Silvia and Greg

Cactus in bloom - stingray villa, Cozumel

Blooming cactus – all things succulent

While tequila, beaches, and tacos are a given, there is so much more to witness in this eccentric region. The sprawling and bio-diverse country, Mexico, is home to some of the rarest plants and flowers. The succulent, cactus plants are most famous. Mexico has over 150 varieties of cactus or ‘nopal’ as it’s widely called. From the urban settlements to the parched desserts up the north, you can witness several types of this prickly plant all over the country.

Cacti are unlike any other plant. They can survive in higher climates by storing juices or water where no other plant can thrive. Cacti crowd the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts thanks to their high climates. The specific topographical features of this region result in different shapes, height, and ability to produce flowers and fruits in cacti. The most iconic and amazing types of cacti are incontestably the “Prickly Pear cactus”. These cacti can bear edible fruits known as Tunas or prickly pears. You can strike gold walking down a desert if you witness a rare, lush huge white flower with purple and pink hues on the organ pipe cactus. This plant is nothing short of exquisite and is only spotted across a deserted area in northern Mexico. This exotic plant can only bloom for up to 2 months and opens itself for less than half a day, throughout the night till mid-morning.

Nature enthusiasts can witness the sheer beauty of this rare plant by visiting the northern areas in Mexico from Late April to June; the blooming season. The saguaro thrives in the Sonoran desert from May to late June. It produces edible white flowers and fruits from early to midsummer. It can grow up to 12 meters high over a time of 200 years!

These glorious cacti are all over Mexico, adding a raw beauty to the region.

unfiltered tap water in Mexico - stingray villa, Cozumel

Evil foods to avoid in Mexico

You don’t travel to Mexico without filling your mouth and heart with its exotic street food found on every corner, but some people disagree. Tourists sometimes report horror stories of food contamination and stomach aches. This leaves prospective travelers feeling unsure and anxious about what to expect of the Mexican cuisine. To make your life simpler and your stomach lighter, we submit to a list curated of the evil food you must avoid at all costs in Mexico!

Evil food number one: Avoid unwashed vegetables and fruits! Just like anywhere in the world, pesticides and chemicals are used to boost crop yield. Mexican citizens regularly scrub these vegetables and fruits with a detergent-liquid, salt, or an antibacterial product.

Evil food number two: Do not drink tap water! Avoid tap water the best you can. While bottled water will cost you a few extra bucks, it’ll still spare you from the trouble of ER and medical attention. Fair deal, right?

Evil food number three: Raw seafood and shellfish are a huge no-no too! No matter how good it is, chances are you may catch lethal bacteria from even a mouthful left uncooked. Would you enjoy getting salmonella? No? We thought so too! Avoid raw steak for your own safety, please.

Evil food number 4: Prepared meat usually sold by street-vendors (that have been sitting in the Mexican heat) is also unsafe for your poor stomach. Montezuma’s Revenge? Not today!

Evil food number 5: Savor the mild buzz but do not overindulge in alcohol. Binge drinking will dehydrate you immediately!

Order everything well-done and avoid the colorful fruits sold on streets. Those fruits are rarely fresh. Stick to your restaurant meals, safe bottled water, fresh food, and you may avoid with the wrath of food poisoning!

Diver spots a turtle in Cozumel Mexico - stingray villa

How to Scuba Dive without a Certification

Scuba diving is a whole new world that you can experience in reality. No high-budget movie, no memoir can ever measure up to this! Imagine, you’ve just landed on the Cozumel tropical territory and the wide expanse of the stark blue ocean beckons you towards it. You rush forward in a burst of adrenaline only to a stop inches before the water grazes your feet. What are you waiting for? If, the fear of not knowing how to swim or scuba-dive; we got you!

As fun and thrilling as it is, Scuba diving is not an easy sport to learn. To get a professional certification/scuba-diving license, get the “Open Water certification” from PADI which is the first-level certification or baseline course to start with. However, this certification can cost you three hundred dollars and multiple days if not weeks to learn and grasp the basics. Not everyone has the time or the money to invest in such certifications, and sadly they give up their dream of scuba-diving. But if scuba-diving is on your bucket list and you’re not ready to let go of your dream so easily, keep reading!

