Over Memorial Day weekend, I attended a picture-perfect and very fun wedding with my partner in the gorgeous city of Cancún, Mexico. When we were first invited, I was so excited that this wonderful couple (who I didn’t actually meet until the wedding weekend, but yes, they are truly wonderful!) chose Cancún for their destination wedding. Visiting this city on the Yucatán Peninsula, bordering the Caribbean Sea, has been on my bucketlist for years, and I’m so glad that I finally had a perfect reason to make the journey here. Cancún is about a 5 hour direct flight from Los Angeles (would highly recommend flying direct if you are able to – we connected both ways which resulted in long travel days). Since we were flying all the way down to this area for the wedding, we tacked on a few extra days to this trip to both relax and explore more of this beautiful and historic Mexican area.
People who are somewhat familiar with Mexico travel probably know that Cancun is home to beautiful white sandy beaches with crystal clear waters, and gigantic resorts surrounding them. Cancun is also known for being a popular spring break destination due to its lively nightlife and club scene …which we did not partake in during this vacation. As I grow older (and maybe wiser?), huge nightclubs are losing their appeal, and I’d rather spend my time, energy, and money on exploring a new location, learning about our world, and making new memories with those I love. So, while Cancun is most prominently known for its picture perfect beaches and bumpin’ nightlife, many do not know, or can appreciate, that Cancun also hosts a variety of amazing and unique adventures.
For the purpose of this Getaway from L.A. post, I will mostly be focusing on our journey just outside of Cancun to the Yucatán state, where we visited Chichen Itza and the incredible xenotes. But, before we get started on the adventures we took on this trip, I wanted to share with you a few quick details about where we stayed. The beautiful wedding we attended was located at Finest Playa Mujeres, an all-inclusive resort away from the more popular “hotel zone” of Cancun. It was my first time at an all-inclusive, which made the whole experience that much more exciting. What do you mean I don’t have to pay for anything here? Room service 24/7? Swim up pool bar? A fully stocked mini-fridge at all times? Ahhhhh, this must be what true “paradise” is like! The service here was impeccable (think greeted with a glass of champagne and moist toilette…), and we actually did not leave the resort grounds at all during our stay there – simply because there was no need to. The beach was equipped with activity rentals (think paddle boards, snorkel gear, mini pontoon boats, etc.), there were over 10 restaurants on site, and there were various pools throughout the grounds of the resort. Truly the finest resort I've stayed at to date, here are some pictures of the beautiful Finest Playa Mujeres:
During the second half of our trip we stayed at Beachscape Kin Ha Villas & Suites (about $120/night). We had activities planned during the day time so we just needed a comfortable place to rest our heads at night. Beachscape Kin Ha turned out to be much more than this, though, and the beach here was absolutely beautiful! Here are some pictures:
CANCúN ADVENTURE TOUR
Alright, now on to the adventures! A few years ago I read about Mexico’s Xenotes on one of my favorite travel blogs. Xenotes (pronounced seh-no-tehs) are huge natural sinkholes where cave ceilings have collapsed. I immediately added this to my bucketlist, not sure at the time if/when I’d actually make it here. When coordinating this destination wedding weekend with my partner, I was on a mission to dedicating a full day to visit the incredibly breath-taking xenotes. Luckily, after doing some research online like the planner that I am, I stumped upon the Cancun Adventure Tour website. When browsing the Cancun Adventure Tour website, I remember feeling overwhelmed because there were SO many awesome-looking tours presented. After looking closely at them all, we ended up choosing the Xichen Clasico Tour for $71 per person, which was the CHEAPEST Chichen Itza/Xenote tour I found online. The tour fee includes this entire itinerary:
- Pick up from hotels in Cancun and Riviera Maya
- Transportation to Chichen Itza.
- Guide tour at the archaeological site with expert bilingual guide (1.45 hrs.)
- Free time at Chichen Itza (1.15 hrs)
- Transportation to Cenote Ik Kil (10 minutes)
- Free time for swimming at the Cenote (50 min)
- Buffet lunch at Ik Kil Restaurant (1.15 hrs)
- Back to Cancun and Riviera Maya
It was a long (!) day, it was much warmer here inland than it was on the coast of Cancun, and it definitely took a lot of energy to make it through all of the activities... but it was 100% worth it. The bus was, thankfully, air conditioned and the tour guides were absolutely fantastic, friendly, and funny. Although you will stop for a buffet lunch at the Xenote, I’d recommend bringing snacks and water for throughout the day.
