can you Cancun?

Coronas on the beach

There’s only one main thing to do in Cancun.

Making Cancun my introduction to Mexico probably wasn’t the best idea. Why? It’s a tourist zone. Plain and simple. But in order to begin our trip from Yucatan to Panama City, we had to start somewhere. Where could travel be more efficient than a place filled with heaps of tourists?

From the airport to downtown

I arrived at Cancun Airport around 5 p.m. and quickly zipped through immigration. I took out some money from an ATM (figuring the ones in the airport wouldn’t have skimmers) and went outside to find the ADO bus stop (the main bus line in Mexico) to get me to the city. There are heaps of minivans and taxis around wanting to charge you $10 USD/person to get into the city – and they’ll drop you at your hotel, but the hostel I had booked into was only one block from the bus station. I found the ADO booth, which is basically a small podium, and paid $74 MXN (about $3.50USD.) The ride takes about 45 mins and is pretty painless.

There are plenty of busses headed to the hotel zone, so if you’re really in a pinch and don’t want to spend the $10 on a shuttle, take the ADO bus and then hop on any bus that has a Zona Hotelera on it’s dash. It’ll cost you about $1.

Hostel and food

My home for the next three days – Moloch Hostel $12/night – had a pool, WIFI, free breakfast, and AC that was freezing cold and turned on in the evening time. I asked the guy at the desk where I could get some good Mexican food. He laughed and then pointed me in the direction of Parque Las Palapas – a square with an amphitheater and tons of food stalls and vendors. People were dancing, children were driving motorised little cars, there was live music and people selling balloons and cotton candy. It was some kind of a celebration. Mexican food in Mexico is phenomenal. I think I ate there at least twice a day. I bought a small wallet here for $32 MXN from a kind lady who ran a stall. We spoke a little bit about the weather in Canada. I don’t think she really believed me that it can be -40C at home. Constitution Day was that weekend, so I couldn’t be sure if the festivities in the square were because of the holiday or if it was like this every night. 

parque las palapas

Seeing people dance openly in a public place always warms my heart

The city

The next day I wandered the city and walked up to the beaches. It’s a long long walk to the beaches, so just pay the $11 MXN and get on a bus – but be sure to memorise what bus you need to get on to return to the city. The beaches are beautiful, but they’d be better without so much magnanimity. Cancun is like Niagara Falls. It’s built up around one main tourist attraction, but there’s not much necessity for it. The hotels in the Hotel Zone are grandiose and cater to a particular type of traveller, of which I am not. It’s a bit too over the top, especially when compared to some of the domiciles in the city.

Cancun hot sauce

I had to go to a grocery store to get water – it’s cheaper. This is the hot sauce aisle. OK. Some of it is other sauces.

I also went to Market 28 – which can be skipped. Don’t get me wrong. I love markets and seeing the crafts and products local artisans make, but this market is a tourist trap. Things are over-priced and it’s the same thing in every single stall. For example, the wallet I bought was 3x the price here. Touts and shop-keepers continuously try to convince you to visit their shops and buy their wares, but most of it is the same as anywhere – and probably made in China, except for the obvious things, like leather sandals and the classic Mexican-style blankets and ceramics, though I can’t be sure where those are made either. 

While walking around the city, it was heartbreaking to see so much trash everywhere. It’s baffling, but it’s also something I’ve gotten used to. There are parts of Cancun that are very poor. But then you see people driving around in Mustangs and Hummers.

On a side note, my Spanish is very basic – dos cervezas, por favor, banjo, piquante, gracias and a few other words, so communicating was an issue at times. However, it’s amazing what can be accomplished with hand gestures and writing numbers down. At least I always got the hot sauce correct.

My sunburn from the cruise I had taken the week earlier was not in good shape, so I decided to spend a day inside and relax by the pool and cater to my bubbling (and soon to be peeling) skin. If  you’ve ever had a sunburn, you know the real peeling doesn’t happen until at least a week later.

Tortua beach

White sands on the public beach.

My friends from Sweden arrived on day four, we checked into a new hostel Mezcal $14/night (WIFI, breakfast, pool,) and relaxed (got drunk.) On day five we took the bus to Playa Tortura, one of the public beaches in the Hotel Zone. We weren’t sure where to get off, but happened to find it by luck. Our plan – rent loungers in the shade and wile away the day with Coronas. We were all burnt anyway. That night we played a form of drinking bingo. But then we packed up our things and prepared to make our way to Tulum. Our original plan was to stay an extra night, but we felt we’d seen everything Cancun had to offer and decided it was time to move on. Next stop Tulum.

So Cancun …

My opinion of Cancun is that it’s a tourist trap with great beaches. There’s good food to be found, but there’s also an Applebee’s. There are much more beautiful and cultural experiences to have in Mexico. However, the main airport here is very convenient and inexpensive to fly into, so I’d say limit your time here to just a few days and go find another beach town that is a little bit more down to nature. If you like the All Inclusive and fancy stuff, then you’re in the right place.

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