Upon return from my work trip to Amsterdam, I decided to take an afternoon nap. This caused me to stay awake all night. At 2 AM I gave up on sleeping. What better use of my time than planning and packing up for a tropical weekend getaway?
I decided to take the morning flight out to Cancun and stay there for three nights. I packed my North Face Backpack with some shorts, dresses and swimwear, booked an apartment through Airbnb in Downtown Cancun (only $70 for all three nights together!) and took off.
I recommend booking accommodation in Downtown Cancun if you prefer to be amongst the local community and use public transportation as your primary means to get around.
Once I got to CUN airport, I took the ADO bus to Downtown Cancun, which you can take for just under $5. The bus stops at the Downtown bus terminal, which was about a 5-minute walk from my Airbnb. I checked in, dropped off my bags and went to Parque de las Palapas for some food.
Parque de las Palapas
Parque de las Palapas is full of affordable food vendors. It is home to a night market and occasional performances right on the square.
I took most of the first evening to enjoy hanging out in the park, getting some groceries for the next day and settling into my Airbnb.
I’ll preface this part by admitting I fell in love with Isla Mujeres. I went to the island with the intention of snorkeling, but I feel like I haven’t seen half of the natural beauty the island has to offer yet.
I took the Ultramar Ferry from Puerto Juárez to the island. It is quite busy on the boat, but you’ll soon find out everyone spreads out to their individual destinations on the island.
On the island, everyone gets around on scooters, golf carts and bicycles. I decided to rent a bicycle, which I regretted at some points on my route to my first stop since the island can get pretty hilly!
I ended up at Garrafón de Castilla (which is not Garrafon Park, the less affordable adventure park next door) and my cycling efforts proved to be worth it. I chose this place because I needed lockers to store my belongings while enjoying the water. It’s a basic facility, but it had everything I need. I purchased entry for 100 pesos, which comes with the use of their beach chairs. On top of that, I also paid for a locker and some snorkel gear, which was all very affordable and of good quality.
Within the park, there were not too many people, but definitely enough iguanas to hang out with. The beach area is pretty small, but once in the water, there’s a huge area for snorkeling. I’ve encountered plenty of school of fish and even a Manta Ray and a Yellow Stingray!
After a few hours of snorkeling, I rode my bicycle all the way back to Playa Norte to watch the sunset while enjoying dinner and a cocktail. All three were great!
If you’re looking for a soft, sandy beach, head straight to Playa Norte.
On the third day I took another ADO bus. The ADO to Puerto Morelos drops you off at a gas station a few miles from the beach, so from there its easiest to take a taxi.
Once at the beach, I went with a small boat from the Sociedad Cooperativa de Servicios Turísticos out to their protected National Reef Park, which is part of the MesoAmerican Barrier Reef (the fourth longest barrier reef in the world). Right when we got out of the boat, we already encountered a turtle! The two other snorkelers and I were allowed to roam by ourselves, but the guide knew the reef so well that I decided to stay near him. The reef was gorgeous and possibly the most live and colorful one I’ve explored yet.
Although beautiful and not crowded, the town and the beach didn’t really appeal to me, so I decided to return straight back to Cancun after the snorkel trip. There are lockers available at the Super Chedraui Selecto Puerto Morelos Playa if you do decide to spend time at the beach while traveling alone.
Once back in Cancun I once again enjoyed the families, performances and food at Parque de las Palapas. The next day I took a flight back home in the early afternoon after enjoying my last meal in the city.
It’s a shame that Cancun is mostly known for the hotel zone because the city and surrounding areas are truly great. I would love to come back again and spend more time on Isla Mujeres. There are still plenty of beaches and parks I would love to visit!