I’d played with the idea of spending Christmas somewhere sunny for some time, so when a friend suggested we pack up and go away for the holidays I grabbed for my passport faster than you could say MOJITO!
After doing a search on Google for the best places to spend a sunny Christmas near the UK the usual suspects cropped up … i.e The Canary Islands, Egypt, Morroco and Cape Verde, but we wanted something more special than this – away from the standard package poolside holiday, which is why we decided on Mexico.
We had 2 weeks to explore, so chose the area of Quintana Roo.
Here’s a map of our route:
Cancun > Tulum > Playa Del Carmen > Cozumel > Isla Mujeres > Cancun
For this blog I have decided to share my diary from the trip, this way you can see all the little details 😊 (if you find it too wordy don’t forget you can use Ctrl F to search key words in the post)
We flew from Heathrow to Cancun airport via Paris with Air France. The Paris connections lounge, with it’s over priced macaroons and salmon pasta dishes looked just as I remembered it, but this time those comfy orange seats were looking a little worse for wear.
Having previously flown with Air France to Brazil my expectations weren’t high, but these past experiences were quickly overshadowed by the friendly crew on board and the ice cream snacks!
CANCUN 18TH-20TH DECEMBER
Accommodation: Mezcal Hostel
Landing in Cancun was a tired blur. It didn’t feel like Mexico at all, in fact it’s how I imagine it might feel landing somewhere beachy in America, or perhaps Hawaii. Everyone around us were American tourists, and even the taxi drivers outside had the US twang.
Our hostel was pretty nice. In a dorm for 6 people, but it was spacious and clean with our own bathroom. In our room we had 3 boys and 3 girls.
We got a couple of drinks from the local OXXO corner shop and went to bed to recover when our room mates went out.
Main aim = find the beach!
Before coming to Mexico I don’t think we fully understood the scale of the map when booking accommodation (this became apparent in more than one place) so after expecting to be able to walk to the beach, instead we took the R1 bus down to the hotel zone where the best beach was said to be.
It was a windy day but the beach was beautiful with clean white sand stretching for miles along the coast.
Now here’s one thing you should know about Cancun and the hotel zone.. the hotels are HUGE and all inclusive. When it came to around lunch time our stomachs started calling for tacos! We did what you would normally do on the beach and decided to head to the nearest restaurant or snack bar… except there wasn’t one..
As we walked along the long stretch of beach past all the all-inclusive hotels it became apparent that unless you’ve paid the all-inclusive price to stay in the hotel you are not welcome. Eventually we found this hotel called Oasis Grand (Oasis loves you) which looked amazing. There was an aerobics class going on next to the pool. We sat down at this restaurant initially as there were prices on a sign, so we thought we could pay here, but apparently that wasn’t the case. We came out honest to the waiter and admitted we didn’t actually stay there.. and after him looking a bit shifty around him agreed that we could eat there if we gave him tips to do so. This worked out quite nicely, as we got to order what we wanted for a good price. I got chicken and salad – average meal but tasted nice. Taking advantage of our new found all-inclusive status Christiana also managed to wangle us some smoothies for the beach.
Got back to the hostel and decided very last minute to join the group night out. It cost us $50 USD for the night. We didn’t have the chance to lower this by opting out of anything, but soon realised why when the first club Mandala was all you can drink at your table, with no actual bar to buy drinks from. A mix of people from the hostel came along, including an Australian girl called Nicola (a free spirit with bundles of energy, who kind of reminded me of Phoebe from friends) and a few girls who were working as promoters for the hostel. There was a stage at the front, with a funny DJ who reminded me of Radio 1’s Westwood. Spring break vibes really came in to play when it was announced a wet t-shirt competition was about to take place! An hour later, still with no wet t-shirts in sight we moved on to the next place without the group. This was called La Vaquita, and honestly I probably wouldn’t recommend it. We bumped in to the 2 weirdest boys, who put on some kind of bizarre dance routine.. turns out they weren’t joking. We got a taxi home.
TULUM 20TH – 24TH DECEMBER
Accommodation: Amarcito Corazon Hotel Y Hostel
We got an ADO bus from Cancun down to Tulum, and I must say it was probably the comfiest coach I’ve ever been on!
Our new hostel is nicer than the last one, but very quiet socially. They don’t have an alcohol license, so everyone goes out and when we first arrived there were barely any guests staying. There’s a kitchen on the roof with a little pool, but we never actually used it our whole stay.
The guests in our room are interesting.. there’s an old man (maybe 70 years old) who doesn’t really say a lot, and came down to explore Tulum. There’s also an American guy who loves to dance and has started making YouTube videos.
The next night we went to a nearby hostel that had a bar called Che to meet people and go out. They have their own bar and it’s pretty busy. We met some Australians – 2 girls and 2 boys, along with a boy from New York called Ross with dark hair (think f.r.i.e.n.d.s) We went in a taxi to what was advertised as a beach party, but really it was just a bar on the opposite side to the beach in a garden.. so after a couple of very over priced vodka lime sodas it was back to Tulum.. where we found our dancing room mate having decided to put on his own show for the streets (no surprises there).