Xenote Ik Kil
As I previously explained, xenotes/cenotes (pronounced seh-no-tehs) are huge natural sinkholes where cave ceilings have collapsed. According to Lonely Planet, “The Mayans revered cenotes because they were a water source in dry times; the name cenote means 'sacred well'. Mayans settled villages around these spiritual wells and believed that they were a portal to speak with the gods. Today you can still see why cenotes held the Mayans in awe. Swimming in the pristine waters feels like stepping into prehistory, where giant tropical trees and vines form wild cathedral walls leading up to shafts of sunlight.” It's interesting to note that cenotes were also sometimes used by the ancient Maya for sacrificial offerings.
From the top of the cenote, all you can see is a huge hole in the earth, surrounded by a variety of beautiful green plants and vegetation. Huge vines, overgrown plants, and flowers line the 85-feet-high limestone rock walls, making this one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen – both the view at the top and at the bottom/inside of it. When you arrive, get ready for an adventure – there are 90 wet, slippery stairs total from the top of the cenote to the bottom. The cenote is about 60 meters (200 ft) in diameter and about 50 meters deep (150 feet). The large pool of water in the cenote is fresh and a beautiful dark blue color, and you’re likely to see large cat fish swimming around you. You’ll be able to swim in the sinkhole at your leisure and if you so desire, climb up a few more stairs to jump off of a cliff into the dark, deep waters.
I was simply in love with this xenote and would highly recommend you add this, or the various other xenotes in Mexico, to your bucketlist. The xenote is so huge, mysterious, and captivating that you will want to take a TON of pictures and will want to spend much more time there than you are allotted. There are many xenotes throughout the Yucatan region of Mexico, but Ik Kil is supposedly the most impressive. I’d absolutely love to visit more of them if I get a chance to go back to Cancun in the future.
I was so excited that in addition to Xenote Ik Kil, our tour bus would also be making a stop at Chichen Itza, one of the seven new wonders of the world. Chichen Itza is one of the largest Mayan cities ever built, and it’s pretty interesting to think that from around 600 A.D. to the 1200s, this was a city full of families, their stories, traditions, and cultures, and bustling LIFE! According to Chichen Itza’s official website: “Chichen Itza, which means “at the mouth of the well of Itza,” is the 2nd most visited archeological site of Mexico today. The Kukulkan Pyramid in Chichen-Itza which known as “El Castillo” (the castle), is one of the new seven wonders of the world elected in 2007. It is exactly 24 m. high considering the upper platform. Apart from the Kukulkan Pyramid, in Chichen Itza there many other archaeological sites to visit, all carrying traces from Mayan Culture in many ways.”
We went on an hour guided tour of the grounds to learn about some of the highlights of this ancient city and then got to explore on our own for about an hour. We walked completely around the iconic large step pyramid and through the grounds of the Temple of the Warriors, the Observatory, and the Ball Game Court. We were in awe of the remains of these ruins, paying close attention to the Maya and Toltec artistic detail in some of the stone monuments. It’s no surprise at all to me that Chichen Itza attracts millions of visitors each year.
After a wonderful (and very hot) day of exploring the ruins of this ancient civilization, we headed back onto the bus and made our 2.5-3 hour journey back to the hotel zone of Cancun. While this escapade was a very long day, it was absolutely worth it, and I’m so grateful to have checked some spectacular items off of my bucketlist. If you do get a chance to visit Cancun or the Yucatan area of Mexico, I’d highly recommend you click HERE to book this adventure tour or choose another one to your liking.
Te Amo, Cancún.
Overall, our trip to Cancun was a whirlwind vacation that resulted in some pretty epic adventures, many new friends (thanks to the beautiful wedding we attended), and amazing, once-in-a-lifetime memories. If you’re thinking about planning your next tropical Getaway From L.A., I’d highly recommend adding Cancun to your list of options! From the picturesque beaches, to the endless opportunities for adventure, to the relaxing resorts – it truly seems like there’s something for everyone here.
Te amo, Cancun.
6/16/2016 07:54:00 pm
Wow!!! I love these beautiful pictures too!! Looks like a fun place to vacation, with gorgeous seas and interesting and historical sights! Your blog is sublime xoxoxo
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