“Find out more about Alice V at www.diyerfy.com where she blogs about crafts and all things D.I.Y. She also blogs about what to do in Southern California with a family, weight loss, and she loves a good challenge.”
The Yucatan Peninsula hosts many spectacles to be seen and invites you to its warm beaches and cool white sand. Ancestral monuments along the Caribbean Sea can be found dotted all over the state of Quintana Roo. The past meets the present and you can find remnants of a once great civilization in the most peculiar of places. Cancun and its neighbouring cities may be known for spring break night life but it’s the cultural allure of this part of Mexico that calls to me again and again.
Every time I go to Cancun I never want to leave. The warm humid air does nothing for my natural curly hair and I find that the “pony tail” quickly becomes my daily hairstyle. I ditch my makeup bag in our hotel room because I quickly opt for a natural sun kissed glow. Shorts and tee or swim suit top and sarong, it doesn’t really matter what you pair with your favourite flip flops here. A pair of sunglasses and a sunhat are my favourite accessories and sometimes tinted lip-gloss for a night out on the town. “Less” is the way to go because no matter what, I always end up back on the beach.
The first day is always our “shopping day.” We go to the local WalMart in Cancun and stock up on snacks and foods we want to eat for the week. Since I’m on a Ketogenic diet, I picked up string cheese and cold cuts from the deli. We also get the vehicle our first day there. Back at the Casa Maya Resort (where we stayed), we hit the beach after putting away the groceries. The resort is off the main strip and on this part of the beach the waters are a lot calmer. It’s perfect for families with little kids and perfect for us because this was a family trip. I love the sand here. Even if it’s super-hot outside, the sand doesn’t get burning hot. In addition to the awesome sand is the awesome water! The beaches stay warm here which is wonderful! It’s probably why Canadians make Cancun their winter destination!
The Casa Maya Resort may not be the most lavish place to stay but it also isn’t shabby either. Our room was comfortable, updated, and featured WIFI and flat screen TV’s. We had a beautiful view of the beach from our room. It is cleaned daily and room service is pretty fast too. One thing we always make sure to do is get the Mexican pizza from the outside restaurant. Cooked in a stone oven it is topped with chorizo and black beans with cheese. We hold the onions because neither I nor my husband care for them. I’ve only ever found this pizza here at this resort and have yet to find any similar pizzas in the USA.
Ever climb a pyramid? Ever climb a pyramid that is as tall as a 10-story building? One of my favorite things about Cancun is that ancient ruins are everywhere. You can spot them on the Pok Ta Pok gulf course or on a busy street. It’s strange to see them popping out of the ground like a mysterious relic of the past out of time and place. Coba is home to the biggest pyramid that you can climb here. The Nohach Mul pyramid is older and taller than the famous Wonder of the World, Chichen Itza. This year it was extra special because my husband and I took our 3 and 4-year olds up the pyramid. I was nervous, I won’t lie! However, these two little girls never stop surprising me. They went up the pyramid like pros!
At the top there is a beautiful panoramic view of the vast jungle below. It’s amazing to see how dense the jungle is and how far up you really are! On the way down there is a rope you can use but if you side-step down and take it easy, you’ll make it down the pyramid with ease. Our girls did just as well going down. However, it started to rain when we got close to the bottom. Again, I worried that they would fall as the steps got wet, but they made it to the bottom. Tropical rain is normal here. The rain comes hard and fast and usually clears up after 10 or 15 minutes.
Beach days are just as important as adventure days and on this day, we stayed on the beach. Each resort hosts its own “private beach” and you won’t be able to beach hop at different resort beaches. Employees use the bracelets you are given upon check in to identify guests. This helps them keep locals out and keep other tourists off their beaches so that they focus only on the people that stay at their resort. We spent the day relaxing in the warm waters of Cancun while sipping on Mai Tai’s and beer. We got a coconut for the girls and they loved drinking the coconut water out of it. It was a neat treat for them. In the evening we went to Lorenzillo’s Lobster House. I had a seafood pasta dish with a Cabernet Sauvignon while my hubby picked out a live lobster. The 4 pound lobster was sweet and cooked to perfection.
