It’s been exactly a week since I came back from the most amazing 7 days of vacations in Cancun. And not only was I excited because it was my first trip to Mexico but I loved the fact that I had the opportunity to live it up with three of my best friends. Just like I started off writing in my “Bon Voyage” blog, this was something that we had always talked about when we were younger and the timing was just perfect. And hey, I also got to cross off the the first couple of things on my 30 things I want to do before my 30s checklist. And before I start telling you all about my perfect experience, I am already writing a Cancun Guide parallel to this post because I really think I have a great amount of information worth of sharing with future Cancun travelers, so stay tuned!
Sunday, March 2nd: Arrival
Flying over Cancun was so beautiful. I specifically asked for a window seat for my flight because I knew that I was going to appreciate Cancun from above, and I sure did. The water is so clear and the color indescribably aqua. My friends flew in from Chile and arrived 30 minutes before me so they were waiting for me when I arrived. You would think that it was going to be awkward since we had not seen each other for three years but our friendship is so “Play and Pause;” we rekindle in a second and pause for months, sometimes even years, and to be honest it has always been like that, we are all somewhat international.
Once we checked into our hotel we quickly went to discover the beautiful premises, stayed by a bonfire, ordered drinks plus a nice dinner meal. We gossiped the night away and got a fantastic sleep with our balcony doors open to the Caribbean Sea. Oh how I still miss falling asleep to the sound of ocean and palm trees every night, and wake up to eager exotic birds and happy breeze every morning. I was really surprised of how Caribbean-looking Cancun was. For example, outside our balcony was a big palm tree with big coconuts. I was so close to release my inner monkey skills, climb the palm tree, and get me some fresh coconut water.
Monday, March 3rd: Cancun Downtown
We started out our day with a quick morning workout at the hotel gym. On our way there, a breathtaking view slapped the morning face out of us; we were literally taking pictures of the scenery like crazy tourists. Later that day we decided to go to Downtown Cancun since we knew a Walmart was there and our hotel room came with a fully equipped kitchen, so we wanted to go and buy a few basic and fundamental grocery items for breakfast and midday snacks. Once we got Downtown we found this really cute tourism office that sold us all the tours that we already had in mind, we made it quick and convenient by buying it all from the same place and it was way cheaper than buying it online or at hotels. We ended our business transaction with tequila shots, offered by two very hospitable men. We took a quick stroll to Mercado 28 before going to Walmart, which is a huge market of handcrafts, silver jewelry, souvenirs, and clothing items. It quickly got annoying when vendors tried to sell EVERYTHING and even so when you were clearly sitting down having lunch and chewing your carne asada… We finished off our Downtown trip with Walmart grocery shopping, headed back to the hotel and tried out their private beach.
Tuesday, March 4th: Xel-Ha
Our first tour day arrived and we visited Xel-Ha, the equivalent to XCaret, which are both man-made “natural” parks with different twists. Xel-Ha is more of an aquatic park, while XCaret is more of a cultural park with spectacular night shows. At Xel-Ha you hike around in a beautiful scenery and see birds, parrots, and fish. You have the option to walk around, bike around, or snorkel around; we snorkeled. On the way of your snorkeling tour you have the option to stop and try out different activities, like jumping a cliff, zip-line, or just chill on a remote island. The park includes three all-inclusive open bars and buffet type restaurants, and if you pay extra you can swim with dolphins, like my friend Andrea did. One thing I loved, was a hammock area right next to the main restaurant. Imagine eating like a chancho and drink unlimited, to then lay out on a hammock for a siesta; it is the visual feeling of paradise!
Later that day we went to explore The City of Zona Hotelera (The Hotel Zone in Cancun), as they call it, it’s kind of The Strip of Las Vegas but in a smaller proportion. You’ll find Hard Rock Cafe, Fat Tuesday’s, and Hooters, among the American brands, but of course we wanted to try something authentic Mexican. Among the famous Mexican places, you’ll find Cocobongo, La Vaquita (which is “The little cow” in English), Mandala, Dady-O, and this really cute Bar & Restaurant called Carlos & Charlie’s; this last place is insane! It’s definitely not for party poopers and serious people. The bartenders and staff will scare, ridicule, and hit on you, all at once. It was such a fun ambiance with a lot of dancing, eating, drinking, and laughing at the expense of other guests getting pranked. There was also some cute authentic Mexican eye candy *wink*
Wednesday, March 5th: Tulum/Nightlife/Skinny Dipping
On this day we took a trip to Tulum, which was an hour and a half away from our hotel. It was such a long and uncomfortable trip that on our way back we took a cab for US$90, yeah, that’s how uncomfortable it was. You have to take a bus to Downtown Cancun, and from there a smaller minivan to Tulum city, and from there a direct minivan to the Tulum Archeological site, it didn’t help at all that an Argentinian couple decided to change diapers on their baby in the minivan. But oh well, I guess one day I’ll be that annoying mother…
I don’t know how to put this without offending anyone, but watching ruins is probably not going down as one of my favorite memories. I think that Chichen Itza (next day tour) is way more majestic than the Tulum ruins, but in my eyes a pile of rocks doesn’t really impress me more than the actual history itself. It’s definitely eye-opening to walk around in the same place where Mayans once lived but seeing it live didn’t leave a great impact on me unfortunately. Unlike Chichen Itza, these ruins were by the water though, so I enjoyed that “beachy” feeling a tad more.
