I flew to Cancun with United Airlines where I was treated to a Champagne shower that ruined my GoPro camera but aside from that, the trip was non-eventful!
I stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel Heaven in Riviera Maya. This is an all-inclusive resort that gave me $3600 in resort credit for a seven day stay. However, there are so many conditions and additional fees that it makes it nearly impossible to use all of the credit. The resort does have a variety of restaurants and nightly entertainment. One restaurant that I enjoyed was the Japanese grill where the chefs prepare the food while entertaining guests with their artistry. The entertainment here varies from a cultural show featuring Mexican traditions to live music and was enjoyable. Another plus was the spa, this is one of the largest spas I have ever seen and everything is well done here. Although there are definitely some pluses here, overall this is not the place for me.
I ventured into Playa del Carmen several times during my stay at Hard Rock. Here I enjoyed restaurants, dancing, tequila, shopping, and Museo Frida Kahlo.
In Playa de Carmen, I dined at Oh lala by George, Cenacolo, and Almirante. I would highly recommend Oh lala by George. This small restaurant has exceptional international cuisine and friendly service. Eating here is like eating at a friend’s house and everything here is very well done. I also recommend Cenacolo Italian Restaurant where they hand-make the pasta by hand. The food here is great and I enjoy every bite while watching the crowds pass by. Another fun restaurant I tried was Almirante. This restaurant features Mexican seafood and everything here is amazing. While dining, I am entertained by someone playing with fire batons in the street – very cool!
For nightlife, I enjoyed Patio 8 and Club 01. I have some drinks and snacks at Patio 8, an open-air bar in Playa de Carmen. The atmosphere is good here and I enjoy the scene and food. From here, I follow the music to the rooftop above and dance the night away at Club 01 to great house music. It was a beautiful moonlit night and I had an amazing time.
During the day, I enjoy shopping and Beach Club Martina. Here I enjoyed the beach, the pool, music, drinks, and fresh guacamole. There are so many places with great shopping and I make the most of it by buying some bikinis, cover-ups, souvenirs for friends back home, and of course some tequila.
Although Playa del Carmen is a bit touristy, there is plenty of fun to be had here. Shopping here is a blast and at one of the shops I try on the sombreros and take some pictures in one of their display cars – fun photo opportunities!
For a day trip, I visited Chichen Itza to see the Mayan Pyramids and structures. This is an ancient Mayan city and there is much to see here. Walk the grounds, watch out for jaguars (you will here just the calls here), enjoy the ruins, and check out the local arts and crafts. On my way to the park, I was flagged down to buy tickets at a roadside stop. I was a little concerned that this might be a scam but it turned out to be very beneficial. I bought tickets here prior to reaching the park which meant that I did not have to wait in line, had my own private entrance, and found it very worthwhile to get hassle free parking as this park attracts a lot of visitors.
On the way back to Riviera Maya, I stopped at Coba, another site of ancient Mayan ruins. This is the tallest pyramid on the Yucatan and one of the few pyramids in the world that you can still hike to the top of. You access the pyramid by foot or a rental bicycle and I recommend the bike since it is a bit of a trek from the parking lot. The hike to the top of the pyramid is steep but the experience and views are beautiful. There are smaller ruins here but the main attraction is the Coba pyramid and going to the top. Stop at one of the fresh fruit stands along the way and enjoy a healthy snack.
A visit to Riviera Maya would not be complete without going to the outdoor adventure park XCaret. There is so much to do that you could easily spend a couple of days here. The park, the attractions, animal exhibits, and shows are all very well done and worth seeing. One of the options I chose was the dolphin attraction. This activity included interacting with the dolphins as they showed off their skills, having them jump over me, and having them propel me into the air – spectacular!!
The next attraction I did was going underwater in the ocean using Snuba equipment. You essentially wear a helmet that supplies you with air and get to walk on the sea floor. Here I saw statues, fish, and a very large sting ray. Next was a visit to their bird sanctuary. This is another exhibit that is very well done and I see many exotic species of birds. I also enjoy interacting with large parrots and many of the animal exhibits along the way. For lunch, I ate at one of their restaurants with ocean views and a nice breeze.
Afterwards, I walk the park and finally take a little rest and sun at one of the beaches in the park.
Finally, I concluded my visit to XCaret by watching the “Xcaret Mexico Espectacular” show that displays Mexican culture and history with beautiful costumes, music, and dance. One of the highlights during the show is watching the traditional Mayan sport show where the players use a ball that is on fire – very cool. I bought the optional dinner and found the show to be exceptional and definitely worth seeing. XCaret is worth a visit! Time to move on to Tulum!