Mexico is a diverse landscape. The blue waters of Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico, exotic stretches of white sand beaches, lush green forests to mountains and deserts, its ancient Mayan history and ruins, vibrant and colorful culture, and its exceptional food – Mexico has it all. We have always had the best of vacations in Mexico, be it Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta or Cancun. It’s the perfect destination for us always seeking out for adventure-packed vacation in between beach relaxations. Our most recent trip to Mexico was Cancun and it was a memorable one.
Travel Date: Nov 26 – Dec 1, 2015
The weather was perfect with sunny afternoons, breezy evenings and light showers in the night to keep the temperature pleasant.
We stayed in the Krystal Grand Punta Cancun in the Hotel Zone. The hotel is clean, modern, luxurious. We had the ocean view room and the view from our room’s balcony overlooking the entire bay was jaw-dropping.
For me, one of the most important things to consider during my travel is always LOCATION! I ensure that we are in walking proximity to the center of activity. The Krystal Grand Punta hotel is in Cancun’s prime entertainment hub. The block is lined with restaurants, bars, discotheques, local shopping market. While driving from the airport to hotel we realized that the Hotel Zone is a pretty long 10km stretch and needs the bus or taxi to commute within the zone. So I was very relieved with the choice of our hotel since its conveniently across the bus stop. Also, the beach on this north side of Hotel Zone is much more beautiful with waist deep water, no rough sea and dotted with palm trees.
Day 1 – Explore Krystal Grand Punta Hotel
The first ritual we always do on reaching a destination is to explore the hotel and the beach. We also laid a rough plan for the next consecutive days, booking the tours for the main attractions we wanted to see at our hotel’s concierge. Late in the night, we went exploring the area. Ended the evening in Carlos n Charlie’s with dinner and drinks. This place is a complete fiesta with non-stop music and dance, shot girls walking around selling shots, another making balloon hats, a helluva night we had.
Day 2 – Explore Isla Mujeres
Next day after breakfast we headed to Isla Mujeres on a short ferry ride for $20 2-way. Take the bus to Puerto Juarez in the hotel zone for the ferry to Isla Mujeres for a day trip. Isla Mujeres is a quaint island with many activities to offer. We strolled the very colorful downtown, it’s streets lined with quirky cafes and souvenir shops. For lunch, we stopped at the very colorful Mamacita’s serving authentic Mexican tacos.
After lunch, we headed to the incredible Playa Norte, the North Beach – one of Caribbean’s loveliest spots where you can see the sunset over the ocean. You can rent lounge chairs for $10 and rest under the lined coconut grove or get a body massage for just $25! We settled in the Buho’s Beach Bar, for its vibe makes it the perfect place to hang out by the beach happily swinging to margaritas while digging our toes in the sand. We took the last ferry back to Cancun at 5pm.
Here you can also rent a golf cart to explore the entire island. Other things to explore on the island if you have time are:
- Sculpture garden at the southern tip of the island leads to the Cliff of Dawn, said to be the first place where the sun rises in Mexico.
- Dolphin Discovery
- Garrafon natural reef park for snorkeling and zip-lining
- MUSA underwater museum. Seeing the under-water sculptures is a unique experience and a MUST do! However, we missed it due to rough sea condition. Call up to check before you go.
- The Turtle Farm and the lighthouse
- Visit Isla Contoy or the ‘Bird Island’, located just 30 minutes north of Isla Mujeres. Note: Visits are limited to 200 tourists per day
Day 3 – Visit Chichen Itza
Next day we took the tour to Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The tour bus picks you from the hotel and includes breakfast, lunch, drinks. The tour is very well organized, informative and its an all-day affair. The highlight of the day was the Mayan archeological site Chichen Itza, a wonder of the ancient world. On our way back we stopped at a cenote (sinkhole revered by the Mayans) where we swam in the cave cenote, the experience was quite surreal. Don’t forget to bring cash, sunscreen, swimwear, flip flops and towel on this tour. These cenotes have changing facilities, where you can rent life vests/ snorkeling equipment. We were dropped back at our hotel by 8.30PM in evening.
