Our family, me, my wife & 2 kids (ages 13 & 11) took a trip in late December and first week of January. Here is our trip report;
We arrived from the airport at the JW Marriott about 4 pm. We hung around the pool and beach for a while. The waves were a little rough, and it was a bit breezy. Both the rough waves and steady breeze stayed with us the whole time we were there. When it got dark, we went for a walk on Kulkulcan Blvd., stopping at the Kulkulcan shopping center, then finding a little place called Santos Marisco’s for a good dinner.
We had some muffins from OXXO for breakfast (OXXO muffins were a big hit with the kids) and we hung at the pool in the morning. We ate at Beachwalker, the pool restaurant at the hotel. We walked over to Blue Ray Marina for the jungle cruise. The boats were fun to drive in the lagoon and through the mangroves out to the Caribbean. We parked our boats and did some snorkeling. Saw lots of fish, which freaked the kids out at first. We rode the boats back to the marina as the sun was setting. The cruise was fun, but the name ‘Jungle Cruise’ is kind of misleading. Actually, it’s very misleading. Yes, we cruised through the mangroves, but the word ‘jungle’ is an exaggeration. That being said, I’d recommend the tour. Just don’t expect to explore the jungle. We went to the hotel and cleaned up, then went to Kulkulcan shopping center and walked around. We had a great dinner at La Distelleria.
We found a little breakfast place at the Sunrise Marina (cash only) and had the first of our three breakfasts here. To get to the dining area you have to walk through a little market shop. The food was great, and very cheap. Each breakfast was around 200 – 250 pesos, or $15 to $20. After breakfast we hit the pool and beach for a bit, and then took a cab to Scuba Cancun for a one tank dive at the underwater statue museum. The statues were really neat; the visibility was great and we also some lots of marine life. We cleaned up at the hotel and took the bus to the La Isla shopping mall. We hung out here for a while and then walked to Lorenzillo’s for a great dinner.
We had breakfast at the Sunrise Marina, and then went to Scuba Cancun for a two tank dive. Again, the diving was great. So much marine life; schools of fish, rays, barracudas, etc. After diving we had lunch again at Beachwalk (hotel pool) and spent the afternoon at the pool. Most restaurants had expensive fixed menus for New Year’s Eve dinner, so we went to Sasi at the Casa Magna Marriott that was attached to our hotel. Dinner here was great!
OXXO muffins for breakfast and then hung out at the beach and pool, relaxing and taking pictures. We took a bus to Habanero’s (cash only) for a great lunch. This may have been our best meal, and it was less than $20. We walked through a crappy flea market and then took the bus back to the hotel. That night, we took the bus to the Surfin’ Burrito (cash only) for a great and inexpensive dinner. This was a little storefront, with only three tables of seats. This place was also a bar, and it was full of loud and kind of rowdy people. After dinner, we went to the Forum by the Sea shopping area, which was disappointing.
We decided to skip Nebraska’s bowl game (watched it after the trip, what a poor performance by the ‘Huskers) and took a ferry over to Isla Mujures. Brunch at Rooster was ok. We rented a golf cart for two hours and drove the road around the island. We stopped at a turtle sanctuary and Punta Sur. It was interesting driving around the island; there were many unusual houses that we saw. Back in town, we grabbed a couple great Cuban sandwiches at Qubano (cash only), and then we went to Playa Norte to relax and play in the water. The beach was average, which was disappointing. As we walked back to the ferry, we found the part of Playa Norte that we had seen pictures of. It was beautiful. We spent the afternoon at the wrong beach. We took the ferry back to Cancun, and picked up our rental car at Cancun car rental. We headed into Ciudad Cancun for dinner at Labna. The food was good, but wasn’t among the best meals.
We left town early and drove about two and a half hours to Chichen Itza. We had a great tour from Jesus (cash only for parking, entrance and tour) and learned a lot about the area and the Mayans. We got there right after they opened, which was a good thing because of the long line at the entrance when we were leaving. We headed to the old colonial town of Valladolid, where we had a good lunch at Las Campanas. After lunch, we went to Ek Balam (cash only for parking and entrance), another set of Mayan ruins. This area was smaller than Chichen Itza, but you could climb the buildings here. The central pyramid here, El Torre, is 98 feet high, which is larger than El Castillo at Chichen Itza. Great views from the top of El Torre! We left and drove back to Cancun in the dark. We were stopped at a few checkpoints, but no problems. We had a fun dinner at La Parilla, in Ciudad Cancun and headed back to the hotel.