If climbing up a pyramid isn’t adventurous enough then this next stop is! Xcaret is one of the coolest water parks you will ever go to. Every time I go here I always leave wishing that there was more time to do more things. We start the day off by getting there when it opens and head to the cave rivers which is a channel of water that flows through real caves. The water may be cold when you first step in, but you soon get used to it. Don’t like chilly water or caves? There’s a separate river system where you can enjoy a nice boat ride instead. At the end of the caves we end up at the beaches. We usually have a few drinks here, soak up the sun a bit, and plan what to do next. This year we explored the ruins. Yes, there are real Mayan ruins inside this amusement park! How cool is that? You can climb them and spend as much time as you want there. Apparently, the park was built around this ancient Mayan city and they preserved the ruins and cave systems there and incorporated them into the park.
Some of the unique features of Xcaret go beyond the ruins, it houses two different churches, snorkelling, shopping, and my favourite, the cemetery. Yes, you read that right. The cemetery is built on a small hill that spirals up as you walk. Each plot is uniquely decorated and no two are alike. I’m not sure if people are buried here but it’s neat to see this part of Mexican heritage. If you never ventured into a Mexican cemetery then you wouldn’t know that many of the graves look like these. People really do decorate them with things that their loved ones loved in life. Other things to see here is the Butterfly Pavilion, the Aviary which houses many tropical birds, and the Coral Reef Aquarium. Our kids loved the jelly fish and the large sea turtles. Some of the other things to do here I have yet to explore and that includes many of the shows, the wine cellar, and the Mayan Village. We end the day at Xcaret with the final show, “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular” which is a colourful and fun tribute to Mexico’s history.
The following day we spent soaking up the sun again on the beach outside our resort, Casa Maya. That evening we left all the kids with their grandparents and attended the Pirates Dinner Show onboard the Jolly Roger pirate ship. This is fun for older children and especially fun for us adults because drinks are included! The show is entertaining, and the pirate crew keeps their cast engaged and laughing. This was the 3rd time we’ve been on the ship and the third time my husband won the drinking contest. If you upgrade to bottle service, you are seated at the top deck overlooking the show below. This is nice because you get a dedicated place to eat and you are served dinner before anyone else. The basic dinner comes with chicken, but you can upgrade to lobster once you’re on the ship. What’s great about this adventure is that you go on a little dinner cruise packed with entertainment. Close to the end of the trip another pirate ship joins up with us and the crews battle each other. They swing from the ropes from ship to ship, fight with swords, and finally we won the treasure! We ended the night dancing.
This day was spent recovering from the night before. The best place for recovery is the beach! But first we ventured out to the Market to buy a few souvenirs. There’s so many beautiful items to buy and I wish I could have gotten some pottery. However, I can never pick just one so I opted to buy a few dresses for the girls instead. It’s important to note that if you visit the Market, the prices are inflated because they expect you to talk them down. In the evening we enjoyed a buffet in the outdoor restaurant. I had the best chicken mole here accompanied by a glass of house red wine. Tears almost filled my eyes because the following day we were leaving. Sitting at the table eating my dinner, I took a slow breath in hoping that I could imprint the smells of the beach into my mind. We let the girls play on the playground and trampoline one more time before heading back to our room to pack.
We woke early and ate a light breakfast of fruit and pastries at the Elite Member’s lounge with coffee and juice. Then we met up with our group to take a van to the airport. I looked out the window the whole time at the landscape and again tried to imprint those images into my mind. I want to remember what it feels like to be here.
Cancun is one of those ultimate destinations for me because there is so much to do and see. The citizens are nice and even if you don’t speak Spanish (like me), you can get by because many of them understand it. From beautiful beaches with gorgeous weather, historical and ancient monuments, to a tropical jungle with hidden cenotes and treasures of the past to be found, Cancun has it all. A world away from my own, Cancun transports me to sense of appreciation for history, culture, and environment. A gem on the Yucatan Peninsula, Cancun is a place you don’t want to miss.
For more fun things to do abroad, click HERE