I have visited Cancun, Mexico two times so this planning essentials post is going to be a combination of those two trips. Although I had visited the Bahamas a few years prior to my first visit to Cancun, the majority of my memories spent on the Caribbean beach there was that it was hot…beastly so. However, when I went to Cancun in the summer with my parents I discovered it was even hotter with the scorching sun never seeming to let up. But in all it was a terrific trip.There is nothing more priceless than seeing water so crystal clear, so strikingly blue. Moreover, if you’ve ever swam in the Caribbean you know that you can just go right in, no hesitant wading as your body attempts to adjust; it’s just that warm.
My second trip to Cancun was in December and while in some parts of the world December is “summertime” in the northeastern United States, it’s winter as in cold temperatures and dark days. So a vacation to beautiful AND sunny AND warm Cancun was just about perfect. Even though once the sun went down at night it could be slightly cool, a light jean jacket was all you needed. Otherwise, it was just perfect weather especially during the daytime where you didn’t feel as if sun stroke was a possibility as it was on my first visit to Cancun.
Sleep: Sadly, the hotel I stayed at on my first trip to Cancun was destroyed during Hurricane Ivan which devastated the Yucatan Peninsula in 2005. It was a Sheraton that both my parents and I loved for the great location to the service to the atmosphere. Although the Starwood brand did rebuild there, it was still sad knowing that a hotel where I had such a lovely time was completely gone.
On my second visit I stayed at the Westin, another in the Starwood chain. It’s definitely a hotel with its positives and a few negatives. One positive is that it’s one of the first hotels located along the hotel zone when coming from the airport which means that it’s quiet and even to a point deserted. So you’re not anywhere near to the madness that is the hotel zone with bars and clubs teaming with gross amounts of intoxication by visiting tourists each and every night. On the same note, this would be a slight negative to some since you would need to take a taxi or public bus to get anywhere that is off your hotel’s grounds. I recommend the bus as it’s cheap and runs constantly up and down the hotel zone. Although when I visited the surf was extremely rough immediately in front of the hotel if you walked about five minutes down the beach the water was sedate in comparison and offered the chance to swim. We actually stayed in the Royal Beach Club tower which is separate from the main portion of the hotel. Part of our package included a free buffet breakfast each morning as well as a cocktail style reception each evening with complimentary hor d’oeuvres. I’m not sure if the Royal Beach club still offers these two fantastic features, but it’s definitely worth investigating further.
Unfortunately two restaurants that I would have recommended are both closed. One was at the long-gone Sheraton Resort-a restaurant that offered dining right on the beach. If you’ve never had this experience before I highly recommend trying it. The other, Casa de las Margaritas, was located in La Isla centro comercial (shopping mall), and while nothing special offered filling Mexican food (on par with your standard Mexican restaurant in the United States like Don Pablo’s). But there are countless other dining options at La Isla. They may not be the most atmospheric or authentic; however, they’re bound to be cheaper than some restaurants at the resorts, not to mention the mall offers a convenient location.
-La Destileria (This was recommend to us by the concierge at the Westin and we were glad we dined there. Home to over 150 brands of tequila, the restaurant also offers a daily tequila tour (less than $10 USD pp) as well as a dining menu that is creative and not at all standard in terms of options (i.e. quesadillas with zucchini flowers). It’s actually located on the lagoon side of the hotel zone which was nice in itself for something different.
-The beach (It’s Cancun, be sure you use the beach to the fullest as in watch the sun set/rise, swim, walk along it-you get the picture.)
-Chichen Itza ruins (Although it’s a long day trip from Cancun, it’s entirely worth it. The Mayans’ most famous ruins are located in the heart of the Yucatan Peninsula which equates to about a four hour ride each way from Cancun. However, when are you going to get the chance again to visit such an incredible site? We went with Grayline Cancun although there is no shortage of day trip companies to choose from.)
-El Rey Ruinas (If you decide that you’re not up for that long bus ride to Chichen Itza, there are actually Mayan ruins located right along the hotel zone. Although many tourists are not aware of their existence, it’s worth a visit if you want to say “I saw Mayan ruins.” The ruins were excavated in 1954 and archealogists believed that they once served as an astronomy lookout. Admission is only $3 USD not to mention you get to see copious amounts of cute (or creepy depending on your feelings) iguanas.
-Isla Mujeres (Although some people prefer Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, which in English means “island of the women,” is a bit easier and quicker to get to from Cancun. We went with a tour that offered boat transportation from Cancun and a vast array of activities at an all-inclusive resort on Isla Mujeres. We partook in snorkeling and biking, as well as a buffet style lunch. I liked it since Isla Mujeres is the exact opposite of Cancun’s hotel zone-less developed, more quiet and sedate, and more of a local and authentic feel.
-La Isla (In addition to being home to countless restaurants, it also has a slew of shops as well as a movie theater. And if you have the misfortune of having to contend with a rainy and cloudy day like I did, seeing a movie isn’t at all a bad way to pass the time. As is the case in most countries now, the movies are in English with subtitles in the country’s respective language.)
I like Cancun a lot and while there are innumerable other places I want to visit (since I have after all been there two times), I would never rule out going back especially since it’s one step short of paradise with Mexican food and people speaking Spanish which I love. And that first glance of the stunning Caribbean Sea… Nothing compares.
Julie is a travel and food blogger who lives in Pittsburgh. Travel is her greatest love but when she’s not traveling the world, she’s either testing out a new recipe in the kitchen or playing the part of foodie in Pittsburgh. She also recently published her first novel, The Tears of Yesteryear, a work of historical fiction set in Pittsburgh at the turn of the last century.
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