Cancun is a beautiful city located on the beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It is a popular winter vacation destination for many North Americans and also a popular port of call on Western Caribbean Cruises that visit here every month of the year. The water here is not deep enough for cruise ships, so to visit the city passengers must take a tender or ferry from their cruise ship or a nearby city to Cancun’s tender port. Our visit here is part of a 7-night cruise vacation that departed from sunny Ft. Lauderdale, Florida with stops that include Key West (Florida), Ocho Rios (Jamaica), George Town, Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands and of course Cancun, Mexico.
On this visit to Cancun we decide to take a shore excursion with fellow cruise passengers to visit the ancient ruins of Tulum combined with a visit to the nearby Xel-ha Ecological Park. The nearby town of Tulum is known for its charming restaurants, historic hotels, ancient ruins, and a very beautiful beach. Xel-ha offers encounters with the flora and fauna of the jungle and a wide variety of aquatic activities.
Our tour guide drove us from Cancun to Tulum providing us with insight about the history of Mexico and talking about points of interests along the way. The drive from Cancun is less than 2 hours (about an hour from Playa del Carmen). We departed our bus and began hiking through the jungle and soon discovered the ancient stone buildings of the walled city known as Tulum. In Maya, Tulum means “wall.” So many thoughts went through my mind when I first saw this ancient city. The creativity and design of the structures makes you wonder what each were used for. The size and weight of the stones made me wonder what type of equipment, if any, did they have to assist them in building such massive structures. Thoughts of what life must have been like during this era really comes to life when visiting here. After exploring the ruins you will suddenly be in awe as the other side of the ruins is bordered by a cliff and then the vision of the beautiful blue ocean against the backdrop of the ruins appears. It will simply take your breath away. Our group walked down the steep staircase and onto the soft sand below while watching the waves rolling in on what appears to be one of the most beautiful yet least crowded beaches in the Caribbean. Tulum’s spectacular coastline with its powder soft sand, jade-green water and tropical breezes makes it one of the top beaches in Mexico. Only in Mexico can you get such a beautiful beach with a Maya ruin bordering it. Tulum also has excellent cave and cavern diving, fascinating cenotes (a natural pit, or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath), and a variety of hotels and restaurants to fit every budget. A visit to Tulum really is the perfect place to connect with history and nature.
On a previous cruise I visited the most popular ancient ruin in Mexico, Chichén Itzá. It is a Mayan archaeological site and one of the most recognized and famous landmarks in the Yucatán. Chichén Itzá was originally built as the home of the Mayan civilization. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The large pyramid is named “El Castillo” and it is the focal point of the ruins that was once used by Mayans as a temple for worship. I highly recommend visiting here too.
Our next tour stop on this shore excursion was a visit to Xel-ha Ecological Park.
Xel-Ha is one of the most popular tourist destinations along the Riviera Maya. It is located just 8 miles south of Playa del Carmen and 75 miles south of Cancun. It is truly a paradise for nature lovers and offers a spectacular natural aquarium. Swimming with dolphins and snorkeling are the top attractions. Sea Trekking and Snuba are also available at Xel-Ha. Sea trekking is a fun way to explore the bottom of the lagoon by using a plastic helmet with breathing tubes as you walk underneath the water viewing sea life. This is recommended for swimmers and non-swimmers alike. Snuba is a variation of scuba diving where divers breathe through long tubes connected to air tanks that float on the surface of the water. Another option is to take the shuttle service upriver where you can either snorkel, swim or float on a rubber tube down river and back into the lagoon. There are also jungle paths that lead to two naturally formed holes (sinkholes) that connect to an underground passage filled with water from a subterranean river. Cave diving in these ‘cenotes’ is a popular activity and is for certified divers only. More information about all that there is to do can be found at the Xel-ha website.
Our tour brings us back to the dock in Cancun where we will take a tender back out to our ship. We still have time left to do some shopping before sailing to our next port of call. We purchased a couple of novelty items as souvenirs to remember this trip. We have noticed since our last visit that Cancun has gone from having mostly locally owned shops, restaurants, and flea markets to now having upscale malls filled with well-known retailers and many famous chain restaurants. This change gives many the comforts of home while providing others the ability to dine at an authentic Mexican restaurant and shop for local arts, crafts, and souvenirs. Remember to shop around before making a purchase. There are many malls and local shops to choose from with the most popular locations being the most expensive.
The people of Mexico and the locals around Cancun are very festive individuals. The Yucatan of Mexico is a colorful area with beautiful beach resorts, delicious restaurants, a fascinating history, excellent water parks, (Xcaret & Xel-ha), many water activities, and a rich Mayan culture with ruins to explore. Whether you are visiting for a day or a week, you will enjoy the flavor of Mexico and all that this area of the Yucatan Peninsula has to offer.
We have provided below some excellent travel sites to assist you in searching cruises, flights, and beach resorts for your next vacation to Mexico or anywhere else in the World. Whether traveling for business or pleasure the journey provides many stories to share and memories to remember. Please contact us if you have any questions.
We hope you enjoyed taking this journey with us and that you decide to add Cancun to your travel bucket list.
“to travel is worth any cost or sacrifice.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert,