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Merry two weeks before three months after Christmas Eve.

March 2005 Issue 24


It has been quite a busy time since the last issue of The Akumalian, and that is reflected in this issue.  This issue is different in numerous ways, with the most important being the presence of other contributors to the stories.  Alice Blanter has contributed her thoughts on what the Editor refers to as the 4F-ers, and Laura Bush Wolfe did an article on her visit to the Akumal Montessori School in the pueblo.  A pair of anonymous Akumalians submitted their thoughts on their recent visit to Havana, Cuba, and there should be a similar article next month.


            The next General Meeting is scheduled for April Fool's Day, Friday, April 1 at 11:00am in the Lol Ha restaurant.  This should be a good meeting, so if you are in town, please try to attend.  Plus, it will be a good opportunity to obtain your Akumal Parking sticker.


Classy Casa Colibri Classical Celestial Crew & Committee (7Cs) continues to periodically meet atop the Casa Colibri observatory in South Akumal to view the HST (Hubble Space Telescope) and/or the ISS (International Space Station) as it flies at 17,500 mph over Akumal.  The group has also met over at the Beach Bar, in an effort to solicit new members with sightings, but for some unknown reason, there have been very few sightings there.

Register at to get viewing opportunities in locations other than Akumal.


Full moon over San Jose, Costa Rica            Continuing on looking skyward, be advised that the Full Worm Moon arrives here on Friday, March 25th at 2:38pm AST.

Why Full Worm Moon, I hear you ask?  As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins.  So, keep on the lookout for earthworm casts and robins; they should be here by now.

 Something to (NOT) look forward to  the projected full moon over Akumal in 2025.


            If you are left out, please use Letter to the Editor.  :

  • Ryan Fredette arrived on February 22nd, along with his parents, for a too short visit.
  • Tony & Judy James visited Akumal once again.
  • Julia, Lucy's cousin from England, was here for her annual visit.
  • Mary Lou Mulgrew is here again.
  • Tom Lewis is back visiting Denny.
  • Roger & Denise Burton returned, with some of their friends from Dallas.
  • Bob & Gail Iverson were back in Aventuras Akumal
  • Greg, along with Jana, Franta, was here to make a presentation at the Renewable Energy Workshop held at CEA on February 28th.
  • Geoff packed up his classical guitar and abruptly left Akumal, as of March 1st


            Mark Preston. - - - Mark reports, "I'm living in "Big D" and enjoying life.  I would hope to see Denny and Diane next summer, when they visit with Macon and "The Lady in Black".  Marriage to my companion, Susan, is tentatively planned for this coming September, here in Dallas.  I continue to exercise, read, and, very occasionally, golf.  We hope to visit you and all of our friends in Akumal next winter.  Hopefully, I can pickup my clubs then (in storage with Malu).  Summing up - Life is Good !!!   Best to the gang. "

             Dan & Sam. - - -  Dan writes, "We always hesitate revisiting Akumal--our memories of the place and the people are soooooo wonderful that we are afraid of returning and being disappointed.

After we left Akumal, we moved to Annapolis, Maryland; then we bought a place in South Beach, Miami; another place in Nova Scotia, Canada; finally, we moved to Houston, Texas, and I got back into the oil business.  Sam is manager of the men's department at Saks Fifth Avenue and is back in her element.  So, you can see that we are, as always, gypsies.  However, we do absolutely love living in Houston.  We bought a place in a high rise in the Galleria area where we can walk to work, walk to restaurants, walk to shop, etc., and we find it such an exciting place.

Tell everyone 'Hola'."


  • No word in the English language rhymes with month.
  • About 20% of gift card recipients never redeem the full value of the card.
  • The time spent deleting SPAM costs United States businesses $21.6 billion annually.
  • Kevin Spacey's older brother is a professional Rod Stewart impersonator.
  • Even today, 90% of the continental United States is still open space or farmland.
  • The New Yorker magazine now has more subscribers in California than New York.
  • One out of five people in the world (1.1 billion people) live on less than $1 per day.
  • The Swedish pop group ABBA recently turned down an offer of $2 billion to reunite.
  • So far, Congress has authorized $152,600,000,000 for the Iraq war - enough to build over 17,500 elementary schools.


