Five days in Paradise.

What, you may ask, does a vacation in heaven look like? My friends, it looks a lot like last week looked for me. Kelsie, her friend Ellie, and I enjoyed our five-day trip to Playa del Carmen so much that I think we'll be reminiscing until we go again next year! We left at the absolute crack of dawn on Monday...I'm not kidding, my alarm went off in the TWO's. We got to the airport so early that nothing was open, and had to wait for somewhere to open up to get our coffee! We ended up chowing down breakfast burritos at Barrio (nothing like getting in the Mexican spirit early) and almost (but not quite) coming close to missing our flight due to a gate mix-up. Way to start off on the right note! 

After a layover in Chicago, where we discovered that Midway doesn't actually HAVE a Starbucks, we boarded our flight to Cancun and then a car to our hotel! El Dorado Royale, in Playa, was absolutely STUNNING. Take a look at this place!! It was unreal. 

Some people are super into DOING things on vacation. Usually I am, too. This week, though, we went in with one word in mind: relaxation. Our days were blissfully free of schedule and all we had to do was go with the excursions, no tours, no timelines or deadlines beyond our (flexible) dinner reservations. So our week settled into the most decadently low-key rhythm. Each day looked a little something like this: 

Wake up every morning to this view...

Stroll to the main building for a breakfast of the world's sweetest honeydew and bottomless mimosas courtesy of Carlos and Gregorio...

...then head back to our gorgeous room to change into a swimsuit and get ready for a morning on the beach!

We split each day between the beach and the pool, with lunch as our divider, to avoid the early-morning rush for poolside chairs. It couldn't have worked out more perfectly. I absolutely craved the early sunshine, fresh breeze off the ocean, and endless vista of waves, sand and sky. 

After lunch, we'd head to the pool right in time for a little swim-up bar action and a viewing of the daily water polo match, led by the resort's resident hottie "fun wranglers," Luis and Misael. Eye candy abounded, campers. We also loved taking advantage of the super-shallow end to sit in the pool and read, and occasionally grabbed a poolside cabana bed to escape from the sun for a bit. 

After plenty of time in the sun (and usually plenty of cocktails!), we'd head back to the room, have a few drinks on our patio while we all got ready for dinner, and head out to sample some of the resort's amazing restaurants. I kind of assumed all-inclusive meant weird buffets with fifty million different takes on rice and stir-fry, but El Dorado 100% proved me wrong. The food was amazing, from fresh-caught seafood to a poolside burger bar to authentic Mexican and fancy Italian. I literally did not have one meal I didn't enjoy the entire week. Getting all dressed up for the fancy restaurants was a great change of pace from swimsuits and coverups, too!

Of course, it wouldn't be a twenty-something vacation without a night of "Hot Messico" action...we partied plenty, and enjoyed clubbing at the resort's outdoor entertainment area, including a dance lesson from Misael...fortunately we never went too wild to recover the next day with the resort's miracle orange juice!

We met so many interesting new friends and had a blast coming up with crazy nicknames for everyone we traveled with. The sheer number of inside jokes and stories this trip spawned should sustain us until next year for sure! Easily the highlight of the trip, though, was getting to know Ellie and spending a TON of time with Kels. It's so special to find a friend you travel really well with, and Kelsie and I definitely are those friends! 

I'm settling in unhappily to the remainder of this cold, wet Minnesota winter, but daydreaming every day at my desk about caipirinhas, water polo, delicious meals and beautiful, lush palm trees! Until we get back...salud to the best little winter getaway ever!