CrocoCun Zoo Review

We first visited CrocoCun back in November 2017, and I was impressed with many aspects of this zoo. If you have never been to it before, prepare for a different kind of zoo experience. It is not going to be like San Diego Zoo!

You won’t find polar bears or penguins at CrocoCun. It is like a giant terrarium for reptiles (and a few mammals too), who live naturally in this tropical jungle climate but were rescued for some reason and cannot survive in the wild on their own. The zookeepers take great pride in providing a safe and comfortable habitat for the animals.

 

FAQ when visiting with children:

What visitor ages are appropriate?

All children can visit this zoo. Babies and big kids alike!

                             (TIP: Bring baby in a carrier or umbrella stroller)

Is the zoo stroller or wheel-chair friendly?

YES. Despite some reviews online, we found the paths to be perfectly wheel-friendly! Paved and ramped throughout the campus, and there are no big hills.

Is the zoo scary for little ones (or squeamish adults)?

No. If you have a fear of reptiles, you can still navigate the zoo without touching any of them. The “scariest” experience is perhaps the “walk through the crocodiles”, whom are well fed (fat and happy), and they are not interested in getting too close to you. They will notice you and rise up when you pass by, but they don’t move towards you.

(TIP: If you are hoping to conquer your fears here, the guides will be more than happy to hold your hand a little, or let you touch a baby croc)

Is there parking?

Yes, there is a parking lot on the south side of the entrance. You can also hop in a taxi and tell them where to go—the zoo is well known.

Are there snacks?

Yep! Snacks for you, and snacks for the animals. You can feed all the animals with a snack pack for a very small add-on price. Even my young kids enjoyed reaching out and feeding the docile animals.

 There is a very nice coffee shop/deli attached to the front of the zoo entrance for people, and there are snacks for purchase inside the lobby and gift shop. We enjoyed fresh sandwiches, salads, and frappes there! There was not a kid’s meal option at the time we visited, but the prices were low enough that I didn’t mind buying a normal entrée for my kids to share.

Are there clean restrooms?

Yes, the restrooms are great, and the entire facility and animal habitats were sparking clean. In fact, it is the cleanest zoo I have ever visited!

What can you find in the gift shop?

The usual souvenirs plus some unique artwork from locals in form of sculpture, painting, and textiles.

What is the best time of day to visit?

We went around 11am, and it was quiet and full of shady trees (no direct sun).

How much time should you plan to stay there?

This zoo has private, guided tours. You cannot wander around on your own. The tour takes 1-1.5 hours, and moves from each exhibit fairly quickly (but they will give you all the time you want to take photos and feed the animals). We never felt rushed, and we never felt tired or bored. It was the perfect timing for two toddlers and catching lunch afterwards!

 

Some of the animals you might see:

Tropical birds, snakes, lizards, monkeys, crocodiles of all sizes, deer, wild dogs, big cats, and more!

Top 10 Things You Better Bring to Quintana Roo When you Move (With Kids)!

Moving is a major life event. If you’re getting ready to move with kids to the Riviera Maya, pin this checklist to your fridge while you pack!

In no particular order, my top ten items to bring in your luggage:

1. Waterproof Kids Shoes

Waterproof shoes

Amphibian style shoes are the best shoes for in/out of the water, sand, concrete sidewalks, playground equipment, jungle terrain, newly dug roads, and even by the pool. Yes, flip flops are easier for on and off, but adventurous kids rarely sit down and let you change shoes between activities. The amphibian style shoes stay on their feet all day. They are durable, washable, and cushion their feet against the concrete (and there is a lot of concrete here). The best part is, they don’t smell. After all that playing and splashing, they somehow do not smell bad. Other shoes did not stand up to the stink test for us! You will pay less to buy them in the US and bring them in your luggage, rather than import them from a department store. They are lightweight and you can stuff smaller items inside them for optimal packing.

2. Breastfeeding Supplies

If you are pumping, bring your breast pump and accessories. Pumps are expensive to repair and replace, so pack with care. I pack mine in my diaper bag between diapers. It is harder to find here, but it is possible to get nursing pads, breast milk storage bags, creams, and supplements at some select stores. You will pay a premium for them here. I packed my own disposable nursing pads by the hundreds. I tried to calculate how many more I would need before Baby A was weaned (and boy was I wrong, as he still clings to nursing). I found a small box at the local grocery store, and it cost about the same as one of the huge boxes I purchased at Target before we moved.

