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  • Jessica Stough

Cancun, Mexico - Part Two


Vacation calories don’t count, right?


The answer to that question is – hopefully not. We had way too many delicious buffets while in Cancun for any of those calories to count. If you’re caught up, you’ve already read about some of those buffets. Trust me, though, there are more. Now, for the second half of our trip – food and adventures and dolphins, oh my!

One of the things I was so excited for on this trip is entirely because I am a bit of a geek at heart – the Captain Hook Pirate Dinner Show! I didn’t quite know what to expect, but knew that the event would be a good one, especially after we were greeted at the check-in by a sign that stated Beware of Pirates.


Fun fact: Our Airbnb was on the beach near where the pirate ships took off every night. If we chose to sit outside at night, we got the opportunity to relive the pirate party and fireworks (yes – fireworks!) from the shore for free over and over again.

 

Captain Hook | Pirate Dinner & Show

Highlights:

  • Everyone on the ship was on point with their costumes and character development.

  • There were unlimited alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

  • Each participant got to choose in advance which main dish they wanted, but everyone got a full, delicious buffet along with that main dish.

  • PIRATES (obviously)!

  • There was singing.

  • There was dancing.

  • There were MULTIPLE sword fights.

  • There were FIREWORKS.

  • There was an absolute party.

  • And did I mention there were pirates?

Be Aware:

  • Within the fine print, there is a surcharge for each participant who attends because the show is on a boat. Although the price of the event is fairly cheap, it is an additional $15 USD per person for the surcharge.

  • There are a lot of attendees on the boat each night. We didn’t quite know what to expect for the show, but were not expecting elbow-to-elbow seating next to each other and other attendees.

  • That being said, they did have other areas of the boat for people to eat – so some attendees ate while others watched the show, and then they switched spots, which helped with the somewhat claustrophobic feel of the side-to-side seating.

  • The seating is set up this way so the stools can be moved away so everyone can dance, sing, and have a great time for the party after the show.

 

We may have already gotten the opportunity to zipline on the trip, but we made a conscious decision to zipline again (mostly because we didn’t think the ziplining would be such a big part of the Xplor Park). With that, we made our way to:


Extreme Adventure Cancun


When I say that Extreme Adventure was fun, it was fun. We had such a blast on this trip, but from everything we had done up to this point (I must note – this was before the dolphins), we both decided that this was our favorite excursion. Even with the dolphins, I still find this to be one of the most memorable excursions we had.

When we first got there, though, we were both a bit concerned it would not be a good excursion. Our van picked us up for transportation with no problems at all, but after about an hour of driving, it brought us further and further and further down a long gravel road. They stopped at a short pullout on the road, where another worker popped into the van and asked us if we wanted to upgrade to include horseback riding with our package. We respectfully declined, and continued on our way down the gravel road.


We finally got to the park, but when we stepped out of the van, we felt like we had stepped into a weird creepy backyard area. There were some four-wheelers to the side, then what looked to be some forgotten pallets standing along a privacy fence. We both wondered, were we even at a park?


Our questions were quickly answered when our van driver brought us around a corner to find the front area. Things seemed much less sus after that. From that entrance, we were offered yet another option for an upgrade – to the VIP package. They showed us pictures of the two tacos we would get with our regular package, then shared that we would have unlimited tacos, unlimited drinks, and a waterfall to visit if we upgraded. Before Zac could even question it, I told them yes. I’m always going to upgrade if it means a waterfall. And more tacos.


Highlights:

  • As VIPs, we had our own waiting area with coffee, water, and snacks before our official adventures began.

  • ALDO – our tour guide – gets a special shoutout as a highlight from me. He was absolutely amazing and made our entire excursion an absolute party.

  • The ziplining course was shorter than that at Xplor, but they had some fun mountain adventure-type parts to the course as well, which really gave it a different feel than the last ziplining we had done.

  • I saw PUPPIES. There was a dog that spent a lot of time at the park that had puppies, and I got a glimpse of the little ones (I was on a zipline at the time, or you can guarantee I would’ve tried to pet them too).

