At first, we were contemplating if we want to book an all inclusive deal in the Hotel Zone but then we both love to try local food and explore the local culture. Confining ourselves to a hotel wouldn’t be fair, especially since it was our first time there. After the cold in New York, it was time to soak in some sun! We stayed at one of the nicest properties, The Westin Lagunamar. It is well located close to the La Isla Mall and has a private beach and a pool that’s the size of the ocean! With my Marriott Bonvoy membership, I was able to get early check in after our early morning flight.
Travel tip: If you plan to explore the area other than just the Hotel Zone, rent your own car from the airport. Most hotels provide free parking.
When you arrive at the airport, you will see sea of people popping their hand boards above each other’s heads providing pick ups, car rentals, day tours and margaritas!
About the tours, I personally like exploring on my own than going on a full tour with a company. This way I can be flexible with my timings, where I want to eat and how much time I want to spend at each place I go to.
On the first day, we were ready to plunge into the water right away! Pool, ocean, eat, REPEAT. As I write this, I want to be back there again, writing by the ocean!
I wanted to explore the Yucatán Peninsula. We started the day slightly early and left the hotel post breakfast to go to Chichen Itza. It is about a 2 hour drive from Cancun.
On the way towards Chichen Itza, at 2 points we were stopped by local people who told us that we had to buy tickets there. They warned us that there would be a 2 hour long line, too much extra parking fees and they would get us a good deal. We decided to not pay any heed to them and continued on our way. Once we got there, the parking was half the price of what we were told and there was no line to buy tickets.
We were inside the ruins within 10 minutes of getting there and saved about $40 per person by getting there directly.
Travel tip: It gets extremely hot, so please carry a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen when going to Chichén Itza. There are a lot of local vendors by the ticket area selling hats at a cheap price too, incase you forget.
The main attraction is the main pyramid temple.
Travel tip: Go early in the day to beat the tourist crowd that comes on the tour agency buses.
For about 80 pesos you can get tickets to the Ik Kil Cenote which is less than a 5 mins drive. Again, someone told us to buy tickets from them for free parking. Parking was already free for visitors at the Ik Kil Cenote.
The Cenote is 150 ft deep and the water is cold but it is worth it! You may see a few fish swimming around if you look from higher up! Most brave people jump from the steps along the Cenote and crowd in the water hoots for them! If you can’t swim well, there are life jackets available.
I can swim pretty well in the ocean and in pools but for some reason I was scared to go without one in this Cenote.
It is a wonderful experience to see how an entire water body has naturally formed by trickling rain water.
Travel tip: Carry a waterproof underwater pouch.
One of the fun locations I had read about in this area was the pink lagoon, which is another 2 hours from the cenote.
Located on the northern Mexican shore, is a lagoon that is PINK due to the bacteria and micro organisms present in it. The water is highly saline and is secured to get salt from it.
In order to access the Pink Lagoon, you will need a certified guide. They are usually present right outside the gate and charge about 50 pesos per person.
Travel tip: Try to get there around sunset you can get a great view of it on the blue side of the lagoon.
The drive back was about 3 hours. We crossed small village settlements on the way and it was so amazing to see how content and happy these people were in these towns with just the basics. We stopped at a local eatery for dinner and it almost seemed like everyone in the town knew each other. (They had the best homemade habanero)
Travel tip: Eat at local places for the most authentic food and start pumping up your spice tolerance in order to enjoy the local habanero. I loved it so much, I brought back bottles and have it with almost every other meal now!
Try breakfast at the local Torta Brava for some delicious huevos. Freshly made Tortillas come in abundance so if you don’t want too many, let them know. For instance I got a stack of 8 with my breakfast. What surprised me was how they sell breakfast smoothies by the litre.
Travel tip: Brush up on some basic Spanish words to get your way around at local places.
Here are some words that helped me get around
- Eggs – huevos
- Stop (useful when driving)- alto
- Milk – leche
- Beer – Cerveza
- Water – Agua
- Thank you – Gracias
- Good morning – Buenos dias
- Pollo – chicken
- Carne – meat
Enjoy the property you’re staying at. Explore the pool, the beach and go for a massage by the beach. Try the one at hotel Park Royal. It’s right on the sand so you can feel the ocean breeze while enjoying some beach spa.
Try the tamarind micheladas. In the US micheladas most often come with a Bloody Mary mix but these ones are to die for. No one can have just one 😉
In the evenings take a local bus to the north hotel zone area and walk around to explore the nightlife, bars and local food.
To be honest, the party starts on the bus! The bus we were on was blasting Mexican party music and setting the evening vibes.
Have you been to Cancun yet? Share your experience with me in the comments below!