By Sharon Drechsler
CEO and president of Cancun-based tour and excursion-providers, Yucatán Holidays, Erika Garcia is pretty excited: “We just learned that Orbitz has listed Cancun as the number one, top global destination!” she exclaims.
“Earlier in May, Cancun had already been listed in the Orbitz Index as second of ‘Top 10 Summer Travel Destinations for 2010,’” adds Jesus Almaguer, director of the city’s visitors bureau. This comes as no surprise to Cancun’s Secretariat of Tourism D’Ario Flota. “We survey the 6 million visitors per year here all the time who say they’ve had unforgettable vacations,” he says. “Visitors from all over the world return to Cancun year after year. And they tell us they feel 100 percent confident about security throughout their stay.”
I know Flota feels the need to mention security due to recent negative press concerning border unrest. But with the tender care afforded us by a special security unit assigned solely to assist tourists, I felt more comfortable than at home! Plus, where else in the world can you find such perfect ingredients for an ideal holiday? Unspoiled, white-sand beaches; warm, Caribbean climate; exceptional hospitality…. Check. But wait. There’s more! “Sure, most of Yucatán Holidays’ guests are coming for a beach vacation,” says Garcia. “But with our vacations, they have so many additional options! You should see a kid snorkeling over the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, the longest reef on the continent. Or talk to a couple after they’ve gotten out into the community, learned about the history of the Mayan people and viewed how we live today.”
“I can’t tell you how many people have told me this trip has changed their lives! One couple called me the other day and said, ‘Erika, we can’t go home yet!’” laughs Garcia. “I told them to relax; we can help them.” “Yucatán Holidays makes it easy to add on days to their stay. We do what it takes to protect our resort clients’ interests. With us, their special guests never need to go online, call another resort provider or a travel agent.” The Yucatán Peninsula has supported a sophisticated level of civilization since as early as 1,000 B.C. “We’ve found that visitors want to explore the local history, culture and heritage,” she adds. “Yucatán Holidays is the first local tour provider to incorporate our rich heritage into a sustainable tourism portfolio.”
One of their steps in meeting this commitment is to partner with an alternative tourism agency called Kanché. “Visitors interested in science and nature can take a Kanché tour through protected jungles and mangrove forests and learn about the fascinating history and culture of the region,” adds Garcia. “We are a major supporter of this non-profit, non-governmental group.”
But this is just one layer of the Yucatán Holidays onion I peeled back on a recent trip there. Fresh off the plane, my first stop is to Ocean Spa Hotel in the heart of Cancun.
Day 1: Sensations massage, sensational meal
After checking in, I am treated to an 80-minute-long Sensations massage that turns me into pliable puddles of joy. Lia at Ocean Spa Hotel’s Germaine De Capuccini spa uses four different techniques including acupressure, reflexology, lymphatic drainage and body stretching – decidedly therapeutic – to send me to a different plane. Soon I’m humming a restful “Om.”
The next morning I visit the buffet table of the all-inclusive Ocean Spa Hotel’s indoor/outdoor restaurant, where I make the day’s toughest decision: Should I go native with Mexican-styled refried beans, huevos rancheros and tortillas or stick to a made-to-order omelet? Instead, I opt to sample one of the Ocean Spa’s juice therapy concoctions. Wellness is a common theme at Ocean Spa, from activities promoting exercise to restorative spa treatments and healthy food choices. The menu promises that my choice, the ‘Purify,’ an elixir of pineapple, lime, pear, kiwi and even a touch of cactus and parsley leaves, will rid me of unwanted toxins. It sounds perfect.
Thus detoxed, I believe I’m ready for the resort’s morning Latin dance class. Along with several other women and one brave fellow, we all cha-cha, hip-swivel and shimmy through an hour of salsa, bachata, merengue and mambo. (Relax. It isn’t as hard as it sounds.)
Later in the evening, my Yucatán Holidays pals and I attend an impressive evening show at the Hacienda Andalucia. An old-time hacienda that’s been converted into an equestrian venue is a weekly draw for locals and tourists alike. While we enjoy a truly sumptuous buffet, we are entertained by Mexican folk singers and dancers. After we’re suitably fortified, we watch the show as horseback riders demonstrate their skills, balancing precariously on their galloping steeds while performing intricatelychoreographed feats.