The beaches in Tulum are literally the BEST, although all the affordable accommodation is in town (along with the nightlife thank goodness) so in the day some people rent bikes and cycle down to the beach. We chose to ride down in a taxi instead. There’s white sand and some really nice beach cafes where I’d recommend mango smoothies! There’s an Instagram photo op at every turn. The main beach was Playa Maya I believe.
Oh and we visited the Mayan ruins at the end of the beach.. it was nice but I think a bit wasted on me, as I enjoyed the plants and animals around it more than the actual ruins.
In true Christmas spirit we built 2 sandmen called Olaf and Frederiko.
On the last day in Tulum we went to a different beach and sat at the Papaya Playa project hotel. This was amazing! I’d love to stay there one day..
Oh I also forgot to mention that we also visited Grande Cenote – a kind of underground sink hole (lake) where we snorkelled. The water was cold but really nice and clean.
PLAYA DEL CARMEN 24TH-28TH DECEMBER
Accommodation: Iris Studios and apartments
Day 7 –
It took a lot to drag us away from the incredible Tulum, but we jumped on a collectivo bus which took us to Playa Del Carmen. Collectivos are great.. you just jump in these little mini buses and they are super cheap.
Playa was where we were going to be spending Christmas so we splashed out on a nice apartment for the occasion.. although the purple décor was not something to be desired, but it did make us laugh. Had a quick dip in the pool on the roof while the room was being sorted. We set out our Christmas decorations and presents ready for Christmas day and headed out.
Playa del carmen is super touristy, with a long street of shops, bars and restaurants called Fifth avenue. It kind of reminded me of one of the Canary islands, but it’s a great place to meet people.
Christmas eve we went to Parrot (a club next to the beach) which was super fun, and they had fire dancers and glow in the dark paint etc too.. we met a couple of Americans called Ethan and Jacob from Florida. We also bumped in to Nicola and the French boy from our first hostel whilst in Playa del Carmen.
Day 8 : Christmas Day:
On Christmas day, feeling very worse for wear from the unlimited drinks the previous night and having come home at 6am, we had to get up early to catch a boat to Cozumel island for a snorkelling trip!! The weather was also looking ropey, and the boat ride wasn’t fun.
Luckily we found refuge in a diving hostel when we arrived, and also got the chance to visit a church, which was nice on Christmas day.
The snorkelling was fun, and I saw lots of nice fish. (Christiana also only remembered the glow in the dark paint once we’d jumped in the water)
Day 9 : Boxing day:
The next day we met more nice Americans – a brother and sister David and Jennifer and their friend Matthew. Their family has a house in Cancun and they come down every year over Christmas. We ended up back at Parrot.
The next day we met back up with them, and went back out. This time we went to a beautiful hotel rooftop bar called Hotel Thompson.
(This photo was taken from Google)
We heard there was going to be a new years eve party there in a few days, which would have been amazing to go to!!
ISLA MUJERES 28TH-30TH DECEMBER
Accommodation: Hotel Sueno Maya
In the morning we set off from Playa Del Carmen to Isla Mujeres. This closely followed Tulum as my second favourite place we visited in Mexico.
We had our own HUGE apartment, with a double bed each. The nicest beach was Playa Norte, which we were lucky enough to be walking distance from. Here we sunbathed every day and enjoyed more Mexican tacos and quesadillas.
Definitely don’t think we had enough time to explore this island.
We found another busy hostel called Poc-na. It’s actually a shame we weren’t able to stay there as they had lots of benefits, like free Spanish classes, yoga and cheap golf buggy hire. We took advantage of their cheap drinks however.
We did a yoga class overlooking the sea on a wooden platform one morning and it was beautiful. The teacher has the best job in the world – teaching yoga next to the beach and singing in the evenings.
The next day we set out to hire a golf buggy and explore the island. The weather was overcast, so it turned out to be the best day to do this. Sadly there were no golf carts left on the island to hire! But luckily enough some German girls heard we didn’t have one and said we could join them on theirs.
We went to a turtle sanctuary, an abandoned house and a beach for lunch.
On the way back I bought myself a beautiful shell from a little girl on the side of the road.
There’s lots of street art and paintings on Isla Mujeres.
CANCUN 30TH-31ST DECEMBER
Accommodation: Kukulcan Hostel and friends
Travelled back to Cancun on the boat and made our way to our final hostel before going home…
The hostel was what can only be described as disgusting, and I’d tell everyone to stay well clear of it – super dirty and smelly. We spent as little time there as possible, and I got up at 7am the next day to pack up and head out.
The weather wasn’t great which I think put us both in a bad mood looking for somewhere to spend our last day. This soon perked up, and so did our luck when we managed to find a hotel which would let us buy a day pass (the Cancun all-inclusive problem for people who aren’t all-inclusive) we had their breakfast buffet, used their shower and ate some lunch before heading back to the hostel to wait for our taxi to the airport.
Travelled home via Paris again, but this time actually had to leave the airport and go to another one before catching the long flight to London.
We spent what would have been UK new year in the airport waiting for our flight. We wore red underwear to signify a loving year ahead, and ate 12 grapes at what would have been midnight. This is meant to signify the 12 months of the new year, so luckily all 12 of my grapes were sweet!! And it was 12 sweet months ahead for me!
As always if you have any questions about my trip or would like to stay in touch for further travel posts, you can find me on Instagram @shore_to_surface