Back in the mid-nineties, we visited Mexico for the first time. We booked our trip at the last minute during the Spring Break period and our options were very limited. We ended up going to Acapulco on the Pacific Coast for 10 days. The 10-day package with accommodation and airfare was interesting; at the time most packages were for 7 or 14 days. However, Acapulco wasn’t very safe even back then. We had to stay on the main strip and avoid venturing too far from our hotel and sticking to nearby restaurants. Our hotel was located across the road from the beach unlike many other places we visited over the years. The beach was lined with restaurants and bars. Unfortunately, that may also explain why there were shards of broken glass in the sand. The late-night music was so loud that the windows of our room shook.
Having seen many beaches since then, I can qualify the beach as dangerous. The surf and undertow are very strong and it gets deep fast. We saw a rogue wave that reached far onto the beach and took a table on its way back. Despite the restaurant owner chasing after it, we watched in dismay as the table disappeared into the ocean and we never saw it again. Needless to say, that we were not very tempted to visit Acapulco again.
Tip: If you plan on travelling during Spring Break, book ahead to have more options and avoid disappointment. Do your research before making reservations. This is so much easier now with all the information readily available on the web.
Next we visited Cancún a couple of times, which was safer at the time, although we found that it was lacking the Mexican vibe with all the fast food chains and usual restaurants established in most American tourist spots. For those who enjoy shopping, bar hopping and partying, Cancún would be a good choice.
Playa del Carmen and Tulum on the Riviera Maya are a better fit for us as we enjoy scuba diving, snorkeling and relaxing on the beach. All along the Riviera Maya the beaches are beautiful and inviting. This is also a good location to go visit ancient Mayan sites. Tulum, Chichén Itzá and Cobá are probably the most visited as resorts along the Riviera Maya offer regular excursions to these locations. We visited Chichén Itzá back when climbing the pyramid was still permitted. Going up the steep steps wasn’t too difficult but coming down was a different matter! Especially for those like me with vertigo. Climbing the pyramid isn’t allowed anymore. Likely because it was dangerous but I’m sure also to preserve this national treasure that it now one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. Note that climbing the Cobá pyramid is still allowed.
We visited the Mayan site of Tulum on a couple of occasions. The first time was during our stay in Playa del Carmen, we rented a scooter and drove to Tulum. We had to drive on the shoulder of the highway. It took a long time but it was worth it! It’s the only Mayan site overlooking the ocean and we had to see it. At that time the site wasn’t all finished with nice pathways for visitors to roam around easily as it is today. When we returned years later it felt less authentic and more touristy, although it was still nice to see. Going to Tulum by boat will reward you with one of the best views of the site as you approach it from the water.
Tip: Plan on having enough time to take a dip and enjoy the beautiful white sand beach of Tulum. The water is warm and the beach is spectacular.
While staying in Tulum we visited Parque Xel-Há, which is an aquatic park and ecocenter where we snorkeled in a river inlet. Snorkeling in a mixture of fresh and seawater was like looking through champagne with all the bubbles but the marine life was thriving. The park offered many activities, some included in the entrance fee, we splurged to swim with dolphins. Xcaret Park offers similar activities, although it’s more touristy.
All over the Yucatán Peninsula there are Cenote, which are entryways to underground rivers that can be explored by snorkeling or scuba diving. We snorkeled in one that was inside a cave, it was interesting to see but the water was quite cold. Scuba diving in them is more technical and having a guide is essential. Getting lost would be deadly since there isn’t always a hole to get out near by. Not for us…
We really enjoyed our visits to the Yucatán Peninsula and would definitely return. Our more recent trips to Mexico were to the ports of Costa Maya and Cozumel during Caribbean cruises and we chose to go visit the underwater world by going scuba diving on the second greatest barrier reef in the world. The sea life was thriving and we can’t wait to go back!