First of all – go with money. It’s Cancun! What are you doing there without money?
Technically I’ve been budgeting the whole year: staying in hostels, buying food to cook in the hostel kitchen, taking advantage of my friend’s house, busing around, catching an uber, even hitchhiking a bit. But Cancun is not really your “cultural” experience. Cancun is your holiday get-away. So that’s how it should be spent.
However, I’m still a student so I had to make the best of what I had with my student bank account. Mel and I stayed in a hostel in Cancun, one of the few hostels around Cancun and right where the party’s at. If I was to go back again I would probably stay by Playa de Carmen, over an hour away from Cancun -away from the party life and closer to the more relaxed beach life.
Meanwhile, our Mexican friends, celebrating their graduation, were staying in an all-inclusive Hotel about 10 minutes from us. In my opinion, that’s how it should be done. While they had a whole eight days to spend in Quintana Roo (the state of Cancun) and Yucatan, Mel and I had four days. We had no choice but to make the most of our time.
So here are the three things I’m glad I prioritised:
This is as authentically cultural as you’re going to get while you’re here. A long time ago, from 800 to 1200 AD it was the political and economical hub of the Mayan civilisation- a trading centre for cloth, slaves, honey and salt. Today, in the 21st century it is the social and economical hub for the visiting foreigners searching for a piece of Mexican culture- a marketplace for souvenirs and trinkets. Seriously, every two minutes you’re going to hear a jaguar call and the chirp of a quetzal as a market vendor tries to catch your attention with their unusual little gadgets.
Apart from being a tourist magnet and one of the seven modern natural wonders of the world, Chichen Itza boasts an impressive pyramid called El Castillos or the Temple of the Kukulcan, as it carried the figure of the serpent Kukulkán. This is the main attraction. However, the area is huge with a great ball court where the Mayan’s played their famous ball game, hitting the ball with their hips? Honestly I still have no idea how that works. There is also the Caracol, used as an observatory aligning with Venus.
I had never heard of them in my life, but they are one of the coolest things I have ever seen. A cenote is a natural underground reservoir of water occurring from the collapse of limestone bedrocks caves only in Mexico. There are more than 6000 different cenotes in the state of Yucatan and I managed to make it to one of them -Cenote Ik-Kil.
“This cenote is 40 meters deep. If you’re not a great swimmer, make sure you hire a life jacket,” says our tour guide as we pull into the parking lot.
“I should be fine,” I think to myself, “I’m on a budget after all.”
I’m not that bad of a swimmer, but after 5 minutes in the water I definitely wish I hired a lifejacket. It wasn’t the depth that threw me off, it was the lack of salt. It took so much more effort to float. Usually cenote water is very clear as it comes from rain water filtering slowly through the ground. However, the one we visited was a rich dark blue colour containing little black fish, yet accumulated water in the same manner. It was forty minutes well spent -a workout, a few jumps from a height of seven meters and an awe-inspiring view looking at the sky out of the hole 26 meters above us.
Relax on a beach
Obviously if you’re in Cancun, you’ve heard of its amazing beaches. The closest to Cancun, besides the beach of Cancun, are those on Islas de las Mujeres. In fact, according to Tripadvisor, Playa Norte, on Isla de Mujeres is considered one of the best beaches in the world. So we get on a boat and take the 40 minute choppy trip to Isla de Mujeres.
What makes a good beach? For me its, the whiteness of the sand making for a nice blue sea colour and minimal waves. And that’s exactly what Playa Norte offered. The current was quite strong and if we weren’t fighting against it we could have easy drifted around the island. However, it was beautiful and I spent a satisfying 40 minutes in the water.