This year we did Christmas a little different. Mauricio and I had talked about it many times before, but this year we actually gifted ourselves a vacation for Christmas. We had two invitations to go to the same area on the same week in Mexico, the week before Christmas. My best friend graduated nursing school and booked a vacation in Cozumel to celebrate and our niece decided she wanted to go on vacation in Cancun instead of doing a big quinceanera. It seemed like the absolute perfect opportunity. We decided to take them both up on their offers and do 3 days with each of them. We booked our rooms at the hotels our friends and family were staying at and found flights and we were ready to go, just a month before we were leaving. I didn’t do hardly any research for this trip. Usually I find places to go and things we should be doing while we’re there. But this time I just piggy-backed on other peoples vacations and decided we would figure things out once we got there.
This trip was a big deal for us as a traveling family. It was Oliver’s second plane ride, but this time he is 20 months instead of 3 months. He is still under 2, so his flight would be free and he would be traveling as a lap infant. I’ll do a post later about flying with an almost 2 year old lap infant. But for now, Mexico!
We were flying in and out of Cancun, which meant we were about 2 hours from Cozumel when we landed. We were staying there first, so we had a pretty long travel day for day 1 of our vacation. We flew out at 6am and after two flights and a layover we landed in Cancun around 2 local time. After going through customs we made our way outside to find a bus. This was one thing I did research. We had considered renting a car to get to Cozumel, but I found that the one car ferry that runs is typically full and hard to get on, so we opted for public transportation and taxis instead. Walking out of the Cancun airport you are attacked by people wanting to sell you transportation. It’s a lot on the senses for me, but we let one guy explain to us what he was offering. I knew the bus option cost, so if this was the same we may actually be interested. He was offering a private shuttle and we could have it for when we came back to Cancun a few days later. It sounded good, but then he handed us over to his boss? Coworker? Money man? I don’t know what he was but he was annoying as all get up. He started filling out an invoice for us before he even let us explain what we needed and wouldn’t listen to where we were needing to go. He barely rambled off some prices and I had had enough. We told him no thanks, we’d take the bus and got out of there. I think his price may have been comparable to what we ended up paying, but his pushy attitude pushed us right out the door. Outside we were inundated with more people asking if we needed a taxi or a shuttle or a tour. We eventually pushed our way through and found the ADO bus booth and got our tickets. We just had a short wait for the bus and we were on our way to Playa del Carmen to catch the ferry. It was about an hour bus ride, it would be shorter in a car but you know..busses. The bus was nice and clean and we even got to sit right up front so we could see where we were going. Once we got to Playa del Carmen, we made our way to the ferry terminal. Our bus ticket included our ferry ride so we were able to push right past all the people trying to sell us ferry tickets and excursions (are you sensing a theme with people trying to sell us stuff?). The ferry runs on the hour and we were there just in time to catch the ferry that was crossing right at sunset, so cool right? Wrong. We got to the front of the line and were told that the ticket we had from the bus ticket was really just a coupon that we had to redeem at the ticket counter. We had to go back out and redeem it as we watched the ferry take off. Now we had an hour to kill before the next ferry. Spending an hour in Playa del Carmen isn’t awful but it’s not ideal with luggage and when you’re tired from traveling. So we went into the oh so cliche Senior Frogs and had some guacamole and drinks while we waited. It’s right on the beach so I also took Oliver down and we got our toes in the ocean for Olivers first time. As he squealed in delight when the waves rolled over his feet I just knew we were in for a great week.
We watched the sunset on the pier waiting for the ferry and eventually were able to board and get on our way to Cozumel. We thought it would be fun to sit all the way on the top. We were wrong. It was SO windy and dark that it was hard to really enjoy the 30 minute ride to the island.
When we finally got to Cozumel we were so tired and ready to eat. We hopped in a cab and went to the hotel. We were staying at the Iberostar All Inclusive resort. Yes you read that right. All Inclusive. This was a different kind of trip that we had ever done, and we were excited. Once we got checked in, we cleaned up real quick and went straight to the buffet. Oliver was so happy to have a proper meal, instead of the chips and crackers we’d be snacking on all day. I can’t say that he was the only one. We were pretty tired from a full day of travel, so we went right to bed.