Instead of opting for the Open Water Certification and setting back your bank balance, the “Scuba Discovery or Discovery Diving” is for you! It teaches you how to tread water, swim, and breathe underwater. You are also taught how to use the equipment and (supervised by a trained instructor) you hit the waters! We can do all this on the same day for around $80 USD! Discovery dives are the perfect alternative to the more expensive open water certification and are more like a trial period before you dive in deep! What are you waiting for? We recommend Scuba with Mario here in Cozumel. Let your soul rejuvenate with a once-in-a-lifetime experience without spending hundreds of dollars! Cheers!

tourists having fun in Cozumel Mexico - stingray villa

Outdoor fun and scavenger hunts on Cozumel

The glittering charm of Mexico’s largest Caribbean island is every tourist’s dream. While most would want to spend their days lying on the white sandy beaches gazing at the shimmering silver under palm trees swaying in their rhythm, there is plenty more to do in Cozumel!

Who says scavenger hunts are only for teenagers and kids? The Amazing Cozumel Race is unlike any other! Team up with people from around the globe to race and explore the Island of Cozumel that includes a sightseeing tour too! Players can sign up in pairs of two or teams of eight and plunge into the sea with your team if you like for a thrilling snorkeling adventure. This 4.5-hour self-guided tour demands energy, wits and a love for adventure! Enjoy snacks and refreshments at a post-race ceremony with all the people you’ll befriend during this enigmatic activity. Whether you’re a solo traveler or accompanied by family, there is no better way to witness Cozumel’s beauty than this memorable scavenger hunt! Are you an adrenaline junky? If so, we will find Cozumel a paradise full of thrilling outdoor activities! Deep-sea fishing, snorkeling, and scuba diving are a must-try during your visit to Cozumel that hosts some of the best beaches in Mexico. Beginners can enjoy snorkeling and swimming in the shallow waters in Playa Chen Rio that with a protected area perfect for swimmers and snorkelers of all levels.

Lovers of all things nature and animals must visit the glorious Punta Sur Ecological Park to witness a stunning plethora of many species ranging from exotic birds, flora and fauna, crocodiles, sea turtles and so much more on an area of 2,500 acres. Or head over to San Miguel- the main town to view the true Mexican beauty!

There is something for everyone to enjoy and witness in Cozumel; the Caribbean wonder in Mexico.

Mayan ruins in Cozumel Mexico - stingray villa, Cozumel

Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Mayans

If you think Mexico is only famous for its food, thriving customs, and delicacies you can’t be far away from the truth! Mexico is home to one of the most infamous and mysterious civilizations of all times; the mighty Mayans! With so much still being discovered, here are several facts about the Mayans that you probably didn’t know!

Before their mysterious disappearance in the last millennium, the Mayans inhabited most of the modern-day Yucatan, Mexico. Archaeologists keep finding something new and more captivating about this unforgettable civilization; In 2015, a discovery of the tallest Mexican Mayan pyramid happened 1000 years after their absence. The fascinating Mayan calendar (that uses stars alignment and belief of the end or anew of the world every 31st December) had the world convinced of an apocalypse wiping out humanity in 2012! Why not visit Mexico to visit the ruins of the civilization that scared many of us merely years ago? Pagans or devout worshipers? The Mayans are famed for their human sacrifices performed for both religious and medical reasons. Burying alive, shot by arrows, decapitated or pushed into a sink-hole; the sacrifices and their details are gruesome but worth reading about. Impossible beauty standards? Nothing new! The Mayans were utterly beauty-conscious and went as far as flattening the foreheads of babies with wooden planks tied to their heads. Ironically, they believed that the sun god favors cross-eyed people and hoped to cross their own eyes by insane methods.

