World traveler and landscape photographer Chris Poplawski and his girlfriend Meagan recently spent a Riviera Maya weekend getaway at the all inclusive Barceló Maya Grand Resort (comprised of Barceló Maya Beach, Barceló Maya Caribe, Barceló Maya Colonial, Barceló Maya Tropical, and the all-suite, AAA Four-Diamond Barceló Maya Palace) and Royal Hideaway Playacar. The pair discovered romance, adventure, nightlife and much more. We asked Chris about their amazing trip.
What makes Barceló Maya Grand Resort and Royal Hideaway Playacar great resorts for a romantic couples’ getaway?
Chris Poplawski: Life slowed down in such a fun way during our stays with both resorts. Let me be the first to tell you that Meagan and I do not slow down. But stepping away from the busy world was a rejuvenating feeling and something both of us desperately needed. The only time we felt a need to leave the resort was for a diving excursion and it was beyond worth it. Wildlife thrives in these warm waters and experiencing deeper areas and the second largest reef in the world was magical. We could have swum for hours together, playing with turtles as they swim right up to your face and coming up together shouting “Did you see that!”
If you’re in Mexico, go snorkeling. There is something about waking up in a bathing suit every day and being steps away from beautiful tropical beaches. The water is warm. The palm trees provide ample shade with coconuts scattered on the sand. The staff gets to know you on a personal level and goes out of their way to accommodate to you. And the food; simply out of this world. So many options with exquisite menus, you could easily find a new dining experience with equally satisfying taste nightly. We felt safe and relaxed every single moment. And ended up concluding our trip as friends with most of the staff.
As a photographer, what is most appealing about the Mayan Riviera on a visual level?
Chris Poplawski: The unique landscape and unpredictable weather patterns. Weather in tropical climates mean one thing: LOTS of clouds and they are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Add a touch of sunrise or sunset and the sky suddenly turns into a painting. These patterns naturally compliment the white sandy beaches and clear blue waters. I can’t think of many places where the jungle meets the ocean and palm trees are scattered amongst the shoreline everywhere you go.
Shift your perspective a bit and take a short swim out further into the ocean (or take a jet ski like we also did) and you’ll be blown away by what you see. Clear water surrounding you, exotic fish swimming under you and a line of palm trees on the shore. It’s simple and so beautiful. Bring goggles and an underwater camera (even a GoPro) and get under the surface. It will absolutely open your eyes to a new world – turtles, stingrays, mantas, sharks, eels, a diverse number of fish and more.
What was the ultimate aquatic adventure you experienced during your getaway?
Chris Poplawski: Taking a day trip to Cozumel. It’s a short ferry ride. Although you can find marine life a few paddles from your private beach, visiting this island is a popular activity for many reasons – most of which is the water, pristine blue waters with visibility 40-100 feet down. There are local dive companies all over Mexico who can assist with transportation. Next thing you know your jumping off boats paddling down to sea stars, passing turtles, sharks and sting-rays.
Meagan and I absolutely thrive off free diving photography in deep water, and Cozumel was the perfect place for it. We were shocked to find the waters so clear and the underwater colors of the sea so vibrant. After our dives and as hungry as we were, we ended up at another Barceló beach-front resort for a lunch of the beach. This was extremely laid back and a much-needed opportunity to reflect on what we just experienced. Good tunes, the fun culture of Cozumel, and the two of us in paradise. 115 percent recommend doing this.
What were some good ways to relax when the adventures were over for the day?
Chris Poplawski: Starting with a hot shower, then transitioning into nightlife was worth it every night. We were actually shocked by how many things were at our disposal, but almost every evening started with an amazing dinner. Unique atmospheres in every restaurant, perfect settings for dialogue with your partner and sharing moments one-on-one. Just hearing Meagan talk about the day and what we did was enough for me. A few of the nights we were able to sit back and enjoy sunset from patios, watching the tropical painting unfold instead of being wrapped up in our cameras. Everything about this was relaxing. And then the fun began…
- Casino nights and blowing through “fake” money felt so good.
- I wouldn’t do all-inclusive life justice without mentioning the drinks.
- Night swimming with all the pool lights glowing.
- Playing pool.
- Running through the rain all dressed up in nice clothes.
- We couldn’t stop ourselves from getting two massages, which also included the best activity in the world: water therapy. Just try it.
- A real casino where you could spend real money.
- Lying on the beach and listening to the noises of the night.
- And some nights we would be lazy in our huge comfortable bed, turn on some tunes and edit photos together.
What is one moment that stands out for you the most about your trip?
Chris Poplawski: The evening before, a local told us that 9am would be primetime. The sun rose; we grabbed our snorkeling gear, walked out to the beach lugging around our huge underwater housing, and started swimming. I’ll never forget Meagan tapping me on the shoulder, pointing left and before I could blink this massive sea turtle swam right up to my face (within inches) then dove between my legs. As all three of us came up for breath, Meagan and I locked eyes and could not pull the smiles off our faces. For an hour, he was gracefully diving with me while Meg snapped photos of us interacting in the warm, clear water. This was my first encounter with a wild sea turtle in the open ocean, and it was absolutely incredible. So free and interested in his visitors. To bond with a creature like that felt so pure and opened up a portal to another world. From that moment forward, we craved the ocean and practically lived in the water for the next week.