chiapas photo tour

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Category Archives: Yucatan

Magical Light Adventures

We have been working on Magical Light Adventures for more than a month and are excited to share it with you. Our new business will feature photo tours and workshops, initially to our favorite spot in Mexico – Chiapas. We’ll add new tours in 2017 and 2018 in the Yucatan, Guatemala and Cuba. Our dream would be to add tours in Cartegeña, Colombia, the cities and mountains of Ecuador and, of course, the Galapagos.

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We love travel and we are passionate about photography and want to share our experiences with a select group of people. We’ll offer three types of trips: tours, workshops and research trips.

Photo workshops will be a more intensive photography experience with field trips and daily classroom sessions featuring critiques and editing. Each workshop will produce a travel book from the week’s photos. Participants will not only learn how to improve their photography skills, but will also learn workflow, book layout and printing techniques.

Photo tours will feature the same hands on photo instruction as a workshop, but will not have the classroom sessions or formal critique sessions. Each participant will receive a photo book containing photos from the group’s photos.

A Photo research tour is offered when we travel to a new place to set up the details for a formal tour or workshop. Group size is limited to four people, will offer photo tips as we work on location, informal photo discussions during dinner or drinks and will be priced lower than a tour or workshop. Our first research trip to Guatemala is already full!

The first opportunity to improve your photography skills is March 2017. You can discover one of the most amazing parts of Mexico – Chiapas. We’ll stay in the colonial town of San Cristóbal de las Casas, visit vibrant indigenous villages, tour stunning Mayan ruins (Palenque, Bonampak and Yaxchilan), and explore the lush mountains and exotic rivers of Chiapas.

Future tours and workshops will be held in the fall of 2017 in Chiapas, with one week featuring Dia de los Muertos, and Semana Santa in Guatemala in March of 2018.

Enjoy the photos below from some of our previous trips to Chiapas and Cuba and click on over to Magical Light Adventures for details.

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San Cristóbal, Chiapas

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Holbox Dream Hotel

We recently spent a few nights at one of the newest hotels on the sleepy island of Holbox, off the north coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.

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Holbox Dream is a project by successful Playa del Carmen-based hotel group, Xperience Hotels. Their comfortable properties in Playa include Hacienda Paradise, Aqua Luna and Illusions Boutique Hotel.

The Holbox property involved a complete remodel of existing rooms, and the addition of a restaurant, pool and new rooms. The two-story units are on the beach and feature a great Italian restaurant, two pools, hammocks or chairs on each balcony, bicycles to rent and a friendly, accommodating staff. Another big plus is that it’s pet friendly.

Rather than carry on about it, check out the photos and see for yourself.

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Shells used for faucets and natural soaps and shampoos in all of the bathrooms.

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The rooms are stylish and comfortable.

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Why We Love Cozumel

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After four years of living on the island of Cozumel, and working in the Riviera Maya area of Mexico, we’ve finally made a firm decision: We love Cozumel and we don’t intend to move!

Sure, Playa del Carmen entices us with great restaurants, and Tulum intrigues us with it’s hip vibe and more great restaurants, and Isla Mujeres tempts us with small town charm. But, we have decided to put away those temptations. Here is why.

Everyone has their own reasons about why they choose to live where they do. We live here because of the water: the access to it, the quality of it and the variety of it. While those other towns are on the water, or are surrounded by it, none of them can offer the experience of Cozumel.

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Nobody has the quality of snorkeling and diving on reefs that we have here. The visibility and health of the mainland reef system simply does not compare to our reefs on the west side of the island (and many Playa del Carmen dive masters will privately agree). Reefs on the mainland that are close to shore such as Xpu-ha and Akumal are murky with little to see. They may have been good before Wilma and other hurricanes, but no longer.

