Cancun – Que Chido

All in all, I must say I’m so glad I challenged myself to go on this trip to Cancun. 
As I’ve stated, before booking I was skeptical – I didn’t think it’d be a place I could authentically get to know. I honestly couldn’t imagine getting away from the spring breakers and really experiencing that part of the country the way locals do. Nevertheless, in just a short week I was able to enjoy the spring break experience, the historic/touristic attractions and the local atmosphere. 

When reading this blog I hope everyone keeps in mind that the thoughts and suggestions are merely based on my own experience in this small area. I imagine given it’s touristic quality Cancun and it’s surrounding areas are farther advanced than other parts of the country and so I cannot vouche for transportion, food, etc. elsewhere. 

 However, I recommend for everyone to check out the beauty Quintana Roo has to offer and hope this could impact others who are like me and might’ve previously been hesitant to see what the area had to offer. 

Sunset in Cancun – Aloft Rooftop Pool
Ruins of Chichen Itza
My Isla Ride and I
Diving into Cristalino
Coba Ruins – traveling alone means bad angles
Sunkissed Skin & Playa Del Carmen Sunrise
Picturesque Tulum

From Point A to Point B & Everywhere In-Between

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Although I’ve spoken about different transportation options in Mexico through other posts I thought placing them all together would be most helpful for those planning to travel there soon.

  1. Driving: Car rental pricing depends on the level of insurance you decide to go with. Quintana Roo has many main highways that make it easy to get around driving. The streets don’t have many lights but you’ll encounter loads of bumps and roundabouts to prevent speeding. There are usually alternative routes with several expensive tolls but they save a significant amount of time, however, these straight roads can be very hypnotizing. Highways are well maintained, there aren’t many gas stations along the way but there are emergency workers that drive up and down the highways to help anyone who needs it.
  2. Uber: Many people in Mexico, especially other taxi drivers say Uber is “illegal” and this isn’t necessarily true, the taxi company is just upset that Uber is taking business away from them. If taxi drivers spot an Uber they are known to do crazy things like block off the car and get violent. I took Uber from where I was staying because it wasn’t a main street – the driver asked me to sit in the front seat next to him and to state I was his cousin if anyone stopped us along the route. As we got closer to my destination I could tell the driver was getting more nervous in hopes no taxi driver would suspect anything.
  3. Taxis: I did not find taxis in Mexico to be too expensive, however, they do sometimes try to rip you off so I would recommend initiating the conversation with bargaining. Another thing I would do is go on Uber to see what the rate was there to use it to bargain with the taxi drivers. One time another taxi driver even warned me to not allow them to charge me over a certain rate. The taxis are all white with different stripes corresponding to different regions of Quintana Roo so they are easy to identify in the streets as well.
  4. ADO Bus: This can be most closely compared to Greyhound in the USA. These buses go long distances with stops in between (ex. Cancun to Chichen Itza), have more comfortable seating, outlets and two large TVs usually playing a show. I took this bus back to the airport from Playa del Carmen without any hassle, once you arrive at the airport the driver also takes you to the appropriate terminal for your airline. There is space for luggage under the bus and set schedules online so perfect for all my backpacking buddies!
  5. Colectivos (vans/minibuses):  These are great to go short distances but are much more difficult to maneuver if you aren’t connected to a local. They are the cheapest options and some also do go long distances but it is harder to identify the bus stops – most have writing on the front window that only indicate their first and last stop. You’ll also have to be attentive of how long the ride is so you can remind the driver where you’d like to get off because they won’t always make every stop. As I’ve stated in earlier posts I recommend using GoogleMaps here for an indication of when you are close to your destination. Although difficult to maneuver this is probably the most authentic travel experience so I’d recommend taking it at least once.

Partying Spring Break Style

Now that I’ve written about all my solo experiences traveling Mexico I cannot ignore the fact that I did go during peak spring break dates and experienced the Spring Break environment with several close friends.

To be quite honest – the spring break experience in Cancun is amazing, and I’m not much of a partier, especially when I’m traveling. However, there is always something to do no matter the time of day and you’re surrounded by good vibes at all times. Of course, it is easy to witness or experience being the sloppy drunk person with all the open bars you’re exposed to but as long as you go with a good group of friends you should be in good hands.

I won’t speak too much on pricing here because there are so many different packages for so many different prices, that allow entrance to different clubs, events, etc. The best way to receive packages is to connect with a promoter or website like Cancun After Dark. Although, I also know some folks who didn’t purchase any packages prior to and would just arrive early and pay a low rate at the door. Most packages include shorter lines, a table with bottles and open bar. I will say, if you go the route of paying at the door it is necessary to arrive early because around 10/11 everyone starts lining up and those with VIP packages skip the line which also extends the wait.

I think one of my favorite things about Cancun was the fact that I could get the best of both worlds – the crazy spring breakers and the Mexican locals on any given day just by where I chose to explore. Cancun is definitely more than the spring breakers but I’d be a fool to not mention it as part of my experience there.

My Party Experience:

  1. Grand Oasis Cancun: The people staying at this resort are the definition of spring breakers, and their are always day parties – while walking down the hotel zone strip you’ll know when you’ve reached the back of the Grand Oasis. It is a great place for day parties, I was not staying there so some friends and I purchased a day pass for $90 which provides admittance for the day, food and unlimited drinks. Although it being an all inclusive resort may sound appealing I have heard time and time again that the food is horrible, I also think the hotel overall looks dark and gloomy on the inside.
  2. La Vaquita: This is one of the more casual clubs to go to so perfect for a day you don’t want to dress up. By far the place with the most interesting combination of drinks, the music was also great. The club is fully outdoor with railings instead of walls so if it’s a chilly night I don’t recommend going without a jacket
  3. Dady’Os: This is a good time with the right group of people in my opinion. At one point it felt too overcrowded, there were lingering smells of vomit and a trip to the bathroom could take 20 minutes. However, there is a lot of high energy, cool lights and random smoke/light shows throughout the night
  4. Mandala Beach Club: The indoor pool is fun by itself so the music and vibes are just a plus; literally dress like if you’re going to the beach – a bathing suit, beach coverup and some shorts will do. Be careful with your personal belongings (if you’ve been following – this is where my phone was submerged in water) and I’m sure you’ll have a great time here. And if you have luck like mine and your phone gets submerged in water continue to have a good time because getting upset isn’t going to reverse time or undo anything so just hope for the best.