3. English Books and Workbooks

English children’s story books are challenging to find here. There are some Spanish children’s books, but books in general are not widely available like they are in the US. Sure, you probably want your kids to learn Spanish, but forcing them to read books they cannot understand yet will only result in frustration and a distaste for reading. While they’re still learning Spanish, comfort them with their favorite books or bring books that are written in both languages. We found baby books that we read to our oldest in English that are now available in both English and Spanish together in the same book. Now she reads them to the baby, and they are both learning Spanish, happily. You could also ask visitors to bring books for the kids when they come to see you. Workbooks can be found in Spanish at some larger department stores, but workbooks in English will need to be packed in your luggage.

4. Towels, Sheets, Clothing, and Swimsuits

Once you’ve been here a few weeks, you will be wishing you had more basics and less fancy wardrobe pieces. The sweat is real. You might change your clothes a couple of times a day, and kids get dirty easier with sand, dirt, and Agua Frescas…(fresh juice waters) yum. My kids have been chugging the fresh juice, and there it goes down the front of the shirt nearly every time. Back in the states we could pre-treat the laundry with stain remover, and it would come out in the wash, but the washer/dryer combos that are so popular here just bake in the stains and are hard on clothes in general. Clothing of decent quality is pricey here compared to the US. Even the stores that typically sell inexpensive clothing in the US (Carters, Old Navy, etc) have at least a 20% markup for importation fees at those same stores here. Cotton sheets are expensive and difficult to find. You’d be better off to buy the cheapest cotton sheets in the US and bring them in your luggage because it will be better quality than the most expensive sheets here made of synthetics. Sheets here are commonly made of a polyester blend, which are quite hot in this tropical climate. You probably won’t need any comforters; although, I recommend cotton throw blankets for chilly nights. Towels are pricey here too. I recommend bringing a beach towel for each child, and maybe consider a set of nice bath towels for the family. We found decent options at Sams Club in Playa Del Carmen, but of course we paid a premium for them, and when I tried to buy more matching towels later they were gone.

5. Sippy Cups and Kids Tableware

tableware

If you have a no-leak, durable sippy cup you like, you better pack it (and buy an extra to pack just in case). If you like cheap, character printed melamine, you’ll be happy with the kids dishes you find here. If you prefer more durable dishes for your kids, you will want to pack them. Durable doesn’t always mean more expensive. We found adorable kids silverware by shopping at Sur La Table over the holidays. They have rust-proof, kid-sized forks and spoons in the “cocktail” or serving ware section where you can buy individual pieces for around $2 each. We also packed a small set of our favorite kid plates from the brand Green Toys. They are durable hard plastic, and have already lasted a few years of dishwasher wear in the US before we brought them here. I am so glad we did, but I wish we had packed more of them. Metal rusts fast in this humid climate, so do not bring metal kids dishes or toys!

6. Toys

Certain toys cannot be found here. Forget second-hand or buy/sale/trade boards. They haven’t caught on yet. If you have a special toy that your kids play with every day, you should find a way to pack it in your luggage. My kids really miss their train set, and I nearly lost my mind during the first month when we were here without toys. I would not recommend selling all the toys before you move.

7. Musical instruments

I am not talking about keyboards and guitars. Can you imagine moving to another country with big instruments? My husband is a musician and it pained him to sell all his gear, but our kids love music too. You can easily pack a small xylophone, kazoo, or tambourine. There are lots of drums and maracas here, but they aren’t made to withstand wear and tear. My kids can bust open a handmade maraca in about ten seconds flat. Stupidly, I bought several before I realized it was not a good toy for them. A little, heart-shaped Kalimba has traveled with us to every home. It’s fun and easy to play (and repair). What’s a Kalimba? Here’s a quick video of some cute kids (mine) and some very bad kalimba playing (me).

Karimba

8. Insect Repellent

Yep. They have it here, they do. The question is, are you ok with putting Deet on your kids all the time? (Because you will need toxic levels of Deet to keep the mosquitoes at bay.) The “Family Safe” OFF that you find here is too low of a concentration of Deet to repel these little beasts. Mosquitoes in the Quintana Roo area are smaller and faster than the big floaters that we find in the US. These bugs will bite you before you ever see them, and they will leave you wondering if they are actually invisible. They hang out in places like bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens where there is more moisture, and tourist traps like souvenir shops and crowded restaurants. We even have a corner outside in our yard where the kids pile up their toys, and for some reason the mosquitoes love it, which is enough to send this overprotective mama into a bug spraying fury, quite often.