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On Cozumel, there are several spots on the west and south side of the island for good snorkeling, boat dives, shore dives and just plain swimming. Check out this video recently shot during a shore dive from one of the best dive resorts on the island, Blue Angel. We didn’t travel much more than 100 yards from the resort, we were diving in less than 30 feet of water and saw spotted eagle rays, tons of lobster, eels, and more.

 

Secondly, the incredible east side of the island, virtually undeveloped, has got to be one of the best-kept secrets in Mexico. With no large resorts to block access, the rugged coastline is dotted with stretches of sand, perfect for a relaxing afternoon, swimming in the surf, or kite boarding. Even on a busy Sunday, there is usually only one spot in the entire 12 mile stretch of beach (accessible by paved road) that is crowded. Try to find that on the mainland. Another 12-15 miles of the coastline is only accessible by 4-wheel drive for those who really want to get away.

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I’m not sure when you last went to the beach along the Riviera Maya, or in the U.S., for that matter, but unspoiled, public accessible, white sand beaches with warm Caribbean water are in short supply.

The best part of living on an island is designing your day on the water based on your activity for the day. Is the wind blowing hard from the east? No problem, the ocean on the west side will be nice and calm. Got a norte blowing and the west side is choppy? We go to Punta Sur and enjoy a nice long white sandy beach and a terrific snorkeling reef. Sitting on the mainland with a strong wind blowing from the east or north? Sorry, you’ve got nowhere to hide.

Sure, we have good restaurants, especially those with sunset views, something you won’t get on the mainland.

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We have one of the oldest and most popular Carneval parades in Mexico. In the days before Lent, the island reaches a fever pitch with days of parades with creative floats, dance competitions, performances by Mexico’s top entertainers – and it’s a local celebration. Visitors are welcome to join in and have fun, but it’s definitely not put on for tourists.

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I could go on with other small things that make living here comfortable and interesting, but, for us, it’s the water, the Caribbean and the beaches. If those things matter to you, I can’t imagine why anyone would vacation, get married, or even live on the mainland.

We won’t!

Best Places to Eat & Sleep on the Riviera Maya

It’s time for an update on new finds and old favorites for the best places to eat and sleep on the Riviera Maya. Don’t miss the earlier report on Al Cielo, this place is a hidden gem.

Some of our recent favorites in Playa del Carmen include:

We discovered Cafe-Antoinette which has great baguettes, croissants and pain du chocolate. They are located on the pedestrian street that leads to the passenger ferry to Cozumel. Walking toward the ferry, they are on the left, just before the ferry ticket booths.

El Muelle is a fantastic seafood place on Quinta (5th Avenue) and Calle 32. We loved the red tuna carpaccio with arugula, the ceviche and the free white bean appetizer brought to the table. This is our “must visit” spot when we are in Playa del Carmen. Thanks to Giuseppe, the general manager at Xperience Hotels who told us about this spot. We usually stay at their very comfortable hotel, Hacienda Paradise, when we work in the Playa del Carmen area.

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A block south on Quinta the restaurant opened by the celebrated Mexico City chef, Enrique Olvera, Maíz de Mar. We thought it was good, but not as good as we expected, especially considering the chef’s reputation. The prices at Maíz de Mar are a little more than El Muelle, but the grouper appetizer (shown below) was amazing and all of the corn based products (chips, tostadas, etc.) were the best we have ever eaten. This places takes great pride in their masa and what it produces. We liked the chiles en nogada with seafood.

Tiritas de pescado con naranja y sal de gusano.  [ Sliced fish, orange and worm salt ]

Tiritas de pescado con naranja y sal de gusano.
[ Sliced fish, orange and worm salt ]

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Another discovery, Oh Lala, is a little harder to find, but worth the hunt. On Calle 14 bis between 10th Av and 15th Av is a bright room with cool artwork, great food and service. We were in a meat and red wine mood and the hard-to-find lamb chops were outstanding, as was the filet mignon. We enjoyed the mussels and the caprese salad, too. Reservations are recommended.