  • We got the opportunity to zipline upside down. Aldo was probably not very happy with me because we were very clearly instructed to listen and flip back right-side up when he called for us, but apparently, I didn’t hear his first few calls. Finally, I heard a “NOOOW!” and knew that I had missed a few cues. Zac later said that Aldo told him, “My goodness, she SCARED me” as I finished my zipline and Zac got ready to also go.

  • We got to get super muddy on four wheelers. It was such a good time. The course was so much fun. My only regret is that we chose to have one four wheeler for the both of us instead of riding solo.

  • After the four wheelers, we got into another van and made our way to the VIP area. The VIP area was where it was at. We had our own seating area with one other couple (the only other couple who chose to upgrade to VIP) and a cenote with a waterfall to ourselves.

  • We got to swim in the cenote, do some tequila tasting, drink some margaritas, and eat however many tacos we each wanted. Having the area to ourselves with Aldo and just a few other employees was such an absolute blast.


Be Aware:

  • Much like Xcaret, the photo package is an upcharge. However, the photo package involved photographers (nothing like the “Xelfie Stations” at the Xcaret parks). We had a photographer actually go on the ziplines with us, follow us out to the four wheelers, and even come along with us to the VIP area. I definitely did not regret upgrading and getting the photo package with this excursion.

  • This excursion is so much fun, and with the VIP package, there are a lot of free margaritas and tequila. That in itself is something to "be aware" of, for sure.

Our private VIP oasis.

I talked about the VIP tacos, so I figured they should also be pictured.

 

Royal Swim Program in Cancun


The moment everyone is probably waiting to hear about – the dolphin swim – took place thanks to Dolphin Discovery. The dolphin swim actually took place on Isla Mujeres, which meant that we had to catch a ferry from Cancun to the park. They have a ferry service that goes to the island each day at 9 AM for those who are staying in Cancun that want to visit.


Highlights:

  • The ferry service was super simple, and they had everything set up and ready to go for us at Dolphin Discovery as soon as we got there.

  • We had sixty minutes in the water with the dolphins. This time included being pulled by the dolphins, a “dolphin push” (pictured below), and multiple picture opportunities like a dolphin kiss and holding the dolphins fins – but each package offers different water time with the dolphins.


  • On our way back from swimming with the dolphins, we also got to see others spending time in the water with their dolphins – and I even saw a dolphin being trained to jump out of the water onto a mattress floating on the top!

  • Offered with the package, we were then provided a taxi service to the Garrafon Natural Park. The Natural park offered multiple things to do (and all of the things were included in the entry versus being up-charges), including:

  • Unlimited ziplining over ocean views

  • (I know, I know, another ziplining excursion. Even though we had already ziplined twice during this trip, this was different than the others because it was the first time that we ziplined out over ocean and back over ocean, and was really fun).

  • Snorkeling

  • Kayaking and paddleboarding (although they had this shut down the day we were there because it was too windy)

  • A traditional temazcal, a Mexican sweat lodge

  • Buffet lunch options

  • A VIP lounge for those that snagged the VIP (or Royal) packages, which included its own buffet


Be Aware:

  • It is important to really look into what options are best for the trip because there are so many different things to do and different packages to choose from.

  • Within the fine print, much like the pirate excursion, there is a surcharge for each participant who takes the ferry. It is an additional $15 USD per person for the fee.

  • There is a photo package to purchase (I did pre-purchase mine because I did not want to forget the pictures with the dolphins). They will work to try to get participants to upgrade their photo package. Even though I had pre-purchased mine, they took pictures of Zac and me together and tried to get us to upgrade so we could have rights to his pictures and our pictures we took together.

 

Chichen Itza Tour


Our last full day in Cancun gave us a lot of windshield time. We started our day around 7 AM, getting on a tour bus for an action-packed day with many stops:

  1. Cooperativa Maya Ixchel y Restaurante Yaxkin

  2. Chichen Itza

  3. Cenote Saamal

  4. Valladolid – a picturesque city, founded in 1543 by the Spanish conquerors and it is full of history, including a quick glimpse of "Francisco Cantón Rosado," the city’s main central park


Highlights:

  • The Restaurante (our first stop) had a great buffet full of multiple classic Mexican dishes, along with pizzas, pasta salads, and other dishes so there was something for everyone there. They made churros right in front of attendees, and they were so good.