We had our last breakfast at the Sunrise Marina, checked out of the hotel and headed for Akumal. We got a speeding ticket on Kulkulcan Blvd, as we didn’t notice the speed limit changed from 70 kilometers per hour to 40 when we hit the ‘archaeological zone’. The cops played some games with us, and I was sure that we weren’t speeding. After giving them 1200 pesos (about $90), we left without an actual ticket. We did a U-turn go back and see if the speed limit had in fact changed. The cops threw their lights on and followed us. And, sure enough, they were right. Although we were speeding, so was everybody else, and our big blue rental car sticker had given us away. We drove to Akumal, strictly following the speed limits and about getting run of the road a few times. We were the only vehicle observing all the speed limits. We went through a couple more checkpoints (with armed police and/or armed soldiers) without any problems.
We made it to Las Villas Akumal, which was very nice. After spending a little time there, we headed to La Buena Vida for dinner. The kids enjoyed climbing the crow’s nest and hanging out, while we all enjoyed being close to the water. Although, it was a little chilly with the breeze coming in off the water. The dinner was very good.
We drove to Playa Del Carmen (another checkpoint) to catch the ferry to Cozumel. We went through security at the pier building on Cozumel, and then wandered around to find the starting point for the Amazing Cozumel Race. This was a great time, although we finished tied for 14th out of 14 teams. Our son was throwing up while exiting the ferry may have had a little impact on our performance during the race. The race took us through different parts of town, including taking a boat into the bay and having to get in the water to read the name of a sunken boat. While passing the pier building, we saw an army truck pull up, and out hoped seven armed soldiers and a dog heading into the building. We would highly recommend the Cozumel Amazing Race. It was very well organized and was a lot of fun.
After the post-race celebration and awards, we took a cab to the money bar. We had a good lunch here, and spent the afternoon using their beach. We did some snorkeling here; again, there was a lot of marine life, a couple of rays and lots of schools of fishes. The waves here were real calm; the water was warm and shallow. We took a cab back to the ferry building and headed back to PDC. We listened to a band play on the way back, and ran into some ‘Husker fans. We greeted them, and they ruined the day for us when someone let slip the result of the bowl game. We walked up and down Avenida Quinta, had some ice cream at Aldo’s and bought some Tequila at Playa Mart. They had a good variety of tequila to sample, and we purchased a couple of bottles. We then drove back to Akumal.
We left early for the Tulum (cash only for parking and entrance) ruins, which we really enjoyed. The setting of the ruins is wonderful. We were able to take some good pictures here before it got crowded. From Tulum we drove about 45 to reach the Coba (cash only for parking and entrance) ruins. These are really spread out, so we rented some bikes to ride from one set of ruins to another. These were the least restored of all the ruins we saw, but they were still interesting. El Castillo is the second tallest Mayan structure in the Yucatan, and we climbed to the top of this. My wife was a little iffy after climbing El Torre at Ek Balam, and these steps looked a little more treacherous, so she waited at the bottom for us. Again, the view from the top was really neat. After leaving Coba we stopped in a small village, Macario Gomez, for lunch at a roadside stand. Our lunch, including four pops, was less than $10. On the way back to Tulum, we stopped for a swim at Grad Cenote. It cost about $30 (cash only). None of the ruins, gas stations, etc. accepted a credit card. We usually pay for as much as possible on our Marriott credit card to earn points, but we had to make three visits to ATM machines while we were down there. The water was very clear, but a bit chilly. It took a couple minutes to warm up, but we had fun exploring the different caverns. There were a few fish and some small turtles, but not a bunch of marine life. We went back to our villas and cleaned up, then drove into Akumal and had a decent dinner at Turtle Beach Café.
We headed to Yal-Ku lagoon, outside of Akumal. The lagoon is a mix of salt and fresh water, and had lots of marine life. The water was warmer than in the cenote and we stayed here for a couple of hours. Leaving Yal-Ku, we stopped at Lol-Ha for a good lunch. This was on Akumal Bay, where the reef outside the bay allowed for the water here being real calm. The snorkeling was great, turtles, rays and other marine life. After snorkeling we went back to our villa to clean up and pack. We had another great dinner at La Buena Vida.
We walked along the beach and took some pictures, before leaving for the airport.