[2005-01-25-[Oscar Statuette]-77th Annual Academy Award Nominations]            On February 27th, it was a dark and stormy night, with rain pouring down and lightening flashing all around, but that did not dampen the spirits of those attending the 77th Academy Awards gala event, which was celebrated at the Lol Ha Snack Bar, where a live television feed from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood was presented to a large gathering of local celebrities and luminaries.  It is suspected that the foul weather kept the attendance down some what.

            Steve & Ingrid, the first celebrities to arrive, waited out the heavy part of the downpour before slipping in the via side entrance of the Game Room.  This was very appropriate, because it led directly to the famous Red Carpet, where they were greeted by the Oscar Event hostess, Laura Bush.  After a brief interview and photo op with the paparazzi, Steve & Ingrid moved into the Beach Bar area, where they greeted other attendees.

            The storm initially affected the satellite feed from Hollywood, but the conditions improved before Oscar night got underway.  The Lol Ha Academy Awards Event went off without a hitch, other than the rain, and a good time was had by all.

            Unfortunately, Steve's character could not stick around the Beach Bar for the final award (Congratulations, Clint), because he had to fly to Hollywood in his new MACH 5 FX-ALL-4-1 test plane for the Elton John benefit party for AIDS.  On the way, he dropped Ryan Fredette off at Casa Colibri.  Ryan's parting thoughts were, "I wanted Sponge Bob to win."

            There is a very strong rumor that this might become an annual event.  In fact, Laura Bush announced that the 78th Academy Awards will be held on Sunday, March 5, 2006, a week later in the calendar than in 2004 and 2005.  Laura described the step back into March as a one-year expedient to avoid a conflict with the closing ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics, which are scheduled to fall on the Academy's "natural" date of Sunday, February 26. 

"It didn't seem fair to make our guests and the locals have to choose between these two special events," Laura said.

            Steve and Ingrid were happy with that announcement, and they have already made their reservations.  Unfortunately, they are keeping their characters a secret until the Oscar nominees are made early next year.


            The new Zip Code for Akumal is 77730, but. . . . .

Is the Post Office ever open these days?  The last two trips there found it CLOSED!!!!


During the Oscar Event at Lol Ha, there was a pool/drawing to benefit Akumal's Montessori School, and most, if not all, of the teachers and administrators were present at the head table with Charlene.  Unfortunately, the rain and power failure kept the attendance and tickets down, so the drawing did not benefit the School that much.  However, the awareness of the School was elevated to another level.

The day after the Academy Awards, Laura Bush Wolfe went over to the pueblo and toured the new Montessori School.  Here are her observations.

The day after the Academy Awards, I went with Gabriela Ortega, the director of Ox Paal, to the Montessori School in the pueblo.  I had not been there yet, but had seen the presentation on it, and a newsletter update, and I knew that they needed more funds.  What I saw was a wonderfully large piece of land sitting on the crest of a hill, well situated away from the busy part of town, and on a corner lot. There were outlines for the future buildings, and several that had already been started.

Before taking me inside the finished building where the little kids were, Gabriela explained to me what each building would be for, (more classrooms and a dining hall) and what the back area was targeted for in the future (a common use building and an area for farm animals and a vegetable garden).

Once inside I was introduced to the world of Montessori teaching, which I was totally unfamiliar with.  The kids were all in a circle, all smiling and behaved, and singing in Maya!  The cutest songs that I only understood in bits and pieces, but that the kids evidently knew!  At that point, I started to feel the magic of being close to children, and children that were clearly in a very gentle and nourishing environment!

After the singing, the music teacher left, and two other teachers were there to guide the children to their activity of choice.  I toured the entire room and was shown each activity and what it was designed to help the children with.  These were all life skills that any child would clearly benefit from, and at the same time, help them with motor skills, balance, hand eye coordination, and so much more that children need to prepare them for primary school.

The entire time I was there, I heard NO yelling, none of the kids acted up, and all of the kids were seriously going about their tasks with deep concentration and obvious joy!  I liked the way they handle disagreements when they do arise.  I realized that this school is not just about providing a day care and preschool.  It is about giving low income families an alternative method of raising children.  What they are learning there, they can take home with them, and it will be with them forever to help them succeed in whatever they choose to do.

These children in the pueblo have very few choices for education.  What the government schools can provide, (very limited) and what they can get at home.  Now, with the Montessori school, these kids have an opportunity to flourish!  Starting with 2 year olds, all the way to 6 year olds, and ANY family can send their kids there, even if they cannot pay.