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Further south in Akumal, we returned to Vista del Mar on Half Moon Bay. Reasonable prices (which change by the season), for an ocean-front room with balcony and refrigerator. Turtle Bay Cafe is good for breakfast, especially if you arrive when the baked goods are fresh out of the oven. Killer mango coffee cake and sticky buns. Good coffee and eggs benedict, too.

Room with a view.

Room with a view.

North to Puerto Morelos and our favorite breakfast spot is El Nicho, right on the town plaza. Terrific coffee (very important), a variety of good egg dishes (including four styles of eggs benedict) and house-made granola.

Thanks for stopping by and reading about some of our favorite spots. The next post is our love letter to Cozumel, or why you should visit here instead of Cancun, Playa del Carmen or Tulum.

Diving Cozumel in the Summer

While summer on the island of Cozumel has it’s challenges (heat, rain, mosquitos, humidity), it also has several good points. Diving during the summer on Cozumel’s reefs is certainly one of the good points.

The wind tends to die down, which helps the visibility. Winter water temperatures are usually a pleasant 79 – 80 degrees F, but summer temperatures start hovering around 85, which means I’m not as likely to get as cold on the second dive and I’m not wearing two wetsuits.

Coral blooms, little fish hatch and the ocean seems to become a little more active during the summer. If you can catch a stretch of time without rain, then you’ve found the cosmic convergence of good diving conditions on Cozumel.

Here are a few photos from recent dives from the Swordfish with Aquatic Sports and from shore dives and snorkels from the Blue Angel Resort, two of our favorite Cozumel dive operations.

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Turtles seem to be solitary by nature. I have rarely seen them swimming or feeding together.

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A poaching victim?

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Shallow shore dives give you the opportunity to slow down and look for the little things. There probably isn’t anything harder to find than a seahorse, except maybe a frog fish. However, one of our dive master friends told us about a spot where she has seen one repeatedly. It took about 25 minutes of slow swimming with our noses about 12″ above the ocean floor, but we did find one that was about four inches long.

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The fish life around the sting ray enclosure next door to Blue Angel is alway active and varied. Pelicans hang around to feed regularly. One of these days I am going to hang out and try to catch them hitting the water while I am underwater. That should make a great photo.

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Summertime on Isla Mujeres

We always enjoy visiting Isla Mujeres. It is so different from Cozumel. It is small and cozy, and just seems more tranquil. There are lots of great places to eat and sleep, and several interesting beach clubs along the west side. We were there to shoot an engagement session for a lovely couple from the San Francisco area. That meant it was more work than play, but, oh what a place to work!

First, we would like to acknowledge the warm welcome we received from the owner and concierge at the very cool and stylish Casa de los Sueños, where we shot many of the photos. We are looking forward to going back and checking out the rooms, hanging in the infinity pool and laying around the wooden dock.

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We ended up staying in town at Casa el Pio, which was a stone’s throw from the small plaza and the eastern shore. Open the windows and listen to the surf break! The manager, Jill, took great care of us, and even opened up a room for our photo subjects when they arrived with a couple of changes of clothes. Unfortunately for Casa el Pio, Jill is headed to Tulum to manage Posada Yum Kin, which means we now know where we will stay in Tulum.

The shoot was made easier by Maru from Isla Mujeres Trips, who had a golf cart lined up for us outside of the normal 9 – 5 hours.

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We had decent pizza and pasta at Armandos on Hidalgo, the island’s wonderful pedestrian street, and great coffee and tasty fruit crepes at Cafe Hidalgo the next morning.

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It was hard to sit at dinner and listen to Jorge talk about the amazing whale shark trips he has been leading all summer. Lots of manta rays this year. We hope to fit in another trip before they are gone. We felt a little better about not bringing snorkeling and UW photo gear when the skies opened up and dumped a couple of inches of rain after sunset. That tends to keep the whale sharks in deep water for a day or so.

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What’s your favorite Isla spot?