Two Solo Days in Cancun
On a recent trip to a conference in Cancun,I decided to arrive two days early to acclimatize and check out some local
sites on my own. I had travelled solo before, but that was many years ago, andnever somewhere I wasn’t fluent in the local language. So it was with a mixture of trepidation and excitement that I booked what looked like a well-located
boutique hotel that offered breakfasts and light snacks, as well as a tropical garden with a pool. Mi Casa es tu Casa seemed like a little oasis, and although it was convenient to the airport, hotel zone and downtown Cancun, it was
situated in a residential area and not easy to find, even for the local taxis! I dropped my bags and took a taxi heading to the ferry terminal for my first adventure.
The ferry to Isla Mujeres from Puerto Juarez is 146 pesos ($10 CDN) return, and takes just 18 minutes to cross. Isla
Mujeres boasts a charming and authentically Mexican downtown and myriad opportunities for, snorkeling, beaches, shopping, dining or just cruising the island’s many attractions in a rented golf cart or scooter – but bring your drivers license -your passport won’t get you a rental! Opting for shade, I hopped a cab and took a day pass at the Mia Reef Resort, waiting out the hottest part of the day. Later I walked the length of town to North Beach stopping for a late lunch and a margarita at a beach café before heading to the dock and the ferry back to Cancun. A few blocks from the port I flagged a taxi down, saving about half the cost of a taxi on the port line-up.
Having felt completely safe and comfortable on my first solo foray, I was excited for my tour of Tulum early the next day.
The taxi picked me up at 7:30 and dropped me off for the complementary breakfast and to catch the Tulum tour bus at The Vidanta, a lovely resort, and (unbeknownst to tired me when I ‘booked’ at the airport at 7 am) timeshare!
This was a danger I had not anticipated, however I decided to run with it, as the location was stunning, and I was hungry. Four sales people, a delicious breakfast and more than 90 minutes later, I was a proud non-owner on a bus heading
to the spectacular ruins and beaches of Tulum.
Having paid my 65-peso entry fee, I was free to wander and photograph the stunning 700-year-old historical
city. After about an hour and a half, longing for a breeze, I struck out for the beach. The beaches in Mexico are public and I took the first access to the Tulum beaches, where I relaxed under an umbrella in the sand with a glass of Sangria in my hand. But with 130 kilometers to Cancun looming, I could only linger so long. I had to find a local ‘colective’ (mini-bus) to Playa del Carmen, where I would hopefully have a meal and transfer to a Cancun colective. Even in the extreme heat, I enjoyed walking the 10 km beach strip, listening to cicadas and generators of off-grid resorts and yoga studios while being passed by bohemian waves of hipsters on bikes, and locals in cars and scooters and taxis. As it was a little further than I had anticipated, I finally broke down and took a taxi the last kilometer to the bus.
Tucked in with all the locals on their way to and from home and work or shopping, I felt completely safe, and maybe a
little smug, having paid 40 pesos instead of $40 US to get to Playa del Carmen. Arriving at dusk, I first made sure I knew where to catch the bus to Cancun, before settling on a traditional cocina, where I enjoyed fish tacos and an icy
Returning to the colective station, I hoped I would be able to convey to the driver where to drop me. My hotel was located a few streets behind the Motel La Cerezas (Cherry Motel), whose neon-lit visage advertised rooms for “300 pesos for 4 horas.” I explained this to the ticket seller, who in turn told the driver in Spanish, and although eyebrows were raised, I was dropped at the exact spot. It was dark, and there were four busy lanes of traffic, but I waited for a clear moment and made it safely across the highway. It was a short 15 minute walk to the hotel from there, but the roads
were not great and light was lacking, so I asked the puzzled security guards at the motel to call me a taxi, which they did while I waited in the lobby with its six-foot pile of used sheets.
Once again, I arrived at my little gated casita, safe and sound, looking forward to the next three days at the Moon
Palace Golf Resort and Spa conference. I never once questioned my safety while on my own in Cancun, even in what might have seemed sketchy circumstances. I used common sense, was careful when having a drink or traveling at night, and I was as comfortable as I am in my own backyard.
The one word of warning I would give solo travelers to Cancun would be to read the fine print on those tour vouchers at
the airport, especially if Elvis with the incredibly long eyelashes is signing you up for a tour of Tulum!