As part of one of the tour packages that we had already purchased, we had to look for Santa Fe beach after the Tulum ruin tour in order to enjoy a speed boat tour to see more ruins that you could only see from the water plus snorkeling in the open sea. This scared me a lot due to my unknown fish fear, but even more so, the fact that it was the open sea! None of that man-made crap anymore, this was the real deal. Once we found Santa Fe beach, I heard angels singing, and the Mayan gods shinning down on that beach because it was probably one of the most beautiful hidden beaches I’ve ever seen, which doesn’t really mean a lot since I’ve never seen a lot of hidden beaches, but it was still AMAZING! We heard salsa music from far and followed it, taking us to this really petite and adorable restaurant & bar called Las Adelitas. We drank coconut drinks straight from the coconut, we had great food, and great service from a really nice waitress called Isabella.
It was time to snorkel in the big sea and I almost chickened out if it wasn’t for that little voice in me saying “you loser, get in the water, NOW!” so I did. Guess what?! I lost my fear of fish! I saw how the poor fellas were probably more scared of me than the other way around, so they didn’t really come near to swim around my legs, which was probably my biggest fear. I saw colorful fish, sea urchins, star fish, and other creatures that I had never seen before.
Now that I think about it while writing this, I can’t believe how emotionally packed this day was because it’s not over folks. Later that day, Andrea and I went to The City and pre partied at Carlos & Charlie’s, to later visit the infamous Cocobongo. Their slogan is “Puts Vegas nightlife to SHAME,” and I am probably the biggest Vegas fan when it comes to partying, so I would be the one to ask, and let me put it this way. Cocobongo is one club, while one club in Vegas has so much more value by being in Vegas, in other words, the whole surrounding makes Vegas, Vegas. The only club in Vegas that I’ve seen doing shows like Cocobongo, is The Light at the Mandalay Hotel, with Cirque du Soleil acts. But in my eyes as a single club I would have to say that Cocobongo wins. The shows never ends, the music is so varied that you don’t get bored of one type of music, the staging is perfectly made like an ancient Greek theatre so you can easily do a 360 degree turn and see every single person in that club, plus the lighting and special effects is all in your face. I think I will have to say that this is probably the best nightclub I have ever been to in my life… Wow!
Hold on. Not done with this day yet…
Andrea and I left the club feeling very satisfied with our amazing club experience that we felt young, and wild, ready to do something crazy, I mean we were in Cancun after all. I quickly went through my 30 before 30 list and saw Skinny Dipping! YES! It was wild enough for us. We went to the private beach of our hotel, stripped down, and jumped into the Caribbean Sea, crossing off number 30 of my list. All I know is that we were back to our hotel room safe and sound at 5 am. What a successful day!
Thursday, March 6th: Chichen Itza
This tour was probably the most boring tour ever. I don’t know if it was because I was badly hung over and had slept an hour, or because my feet were incredibly bloated due to all the tequila salt, either way this tour was extremely long and boring.
We saw the Chichen Itza ruins, we took a dip at a Mayan water well (in Spanish “Cenote”), and we stopped by a little rural town for food and arts. Unfortunately, I don’t have any fun anecdotes for this day. I slept through the 2 hour bus ride both there and back, and when we got back to the hotel guess what?! I went straight to bed. I obviously don’t have the body of a 20 year old anymore when it comes to partying…
Friday, March 7th: Playa del Carmen Fail
We were so excited for this day since we all had heard great things about Playa del Carmen. Our plan was to sip on coconut drinks by the beach all day and try the nightlife on the famous 5th Avenue (Quinta Avenida). But something horrible changed our plans. We got robbed! I personally did not lose any of my belongings but it’s pretty invading to know that one of the hotel associates snooped around through our stuff. My friends had around US$1000 in cash altogether in our room’s safe box that we unfortunately left open that day. Naturally, this messed up our whole day. We had to go through a hotel security investigation, and another investigation with the Police of Cancun; a long time-consuming process. We were done with all the bureaucratic errands around 2pm and decided to enjoy the rest of the day with happy hour by the pool and hotel activities: Bingo and Beach Volleyball it was. In the end, this “tragedy” only means one thing. I have to go back to Cancun very soon because EVERYONE that has gone says that it is imperative to go to Playa del Carmen, so I will…
Later that night I went out to a bar at the ME by Melia hotel. I was curious to check it out since both the hotel and bar had some buzz on social media. My friends were still feeling a little down from the morning experience, so I went by myself, and found myself having a great time. I met a group of pilots, and a group of international ladies from Russia studying in Boston. All in all, it was like any regular San Diegan nightclub night: interesting people, bar acts, and bottle service.
Saturday, March 8th: Isla de las Mujeres
I don’t know if it was because it was our last day and we wanted to mentally distress from our previous day, but this last tour to Isla de las Mujeres was hands down the best tour I did in Cancun. We sailed away in a Catamaran to the Island of Women (translated from Spanish “La Isla de las Mujeres”), stopping half ways there to enjoy the Aquatic Museum, which is an underwater museum that you can only see by snorkeling. The whole ambiance on the catamaran was just too good to be true. The tour guide was hilarious, the people touring with us had the best personalities, the catamaran had an open bar, having my friends there reunited, tanning while sailing, aaaahhhhhh, it was simply perfection!
I just have to mention this really cute Canadian family on board. It was mom, dad, a handsome son in his late teenage years, and the cutest teenage son. This family was so much fun. They were dancing, partying, laughing, and mingling with everyone. I specially remember Josh the youngest son because he reminded me of my little brother when he was a little rascal, and Michele the terrific mother. She was taking shots with me, dancing salsa with me, but still had that motherly touch of taking care of you. A shoutout to this fam bam!
Let’s just say that I went to bed that night with a big fat smile on my face even though I knew I was going home to San Diego the next day. This trip was probably the best vacation in my life, and I am so happy that I got to do it with my girls.
Miss Natalia Silva