Escape America to Cancun and leave your stress behind. How do I know? I was one of them. During the COVID19 lockdowns in the states, Americans have been flocking to Cancun. Here are some local places you should know
Upon returning to Miami intending to fly north in the states, I was sitting at a restaurant a few miles from Miami International Airport. After a week of sun and surf, the idea of heading back into the cold November winter didn’t sit right with me. So I scanned the map, perusing the Caribbean. I considered Costa Rica, the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, The DR, and even Cuba.
But then I was surprised to see that Cancun was positioned much farther east than I ever imagined — it’s actually in the Eastern Time Zone, about 100 miles off the tips of Key West and Cuba. So I jumped on a flight, rented a room for a few days so I could find an apartment.
There are three prime locations in Cancun, Quintan Roo — Cancun proper, Playa Del Carmen, and Tulum.
I settled into an apartment in the Torres section of Cancun proper, about a 15-minute ride from the beach. Cancun is a sprawling set of neighborhoods. The beach is located in the Hotel Zone. It is a separate narrow stretch of land about 45 minutes long, with water on both sides, jutting out from the edge of the El Centro section of town. (NOTE: the Mexicans take COVID19 seriously, and wear masks pretty much everywhere. If you refuse to wear one, this may not be the place for you.)
While most tourists tend to stay in the Hotel Zone at any of the many resorts, you can stay in town for a fraction of the cost. A taxi to the beach will run you between 100-200 pesos (US$5- $10). The R1 or R2 bus will take you there for 12 pesos. So I’d take a taxi to the beach and then a bus back to town.
A perfect beach is Playa Tortuga (Turtle Beach). When you enter, walk up the walkway next to OXXO (their version of a 7-Eleven). When you hit the beach turn right, not left where they try to steer the tourists. In front of the first beach restaurant, you can rent an umbrella and beach lounge (ask for Alfonso). The reason you want his chairs is that he works with that restaurant, and their food and drinks are much better than the next choice. Margaritas will cost approx US$5, and you can get a freshly grilled fish dinner for approx $7.
The beach is a cove, not too crowded, the water calm and perfect for swimming. About 4 kilometers before Playa Tortuga, if you just want to hang on the beach without swimming, there is a secret little place I frequent called Cooco & Grill. As you travel down the Hotel Zone, the first Starbucks you come to (across from Hotel Temptation) is where you exit the bus. Cross the street, go left, past Temptation, and at the end of the next hotel. walk through the far left corner of the parking lot. Walk up the narrow pathway and turn left and you’ll see the tables on the sand. The food and margaritas are good. (it’s not on the menu, but you can get a huevos de Mexicana — eggs ala Mexico).
At the end of the day, if you don’t stay for the grilled fish, you can catch the bus just outside on the main road. Take either the R1 or R2. About 15 minutes up the road, you’ll want to get off at the second main road (Avenida Tulum) once you’ve left the Hotel Zone, at the corner where you’ll see a large Supermarket. Across from the Supermarket is a section of restaurants. I personally like El Pablano. You can get a plate of fajitas for about $7. Mexican music is pumping into the outdoor seating area, and it’s a nice vibe. It’s a nice way to end a great beach day.
Very close to El Poblano is the Plaza Las Americas, a mall with a variety of shops and restaurants. Also close are two casinos.
Just off the coast of Cancun is Isla Mujeres. You can take a fun 45-minute catamaran ride with an open bar — yeah, like a floating party.
In my next installment, I’ll write another article about what to expect there, costs, and where to get tickets. I’ll also detail some other restaurants and Marcado 28 — a good place to get souvenirs. I’ll follow that with an overview of Playa Del Carmen. Stay tuned!