If you're lucky enough to be planning a trip to Cancun this year then you've come to the right place.
The Yucatan region in Mexico is absolutely beautiful and I would give anything to be heading back over.
White beaches, pina coladas, fresh food, swimming with turtles, ancient ruins - it really has it all.
I've been blessed to have travelled quite a bit and I can honestly say this area is amazing. Although, I would have loved to have had the knowledge I am about to pass onto you when I was planning my trip.
Let's dive into it:
My first and top tip - DO NOT stay in Cancun!
This may sound drastic but if you're anything like me you'll want to take note.
I was booked into an all-inclusive hotel for three days and after about eight hours I was itching to get out. You feel like you're trapped there because you have all your meals included, so there's no point leaving to find fun things to do.
On top of this, the actual little main square area with pubs and clubs is quite filthy. The main club Coco Bongo is around $100 in, and I had no interest; there is little else around apart from about four bars.
Because everything in Cancun is so expensive, activities and excursion prices are hiked up.
(I will tell you how to save a bit on these a little further down.)
I hear you ask, what if I actually just want to get all inclusive and sit on the beach and chill?
That's fine but if you do want to do this I'd recommend Playa Del Carmen.
This area has some of the nicest hotels on offer and has all-inclusive options. You can hide away in the private hotel beaches and completely chill.
Playa is a built-up area with really nice restaurants, bars, shops so it has a much better atmosphere to Cancun.
I can't recommend staying here enough.
How to save some cash on your activities:
These areas can be quite intimidating when it comes to booking excursions.
If you book through your hotel you're likely to be paying quite a high price for them. Normally the only other option is being hustled by a local with a pop-up stand on the side of the street, and there are loads of them, all trying to get your cash before the next salesperson, so beware of that.
We managed to stumble across a little booking agent called Sayvin and it saved us big time.
For example, we were quoted $200pp for whale shark diving, these guys offered it for $100pp.
Not only are they competitive on their prices but, they're also sound. You can tell that they're genuinely enthusiastic about getting you on the best tours and making it work for you.
We had one morning left before we headed home and they rang everyone under the sun to make sure we got a scuba diving session in before we left.
They have one shop in Playa Del Carmen and another in Isla Mujeres so definitely check them out if you're around the area - tell them we sent you!
I've recommended these guys to so many people and only positive reviews have come back my way.
And they've a slick office:
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Right, what activities should we do?
Swimming with the whale sharks is honestly one of the best activities I've done while travelling.
Just look at me go:
I wasn't exactly comfortable and the person I was with could barely swim but you dive in, go face down and you just float while watching these guys glide past peacefully and it just puts you at ease.
I must admit it was a tough journey to find them and then trek back after but definitely worth it. They are magical to see in real life.
We then embarked on a Cenote excursion with Xplor group, again we booked through Sayvin.
They collect you first thing in the morning and bring you to different Cenotes where you jump off waterfalls, abseil in through the top of some, swim through caves and much more.
It's a really fun day out and is a must on the Mexican bucket list.
Swimming with the turtles in Akumal was also a fantastic day out.
We rented a car for this trip to shorten the journey, but I'm sure there are regular buses.
The beach is lovely so you could happily spend the day here too if you wanted as you'll only spend about an hour swimming with the turtles. There are so many of them, I was genuinely like a kid trying to keep up with them all.
This snap is exactly what it's like there:
The ancient Mayan ruins in Tulum is fantastic.
I, unfortunately, didn't get as much time in Tulum as I hoped. I've only heard great things about how relaxed it is, the beautiful food and yoga retreats.
If I was to go back I'd spend way more time here.
There is an underwater museum just off the Island of Cozumel that is worth checking out.
It didn't blow the socks off me but, I snorkelled so I was always on top and never eye to eye. I would recommend scuba diving for the best chance to check this out.
Cozumel as an island to visit could be skipped and if you wanted to go to a cool island, I would recommend Isla Mujeres.
It's a bit more rough and ready compared to the rest of these places but that's what makes it special.
It has a really chilled island vibe with great food and sessions on the beach. Maybe just pop over for a couple of days but keep in mind you can travel from here to see the museum or the whale sharks.
You can also rent golf buggies and jet around the small island which is really fun. You can check out the small landing strip and even a turtle sanctuary here.