Agent Name: Lisa
Date: October 2010
Trip Location: Cancun and Mayan Riviera with Sunquest Vacations
Overal Impression: I’ve always loved Mexico. Cancun and the Mayan Riviera is a touch at the surface of Mexico, letting you dip your toes in the pool so to speak. Cancun is a city built on the beach. To go shopping you end up in a mall, an open air mall mind you, but with many of the American stores and just a few local stores mixed in-between. It’s an easy place to get around and explore. My overall impression was Cancun is Mexico’s Disneyland, a sterile, scaled-back image for the tourists’ destination. Nothing here is too far from the familiar.
We stayed our first 2 nights at El Dorado Royale in the Mayan Riviera close to Puerto Morelos. Our next 3 nights were in the Ocean Coral in the Privilege Suites, with concierge and butler services, also located in the Mayan Riviera close to Playa Del Carmen. Our final two nights were in Cancun at the Gran Melia Cancun. In all, we undertook 25 site inspections in 5 days!
In addition, we enjoyed an excursion to the underground caves of Rio Secreto, one of the limestone cave systems under the peninsula’s jungle. AMAZING! I also arranged a tour with a private guide to visit Chichen Itza, a highlight of which was a refreshing swim in Dzitnup Cenote where we shared the cenote with just one other family. A memorable lunch time stop was taken above Cenote Zaci, in the center of Valladolid city. We ate with the locals and sampled some regional pork marinated in orange juice. It was so tender, and thinly sliced with a smoky flavour mingled with the citrus. Yummy.
Maroma Beach – unique because the sand that comprises this beach is always cool to the touch. No burnt feet here on the sand at 8am or high noon, it is always cool to the tender toes.
Advice and tips: Mexico’s currency exchange law has changed so if you want to
bring cash don’t change your money twice. You can bring CAD and change what you need, as you need it, at a local exchange house or at the hotel.
At the airport, as with many resort destinations, there are many timeshare reps who will attempt to sidetrack you. Walk with purpose and know what you’re doing, who’s providing your transfer and what hotel you are going to.
Buses are easy to use in Cancun. In the Mayan Corridor if you are adventurous use one of the local buses “white vans” and you’re on your way to explore the markets and offerings of the nearby towns, Playa del Carmen being the primary one. It’s an economical way to get around but these pick up with a wave from the main road. Your resorts are set back quite a distance from the main roads so I’d be wearing my tennis shoes for this walk rather than my sandals or
flip flops for the walk in and out of your resort since you have a 10-15minute walk to the main road.
For a rare and unique experience use a local guide. I met up and made arrangements with Alberto Morales from Peninsula tours for my day trip to Chiten Itza and got to enjoy his services and was left with teasers about his adventure tours that are now on my bucket list.
If you really want to experience Mexico, splurge on a private tour for the intimate experience, rather than the cattle herd tours. A single day tour for 2 starts from 350 USD including your entrances and transportation for an experience that you will remember for many years to come. After enjoying a tour like this you will understand and appreciate the marked difference in relative experiences. You have your guide’s undivided attention to you and your interests, rather than a motor coach experience sharing the guide with 44 others and keeping to a strict timeline within that framework .
Favourite Hotels: Ocean Coral by H10 (for families). For an intimate romantic retreat, the 72-suite El Dorado Aroma.
Favourite Town: Valladolid and the local cenotes. Off
the main tourist path this colonially historic city is worth a stop after you see the archeological site of Chichen Itza and a walking tour with a local guide will fill you in on the stories behind the buildings.
Fabourite Restaurant: At the Azul Beach Resort the food was AMAZING!! But Azul resorts are part of the Gourmet Inclusive Collection of Karisma properties so that isn’t too much of a surprise. They deliver on their Gourmet Inclusive promise. The brunch we were served at El Dorado Maroma, another Karisma property, was also delicious, fresh and unique, including Green Juice from cactus. I’ve had some lovely meals with the beautiful presentations but this was my first 4 course brunch.
Local food to try: Churros, Mexican sugar and cinnamon donuts that don’t look like Canadian donuts but a nice sweet treat and extra yummy with some vanilla soft serve ice cream.
Best local tour or activity: By far I must speak highly of Rio Secreto, a natural reserve. When I heard we were going on a cave excursion my interests were piqued but the actual experience was out of this world! The limestone cenotes of the Mayan peninsula are amazing – and right underfoot! Rio Secreto is a commercial nature reserve that provides top notch service. Our guide was terrific and attentive. Set up with wetsuits, hard hats and headlamps we descended into the cave entrance to another world, of peace and wonder. With plenty of information and careful attention we were taken on a guided tour of the limestone caves where we really were in another world. The amazing formations of the stalactites descending from the ceilings, and the stalagmites that one day may reach the other to create a column of limestone.
At one point our group rested in the cave, and we collectively turned off our headlamps as our guide explained some more about the ecosystem of the cave and then we turned out his lamp…and sat in a silence that I’ve never experienced, and a darkness like no other I can find in my daily life and thought about the wonder of this cave and my opportunity to explore it. Coincidentally, this was just days after the Chilean miners finally surfaced from their own underground stay. The limestone deposits are truly breathtaking and the reserve policy about no cameras is not just a scam to sell you the photo disk. Unless you’ve got the right equipment your pocket camera won’t capture the images of the caves so plan to purchase the disk to remember your exploration.
Another unique experience we enjoyed was a Tequila Tasting with a Tequila Master, a remarkable experience and enjoyable education and appreciation for Tequila and its flavours. Yes, there are flavours of tequila far beyond the Tequila Poppers and shots of tequila that are the stereotypically traditional encounters between gringo and Tequila.