Mexico has been on my bucket list for years, and I recently got the chance to go visit and friend to explore. The whole point of the trip was as a dive excursion (and that’ll be a few posts in itself!) but I took the opportunity to play tourist a bit and enjoy what the city had to offer ❤ Maybe there’s a couple tips here that can help you on your own adventure.
Staying in Cancun – Step Back from the Hotels
We spent almost two weeks in the city, and the best part of it was honestly NOT being part of a hotel ecosystem. We stayed with a dive instructor friend of ours, and being able and forced to explore outside of an inclusive resort allowed for a level of integration into the area I don’t think we would have gotten otherwise. Make no mistake, Cancun is effectively an American city in Mexico. If you really want to, you can barely dip your toes in anything cultural that isn’t familiar.
View from the balcony
Friendly cat to keep us company!
There are benefits to an all-inclusive resort, but I don’t think they outweigh the benefits of having a more quiet and relaxed environment! I got so many opportunities to use my broken Spanish, sneak off the beaten path, and find some fun gems. Just my opinion.
First Stop – The Beach!
We spent the first day or two relaxing. De-stressing, and letting the flight lag and tiredness dissipate. The whole point of the trip was to disconnect to hang out with friends, and this was the best opportunity. I definitely suggest taking a day to just chill. Over planning a trip is a surefire way to make it just a tiring as normal everyday life.
We took that chance to play at the beach! There are so many gorgeous (and free!) beaches to explore, and luckily we were right across the street from one.
The view of the ocean is always incredible
It’s been a while since we were at a beach. There’s something distinctly touristy about it–and that’s ok. We lived in Florida for so long that I think the beach doesn’t usually register as a “destination” of sorts, it just exists. It was nice to take the time to wander over and enjoy the sun.
It’s very clearly part of “the strip” of hotel beach areas in what’s called the Hotel Zone, and they were crazy. But it’s a fun vibe, and the soft sandy beach with vibrant blue water was worth it.
Fun fact: don’t swim in the bay, only the Atlantic side. There are crocodiles there… for real. People get bitten. Heard some stories from our friend we stayed with about tourists having a “bad day” over there.
Exploring the City
After spending the first day and half ish unpacking, pulling out dive gear to sort, and drinking too much beer, it became time to explore a bit!
Our friend Louis acquainted us with the bus system. And I’ve gotta say that I really do love public transportation, it’s minimally existent where I live. About 12 pesos per person (around $0.75), the buses run 24/7, and since everything is pretty much right along the main road they’re perfect to get you in an out of wherever you need to go. Lugging around a bunch of shit sucks (and I did NOT enjoy dragging gear bags on them to the dive shop) but for quick grocery runs or souvenir shopping they’re freaking amazing.
And I’m pleased to say we only got on the wrong bus direction once 😉
Along the main strip is a TON of stuff to see/do/shop/drink. Obviously there’s the obligatory chain restaurants–good old Fat Tuesday–but it’s definitely worth doing some wandering.
The street vendors here are AGGRESSIVE. They will keep talking your ear off trying to sell you and pull you into their shop… and if you look and act like a tourist it’ll be even worse. We learned that the hard way when my boyfriend pulled out his camera to get some shots as we went along. It was amazing how much smoother and less harassing the walk went the next day when we didn’t have the camera out.
It’s interesting to note that haggling is entirely possible and encouraged in some situations here. The main strip is designed to take advantage of the tourists, and they’ll charge prices commensurate with that. But generally the prices in the strip shops are negotiable, and they’ll start dropping the price if you don’t seem interested. If you’re really not interested, just say no thanks and keep walking. The secret is to keep walking… if you stop, they’ll keep talking.
Chedraui Is Life
There’s this awesome big supermarket called Chedraui, and it will have pretty much anything you need, international or otherwise. If you’re looking to stock up on room snacks, booze, or drinks then I strongly suggest it. You pretty much can’t miss it from the bus, so it’s just a quick ride from most any place. It is a big chain market, and I do think you should check out the small markets too, but it’s perfect for getting a big variety of stuff. Upstairs there’s a great food court area too, and the food is authentic and delicious.
I’m pretty sure we hit that market at least every other day to restock on beer and snacks. The beer was kind of a recurring theme for the trip; but it’s vacation!
It was just as much fun to take the bus to the market and then wander the stores outside on the strip to shop.
Diving the Reefs In Cancun
A couple days into the trip we got our opportunity to get our gills wet. It’s been a bit since we’ve been diving (we’ve spending time back in the Midwest with family until we go back to Florida in a few months) so a bit of reef diving was a perfect way to reinvigorate ourselves.
Our friend works at Solo Buceo Dive so that was where we did our diving for the week. It’s a fun shop full of hilarious people, and great employees. They’re actually attached to the Hyatt Ziva, so that’s a solid option to stay if you’re diving with them. We were able to leave our gear there all week in a locked locker, which was perfect–it was enough of a hassle to get it there on the bus in the first place.
The shop itself is small, with a check-in area and a bit of stuff for purchase (think souvenir shirts, basic gear, stickers, bottles etc). Which was totally fine by us–we were more interested in diving, and most places there are focused on the actual diving rather than gear sales. They do have repair techs on staff, though that isn’t a service really offered for guests. It’s more for their internal rental gear basic servicing. But if shit hits the fan it’s always nice to know that you could potentially find help.
Reef Diving in Cancun
The dock for the boats is right by the check in, so there was no travel time to get to the boat for setup. The guides at Solo Buceo loaded our gear and offered to set it up for us. I’m a Divemaster and my boyfriend an MSDT, so we definitely prefer to set up and check our own gear–thought I always appreciate it when boat crew offer. It’s just good customer service.
This dive was a bit different than our others in the past, in that our friend Louis asked us to play a trick on his friend (who was our guide that day). We were to pretend to be newly certified divers who had no idea what we were doing! So we proceeded to get on the boat, set up our gear all incorrectly, and ask for an excessive amount of weight to dive with. Sounds mean? We’ve all had it done to us 😉 It’s part of the internal joking that abounds in the dive community, and it’s pretty common to mess with each other.
The guide was on top of it–noticing our things weren’t set up quite right, and trying to gently talk us into using a more appropriate amount of weight to dive with. He also kept a good eye on his divers in the water, paying everyone equal attention. Though I’m pretty sure we about gave him a heart attack to start with by worrying him that we were going to be problem divers. The jig was up after the first dive though, as how we looked underwater evidently gave us away. Plus we didn’t want to overly worry the poor guy TOO much. He seemed to get a kick out of it, and I’m pretty sure Louis had us play that trick on him as retribution for some joke played on him.
The reefs in Cancun are similar to what we’ve experienced in Florida–it’s all the Caribbean essentially, so not surprising. I will say they seemed to be in pretty good condition, as compared to some places in the Florida Keys I’ve been. The ride out to the reef itself is very quick and the depth is relatively shallow, I think we clocked around 40 ft or so for the house reef. There is a good amount of structure to the reef, with nook and crannies, coral heads, and sand channels to explore. We also got plenty of time in the water and didn’t feel rushed, which is nice. I enjoy using the air in my tank! All in all it was a very pleasant dive. The 80+ degree water certainly helped!
The rest of the journey incoming on another post! Look out for Part 2.