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Cancun Trip Report Part 1 – Seeing The Local Color

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Cancun Trip Report Part 1 - Seeing The Local ColorFor our 2nd vacation this year, we visited beautiful Cancun, Mexico. This was an unusual choice for us because we already visited Hawaii in September. Why did we have a second beach vacation? Well, our Waikiki trip was actually a spur of the moment decision. Mrs. RB40’s work sent her to Hawaii for 4 days and we tagged along. This Cancun vacation was our original plan for 2017. Besides, I love going to the beach and this gave us the chance to compare 2 world class destinations.

I heard that Cancun was a great vacation destination from my old college roommate and everything came together this year. I finally succeeded at travel hacking after reading about it for so long. We signed up for several credit cards and accumulated enough reward points for 3 flight tickets to Cancun. We also received 4 free nights anywhere from the Hyatt credit card. I figured we’d stay at a cheaper hotel for 5 nights and then move to the Hyatt Ziva, a luxurious all inclusive resort, to complete our visit. However, it didn’t quite work out that way.

Hotel Shuffling

We visited Cancun in November because we enjoy traveling during the shoulder season. The kids are in school and most parents don’t want to take them out. November is a great time to travel, though. We were gone for 10 days and RB40Jr only missed 4 days of school. There was a teacher meeting day, 2 parent-teacher conference days, and Veteran’s Day. It was the perfect time to take a short trip.

Anyway, the shoulder season is not very busy and I never had any problems booking a hotel room in our previous trips. However, the 4 free nights only applied to standard rooms and those rooms were sold out for most of that period. I barely got 4 nights booked and those were in the middle of our trip. So our hotel situation looked like this.

  • 3 nights at the Suites Gaby in El Centro (downtown), Cancun.
  • 4 nights at the Hyatt Ziva in the hotel zone.
  • 2 nights at the Krystal Urban in a newer area in downtown.

Mrs. RB40’s friends wondered why we were changing hotels so much. Hey, that’s what happens when you leave it to Joe to plan the trip. I like variety and it’s neat to see different parts of town. We moved around a lot during our Thailand and Costa Rica trips as well. Ideally, we would have switched hotels just once in this trip, but the Hyatt Ziva was too busy. There were many weddings while we were there. Anyway, it worked out really well and changing hotel didn’t cause any issues for us.

Downtown Cancun

Cancun is kind of a strange setup. The nice all-inclusive hotels are located on the beach which is called the Hotel Zone. Most tourists go straight to the hotel zone to enjoy the beautiful all-inclusive resorts and never go to downtown. You could almost forget you’re in Mexico if you don’t leave the hotel zone. All of the hotel employees we interacted with spoke very good English and you don’t even have to eat Mexican food if you don’t want to. It was strange to see such a huge degree of separation between tourists and locals. Most places we visited were organically grown so the locals are mixed in with tourists.

Just a few miles away from the hotel zone is El Centro, where the locals live and work. We like to get a feel of the local culture whenever we travel so I wanted to stay in downtown for about half the time. That way we could experience the culture a bit and see how regular people live. Admittedly, this was a tad scary because the US Department of State recently issued a warning about traveling to many areas in Mexico. The homicide rate in Quintana Roo (the state) increased significantly from 2016 due to drug related crimes. I did some research on the internet and the criminals rarely target tourists, but innocent bystanders have been hurt. El Centro seemed safe enough as long as we weren’t looking for drugs or hanging out in dark alleys really late at night. Sadly, nowhere is 100% safe these days as we kept hearing about shooting and terrorist incidents while we were on vacation.

Suites Gaby

Our El Centro adventure didn’t start off all that great. We arrived at our hotel around 7:30 pm and checked in without any problem. However, I was very disappointed with the room we got. Room 108 was next to the main stairway and it smelled like somebody smoked in the room. (There were “no cigarette” signs posted everywhere, but I guess some selfish bastard somebody just didn’t care.) The small window opened up to a view of the hallway and the safe didn’t work. I was glad we got a place to sleep, but I got ready to ask for a room change the next day.

Once we checked in, we went for a short walk to get some dinner. It was late by then, but downtown seemed safe enough and I didn’t see any suspicious characters lurking about. The local residents were going about their business without paying us much attention. We walked to the Pescaditos, a local restaurant, and had a great Mexican meal.

