Real Destination Wedding: Mexico

It’s time for another first on Peonies to Palm Trees!  This time it’s the very first REAL DESTINATION WEDDING post, brought to you by Erika and Chris who decided to get married in Mexico.  My brother was lucky enough to attend this amazing destination wedding, and said that it was an absolute blast.  If you’re considering planning a destination wedding, make sure to read all of Erika’s wonderful advice below (and go for it!):

When and where was your destination wedding?

We were married on October 27th, 2013 in Troncones, Mexico (a small fishing village and resort town near Ixtapa).

Mexico wedding

How long were you there?

We stayed for a week with our family and on the 4th day the rest of our guests joined us.

troncones wedding

How did you decide on doing a destination wedding?

We fell in love in Costa Rica, we got engaged in El Salvador, and we wanted to share our love of adventure and travel with our family and friends. Also, we all get caught up in this fast paced world. We were hoping that our wedding would be a chance for everyone to slow down, step away, and really enjoy our time together.

group yoga in mexico

Pre-wedding yoga sesh

The best part about our destination wedding was…

It was intimate and genuine. All our friends and family spent days together. Those who didn’t know each other became friends, those who hadn’t seen each other in a while reconnected….Our parents call each other on the phone now. It was so special for all the people we love to come together for us.

troncones wedding

Surf’s up!

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

I had this grand idea that, because we had kitchens, we’d all want to cook in the days leading up to the wedding. We did crazy grocery shopping and I created a menu and cookbook. But we were all so excited to be in a new place and all together that we wanted to explore and hang out, not cook. That was a wasted effort and more trouble than it was worth. Go out to eat, it’s good for the local economy, it adds to the adventure, and it allows you and your guests to get to know the local people.

troncones wedding

What was the hardest part about planning a destination wedding?

Our wedding planners miraculously got it all done almost like we’d planned…and “almost” was plenty close enough for us. But, there was plenty of not really knowing if things were actually going to happen. The planners made it interesting, they were often unresponsive to our emails and then they’d only answer a couple of our many questions. In fact, they never actually confirmed our plans and contract until we were already in Mexico, two days before the wedding. Chris and I learned to just laugh it off, and go with the flow. Also, mother nature served us up some complications, there was a hurricane..thankfully, it stayed off shore, and a downpour/thunderstorm during the reception. But heck, it makes for a great story to tell our kids one day.

troncones wedding

What are your tips for other couples who are considering planning a destination wedding?

It’s STRESSFUL but absolutely, completely worth it. The intimacy, sincerity, and simplicity of the day and ceremony was inexplicable. It was magical and we will never ever forget it. So just take a deep breath, let things happen, relax if it’s not picture perfect because the imperfections, oh man, that’s where the memories happen, the memories you get to cherish together for the rest of your lives. Like when it poured down rain and we all ran to the covered patio, cramped together, no clue what to do, as our tables and chairs got soaked, there was a brief moment of panic and then we looked around at all our friends and family laughing and dancing we knew what to do….time to dance in the rain.

troncones wedding

So so awesome

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Real Honeymoon: Mexico

After a gorgeous wedding at Santa Clara University (their alma mater), Hillary and Brent jetted down to Cabo for an extremely relaxing honeymoon.  They loved their resort so much that not even a tropical storm dampened their spirits!  Spoiler alert: complimentary daily guacamole deliveries to their room were involved — I would have been in heaven, too!  Read all about their luxurious Cabo honeymoon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We went to Capella Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in August 2013.

Sunset at El Farallon

Sunset at El Farallon

How long was your trip?

5 nights/6 days.

