DISCLAIMER: There are some large photos in Cancun Mexico 101
(and they may be slow to load), because I didn’t want you to miss a thing!
OMG, from swimming with the dolphins, to visiting the pyramids and swimming in a sacred mayan sinkhole, Cancun (and Isla Mujeres) Mexico was an overdue getaway! My husband and I have never agreed on a place to retire until now, but that’s another story. Today, I’m going to talk about Cancun Mexico 101: Lodging, Dining, and Excursions. To make it easier to navigate if you want to skip to your topic of interest, everything is Cancun except me wanting to retire in Isla Mujeres and Dolphin Discovery under Excursions. I’ll sprinkle it all with a little local information like public transpiration, potential dangers and sales. Be sure to check the weather before you go too. We had rain four out of the seven days we were there =( . I brought nothing but summer wear and cardigan, which I only used on the plane.
Let’s get right to potential dangers. I’m putting this at the top in case I lose your attention. I’m going to tell you right away to get Benadryl and the bug spray that smells like Citronella and carry with you where ever you go. The store below carries it. Seriously. Put extra bug stray behind your ears and in the creases of your elbows and knees. Still serious. Especially if you are going on a ruins tour. Still don’t believe me? Here is a list of a few dangers and it doesn’t even cover the bug that gives birth to a parasite in your blood stream and it will grow until the age of five when, if not discovered, it will blow your heart up. Bam!
And of course, this time of year and climate alway bring around the topic of drownings, just another danger of tropical regions and summer weather. Be sure your clear on how to stay safe.
Let’s move on, shall we!
Cancun Mexico 101: Lodging
First, we booked the condo through Expedia. My husband found a spacious two bedroom, two story condo with three balconies on Trip Advantages. We stayed at Las Brisas . We were positioned between the bay and the ocean away the party scene (except when traveling via public transportation, seriously), so we had a pleasant view from either side.
The staff never bothered us. We were given five bath towels and five beach towels and maid service upon departure. They would not let our taxi through the gate with our luggage when we arrived (and the top balcony was locked too, so boo, but the rest of the lodging was clean and nice); they did on the way out, so course corrected.
Sort of any way.
We also asked for a late checkout. No bueno.
We quickly learned the public transportation system to get around because it was more economical. The conversion rate was 16 during our time of travel or one US dollar equals 16 pesos. A bus ride for a family of five cost 80 pesos (16 pesos each). Once you are on the bus your fare is covered as long as you are on the bus. So we could go as far as we wanted for $4 each way. Our first trip was to their local supermarket, Grocery Store Soriana, in Kukulcan Plaza.
If you plan to shop there make sure you bring extra bags. The version they give you upon check out will never make the bus ride if you buy anything in a box or a carton or can or milk. Shit, just bring extra bags. The cashier will shoot daggers out of her eyes and into your soul if you ask her to double bag more than once. You can buy all the dairy you like, its sterilized with radiation and will last forever. Ironically, I still found the LAVA milk delicious despite knowing this. Eggs, same. Just leave ’em sitting on the counter because nothings getting those bad boys.
Cancun Mexico 101: Dining
We drank the water and ate the ice. I paid the price upon arriving home. I drank salt water the entire first five days back home trying to stay hydrated. Keep that in mind when heading out and considering ordering a frozen margarita.
We found a little hole in the wall about a block down from our condo with deep fried fish tacos. Yep. Out of almost 500 Google reviews they earned 4.4 stars. In fact, which ever app or website review you check the average rating is 4.5 stars, so we had to check it out. Pescadillas el Galeón is the name of the place or El Galeon del Caribe.
It is not for the germaphobe or non-fish loving type. I would not describe myself as a germaphobe; it didn’t take long for me to feel like I was employed by a heath inspector. None the less, the food and service were great. P.S. You will not be able to find it on your own. Open a navigation app while you are in route to figure out where you should get dropped off. Each restaurant we ate at offered to take our picture, so if you don’t want a sales pitch, don’t take the picture.
Pic and frame purchased from aforementioned restaurant: check.
The second, and last place, I would suggest not missing is La Parrilla in the “big” mall, down from the local version of Walmart I mentioned above…. just around the bend from Juan’s aunts house. Just kidding. Went full farmer on those directions.
But seriously, the mall is called La Isla Shopping Village. Don’t let the village bit full you. It rivals any American mall and I live in a metropolis famous for it’s shopping. Make sure you get your feet done before you leave! I am putting a picture in just because, I didn’t a chance to do this before it was outlawed in the United States.
The Indian style BBQ meat is so unique and delicious in flavor. It’s similar to fogo de chao in technique. I ordered the La Parrilla burrito with their perfectly done flour tortillas, twice. Yum. Get ready with the phone if you are ordering margaritas. Those come out three grande high on your waiters head! You can also find American favorites at the same mall like Hooters, Chilis and Dominos.
Pic and frame purchased from aforementioned restaurant: check.
