Our first vacation in 2017 - Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico! Anyone who has been there knows that the list of things to see/do is endless. Number of historic sites, beautiful beaches, cenotes every few miles, theme parks and plenty of delicious food to eat. Ours was a very short 3 day trip on the occasion of my birthday and we only barely scratched the list, nonetheless we had a great time.
We arrived in Cancun a saturday evening on a 5 hour flight from LAX. We cleared the immigration, picked our luggage and looked for an ATM on our way out but couldn't seem to find it. We didn't want to leave the airport without any pesos in hand so we didn't have a choice but to go to Foreign exchange, only to find an ATM later as we exited the airport. What a rip off it was.
We picked up a rental car from Avis and headed to our hotel. Sense Riviera Maya by Artisan is an adults only boutique hotel of sorts located in a private less touristy area overlooking the ocean. The room was lovely and the view was fantastic (every room had a view).
My birthday couldn't get any more special - we woke up to a beautiful sunrise over the caribbean sea. All we wanted to do was just lounge on the patio, order breakfast and enjoy the view. But we planned to beat the crowds to Tulum ruins, so we didn't waste much time and got dressed.
We managed to make it by 8:30am, while few tourists were already at the site. The ruins are located on a limestone cliff overlooking the gorgeous turquoise caribbean sea. All the ruins were roped off but had a little history written by the side of the trail for tourists to read. Beach access from the ruins was closed off so we left once we were done touring the site. The shopping center where we had parked was fully open and busy on our way out, and we were just in time for a pole flyers performance.
More about our trip to Tulum Ruins.
Next we headed to Playa Paraiso beach. We parked on a sandy street that opened to the beach next to Pancho Villa bar and grill. We found ourselves a palapa to sit under and ordered some tacos. It was a pure white sand beach with striking turquoise color water, perfect to relax after touring around in the sun. We loved the tacos and the sweet coconut water that we bought from a vendor next to the grill.
More about Playa Paraiso Beach.
After lunch we headed to Sian Ka’an Biosphere to see Muyil ruins and the lagoon. It was such a contrast from the crowded Tulum ruins. It was a peaceful retreat in the middle of a jungle pretty much all by ourselves. The ruins were much older (roped off as well) and not all of the structures were restored. Behind the tallest structure El Castillo there was a trail that lead to the lagoon, with an observation deck half way through the trail. At the lagoon we took a boat tour. The lagoon was a beautiful light emerald color bordered with tall grass and mangrove trees. We sailed through a narrow artificial canal that was shallow, crystal clear and tiny colorful fish swam in it.
More about Muyil Ruins and Sian Ka'an Biosphere.
With that we ended our day and headed back to the hotel. Restaurant at Senses was located by the pool overlooking the beautiful ocean and served delicious food. Service was a bit slow but we did not mind sitting there all night enjoying the ocean. Every night we slept with the patio doors open. The loud roars of crashing waves and howling wind was like music to a peaceful sleep.
Waking up early when on a vacation is very unpleasant as it is, the time zone difference just makes it even worse. We had a two and a half hour drive to Chichen Itza ahead of us and we wanted to get there before the tourist buses arrived. We were still able to catch the sunrise on our way out, more beautiful than the day before. We made it before the buses but there were already many lined up at the ticket counters and some already inside the ruins. The site was huge, the ruins were unique with interesting history, and all completely roped off. Vendors pushed their cart of goods around trying to get to their spot and open shops. On our way out the entrance was so congested with tourists and more kept coming.
More about Chicken Itza.
Ek' Balam was only an hour drive from there. Like Muyil, it was a great change in atmosphere. Ek' Balam is small and unlike the three sites mentioned above, here people were allowed to climb on the ruins and explore closely. We did climb on the main structure El Torre and took in the view from the top. After seeing the ruins we rented a bike and rode to cenote X'canche. It was a deep emerald sinkhole surrounded by rock walls and hanging tree roots. Wooden steps were placed around the walls allowing to get down for swimming.
More about Ek'Balam and X'Canche cenote.
Our plan was to go to Coba next but we felt like roasted chickens already ;). It was more than an hour drive to Coba anyway, even if we had made it we wouldn't have had enough time to see all the ruins. We couldn't wait to go back to our hotel and wash off the sweat and dust. So we went back to our hotel, showered, had another delicious dinner at the restaurant and called it an early night.
We woke up leisurely, enjoyed the view and had a delicious breakfast. We then spent some time by the pool and strolled on the beach. Although the hotel was not beach front, a stairway by the restaurant lead down to an opening to the beach. At nights, rough waves came crashing in through the opening making it dangerous to pass through. Mornings were calmer and the water retreated making it possible to dig our feet in the sand and watch tiny fishes in the tide pools.
We checked-out of our hotel at noon and had sometime to kill before our flight. So we drove to 5th Avenue, Playa Del Carmen. The street was bright and colorful with shops, restaurants, happy tourists and eager vendors. We had lunch, relaxed on the beach for a bit, checked out all the attractive shops on the street and then headed to the airport to catch our flight back to LA.
More about 5th Avenue - Playa Del Carmen.