Monday, November 30, 2009

Honeymoon Planning: Where We Would Go If It Were The Right Season

During our trip last spring to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where we got engaged, we stayed at an absolutely wonderful eco-resort called Majahuitas. It is still the best place I've ever visited, and we would have returned in a heartbeat for our honeymoon, if only June in Mexico wasn't hot, rainy and buggy.

But for any of you looking for a fabulously unique resort to try in Mexico from October to April, I wanted to share my review of Majahuitas. I posted this on a travel review site (yes, I'm a dork like that!), which is why this review refers to other's reviews of the resort.

First, some background on the resort: Majahuitas is located south of Puerto Vallarta, you take about a 40 minute cab ride to the small town of Boca de Tomatlan, then are picked up by the resort's boat and taken on a 20 minute boat ride to the cove that the resort is on. Majahuitas features 8 solar-powered private casitas (open air cottages) and the main building where you find the bar, kitchen, main dining room and staff offices. There are no roads to the resort, so you really do get away from it all, but can still enjoy amazing food, massages, jungle hikes, swimming, kayaking, snorkeling, or just lounging on the beach, where at the raise of a flag next to your chair, the staff comes running to take your drink order. But if you do long for some sightseeing, the staff will gladly take you by boat to visit any of the local towns, or back to Puerto Vallarta for some shopping.

Now for my review, titled "The Best Part About Our Vacation - A Slice of Heaven in Mexico!"

(the resort, as seen arriving by boat. All pics in this post were taken by me or Mr. Cola)

What can I say that hasn't been said before about this magical resort! From the second you get picked up by boat in Boca de Tomatlan, you are nothing but pampered, stuffed with fabulous food, and lulled to an almost coma-like state of relaxation by the sound of the waves on the lovely shore.

Arrival - We ended our Puerto Vallarta vacation with two days here, and trust me, it was not enough time! We arrived around 12:30pm on a Saturday afternoon, and were greeted by the owner Margot, several members of her staff, and 4 yellow labs. Our hefty luggage was taken to our casita while we briefly sat down with Margot to go over what to expect during our stay and any food allergies we may have. She then provided us the key to our safe and a flashlight and personally walked us to our casita.

(kayaking pup!)

Lodging - Our casita was more like a jungle palace! We stayed in Los Arcos, which is the closest casita to the beach, but at the far end from where we spent the afternoons lounging. It actually would be ideal for two couples to share, as there was an open air central living room area, with two mirrored wings on either side, both with king beds and bathrooms.

We only used one side of the casita, but it was lovely, with books to read in the central living area, a sink and counter area, bench couch with comfy pillows and a coffee table where you could sit and look at the beautiful beach. The bedroom featured a large and comfy bed with a mosquito net over it, which wasn't really needed, however every night when we came back after dinner the netting was down over the bed and our blankets turned down. There was also a dresser, chest and table with two chairs in the bedroom. The bedroom had a partial wall on the side facing the beach and ocean, but the other three walls were solid. I'm only 5' 2", and the wall came up as high as my chin, so changing or having privacy wasn't a problem, even when the pirate ship people were around (more on them later). The bathroom was quite large, with a very long sink and windows on either side running the whole length of the room. On the other side was a cabinet with the safe, shelves with towels, a nice tile shower sunken 2 steps (and we had hot water every time we used it), and the toilet. And yes, you're not supposed to flush the toilet paper, as others have mentioned. But we encountered that at lots of bars and restaurants in the city, so we were used to it by the time we got to Majahuitas. And it's really not a big deal, there is a small garbage can with swinging lid next to the toilet for the paper, and they empty it twice a day.

Overall, we were very pleased with our casita, but would like to try a different one if we return, just to try something new. After seeing the casitas first hand, and talking with many of the guests, I don't think there is a casita I wouldn't want to try out, they each offer a unique charm.

Food - Let me start by saying WOW! The food here was more than we could have imagined. Of course it's easy to read all the reviews that rave about the food, but until you experience it it's hard to believe it's as good as everyone says. Well, believe it! We are somewhat unadventurous eaters, but everything looked so good, we tasted new things, like clam strips (I think that's what they were), and it was all so fantastic. They were also very accommodating, as I'm allergic to bananas and melons, and they were very careful to only serve those items to my fiancé at breakfast, even when I said it would be alright for me to just pick around them. The only food items I didn't care to try was our first meal there, a whole cooked and battered fish and grilled shrimp platter. But that wasn't the resort's fault, it was only because I wasn't feeling well from over indulging on tequila the night before, and couldn't stomach eating fish that was looking at me. Plus there was so many other things offered that meal that I was full already.