Pescaditos

Pescaditos made the best blue crab tacos I’ve ever had! Well, it was the first crab taco I tried, and it was fantastic. We also had fish tacos, fish soup (really fish broth), and a basket of battered fried shrimp. The tacos were unusual because they were fried. Delicious, but not very healthy. Everything was good and the meal cost around $20.

After our late dinner, we strolled back to our hotel and tucked in for the night. It was a long travel day and we were knackered. Unfortunately, it took me forever to fall asleep because people were stomping up and down the stairway and the lobby phone kept ringing. It was super annoying. RB40Jr and Mrs. RB40 slept right through them, though.

Upgraded to a nicer room

The next morning I asked to change room after we had a light breakfast. The hotel was full, but then a few people checked out so they were able to shuffle us to a nicer room. Room 117 was much nicer. The room was slightly bigger, there was no lingering cigarette odor, and the window had a view of the street outside the hotel. I tipped the guy 100 pesos ($6) for helping us change rooms. It was well worth it. That first room was terrible and it was the same price. Sometimes, you’ve got to advocate for yourself.

*Joe’s theory on hotel rooms: The earlier you check in, the better room you’ll get. If you check in late, you’ll get the worst room for sure. We checked in early in Hawaii and got upgraded to a bigger penthouse room. That was pretty awesome.

Local Colors

The clientele at Suites Gaby seemed to be local tourists. Everyone spoke Spanish and we didn’t see any foreigners while we were there. This was great because it gave Mrs. RB40 a chance to practice her Spanish. Suites Gaby is conveniently located in the older part of downtown and there are many restaurants and eateries nearby.

Two popular tourist destinations in El Centro are Mercado 28 and Parque de las Palapas. Mercado 28 is a market where you can pick up souvenirs and try some local food. It was right across the street from Suites Gaby so it was very convenient. I didn’t want to buy anything, but RB40Jr picked up a wooden spinning top for 50 pesos. That’s less than 3 American bucks so I can’t complain too much. We bargained it down from 70 pesos, but I’m sure they would have sold for less than that.

There were many places to eat around Mercado 28 and we had lunch at El Cejas, a seafood restaurant in the market. We got the mixed seafood cocktail, fried crab, empanadas, and drinks. Lunch cost about $25 and we enjoyed it.

Parque de la Palapas

That evening we went to check out Parque de la Palapas. This is a big urban park where locals congregate to let the kids play, eat, listen to music, and watch some live shows on the stage. This evening was the last night of Dia de los Muertos and many locals were walking around with skeleton face paint. There were performances on the main stage and the streets were packed. We thought it was really neat to see the locals out enjoying the evening. RB40Jr had a great time running around at the playground and even made friend with a local kid.

Parque de la Palapas

For dinner, we went to Labna, a fancy Yucatan restaurant. Unfortunately, the food was just good, not great. I had to try it once to see what “authentic” Yucatan food is like. Everything was a bit too salty and there were not much other seasonings in the food. Sadly, I’ve had better panuchos in Portland.

Labna

Big excursion day

Another reason why I wanted to stay in a downtown hotel for a few days is the excursion. We usually stay at moderately priced hotel because we want to go out and see the sights. The hotel is just a place to rest and we rarely hang out there. Staying at an all inclusive resort is different. It’s a more relaxing stay with all the included amenities and activities. Anyway, we took a full day to visit 2 ruins and a cenote. I’d be reluctant to do this if we were ensconced in a nice all inclusive hotel.

Our big excursion day began at 6:45 am when our driver came to pick us up at the hotel. We booked a private tour because a bus tour wouldn’t have been much cheaper for the 3 of us. A private tour offered the flexibility to visit the sites we really wanted at our own pace (slow…)

Chichen Itza

It took 2 hours to drive to Chichen Itza from Cancun and we got there at 8 am, right at opening time. Hmm.. you might think it’s a bit strange. If we left at 6:45 am and it took 2 hours. How did we get to Chichen Itza at 8 am? Well, we crossed the time line during the drive and we gained one hour. That was convenient for us.

Anyway, we were one of the first visitors at the site and that was awesome. Chichen Itza is one of the new 7 Wonders of the World and it can get very busy even during low season. The Temple of Kukulkan (big pyramid) was incredible. However, RB40Jr was very disappointed that we couldn’t climb any structures. He was ready to go about 5 minutes after he found that out.

