Author Topic: Cancun - Trip Notes - Three Night Vacation  (Read 2219 times)

Offline Naftali

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Cancun - Trip Notes - Three Night Vacation
« on: May 18, 2017, 04:33:26 PM »
Lodging: We stayed at a VRBO rental for $120 a night located at the Ocean Dream Hotel in the Hotel Zone on Boulevard Kulkulkan.

https://www.vrbo.com/512376?utm_campaign=VRBO_TRV_RES_HASC_replied_PPS&utm_content=propid_text_o_lprop&utm_term=20170428&utm_source=SYS&utm_medium=email

Advantages includes a stunning view of the beach, within 10-minute walking distance to Red Heifer, Dag Dag, a Starbucks, and the Playa Caracol port for the Ultramar to go to Isla Mujeres and back.

I don’t have many Hyatt or Starwood’s points, so a VRBO rental gave me the best return for my money (as opposed to staying at a hotel). The condo was located in the Ocean Dream Hotel on Boulevard Kulkulkan. A convenience store (OXXO) was within a 3-minute walk. We weren’t allowed access to the hotel lobby, though we were allowed access to the hotel’s nice infinity pool which was usually empty before 10:30am and after 8pm. An elevated beach area was also accessible through the back of the hotel. The disadvantages of renting a private condo are expected: Toilet paper ran low, internet stopped working twice and we had to reach out the manager for a new Wi-Fi code, no concierge service, etc. However, for only $120 a night, the view, space, privacy, & location were well worth it.

Transportation: We took USA Transfers from roundtrip from airport and back, total was $55. Convenient & dependable. They sent a large van for both trips. For our 8:15am flight back to JFK the online reservation had pickup at 5:15am. I assumed that based on experience the company set the pickup so early due to traffic, customs, etc. However, we ended up at the gate around 6:20am so I guess the company is more risk averse than I.
Buses run along Boulevard Kulkulkan frequently, but after our first trip I decided to use Uber. Uber in Cancun is not simple; the taxi companies, and local government, strongly oppose Uber use. I used Uber about seven times over the trip. Several drivers called me up first to make sure I was American and not an undercover taxi goon or cop. Other Uber drivers told me exactly were to stand when being picked up to avoid the local taxis noticing. And others canceled the trip before pickup when they passed by and saw that a taxi car was nearby. However, Uber is much cheaper than the local taxis – most trips of around 10-15 minutes cost about $3. At one point, Uber noted a surge in demand and the price skyrocketed to 3.5x regular price. But $12 for a 15-minute trip isn’t too shabby. I spoke to several Uber drivers about airport pickup. From hotel to airport (or from airport to hotel) usually costs only $7; far cheaper than the official companies. Yet the drivers told me that riders have been threatened and followed at the airport by taxi drivers when the taxis see what they are doing.

Food: Upon arrival to Cancun, we passed through custom and were given the “green light” (customs official pressing button; red light requires placing baggage through x-ray). As we were about to walk past glass doors out of custom area, a customs official randomly pulls us aside, asks us if we are kosher, and makes us open our bags. After finding some unpackaged meat, he nods knowingly to his fellow customs official something in Spanish about kosher food. They allowed us to keep packaged American cheese, and all other packages foods. The small Supermarkets in Cancun have several classic kosher snack products (Pringles, etc.) but not much else. Everyone warns against drinking Mexican tap water so we bought lots of bottled water. 

Restaurants: Our first & third night we went to Red Heifer (required a walk through the very open night club district). The food the first night was fantastic while the third night was mediocre. Others have commented on this forum about the “bipolar” nature of the food and this description aptly depicts our experience. Even the bread tasted better the first night. But when in the middle of Cancun, it is still refreshing to walk into a nice kosher restaurant. They take CC, and add an automatic tip to the bill (reasonable, about 15%).

The second night we went to Dag Dag. It is oddly located in a mostly vacant retail strip. We sat outside with several other couples and enjoyed the long wait (about 45 min. for the fish & chips –it’s a dairy place). The main attraction here, aside from the fish (very large portion) and fries (tasty!), is the owner of the store who regaled us with stories of his past, and sang folksy spiritual songs throughout dinner from his upcoming album (huh!?!?). If you’re looking for a nice quiet dinner, not going to happen. Cash only – can pay in dollars or Pesos. I think exchange rate was 1:17.

At Isla Mujeres, we went to Maya Café (dairy). Cash only, and if one pays with USD it is 15 pesos for a dollar. This is a terrible exchange rate. The rate at the ferry dock is far better and best to change the money there if you only brought USD to the island. The food here was great. Large portions, reasonably priced, Wi-Fi, and air-conditioning in back room. The café is about a five-minute walk from the Ultramar ferry station on the island. Pretty cool that there is a kosher restaurant in the middle of this small island.

