When visiting Cancun, it is very easy to get caught up in the warmth, relaxation, the all you can eat ceviche and nachos and it becomes very tempting to blow off the opportunities to take excursions away from the hotel zone. Don’t fall for this temptation! You should take at least one excursion during your trip to Cancun. You need to see the real Mexico and take in the culture for at least one day. We did exactly that. One Wednesday October 17th we got up early in the morning and made our way to the breakfast buffet at Las Fuentes for a quick bite. Then we headed out to the front of the neighboring hotel to wait for our bus to visit Mayan villages and see Mayan ruins.
We hopped on the tour bus and it seemed that this bus had seen better days. It looked like it was a nice comfortable bus at one time, but over the years or possibly decades it has become old, worn, smelly, and dusty. This was confirmed when one of the tires on the bus blew and sent a huge cloud of dust into the cabin making everyone sneeze and cough. It was quite funny really and we at least got to our destination safely.
Our first excursion of the day was to Tulum Mexico. Tulum is an ancient Mayan city right on the beach dating from about the 13th century AD to the 15th century AD. Today, Tulum is one of the best preserved Mayan cities in Mexico and is open to tourists and is one of the most frequented places in the Cancun area.
As you can see from the photos below, many of these buildings are still very much intact. Thanks to the buildings being roped off, nobody can walk or climb these buildings and that helps preserve them a lot longer. Only the elements, heat, humidity, and heavy rains are contributing to the slow deterioration of the structures.
After we were finished at Tulum we walked back to the tour bus. They sent us on a different tour group so that we could visit Cobá, Cenote, and a Mayan family. We got on a smaller and much newer bus. They fed us some sandwiches and soda as a snack as we had a good hour of a drive west of Tulum to Cobá.
Once we arrived in Cobá, they had another meal for us. This was lunch. We headed upstairs to an open-air sitting area where they had spicy Mayan chicken, corn tortillas, vegetables, and two salsas. They also had a performance for us done by some young Mayan males. The food was amazing, very different from your typical Mexican food you would eat in the states. Was it spicy? YES! But not what you are used to.
After we ate, we met up with our tour and we were given the opportunity to take ourselves on a self-guided tour around Cobá. There were a few small pyramids that we were able to visit, and there was a very large pyramid that we were allowed to climb.
The climb up the pyramid was steep. The weather was a sweltering 92 degrees with high humidity and no wind or breeze. By the time we were at the top, I swear we each lost a gallon of fluids from our system as we were all drenched in sweat.
The view from the top of the pyramid is amazing. It is so cool to be able to see the jungle from the top. It’s a never-ending sea of greenery and trees. Beautiful! Many people visiting Cobá decide not to climb the pyramid. Unless you are not able to do it for health reasons, you really should climb it. Is it hard? Yes. Is it risky? It can be if you are not careful. When you are climbing down, there is a rope you can hang on to that keeps you more secure.
After we were finished climbing pyramids, there was one thing for sure: We were hot, sweaty, and probably very stinky. What’s the next best thing to do to taking a shower? Swimming! And that’s what we did, but we did not go to any ordinary swimming pool. We went to Cenote, which is an underground pool in a cave.
When you arrive to Cenote, there is a small building with bathrooms and showers. Then not far from the building is a stairwell that goes under ground. Once you enter the stairwell, you go down for quite a while. Finally, when you feel you have reached the depths of hell, you made it!
We reached the bottom and we were in a huge cavern with a high roof that was lit up by electrical lighting. The water looked very inviting and we went ahead and jumped in. The water was cold, but it felt good after the climbing pyramids in the sweltering heat and humidity. We swam around for a while, and the kids loved this place. They did not want to leave. One thing that is interesting and frightening at the same time about this body of water is that it’s 90 feet deep. So make sure you know how to swim before diving in. Apparently it’s not easy for emergency crews to extract drowned victims’ bodies from 90 feet under.
After we got out and dried off from our swim in Cenote. We hopped back on the bus and they drove us to visit a Mayan family to see how they live. This experience was probably the most touching and most personal of all the locations we visited.
The father of the family took us around and explained how his farm worked and what each crop was for. He spoke to us in Spanish, and I translated the best I could to English for my wife and kids.
We had the opportunity to try some food. A homemade corn tortilla with egg, habanero salsa, and pumpkin all made fresh on the farm. You can really tell the difference between the processed food we have at home and the food from this farm. The flavors were strong and didn’t feel compromised by preservatives. The salsa was crazy spicy, but crazy good.
From there we headed back to our hotel. We got to know some great people in our tour group and that helped our trip back to the Hotel Zone go fast. It was 8:30pm when we finally arrived at our hotel. We were gone for 13 hours. We ate dinner at the buffet and were ready to spend the next 3 days relaxing more around the pool and at the beach eating nonstop nachos and ceviche!