Cancun Mexico 101: Excursions
Apparently, no one works for a wage in Cancun or Isle Mujeres, so be ready for the “we work on tips alone” speech wherever you go and you will get a wrist band for EVERYTHING. Like the picture below and that was just for one day.
When we arrived to Cancun on a Monday night our tour guide helped set up our excursions through Delight Tours. We set up tours to Chichen Itza and Discovery Dolphins, which included snorkeling (and swimming with the dolphins, which is extra) at Isla Mujeres. Sadly for us, weather prohibited any other outdoor excursions. Our pocket book was happy however. We paid a deposit for both and paid the balance when the bus delivered us to our destinations.
We paid $240 going through Delight Tours, for a family of five (two adults and three children). Each of the tours are a couple hundred dollars if you are traveling with a companion. Another website that offers a complete description of what you will be getting can be found here for the same price. The Discovery Dolphin tour was $430 total. $300 for the snorkeling, boat ride, lunch and drinks and $130 for the dolphins. Be careful with the pricing on the dolphins. They originally wanted to charge us $300, but ended up charging us $50 per adult and $30 for two ninos. I carried the other one for no charge. Pictures were extra and that is why you don’t see any.
Chichen Itza was up first.
Our first excursion to Chichen Itza was amazing. I’m a total geek when it comes to this kind of stuff. Our tour guide was Rex. He led the first bus (#202) out of the mall. I wanted to try the restaurant next to the registration place there; I did not manage to make my way back there. So if you do go to the Tequila Grill let me know! Any way, Rex was hilarious, well educated and his father was working to restore the site.
The tour felt a bit rushed in the beginning. We stopped in a local town on our way to the pyramids for 10 minutes to take a picture of the church. 10 minutes. No joke. The federallies must enforce this time limit because we were in and out. You’ll hear about the savage Spanish wiping out the Mayan people on the bus ride to cenote.
You will have 40 minutes there. That is 40 minutes to get off the bus, change, take a shower (mandatory), get a life jacket (also mediatory), get yourself to the water hole, swim, get back up out of the hole, dry off, change and get back on the bus 40 minutes. Children are time extenders as we all know, so you might be in the water 10 minutes. Totally amazing and worth it.
Boom, your back on the bus and on to the next town, which Rex himself helped restore. You will be shuffled through the store and tequila sampling platform before making your way to the free buffet. Amazing food. You will have to find your way back through that entire path to visit the restroom (serious mental note).
Finally, the pyramids. Wow, this was by far one of the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. The history is also crazy. They played a version of soccer that led to the loser beheading the winner. Damn it Jim!
There are other ruins you can visit and even climb, but not this one. I’m guessing some reincarnated Spanish dude came back as a North American and proceeded to defecate on the top level of the pyramid, but not before tagging it. Yep, graffiti and poop = no more climbing on the pyramids. Thanks gringo!
Discovery Dolphins Tour
Who knew a simple five mile stretch, just 30 minutes via ferry from Cancun, could make every part of you relaxed. We got off our guided tour and hung a left at the dock and walked a few blocks before we saw a sign. Although I only speak a little Spanish it was enough to get me inside.
We were the first ones into Big Daddy’s Beach Bar that day and never did get around to seeing the sites since we ended up watching the 2018 World Cup: Mexico vs Germany.
Then it was back on the boat for our snorkeling adventure. We were dropped by a coral reef and swam a lap. It was the first time snorkeling for the kids, so it was a good experience and a Cancun Mexico 101 for sure, if you never have. Then we were off to swim with the dolphins. Our dolphin was pregnant. Yep, end of story. This was a once in a lifetime adventure and I would not do it again probably, but stilll super awesome. Pictures were also extra, so no photos either. Very good food.
Back to the states and back to reality. Our check out was at noon and our flight was at 6p. We ended up eating at the airport. FYI: you can not check your bags any earlier then four hours before your flight. We ate there and did some shopping. The shops there, also amazing and the prices were competitive, so last minute shopping wouldn’t hurt too bad. Wait until you get past security to shop. You won’t know your gate until an hour before your flight, so “watch the screens.”
All-in-all every experience there was amazing. Oddly enough, the photo below is the one that changed my life. I remember running downstairs to get my phone. It was the first day of four days of rain, but no one cared.
Every day there, rain or shine, was filled with excitement and anticipation.
People would head outside. Something as simple as a two people walking down the beach in the rain, laughing and pulling each other along made me so happy. It reminded me of how it felt to be a kid again! The kind of moment when you were looking out the window and you saw another kid, and even if you didn’t know them, you still wanted to yell out and head outside to play.
I can not wait to go back and put down some roots. Roots in Isla Mujeres to be exact, but that’s another post =) .
If you are going to stay for a few days, a week or more, be prepared to lose your heart. I had no idea how much I was going to fall in love with the place! My heart still breaks when I think about not being there.
If you decide to go, please let me know! I’d love to hear from you and share Cancun Mexico 101 tips!