We didn’t have anything planned for our 2 full days in Cozumel but the next morning our friends were making their way to our hotel. We spent the day lounging on the beach, playing in the waves with Oliver and eating at the buffet. It was basically the perfect day after so much travel the day before.
Our friends got there in the evening and we were able to go out to eat together. We also learned our first lesson in All Inclusive restaurants. You have to make a reservation if you want to eat at the restaurants. And don’t wait until the day of, make them the day you show up. Kind of annoying to schedule that far in advance, especially with a little kid. They’re expecting me to anticipate what time my child will be hungry for dinner in 3, totally off schedule days? Not happening. Luckily the 4 ½ of us were able to get into the restaurant we wanted within 5 minutes of realizing we were supposed to have reservations.
The resort, not unlike a cruise ship, had entertainment nightly. This night was a rock show, which was nothing short of entertaining. I’ll just say, whatever that entertainment crew gets paid, it is not enough. We spent the evening enjoying the show each others company before calling it a night.
The next day we decided to go into the main town and do our required trinket shopping while our friends lounged on the beach for their necessary relax after travel day. The town had such a different feel from the relaxing resort we were staying at. Shop after shop of people selling the same things, people constantly trying to pull us of the main stretches to see their shops because they had better prices of the same stuff, tequila shops trying to get us to take free shots to taste their brands etc. For me, it was sensory overload. I’m not a fan of people in my face, or wasting my time by telling me all about their store and why it’s better. So after about 2 hours of roaming, we were ready to head back to the hotel for some lunch. One great benefit of the all inclusive, no restaurant hunting when you’re hungry. The buffet may have not been the greatest food we’ve ever eaten, but it was included and ready for us when we were hungry.
After some food, we went and found our friends lounging on the beach. We did some snorkeling and playing in the water. Oliver absolutely loved the beach and taking him away from it was nearly impossible. The good news was, he also loved the little showers they had to rinse the sand off you so once he got to do that he was happy to move on back to the room. We’re seriously so lucky with our little human.
We had tried, and failed, to get reservations at of the other restaurants at the resort earlier in the day. When we got back to our room, got a call that we could get a reservation for 2 at 9pm. Not exactly ideal for the 4 of us. Also eating that late isn’t the greatest. But we took it since it was our last night there and I wanted to try it. We ended up eating a bit at the buffet around 5, because when Oliver needs to eat, we eat. But since Oliver had already eaten, we played a bit and were able to put him to bed and go make our 9 o’clock reservations, adults only. We were even able to convince them to let the 4 of us in. If you’re wondering how we left Oliver in a hotel room by himself, thank video chats. We set up one phone where it could see his crib and video called the other phone so we could see and hear him the whole time. It was a great way for us to have some peace of mind but also not have to sit around the room while he slept. Basically we invented the baby monitor, so you’re welcome. We spent the evening enjoying our friends who we only see a few times a year (at best) and listening to the tropical rain around us. It was a pretty great night to say the least.
The next day we were off to Cancun. We got breakfast with our friends, said one final goodbye to the beach and the flamingos and started our journey back to the chaotic mainland.
The journey went like this: taxi to the pier, ferry to Playa del Carmen, bus to Cancun terminal, taxi to hotel. It doesn’t sound like a lot, or maybe it does, but it took about 3 hours to finally get to Cancun. This time we sat inside the ferry because it was raining and the waves were rough. Oliver pooped on the bus and I felt sick sitting with him from the stink. The taxi ride was expensive. Basically by the time we got checked in to our room at The Emporio we were pretty tired and hungry. I was watching for restaurants near our hotel since we weren’t all inclusive here. I noticed one right across the street that said lobster, pasta and seafood. Perfect! We didn’t really have too much seafood in Cozumel so it sounded good. We made our way across the street in the rain and instantly realized we were way underdressed for this restaurant. But we were hungry and Oliver was getting beyond grouchy, so we went in. We quickly found out that not only were we underdressed, it was way out of our normal budget. But again we were hungry and we were there. So we had some expensive, admittedly very good, seafood and we all felt way better.
Our family was getting in later that night and since we had a long day of travel, we were all pretty tired so we went and took a nap. Yes, a nap at 6 o’clock at night. You may have guessed it, but Oliver and I actually went to bed. Mauricio got up and saw his family, but we didn’t get to see them til the next day.