Every morning we woke up to coffee and tea in our airy living room, and then walked down for breakfast at our own private table when the gong rang at 9:30am. For breakfasts we had orange juice and coffee, lots of fruit, and the days that we were there we had amazing Mexican breakfasts, one day with spicy eggs, beans and tortillas, the next day another Mexican dish. We're not even breakfast people, usually opting for coffee or nothing, but we nearly licked our plates clean! Lunches were served at 2:30pm, again at our private tables, and were always the biggest meal, with lots of plates of different types of food, all of it excellent. We were never able to even eat half the spread they put in front of us. And dinners at 7:30pm were just lovely. The table decorated with flowers and everything lit by candles, it set a great mood for discussions with the other couples staying at the resort, or you could also choose to dine privately on the beach, which we never did. Dinners started with getting everyone's drink orders, wine, or anything from the bar you wished, and then a great soup or salad. One evening our main course was melt in your mouth fish and rice, followed by cheesecake, the next evening we had great herbed chicken and pasta, followed by mocha cake. Both were fabulous!

Activities - Our first afternoon there we weren't feeling well due to a late night before, so we mainly napped in the hammock in front of our casita (big enough for two people), and laid around, recovering. That evening after dinner the staff set up a bonfire on the beach, so we sat around that chatting with the other guests for a while, and then headed to bed for a romantic evening in our casita, all lit by candles while we were eating dinner. The next morning we woke up early and laid around the beach all morning, kayaked for a while, then took a walk a ways into the jungle after lunch, just to walk off all the food! We then used lifejackets as floaties and swam out to a protected cove just south of the Majahuitas beach. And even though the clarity wasn't super great, we saw at least 12-13 different types fish, some big schools swimming close enough to almost touch. We both took underwater disposable cameras with us, and are hoping for some great pictures once we get them developed. After snorkeling, you guessed it, more lying around the beach. I had been pretty concerned about being bored at this resort, with not much to do, so I had brought about 5 books, but never even picked one up. There is just something about the tranquil setting here, it was more entertaining than I could have ever imagined to just look at the waves and beach and sky. And of course there were also little hermit crabs around to play with!

The Pirates - Many people have mentioned the pirate ship that brings tours to the beach here, so I won't go into to much detail except to say that they really are only there for a short time, about 11:30-1:30 or 2, and they keep to themselves and don't bother anyone. Even while in our casita, which was very close to where the ship people set up, they kept their noise to a minimum and we weren't disturbed. The only people who did bug is was on our first afternoon, a private boat came by with about 6 people, and they blasted their loud techno music for a while, with no respect for anyone else on the beach. But because Majahuitas doesn't allow anyone but those staying at the resort to access the bathrooms, food or drink, not many people choose to come by. I definitely wouldn't let the fact that this, like all Mexican beaches, is a public beach detract you from experiencing this resort.

All in all, the only bad part about Majahuitas is....leaving. We really didn't want to go when the time came, but at least we went with a send off. As we were waiting on the beach for the staff to get the boat to take us back to reality, a baby whale swam by the cove, jumping out of the water and flapping his fins many times. It was a great show, and just one more thing to make us fondly remember Majahuitas as a truly magical place. Including tax, we paid $789.75 USD for our two nights there, plus a $30 USD bar tab, plus a$1500 peso tip for the staff, and we were amazed they don't charge more to stay here, we would have gladly paid it. If only they were open in the summer months, we would be back next year for our honeymoon. But I'm sure, before to long, we will be back. Highly, highly recommend this resort, it is hands down the best place I've ever stayed in my life!

Le sigh! I wish I was back there now, especially looking at these pictures again. But alas, we picked a different destination for our honeymoon that you'll just have to wait to find out about. (However, if you would like more info about Majahuitas, or Puerto Vallarta, just let me know. I'm happy to share our detailed, 11 day itinerary, reviews of all the hotels, restaurants and activities, as well as links to my 1400+ pictures!)