Authentic Mexican Cuisine

Mexico was one of my weirdest trips because I didn’t have much of an appetite – I’m not sure the reason why but I just wouldn’t get hungry/want to eat. However, I still forced myself to do it for my health and to be able to try as much of their authentic food in the short time I had.

Besides Cancun having an extremely negative connotation regarding “Spring Breakers” one of the reasons I was hesitant about my trip was because I’ve never been a fan of Mexican food. I was never a fan of avocado, I’ve always found the food too spicy – even when others say it isn’t spicy at all, etc.

Now, let me just say, Mexico proved me wrong time and time again. The food was practically never spicy, instead they provide a handful of different spicy sauces that you can choose to put on your food. I ate avocados or guacamole with just about every meal and every taco, they were fresh and delish.

I ate from several food stands and liked it more than most restaurants – the torta I had from an outside vendor was soooo great, I wish I knew everything that was in it.

Most of the places I ate in were just spots I happened to pass by while wandering but there were several known staples I checked out as well.

Quesadillas Tierra Del Sol: If you find yourself in central Cancun and are a fan of empanadas/pastelitos this is a MUST. And if you love cheese as much as I do just know their slogan is “Nuestro secreto esta en el queso/our secret is in the cheese.” They have the largest variety of empanadas I have ever seen, they’re made fresh and taste delicious. They are fried so of course a bit greasy but worth it. They’re also generously sized, I ordered two expecting them to be much smaller and couldn’t finish both in one sitting. You can also choose from a large variety of natural juices – the bottles are so large, mine lasted all day. The place is quite busy but service is provided quickly – I waited no more than 10 minutes for my empanadas.

Super 15 (Cocina y Tienda): I really wouldn’t recommend this place, it’s a deli with a stove up front – my host had mentioned it to me and it had such a local vibe I was excited to try it. The pot must’ve been very old because it gave an old metal like taste to the eggs which I didn’t even bother to try to finish eating. I had ordered scrambled eggs with black beans which came with tortilla wraps (like just about everything in Mexico) which seemed like a typical Mexican breakfast but I definitely wished I went to a different place to try it out.

Las Quekas: This chain is popular in Mexico for its cheap, quick and tasty eats. The decor inside is also quite interesting focusing on quesadillas and sopes. The colors make it festive and they’re often flooded with locals so I definitely felt the authentic vibes trying this place out. Like many places throughout the parts of Mexico I visited they make the food in front of you without a kitchen in the back or anything like that. There are several Las Quekas throughout Mexico so definitely try it out if it’s in an area you visit.

Street Vendors – Playa Del Carmen: As I mentioned in a previous post, there is a small park on one of the main streets in Playa with various food vendors out all day – I definitely recommend checking them out. They pretty much all sell the same food so I really don’t know what makes people prone to choose one over the other or how their business works in general but I had a Gringas from one of them and it was pretty good, they were not cheap on the meat or cheese. It seems to be a quick spot locals go to either when heading to work or as a late night snack.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Mexican food is great but authentic Mexican food in New York is hard to find. Now that I’m back I’m determined to find a good, genuine Mexican spots in NYC; it’s either that or I’ll be traveling back to Mexico often.

Diving into El Cristalino

It’s funny – whenever I travel alone people ask how do I do it, how do I find the courage to travel the unknown by myself, take public transit like a local, meet new people, etc. But that’s never the scary part for me, what’s scary are the activities I convince myself to do like bungee jumping, swinging, sky diving, etc (and having strangers record videos like this for me). And as scary as they may be they’re just as equally or even more thrilling which is what always keeps me going back.  

My trip in Mexico was almost over and I couldn’t say I had done anything that exhilarating yet. that yet but before I arrived I had hoped to be able to either drive an ATV for the first time or go diving. So along with their mesmerizing beauty this was one of the reasons I really wanted to check out a sinkhole before leaving. For those who might not know, I just learned to swim about 2-3 years ago and I am no where near an expert so to do this even with a life vest on was extremely nerve wrecking for me. I’m posting the unedited video so you can see my insane amount of hesitation the first time I did it. However, after this video I jumped in another 4 times. The thrill was amazing and in the split second of falling I felt so free. 

I must say life vests work a little better than I expected them to but next time I dive I hope I can build the courage to take my life vest off and hopefully that time there’s a lifeguard or expert swimmer nearby. There’s a chance I might just be an adrenaline junkie. 

Street Vendors

I saw these food vendors here the night I arrived to Playa Del Carmen and it seemed crowded with locals buying a late night meal – so you know I had to try it. 
The vendors seems to be there all day and the food is authentic Mexican food. After watching the sunrise on my final day I had Gringas de Carne like it was one of the few items on the menu I had not tried yet. The Gringas were stuffed with meet and cheese and reminded me more of what people eat in NYC and call Quesadillas, they also come with lime, pico de gallo and your choice of spicy sauce. I sometimes fear getting red meat from vendors like these because they don’t seem to be cooked right but this was not the case here, the meat tasted well seasoned, not too chewy or over cooked. 👍🏼

The interesting thing is that all these vendors sell most of the same food so not too sure how they compete with each other. 

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