Activities:
First day I booked through Expedia a 20-minute Jetpacking session & 30-minutes Waverunner for $150 total (https://www.expedia.com/things-to-do/jetpack-adventure.a282613.activity-details). Company is Jetpack Adventure and is located in the La Isla Shopping Village. The Shopping Village is nice place to walk around and waste $20 on a fish foot massage. The company also offers flyboarding. After watching people attempt both, it seems that flyboarding is easier to rise up higher above the water although jetpacking affords the user more control. After the jetpacking & waverunning, we haggled with the company and got pictures from both the Jetpacking & waverunner for $30 total. Great Pics.

Second day we took the 11am Ultramar ferry from Playa Caracol to Isla Mujeres. Ferry ride takes about 45 min. (the ferry from Playa Caracol stops at another port before heading to the island). There is a fellow that plays some Mexican music during the trip for tips. After getting to the island, we headed straight for Maya café for lunch. Afterwards, we walked around a bit. Vibe is more laid back than Cancun hotel zone, and store are mostly catering to tourists (Cuban Cigars, Mexican artwork, etc.). We then rented a golf cart for 2 hours ($30) from a random storefront (you must give them your driver’s license). We drove first to the popular Playa Norte which was beautiful, but very busy with boats and folks at the beach. Cool bar there with swings as chairs along the bar. We then drove all the way from the northern most point to the southern-most point of the island. Golf carts are the slowest vehicle on the island – there are regular cars and many mopeds. We were warned against renting a moped as not all the roads are paved and tourist moped accidents are frequent. We first went to check out the Garrafon Natural Reef Park  (and decided that $30 for zip line fun wasn’t worth it), and then ended up at Punta Sur. Stunning Caribbean/Mexican Gulf views, with rocky coastline. Officially a Mayan ruin, but far more popular for the nice walking areas along the coastline. There is restaurant [for beer & water] at Punta Sur. We then headed back to the port (got lost a bit – went left on the roundabout instead of right when heading north – seems like a lot of people before us made the same mistake). Good to know that one can easily go from northern to southern most point on the island, and relax too, within two hours. The 4pm ferry going back to Playa Caracol was full, so everyone who didn’t fit onto that boat took the next boat to El Embarcadero where a bunch of Pirate ships are docked. We took an Uber back to condo for $3.50 so wasn’t such a big deal.

Third day we went on the Jungle Tour Adventure (http://www.jungletourcancun.com/) - Great value, $45pp, so $90 we had our own mini-speed boat for a 45 minute ride through some mangroves and the lagoon to the ocean, some snorkeling, and the same 45 minute ride back to the docking area. Mostly calm water and some choppy water, really fun ride. Boats follow each other and arrive at southern tip of Hotel Zone where the boats are all attached to each other and snorkel gear is handed out. Snorkeling is great opportunity for beginners. Not much of a reef, but pretty fish and tour leader is good at spotting the fish & helping ppl out who are having trouble. The company does a good job taking pictures and even have a drone taking photos/videos of individual boats/passengers when the boats depart from the marina. They print your picture and past them on beer bottles, hoping you’ll buy it. We didn’t pay because they charge a bloody fortune.

Random Points:
1.   Remember to hold on to the immigration forms from entrance into Mexico. You’ll need them on the way out.
2.   Exchange rate varies wildly from place to place; from 1:15 to 1:19.
3.   Only mosquitoes we noticed were at Dag Dag at night, and is some quiet areas on Isla Mujeres. We sprayed OFF! constantly & and avoided the Cenote tours which are high mosquito areas. Though I was told that the mosquitoes in the Cenotes are not the same mosquitoes which carry the Zika virus. I wouldn’t know.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2017, 04:44:49 PM by Naftali »

Offline Joker123

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Re: Cancun - Trip Notes - Three Night Vacation
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2018, 12:17:47 PM »
Thanks for your detailed trip notes. Was very helpful for my trip!

Offline Naftali

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Re: Cancun - Trip Notes - Three Night Vacation
« Reply #2 on: August 09, 2018, 06:43:28 PM »
Thanks for your detailed trip notes. Was very helpful for my trip!

Just paying it forward!

Offline JuryDuty

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Re: Cancun - Trip Notes - Three Night Vacation
« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2019, 04:12:56 PM »
I'm going to Cancun and read your TR, thanks!
If only we had jury duty every day, then we'd have time to write trip reports about the entire universe.