Cancun, 2017’s top rated hottest singles destination according to Conde Nast Traveler, is sure a paradise on earth with beer, blue beaches and beauties everywhere. Located in southeastern mexico, it is not only the safest but also usually the cheapest and quickest getaway from United States. Popularly known as Spring break destination, it is one vacation college students will think of in a heartbeat. But then it is also famous for family vacations due to the large number of highly renowned resorts with exceptional facilities for great family time without any hassle. Well for me, I am really glad I chose Cancun to be my first solo vacation; lovely Mexican people, breathtaking views of beaches, nightlife, it all blend in to leave a wonderful memory. So singles out there, you found your destination. Families, one getaway added to your bucket list. In relation? check this out if not already.
Here are highlights from my three day vacation(5 day including travel) which am hoping will help out for your planning.
Best time: Early June is the best time for better price on hotels and flights. Late June can be hit with showers. And of course if you don’t mind spending couple hundred bucks more, late March to April is the best time with intense crowd,best weather and yes it is heavily populated.
Where to Stay: Highly recommended to stay in Hotel Zone aka Zona Hotelera because it is easy to travel to other places from here plus safest and cheapest. More precisely near Coco Bongo club where major night life happens and you are not alone at any time of the day/night. Looking for suggestions? RIU Cancun is one of the best luxury hotels around. Suites Costa Blanca will be perfect for average stay. Still cheap? There are several hostels too like Hostel Mayapan.
Transportation: Car rental isn’t really necessary but then Uber is illegal here(I faced huge trouble to hire Uber at airport). Blue Shuttles are best to reach Zona Hotelera from airport and back to airport, hire a cab from hotel team. To travel around, check the price in Uber and bargain for that or around to hire a local cab, it will save lot of pesos. Lastly, buses aren’t bad for shorter distances. Worth a try. Great savings but they might be pretty crowded and you better know your stop.
Currency Exchange: Cancun is Americanized, so you can pay with dollars at most of the places except for the restaurants and local markets. So recommend to avoid exchanging in US because there are chances you get better exchange rate in Cancun at local stores. So US dollars in cash is all you need. Provecho, you will save money paying in dollars than paying in pesos.
Good to have: If you are taking your phone with internet connection which is recommended, these apps will make your trip smoother. Google Maps, Google Translate(Can even translate pictures), AT&T with international passport(which charges 10$/day for call,text and data), Discover Card(Free foreign transactions) and Spotify for Despacito 😀
Well, I guess enough of prerequisites. Time to hit places :-
Spanish for “Women Island” (Don’t ask me why), this is the heart of Cancun and is everything one need or is the reason to visit. Colorful, lively, eye-feast, food haven, beach paradise, bed of water sports. Are there any other adjectives I can add to describe this splendid island.
Time to spend: One to two days.
How to reach: If you are just around Coco Bongo, Ultramar Playa Carcol ferry ride is an option. Walkable but ferry aren’t on time and they are hourly. If you can take a bus or cab few extra miles, Playa Tortugas is the best option. Every half hour and mostly regular.
Getting around: Best form of transportation – Bike. Remember to bargain. Know the prices around. Pelicano’s Bikes is one shop I recommend. You might need a valid ID to rent mopeds. Golf carts are famous choices to rent though.
Beaches: If you prefer to stay around lot of people, Playa Norte is the perfect beach with lot of choices to grab drinks. This is less than a mile away from ferry terminal, north of it facing the mainland. While you are there, make time for sea side massage. Looking for some impressive views, head to Punta Sur, southern tip of the island. And everyone needs some me time, so head to back of island, away from mainland where there are no designated beaches but you can always find a path leading from the road to the ocean. These are the places where we can spend hours enjoying views, street food and some local beer, Mexican style. You will also encounter local people who would love to share their stories if you understand the language. Be careful though.
Carry own towel, bottled water, sunscreen and valid ID while heading to the Island.
Restaurants: There are hundreds of restaurants serving variety of food across the Island and almost everything are similar. Trust your instinct to chose one and you will do absolutely fine. So does Bally-Hoo to me. Close to ferry terminal. Loved the place. Just on the shore with some good views of beach and sailing boats. Host recommended some Mexican Style Fish, it was pretty good. The other restaurant, Casa Chetto which I tried for some quick drinks just across the terminal is good too. La Lomita, on the other side of the island close to shore is must try for some authentic Mexican food.
Activities: This is the fun part. So lets breakdown.
One should roam around the island at least once to enjoy the views, spot colorful houses or wild Iguanas, catch up with some spectacular local food and local shopping and the best way to do it, Bike. You get to stop anywhere you want, travel off roads and do much more. Island is about 7 km long, so it is half-day trip.
2. Water Sports:
Duh! Yeah I understand. Of course, there are plenty of choices. Scuba Diving, Whale-Shark Tours, Snorkeling are popular ones. While there is no hard fast rule to have fun, there is one basic thing to take care. Pick the right shop!!
