeys yet but this place is cool.”
Motivated by David’s creature adventures, we put on our swimsuits and headed to the beach. David showed me where he had discovered most of his iguanas and sure enough, they were still there. The iguanas seemed to like a nicely manicured park area with lots of open rocks. They were not at all hostile and David could have spent hours watching them.
While intrigued, the idea of a beautiful beach and a cold margarita also sounded like a great idea. I am the type of guy who turns a fire-truck shade of red after a few minutes in the hot sun so we decided to get a cabana on the beach. My dreams soon became reality as I enjoyed a cold beverage while watching the beautiful Caribbean sea. After finishing my drink, we went for a dip in the Caribbean. David found a crab and showed it off to me. The sand had a silky soft texture and the temperature of the Caribbean felt like a lukewarm bath. Not exactly the same as a dip in the Ottawa River! I don’t think I have seen David and Sandy any happier looking for seashells and seeing tropical fish with their goggles on. I alternated between the cabana, swimming in the sea and the nearby infinity pool. I did not think life could get any better.
We decided it was enough sun and life was about to get better! Almost on cue, a resort employee came by on a bicycle offering ice cream treats for guests. This was my idea of heaven. After enjoying the ice-cream treat, we decided to avoid the mid-day sun and relax in our room.
By 5:30 pm, the temperature was much more agreeable so we headed for supper. Along the way, David yelled, “Look, over there.” About five spider monkeys were swinging in the trees, including a mother and baby. They would come close enough to check us out but then scurry quickly away. It was awe-inspiring to be so close to the monkeys. We took a few selfies with the monkeys as our new bffs and then continued on.
For supper, we chose a Thai restaurant called Koh Thai. David was impressed by a statue of Buddha in the restaurant. We were all even more impressed by the food. After trying a few appetizers, we enjoyed a delicious pad thai.
One great thing about the resort is that several of the bars and restaurants face out on to a pedestrian only central plaza. Once done supper, we enjoyed live music and shopped at the temporary market of Mexican goods. Our favorite stand was the free Mexican sweets the resort was giving out. Sandy, being from Mexico, helped us pick the tastiest and sweetest. We passed a nice time lingering around the plaza enjoying the warm evening.
The following morning, it was our last on site. Fittingly, we saw another animal on our way to breakfast. David informed me the piglike animal was actually called a peccary. We snapped a few photos and went off to breakfast. For our last meal, we chose the buffet at a French-themed restaurant called La Brasserie. The interior looked like a French bistro and the food tasted as good as I have had in Montreal or Paris.
After breakfast, we had to pack our bags and move on. We left Azul Beach Resort The Fives with a full stomach and fond memories.
I would recommend Azul Beach Resort The Fives Playa Del Carmen by Karisma to families. Baby strollers were very common at the resort and staff seemed to cater especially to younger children. There are a variety of pools, the beach is excellent and as mentioned, the food is of superior quality. For more information about the resort, visit www.karismahotels.com.