Dispelling Cancun's Travel Warnings

My heart goes out to Mexico because when it rains, it pours. I still remember a few years back during the super typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines; there were also many natural disasters before it happened. Cash-strapped developing countries usually take more time to rebuild, but the strength and the resiliency of its people always shines through. 

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to travel to Mexico a week before the first earthquake shook the capital, where most travelers transit to visit the smaller towns. Ironically, I was also in the Philippines a week after the super typhoon ravaged the islands near Cebu.

One of the pyramids at Chichen Itza.
Before I go to the nitty gritty, here's a video to inspire you to visit the Riviera Maya.

Just like any other tourist destination, Cancun gets its fair share of negative publicity. In fact, there have been multiple travel warnings issued by the US and other countries due to recent tourist and drug-related crimes. If you are a conscientious traveler who does ample due diligence, you already know the do's and don'ts. I won't go down that route, but instead, provide my perspectives on the most pressing topics.

Will I get caught in a drug cartel shootout?
The probability is slim IF you stick with your well-researched itinerary. During the day time, the shoreline of Playa del Carmen beach is long with non-obstructive views, so if you see/feel anything suspicious, run (not walk) the opposite way. If you are walking in downtown Playa del Carmen late at night, there are many roving police trucks. Stay away from dark alleyways and follow the best path where the police can see you easily even from a distance.

Is there Zika in Cancun/Playa del Carmen?
Two of our local tour guides assured us that there is no zika in the area that we visited, specifically Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Chichen Itza and Tulum. However, there are places, especially in the underground cenotes, where mosquitos breed and aggressively bite even with clothing. This is THE time to use DEET anti-mosquito sprays. If you are planning to get pregnant, better be safe than sorry and postpone your trip.

As a female traveling with fellow women, we were on high alert at ALL times. Even though we stayed at an all-inclusive hotel in Cancun, we never drank any of the alcohol in the resort. The only time we had a tequila tasting was at Mexico City airport's Duty Free and sipped some Mexican beer was at Cocobongo. Always expect the unexpected though.

Now onwards to the good part.  
Cancun is known as a party town. For good reasons. Their clubs downtown are not your typical clubs. Entrance to Cocobongo can go up to $80, while the lesser known clubs are at $35. These are hefty fees to pay, especially in Mexico, because each night, they put up performances.

Cocobongo's show is a combination of Cirque de Soleil with a theatrical, musical twist. I didn't know what to expect at first, but much to my surprise, this is the most touristy entertainment I've ever paid for that I actually enjoyed. There is no downtime and the performances are top of the line. Just imagine singing and dancing in a Cirque show, rather than passively sitting down, for more than 3 hours straight with an open bar - plus pyrotechnics, fireballs, aerial stunts, and, of course, Despacito!

Better than aerial yoga at Cocobongo. 
Cancun vs. Playa Del Carmen
I enjoyed Playa more than Cancun. We walked around Playa's downtown and found authentic mom-and-pop Mexican restaurants, whereas Cancun has a long strip filled with big, all-inclusive hotels, making it impossible to walk to where you want to go, although it was fun taking the local bus for 12 pesos a ride.

Whether you choose to be based in Cancun or Playa del Carmen, you can take day trips to Chichen Itza and Tulum to soak in some history and gawk at Mayan ruins. On our way back to Cancun from Chichen, our bus broke down in the middle of nowhere and delayed everyone by 2 hours. But hey, it happens, so we just chilled until our rescue bus came.

Tulum by the sea.
Cenotes are a must!
If you like the water as much as I do, you will love exploring different cenotes. We went to three cenotes, and all of them have different formations. Swimming in a large, dark cave filled with bats is definitely the highlight of my trip. Too bad we were not allowed to take a GoPro since there are very narrow, dangerous spots that we had to swim through.

Tip: The water in cenotes tend to be deep so it is best that you wear a life vest even if you are a good swimmer.

One of the cenotes that you cannot swim in.
Another cenote that is open at the top. A sink hole filled with water.
One thing that I regret not doing is diving at MUSA, an underwater museum that has statues similar to the Terracotta warriors in China and a Volkswagen. Although we snorkeled in the area and did see some statues and the old beetle, I could not go down deeper to get a close up of the artifacts.

At the beginning of our snorkeling tour with more than a dozen people, torrential rain started, creating big waves. Some panicked, while I just remained calm thanks to countless hours spent in competitive sailing in the rough waters in the San Francisco bay and scuba diving. Thus, I would not recommend this tour for a first-time snorkeling experience.

And... if you haven't seen how Mexican coffee is made, watch out for it on my next Cancun blog series (and a blog on why I have decided to host my videos on Instagram rather than on Youtube).

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  1. Thank you for this! I have plans to travel Cancun soon so this is extremely informational for me.