Our few days in Mexico City were jam-packed, so the idea of heading somewhere for a little downtime was refreshing. We’ve all heard of Cancun and its general association with Spring Break, college students, drunkenness and the like. Now we couldn’t have been further from Spring Break, but it was early January and still the holiday season, so we were a little anxious as to the level of rowdiness in the air. A sigh of relief, it was peaceful, quiet and perfect.
CANCUN DAY 0.5
As our shuttle pulled into the steep driveway of the Grand Park Royal Cancun Caribe we got a sense of just how colossal it was, only that wasn’t even half of what was on offer. We were unsure of what to expect at our first all-inclusive hotel but were ready for the experience. There was a slight (beneficial) hiccup at check-in that saw Moosh and FT upgraded to a beachfront villa for the first night. Hello, short-lived awesomeness! (Although, have you ever sat in a first class seat and then been directed back to economy? #supersadface). That night we had dinner at The Cocay Restaurant and for a buffet style, complete with some cooked to order options, it was fairly decent with loads of fresh choices. Once Vade and FT had finished round 3 of desserts, we bought some beer and went back to the villa. Cue music and twilight beach views, the perfect setting to plan the days ahead.
CANCUN DAY 1
Good morning Mexican sunrise, balcony, camera – selfie time! We readied ourselves for the day ahead and set off on the Chichen Itza tour (12 hours return) booked through Viator. The experienced guide allowed us to learn more about the history of Chichen Itza. The tour also included lunch with traditional dancing and a couple hours at Ik Kil Cenote (giant sinkhole). Unfortunately, we were not aware that you could swim in the cenote so our swim gear was back at the hotel, nonetheless, it was still beautiful to visit and see the surroundings. The cenote is 60m in diameter, 26m below ground level and has a carved stairway leading down to a platform. Note that the stairs are slippery when wearing flip-flops, so slow and steady as they say! After cenote time, it was bus time, go time, then Chichen Itza time.
The most recognisable structure at Chichen Itza is most commonly known as El Castillo (Spanish for Castle) and is also known as the Temple of Kukulkan. The temple has four sides of 91 steps, comprising 365 steps total, each step represents a day of the year, with the 365th step at the top of the platform. We took so many photos but it just didn’t seem enough, every angle provided another perfect shot. Thankfully you are not allowed to climb the ancient monuments, not only preserving them for future generations but allowing you to capture some excellent photos without having someone’s accidental front bum in view! There are many more sacred temples, columned arcades, and other stone structures within this World Heritage Site which absolutely blew our minds and when you visit – we are sure you will agree. After walking around in the searing sun learning about the history, culture and meaning of the Mayan ruins, we had to check out the market stalls. As with most tourist spots, there are masses of locals selling souvenirs, but thankfully it didn’t detract from the amazingness of Chichen Itza. In fact, the handmade pottery pieces, in varying forms and so colourfully painted, were a joy to look at. Our slight concern of ‘fragility in transport’ was overcome by the want for some of these handicrafts, and not long after we walked away with plates/platters and day of the dead skulls. After a full day out in the sun we were beat, and of course, the bus ride home always seems longer. We missed our dinner reservation at La Concha seafood restaurant, so a buffet feast was the only option. Given the long day out, albeit sensational, we were dog-tired and hit the hay nice and early.
