Mexico was like paradise and packed with many first time experiences. My first long-haul flight, first all-inclusive holiday, first 10 metre dive, first experience of zip lines (45 meters high!), first time touching a shark!
How did it start?
We like to organise holidays ourselves and book flights and accommodation separately after searching various websites and checked available deals. Read my TOP TIPS how to find cheap flights here.
This time the story is a bit different. Mexico was our honeymoon destination and we wanted to treat ourselves with an all-inclusive holiday. We found flights and accommodation to suit our budget but the package deal provided by the travel company was cheaper. We did not stop there and checked all travel company deals and found two companies that offered the same deal at different prices, so being bold we went to the more expensive and asked, if they would match. They did indeed and even added some extra little treats! So our all-inclusive 14 days trip was booked with Thomas Cook.
February comes and we are across the Atlantic Ocean ready to start the long-awaited holiday but our excitement is quickly crushed. On arrival to Cancun International Airport we were told that our adult-only hotel, Golden Parnasus, is overbooked! Not a great start for a honeymoon. So we stayed at the sister hotel, Great Parnasus, which is a massive family hotel. They upgraded us to the VIP rooms and gave access to exclusive breakfast lounge with incredible views. I can’t complain, we had a lovely 3 night stay at the Great Parnasus. The Golden Parnasus upgraded our room when we transferred and after enquiring about overbooking at Thomas Cook, they offered us a free day trip of our own choice. If you get in a situation like this, see if the holiday provider will offer anything for the inconvenience caused.
Golden Parnasus is located on the beach on the Hotel Zone (Zona Hotelera). Before going we were told that the Hotel zone was very touristy and full of party people. Was it? Not really. Yes, it is touristy but we had a relaxing time at the hotel and on the beach as the hotel was located further away fro the Punta Cancun where clubs were based. If we wanted to get to the town or busier parts of Cancun, we just jumped on the bus that ran frequently up and down the main way. The bus fare was very cheap.
I wouldn’t advice to book a hotel on the Nichupte lagoon side. The views are not as great as on the beach side. Also, you cannot swim in the lagoon due to crocodiles.
It is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and it was at the top on our list to visit. Chichen Itza is the largest of the Mayan ruins and a must to visit. After all, the site once was the capital of the Mayan Empire. The site is massive and the steeped pyramid, the Temple of Kukulkan or El Castillo, is the main attraction. During the spring and fall equinox the sunlight creates the vision of the giant serpent moving downwards until it joints the giant stone head of a serpent at the bottom of the stairway.
We booked the day trip with Thomas Cook as all other excursion providers offered it for the same price. Don’t be shy to negotiate the price; we managed to get a discount! The trip on the couch was around two hours and we had two hours to spend on the site. The guide provided lots of information about the site history, which is always a bonus. The site can be crowded with tourists and vendors but we did not feel overwhelmed. Only locals are allowed to sell on the site and most of the products sold are locally and hand-made.
On the way to Chichen Itza you will see local villages. There is a huge contrast between Cancun and local villages, e.g. people living in remote villages don’t have electricity. They soil is not suitable for agriculture (too acidic) so locals depend on relatives working in cities or selling what they make.
After the visit we went to the Mayan Reserve for a good buffet lunch and swim in a Cenote. On the way back we stopped for a short walk at the Villadolid town square.
We enjoyed the long full day trip but I was surprised how much these trips cost (approx. £70pp); so don’t forget to budget them when you are planning a trip. Next time I would be exploring the option of renting a car.
We visited the Grutas de Lontun, the largest cave in the Yucatan Penincula. It is a hidden treasure of natural fresh water with splendid view. The water is so clear that you can see small fish zipping below. The first sight of it reminded me of some shots from the Indiana Jones or Pirates of Caribbean movies. The word cenote means “sacred well” and Mayans believed that they were a portal to speak with the gods. A special place.
You are actually allowed to swim in them (don’t forget your swimsuit). We enjoyed the crisp water and gazed at jungle vines above. The feel is great! If you don’t fancy getting wet, you can see the cenote from the above.
The next time I am visiting Mexico, I will definitely try to visit other cenotes!
We have tried diving in Spain a year before but we heard that diving in Caribbean is one of the best diving experiences. We were really looking forward to this! As we don’t have diving licence, we were trained by PADI in the hotel pool how to use the equipment and the next day we did the actual diving. This was the BEST diving experience we had so far! If you think of trying diving, I would strongly encourage doing it in Mexico. Our diving group was small: 5 inexperienced divers and 2 master divers. We had a full hour in the water.
At first you feel a bit scared of getting into the water with the all equipment and needing to breath through the mouthpiece. But once you are in the water and descend, the feeling is amazing. I cannot express how much I loved it. You can feel the immensity of the ocean and that makes you a bit nervous but at the same time it feels like a different world. The water is clear and you can see the beautiful sea world. We were lucky to see turtles descending from the top to the bottom and feeding on the sea grass. Not to mention all other colourful fishes and sea plants. See the video at the end for more shots from the diving trip.
We like to stay active on our holidays so we were debating where to go: Xplor or Xcaret park. We would have loved to try both but tickets cost approx. £100pp. We chose Xplor and we definitely got the adrenaline we wanted by the end of the day. Zip-lines: they have 14 zip-lines and we tried all of them. I am a bit afraid of height so the 45metres above zip-line was pretty scary but the views of the jungle below and Caribbean are brilliant. Amphibious vehicles: it was quite fun to drive them through dark caves and water. However, be aware that they inspect the vehicles after your ride. If you have caused any damage, you will need to pay. We saw a couple who smashed the front light of the vehicle by going into the tree… Underground rafts: interesting, if you have not seen stalactites and stalagmites before. Underground river swim: I thought that this was something different to experience. Swimming in the dark surrounded by stalactites.
Snorkelling after scuba diving is not the same but we wanted to go to Isla Mujares, so we booked a day trip that included snorkelling and boat trip to the island. The island is beautiful and it looks like from a movie. We rented a golf cart for an hour and travelled around the island on our own. An hour is enough to drive around the island, but of course the longer the better. We stopped at the turtle farm, Tortugranja. The entrance is approx. £2p-3p. It is not a big place but you can see different size turtles, from egg to big full-grown. These turtles are eventually released into the Caribbean Sea. You will also see a small shark, fish, sea horses and a massive horseshoe crab. There are plenty places to stop just to observe the beautiful surroundings and incredible views.
Oh yeah, this was the place where I touched a shark! It was a nurse shark, so completely harmless.
The day and half-day trips offered by the travel agents were relatively expensive considering that Mexico is fairly cheap country. The entrance tickets to attractions, e.g. Tulum, swimming with turtles, cenotes, cost little or nothing at all. The next time I will use taxi or rent a car to visit sites and get to attractions. It will be cheaper than buying tour trips.
You can pay with local currency (Mexican pesos) or dollars. Without a doubt it is cheaper to pay in local currency. The conversation rate from pesos to dollars is not great and you loose out. However, for tipping have one-dollar or 20 peso notes ready! The tipping culture is big there.
Things I would do on the next visit
- Visit more cenotes;
- Visit Mexico in September when you can swim with whale sharks;
- Visit Meridina;
- Visit Tulum;
- Explore options of getting taxi or renting a car;
- Do more diving!
See the video below for more shots from the our visit to Mexico. Our first holiday video (Another first experience to add to the list ;D). Don't forget to select HD quality for a better view.