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Monday, August 06, 2007

Trip Report – Cancun, Mexico Vacation

I am sitting here on our United Airline Ted flight about halfway back to Los Angeles from our 8-day, 7-night vacation to Cancun, Mexico where we stayed in the Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort. It is a great time to reflect back on the trip before we both jump back into our work world tomorrow morning.

A quick reflection is that even though it was both the slow and hottest season in Cancun, we had an excellent time. There are several reason for this, including the hotel and poolside being less crowded than they might be, a number of “programs” or tours, and the weather of course cooperated for us.

Would we come back again?

I think that is a very good question. While for folks on the East Coast, this is a pretty close and somewhat Americanized location – in a lot of ways Cancun reminds us of Hawaii – especially Waikiki. It is not any cheaper, and it takes about the same amount of flight time to get here as it does Hawaii. The main advantage that it has in my opinion would be the scuba diving and snorkeling access & availability – it may also be the one thing that is less expensive than Hawaii.

Which brings me to my only regret on this trip. If I had to do it over again, I would have taken the 3-days and become open-water certified using up a couple of the days we spent poolside relaxing. I thought about it earlier in the week, but lost sight of it until Thursday. Once we checked out the availability and pricing, it was extremely reasonable from one of the main scuba diving companies – Aqua World. Aqua World charges around $400 for a 3-day course that include course materials, books, training, and 5-6 dives for your open water certification.

So, to answer the question – I believe we would come back to Cancun with a couple of minor modifications. The first would be to come during a different time of the year, when perhaps it was a little bit cooler. The second would be to do a trip that is a little shorter, although it makes it tough coming from West Coast where you lose a day traveling here. Then finally, I would make sure to dedicate the time to get open-water scuba diving certified. Maybe we’ll be back sooner than I think…..

Here was our itinerary for the week:
Day 1: Getting there
Day 2: Tulum & Xel-Ha
Day 3: Relax at the Hilton Cancun Beach & Golf Resort
Day 4: Visit the Ancient Mayan City of Chichen Itza
Day 5: Relaxing & Shopping in Cancun
Day 6: Jungle Tour & Snorkeling
Day 7: More relaxing & Pat O'Briens
Day 8: Senor Frogs & heading home

A few random commentaries:
Inclusive Resorts: These appear to be the rage in the Cancun area right now. Just as they are in other areas of the Caribbean, such as Jamaica. If you have kids and you want to have a predictable, set budget for the week then these may be for you. However, if you like to do any exploring and sampling of the local eateries and experiences, you may want to re-think that as you probably will not get the benefit you are looking for.
Real Estate: And I thought prices in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara were out of control. The prices for land and condos here is high – I wonder if it poised for a fall like is happening stateside right now. For the price of some of these places, you could get a nice ocean condominium or house in Orange County or perhaps even Malibu. Hmm, where would I rather live or vacation?
Prices: Expect to pay at least the same or many times more for everything than you do in the United States. Yes, even for beer. Cancun is just like any other resort town in the Hotel zone and at most tourist areas. There are not a lot of deals to be found.
Buses: The bus systems, once you learn how to use them are great and easy. While we burned through some pesos on taxi rides the first couple of evenings, once we started using the buses we realized that in some ways they were easier and definitely cheaper, $2.20 round trip rather than $20.
Shopping: Realize that any Mexican souvenirs that you buy such as blankets, tequila, and most crafts are not from the Yucatan peninsula. That means yes, you will pay more.