CANCUN DAY 2
Some days it’s a treat to have no alarm scream at you to wake up. To allow yourself to lay in until whatever time, then prepare yourself for a day of nothingness. Our day had arrived. Pool time, Cocktail time, Sun time! The pool was calling our names and with our boardies and bathers on, we made our way there, after breakfast of course. It is said you should wait 30-minutes before swimming when you’ve eaten, but nothing is said about consuming Margarita’s for that bench warming duration. So we did, and did some more. The un-measured ‘free pour’ drinks had serious gusto, and thankfully they went down just the way we wanted – smoothly. The sun was shining, the water was a pristine blue and the view of the beach beyond was a postcard (do people even still send postcards?). Added to all that perfection, the company of Four Friends – well let’s be honest, it could not be beat. We were lucky to see a few Iguana’s near the pool and soon realised they had the same idea as us, just chillin’ in the sun. In total we spent 5 hours getting kissed by the sun, leaving a gentle tan for Moosh and FT but serious ouchies for Vade and Sherri. Even with copious lathering’s of SPF they got extremely burnt, for their Vancouver skin was not used to the sun. So much so that Aloe Vera gel and moisturiser simply dried like milk on hot pavement (will let you picture that one). It was not comical, they were in serious pain and as a result, Sherri could not make it to dinner that night. Vade pushed through his soreness and we dined on Italian food at El Mirador. The food was delicious and proved to be an outstanding treat for the senses, looking ever as wonderful as it tasted! So even though Four Friends were Three Friends it was still a great evening. Our fingers were crossed for dear Sherri that she would be feeling better for our last day together.
CANCUN DAY 3
Tour booked, time for snorkelling at Puerto Morelos. Sherri had never been snorkelling before and we knew she was in for a real treat. The water was nice and cool, the perfect temporary antidote for Vade and Sherri who were rather burnt from the day before. Kids….pay attention, Wear extra sun lotion or as we say in Australia “slip, slop, slap!” (Although it’s not always possible to follow the other two S’s – seek & slide – what if there’s no shade to seek? And slide on sunglasses….all day? Helloooo….tan line!) We saw a myriad of colourful fish and coral of all shapes and sizes and had an epic time. Sherri had a blast declaring, “We need to incorporate snorkelling into every vacation!” We worked up a serious appetite as the current had pushed us around a bit and fortunately for us the guide took us to La Playita, a small family restaurant not overrun with tourists, with delicious well-priced food. What made the lunch even more special was the seating on the sand, barefoot and natural, unlike many others with man-made deck’s hovering in the air. Puerto Morelos is a cutesy little town, not huge which is nice but just enough to allow a walk around and give a sense of small-time Mexico.
Dinner was booked for a place called Pik Nik which came highly recommended by Trip Advisor. The restaurant was Downtown so we jumped into a taxi and away we went, ready for a night of great food and great company. We ordered up a storm and had to get some margaritas, after all it was our last night together, right? When the drinks arrived Sherri turned to Moosh and said, “I have something to tell you”.
Moosh replied with excitement, “You’re moving back to Oz?”
Sherri laughed it off and exclaimed, “No, we are coming to New York with you!!!!!”
Well, Moosh started crying, her joy manifesting as tears. That moment made the night and the holiday – “Another round of drinks then shall we?” Just so happened that 3 of the 4 had united to surprise Moosh, and surprised she was!
So our food arrived and it was AAAHHHHMMAAAZZZIIINNNGGGG, everything was traditional, delicious, full of flavour and the service was spot on. Thank you Trip Advisor for pointing us to this place. Pik Nik does not have a website, relying purely on reviews and we could not recommend highly enough that this is a ‘must-do’ when in Cancun. The owner gave his time to speak with diners during the course of the evening and was even kind enough to walk us to the main street (60m away) and flag a taxi. He gave the destination to make sure we were taken direct, as the taxi on the way to Downtown took a longer route. Back in Cancun, we took a stroll of the nightlife zone to see ‘where it’s at’. We walked past Congo Bongo and a few other clubs, with no intentions of going in but it was a nice night for a walk, until the rain started.
Knowing that we now had extra time all together was very exciting. To be sharing the streets of NYC once again as Four Friends, we would be sure to experience it very differently to last time.
TIPS for Cancun
Be prepared and buy Aloe Vera lotion before departing – you don’t want to pay resort prices
Pedestrians DO NOT have right of way in Mexico
Negotiate your taxi fare upfront
Buy bottled water
Get up early and walk along the beach – it’s too nice to not do this