We use Picaridin at 20% concentration, available in sprays or lotions from the US. The lotion travels better and doesn’t irritate lungs. We use a natural peppermint spray during the day or when inside, and the stronger stuff outside and at night, like when we go to dinner.

Picaridin

You will still get bites. Sadly, there is no total solution for mosquitoes. If your kids get bit, don’t let it ruin your day. The object of the game is to keep them from getting a lot of bites, and thereby lessening the chance of contracting a mosquito borne disease.

If all else fails and all you can find is a can of Deet while you’re out, use it because it’s probably better to spray your kids’ legs and feet with something strong, than to use nothing at all. Whatever you do, don’t forget the repellent!

9. Security

Let’s talk about personal safety for a minute. If you’re concerned with recent travel bans or media scares about our beautiful state, please do your own research using facts and statistics which are easily found online (versus the over dramatic media). Do be aware of “false news” on social media as well. I have seen a lot of stories about Mexico that are not factual, fueled by gossip and negativity (or they are just using shocking headlines to reel in the clicks). I must disclaim here that I am no security expert, but we would not have moved to Quintana Roo if it were unsafe. Period. That being said, I am a big supporter of the “look out for yourself” mentality. We guarded ourselves in the states, and we do it here too. You will find petty theft and burglary to be higher here than many places in the US, so it is smart to secure your belongings in all situations.

Your Home: if you are concerned with safety like I am, you will want to bring a loud entry alarm to warn of intrusion, and cameras to keep track of things. We brought these from the US. Our cameras have motion sensors, microphones, and lights. We can tell the intruder he is on camera and police are coming. You may also want to bring smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. I prefer the battery-only kind because they can be moved around. While most modern buildings here are made of concrete and steel, fires can still break out. Construction practices are not the same here—for instance, our electrical panel had to be redone twice in one month for having cracked breakers (and it was a brand new house). Things rust quickly here, and corrosion is an issue. Detectors are possible to find here; although, they may not be in stock or available at a reasonable price. For some reason, the CO monitors seem to be very expensive. We brought our own, and I am planning to get two more the next time we visit the states.

Your Bags: Shed the designer bags mommies because they will only make you a target for theft. We use durable, but drab bags to secure our belongings. The bags blend in with the stroller, the car floor, etc. They are not easily seen, and they slouch into small spaces quickly. The less time you spend fussing over getting your children and belongings into the car, the less time anyone has to pick you as a target. (a footnote: the shiny black designer bag you see in the top photo did NOT come with us to Mexico. It was intentionally left in the states during a planned layover, as were all other “valuables”. My personal bag that doubles for diaper bag is a durable nylon messenger bag with a handy wide strap that can zip shorter or longer in one second flat. It is perfect for Q. Roo.)

Your Person: get yourself a few little personal alarms that attach to your keys, bag, or stroller. They have a pull tab that you can yank on quickly if someone tries to grab you. They emit a high frequency, piercing siren that will let everyone around know if there is trouble.

When preparing for your safety here in Quintana Roo, think: FAST, DRAB, SMART.

10. Medicines, Contacts, Glasses

When you move to a place like Quintana Roo, you need time to find certain things such as medicines and first aid items that you would normally have on hand back at home.

Take for example Baby A. He has a sensitive respiratory system and suffered from recurring Croup for the first year of life. We came to Mexico with about 1 tablespoon of his medicine, and sure enough he came down with Croup the second week we were here. Luckily, that tablespoon was enough to keep him out of the emergency room. I went to the pharmacy the next day and brought my old bottle. Even though the clerk did not speak any English, she was able to look it up online and translate to the Mexican equivalent. I was lucky they had it!

Most medicines are available here, and in some cases you may be happier with the process and what you find here versus other countries. However, the time it takes to actually find what you need could be a major inconvenience. If your kids have regular or life-saving medicines, especially prescriptions, you should bring enough with you to get by for a few months until you are able to source everything you would normally have on hand.

The same goes with contacts and glasses. In the states it is possible to walk into a popular spectacles store like Lenscrafters, and get a new pair of glasses in 2 hours. Here that will take 7-12 days on average. My kids recently broke my glasses, and it was faster for my husband to get them fixed in the states on a recent trip than to get a new pair here. So in summary, bring an extra pair of glasses and plenty of contacts if you normally wear them! You don’t want to be blind while you’re trying to find your way around town.

broken glasses

Kids band-aids are something else you should consider buying in bulk when you visit home. They just are not as popular here! When we went home for the holidays, I stuffed one of the kids’ suitcases with Mickey Mouse band-aids I purchased on sale at Target for $.50 a box… shameless, I know, but I don’t anticipate running out any time soon!