Chichen Itza

RB40Jr really enjoyed taking photos of the various ruins, though. He prefers to be behind the lens rather than in front. It’s really cool to see him taking an interest in something. Maybe he can be a photographer when he’s grown up.

The Great Ball Court

Chichen Itza Great Ball Court

Here is the Great Ball Court. This is the grandest ball court from ancient Mesoamerica. The hoop is way up there (6 meters) and I have no idea how they’d be able to get the ball that high without using their hands. I think you can only use your hip to move the ball around.

Our guide told us a little about the history of the site and then gave us about an hour to wander around. It was nice because we could see various ruins at our own pace. We were done around 10 am and made our way out. The tour buses were starting to show up and there was a huge crowd of tourist at the entrance. We were very glad we were there early. Our guide took us to a local chicken grill for lunch (included with tour). The local organic chicken was tasty and we scarfed it up.

Ek Balam

Ek Balam Pyramid

After lunch, we headed to the next destination, Ek Balam. Ek Balam is an older site than Chichen Itza, but it’s not as popular for some reason. I think it was discovered later and isn’t as well known. Ek Balam encompassed about 12 square km and only the area around the pyramid was excavated. I read that you can see smaller ruins in the jungle if you explore around the area. Visitors can still climb the ruins and RB40Jr really enjoyed that.

Climbing Ek Balam

The pyramid at Ek Balam was about 30 meters high, about the same height as the one at Chichen Itza. The Ek Balam pyramid was actually more massive because the base was wider. We set off on the climb and RB40Jr was like a monkey. We had to keep telling him to slow down and wait.

The Tomb of Ukil-Kan-Lek-Tok, Ek Balam’s greatest king, is located about midway of the climb. The entrance to the tomb was meant to represent the gate to the underworld through the jaguar’s jaws. The artwork was really impressive and the guide told us it was original. I can’t believe that. How can stucco last 1,000+ years?

Ek Balam Tomb

Climbing down Ek BalamThe climb to the top was not easy because the steps were small and the pyramid was steep. We made it without too much trouble, but RB40Jr got scared when he made it to the top and looked down. It was pretty high and we had an incredible view over the jungle and other ruins. We didn’t stay up top long because it was really hot and RB40Jr was scared of the height. This was interesting because he never showed this side before. We live on the 11th floor so he should be accustomed to height. Later on, he told us that it was scary because it was wide open. Our balcony at home felt more secure because it has a guard rail. He had to slide down on his butt one step at a time, but we made it down without any incident. Whew!

Chichen Itza was cool, but I really enjoyed Ek Balam. Being able to climb the pyramid and other structures made it much a more interactive experience. The site was much less busy and that made it more enjoyable for us too.

X’Canche Cenote

The last destination on our excursion was the X’Canche Cenote. A cenote is a sink hole that exposes the ground water beneath. Cenotes were a source of fresh water for the ancient civilization in this area. Nowadays, they are great swimming hole for visitors to cool off after a hot day of hiking and climbing.

The X’Canche Cenote was located inside the Ek Balam complex, but it was a distance from the main ruins. You can hike, rent a bike, or hire a tricycle to take you there. We hired a tricycle and our guide rode a bike ahead of us. I think it was 2-3 km away so it was worth it for us to pay 50 pesos each for a ride. The entrance fee for the cenote was 100 pesos each. The total was 450 pesos for this side excursion, about $24.

X'Canche Cenote

Once we arrived, we changed into our swimming suits and rinsed off at the shower. They don’t want any chemicals going into the fresh water table, that makes sense to me. At the cenote, you can rappel down or zip line over it for an extra charge. We skipped those options and just took the steep stairs down.

X’Canche cenote was beautiful and the swim was refreshing. The water was a bit cold, but it felt great after a hot day in the sun. I brought RB40Jr’s life vest from Portland so we didn’t have to rent one. We had a great time there. The original itinerary from the tour company was to visit Valladolid, an old Spanish colonial town, but I found out about the X’Canche cenote online and insisted we go there instead. I’m really glad we did. This was the first time we visited a cenote and it was awesome. We’ll visit Valladolid another day.

Back to town

It took almost 2 hours to get back to town and I napped in the car. Our poor driver was tired and sleepy, but he got us back safely. We paid $360 plus 300 pesos tip for this private tour and I thought it was worth it. It could have been much cheaper if we taken the bus ourselves and DIY, but we wouldn’t have been able to do it all in one day. This was just right for us especially with a little kid along.

