Possibly my new favorite city in Mexico, Cancun is definitely a place I would like to frequent. The beaches were true “white sand beaches” and not nearly as crowded as I had expected. The waters… if I didn’t know any better, I’d say someone photo shopped an image right on my sunglasses, creating multiple layers of perfect turquoise paired with pristine blue skies. Really, this entire trip was full of scenic surprises…
Cancun was my first stop on a three week visit to the Gulf of Mexico. I stayed at Le Meridian Resort and Spa, owned by my beloved Starwood Hotels. The hotel itself was beautiful, with multi layered infinity pools, in a unique dark blue that whispered, “zen.” The canopy hammock beds were available for rent- $40 USD to swing in the shade while watching beachside sunbathers and drinking… whatever those things are the cabana boys bring in giant coconuts. We rented the row of cabanas and lounged for the day in absolute heaven. We did take a cabana break to wander down to the beach and rent jet skis- a task that is not for the light-hearted when the seas are acting playful. I don’t remember the last time I laughed so hard.
The staff at Le Meridien were friendly, and the front desk and concierge were particularly helpful, offering tips for attractions, and recommending well known restaurants such as Lorenzillos, a world famous seafood restaurant situated directly on the lagoon side of Cancun. (Lorenzillos doesn’t seem to have a detailed website up yet, but in case they ever do, I’m sharing the link: http://www.lorenzillos.com.mx.) I can honestly say, this restaurant has earned its reputation. They not only serve the best lobster I’ve EVER had in my life, but they have their own lobster farm on site and an ideal setting, complete with deckside tables presenting plenty of opportunity to fish watch and crocodile-perv right from your table. Lorenzillos is definitely my pick for Cancun restaurants.
One of Cancun’s more popular attractions are the pyramids of Chichen Itza, home of one of the largest known Mayan pyramids. A 2+ hour drive from Cancun, our concierge suggested either a luxury tour bus or private car rental for our visit to the ruins. We opted for a car, in case we decided to stay longer… or shorter, than a tour bus would permit. Ok, let me warn you- if you ever rent a car in Mexico, expect the gas tank to be empty, or at least not full! And stop for gas well before getting on the road to Chichen Itza because it will be well over an hour to the nearest gas station. Eh, but while you’re stopped, there’s an excellent cafe with Tamales that are out of this world! Well before this, just outside of a toll booth, we stopped at a tourist information center and ended up buying a Chichen Itza tour package that included our entry fees into the archaeological park, parking, and lunch. We were given handy maps and background information about Chichen Itza’s attractions and the Mayan culture.
After arriving at the archaeological park, we opted to hire a private tour guide- this was definitely the way to go. He shared detailed background information about the history, and culture of the ancient civilization. This made it far more interesting than just walking around staring at ruins we knew little about. I’d definitely recommend a private tour guide if you’re planning to visit Chichen Itza. Just remember to arrive early and plan to do your shopping after your tour- otherwise, your tour could go very long and your tour guide might just get cranky, hanging out waiting while you’re negotiating how much to pay for that quartz pyramid or curious Mayan mask.
The weather in Chichen Itza? Humid and hot, but the mosquitos seemed to like it. Bring a hat, sunglasses, and dress cool, with a layer of insect repellent. It was so humid while we were there, it was almost unbearable. A thunderstorm started, but this just made the giant pyramid look cooler.
After the rainstorm passed, we wandered around the grounds. There’s a hotel surrounding the archaeological park, which is actually built ON the ruins- of which we were told consist of more than 300 ruin mounds. Wandering around the hotel, and through the villas and gardens, there were a number of “hidden” ruins, including statues and stone roads that few people get to see. The wandering peacocks even add a nice exotic touch.