 

And that’s it for my top 10 list of Things You Better Bring to Quintana Roo When you Move (With Kids)! I would love to hear from you if you’re planning to move or if you recently moved here. Did I miss anything?

Emergencies in Quintana Roo

It happens…When you have children, sooner or later you need a hospital while traveling!

We recently had the opportunity to try out the medical system while staying in Akumal, Mexico when Baby A took a nose dive (while strapped into his stroller) onto a concrete parking lot, from a raised sidewalk. When I picked him up, he was covered in blood, and it looked pretty bad. Every parent knows that sinking feeling you get when you see your kid get hurt, but I know from experience that the most important thing you can do as a parent in these situations is STAY CALM! ok?! Just chill.

After Baby A was cleaned up with a bottle of water, I could tell the bleeding was mostly coming from his mouth. I held tissues onto his gums to stop the bleeding, and he made (what I thought was) a nice recovery! Kids are miraculous sometimes… but not this time. About an hour later we were eating lunch in Playa Del Carmen, and I noticed my little boo boo bear had blood all over his chin and shirt, so we hopped into the car— and drove literally one block away to Hospiten, a local private hospital. It was only a coincidence we were so close to the hospital, but that is most likely the hospital I would have taken him to from Akumal, had the situation seemed worse in the beginning.

There are many hospitals all throughout Quintana Roo, but it can be difficult to know which one is a legitimate emergency center. Some private hospitals are named after the doctor who owns it, or called “clinic”, or “hospital” when it is not actually equipped for a true emergency. I just so happened to have a conversation the day before with a friend who told me about her own experience at Hospiten with her baby, so I knew exactly where to go. If you’re traveling in the area, you will pass by this particular hospital when you drive between Cancun and Tulum. It is easy to spot right from the highway on the southern outskirts of Playa Del Carmen.

I was by myself with the kids that day with hubs out of town for work, so it was just me and two toddlers (one with a bloody face and shirt). The hospital was quiet, and the security guard at the front door helped me in with the stroller. The front desk staff was bilingual, took our insurance information (and explained their policies regarding cash pay), and got us in right away.

RIGHT HERE is where you need to understand something–> if you’re on a vacation, expect to pay a little more for your treatment than the locals. They have a tourist price, an expat price, and a locals price (so I have heard from other moms). All of which are still lower than you would pay in the US. I’m not entirely sure which price we paid that day, but it was not the local’s price. It was comparable to what we would pay at a reasonable urgent care facility in the US. This also considering there was a lot of blood to clean up, a lot of screaming to deal with, and a US mom who did not speak much Spanish. They had to hold the baby down, make a thorough exam, administer medication, and clean everything up afterwards. They did this with understanding and kindness every step of the way, they spoke fluent English to me, and they gave us clear instructions on how to help Baby A recover completely. I personally feel that I paid a fair price. I am happy to report he made a full recovery within a few days, and saved us a lot more money by severing his own lip tie (it would need to have been lasered later in life). Not a method I recommend though…

Baby A at Hospiten, after treatment for severed frenula.

 

Fun With Monkeys

The monkeys of CrocoCun Zoo keeping tabs on the new expat family.

Living in the jungle comes with the occasional monkey shake down… 

These monkeys are from the CrocoCun Zoo in Puerto Morelos (Cancun area). They have been keeping tabs on us since we played in the park behind the zoo earlier in the week, and then we saw them at the zoo. The keepers have named them all, and Yessica here is the ring leader. 

I will be posting a separate bit about the zoo because it is worthy of its whole, special post!

Location Teaser…

We have been traveling around, staying in different towns for a week or two at a time, exploring the areas we knew we would enjoy (but hadn’t spent enough time to know if we should live there).

A lucky wrong turn while looking for a restaurant landed the kids and me at El Capitan, where the prices were fair, and the food was fresh and delish. You can hear the sizzling of your food being prepared, the smell of fajitas cooking on the grill, a pile of coconuts on the floor nearby, and some local young artists dancing flamenco and playing traditional music. Cars whizzing by on the beach road nearby reminding us of the crazy, fun growth happening in this hip little town that we once fell in love with on a family vacation, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I got a little teary eyed writing this because… it is obvious to me now that we. are. home. Where are we?

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