I know there are many causes to support.  I also know that we cannot stretch ourselves too thin, but if any of you feel a strong pull when you think of cute little children smiling and learning and enjoying in a safe environment, I ask you to visit this special place.  All you have to do is email me at , and I can set it up with Gabriela.  You can sit in for awhile and feel the same magic I felt!  And, if you think you can do anything at all to help them further, it is most welcome!


The name Montessori is not legally protected, and can be used by anyone, for any purpose, and it is vital that anyone searching for a good Montessori school or teacher-training center be aware of this.  Montessori is not a system for training children in academic studies; nor is it a label to be put on educational materials.  It is a revolutionary method of observing and supporting the natural development of children.  Montessori educational practice helps children develop creativity, problem solving, social, and time-management skills, to contribute to society and the environment, and to become fulfilled persons in their particular time and place on Earth.  The basis of Montessori practice in the classroom is respected individual choice of research and work, and uninterrupted concentration rather than group lessons led by an adult.  It is these unique practices that make Montessori the fastest growing and most successful method of education today.


On Tuesday, March 1st, Paul Sanchez-Navarro, Director of CEA, organized a Pot Luck Get Together at CEA, where the locals and their friends and guests could meet and socialize with some food and wine.  It was Pot Luck, and there was plenty of good food, wine, women and song, as provided by Denny Mahan, Roger Burton, and Steve, a houseguest of Denny; the trio provided the music, but not the women or wine.

            It was a well attended event, and a good time was had by all, especially Paul.

It was Paul's 1st Anniversary as Director of CEA, and he was entertained by four young dancers from the pueblo.  Bart & Jennifer of Turtle Bay Cafe presented Paul with a very beautiful and decadent chocolate cake.


            In an effort to kick off something like an earlier proposed "Akumal Summer Fest", residents - especially those at Casa Colibri - of South Akumal started their own little festival.  This was held in conjunction with the Oscar Party at the Lol Ha Beach Bar on February 27 and the CEA Pot Luck Dinner/ Music Night on March 1.

            The kick-off event was a Sand Building Contest on the beach at South Akumal, and the grand prize winner, Ryan Fredette, visiting from Uxbridge, Massachusetts, beat out an illustrious field of competitors.  Ryan had a slight advantage, due to his grandparents' sand castle building kit and years of sand castle building experience.

            The organizers of the Sand Castle Building Contest are hoping that someday the other factions and businesses of Akumal can co-ordinate some similar isolated events into a visible, well promoted week long "Event" that would become established as a true annual event, under the umbrella of The Akumal Winter/Spring/Summer Festival (depending on the time frame).

THE 4 F'ers

Alice Blanter's view of El Club de Los Ninos, or the Friendly Fly-Fishing Fraternity

 There's a secret little club which has formed in Akumal in recent months.  It's the Sunday fly-fishing male bonding group, better known as the 4F'ers!  This is how the big day goes, as it was explained to me.  I'm sure that everyone will understand why it's become such a big past-time after reading this.

The day begins when Bud crawls out of bed at 6:00am to prepare for this "adventure", which has become an almost weekly event.  With the preparations and provisions prepared, Bud heads out to meet up with two other members of the 4'Fers, Bart and Didier.  This North Akumal contingent will then rendezvous with their very illustrious leader and fly-fishing master, Rhett, either in South Akumal or down along the Tulum Hotel Zone.

After traveling for about an hour and a half on the tortuous Tulum - Punta Allen beach road - the one covered with a zillion potholes - well into the Sian Ka'an (Maya for "Where the sky is born") biosphere reserve, the hearty 4F'ers unload their provisions and carry their fishing gear, containers with beer and water, and a bag of ice, food, chairs, and fishing clothing through the mosquito infested jungle.  Now, according to the guys, these mosquitoes are the biggest that have ever been seen by the human eye (sounds appealing to me!). 

After braving the jungle, laden with heavy provisions, they arrive at a beautiful beach where they wade into the freezing cold water, stand there with their fishing poles, hoping to catch a fish at some point.  If they should be so lucky as to achieve this ultimate goal, as soon as they catch their prized bonefish, they throw it back into the sea, because, as it was explained to me, the bonefish didn't get its name for no reason.  It's inedible!  After a few hours, they pack everything up, trek back through the mosquito infested jungle, by which time the mosquitoes are even more ferocious, run for the car, closing the doors quickly so that only a few dozen mosquitoes join them for the return trip and head back home over the same fine Punta Allen - Tulum beach road.

