2nd September 2017 through 6th September 2017
For all you fans of water and beaches, this post is for you. Traveling to Mexico from the US is very convenient and affordable, allowing for a luxurious and a spectacular trip in a short period of time
BEST TIME TO VISIT CANCUN: Peak and crowded months are July and December. However, Cancun can be visited anytime of the year. Temperatures in the coolest months (January through March) are high in the low 80s and low in the high 60s. The time during Labor Day weekend, which is when I visited, was a bit rainy but when the sun was out, it was perfect with the perfect amount of crowd. Temperatures were in mid 80s during the day and mid to high 70s during the night. The resorts are cheaper too during this time.
TRANSPORT:Common means of transport to Mexico is by air, although depending on your final destination, you could potentially drive as well. As expected flight costs to Cancun varies depending on the season. There are direct flights from San Antonio, Texas to Cancun but they are available only during the peak season.
Driving to Cancun even from south Texas can be long and risky. Details about driving in Mexico can be found here. My suggestion would be to fly to Cancun and then rent a car for an expedient commute. Contrary to popular belief, driving short distances in Mexico is not as risky or scary. In fact, the roads are well developed and traffic is mostly organized and systematic. You will be safe as long as you maintain speed limits. Car rentals are dirt cheap in Mexico and would suggest renting from a reputed company such as Alamo or National. However, buying liability insurance is a must, for which we paid about 18 USD a day. Even then, our total cost for 5 days including insurance and gas was 160 USD for a midsize car. This becomes very cost-effective if you are travelling in a group. Note, you do not need to spend on collision insurance if you pay your rental with a visa credit card. Visa covers all your collision damages incase of an accident without you having to pay a deductible. All you have to do is call visa ahead of time and ask them to provide you a letter stating coverage and then decline collision coverage by the rental company. Buying collision coverage from the rental company is expensive and moreover, the company will charge you a hefty deductible that you will have to pay upfront before the coverage is put in place.
An alternative to renting a car is to commute by public transport, however, this takes longer and can be quite inefficient as public services in Mexico aren’t always punctual and several stops on the way can cause significant delays.
- We landed in Cancun Airport by late afternoon and then rented a car from Alamo. Checking out process at the airport was quick and seemless.
We then drove to Chichen-Itza which is about a 2 hr drive. The drive was very enjoyable with a straight road surrounded by dense trees and no traffic.
Chichen-itza is the 2nd most arcaheological site visited in Mexico, carrying traces of the Mayan Culture. The park consists of fascinating pyramids, temples and cenotes (natural pit). The most famous pyramid, El Castillo, contains 365 steps, 52 panels and 18 terraces. In addition, there are a lot of street booths as well as stores and restaurants for some cultural shopping and eats. You have a choice to spend a whole day here or a few hours. Guided tours are also available.
- We then drove to the ik-kil cenote which is about another 10 min drive. We visited the place for about 30 mins, walking around the place and taking pictures, although you can spend a lot more time at this place and even take a dip in the water. The cenote is sacred to the Mayans who used it for relaxation and ritual services.
- From there we drove about 3 hours to playa del Carmen and checked in for 2 nights in Sunrise2 Hotel. The Hotel is about 10 min walk from the beach and located in the heart of action during the night. The rooms were clean and spacious and the rate per night was extremely cheap. However, the breakfast was extremely disappointing. Options weren’t elaborate and food was stale. We chose to stay in a hotel over a resort in Playa, as we were going to spend the next two days in theme parks and wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of the all-inclusive features of a resort.
- The next two days, we visited two of the four popular theme parks near Playa del Carmen; Xel-Ha, Xplor, Xcaret and Xenses. Xel-ha is mainly a water-based park allowing for electrifying activities such as diving off the cliff, zip lining into the water, 100 feet high waterslides and trepachanga, to relaxing pursuits like river snorkeling, tubing and swimming in tranquility under the caves. The all-inclusive ticket covers these activities, snorkeling gear, towels, lockers, unlimited breakfast, lunch and delicious alcoholic drinks.
