I just got back from a short 2 weeks stay in Cancun, Mexico and saying I like it there is an understatement.
I totally love the Yucatan area of Mexico! And I think I have a replacement wintering destination now other than the Philippines.
My stay was rather short and I learned pretty fast that the region has a lot more interesting places and plenty of things to do but I just am out of time to explore even more.
Ok, for a rundown of the places and activities that I was able to do, here they are:
1) In Cancun, I was able to find out that you don’t need much money to discover a lot of goings on or places in the city. If you’re staying in one of the resorts or hotels at Zona Hotelera and you wanted to get around (even to places 2 hours away), just take the R1 bus and get off at the ADO bus station. From the ADO, traveling to other parts of the Yucatan is easy and cheap.
Also that area is where most of the cheap hostels and hotels are. Backpackers are everywhere and the cost of food is cheaper as well. Just remember this three letters and any bus or taxi driver can drop you off there – ADO (pronounced ah-de-oh).
2) Puerto Morelos. This little fishing town is a fine place for snorkeling and diving. And if you’re into those activities, this is the cheapest place to get plenty of diving or snorkeling.
Snorkeling didn’t cost me too much – about $30 or MXN300. Maybe I paid a bit more because someone told me after that it should have been $20 – $25, but that’s ok. Next time, I will know up to how low to haggle.
Also at Puerto Morelos, if you like to take bird photos or are into birding, there’s a mangrove on both sides of the road where a lot of water birds (and some song birds, too) to be seen. I took some photos of them and was amazed how close I can get to some of them without them being startled. I learned later that there is a park somewhere where I can go in for a fee and see more birds, nature and other forest animals. I wasn’t able to go but I know what to do next time.
Puerto Morelos is a mere 20 minutes by bus from the ADO station and bus fare is about MXN25 (Cancun to Puerto Morelos) plus MXN5 (Colectivo to the beach) – one way. Very cheap.
3) Playa del Carmen. Next day after visiting Puerto Morelos, I went to Playa del Carmen – a beach town that people I know in Canada told me to visit. I was told that eventhough the town is smaller than Cancun, the activities from day to night is better than Cancun. When I got there, I was impressed. Playa del Carmen has this street called 5th Avenue (Cinco Avenida) where only pedestrians are allowed. And this street is very close to the beach. All the action happens in this strip and so are the best accommodations but pretty expensive.
I was there for only half a day, so I never experienced how the nightlife is any different from Cancun but I’m sure it is a lot better to stay there than in Cancun because it is smaller and everything you need is just walking distance. Even the bars. Playa del Carmen is about 40 minutes from Cancun and the bus fare is only MXN35 one way.
4) I’ve also visited Chichen Itza, one of the seven wonders of the world and an amazing architectural contribution of the Mayans. It is a huge area surrounded by structures that was, I think, far ahead of its time. I cannot exactly recall the history of Chichen Itza and its buildings and ruins (as told by our guide) but I remember that the acoustic design of the temples is far out. It’s acoustic engineering is unbelievable for its time because, even without loudspeakers a preacher can be heard from afar if he were positioned at a certain point of one of the structures. Amazing. You should experience it to believe it.
Also after Chichen Itza, we went to a cenote (a sinkhole) which is something like a very deep hole in the ground. We were told that there are thousands of cenotes dotting the whole Yucatan Peninsula and that it is a favorite refreshing holiday destination for most locals. I joined a tour for this one, called Chichen Itza tour, which included a visit to Chichen Itza, lunch included and visit to a cenote – all for US$50. It is offered mostly to visitors at the Hotel Zone.
5) Isla Mujeres – another diving and snorkeling paradise just 20 minutes by ferry from Cancun. I saw a lot of families coming and going on the island probably having their winter vacation there and I think this is a very popular destination if you want to avoid Cancun. It is very nice there for beach bumming and like I said, for diving and snorkeling. But people I talk to tell me that if variety of sea creatures is what you wanna go for, Cozumel is the place to go. Was never able to go there, though.
To get to Isla Mujeres, you can take the ferry from the Hotel Zone (cost US$17 return trip/US$11 one-way) and also from Puerto Juarez (MXN140 return trip/MXN70 one-way). If taking the ferry at the Hotel Zone, tell the driver to let you off at “ferry Isla Mujeres” or “ferry El Embarcadero a Isla Mujeres.” If you want to take the Puerto Juarez port, take the R1 bus to Puerto Juarez and tell the driver to let you off at “ferry Puerto Juarez,” the bus fare is MXN8.50 one-way.
That’s about all I get to experience in Cancun and I know that I missed a lot more. Because when I dug a deeper research, I found out that I should have also gone to Tulum, Coba, Merida and many other places. Even down to Belize. There’s still a lot to explore in the Yucatan Peninsula and next time, I’ll make sure I’m staying longer so I can find out what more is there to see and experience.