Mexico June 2013: Yucatan; Cancun and beyond

Itinerary:

  1. Cancun
  2. Xcaret / Xplor
  3. Chichen Itza

cancun

SATURDAY 1st June: Cancun

To celebrate my 50th birthday I had decided to go to Mexico with my lovely wife Karen. To make the experience even better we were making the trip without the children who had stayed behind with my parents who, not thinking they would ever see the day one of their children would turn 50, had graciously, in their state of shock, agreed to baby sit.

I am not sure why I had chosen Mexico, but its relative closeness to home and the short time we had available seemed to make it a good option.

The flight to Cancun went smoothly and we arrived late afternoon. As we passed out of security and customer on our way out of the terminal we passed the gauntlet of salesman offering travel excursions and timeshares. In our weakened state due to tiredness we did succumb and ended up exchanging sometime to attend a timeshare meeting for some free trips.

On leaving the comfort of the terminal building to catch a taxi we were greeted by torrential rain and storm force winds. Apparently it had been raining for days; the tail of a passing hurricane. Luckily the queue for the taxis moved quickly and were soon in the comfort of a taxi and speeding towards our hotel. The weather simply was not getting better as we gazed out of the rain smeared windows trying to glimpse the sights of what was a new city and country for us.

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Greeted by some inclement weather – still Karen looks happy be in Mexico

Our hotel was on the edge of the hotel zone, which is a barrier island that has long protected Cancun from the ravages. As we pulled up it was obvious the passing storm had ravaged our hotel, there were branches of palm trees strewn everywhere. We were glad to get into the hotel to escape the elements. Unfortunately, the elements had worked their way into the hotel. There were pools of water everywhere. We are not people who desire opulence and don’t mind slumming it a bit, but we soon recognized this was not a luxury resort.

Never mind it was just a roof over our head! So after dropping off our bags we headed to the restaurant with the expectation of some delicious Mexican food. Sadly, the restaurant had the atmosphere of a morgue and the food also tasted like it had died and passed its best some time before.

We were disappointed but too tired to worry about it.

SUNDAY 2nd June:  Cancun

Luckily the weather improved overnight. It was not quite full on sunshine but we had got relief from the persistent rain. The resort itself was in recovery mode and there was an army of workers cleaning up the grounds of the resort. The sight of the beach and sea from the deck of the hotel started to lift our spirits.

The mopping up exercise was also in full swing inside the hotel and we had to be careful to avoid the myriad of towels spread on the floors to mop up the wet. As the floors we largely laid to marble it made getting around the hotel all the more exciting.

We made our way to the hotel’s restaurant for breakfast hoping the previous night’s gastronomic disaster was an aberration. But sadly it wasn’t.

Anyway, there was no time to be gloomy so we decided to explore Cancun. We started out on foot to see what the area we were in was like. Although the rain had stopped it had been pouring so hard and so long the water had had nowhere to go, so everywhere was flooded, in some cases in several feet of water. We passed a golf course, which no longer had fairways and was one huge water hazard.

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The 12th tee on the golf course.

After walking for a couple of hours we hadn’t discovered more than hotels, restaurants, bars and gift shops. Cancun has a reputation as a party place and somewhere for spring breakers in the US to head to. This was June so there were no students here taking advantage of the 18 years legal drinking age. It was also before midday so they would have been sleeping off the night before anyway. These huge party bars and clubs were closed and the crews were busily cleaning up – and this was not due to a passing storm (at least of the meteorological type).

As a change of scene we took a local bus into the main town of Cancun, which didn’t provide much to shout about. We discovered a shopping mall, which was the same as any mall you would find in the world, but we were surprised to find a C&A store (a brand we always associate with our mother country – the UK). It was not long before we got bored and headed back to our hotel.

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We found a shop selling a wide range of weapons including these swords

MONDAY 3rd June:  Cancun

On arrival in Cancun we had signed up to go to a timeshare presentation in exchange for some free trips. Today we headed out for breakfast at the Secrets resort in Cancun after which we were to have a tour and then head out with tickets in-hand.

