If you’ve seen my Instagram or Facebook feed the last few weeks, you know that I recently had the opportunity to visit Cancun, Mexico. Today I’m sharing the highlights of my trip, and a few thoughts on visiting Mexico.
Mexico. A place that stirs mixed feelings in any group of people.
For some, thoughts of past vacations, all-inclusive resorts, margaritas, and lively mariachi bands come to mind. For others, apprehensions about street violence, international travel, or contaminated water brood within.
After my visit to Cancun, Mexico, I discovered most of the things I believed about Mexico, or Cancun specifically, were not exactly true. I made many wonderful discoveries that I can’t wait to share with you today.
The first two days of my trip were spent learning about Mexican Tourism at Tianguis Turistico, Mexico’s annual tourism event. I met representatives from all over Mexico that were eager to share what their region has to offer.
Then I spent another two and a half days experiencing Cancun, one of those days exploring all by myself.
But first let me explain something…
Travel makes my heart burst with delight.
We all have that thing that makes us feel sublimely happy every single time we think about it or do it.
Experiencing new places, foods, and cultures. Meeting new people who speak differently, think differently than me. Wondering about those people… their day to day life, who they are, and what they’ve done to bring them to the very moment which we meet. Seeing different parts of the world, in creation and architecture. Embracing color, texture, flavor and music in everything around me, as if my life depends on it.
That is what travel does for me.
It makes me feel sharply alive and in tune with the world around me. It makes me feel relaxed even in surrounding chaos. It makes me look up from my daily tasks and breathe in the world.
Visiting Cancun offered no less than this very thing, a deep awareness of the beauty around me.
Initially upon receiving an invite to visit, I was very excited at the chance to quench my sense of wanderlust. Then I started thinking about things I’d heard about Cancun over the years and began to wonder if this was really the place for me to visit.
Images of Girls Gone Wild and drunken college kids filled my mind. …Believe it or not, that’s not really my scene.
Yet from my first cab ride from the airport, I began to notice that my reservations were unmerited. There were luxury hotels and family attractions in every direction. There were clean sidewalks and easy access points to transportation all along the road to my hotel. There were pristine beaches lining the roads, with water so vividly aqua, I could barely take my eyes off it.
What had I been missing all these years?
I checked into my hotel, the Fiesta Americana Grand Coral Beach, which was a lovely hotel located right at the tip of Cancun, facing out toward Isla Mujeres.
Running in front of the white sand beach below the hotel is the second largest coral reef in the world, the Great Mesoamerican Reef. (Second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.) This amazing reef provides a home for a plethora of sea creatures and fish, making it a marvelous place to snorkel and scuba dive.
Another interesting fact about the reef is that the pieces of coral that have broken off and worn down over time have created the gloriously white fine sand that runs along the coast. It’s the softest sand you’d ever want to sink your feet into.
The white sand and dazzling aqua water are completely breath-taking.
We’ve been to dozens and dozens of beaches throughout the continental US, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and various places around the world. The only other beach I can remember being this beautiful is off a remote island in Thailand.
I went up to my room, which happened to be very spacious and clean, and made a beeline for the balcony.
I happen to judge all hotels by what I can see from my balcony…
Thankfully all 602 rooms at the Fiesta American have an ocean view.
The crazy thing about Cancun is that even though the main drag is bustling and lined with hotels, behind each hotel is a private paradise. You don’t hear any street noise, just the wind and the waves.
I walked the famous Forum Beach, which is directly across the street along the lagoon…
I swam in the warm gently waves.
Had a massage on a beach daybed.
And was generally spoiled beyond measure.
We visited several other opulent hotels and spectacular beaches…
We ate Mexican pastries, ceviche, chilaquiles, mole dishes, and various tacos until we were filled to the brim, but ridiculously happy. We even ate some sushi, just for kicks.
Here is a very small sampling of what I ate and drank in Cancun… Only dishes consumed in the daylight.
I could never get a great shot of our lavish dinners after dark.
On my last day in Cancun, a new local friend recommended that I take a trip to Isla Mujeres, known as “Woman Island” because early explorers found figurines of a female Mayan deity all over the island when they arrived.
I was alone that day and my friend insisted I would be completely safe taking the ferry over to the island and exploring on my own.
When I got off the ferry, I crossed the street and rented a golf cart. Then I spent the day whizzing down the road looking out over the ocean, stopping at little shops and restaurants, watching zip-liners fly over the water, and exploring Mayan ruins.
Here I am in my golf cart… wind-blown, sandy, sunburned, yet having a marvelous time.
I caught my eyes swelling up with tears of joy several times that day, while looking out over cliffs and poking through sea caves.
Happy tears are never a bad thing.
At the end of the day, I met some friendly fishermen who had just brought in their catch.
They patiently showed me the varieties of fish they had caught and how to properly clean and grill them.
The perfect ending to a perfect day, for a cook.
My final thought is that Cancun is for everyone.
Not just the spring break college crowd. Not just honeymooners looking for adult-only resorts. Not just for families with children.
There is literally something for everyone.
Picturesque beaches, water sports of every variety, amazing restaurants, hotels that cater to families, private getaways tucked down the coast, swimming with dolphins, zip lines, natural and archeological wonders, bars and clubs, boat rides, nature parks, spectacular shows…
And of course, countless places to lay in the sun (or the shade) and do nothing at all but listen to the waves.
I want to go back.
Correction, I will go back. And probably sooner than later.
I found Cancun and the Mayan Riviera not only safe for travelers and women, but bursting with a life and warmth that I want to experience again and again!
Disclosure: The Mexican Tourism Board hosted me on this trip. I was not required to share any information with you, all opinions are my own.