Cabo honeymoon

The main pool at Capella Pedregal

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination(s)?

cabo honeymoon

Lunch in the pool

With such a long engagement (17 months), we had plenty of time to change our mind time and again about whether to honeymoon, and where. At first we wanted to take a long, exotic trip to Europe or Tahiti. But as the realities of PTO and an over-budget wedding set in, we reconsidered. We discussed postponing our honeymoon altogether, but we longed for a way to spend time unwinding together after the 17 month build-up.We looked at mini-mooning in Southern California, but found the time and expense of that trip comparable to traveling to Cabo, which is where we landed. We searched hotels on tripadvisor.com and chose the #1 rated Capella Pedregal because of its stellar reviews and personal infinity pools in every room.

cabo honeymoon

View from Hillary and Brent’s private pool

The best part about our honeymoon was…

The atmosphere at Capella Pedregal. The resort was made for honeymooners, from the ocean-front infinity pool and swim-up bar, to the world-class spa and restaurants, to the luxurious rooms and overly-accommodating staff who deliver complimentary guacamole and Corona to your room every afternoon.

cabo honeymoon

Back in the main pool

cabo san lucas beach

The beach in front of Capella Pedregal

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

Nothing, it was literally the perfect honeymoon, even in spite of the tropical storm that hit one night. I wouldn’t be deterred from visiting Mexico again during hurricane season since it was warm throughout our trip and sunny all but one half day. And we were told that tropical storms in August, although not unheard of, are rare.

cabo honeymoon

Tropical Storm? Who cares?!

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Real Honeymoon: Mexico

Katie and Bobby’s honeymoon was nearly a year after their wedding, but it was worth the wait!  Read all about their relaxing Mexican honeymoon below:

When and where did you honeymoon?

We honeymooned at the Omni Hotel, Cancun, Mexico from April 25-30, 2013.

Cancun

How long was your trip?

The best and most relaxing 6 days of our lives!

Omni Hotel Cancun

How did you decide on your honeymoon destination?

We waited to take our honeymoon until it was a good time to take vacation from work. So, almost 1 year after getting married, we decided the right time had come! We knew we wanted to be on the Caribbean and we were looking for an all-inclusive, so we booked our honeymoon through SniqueAway.com (now known as Jetsetter).

Omni Hotel Cancun

The best part about our honeymoon was…

There were so many great parts about our honeymoon it’s hard to choose just one. But, if I had to pick one, I think the best part was waking up and having breakfast on the beach looking out at the turquoise water. We decided not to have a set agenda prior to arriving at the resort, and adventured together each day. We booked two excursions once we arrived in Cancun through AquaWorld (booked at the Hotel). We chose the half day “Jungle Tour” and a day trip to Isla Mujeras. Isla Mujeras was our favorite! We hopped on an early morning (9 am is early on vacation) party boat and cruised out to the island. Once we arrived, we tanned in the sun on the white sandy beach, snorkeled, ate lunch, and shopped in town. We definitely would recommend the day trip to Isla Mujeras.

Cancun

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

Booking the restaurant reservations at the Omni ahead of time is key. There are a couple of nicer restaurants at the resort that required reservations. We had to wait a couple of days for these restaurants to have availability. We made friends with a couple of waiters at the other restaurants on the property which turned out to be beneficial as they brought us “non-menu” dishes. Overall great service everywhere at this resort!

Cancun

How much planning did you do in advance?

We had been thinking of destinations for a while, but really only spent about a month (or less) planning our trip. We decided in February to take the trip in April.

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Where Should You Go on a July Honeymoon?

Last week Condé Nast Traveler’s resident travel expert Wendy Perrin wrote a blog post answering the question, “What are the best travel destinations for July?”  While her article wasn’t necessarily honeymoon-specific, she mentioned many popular honeymoon destinations that would be wonderful in July, and a bunch of others that should be avoided.  Check out her recommendations below:

The Good:

Tahiti (As if you need another reason to choose Tahiti for a honeymoon, in July you can also celebrate Polynesian culture at the Heiva Festival.)

– Seychelles (A great tropical-yet-cool-and-dry destination that isn’t too crowded in July.  August, however, is another story.)

– Barbados (Big off-season deals are easy to come by in July, and you can check out the Crop Over Festival.)

– Anywhere up north: Canada, Scandinavia, The U.K. (Warmer weather and extended daylight hours – what’s not to like?)

Tahiti

Tahiti in July? Yes, please!