As always we planned to leave the hotel promptly after the presentation with the firm intention of never ever, ever buying another timeshare (we already had two that we were not really using). That was the plan but it didn’t quite work out that way and somehow with most of the day passed we left Secrets signed up for a new timeshare.

The good news was as part of agreeing to sign-up we got 4 free weeks to be used later on and even better we were moving to another of their all-exclusive resorts just down the road for the last 4 days of our holiday. Good bye to the crappy food we had suffered for the first couple of days.

But all that was a couple of days in the future.

TUESDAY 4th June:  XPlor

Today was one of trips we had planned for the week. XPlor is an adventure park a few miles down the coast from Cancun. Activities include zip-line courses (with what felt like to me very large towers!), floating on rafts along under ground rivers, and trekking through the jungle on all-terrain vehicles. There is a huge amount to do and it takes most of the day to fully explore the whole of the park. We had a lot of fun. The cost of entry also includes food, and there is a wonderful and expansive buffet.

Sadly, as most of the activities involve getting extremely wet and we did not have a waterproof camera we have no photographic evidence of the great time we had!

But here is link to their website: https://www.xplor.travel/en/

WEDNESDAY 5th June:  Transferring hotel

Today at last we were to escape our hotel and move to more luxurious surrounds of the all-inclusive Now Sapphire resort on the Riviera Maya, just a few miles south of Cancun. The resort was well away from the hubbub of Cancun and set in its own extensive grounds so it had a totally different feeling from where we had just come from. Generally, all-inclusive resorts don’t have much attraction for us, especially as we are not big drinkers, but it was nice to be able to snack when we wanted and there were five very nice restaurants to choose.

Once checked in we decided to have a relaxing time – making use of the pools and the very nice beach. Also, the lady who had sold us the timeshare at these resorts had arranged a couples massage for us. Massages are more Karen’s thing but I must confess to enjoying experience and am sure I ended up asleep and snoring on the massage bed.

 

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Romantic meal in the our own private cabana

THURSDAY 6th June:  Xcaret

After the relaxing time we had the day before we decided to pep things up again and use one of “free” excursions to go Xcaret, a sister park to Xplor but a very different experience.

Xcaret describes itself as an eco-archaeological park which is very fitting description. It covers a large area an it is almost impossible to know where to start in describing what is there. Filling a whole day at Xcaret is easy but you still probably will not see everything!

The park is in a jungle setting and uses this exhibit local wildlife including macaws, flamingos, jaguars and to name a few. As you wander through the park there are several Mayan ruins to explore. Eventually you reach the sea.

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A prowling jaguar

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Xcaret runs a very successful breeding program for macaws

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Xcaret pretty much offers the full complement of maritime experiences. Our first port of call is the pens where the dolphins are kept, and where you can pay to play with a dolphin. We love these gentle and intelligent creatures, so it is somewhat upsetting to see them exploited this way. In addition to dolphins there are also enclosures with alligators, manatees and other water loving creatures. Beyond the animal exhibits the park opens up on to a marina and a family friendly beach area. Our destination is the far end of the marina where we have signed up for a boat ride out beyond the protection of the harbor and to do some snorkeling around the reefs that run along this part of the Yucatan coast. On the way we pass some large ponds where they have a breeding programme running for sea turtles. There are a large number of baby turtles of various sizes that will at some point be returned to the sea. As well as baby turtles there is a extensive water enclosure where full grown sea turtles gracefully swim through the throngs of mangrove trees and among the stanchions supporting the walkways and buildings suspended over the water.

The snorkel tour lasted about 2 hours and took us up and down the shore line close the park. The reefs here are not as impressive as those further north around Cozumel, and there was only a few lone fish swimming around the rocks and coral. I was fascinated by a turtle who swam right up to me. I thought how nice and what a friendly chappy, that was until he decided to take a chunk out of my finger. Little bastard – if I see him again he’ll end up in a stew!

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This river is a family friendly swimming hole and runs to the beach area

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Oh we do like to be by the sea!

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Baby sea turtles

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This is what the babies grow into!

 

FRIDAY 7th June: Chichen Itza

 

SATURDAY 8th June: Home