Spanish Language Blog

Cancun Posted by on Mar 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

If you’re flying into Mexico for a trip around the Riviera Maya or the Yucatan, chances are you’ll find yourself in Cancun. While it is true that this city is known more for its wild spring breaks and lavish resorts than anything else, it’s still worth spending at least a night there. For us, it was a no-brainer, as 20+ hours of sitting either on an airplane or in an airport left us beyond jet-lagged. Clearing customs was quite easy, as we got the green light from the magic button. I kid you not; that’s how they conduct their random searches in the Cancun airport. Push a button – green means you’re clear to go, red means you’re getting searched.

Finally in Mexico and ready to have some fun!

Airport currency exchange booths are known for their poor rates worldwide, but they’re especially bad in Cancun. Use your USD to pay for your transportation into the city and pick up some pesos in a bank. While there are plenty of taxi drivers ready and willing to take you into town, there are big, comfortable, air conditioned buses that will do the same for a fraction of the cost. Plus, you get to enjoy a nice cold cervesa or pina colada while you wait for the next bus, and we did just that.

For this trip, we tried out a new style of traveling – suitcasing. We’ve all heard of backpacking, where you lug an uncomfortably heavy backpack around from place to place while you trot barefoot through the streets in search of the cheapest dorm bed out there, eating only street food. That’s all well and good for some people, but I prefer a little more comfort when I travel. I do, however, also prefer to stay in youth hostels and avoid the boatloads of tourists that fancy the resorts. As such, we decided to take a hybrid vacation where we combined the best of both worlds. We called cheap hostels home, yet we sprung for the private rooms. As we would later hear one girl in Valladolid detailing the horrors of her dorm experience, where a fellow traveler spent the entire night throwing up (probably too much tequila and hot sauce), we were quite content with our decision to avoid the communal rooms. We ate plenty of fantastic, dirt cheap food in the streets, but we also allowed ourselves to splurge a bit on a few high-quality meals. Last but not least, we left the huge backpacks at home in favor of rolling suitcases. I’m happy to say that the first suitcasing experience was a huge success, and that it will definitely be making a return the next time we take an extended trip.

Our private room in the Mayan Hostel.

Home sweet home for just one night.

With just one night in Cancun, we opted to stay in the city proper, rather than in the hotel zone where most tourists call home. We found a room in the Mayan Hostel, located conveniently just one block from the bus station. Our room was simple but charming, as it resembled a traditional Mayan hut on the outside. Having traveled half-way around the world, our exhaustion caught up with us, and a lengthy power nap ensued. A few hours later, we finally got moving, and we strolled around the neighborhood in search of food. Just a few blocks away, we stumbled upon an outdoor food court, where locals were eating and chatting with friends and family, musicians were strumming and picking away, and children were racing mini-cars. It was a very lively atmosphere, and much more authentic than the huge tourist trap restaurants found along the hotel zone.

Oh yeah, did I mention the food? For a mere 70 pesos (about $5), we were served an incredible dinner for two, which included: drinks, soup, chips and salsa, a delicious omelette filled with chorizo and cheese, and some wondrous creation made with tortillas, chicken, feta cheese, and a nose-tingling spicy sauce. Having grown so accustomed to the Tex-Mex style of food that is popular in the US and in other countries (including China, where I currently reside), it was a pleasure to eat real Mexican food.

Our first meal in Mexico was a good one!

Mariachi band kicking out the jams.

Hoping to walk off some of the massive feast, we strolled around the neighborhood for a while. While Mexico has its fair share of problems, it should be noted that at no point did we feel in danger, not even at night on the city streets in Cancun far from the tourist area. The beautiful sounds of a mariachi band drew us into a local bar, where we ordered up a few cold ones and a couple shots of Mexican coffee (aka tequila). It wasn’t just the band providing entertainment, however, as our waiter constantly impressed us with tremendous acts of balance by delivering drinks to tables via his head. Then there was the tower of flaming tequila that we witnessed. On just our first night, it was evident that Mexicans sure know how to eat, and they also sure as hell know how to party.

Service with a smile!

Lovely beach in Cancun.

Before taking off the next day, we enjoyed a great, home-cooked breakfast in our hostel before heading out to the beach. With white, sandy beaches, and crystal clear waters, its no wonder Cancun draws thousands of visitors every month. Unfortunately, our sun-bathing was short lived, as we had to catch a bus out of town. If you’re planning a trip to this part of Mexico, make sure you take advantage of the public transportation. You can get just about anywhere you want to go by bus, and they’re affordable, reliable, and comfortable. We boarded a 2nd class bus headed for Chichen Itza, which took around 5 hours due to the fact that it stopped quite frequently to pick up/drop off locals. If you’re in more of a hurry, do what we did for the rest of the trip and stick to the 1st class buses which basically go direct and cut the travel time in half.

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About the Author: sasha

Sasha is an English teacher, writer, photographer, and videographer from the great state of Michigan. Upon graduating from Michigan State University, he moved to China and spent 5+ years living, working, studying, and traveling there. He also studied Indonesian Language & Culture in Bali for a year. He and his wife run the travel blog Grateful Gypsies, and they're currently trying the digital nomad lifestyle across Latin America.