That evening we went to Parque de la Palapas again and ate cheap tacos and churros from the local stalls. The tacos al pastor were great! You get 4 small tacos for 30 pesos and they tasted better than previous evening’s fancy restaurant food. We also got a big bottle of local lemonade and none of us got a stomachache. Whew…

Taco Parque Las Palabas

All in all, we really enjoyed our first few days in Cancun. It was fun to see how the local people live. The next morning we checked out from Suites Gaby and took a taxi to the hotel zone. Hyatt Ziva was pretty awesome and I’ll write a detailed review next time. We spent 5 great days there and wallowed in luxury. It was an interesting experience. 😉

Another downtown location

After our luxurious all inclusive stop, we moved to Krystal Urban. This was a conference hotel in a newer part of Cancun. It seemed like most of the clientele were there for work. We saw many people walking around with lanyards and IDs. Krystal Urban was okay for 2 nights and 1 day.

The last day was a free day for us. Originally, I planned to visit Isla Mujeres on that day, but I was flexible. It turned out we were beached out after 5 days at Hyatt Ziva so we just explored that part of town instead. The Plazas del Toros (bull fight ring) was right next to the hotel. There wasn’t an event when we were there, but we walked around and checked out the restaurants around the arena.

Las Plaza Americas was a huge mall that was just across the street. We spent a few hours there walking around and checking out various stores. Surprisingly, stuff isn’t any cheaper than in the US. The only thing we got was a bottle of water and a USB charger to replace my old broken one. We ate at the mall and the food was fine.

Later that afternoon, we went for a walk toward the lagoon. Mrs. RB40 saw on Google Maps that the our hotel was near the lagoon and we can walk there. I read that there was an esplanade there, but the development looked unfinished. This walk was pretty interesting. The main street into the development was gated off, but you can walk in through the sidewalk. This place looked like it was an abandoned housing development project. The streets were in good shape, but the sidewalks were overgrown with weeds. RB40Jr got scared because there was nobody in this huge development. It was a little eerie because of the quiet. There were no houses, just a bunch of weeds and bushes along the streets. After about a quarter of a mile, we got to the lagoon. The esplanade was in good shape and there were a few local people relaxing out there. This looks like it would be a nice suburb if they ever finish it.

Wrapping up our visit

Oh My GGogi Cancun

That evening we went to Oh My GGogi, a great Korean BBQ, across the street from our hotel. Mrs. RB40 was skeptical, but the food was really good. Their kimchi was the best I’ve ever had and the kalbi was excellent. We thoroughly enjoyed our last dinner in Cancun. Yelp finally came though and sent us to a good restaurant.

The next day was spent traveling back home. It was great to get home, but the rain and cold was a big shock to my system. This time of year is rough in the Pacific Northwest. Okay, that’s it for Cancun today. Next time, I’ll share our luxurious all-inclusive resort experience with you. It was our first time in an all-inclusive resort and we got spoiled rotten.

Cancun expense report

Cancun trip expense report

Amazingly, our trip cost less than $1,200. That’s way below what we spend normally on our international vacation. The flight and the most expensive hotel were funded with credit card rewards. I’ll write a more comprehensive post another day. All in all, it was a great trip for a very affordable price.

Have you been to Cancun?  I really enjoy visiting the tropics. Cancun was great because it wasn’t too humid and there were very few mosquitoes. Someday, I’d like to live in the tropics for a while and see if I can enjoy it long term.

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{ 46 comments… add one }
  • Mr. Tako November 13, 2017, 12:32 am

    Great trip report Joe! Looks like you guys were having plenty of fun! I like your idea of staying in the two different areas. If we ever visit Cancun, we might do the same!

    We just got back from our month in Japan, and it’s so dark and cold in the PNW. Anywhere else sounds pretty good right about now! 😉

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 6:11 am

      Yeah, the weather was still okay when we left. What a big difference 10 days made. Now it’s going to be rainy and cold until April.

  • Joe November 13, 2017, 1:02 am

    Hmmm… when I went to Chichen Itza we were still allowed to climb up the pyramid. Wonder when they stopped allowing that.

    Funny that we ran into friends from back home at the top of the pyramid, we didn’t even know each other was going to Cancun.

