Cancun is not the first place that comes to mind when I think about my ideal vacation destinations.
I absolutely love real vacations, but don’t take them that often. There are just so many amazing places to go and see in the world that I usually travel, or go on adventures, but I rarely make the time for a real vacation. You know the kind I’m talking about…bikini, kindle, sunglasses, sun, and fruity drinks.
When I thought about Cancun (though I’d never been before), what came to mind was spring break and Señor Frog’s and tequila shots. I learned that that’s not really fair, but that idea basically gives an introvert like me hives just thinking about it.
However, I had a few PTO days to burn earlier this year and wanted to take advantage before work got really crazy. I looked at a few of my other go-to options (like Puerto Rico and Aruba), but affordable flights and housing weren’t looking good on such short notice. So right after the holidays last January, my mom and I grabbed a flight down to Cancun (using Southwest rewards points) for a long weekend of fun in the sun.
(Well, I had fun in the sun. My mom is basically translucent, so she mostly stayed inside…)
My mom and I wanted a totally chill weekend, away from the tourist crowds. If you’re wanting something along the same lines, here are my recommendations for things to do in Cancun.
I got my ticket only a few weeks ahead of time, and so I got on Airbnb right away to nab this gem. I wanted to find somewhere that was affordable, with a good pool, on the beach, and not party central, plus walkable to a grocery store and restaurants. This condo totally fit the bill—look at that view!
We got in late afternoon, so once we got settled we immediately went on the search for food. I had to work SO hard to find restaurants that weren’t super touristy and had good food, but it completely paid off. This place had good food and like $7 piña coladas as big as my head!!!
Tip: it’s worth it to do your research on TripAdvisor and Yelp ahead of time, so you can find restaurants that are well-rated, not super noisy or crowded, and have great food. In a super tourist hotspot, that will save you!
The next morning I woke up around sunrise…and still laying in bed, hit the remote controlled blinds, and was greeted by this view…
That day we had sun and beautiful weather, so I took advantage of it and laid out by the pool all day. I read my kindle, listened to music, napped, and drank piña coladas from mid-morning til late afternoon, and it was sublime. I was really thankful I did, because it was the only sunbathing I got to do.
We met our tour group (through Amigo Tours) while it was still pitch dark to head out to Chichen Itza, because we wanted to get there as soon as the park opened (hoping to get great pictures before the crowds).
Totally worth it. Even though getting up super early on vacation sucks. Our tour guide took us around the Mayan ruins and provided a ton of really cool (and at times very disturbing) info about the culture, architecture, religious practices (including human sacrifice), and food.
Chichen Itza is one of the wonders of the modern world, and a super cool experience. It’s on every “what to do in Cancun” list, and deserves its place. Despite being touristy, it’s still a really interesting historical site and parts of it are amazingly preserved. I highly recommend taking a day out of your pool lounging to visit!
If you’re booking a tour to Chichen Itza, do your research and get one that arrives as soon as the gates open, to get the best pictures possible before the crowds.
My mom and I got reservations at a great Argentinean steakhouse called Puerto Madero, so we grabbed a cab over there and made sure to request a seat on the patio so we could watch the sunset. The food was amazing, service impeccable, and view to-die-for. A must if you’re wanting to do a nicer dinner while you’re in Cancun.
Our last day in Cancun dawned beautiful, but quickly turned rainy and gray. I spent the day reading in bed, and my mom and I took a walk on the beach in the rain. Chill day, but definitely a bummer given our limited time in Cancun—I wanted another beach day!
While I knew going into the trip that Cancun wasn’t necessarily “for me” (the same way Vegas isn’t), my mom and I had an awesome time because we were able to avoid crowds, find great non-touristy restaurants, and stay somewhere super chill.
Given how easy it is to get good flights from Atlanta and the great weather pretty much year-round, Cancun makes a sweet long weekend destination, and it’s a safe bet I’ll be back someday.
Where are your favorite easy long weekend beach destinations? Favorite non-touristy restaurants in Cancun??