Day 4 – Xel-Ha Experience
It was a tough decision to decide which eco-park to choose – Xcaret or Xel-Ha as both are vastly different experiences. Reading a lot of reviews we felt that Xcaret is more aligned with young children and older adults, whereas XelHa is an all-water adventure with more thrills for the young crowd. We decided for XelHa. It is also an all-day activity. We booked the tour through a tour company for $95 per person which includes transportation, snorkel gear and all day food n drinks at the park’s many restaurants. It’s a vast ecological park with many water activities like tubing through the mangrove lazy river, snorkeling, cliff diving, zip-lining, etc. However note that most of the latest activities such as swimming with the dolphin, air biking are additional charges, which was a bummer!
Again, don’t forget to bring your sunscreen, swimwear, flip-flops, towel on this tour. One life-changing product we bought before this trip is the waterproof case for my iPhone from Amazon. This was so easy to carry it along in the water by hanging around my neck. We took pretty amazing underwater pictures and videos, I was so thrilled! We were picked up by our tour back home at 5PM.
On our way back we got down at Playa del Carmen to spend the evening. The playa’s main street is lined with high-end shops, artsy bars, local boutiques and great restaurants. It has a lively hippy vibe to it. For commute back to Cancun we took the easy public transportation bus from the playa. Local buses leave every 30 minutes to Cancun till midnight and drop you in downtown Cancun. From downtown, it’s a quick cab ride to the hotel. Playa del Carmen is definitely worth a visit.
Day 5 – Explore Hotel Zone and Coco Bongo
On the final day, we decided to take it slow.We lazed around the hotel’s beach most of the morning in the cabana drinking beer with guacamole n chips and dipping in the warm blue Caribbean water. For lunch, we headed to Fish Fritanga. This place is a MUST TRY if you are in the Hotel Zone. Bay view, white dreamy setup and out the world food, we were definitely in paradise. Anuj had the biggest catch of the day. After lunch, we headed to Playa Delfina where we spent some time on this picturesque brightest blue water beach of the city.
The evening of the last day was reserved to party hard in the infamously famous Coco Bongo. Monday night $65 per person which included unlimited drinks, show, and clubbing. Must WARN – this place is crazy. Yup, it’s me dancing on the bar table (below), that’s what happens after a few shots of tequila in there!!
Other Things to do in Cancun
- Take a day to explore downtown Cancun. Mercado28 flea market offers shopping with local flavor from handicrafts, local food, best local knickknacks
- Visit Tulum. Spend a day exploring the sunny fortress built on cliffs overlooking one of the most iconic white sand beaches in Mexico. Stroll the bohemian alleyways of the gypsy Tulum
- Swim, snorkel or scuba dive in the clear freshwater Dos Ojos cenote.
Best Places to Eat in Hotel Zone Cancun
- Tacun is an authentic taco spot if you’re looking for something more easy on the pocket.
- Santos Mariscos is another hole in the wall taco place. Try their chevachie, peccadillo, tamarind margarita, fillet de pseudo, seafood tacos, Cazuela al Ajillo
- Fish Fritanga has great prices, amazing food, beautiful ambiance on the lagoon
- Coco’s and Grill
- Hacienda el Mortero is a complete Mexican fiesta and has the best Sunday brunch in Cancun. The buffet lets you taste the most authentic Mexican cuisine around. It is within a 2-minute walk from the Krystal Hotel. A live Mariachi band plays from 7-10 PM every night.
Best Places to Eat in Downtown Cancun
- Labna is a MUST if you want to try the authentic cuisine of Yucatan. Be adventurous! Their lunch buffet is the best to sample several different flavors.
- El Pescado Ciego
- El Muellecito for excellent seafood, best at late night to enjoy micheladas (spiced beer)
- La Dolce Vita serves great Italian and seafood. Ambiance is so romantic for dinner
That’s some of our favorite things to do in Cancun Mexico. It’s definitely one of our favorite spots in Mexico and we loved it muchos!