Now, who wouldn't want to be a part of this?  The 4F'ers are seeking new members.


The Spanish called the mosquitoes "musketas," and the native Hispanic Americans called them "zancudos."  "Mosquito" is a Spanish or Portuguese word meaning "little fly" while "zancudos," a Spanish word, means "long-legged."  The use of the word "mosquito" is apparently of North American origin and dates back to about 1583.

Mosquitoes are insects belonging to the order Diptera, the True Flies.  Like all True Flies, they have two wings, but unlike other flies, mosquito wings have scales.  Female mosquitoes' mouthparts form a long piercing-sucking proboscis.  Males differ from females by having feathery antennae and mouthparts not suitable for piercing skin.  A mosquito's principal food is nectar or similar sugar source.

Mosquitoes can be an annoying, serious problem in man's domain.  They interfere with work and spoil hours of leisure time.  Their attacks on farm animals can cause loss of weight and decreased milk production.  Some mosquitoes are capable of transmitting diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, dengue, filariasis and encephalitis [St. Louis encephalitis (SLE), Western Equine encephalitis (WEE), LaCrosse encephalitis (LAC), Japanese encephalitis (JE), Eastern Equine encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile virus (WNV)] to humans and animals.

What is the correct plural form of the word mosquito?  In Spanish it would be "mosquitos," but in English "mosquitoes" (with the "e") is correct.

Studies estimate there are 100 trillion mosquitoes in the world today, and each one is responsible for about 5 human 'bites' a day.


            They are back..........

Nancy DeRosa reports, "On March 4th, 2005, Villas de Rosa in Aventuras Akumal was robbed.  It was a beach level entrance while the family was sleeping.  An expensive laptop was taken along with a purse.  All the doors were locked, and the thief, or thieves, entered by forcing open a little window.  Fortunately, the guests had their passport and money in a wall lock box.  Luckily, no one was hurt, but this still is a very bad memory for our tourists."

Nancy went on to say, "When I contacted the police, it was brought to my attention that this happened recently to other villas (think it was Las Villas Brisas) in Aventuras Akumal.  It appears that we have a problem in the community, so let's all be aware.  We need to have a neighborhood watch to protect ourselves, our families, and our guests.  The only way we can do this is to keep each other informed on what's happening in our area.  It is hard to have neighborhood watch if no one informs their neighbors of what has been going on.  Let's all cooperate with each other and put a stop to these crimes and keep Akumal a safe place for everyone."

             Apparently, there were very suspicious characters in South Akumal at about the same time frame, and according to reports, two were arrested and are being detained.  One night, when we were returning home from a nice evening out with our family and grandson, we were greeted by a very bright light coming down the road after we passed though the gate.  The very bright light was somewhat on the right side of the road and moving about in an extremely erratic fashion.  I could not tell if it was a car with one light out, or a motor cycle, or what, due to the light shining directly in my eyes.  Not being able to see through the blinding light, I stopped the car, only to learn that it was an over-reactive neighbor with a club in search for suspected robbers, "from Belize."

            Later, Gabriella called to report that suspicious characters were seen at the south end of the street by Security, who called Security at the gate, who in turn called the Akumal police.  They ultimately captured a taxi driver from Felipe Carrillo Puerto parked at the chain across the entrance road of the new development south of South Akumal.  His story was that he brought some men here, "to go fishing."  The police subsequently caught one or two other men, and it is believed that another got away.  The police are holding the suspects, including the taxi driver.  NOTE: the details might not be exact, because it's second hand information from a verbal exchange.

             Be on the ALERT, and as Nancy says, and The Akumalian has said many times, "We really need to keep each other informed about robberies and suspicious characters."  An informed neighborhood is a better protected neighborhood.  Be advised that the telephone number for the Akumal police is 044-984-877-7892.


            Hechizo is a very fine dining experience on the Riviera Maya, and it can be considered to be the culinary Jewel in the Crown of the Riviera Maya.  To some degree it has been quite a secret we have known about for almost a year now, thanks to Lisa & Phill Combs.  Hechizo means "enchantment" or "bewitchment".

