December saw me finally venture south of the border to Mexico for a five day girls getaway. I was able to cross two items off my travel list: staying at an all-inclusive resort and visiting my 2nd Wonder of the World. Read on to find out what we did and where we stayed.
Where We Stayed
Mexico is known for its beaches and resorts, so I knew this was the perfect trip to try out an all-inclusive resort. I decided on the Reef Coco Beach, a small all-inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen. Upon arrival, my friends and I were upgraded to ocean view rooms so we could be near each other. Waking up to a beautiful view of both the ocean and the resort’s massive pool was one of the highlights. The staff were all very friendly and helpful and the constant pulse of music created a fun, lively atmosphere.
It was quite nice not having to pull out money for anything. It was truly all-inclusive, from the food to the drinks. I enjoyed the freedom of leaving my room with only my cell phone and room card in hand. Speaking of food, this was one of the only disappointing aspects of our stay. The food was pretty bland and the drinks weren’t strong, both of which I’m told is pretty standard for resorts.
In my typical fashion, I wanted to see all of the things. Since our trip was so short, our schedule was pretty packed and didn’t leave us much time to experience all of the resort’s activities. I did, however, make sure to take advantage of the resort’s private beach: getting a relaxing massage, joining a beach dance party, and taking a dip in the ocean before my flight back home.
What We Did
After arriving late on Friday night, we spent most of our first day getting some much needed rest and relaxation on the resort. The day started with breakfast, mimosas, and a panoramic view of the crystal blue ocean from the resort’s buffet. After eating, we each had an 80 minute massage on the beach. I was so relaxed I fell asleep!
Dinner that night was courtesy of a food tour in the city center. We visited 6 different local restaurants, sampling a range of delicious food from quesadillas to mole. My favorite were the tacos filled with cow tongue and tripe. As we walked through town, our guide shared some history about the city and where it’s headed. Playa del Carmen was a small fishing town until about 30 years ago, when European investments started pouring in. It is quickly becoming a top destination for digital nomads, thanks to its warm weather and proximity to the United States.
Since it was Saturday night, we had to check out the nightlife. We made our way to 12th street, where a number of bars and clubs are located. We were ushered into one salsa club with the promise of a round of free drinks. After twirling around the dance floor with my extremely basic salsa moves, we crossed the street to another bar, Abolengo. Playing a mix of hip hop, reggaeton, and pop hits, it was a nice, albeit corny, trip down memory lane.
Sunday was the event I had been eagerly looking forward to: our visit to Chichen Itza. This ancient Mayan city is most famous for El Castillo, which was voted one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World in 2007. El Castillo was a temple dedicated to the god Kukulcan. As evidence of their advanced knowledge of the stars and sky, there are 365 steps around the pyramid, representing each day of one year. During the summer solstice, the serpents along the side of the pyramid appear to crawl down the sides. They were believed to slither towards a nearby cenote, where humans were thrown in as a sacrifice to the gods.
Despite booking with a reputable company, our tour guide was pretty horrible. She offered a lackluster and confusing history of a handful of structures. I didn’t let that damper my excitement, however; I was seeing this marvelous structure, which has been on my bucket list for ages, in person. We made sure to have a mini-photo shoot before leaving.
After lunch, we discovered that our tour guide had left us and headed with the group to the nearby Ik Kil cenote. We were able to track her down through the hotel staff and get a ride there. She was unapologetic, claiming we were at the wrong meeting point. Of course we were all pretty over the tour by that point, but still walked down to see one of Mexico’s most famous cenotes. These underground pools are formed from naturally occurring sinkholes. Ik Kil looks serene on Instagram, but was filled with tourists. Nonetheless, it was amazing to see the depth of the water and look out of the deep cave towards the sun.
We had another early day on Monday. This combo tour started with a lengthy pit stop at a rest area. We were able to see another cenote, for free, and even had time to take a kitschy photo with a local in costume. We then continued on to Tulum.
Thankfully we had a much better tour guide. He was half-Mayan and passionately explained the history of this seaside city. The sun was pretty relentless, so we were all glad to be able to cool off at the beach afterwards. We took a dip in the water for about an hour, admiring the beautiful palm trees on Paradise Beach.
The second half of the day was spent in Coba, another ancient Mayan city. My absolute favorite moment of the trip was climbing up Nohoch Mul pyramid. This is one of the only ruins in the area that tourists are still allowed to climb. With just one long rope running down the center, it was a free climb up the steep steps. My sister was racing to the top, but made the mistake of turning around halfway through her ascent. I had to convince her to keep going.
Once we reached the top, the view was definitely worth it. Hundreds of trees were spread out in the Mayan jungle for miles below.
Our last full day was spent at Xplor, an eco-adventure park. The Yucatan peninsula has a plethora of natural resources and Xplor puts those to great use. Attractions include zip-lines, underground rivers, and rides through the jungle. I had a ball discovering my adventurous side, zipping through the treetops and sliding down a waterslide.
My trip was far from the relaxing, solo vacation I had initially envisioned. It was jam-packed and full of laughs thanks to my awesome company, making it one of my most memorable trips.