I learnt this hard way or may be I am too amateur for Scuba dive. If you don’t wanna hear a fail story which might give second thoughts to dive, I prefer you to skip this 🙂 Long story short, I completed first two levels – theory and at shore. While I am still getting better at shore and trying to understand the dive signs and process, my trainer felt I was good and took me to the battle field which I opted to do at Museo Subacuático de Arte/Underwater Museum of Art from various options. I was so excited to visit this underwater museum as the pictures are mind-blowing. We were on our way to the museum on a boat and I can hear my heart beat while enjoying the beauty of ocean and views. And suddenly those waves are looking at me sharply, ocean turned black and so as sky 😀 (Really! there is rain forecast and you know when the ocean wont be blue anymore when it is deep, so it is black now) We stopped at a black spot, trainer asked if I am ready, geared me up, took three four minutes of sighs and my boat driver helped me to do back dive, five minutes or less I was crying for help to put me back on boat 😀 Those were the few minutes I can never forget in my life. The view of the ocean bed even for few seconds is so pretty stunning.
Mistake, the more I try to blow water out, the more I took in. Panic, lack of confidence, lack of trust in trainer and the sea is so deep and clear as crystal, I had doubts as I am 101 swimmer.Also one wave hit me hard on my cheek asking me to go back to my place 😀 Advice, learn swimming, know about gear, join a group and most importantly, pick the right shop with great reviews who has great trainers and gear to become one among 52% visitors who made it to underwater museum on their first visit to Cancun. I picked a great shop but I think its just me and trainer combo and recent events got me little confused.
End of the day, you know what made me feel better. This sign 😀
Epilogue, next day back in States, I was swimming for 2 hours straight 😀
3. Ocean life
Love to watch ocean life without actually being inside? Turtle Farm aka Tortugranja and Dolphin Discovery to swim with those lovely creatures are the ones you should check out.
This is one activity if you are willing to go an extra mile to catch some splendid views. Local fishermen head out to the sea in their own boats during sunset. This is a great opportunity to get some great views of the island while you fish. Unique experience and mostly it is safe. Plan to go out with registered shops.
Chichen Itza Day Tour
Trip to Cancun is not complete without checking off Chichen Itza, one of the UNESCO world heritage sites and New Seven Wonders of the World. It is one of the famous Mayan ruins site in Mexico with so much history. El Castillo, the north platform of this pyramid is significant with its own theory that the shadows at a time of the year represents feathered-serpent god Kukulkan. There are several ruins and so much history to learn at this site.
Time to spend: One day.
How to reach: There are plenty of tours from Hotel Zone and book one with great reviews instead of the hotel tour. Any tour generally includes Valladolid city tour(actually a stop), Chichen Itza guided tour and Il-Kil, a cenote(sink hole).
- Avoid large bus tours if possible. It will save lot of time and too many selling tricks for tour company’s products.
- Audio tours will be really helpful to learn history than tour guides.
- Do not fall for tour free buffet. If not with a lovely family in my tour, I would have definitely fallen sick.
- Never rely on weather sources in Mexico. They are not so accurate. When we are just on the site of Chichen Itza, there is a heavy down pour which almost lasted for all the time we were there. Bright side, I wouldn’t have met a lovely girl who could have shared an umbrella with pleasant smile turning it to a sweet memory.
This sink hole is a fabulous place, situated close to Chichen Itza, so it is a popular destination to visit. You will witness people performing all stunts into water and ropes are tied to aid swimming. Locker place is well maintained and towels are available for rent.
Valladolid city will be a quick stop before heading to Yucatan Peninsula leaving us to explore Church, a local park and souvenir stores.
And then there is Zona Hotelera itself with plenty to do. Water sports like Jet Skiing, Museums, Clubs, Restaurants, it is complete itself.
Things to do:
Top hits will be Tequila Herradura Sensory Museum to experience Mexican best tequila and top of everything is Coco-Bongo. It is one unique club with various acts and acrobats doing professional stunts amid electrifying music. It just has to be experienced and all other clubs are just cannot be compared.
Buy general tickets online for Coco-Bongo and then upgrade if you want to inside club to personal table and waitress for lower cost. Remember tips can do magic.
Where to Eat:
There are best Mexican restaurants around like Casa Tequila and every thing will amuse in its own style. Street food has its own taste and one shouldn’t miss it. There are several of them in the small strip in front of Coco Bongo and are open till late. I recommend Calypso’s in front of ferry Terminal in Hotel Zone and for drinks, El Poblano ZH besides Suites Costa Blanca, both the places has great hosts. Nachos with variety of delicious Mexican sauces comes along with drinks at every restaurant.
We can spend days here and still there will be something missed. With longer vacations, one can visit Playa Del Carmen, another pleasant beach; Cancun Downtown(be careful at night) and Xcaret, a theme park for full-on experience of Mexican food, music and culture with an aquarium, adventure park, zoo and trajineras, decorated boats.
Hope you have a pleasant experience at Cancun!
This hotel zone view in my return journey already made me miss it.
Craving for more? All about Cancun in a short Video:
Te veo pronto!