            Hechizo is about a 40 minute drive from Akumal, and the time depends on how the dirt road is between Zamas and the Sian Ka'an biosphere reserve.  Hechizo, is located just north of the entrance of the biosphere, or about 3.3 miles from Zamas, on the pot-holed and wash-board road heading south toward Punta Allen.

            Hechizo is unlike any other restaurant on the coast, and you begin to appreciate that as you drive south from Zamas.  The restaurant is located on the private property of Rancho San Eric and does not have a sign of its own out on the road.  Enter through the gate to Rancho San Eric and follow the road as it meanders through the ranch property leading to the restaurant.  Once, parked, there still is a short walk to the restaurant itself. 

Hechizo opened on December 24, 2003, for dinner service from Tuesdays through Sundays.  It is owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Stefan and Ying-Hui Schober, who will greet you as you enter.  Stefan is the chef, and Ying-Hui makes the pastries and runs the front of the restaurant, and they are supported by one staff member, Juan Bautista Pool.

The building is relatively new.  Construction started in January 2001, and every component, from the design to the actual construction of the walls, floor, roof, aquarium, etc. was handmade by Stefan's parents, Carlos & Berta Schober, with Stefan & Ying-Hui helping out with the detail work during their visits to Tulum.

From the garden path, you cross a wooden bridge which "floats" on the surface of a lily pond and go through copper-paneled wooden doors to the entrance hall of the restaurant.  This room contains a showcase filled with shells and a large fresh-water aquarium that extends the length of the room.  Stepping down, you enter the crescent-shaped dining area with a palapa roof overhead, and windows that open to a garden terrace and the Caribbean Sea.  Opposite the wall of windows, is the aquarium's back view, which is surrounded by a beautiful mosaic, done by Berta Schober, depicting the area's three components of jungle, ocean, and mangrove.

On the far end of the dining room are two glass windows with a view into the kitchen, and the bar which features an illuminated line of antique glass buoys found by Stefan and his mother after Hurricane Gilberto.  There is nothing spectacular about the interior, except its simplicity.  There are about eight or nine tables, but fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be, it has never been crowded. 

All the energy used by the restaurant is generated by solar or wind power.

            Once you have your cocktail or glass of wine, Stefan comes to the table, and he will verbally explain, in great detail, the evening menu.  There is no printed menu, because Stefan serves only what he has been able to get fresh that day in Tulum, Playa del Carmen, and even Cancun.

            Stefan does not only tell you what is available for dinner, he goes into elaborate and  exquisite details about the ingredients, spices, flavors, aromas, and presentation, and each diner's mouth waters, and they inadvertently swallow more than once, just hearing what Stefan is serving.  It never fails, that as he completes the presentation of the appetizers - usually 3 or 4, like watermelon with mild Mexican goat cheese, a portabella dish, or seared scallops - one of the diners will say, "I'll have one of each of those."

            Stefan then goes on to describe the entrees, and while I fondly remember some of the dishes, it would be a shame to even mention them when they cannot be given the justice they deserve.  However, the bulk of the menu consists of seafood, with a few meat and/or fowl options.  Stefan offers local produce - such as Caribbean lobster and local grouper, white conch, yellow-tail snapper, soft-shell crab, jumbo prawns and ostrich - as well as a variety of imported produce, such as ahi tuna, congrio from Chile, duck, and lamb.  You have to be there. 

Needless to say, the quality of the presentation, the aromas of the food, and the ultimate taste do not hold back anything, and they delightfully exceed Stefan's descriptions.  It is a dining experience to savor.

            Then, there are the desserts, and the format and process is the same.  Stefan comes to the table and exquisitely describes what Ying-Hui has made that day, and again, you wish there was a sampler plate, so you could try each and every one of them.  The Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coconut Ice Cream and Passionfruit Coulis is a favorite, and that, unfortunately, is a very simplistic description of a fantabulously wonderful dessert - sinful.

            There is a simple but delightful Wine List, and the Placido Pinot Grigio has become a very favorite of ours.  The Wine List has prices, but all the food comes without prices, and a three-course dinner for two, with a bottle of the aforementioned wine, will cost around $1,200 pesos, with tip.

Chef Stefan does offer set "tasting" menus to groups of 9 or larger.

 Background Info on Stefan and Ying-Hui

            Stefan was born in Mexico City to Austrian parents.  At the age of 13, he moved with his family to Tulum, and when he was 16, he traveled to Salzburg, Austria to begin his culinary education.  As part of his training, he was apprenticed to the two-Michelin star Hotel Schloss Fuschl under Chef Rudolf Grabner.