Have you been to a resort that you considered heaven on earth? And where are you going on your honeymoon?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turkey-Day Inspriation

I hope everyone is having a lovely day with their loved ones! Here is some Thanksgiving wedding inspiration for your enjoyment:

{Source 1, Source 2, Source 3, Source 4, Source 5}

I think a lot of these would translate nicely into decor for a holiday bash as well. If you were to have your wedding take place on or near a holiday, would you match your theme to that holiday?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Favor-ful San Francisco Treats

So, on to what will go in our decorated favor boxes, San Francisco treats (and no, not Rice-A-Roni!).

At first I thought we'd do "SF Bay Area" favors, so we could incorporate something from Gilroy, CA, the garlic capital of the world, since garlic is my favorite food. I even ordered garlic almonds, garlic pistachios and garlic sesame sticks to try them, but none were that good, and they were pretty expensive. And the packaging wasn't that cute either, as you can see in these pictures I took. I not only wanted cute outer boxes, but a nice logo on the inner packaging too.

So with those not up to par, we moved on to all San Francisco favors.

Up first, we will have Ghiradelli Chocolate Squares. I will probably get a mix of two different flavored squares, and 5-6 squares will go in the gable boxes. I found bulk boxes online here for $43 per 120 squares.


Next, I found yummy local cookies made by the San Francisco Cookie Company. We'll put two individually wrapped cookies in each of the square boxes (cookies are $1.50 each). They even sent us a nice note when we ordered a dozen to sample their chocolate chip cookies.

(photo by me)

And finally, we'll have a salty San Francisco option, for those guests who aren't feeling like something sweet, with Thatcher's Gourmet Popcorn in White Cheddar. I ordered several flavors and sizes from them, since we weren't sure which size would fit best in the bag boxes, but we liked the gourmet bag best because of the sticker with the Golden Gate Bridge on it.

(both popcorn pictures taken by me)

However, the bag is about twice as full/tall as it needs to be to fit into the bag box (a good deal for $2.79 though). So we'll either empty half the popcorn out before loading the bag box, or maybe just buy the popcorn in bulk and duplicate the sticker on the front, so we can put it in a smaller sized bags ourselves, I haven't decided yet.

Now that we know what will go in the favors, all that was left (other than to actually order them and stuff the boxes the Tues or Wed before the wedding) was to make cute signs to show our guests what the favors are (all the rest of these pics were taken by me too). Using more leftover paper, glue, and punches, I constructed these:

As well as this sign thanking our guests and encouraging them to choose a favor:

(hopefully this will reiterate that they need to choose a favor, not take all three. But we'll have a total of 120 favors for 100 people, so even if a couple people are greedy, we probably won't run out)

And finally, I had to make sure that everything would fit on the 4 foot table at our venue, so I did a mock up on the floor in our living room. This will be a handy picture to print out and include in the box of favors, so our DOC can set up everything as I have envisioned.

Will you be offering your guests more than one wedding favor to choose from?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Favor-ably Decorated Boxes

Since I love tying everything in our wedding together with our color scheme, I decided to use the purple punched flowers (from our STDs, among other things) and purple and green ribbon to decorate our favor boxes. And the ribbon was on sale even, for only $0.33 per spool, and I already had the purple paper for the flowers left over from other projects, so while time consuming, decorating these didn't cost much at all.

The bag boxes were decorated using 4 strips of ribbon that I glued to the inside of the center punched hole, and threaded through small hole punches I made on the sides, securing those ends with glue as well. I then used a punched flower on the front and back, attached with a bronze bracket, to hold the bag box closed (although I realized after doing a couple, it will be much easier to secure the brackets and flowers after putting the edible favors in the bag, next spring, so I saved them in a ziplock for later).

(yes, in my book a Mike's Hard beverage IS a craft supply!)

Not only were the square boxes the easiest to assemble, they were also the easiest to decorate, because I just took two strips of ribbon, wrapped and glued them around the bottom of the cover flap, and then put glue on 1/2 of a punched flower, and glued it to the top flap (so the flaps can still come apart, but the flower is centered).

The gable boxes took the longest because I had to thread the ribbon through punched holes and reach all the way in the boxes to pull the ribbon tight and glue it. I then glued 4 purple punched flowers to the front.

(don't mind the glue on my fingers, holding and gluing ribbon is a messy job!)

(I really liked my design of using small hole punches to allow me to only decorate the front of these boxes, making them even cheaper to decorate, since I was able to use a lot less ribbon than I would have if I'd wrapped it all the way around)

Now I've got to go put together a mock up of how these favor boxes will all be arranged on the table, with the signs, as well as reveal what will actually go in them!

Did you decorate your favor boxes to go with your color scheme or wedding theme?