Huge chocolate lovers, evidence suggests that the Mayans were cocoa fans and processed it 2600 years ago, making it an important part of rituals and celebrations. The Mayans haven’t disappeared but keep living in ancient home regions in South America.

coati in cozumel mexico - stingray villa

Ways to Bond with Animals on Cozumel

Are you an animal lover? Do you want to bond with the exotic wildlife unlike another species in this world? Well, you’ve come to the right place! The Caribbean hosts several incredible species of amazing animals along with the unforgettable beaches. It is likely that during your tours to Cozumel; the tropical chunk of paradise in Mexico, you will encounter abundant wildlife. Here we have some simple tips to bond with the animals during your fabulous Cozumel vacation! So, keep reading and heed this valuable advice before plunging in the stunning turquoise lagoon.

A little research hurt no one! Make sure you read about the locations you shortlist and the wildlife you are likely to encounter there during your visit. Don’t just dive into the brilliant blue ocean to click a quick photo with the adorable dolphins and whale sharks unless you have a professional guide with you. Witness the magic of mesmerizing baby sea turtles hatching out their shells as they struggle to waddle towards the sea. Travelers can feel the experience of volunteerism and kindness by helping these tiny critters waddle to the edge of the water. Want to go the extra mile? Why don’t you volunteer for several projects available to help an endangered species?

One should always be careful when interacting with the wildlife. View the mischievous coati running from one tree to another and witness the 150 plus species of rare birds and animals in the tropics. Scuba diving will allow you to swim amidst stunning sea creatures. You must try not to hurt or engage with them though!

A trip to Cozumel is incomplete without a love affair with the animals there; So what are you waiting for?

Mayan ruin at night - stingray villa, Cozumel

How to Travel Safely in Mexico

Wondering if it’s safe to travel to Mexico? It is safe! The hub of scenic beauty, pristine beaches, vibrancy, ruins and inspiring culture Mexico remains one of the most oft-visited countries despite being rumored as a death-trap. Tourists are wary of the risks they may encounter, but we beg you to reconsider. Pack your bags, but before you leave-here are some tips on how to travel safely in Mexico!

Years of drug-cartels, trafficking, and violence have caused the US Department of State to issue a travel advisory to Mexico. But with the evolving times, Mexico has risen as a beautiful phoenix hosting an amalgamation of natural beauty and daily-life. Plan your trip in advance and only visit the safest destinations. We recommend visiting Cozumel, San Miguel de Allende, Mazatlan, and wonderful beach resorts such as Playa del Carmen and Tulum. Avoid areas such as Colima, Sinaloa, and Tamaulipas that have a higher ratio of violence. The charm of distant vacation rentals in tourist areas will always be a great choice, but some people opt for an all-inclusive resort or hotel.  The same goes for cruises. Just pay a onetime fee for food and entertainment, which would be considerably safer and convenient too.

Leave all your belongings and gadgets back home to not attract unnecessary attention. Carry your cash in a money-belt or somewhere safe and always keep duplicates of your important documents. Opt for public transports instead of taxis and don’t go wandering off in shady or less-crowded areas. Stick to bottled water and always double-check the food that tempts you; make sure it’s fresh and hot. Party lovers might want to watch how much they drink for you don’t want robbers or kidnappers to take advantage of you when you are under the influence!

Most of all, practice diligence as you enjoy a lifetime experience in this beautiful destination!

The perfect ceviche on Cozumel - stingray villa

Tips for the Perfect Ceviche on Cozumel

Planning a trip to Mexico without tasting the most amazing ceviche would be a shame! Predominantly a Peruvian wonder, the Mexican Ceviche is in a league of its own. It’s time you learned some A-star tips for the best one out there. Trust us, it’s easy and a delight to prepare. Whether you visit the sea-side restaurants, 5-star hotels or a traditional Mexican dining table, prepare for an amazing burst of flavors as you taste their ceviche. Read on to learn the art for the perfect ceviche!

Quality is crucial. The fish is the star ingredient of a good ceviche so choosing the best one is of prime importance. Make sure your fish is fresh; the best Fish for Ceviches in Latin America is lean and white-fleshed such as red snapper, Halibut quality tuna, and flounder. Mince your onion instead of leaving bite-sized chunks to ruin the dish. Same goes for your fish fillet, lightly chop and slice the fish into uniform chunks by flattening it with your palm on a cutting-board. Same-sized ingredients make up a good ceviche for they can marinate easily and enjoy fully. Do not over marinate your fish; Thirty minutes are all you need for the absorption of citrus to be complete. Besides a strong acidic hint provided by lime, add some orange or lemon juice for that extra zing by lemon and sweetness by the orange. Don’t be shy with the cilantro! Use it generously to spice up your ceviche by the right flavors. Any good hot sauce such as Tabasco and vinegar and spices will finish this glorious dish.