The Ritz-CarltonAt the end of his education, he returned to Mexico to start his professional career at The  Ritz-Carlton Cancun as Garde Manger Chef of the banquet area.  Later, he became Sous Chef of the two five-diamond restaurants Fantino and The Club Grill.  After a little more than a year, he was sent as part of the opening team to The Ritz-Carlton Dubai, United Arab Emirates as Chef Tournant.

In 2000, Stefan traveled to The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore as Chef de Cuisine of The Greenhouse, the hotel's 242-seat capacity three-meal restaurant.  Under Executive Chef Christophe Megel, Stefan perfected his craft and honed his management and operation skills.

Ying-Hui was born in Singapore.  She studied gastronomy at the University of Hawaii's Culinary Institute of the Pacific, where she specialized her education in pastry arts.  After graduating, she returned to Singapore and started her professional career at The Ritz-Carlton Millenia in the pastry department under Pastry Chef Philippe Egalon.  She worked there for two years before she earned a position as Chef de Partie at Les Amis, a French fine-dining restaurant, under Pastry Chef Nicolas Galland.

In 2002, Stefan and Ying-Hui married and in March, traveled to Cancun, Mexico, where Stefan started work as Banquet Chef at The Ritz-Carlton Cancun.  In September 2003, Stefan and Ying-Hui moved back to Tulum to turn their dream of having their own restaurant into a reality.

On a personal note, Ying-Hui is pregnant with their first child, and the delivery is scheduled for late in May.


            Turtle Bay Cafe is open for dinner, fun, and games starting at 5:00pm this Sunday, March 13, evening in support of a CEA benefit to raise money to construct a garden around the CEA dormitory area.  The cost is $250 pesos, and that gets you a fantabulously delicious smoked brisket dinner and chips to play in numerous games, like Dominos, Poker, Bridge, Texas Hold'em and a variety of other games.  What no Chess, Mahjong, or Parcheesi?  Prizes will be given away to winners of various games, and raffles will be drawn Poker handthroughout the evening.  All proceeds are going to the garden, so there will be no money won.

            Tickets are being pre-sold at the Bakery, CEA Center, and with Charlene at Super Chomack.


            Mary Margurite Wilcox "Tussy" Brewer - Tussy, a long time resident of Akumal, succumbed to her fight with cancer, and passed away in Emanuel Hospital in Portland, Oregon on Wednesday, February 16.  The family reports that Tussy became worse over the prior weekend, and Don admitted her to the hospital on Tuesday.  Tussy was with her family when she died and went rather quickly.  There was a memorial service in Boardman Oregon on that Friday night, and the Funeral service was held in Vale, Oregon on Saturday.

Cards can be sent to Mrs. Sydney Reagan, 71422 Wilson Lane, Boardman, OR 97818, and

Sydney's e-mail is


            Carol Igini - Carol was another long time resident of Akumal, and she passed away in San Antonio, Texas on Saturday, February 19 due liver malfunction.  A Memorial Service was held at La Buena Vida on Wednesday, March 2.


Margay            Oncilla/Margay/Ocelot - While definitely not in the same category, it is recognized as a very sad passing.  During the week of February 28, one of these cats (get different species from different people) was struck by a vehicle and killed on the highway at the entrance to South Akumal.  Considering encroachment of 'civilization' and the traffic on the highway, it is hard to imagine that any of these beautiful cats are still around Akumal, and then it has to be killed that way.  Adios.


By Anonymous Akumalians:

Before leaving for a long weekend in Havana, we investigated many aspects of the trip, and we hope that if you are planning to go to Cuba, you can benefit from what we learned.

Before even leaving Akumal / Cancun, there are two very, very important things to understand and appreciate.  First, Mexican pesos are not used or exchanged in Cuba.  The US dollar is no longer used in Cuba, but it can be converted into the Cuban "convertible peso," the only currency that tourists are allowed to use while in Cuba.  The best place to do this is at the Havana Airport when you arrive, but there is a 10 percent commission associated with this transaction.  The "best" currency to have is the euro, because it is not discounted like the dollar when exchanged into the "convertible peso."