Contrary to Xel-Ha, Xplor is a combination of land and water adventures. It is also an all-inclusive park offering 14 highest ziplines in Cancun and Riviera Maya, Hammock splash, driving through 10 km of rocky jungle, bridges and caves in a Amphibious vehicle, swimming through stalactite river and paddle rafting. The ticket also includes unlimited food and non-alcoholic drinks. They also have Xplor Fuego that offers these activities during the nighttime, illuminated with fire and colorful lights.
For first-timers, I would recommend visiting at least one of these parks for a fun, relaxing and exhilarating experience for all age-groups. if you need to get . picked up, transportation to these parks is available from almost all Cancun resorts.
- The remaining time in playa was spent at the beach, restaurants and shopping.
- By afternoon of the third day, we drove to Cancun where we stayed at the Live Aqua All-Inclusive Resort for 2 nights. It is located in the Hotel zone and is an ‘Adults Only’ Resort. The resort is a luxurious 4-star resort and is rated to be the top 16 in the world for all-inclusive resorts. All-inclusive feature includes unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, food from 6 different restaurants, 24 hr room service, mini bar, hot tub and pool, tennis courts, rackets and balls (although the courts were not well-maintained) and a hand massage. Our room was well- maintained, spacious and had a attached balcony with ocean views. This resort also has a clean spa offering a variety of massages, facials, pedicures and manicures as well as a detox protocol with sauna, eucalyptus inhalation, crystal steam room, pressure shower, hydroreflexology and temperature contrast lagoon, that is included with all spa services. Most resorts in Cancun also offer some cultural activities like live music, dances and shows depending on when you travel. Additionally, resorts also offer package tours and excursions for ocean activities (e.g. paragliding, snorkeling, scuba diving etc) as well as day trips to visit nearby islands and towns.
We only spent 2 nights at the resort which was short. I would recommend spending at least 4 nights at your resort to be able to experience it to the fullest.
FOOD: Food in Mexico is not a problem at all, whether you are a vegan, vegetarian or a meat-eater. Needless to say, for Mexican food lovers, this place is a paradise, offering an assortment of delicacies from the country. As a vegetarian, I had the opportunity to try Mexican, Italian Pastas, Thai, as well as fusion cuisines on my trip. Most all-inclusive places I visited including the theme parks had a buffet combination of Mexican dishes, Pastas and Rice, Salads, assorted Meats and Cheeses, hot dogs, hamburgers and lots and lots of desserts and drinks. In addition, food at standalone restaurants, be it Mexican or otherwise was a very pleasurable and a satisfying experience at all locations. As for the food at the resort, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that every restaurant had a separate vegetarian menu with multiple options to choose from and every dish we tried was different, memorable and scrumptious.
So for all you vegetarians and vegans, do not worry about food during your Cancun Trip!
COMMUNICATION: Most people in Playa Del Carmen and Cancun will speak English. However, following words can come in handy
- Yes: Si
- No: Non
- Thank You: Gracias
- Please: por favor
- Hi : Hola
- Good morning: Buenos Dias
- Good afternoon: Buenos tardes
- How are you: Cómo estas?
- Don’t speak Spanish: Non Habla Espanol
- Exit: Salida
- No meat: sin carne
Road Signs in Mexico:
- Knowing how to swim or snorkel is not necessary in xel-ha to take advantage of the activities. Learning how to snorkel will only take a short while.
- If you plan on visiting xel-ha and Xplor, I suggest visit Xplor first and then Xel-ha later on the trip as the latter is more relaxing whereas Xplor requires physical activity and a lot more energy.
- Carry shorts over swimwear for zip lining in Xplor
- Carry sun glasses with lanyard in Xplor.
- Wear only biodegradable sunscreen while going into the water to protect aquatic life.
- Buying tickets ahead of time to parks can save you money.
- Booking resorts way in advance can get you a pretty good deal.