The Bad:

Belize (Humidity + mosquitos?  No thanks!)

– The west coast of Mexico (It can be so hot that the sand will burn your feet.  Yikes.)

– Eastern Turkey (Also suuuper hot.)

– The French Riviera (Lots and lots of tourists.)

– Croatia (Too many cruise-goers in Dubrovnik, but other seaside towns should be alright.)

– Rome/Venice, Italy (Really overly crowded with tourists; the prices skyrocket.)

– Southern Spain (Yep, just too hot.)

Belize

Belize is totally gorgeous, but probably not the best destination in July

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My two cents?  I think that Greece is also an excellent destination for July even though it will be high season.  The Aegean Sea doesn’t get super warm, so if you go too early in the year you might find the water to be on the chilly side.  But if you go in August, the islands get extremely crowded with Italian tourists.

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Real Non-Honeymoon: Los Cabos, Mexico

Yeah yeah yeah, I know that this is a honeymoon travel blog, but this week I couldn’t help but share my sister’s recent non-honeymoon-but-still-fabulous vacation in Los Cabos!  Los Cabos is just a three hour flight from San Francisco (and under two and a half hours from LA), so it’s a great destination for honeymooners who need to take a shorter trip or just don’t feel like sitting on an airplane for too long.  Plus, there are tons of beautiful beaches, excellent food, and a very active nightlife.  Take it away, Elisa!

When and where did you travel?

We traveled to Los Cabos, Mexico and spent four days at a home in the One & Only Palmilla Resort community in San Jose del Cabo and two days at the Hotel el Ganzo in Puerto Los Cabos.

Cabo

Cabo babes, Dylan and Elisa (yeah, they work out)

How long was your trip?

6 days.

How did you decide on your travel destination(s)?

We had been looking for a warm, relaxing, “beachy” vacation destination that didn’t require too much time off work. Our trip was initiated because a good friend owns a home in the Palmilla Resort community and invited us to travel with them for four days. From there, we decided to extend our trip an additional two days to explore Puerto los Cabos.

Cabo House

Their friend’s house at One & Only Palmilla Resort

The best part about our trip was…

My boyfriend and I joke that every activity we did, we would say, “Ok, I think THIS is my favorite!” Overall, the best part of the trip was the perfect balance between relaxing/lounging, fun activities/adventures and food!

Below are some of the highlights from our trip:

Flora Farms – This is an adorable, ten-acre organic farm in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna Mountains in Los Cabos, Mexico and definitely a “must see.” We went for breakfast and enjoyed a delicious meal overlooking the gardens and walking around the grounds.

Flora Farms

Checking out the beautiful gardens at Flora Farms

Water Sports – We went kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and surfing on our trip!

Sunset da Mona Lisa – An amazing location for a sunset dinner overlooking the hills of Los Cabos. (Easily the most incredible restaurant location I’ve ever been to.) I would definitely recommend this for a special dinner. (Be sure to request one of the private tables on the cliffs, overlooking the water.)

Agua Bar at One & Only Palmilla Luxury Resort – A great place to go for sunset margaritas! The resort is beautiful and the bar has an authentic vibe with brightly colored hanging lanterns. Agua Restaurant at the Palmilla Resort is also a great location for a special dinner.

Hotel el Ganzo – My boyfriend found this boutique hotel online for our extended two days. The hotel is brand new and easily one of my favorite parts of the trip. We were extremely impressed with the property and the top-notch customer service we received. Our room was lovely, with a stunning view of the Puerto Los Cabos Marina from our bed. Additionally, there is a rooftop infinity pool and bar area where spent time lounging both afternoons of our stay. The hotel is beautiful, artsy, modern and has live music Tuesday through Saturday evenings.

Hotel el Ganzo

The infinity pool at Hotel el Ganzo

Additionally, the hotel has a “Beach Club” across the Marina and with a boat that takes you to/from, free of charge. The Beach Club is a private beach with kayaks and stand-up paddle boards available for rent, as well as an adorable two-story café, where we had the BEST guacamole.

