Despite a lovely Christmas with great friends and family, leaving Essex at 5am in 2 degree wet weather for the sunny coast of Cancún wasn’t actually that difficult. Papa Uber dropped us off and we made our way through Stansted airport. The size, busyness, very heavily armed police and the fact that you had to get a train to your gate was all quite new and almost impressive to Jess. I mean– who wouldn’t be impressed with four WHSmiths in a 100m radius?! The short flight to Cologne was uneventful but the breakfast pretzel at Cologne transfer lounge was brill, Jess’ first trip to Germany….
Good Bye England! @ Stansted Airport, UK
Less than 2 hours later we were sat in our (rather dirty) seats on our Eurowings flight to Cancún. Being a budget long haul airline was absolutely fine by us, having paid under £500 all up, forgetting however that we had booked the most basic fair and had no food for the next 11 hours was not! How could we forget?! We talked about it at the time we booked these flights 5 months ago, we even had a conversation about how nice it would be to not eat so much questionable plane food (that’s a lie, I LOVE plane food).
Also not wanting to pay a whole €10 for film and tv show access, we spent the next 11 hours eating the reasonably large supply of British chocolate my mum had slipped me before our departure and playing free children’s games on the tv of which I was so bad at. Astonished at how terrible I was at “Animatch”, Jess spent the best part of the flight trying to teach me.
Landing in Cancún felt warm and exciting. The start of our big adventure. It finally started to kick in as we found our backpacks and went off in search of the ADO bus into town (MXN$76/pp) and we had to use our Spanish for the first time. Another lie, Jess had already used her freshly learnt Spanish on the lady at immigration…
“¿Bienvenidos, como estas?”
I replied “Hola, muy bien, gracias”
Jess had clearly plucked up the courage to say something and wanted to shine so sort of yelled “¡BIEN, Y TU!?” … maybe a little informal to the woman stamping us into the country but what a start! We wandered off laughing a little at how average our Spanish was.
Yelling Americans muffled slightly by the sweet sound of Spanish felt amazing. The bus only took a short 45 mins and we jumped in a taxi to our Air BnB.
The Cancún Sign with Some Chick @ Zona Hotelera Cancún
Desperate to try some Mexican food (pretty much all we’ve talked about for the last 6 months) we headed out to Plaza las Palapas. A very busy little local market area, with traditional food stalls, vendors of all things touristy, complete with low flying bats and a very off key, old man singing terribly along with a keyboard backing track. We tucked into our very first tacos. INCREDIBLE!!!
The next day we took a few too many collectivos (public mini buses), a ferry and arrived on the larger than first anticipated, Isla Mujeres. The beaches were beautiful but packed. We were amazed by the beautiful white sands, the colours of the sea and the quaint town. Less impressed by being approached on the street/beach by vendors of food and drink, to key chains, towels, sarongs and “I’m in Isla Mujeres bitch” tank tops…. How could we continue our trip without one of those?! I guess we just didn’t expect the Koh Phangnan vibe.
We jumped in a taxi from the ferry terminal at the northern point of Isla Mujeres, and headed for the Lonely Planet recommended “quiet and less busy” spot, to hotel de la Garaffon de Castillo. Next time we will check the dates on that Lonely Planet first, eight years ago this may have been “the spot” to discover the more chilled side of Isla Mujeres but unfortunately we were several years too late. For a MXN$70 entrance fee (to use the facilities and snorkel off the back of their property which is a marine reserve) we headed down the stone steps to what we assumed, was going to be paradise. This place was in desperate need of any kind of renovation however it still had a small amount of charm. We chucked our belongings into a locker, threw our snorkels on and had our first taste of the Caribbean sea.
Jess on la Playa @ Isla Mujeres
Back on the main land, we continued our trip of tasting our way through the local market stall menus and adventuring down to Zona Hotelera. As we flew along through Zona Hotelera (almost literally flew– the bus driver was very determined to get us the length of the peninsula faster than you can say Tequila), we passed the most outrageous resorts. Honestly we’ve never seen anything like it! Some of these hotels and resorts had full on golf courses, and/or adventure parks within the hotel complexes. The frequency of resorts gradually got fewer and fewer until we finally hit pretty much the end of the zona hotelera. Our lovely Air BnB host, Nina, who has to be the nicest host around, recommended that we head to Km17 (bus stops are labelled in Kms and how many kms they are from stop 0km in the city) which was Playa Delfines. Wow! We couldn’t believe our eyes. The white sand, the beautiful blues and aquas of the ocean, the beach umbrellas made of palm fronds (we think)… this place was insane! Apparently one of the uglier beaches along the Zona Hotelera which was hard to believe as this place was stunning!
Playa Delfines @ Zona Hotelera Cancún
We were lucky enough to get a public beach brolly and we settled in for the afternoon. We were a bit worried about leaving our stuff unattended and going for a swim (despite Jess making friends with a heavily armed Beach Police Officer). There wasn’t much shade so we offered to share ours with a lovely local family. They were kind enough to mind our things while we went for a dip and even shared their beers with us. The water was warm, clear and perfect. “Mucho Gusto” was exchanged with Jess and our, albeit short lived, new friends.
Cancún has absolutely stunning beaches, amazing food and super friendly locals but the American tourism side is a bit much. A sad farewell to our first little apartment, and an even sadder farewell to our amazing host Nina, but not so sad to say farewell to Cancún. We are ready for our taste of that Mexican culture…