While following these steps and ingredients will guarantee a stellar dish, have fun with the toppings and spices to create a unique ceviche that will stay embedded into your memoirs and sizzle your taste-buds for days!

Choosing Travel Insurance - stingray villa, Cozumel

The Ultimate Checklist When Choosing Travel Insurance

It doesn’t matter if you’re making an impromptu trip to Mexico or a well-planned one: Travel insurance is a must! Even if you are on a tight budget, securing a good travel insurance plan that covers all the bases is what you should look for. Here’s a checklist to help you make a wise decision!

Health is wealth:

Make sure that your travel insurance covers all your medical emergencies and evaluation expenses. Accidents can happen to anybody. While visiting vibrant Mexico, prepare for any problems that may occur. Been in a Snorkeling experience that went wrong? Worry not! You can receive immediate care and not lose a kidney covering for it. Though research will prove useful here; Make your itinerary and ensure that all of your destinations are covered-even if it’s a one-night stay somewhere in between.

Time is money:

Good travel insurance will cover flight delays and cancellations too. Might as well cash in the waiting time, no? Can’t survive without your gadgets and jewels? Make sure that your insurance covers your expensive belongings in case of mishaps. Unforeseen circumstances that cause trip cancellations hurt, don’t they? You can claim lost funds and reimbursements from canceled accommodation, flights, and activities if your insurance covers it; that better top your checklist mate! Here are a few valid reasons for cancellations:

Your death or that of an immediate family member or serious illnesses

Civil unrest in your area (strikes, riots)

Legal proceedings and summons

Serious damage to your property

Is your being stranded on an unknown island in Mexico without your belongings your worst nightmare? Claim your losses like a boss! Under baggage delay and loss of personal items insurance companies are liable to pay for damage to your belongings or replace them. Choose your travel insurance package wisely before you step into Mexico for an adrenaline-packed break from life!

How to Travel with Only a Carry-on - stingray villa, Cozumel

How to Travel with Only a Carry-on

Planning an impromptu trip to Cozumel Mexico soon? Dreading the thought of paying extra for luggage? Here’s an easier solution; travel with a carry-on only! Hear us out; it’s not as baffling as it sounds. Self-proclaimed hoarders and heavy-packers have made the switch and cannot stop raving about the ease. If they can do it, so can you.

A Carry-on is essentially a small backpack or suitcase that can easily fit in the overhead compartment. Most airlines have a decent-sized limit on the weight and size of the carry-on, and this can save a lot of hassle and extra costs for you! In fact, frequent travelers, students, or even those traveling for business tours keep opting for these convenient carry-on bags for short trips. Here’s how you can travel only with a carry-on without losing your wits!

Choose the perfect bag; It can be a duffel bag, a backpack, or a hard shell bag. Opt for one after deciding what you want to take. Strategize your days and outfits; don’t amass potential pieces. Planning your days and outfits will make it easier to select only the items for the trip. Opt for non-wrinkle and dry-clean-only items to save time and chores. Pack multi-tasking items such as towels, zip-locks, and carry travel-sized products instead of deluxe ones (toothpaste, shampoo, and face wash). Prioritize the must-have items and eliminate the might-need items. This will create a confirmed list of items you cannot leave without. Don’t fold your clothes, roll them instead! This technique always saves plenty of space and minimizes wrinkles. Use the free space to fit in shoes, electronics, etc. You need not to pack heavy to visit Cozumel since there are many people who will wash, dry, and fold your clothes for a few pesos per kilo.

Travelling to a colder region? Coats and jackets take massive space; wear them on during your flight instead! Last, follow the one-week rule; only pack enough items for a week! You’re now packed only with a carry-on that is fast, efficient, and hassle-free. This will change your life. Try it!

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