Cancun, Mexico :Travel Guide Part 1
I can’t actually believe how lucky I am. I used to only dream and lust after the beautiful pictures of crystal clear waters, white sand beaches and exotic islands. Getting the opportunity to start the new year with a bangin’ vacation in Cancun was a dream come true. I am writing this post to serve as a recap/travel guide of some the tips and tricks I learned with my whole experience in Cancun. I am going to divide this up by a description of what we did each day.
So let me give you a little bit of background information. Most of my friends from college were going back home over the winter break. Only a couple of us were going to stay in college over the break. So we thought, let’s go on a vacation someplace new. Mexico has always been at the back of my mind for quite some time now. And the flight from Texas to Mexico is not that bad; it is approximately 2 hours long. So we booked a flight, booked a mediocre hotel for three days from 31st December 2015 to 3rd January 2016. And we booked a fancy resort from 3rd to 6th January. The only hiccup is that the whole trip can get real expensive real quick! So I’m going to share with you some of the things we did on a student’s budget which can maybe help you plan your next exotic vacation. In order to give you as many details as possible yet not write a super long post, I’m dividing this travel series into two parts.
- Day 1: Arriving into Cancun, Mexico
I’m not exactly sure about the immigration rules, however, if you have a United States visa and you fly into Cancun from the United States, you definitely do not need a Mexican visa. So for example, even though I am an Indian citizen, I am on a student visa in the United States, thus, when I flew from Houston to Cancun, I did not require a Mexican traveler’s visa.
We arrived at the Cancun International Airport at about 4:30 pm local time. The moment you finish the immigration work and step out of the airport, you will be bombarded with atleast a 100 people all trying to get you to take the best car deals, the best hotel deals, the best taxi deals etc etc. Frankly, my friend and I hadn’t done much planning, so we were overwhelmed by the amount of options. Eventually, we decided to rent a car for the first three days of our stay (out of a total of 6). It was only later we realized that we should have booked the car for the entire duration of our trip! The day we arrived was New Years Eve. So our plan for that day was pretty much set. We checked into our hotel, and immediately fell asleep for the next three hours. P.s. The distance from the airport to the main Hotel Zone of Cancun is about 15-20 minutes. We woke up, showered and got ready for a full night’s partying . We found out from the locals that there was basically one street where all the bars and clubs were located. So we headed there, parked our car and started looking around for the best place to spend NYE. Again, after a lot of haggling with a ton of event promoters, we finally bought tickets for $50 USD a piece for an after party from 2:00 am to 6:30 am at the Mandala Beach club. This fee includes an all-you can drink pass. Below is a picture from that night.
Miscellaneous: About 90% of the places in Mexico do not accept Discover. Be prepared to have enough money in your Visa or MasterCard accounts. Even better, withdraw plenty of cash from your hometown bank. This avoids the enormous ATM withdrawal fees associated with each transaction. We must have lost a good chunk of money paying these absurdly expensive withdrawal fees.
- Day 2: Exploring Playa Del Carmen
After a long night of NYE partying, we woke up at our own leisure and made the day’s plans. We decided that we wanted to go around exploring a little bit since we had rented the car. Playa del Carmen is a very popular beach/resort town about 45 minutes of a drive away from Cancun. So we drove to Playa and ended up on a local beach over there. We spent the day relaxing by the beach, drinking beers, margaritas, gorging on fries and just soaking up the sun and sea. You can choose to do a lot of things in Playa if you wish; there are a ton of sites for water activities such as snorkeling etc. We had snorkeling plans for the next day anyway, so we just spent the day exploring Playa. Later on that evening, after the sun had set, we strolled around the famous 5th avenue which is a long strip of road lined with shops and restaurants. It was over there we found out that you can take a ferry to the famous Cozumel island only for $18.00 USD round trip. We figured that if we had enough time and motivation, we’d squeeze in a day at Cozumel in our trip (It never did happen). Below are some pictures from Playa del Carmen. Also, that same night, we drove back to Cancun and headed out to dinner. There are a ton of restaurants in Cancun that cater to every single cuisine and taste. The one good thing I discovered that all the places we went to in and around Cancun always had provisions for vegetarian food. Having been a vegetarian for the last 23 years, this was highly appreciated.
Miscellaneous: I recommend checking out the pub/restaurant called James right in the heart of the “party zone”. It is a moderately expensive place where you can chill and enjoy the rooftop views of Cancun. They also serve mean cocktails.
- Day 3: Snorkeling in Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres (translates to Women Island) is an island a few kilometers off the coast of Cancun. It is a very well known spot for snorkeling and scuba diving. Getting to Isla Mujeres from Cancun is really easy: all you have to do is take a 15 minute ferry. So, we took the ferry from Playa Tortugas and reached Isla Mujeres mid afternoon. Once you reach, there are several people you can ask around for the best deals on snorkeling. Keep in mind, you can always pre-book these tours online or on the phone through various travel agencies. We were just winging our plans as they came. So, we found a local snorkeling tour and at a very reasonable price of $30 USD per person. They took us snorkeling in three different spots which ended with an early dinner at a small village/beach. From there, we headed back to Isla Mujeres to take the ferry back to Cancun. Below are some pictures from that day’s adventures.
Miscellaneous: In this case, pre-booking is prudent I think. And if I could do it over, I would take a different travel agency, maybe more expensive, so that I could have the underwater photos/videos package etc. In fact, there are many packages that include breakfast, chill by a resort pool, lunch etc. with your snorkeling activities for the day.
That’s a wrap for the first half of my Cancun vacation. I hope you find this useful to plan some of your best exotic vacations this year!