Kukulcan Plaza: Shop and Play

story by Kayte Deioma

There are many places to shop in Cancun, but Kukulcan Plaza  is top of the line. It is an all-purpose enclosed, air-conditioned mall including restaurants, a bowling bar, a casino, and a designer shopping paradise.

Art

The shopping center incorporates some beautiful public art including a 75-foot stained glass atrium by Clemente Cameo Misrahi and Erika Almazán Quintero based on the sacred Mayan book, the Popol Vuh. During the day, the colors are lit by the sun. At night, a narrated light show draws attention to this visual representation of Mayan history. Temporary art and culture exhibits are held regularly on the upper level of the mall.

The Main Mall

In the main mall, look for unique shops like Xbaal (woman in Mayan), which sells beach and casual-wear, hats and tote bags designed and made by a Mexican women’s coop in the outlying areas of Cancun. You might find artist Dante at work sculpting or creating one-of-a-kind jewelry at Dante’s Studio. If you’ve always longed for your own suit of armor, complete with lance or sword, you can stop in at La Ruta de las Indias, where you’ll also find replica canons and all things nautical.

Luxury Avenue

Photo courtesy of Luxury Avenue.At one end of the mall is Luxury Avenue, where you’ll find familiar names like Cartier, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Coach and Salvatore Ferragamo. But since many of those are the same all over the world, be sure not to miss Mexican-themed silks and leathers from Pineda Covalin, and men and women’s clothing and unique handbags by Spanish designer Purificación García.

Entertainment

If shopping isn’t your thing, you can bowl or play a few games of pool at the bowling bar 2.02. You can do your bowling to live music in the evenings.

Photo courtesy of Chocolate City.A great place for the whole family is Chocolate City. In addition to great chocolate confections, there are video games and dozens of table games to play. Check the schedule to plan your visit during one of the Chocolate Circus Dinners or Sunday Cartoon Kids Shows. Visit anytime to make your own pizza.

If your little ones need to run wild for a while, takePhoto courtesy of Kukulkids. them to Kukulkids, a great children’s center on the 2nd floor of the mall. It includes separate play areas for babies and bigger kids, an inflated maze, a games and crafts area, a kid-size movie theatre, a mini-climbing wall and a sit and scoot race track where kids wheel themselves around the track on low hand carts. For the best of both worlds, let your kids stay and play under the supervision of trained child-care staff, while you hit the shops.

Kukulcan Plaza also offers free wireless internet access if you happen to be toting your laptop or other internet-enabled device. Access codes are available at the Customer Service desk in the central atrium on the ground floor (below the stained glass ceiling).

Kukulcan Plaza
Boulevard Kukulcán Km 13
Hotel Zone, Cancun
Quintana Roo, Mexico

Ritz-Carlton Cancun Culinary Center

story and photos by Kayte Deioma

A great place to escape to on a rainy day is the cozy kitchen of the Ritz-Carlton Cancun Culinary Center. It’s a great opportunity to interact with other travelers if you are traveling alone, but it’s also perfect for couples or families with teens to share an entertaining learning experience.

The cooking classes offered range from French and Italian to Thai and Spa cuisine, but I decided to take my friend Debbie to learn to cook a “Real Mexican” meal before her Cancun wedding.

Chef Rory Dunaway had 13 students already assembled when we joined the group. Our classmates included a Randall and Athena and their daughters Ali and Sara from Salinas, California, Roland and Diana, restaurant owners from San Antonio, Texas, Tanya and Susie from the Washington, DC area, Michael and Linda from New Jersey, Gary and Kristina from New York and Mara from Washington, DC.

The class was split down two sides of the U-shaped work island in the middle of the room with Chef Rory at the bottom of the U and Debbie and I taking our places at the top of the branches. At each of our stations were cutting boards and a knives.

To get us in the right mood for Mexican cooking, we started off with a recipe for the perfect Margarita. Chef Rory supervised as Kristina and Diana volunteered to mix up batches of the high octane stuff using a nice Herradura Reposada tequila, while Sara blended the alcohol-free variety appropriate for her age.

Of course, at the Ritz, the perfect Mexican meal is not tacos or burritos, but rather a Seafood Ceviche followed by Red Snapper Veracruz Style with Mexican Rice and Lime Flan with Roasted Pineapple for dessert. One of the biggest challenges to any meal is getting it timed right so everything is done at the right time. For this menu, that meant starting with dessert.