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 6:12 am

      I think they closed all the structures off about 10 years ago. Somebody fell off the pyramid and died. 🙁

  • Lily @ The Frugal Gene November 13, 2017, 2:21 am

    Looks super fun!!! Do you remember what restaurant in Portland did you have the panuchos? We might head down in a few months.

    It’s 2AM in Seattle right now and it’s POURING. The rain is so heavy, I’m wondering if the roof would hold! Are you sure you want to come back to the PNW? (Oh and here comes the thunder and house shakes :(…*I’m in Cancun, I’m in Cancun*)

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 6:17 am

      I think it was El Taco Yucatecos, a food truck in North Portland. It was pretty good.
      I have to go clean out the gutter at the rental again. I really dislike Autumn here. 🙁

  • Jason@WinningPersonalFinance November 13, 2017, 3:22 am

    Sounds like an amazing trip! I would have went with the repel into the pool at Cenote. It sounds sweet and looks beautiful. Your food descriptions are making me hungry. I can have tacos for breakfast, right?

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 6:18 am

      We saw a couple of people on the zip line and repel. It looks really cool and I’d love to do it when I was young. Now, it’s not as appealing because our kid doesn’t want to do it. Maybe when he’s a bit older. Yeap, we had taco for breakfast a couple of times on the trip. 🙂

  • Mustard Seed Money November 13, 2017, 3:26 am

    I’ve never been to Cancun but I would love to go sometime. My wife and I have unfortunately been staying away from some of the Caribbean hot spots right now due to Zika. But after we’re done having kiddos I’d love to explore some more. We had a blast in Costa Rica and I wouldn’t mind exploring some more of the islands 🙂

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 7:13 am

      It’s better to be safe than sorry. Surprisingly, there weren’t many mosquitoes in Cancun. I only got bit once. We don’t have any plan for more kids so it’s okay for us.

  • Darren @ Learn to Be Great November 13, 2017, 3:54 am

    The rain was pouring down tonight here in Olympia. It woke me up at 1:30am and now I can’t fall asleep, so what better thing is there to do than to read your blog post, Joe?!

    Sounds like a pretty good trip. I’ve wanted to go down to Cancun or some other touristy place in Mexico for some time. My wife isn’t so thrilled to do so, however. One day…

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 7:15 am

      Cancun was very modern. I think you’ll have a great time if you stick with the hotel zone. It felt really safe there. Downtown was a bit more sketchy, but still feels safer than Portland. Unfortunately, Portland is getting worse due to the homeless problem among other things.

  • Tom @ Dividends Diversify November 13, 2017, 4:22 am

    Nice trip review Joe. My wife and I went to Cancun for our 10th wedding anniversary. We only stayed in the hotel district on the beach and I agree with you that we hardly felt we were out of the US. You did it right seeing different areas. My wife’s more of a mountain person so the beach and tropics are rare trips for us. Glad you had a nice time. Tom

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 7:16 am

      We didn’t even leave the resort once we got to the hotel zone. It was so comfortable there and we didn’t need to go out. Downtown was pretty neat, though. We enjoy seeing different cultures and lifestyle. I’m not a mountain person at all. 🙂

      • Tom @ Dividends Diversify November 14, 2017, 8:35 am

        Thanks for the reply. That is what I like about you Joe. You know your strengths and likes and seek them out. You should be a “life coach”. Well, you kind of already are with this blog. 🙂 Talk soon, Tom

  • Mr Crazy Kicks November 13, 2017, 4:59 am

    Awesome pictures! That was a good idea to split up the days between local and all inclusive hotels. The excursions looked like an awesome trip 🙂

    Glad to see the travel hacking worked out well for you! I’ll be looking forward to seeing what you though about the Hyatt down there. We enjoyed our free stay in Jamaica 🙂

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 7:21 am

      Travel hacking worked out really well this year. It took a long time for me to figure out.
      Hyatt Ziva was awesome. It was an interesting experience because we usually don’t take luxury vacation.

  • Pennypincher November 13, 2017, 5:15 am

    There better be a lime in that Corona!
    Now I’m hungry and have to go find something to eat.

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 7:22 am

      You bet!

  • Ms. Frugal Asian Finance November 13, 2017, 5:18 am

    Wow this is such a cool trip report! Lots of photos of beautiful scenery and delicious food!

    It’s awesome that Mrs. RB40 goes on business trips to so many beautiful cities. And it’s even better because you were able to travel hack.

