While Cancun, Mexico may bring to mind, for many, a college student’s drunk getaway, I think that mentality alone paints the wrong picture. Mexico, in general, is comprised of numerous regions, all authentic with their own culture and history, and to label any such region, specifically Cancun, as just a “party place” rips its rich diversity and beauty right into shreds.
I had the pleasure of traveling to Cancun with my brother this summer, and although we picked one of the hottest months in the year (June through August are pretty toasty in Cancun!), we didn’t mind: Slijepcevic siblings out on an adventure. Even my Facebook status at the airport spelled it out just right:
“Two siblings traveling to Mexico. Which one makes it back alive? Tune in to find out.”
As with most Mexico vacations, particularly the ones closer to the gorgeous beaches, resorts are often the best and cheapest way to go. Granted, finding cozy and cute AirBnB accommodations are always an awesome option (and I would highly recommend it!), but if you like the all-inclusive feel, then a resort is a great choice. We stayed at the Allegro Playacar resort, which is right on the beach in Playa Del Carmen, a beautiful location that will truly give you the relaxation (or adventure!) that you’re looking for.
As with most all-inclusive resorts, you know what you’re going to get, but the quality of it is what differentiates one resort from another. I can say with confidence that this resort had everything my “brosky” and I were looking for: great food, plenty of pool space and beach activities (volleyball, early morning yoga sessions, etc.), authentic souvenirs to bring back home, and of course, unlimited alcohol. Some people like more of the luxurious feel, and thankfully, Allegro Playacar is under the umbrella of Barcelo, which is a huge franchise of globally-owned hotels and resorts. If Allegro is not your shot of tequila, Barcelo has a boatload of other resorts that you’ll be sure to love.
Our room was truly cozy! We always had fresh towels and large bottles of water in the room every day. It is wise to note that drinking non-bottled water in Mexico is iffy for tourists who aren’t used to it. It doesn’t mean that the tap water is necessarily bad or polluted; it just means that our sensitive, little stomachs are going to get queasy, so unless you like sitting on the toilet for hours, just drink the bottled stuff (or tequila!). We also had a super comfy hammock right outside on our little “porch,” which was nice to use on the cooler nights.
What to Do? Everything!!
Each resort truly goes out of their way to offer as many activities as possible. Sure, some of those sales tactics are just to get you to buy as much stuff as possible, but honestly? You’re on vacation! Go enjoy it!
Before we even decided to go to Cancun, we’d heard so much about Xcaret, which is one of Cancun’s biggest and most popular attractions. So naturally, when that activity was offered, we jumped right on it. Most resorts will offer some type of discount for Xcaret if you attend one of their timeshare meetings or tours around a sister hotel. “Brosky” and I did that, and it really wasn’t all that bad. We didn’t buy a timeshare, but we did walk away with a really nice breakfast, so win win.
Xcaret is a theme park and resort, but those words don’t do it justice. From the parrots and flamingos walking around to scuba diving and swimming in underground caves, Xcaret is what brings Cancun to life. So much work has gone into this attraction to not just offer a tourist destination, but to offer a piece of cultural beauty. That last part is truly idealized in Xcaret’s final day show, which gives a performance of Mexico’s conception as a country and its diversity across the board. It’s something to not be missed!
Because the park is so big, logistics was created rather by genus, I think. First, you have to go underground. Have you ever seen those pictures of places you absolutely have to visit before you die? Well, Xcaret’s Underground Cave swimming is one of those places! You put on a life jacket and flippers and descend the stairs into fairly cold water. It’s cold, naturally, because you are underground, but it’s fresh water and clear as can be. From there, you follow the trail, floating below large rocks and people eating at restaurants up above you. From time to time, you enter pure darkness, just listening to other people’s echoing voices, until you emerge on the other side and back out into light. And so it continues.
Eventually, you reach the Mayan Village. This was one of my personal favorites! Actors dressed up in authentic Mayan dress come down the river in a canoe and proceed to perform a Mayan ritual of dance and song. It’s quite beautiful and almost eerily real. Some people tend to skip this part of the experience, but Xcaret is founded on giving its tourists a glimpse into their culture, so why not learn something along the way?
Once the underground river ends, you get out and all of your stuff (towels, clothes, wallet, phone) are brought to you via a genius pulley system. That way, you don’t have to worry about losing anything while you’re enjoying your underground swim! From there, you get a map and follow the trails through the park, stopping to shop or eat or just take in the scenery. It may be a little overwhelming at first, because the park has so much to offer. But it’s wise to pick a few activities before you begin; that way, you won’t be walking aimlessly around.
One of the cooler activities we signed up for was the Sea-Trek tour. This was pretty trippy at first, and I’m pretty sure I got super nervous right before we descended, but afterwards, “Brosky” and I couldn’t stop talking about how awesome it was! Basically, what you do is you put on a helmet, which kind of looks like the super old ones they used in “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.” Once it’s on, the helmet is connected to a hose that provides you with oxygen. You get in line and follow a rail all the way down into the water. Yes, into the water! And you keep walking, following the rail, and breathing underwater via the attached hose. It’s amazing! You are escorted by a scuba diver who shows you fish, coral reefs, and even takes your picture. Where else are you going to breathe underwater with no mask?
As for the food, drinks, and scenery? It’s all quite beautiful. I remember, at one point, needing to sit down and just have a beer. Thankfully, you really get a bang for your buck here with Coronas. Also, should you happen to love tacos (and who doesn’t?!), order them. You will never taste a better tortilla.
Tired and exhausted, but adventurously fulfilled, we returned from Xcaret and passed out before the bus even took off from the park. Thankfully, next day’s adventure would prove to be even more wonderful. Instead of going to Chichen Itza (which is a must do, next time!), we decided to go scuba diving. This was our first time diving out in the “great wide open,” and we were both nervous and excited. The resort had a group of certified divers, as well as a dive shop that would give you a pool exercise first and then take you out to sea if you were interested in trying diving.
The experience overall was something I’ll never forget. From the boat ride out to Cueva del Pargo, to our wonderful and talented instructor, Toby, the entire 2-3 hour experience was well worth the money and the time. We also got the entire dive on video, thanks to Pro Dive’s videographer, Tomás.
It’s wise to note that all training of how to use equipment and how to descend and ascend once in the water is done by the instructor well before the initial dive. “Brosky” and I learned quite a lot in order to keep us safe and comfortable, and Toby was truly open to all questions we had. I, myself, had a bit of a panic attack once we reached the bottom (because where better to freak out than at 30 feet underwater…), but that was due to my own mentality and certainly not due to lack of attention from the diving team. If you’re ever in the Cancun area, check out Pro Dive. They are more than happy to take you out and give you a first-hand experience of diving, or even give you wonderful recommendations for some of Mexico’s gorgeous cenotes, or sinkholes.
If you’re interested in watching our full dive video, it is available on my Facebook page.
Overall? Go, man!
Go to Cancun. Travel. Explore. Get a little freaked out by scuba diving or heights, but be fearfully curious. Mexico is such a rich country, and the people are truly, genuinely hospitable. Cancun in and of itself is a beautiful slice of heaven, and it has a little bit to offer for everyone, regardless of why they’re there.
As for “Brosky” and I, we came back together, so I guess my initial Facebook status was no longer relevant. Vacations have a funny way of bringing people closer together. I’m more than thankful for these memories. Until next time, Mexico. ¡Adiós!