Divided into four teams, each with a separate stove, we went to work. While one team member layered pineapple, brown sugar and cinnamon sticks onto foil, another browned sugar and water into caramel syrup and a third creamed the remaining ingredients together for the flan. A convenient computer monitor displayed the recipe so we didn’t have to keep referring to our printed copy. Chef Rory and his assistants roamed among us to make sure we developed the proper browning and whisking techniques and didn’t burn the sugar or clump the cream.

While the flan cups went in a water bath into the oven, we went back to our work stations to start on the ceviche. Now it was time for a lesson in chopping, dicing and slicing without losing the tips of our fingers. We also learned the trick to no-tears onions. The chef’s assistants kept a close eye on our blades to make sure we were following directions.

With our super-duper Viking chopping knives, we each made quick work of our assigned ingredients. Roland pressed lime juice to “cook” the scallops and shrimp while the rest of us sliced and diced. Food prep doesn’t take any time at all if you have seven people preparing ingredients for one dish. After all our veggie and herb bits were added to the bowl, the whole thing went into the fridge to marinate.

We divided up tasks once more with teams returning to the stove, some to work on the red snapper, others the rice. Debbie got fish duty on her team, while Ali mastered the Mexican rice recipe. I roamed around and took photos of everyone else hard at work.

While the snapper joined the flan in the oven, the whole class enjoyed a glass of wine (or other beverage for the teens) out on the patio overlooking the aquamarine, cyan and cerulean-striped Caribbean. When we returned inside a few minutes later, our places at the counter were set for dinner and chairs had magically appeared. We were ready to try our handiwork.
I don’t usually like ceviche when it’s made with fish, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually enjoyed this shrimp and scallop concoction. The red snapper smothered in a rich Veracruz-style tomato sauce was delicious. Our lime flan had been moved from the oven to the fridge while I wasn’t looking, and popped nicely out of its ceramic cups onto the waiting roasted pineapple ring for a very complementary flavor combination.

The Ritz-Carlton Cancun Culinary Center
Retorno del Rey No. 36
Zona Hotelera
Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Phone: (998) 881-0808 ext. 5370
www.ritzcarlton.com

Interactive Aquarium Cancun

story and photos by Kayte Deioma

There are lots of things to do outdoors with kids in Cancun, from playing at the beach to exploring ancient pyramids, or boarding a pirate ship. If you want to escape indoors to escape the rain or the summer heat, try the Interactive Aquarium at La Isla shopping center.

A scuba diver perched on a sunken motor boat in a glass tank on the front of the Aquarium beckons passers-by to come in for a look.

Being so close to one of the world’s great reefs, it’s natural that the reef is a primary focus of the Aquarium’s exhibit. Tanks are filled with colorful coral. Black light shows off the greens and pinks of this living organism.

For help with identification, dried corals, crustaceans and sea shells are labeled in a display case at kid level.

Shouts of “Look! Nemo!” come from near the Clown Fish tank, while neon yellow, electric blue and rainbow-striped Angel Fish draw enrapt attention nearby.

Translucent jelly fish, called medusas in Spanish, float gracefully through the dark. Both the top-feeding moon jellies and the bottom-dwelling upside-down jellies are well represented.

In the Flounder exhibit, you can watch these chameleon fish to blend into the ocean bottom as they swim from pale sand to dark gravel changing color and texture before your eyes to remain almost invisible.

The most interactive part of the Aquarium is outdoors, but awnings will protect you from the rain or sun, and if you get really interactive, you’ll be in the water and won’t care. With the help of a friendly staff person, you can pet the sharks in the shark pool, but give the turtles and rays who keep them company their space.

The most popular activity at the Aquarium is Swimming with the Dolphins in two outdoor pools. Depending on what time you schedule your swim, you’ll either meet the Atlantic or the Pacific Dolphins. Watching the Dolphins perform is included in admission, but swimming with the dolphins is an additional fee.

If you choose the Educational Program, you’ll spend a short while in the water petting and learning about the dolphins. For a bit more money, the Advanced Program makes you part of the show as dolphins circle you, jump over your head, kiss and shake hands, and finally a pair of dolphin noses pushing the bottom of your feet sends you flying through the water like Neptune rising. Dolphin swims may be cancelled in high winds, but won’t be disturbed by ordinary showers.

Swimming with the dolphins requires a reservation. You may be able to get one the same day, but if it’s high season, you should book in advance to get your preferred time.

If you’d rather watch than swim, the Jugo di Limon Seafood Restaurant provides a covered, ringside view overlooking one of the dolphin pools.

Interactive Aquarium Cancun
La Isla Shopping Village
Blvd. Kukulcan, KM 12.5
Zona Hotelera, Cancun
Reservations: (998) 883 0411, 01 (800) 012-0856
www.aquariumcancun.com.