    Mr. FAF and I have never been upgraded to anything while traveling since we also stay at cheap motels. But we are waiting for our turn!

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 7:23 am

      Actually, she rarely goes to Hawaii. Usually she has to go to Virginia and we just stay home.
      I love free upgrade. 🙂

  • Adam and Jane November 13, 2017, 5:21 am

    We went to Cancun in 1996 and it is one of our best vacations. It was restful on the beach and we love visiting “Chicken Pizza” and Xcaret! We loved walking up to the top but that was when I learned I was afraid of heights when I looked down w/o any railings or protection. The steps were short and steep and we had go down on our butt one step at a time.

    World traveler Firecracker said that Chichen Itza was closed years later due to someone failing off.

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 7:24 am

      I looked at Xcaret, but I think our kid is too young. Maybe next time.
      Yeah, someone got killed and they closed off all the structures. It’s probably good for preservation anyway.

  • Michael @ Financially Alert November 13, 2017, 5:22 am

    I’ve always wondered about Cancun. Looks like a great destination to explore!

    Love your food pics, Joe. I would love to try the blue crab tacos. Those sound amazing. 🙂

    RB40Jr is growing up quickly! Glad you had another nice family vacation.

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 7:25 am

      Cancun is great for families. You can send the kid to kid club and have a little time to yourself. That was my favorite part of the all inclusive resort. The blue crab tacos were awesome. 🙂

  • Max Your Freedom November 13, 2017, 7:25 am

    Just about every beach vacation we’ve taken has been to this area of Mexico. We usually stay closer to Playa del Carmen when we go, but we’ve been all over the area. I think we’ve been there almost 10 times. Since it’s a short 2.5 hour flight from Texas, it’s hard justifying going anywhere else for a beach vacation. We love the area, although it’s become much more touristy than our first trip there in the late-90s. You guys got a great taste of the region, definitely more adventurous than most of the people we meet when we go to the resorts. It’s a shame many people only see the inside of the resorts, because they’re terrified to venture out. Glad you had a great time!

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 11:33 am

      We’ll probably stay closer to Playa del Carman next time. I want to see Tulum and other ruins at some point. For us it’s a pretty long flight. It was 2 and a half hour from Portland to LAX. Three hours layover and then almost 5 hours to Cancun. Hawaii was much easier because we could fly direct.
      It’d be a waste to not get away from the resort area a bit. Why travel to another country if you don’t see anything different. It felt pretty safe to me.

  • Caroline November 13, 2017, 8:08 am

    Trip looks amazing. Great pictures.
    If you enjoyed the Caribbean, try one of the french islands next time like Martinique or Guadeloupe. Not as touristic and very safe.

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 11:34 am

      Those islands sound great. We’ll try them next time we go to that side of the country. We’ve been to Jamaica once, but that was about it. It’s just a long flight for us on the west coast.

  • Karen B. November 13, 2017, 8:33 am

    Great job of reporting your trip Joe. Enjoyed it. Will be waiting to hear about the three days you stayed in the all inclusive. One question however, when you went on the day trip with the driver, did it make you nervous, in other words did you feel safe with this man? Was it arranged with the hotel concierge? Guess I am getting old and getting nervous about trusting people.

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 11:36 am

      We booked the tour with a company I found on TripAdvisor. They had good review and the guide looks like a good guy. We didn’t have any issue. He seems like a regular guy. Well, he went to Thailand for a year to train in Muay Thai so that gave us something to talk about. Pretty fascinating. 🙂

  • Sam @ Financial Samurai November 13, 2017, 10:11 am

    Awesome recap! Never been to Ek Balam. We loved, loved Cancun when we went. A little too hot in the day, even at the beach, but amazing.

    Ah, to one day travel with the little one! That will be great. Do you believe your time as a father now is better than the first several years?

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 11:38 am

      Ek Balam was great. I really enjoyed it. November must be a pretty good time to visit. The hurricane season is about over and the temperature was pretty good. It was in the low 80s the whole time we were there, perfect. The beach was really nice, even better than Waikiki.
      Being a dad is mostly better now. There are some issues, but overall it’s better than when he was small. Traveling is great. He has some issues, but at least he traveled with us and is seeing the world. It’s good.

  • K. McGarrett November 13, 2017, 10:50 am

    Cancun reminds me of Honolulu in some ways. The hotel zone in Cancun and Waikiki are mostly hotels and restaurants and beautiful gardens but there is a great contrast when you leave the area. A food truck used to pull up at lunch time outside the front entrance of our place and the workers would eat there.