            The second most important thing is worrying about your U.S. passport being stamped.  Don't worry.  Our 4-day, 3-night trip was booked through Akumal's own TSA, and Nayeli got Cuba Visas for us, and it was the only thing that was stamped going in and out of Havana.  Upon returning to Cancun, we discarded it.

The Tour Package included RT air fare, 3 nights Hotel, and Transfers from/to the Havana Airport.  The airline from Cancun->Havana->Cancun was AeroCaribe, which was clean, punctual and very pleasant.  The flight time is about 45 minutes, and since Cuba is 2 hours ahead of Mexico, we arrived in Cancun before we left Havana on the return flight.  We suggest foregoing the Havana bus transfer and paying for the 20 minute taxi ride.  We spent 2 and 1/2 hours on the bus! 

            The Tour Packages range in price from about $425 to $525 US dollars per person, depending on the hotel.  The hotels are very basic, so don't expect luxurious accommodations!  Be sure to stay in the old city to avoid expensive taxi rides.  We did and walked almost everywhere.

Hotel Plaza            We stayed in the 4* 188-room Hotel Plaza by the Parque Central in Old Havana, but our first choice was the 5* 227-room NH Parque Central, which is right next door; it seemed nicer and was rated higher, but was full at the time.  Everybody recommends the 5* 457-room Hotel Nacional de Cuba, but it is in the Vedado section of Havana, not the old town.

Our hotel included a breakfast buffet, but when we saw it on the first day, we found it completely unappetizing and  found various places to go instead.

The cost of food varied greatly.  We opted for the smaller restaurants for breakfast  and lunch, and then went to more upscale places for dinner.  We went to several very good restaurants for dinner, but the cost - about $40US per person - was more than we had expected.  We went to El Floridita for dinner one night.  It was good, but overpriced, because it was Hemingway's hangout.  However, local restaurants were often just the opposite, costing very little. 

We saw the show, "Parisienne," in the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, and it was pretty bad.  There's another show called "Tropicana," which a lot of people go to.  Both are singing and dancing shows with flamboyant costumes.

The "main drag" is Calle Obispo.  From it, you can get to the 3 main plazas.  There is a beautiful cathedral, which is interesting, and an outdoor crafts market.  We hired a private guide for half of a day.  That was plenty and we felt like we were able to see most of the old city that way. 

Begging seemed to be a big problem, and we found ourselves being approached continually.  Aside from that, most people ignored us.  We had the distinct feeling of anti-Americanism.  If you want, carry soap and toiletries to hand out.  Otherwise, just keep walking!

There is definitely a police presence, although we were never approached or felt intimidated by them.  In fact, it was often comforting to see them.  However, we would suggest leaving all jewelry and valuables at home.  As our guide told us, "We're good, but we're not saints!"

Hope this helps you to plan your trip.  We promise that it will be very interesting!


FACT: Somebody has gotten some sascab and is filling in the potholes on the entrance road.

FACT: The entrance is now a taxi stand for Bahia Principe, and there are usually 10 or so there.

RUMOR: Some group has purchased Hotel OASIS Akumal, again!


This sign is on a food counter across from the Check-In counters at the Cancun Airport.  Watch for it.





St. Patrick's Day,         March 17th -    Not recognized as a Mexican holiday.

Palm Sunday,               March 20th -    Wow!  Lent is almost over.

Easter Sunday,             March 27th -    "I saw the light.  I saw the light." - Hank Williams.

Daylight Savings,          April 3rd -         Turn those clocks ahead one hour.  Daylight at Happy Hour.

New Moon,                 April 8th -         That's 'new', not full.

U.S. Tax Deadline,       April 15th -       Time to pay the piper and help out the government.


For Mexico, Easter is a combination of Semana Santa (Holy Week - Palm Sunday to Easter Saturday) and Pascua (Resurrection Sunday until the following Saturday).  For most Mexicans, this 2 week period is THE time of year for vacation, and a good time to not be on the highways.

Semana Santa celebrates the last days of the Christ's life.  Pascua is the celebration of the Christ's Resurrection.  It is also the release from the sacrifices of Lent.  In many communities, the full Passion Play is enacted from the Last Supper, the Betrayal, the Judgement, the Procession of the 12 Stations of the Cross, the Crucifixion and, finally, the Resurrection.  In some communities, flagellation and/or real crucifixion is included.  The enactments are often wonderously staged, costumed and acted, with participants preparing for their roles for nearly the full year leading up to Semana Santa.


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