The next morning, our family was doing an excursion, but Mauricio’s mom was spending the day with us. We woke up hungry and decided to make our way into Cancun and away from the Hotel Zone to find some, less expensive, food. We opted to take the bus this time. Our hotel was a bus stop and it only cost .50 cents each, way better than the $30 taxi ride from the day before. We took the bus to Mercado 28, which is basically a giant tourist shop and a restaurant. We got some food and spent a while shopping.
Our real plan for the day was to go to Isla Mujeres, which I’d heard very good things about. So we got back on the bus and told the driver we wanted to go to Playa Tortugas to catch the ferry. I’ve never trusted busses much, so I was keeping an eye on my phone to see where we where and when we needed to get off. When I saw that we were close to Playa Tortugas and at a stop, we stood up and the driver quickly told us that we weren’t there yet and shut the door. Okay, then. So we stayed on. Clearly the driver knew where we were wanting to go. But as I watched us go farther and farther from where we wanted to be, I wasn’t so sure. Once we were about 3 km past our stop, the driver turned and noticed us. Yeah, he had forgotten to let us off. He told us we could stay on and he’d drop us off on the way back. But we opted to just go back to the hotel instead. We decided to just hang out and lounge on the beach and not push Oliver too much.
Later that evening we got a taxi and went into have some tacos. Mauricio had been there the night before, while Oliver and I were sleeping. He said they were worth the drive, and they were! We finally had some real good food that didn’t cost a small fortune.
The next morning we had Mauricio’s mom took Oliver to breakfast with her since she was staying all inclusive and Oliver could eat with her no extra charge. Since we didn’t have to rush for food, after we got ready we made our way to Isla Mujeres. We got on a bus that actually dropped us off at Playa Tortugas and caught the ferry for the little island. On the ferry people were trying to sell golf cart rentals, but we weren’t sure what we were doing so we didn’t buy one. We opted to walk the 3 streets of shops and restaurants instead. It was a stormy day, so a massive rain determined where we were going to eat. Isla Mujeres wasn’t exactly what I expected. Honestly it felt just like Cancun. Busy. People trying to sell us trinkets. People trying to rent us golf carts. We wandered for a while and eventually made our way back to the pier and caught the ferry back to Cancun and our hotel.
We were finally able to spend some time with our family that evening. Oliver had some food with Mauricio’s mom and spent the evening with her while we went out for some delicious tacos. Yes, at the same place as the night before. On our way we stopped and rode the ferris wheel. Because ferris wheels are a thing that cities have now. It was dark, but it was very cool. It was so nice to finally spend some time with our family.
The next day we were checking out of the hotel, but our flight wasn’t until 6 at night. Luckily we were able to use our family’s room instead of having to lug our bags around with us all day. They were out on another excursion so it was just the three of us all day. We spent the morning on the beach. Soaking in the last bit of time we had on the beach. We thought it was going to be another rainy day, but it turned out to be the best weather day since we had been in Cancun. After some good beach time, some relaxing in the room and discussions about where to eat, we made our way to the airport. We were there plenty early, that’s one of the tricky things about having a later flight. We are always too nervous to do anything big during the day because we don’t want to miss our flight and we don’t want to have our bags with us. So we are always very early for our flights out. Oliver fell asleep right as we were about to get some overpriced Johnny Rockets. He napped for a bit then watched planes take off while we waited for our flight.
Overall our trip was great. We got away from the snow and cold. Enjoyed friends and family. Saw new places. Realized, yet again, that we have an awesome kid. I mean, we can’t complain right? But I will say that if you’re going to the area, I’d skip Cancun. Cancun for me was just overpriced and too much on the senses. I want to go to the beach to relax and Cancun just didn’t do that for me. I think there are places in Riviera Maya that you can relax at, so if that’s what you’re going for I’d say stay away from Cancun. If you’re looking for a more Las Vegas on the ocean type vacation, then Cancun is your place. That being said, I’d go back to Cozumel in a heartbeat. When I do, I’m definitely going to do some diving and more water activities, or maybe I’ll just lounge on the beach again. We’ll just have to wait and see.