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 11:40 am

      Waikiki seems more organic to me. Locals go there to eat and hang out at the beach too. Cancun seems much more exclusive with all the private beaches.
      I enjoy both. Waikiki is more comfortable for me, but the beach and the luxurious experience in Cancun was great too.

  • TMcIlw November 13, 2017, 12:20 pm

    Was great to read your summary. We’ve been wondering whether to go to Cancun or Playa del Carmen. We want to feel like we’re in Mexico and it sounds like Cancun can give you a bit of that if you look.

    • retirebyforty November 13, 2017, 12:47 pm

      I’m sure you’d be able to find some local experience if you stay in Playa del Carmen as well. I think there are a bunch of small towns around there. You might need a car. You can get away without having a car in Cancun.

  • James@marcopolomoney November 13, 2017, 1:18 pm

    It is good to hear of someone venturing outside of the all inclusive trap (I am not a fan of all-inclusives as you can tell) that many people get into when they travel to Mexico. Personally, Cancun reminds me of Florida at Spring Break, or worse, a Mexican version of Las Vegas – but you may have proved me wrong here, you definitely got out and tried local restaurants and attractions!

    Mexico is high on our list not only for travel, but also as a possible location for early retirement. We are going there in January for a bit of holiday/research trip to Puerto Vallarta to see what we think of it. The thing with Mexico is that it has a lot of different areas to explore (it is big!), so it is worth several trips I think.

  • Nick November 13, 2017, 2:07 pm

    The Cenotes are amazing!

    Wife and I traveled hacked our way down as well and went on an excursion to a few different one.

    We were lucky enough to swim into two that were enclosed caves.

    It’s a pretty amazing area with tons of history. Glad you all had fun!

    All-inclusive is definitely the way to go down there.

  • GYM November 13, 2017, 4:23 pm

    Those stairs look steep! I’m scared of heights too and would probably be scooting down on my bottom just line RBJR. I haven’t been to Mexico but might go to Tijuana next year. Looks like a great trip!

  • Mr.Love November 14, 2017, 7:55 am

    Wow! Looks like an amazing trip.
    .
    I’ve never been to Cancun but I guess I and my future Mrs.Love will love to visit Cancun because of your awesome post and we’ll love to see the local color too plus the fact the you enjoyed the food there! ?
    .
    Have fun RTB40!

  • Candi @ minhus November 14, 2017, 4:59 pm

    Funny, we just got back from Cozumel. It was our first time in Mexico and first time at an all-inclusive. There were some things that could have been a little better, but it was a great trip. You’re right, the resort was almost too nice to leave. We ventured downtown twice, but I wasn’t a fan–too many over-aggressive vendors selling over-priced trinkets. My favorite part was snorkeling in Chankanaab, a national park on the island. I was worried about he travel warning, but Cozumel felt quite safe.

    • retirebyforty November 15, 2017, 1:56 pm

      We only had one really bad experience with an over aggressive tour guy. It’s annoying, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re a rich tourist. I heard snorkeling is great in Cozumel. Next time…

  • Helen @ Retire Early Helen November 15, 2017, 6:34 am

    Joe,
    It looks you guys had a great trip! Thanks a lot for the information. I like to see Cancun someday, and have not been there. The weather of Ohio in the winter is not that great. Only probably once a week, the sun comes out. Most of the time, it’s just cloudy, and gloomy.

    • retirebyforty November 15, 2017, 1:57 pm

      Yeah, it’s rainy and cold in Portland too. Depressing…

  • Ms. Khan November 15, 2017, 1:32 pm

    We love going to Cancun, I actually like the beach there better than Hawaii. We actually stayed at the Gran Caribe which is the hotel next to the Hyatt Ziva. You are right about the weddings, this spring we booked one of the beach front room and talk about wedding reception above our room 4 nights in a row and then hearing the music from the Ziva also. Loved the location, but I would definitely not book the 2nd story room again. We didn’t venture past the resort, wish I had, but my husband likes to park himself when we are on a beach vacation, but it’s hard to do much with a 2 yr old who had her own schedule. We’ll have to do the whole Chitzen Itza and Cenote again when our daughter is older. We suffered food poisoning our first trip a few years ago and quite enjoy our excursion.

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