If the Gold Coast (Australia) and Las Vegas had a love child, they would name it Cancun and leave it along the beautiful coast in Mexico. Lucky for us, they already did.
However commercial and touristy, Cancun was a great choice for some R&R after Cuba. Unlike all the other destinations where we book the entire apartment, we booked a room in a shared apartment on the beachfront in Cancun. In addition to the apartment being well equipped and comfortable, sharing the apartment with Camillo and his family was the best decision we made. They were extremely welcoming, friendly, full of tips and even took us out for a farewell dinner! More on that later.
So we checked in, waited for our friend from London to arrive (yes we have had someone traveling with us for almost two months now and we are loving it) while drinking beer with our hosts. Once Kelly arrived, even though we were knackered, we decided to take the bus (10-minute ride) to the party zone.
Once the bus got closer to our destination, we could already hear the thump of the bass and see the lights illuminating the night sky. Due to the lack of research on my part, I wasn’t aware of the impressive (yet compact) nightlife Cancun has to offer. Since we were all a bit tired, we decided to grab a beer from a local store and walk around the party zone, admiring the dancers strutting their stuff outside the clubs and promised ourselves to return on Friday to fully appreciate the Cancun offerings.
We woke up late and after struggling to choose from multiple options we were advised to spend the day at Isla Mujeres. A 45-minute ferry ride from the ferry terminal, Isla Mujeres was a great little town, dotted with little shops, cafes and restaurants offering deals after deals on food and drinks. After the horror of Cuban cuisine, we devoured on the Mexican tacos before taking our spot on the white sand encasing the turquoise blue water for the rest of the day. Aaaahhhhh….
I think I’ve mentioned it in my previous posts that I can barely swim. I can float on my back but because I can’t see where I am going, I need supervision. Despite the challenges, Mrs FOMOist and I booked a scuba dive to check out the underground museum of MUSA. It has been on the list for a while and my inability to swim was not going to stop me.
We started early by checking into Aquaworld where they showed us some training videos and then it was time to get into the pool. I really struggled in the pool because my ears kept getting blocked to a point it was painful. Despite the struggle, the trainer passed my medical test but asked me with concern:
Instructor: “Would you rather have the experience or damage your ears?”
Me: “It’s a tough choice.”
With that, we boarded the boat and got taken out to Isla Mujeres where the MUSA is located. Once we got strapped up, it was time to step in the water. After the initial struggle
flopping around in panic of staying upright was over, the instructor who took our group down identified me as a problem child and made sure I had a goof time. He kept reminding me to equalise constantly to unblock my ears and I felt a lot better and confident than I did in the pool.
In addition to scuba being a deliciously alien experience, the museum itself was unlike anything I have ever seen. The sculptures covered in vibrant coral with multicolored fish nibbling their way around. I loved the way the fish hover around the sculptures floating pictures of a hologram. Even though it was a bit of a struggle for me, I cannot wait for my next dive to gawk at the wonders of sealife.
We were buggered after the dive but it was the only Friday night we had in Cancun and the party zone was calling us. The major plan was to visit the institution called – Coco Bongo. It was relentlessly recommended by Marcy (she is 74!) our host and after they insisted 15th time, we had to go check it out. I can still hear Marcy tell us in her thick Californian accent – “guys, you’ve gaat to go to Coco Baango”. The tickets were US$65 with unlimited drinks all night. Without giving too much away, it was one of the best night of partying we have ever had. It’s a show in a night club with tunes for all ages. If anyone ever goes to Cancun, this is a must-do. Heck, if I ever go back, which I really want to, I’ll definitely be going back.
We got back home around 5.30am and spent Saturday lazying around before we picked up our rental car at 8pm and went to explore Playa deal Carmen. En route, there is an underground restaurant called Alux where we stopped off for a drink, another excellent tip from Marcy. The restaurant is amazingly atmospheric and even though it was a Saturday, we had the entire bar to ourselves. Playa del Carmen is a party town. Unlike Cancun, there are two blocks full of bars, restaurants and clubs. The average age is at least 5 years younger than Cancun and if you’re looking to party non-stop, this is the place for you.
The reason we hired the rental car was because rather than sitting on a bus for 12 hours, we wanted to check out some of the surrounding sights at our own pace. First stop, Mayan ruins of Coba. Rather than going to Chichen Itza, we decided to go to the closer Coba ruins where you are still allowed to (and we did) climb up. The structure is impressively intimidating but doesn’t look that high until you climb up it and get the birds eye view of the jungle treetops.
Next stop was the ruins of Tulum. If the white stone ruins perched on top of the green grass against the clear blue sky wasn’t enough, we decided to take off our kit and jump into the water in our “delicates”. The view of the ruins from the crystal clear water was something else!
For the next stop, rather than rush to a cenote (more on this later), we chose to go to the Akumal Beach, famous for turtle sightings. When we pulled into the exit, a guy tried telling us that we won’t be able to spot any turtles without booking a tour, but we declined and went to the free beach anyways. The beach can only be accessed through a dive shop and as soon as we went in, guess what? Turtles EVERYWHERE! Big ones, baby ones, turtles with fish on their back, turtles coming up for air, turtles being circled by stingray, it was breathtaking! The rush that you get when a turtle passes beneath you is magnificent. Our friend Kelly had never seen turtles before and the look on her face every time she spotted one was rewarding enough. If you ever happen to go, don’t get sucked into buying a tour, just bring your snorkels and get turtle spotting.
On the way back, I got “Mexicaned” by a policeman who wanted to charge me US$115 for accidentally taking the “wrong” u-turn, but I negotiated it down to US$60. Not a great end to an awesome day but hey, when in Mexico!
I’m not sure about anyone else, but I had never heard of cenotes. They are is a natural sinkhole resulting from collapsing limestone bedrock , exposing the water underneath. Just imagine a fresh water lagoon, underground. There are tens (if not hundreds) of them along the highway, however our Airbnb host Camillo had recommended we go to Kin Ha. Once we arrived, the cenote looked deserted but after buying our two-cenote tickets, equipped with our life jackets, we were all set. Kin Ha is a closed cave cenote and the neighbouring Blanco Flor is an “open” one. Both have zip lines and jumping platforms. I jumped off a 5 meter high platform at Kin Ha, landing awkwardly on my side, making a complete tit of myself and “rewarded” a very sore rib. It was worth it but I won’t be jumping into water from a height anytime soon.
When we arrived in Cancun on our 6-day trip, we thought we had a lot of time. But as they say, time flies when you’re having fun and this trip was no exception. After dropping off the car, we went back and Camillo (our Airbnb host and now a good mate) was waiting to take us to downtown to his and his girlfriend’s favourite sushi joint with a pit stop to have mango caesars and flaming shot. They took us to downtown, which most of the tourists will never venture out to. The sushi was delicious, the midnight trip to Walmart to pick up last minute essentials, even better!
With a beautiful coastline and so many activities to partake in, we wish to be back sometime really soon.