At the beginning of the month, I got to go to Mexico to thaw myself out after experiencing my first winter in Canada. As neither my boyfriend or I had ever been to Mexico, we obviously went as touristy as possible. We hit Cancun, Tulum, and Merida in the span of about 8 full days.
CANCUN: As soon as we landed in Cancun, we were not fans. Cancun is great to go to if you’re looking for a timeshare or if you’re looking to just party. Neither was high on our list. We stayed in a cute little apartment on the Ocean which was really nice but all the places near the water are enormous resorts, and it kinda kills the vibe of the place. Luckily, our first full day wasn’t spent at the resorts, it was spent on a tour to see Chichen Itza!
We spent all day driving, experiencing Mayan culture, and visiting the archaeological site as well as the Ik Kil Cenote. We did use a service for this tour, and honestly, we don’t really recommend it. It’s easy enough to get around on your own if you work out the bus system and you save yourself the sales pitches to buy souvenirs and the overkill talks the guides provide. We did learn some cool stuff, but not enough to offset the lack of independence.This day was pretty much the highlight, as the next day we just hung around the beach and the resort since it rained off and on in the afternoon.TULUM: But the next day we were off to Tulum. Tulum was AMAZING. So amazing, that we want to come back to Mexico to only go to Tulum. We stayed in a beachside cabana right on the ocean and it was absolute HEAVEN. The beaches were much better than Cancun as well: Softer sand, clearer water, and way less people. Furthermore, all the hotels in Tulum are cute little cabana style spots, rather than huge all-inclusive resorts. You can rent bicycles to get around, and the general atmosphere is much younger and relaxed than Cancun. Tulum also has it’s own killer set of Mayan ruins right near the water so it really doesn’t get much better than that.
MERIDA: Unfortunately, we only booked a few days in Tulum, before we were off to Merida. Merida is the largest city in the Yucatan, and has a much different vibe than Cancun or Tulum. Merida was probably the only genuine look we got at what most of Mexico probably feels like. It was a much larger city which means crowds, music, and more historical sites. The city operates as most cities do, but also has a quaint collection of Spanish colonial buildings and little museums to explore. We originally chose to visit Merida to use it as a jumping off point for the ruins of Uxmal.
Uxmal is another set of Mayan ruins, similar to Chichen Itza, except for the fact that the site is probably triple the size, the ruins are a lot better preserved, and the area is infinitely less crowded. We spent the whole morning exploring the ruins and we were just in awe by what this civilization was able to create hundreds of years ago. However, our Uxmal day, was the day I got some food poisoning, so I wasn’t able to enjoy it to the fullest extent and I was basically down for the count afterwards (more on that later), but our last day in Merida was just spent wandering the Spanish colonial buildings, and people watching in the main squares.
We returned to Cancun to finish out our trip, and we were originally going to visit Isla Mujeres to go diving, but it rained on us again and we were confined to the hotel.
All in all, I absolutely adored Tulum as a beach getaway and I would love to explore more of Mexico. We heard great things about Mexico City, but didn’t make it all the way there. I highly recommend sticking to local shops within the towns of Cancun and Tulum as they are way less expensive and have better traditional Mexican food than the restaurants geared towards tourists. However, we did find a phenomenal breakfast spot next to our hotel in Tulum called Ojo de Agua with incredible Acai Bowls and coffee.
The easiest and cheapest way to get around the peninsula was definitely by bus. There are bus stations in every town and it’s pretty simple to get a ticket for less than $20 to get to a whole other city. However, I do recommend brushing up on your Spanish before you try this, as most local places will speak very limited English. Also, make sure you have peso coins with you at all times as the bathrooms in public spaces often cost 5 pesos to use.
I would definitely recommend Mexico to anyone (even though I was probably the only one who hadn’t been at this point), and I unquestionably recommend getting away from the resorts. They are decent as a place to relax, but as far as getting the best bang for your buck or experiencing anything truly Mexican, they just can’t provide any truly unique experiences. The Yucatan is intensely built up for tourists so just be aware that people will try to sell you timeshares, tours, and guides at every turn and you don’t always need them. We will ABSOLUTELY be returning to Mexico and I am so disappointed it took me so long to visit in the first place!
If you have any Mexico recommendations, please share! I can’t wait to go back and experience more of the country.