  • The waiters and waitresses all did a fun dance (I believe it was a traditional Mexican dance, but cannot seem to find anything about it online) where they first balanced one bottle on their heads, then an entire tray of bottles. It was seriously incredible.

  • Chichen Itza was amazing. It was filled with so much culture, and our tour guide did such a great job of explaining it all and bringing it all to life for us.

  • The Cenote Saamal was fun, and was huge. It was a really awesome swimming hole, but with our excursion, we didn’t feel that we had enough time to swim then get back on the bus. Since we had already done a lot of swimming this trip, we were fine with just checking out the Cenote then walking around and exploring.

  • Valladolid was an adorable town, and there were more classic Mexican dancers performing at the park with bottles and trays balanced on their heads.

  • We explored the square and got coffees at a cute little shop called Divino Cielo Café before heading back to our Airbnb after the long day. Their frappes were amazing, and there was a cute store attached to the shop with trinkets and clothes to explore while waiting for our coffee.


Be Aware:

  • The food at the Restaurante is included in the purchase, but all drinks are extra (including the bottled water).

  • Chichen Itza had tons of vendors everywhere in the park.

  • Since it was already our last full day in Cancun, we had already gotten the majority of our souvenirs (and were pretty close to running right out of our cash), but they all had their souvenirs for really cheap.

  • We had seen a lot of the same souvenirs throughout the trip already, but these vendors were all fighting for the business and were selling a lot of items for $1 USD each.

  • They make it nearly impossible to bring a GoPro anywhere, and Chichen Itza is no exception. They would not allow GoPros or many other types of cameras without an extra fee. Cell phones were okay, but basically any other cameras past that were an extra charge.

 

Places to Eat


While we were there, we made sure to find excursions that included buffets frequently since we stayed in an Airbnb instead of an all-inclusive resort (10 out of 10 – would highly recommend!) We felt that our money was better spent on excursions than a fancy all-inclusive in which we wouldn’t be hanging out in much anyway.


With that, though, we did have other meals that we had to eat! We bought non-perishables for easy breakfasts and snacks when needed, but also made sure to check out some local places to eat. A few of the notable places we ate at over the course of the trip were:


  • Carnitas Michoacan – this was down a long sidewalk and across the street from our Airbnb. The food was great, but the drinks were better. We both tried a fun drink while there for dinner, a Michelada for me (beer, salt, lemon, tajin, and hot sauces – because I love spicy) and a Chelada for him (beer, salt, and lemon – because he does not love spicy).

  • Fontina Trattoria – This restaurant was just a short jaunt from our Airbnb. We tried them for dinner (their pizza is delicious), and then also went back for breakfast another day. Their foods were great, their staff was friendly, and their cappuccinos were covered with a dash of cinnamon (so good!).

  • Las Hijas de la Tostada – Another restaurant close to “home” when we were in Cancun, Tostada looked fancy from the outside. Once we got inside, we wondered if we should regret going because we immediately assumed it would be extremely pricey. However, as our waiter brought us some chips and salsa to try while deciding on our menu, we quickly found that it was extremely reasonably priced. This is definitely the place to go of seafood, burgers, tacos, or really anything else sounds good. They had many unique choices, and had we gone there earlier in the trip, we probably would’ve gone back again to try more dishes. Everything we had was amazing.

  • Johnny Rockets – Now, Johnny Rockets is not anything super local to the area, but after walking around on a hot day, their shakes were to die for, and they totally deserve a mention just for that.

  • Señor Frog's – Señor Frog’s is another chain restaurant, but it too deserves a mention. If anyone is interested in having some Mexican-American food or some American-type feels while in Cancun, this is the place.

 

There you have it. The entirety of our Cancun trip and excursions lumped into two blog posts via highlights and things to look out for. I’ll save each of you the boredom of reading about our flight home and the connecting flight we nearly missed due to backups in TSA. We definitely had a great time in Cancun, though, despite the airport drama. It was time away from home for just the two of us that was much-needed. Hasta la próxima, Cancún.

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