Mmm... guacamole

Mmm… guacamole

If I knew then what I know now, I’d change…

If I knew then what I know now, I would have traveled with pesos rather than solely US Dollars. Although all restaurants, excursions and taxis gladly and easily accept US Dollars, we noticed that the fees were slightly higher than if we had exchanged to pesos. Additionally, on the second-to-last day of our trip we wanted to pull out additional cash and learned that the ATM fees were at least $20 just about everywhere.

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Honeymoon Destination Recommendations For… Serious Beach Bums

You know how the surfers in the Endless Summer movies spent their days searching for the perfect wave?  Well, I wish I had more time to travel the globe in search of the perfect beach.

Fortunately, I’ve already visited some pretty spectacular beaches over the past 28 years, so I am going to share with you a list of some of my favorites*.  Hopefully the list will help the beach bums out there decide where to go on your honeymoon:

1) Whitehaven Beach, Whitsunday Islands, Australia

Whitehaven Beach

Whitehaven Beach via Damien Dempsey

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Whitehaven Beach.  Located in the Whitsunday Islands (which is FULL of incredible beaches), Whitehaven is quite aptly named because it has the softest, whitest sand that I’ve ever seen in the world.  My friends and I were told that brushing our teeth with the sand acts as a whitener, but in retrospect that probably wasn’t the best idea for us to do.  That aside, it is the most spectacular beach I’ve ever seen.

2) Cap Juluca, Anguilla

Cap Juluca

Cap Juluca via Tiarescott

Popular with celebrities like Courteney Cox and Jennifer Aniston, the pristine beach at the Cap Juluca resort makes it a quintessential honeymoon destination.  It’s also just a short boat ride away from nearby St. Maarten, so you can just check it out for a day if you don’t want to stay at the resort.  Okay, okay, I know we all WANT to stay there, but it’s just really expensive, that’s all.

3) Playa Cristal, Colombia

I was blown away by Playa Cristal because of the clearness of the water and the beautiful backdrop of the lush jungle.  You can hire a boat in Taganga to take you to the beach.  Unfortunately I couldn’t bring a camera with me to the beach because our next stop was Playa Brava where we actually swam to shore, slept on the beach overnight, then hiked out of Parque Tayrona the next day and hitched a ride back to Santa Marta, so bringing electronics along was a no-no.  You’ll just have to trust me that the beach was so wonderful that it made my list of top 3 beaches in the world.

4) Playa Blanca, Colombia

Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca, land of magical beagle puppies

Yes, yes, another Colombian beach.  I don’t know if I’ve expressed how much my husband and I love Colombia yet on the blog, but we highly recommend going there if you love beaches, friendly people, and good food.  You can reach Playa Blanca from Cartagena in one of two ways: hire a private boat down by the fish market (just hold your nose while you’re there – it really stinks), or sign up for an “organized” day tour.  It seems like the organized day tour is less than ideal though because it only brings you to the crowded part of the beach, so go with the private boat for a more relaxing experience.

For honeymooners who want to rough it, you can spend the night in hammocks at Hugo’s.  My husband and I thought it was the greatest place ever because 1) it was BEAUTIFUL, 2) it was the first time we slept in hammocks during that trip so the novelty made it fun and not back-breaking yet, and 3) we woke up in the morning to a litter of beagle puppies that were born overnight.  Beagle.  Puppies.  In.  Paradise.  Probably one of the best days of my life.

5) Lake Mckenzie, Fraser Island, Australia

Lake Mckenzie Beach via Sensenmann

The colors of Lake Mckenzie look totally fake, but I assure you, this is really, really what the lake looks like.

6) Lanikai, Oahu, Hawaii

Lanikai

Lanikai Beach via Cristo Vlahos

A friend of mine who was living in Honolulu at the time took my husband and me to Lanikai, a beautiful beach that isn’t terribly overcrowded with tourists.  Do yourself a favor and pick up some Leonard’s malasadas to eat when you get to the beach.  A perfect combination.

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