This summer my wife and I took our honeymoon to Cancún, Mexico. This was my first time leaving the USA in my life so this was a very exciting experience. Now similar to how the USA is split up into 50 states, Mexico is split up into 31 states and Cancún is located in the eastern state of Quintana Roo located on the Yucatan Peninsula.
The first thing we did when we landed at the airport in Cancún is we waited in line to be accepted into the country. The line was exceptionally long and took nearly an hour to get through. After another brief delay caused by Mexico Security wanting to search through our bags manually, we wondered over to the currency exchange area. At first I only exchanged about one hundred US dollars into about one thousand pesos. The thought of having a thousand dollars of any currency seemed like it would be more than enough until I realized just how small of a distance that a few pesos will get you.
Once we left the aeropuerto (airport in spanish), the first thing I noticed that was different about Cancún was that a lot of people speak Spanish and ride motor bikes there. We shuttled over to the resort we were staying at called the Westin Resort & Spa. This hotel was one of the farthest most southern hotels on the strip. After we checked in we went up to our room to relax due to the long trip.
The next day we decided to venture downtown to experience the Cancún culture. We took the city bus up through the hotel district and into town. We then went to Market 28, a market located in Cancún that features over forty shops where locals sell things such as t-shirts, jewelry, and homemade goods. Negotiating is expected in the market. Never pay full price for anything there. We bought a beautiful amethysts and silver ring for $60, brought down from the original price of well over $100. After our venture into the market, we decided to walk towards the Wal-Mart just so that we could say that we’ve been to a Wal-Mart in another country. We never did make it to the Wal-Mart because of the heat but instead checked out the Burger King for lunch and then took the bus back to the hotel district where we shopped and ate merrily until dusk.
The next day we went on a bus tour to Tulum and Xel-Ha. It took roughly an hour and a half to get to Tulum from Cancún. Tulum is the site of a Pre-Columbian Maya walled city serving as a major port for Cobá. The ruins are situated on 12-meter (39 ft) tall cliffs, on the Caribbean Sea. Tulum was one of the last cities inhabited and built by the Mayans, and at its height between the 13th and 15th centuries. It is one of the best-preserved coastal Maya sites and is a spectacular and beautiful site to visit. Only being in the United States my whole life you can imagine that standing near buildings that were built and inhabited by humans over 600 years ago was quite an epic mental experience.
After Tulum we traveled about ten minutes north to Xel-Ha. Xel-Ha is a water park where guests can engage in a variety of water activities including swimming with dolphins, snorkeling, zip-lining, jumping into water via twelve-foot cliffs, and other fun activities. Xel-Ha also had an all day all you can eat and drink buffet. Corona beer was included but I stayed away from alcohol due to the naughty thoughts dancing in my head of mixing alcohol with snorkeling. After that it was back to the hotel for more rest.
On our final full day, we decided to venture over the seas to Isle Mujeres (Spanish for Women Island). I’m not sure why they call it Women Island as there were many men there too. Isle Mujeres is located just a short 18-minute ferry ride away from the Cancún hotel district. Once on the island, tourists can visit the dolphin park, shop, visit the Mayan ruins and take in the 360 degrees of beautiful island views. There are many golf cart and motorbike rental places on the island. We rented a golf cart and used that as our mode of transportation for about three hours as we explored the island. Afterwards, we took the ferry back and went to dinner in La Isla, a fun and upscale outdoor mall located in Cancún.
The trip to Mexico was a great experience for me because it made me realize that there’s so much out there than what I see everyday in the Washington, D.C. area locally. The trip made me want to visit other countries in the future so that I can experience other cultures.
Here are my top 12 tips for visiting Cancún:
- The number one tip of course is don’t drink the water. I tasted it out of pure curiosity and it didn’t taste like what I was used to. Always buy bottled water which can be found everywhere.
- Learn the bus system. Each bus trip will cost about 8 pesos which is much cheaper than taking a taxi and buses come every couple of minutes.
- Bring lots of sunscreen if you’re going in the summer. We went in August and Cancún is much closer to the equator than most of the United States.
- Learn some basic Spanish words, even if you just need to learn hola and gracias. (hello and thank you). You may encounter times when people don’t speak a word of English.
- When buying gifts in shops, always negotiate unless you’re in a generous mood.
- Ask the hotel what they recommend for you to do. Most of the hotel workers are locals that know the best malls, tourist activities and restaurants.
- Don’t forget to tip. Tipping is expected in Cancún for things like taxi driving, restaurant servers, and musicians playing for you. Remember, if they serve you and you take a sip, then they deserve a tip.
- Spend a day outside of Cancún. The area is rich in culture and history and you should experience all that it has to offer, not just in the city but miles away. There are many tour busses that will take you to other areas on day trips.
- Keep in mind that some of the toilet systems outside of Cancún are not as sophisticated and you shouldn’t flush toilet paper but instead discard it in a basket.
- Load up on snacks and water at gas stations and large markets and then bring them into your room. Some of the hotels are a complete rip off and overcharge for everything.
- Don’t freak out that you won’t be able to find food that you like at restaurants. Cancún will have tons of food similar to what you’d find in the states.
- Buy something locally made to bring back with you. I bought a beautifully hand-carved Mayan stone chess set for much cheaper than it would cost in the states and the locals will appreciate the support.