Hey everyone, hope everyone is staying hydrated and cool during this heatwave in Southern California. I just got back into the swing of things after a mini vacation to Cancún, Mexico last week. I’ve been busy ever since I got back but I’m finally back to my routine of things and over my jet lag . This trip to Cancún was kind of spontaneous, booking a flight only two weeks in advanced. Although this was my 3rd time visiting Mexico, it was only my 1st time traveling to Cancún. I’ve been to Puerto Vallarta before, which is another big tourist destination but on the Pacific Coast of Mexico. I’ve also been to Puebla, which is a town in the middle of Mexico and where tourists are rarely found. Both are polar opposites and I had unique experiences at each one. This led me to have expectations of what Cancún would be like but at the same time I had no clue what to expect. I wasn’t mentally prepared but to be honest when are you fully prepared to visit a completely new place?
Anyways, this trip was very interesting to say the least – both good and bad. Mostly great though! I guess I just had expectations and I shouldn’t have because you know the saying, “no expectations, no disappointments”? Ya I need to remind myself that before every vacation because it’s so true. If there’s any advice I could give someone when traveling to a new place, I would say it’s to not have expectations because it will make your trip 100000x better and I have learned that the hard way. (Fun fact: Out of all generations, Millennials are the most-open minded when it comes to traveling so we crave more adventure, authentic & cultural experiences and we’re the most environmentally conscious, which benefits us a lot. We’re also always wanting to capture our memories for social media so we look for more intriguing aesthetic when traveling). Anyways, this trip was one I won’t forget and I’m thankful I was able to experience it with some of my best friends and Blake’s mom (thank you so much for making a majority of this trip possible. Seriously beyond grateful!). Anyways, this post is my review of my first experience in Cancún – the hotels, food, activities, beaches, nightlife and every bit of hospitality in between.
After a 5 hour flight alone, I was in Cancún. The moment I walked out of the airport, it was extremely hot and humid and I was being offered shuttle services left and right. I was picked up at the airport by Brandi and Stevie, who arrived at the airport before me and were so nice enough to wait for me. Almost immediately, the taxi driver started offering us “deals” on activity cards that were $100 USD. At first it sounded like a great deal but that was just from the excitement of being in a new place and all the activities he was talking about sounded so fun. Thankfully, I’m fluent in Spanish so this helps me out so every time I travel to a Spanish-speaking country. Although the taxi driver was friendly, I knew he was trying to convince us into purchasing an overpriced activity card. I’m sorry but $100 USD…are we in Mexico or am I purchasing a ticket to a music festival? Mexico is usually cheaper so I was expecting to bargain like usual but Cancún was a bit different. It’s definitely a well developed tourist destination, which has both its ups and downs (just like anywhere you travel in the world). Anyways, now for the real hospitality and the rest of my trip.
Hotels, Food and Beverage:
Grand Fiesta Americana Condensa All-Inclusive Resort: For our first night, we stayed at Grand Fiesta American Condensa All-Inclusive Resort, which is a big family-friendly resort right on the beach that was all-inclusive. Grand Fiesta Americana has another resort in Cancun but this one is in a more prime location because it’s right on the beach. The hotel itself is huge and had a tropical vibe to it. There was lots of bamboo, wood, orange walls and little fountains everywhere. Lily, Brandi and I got the better room, which had 2 balconies! One of the balconies was huge and overlooking the crystal-clear, blue water and it was beautiful. That itself made me like the hotel a lot. Amazing views like that are so peaceful and relaxing. It’s truly breathe-taking to see something new and different than what I’m used to back home. Our room had a modern design and was very clean and well-kept. The mini fridge came stocked with water and mini Coronas, which was a plus. Although we had a great room with a sick view, this hotel unfortunately did not blow my mind away. The service was alright but nothing stood out to me, not even the staff or food. My friend’s mom unfortunately left her makeup bag behind when we changed hotels and the hotel did not help as much as they should have. They never “found it” even though it was last in her room before we checked out.
Quick Hospitality Lesson: If you ever lose / accidentally leave something behind in a hotel room, there’s a good chance housekeeping will find it for you. Most hotels internationally are required to hold your lost item in lost and found for 60-90 days. After that date, the employee who found it can keep the lost item if they want to. The hotel cannot contact you about the lost item that was found, you have to contact them first! Unfortunately this is due to liability reasons.
On the other hand, if you’re a guy and forget to bring pants for the restaurants and nightclubs, Grand Fiesta American lets you rent out pants, which I think is pretty cool and convenient for anyone who forgets pants when packing. That service saved one of my friends from not being able to go out that night.
Travel Tip: Guys, this one’s for you. Pack at least one pair of nice pants and a button up! I know you’re on vacation and it’s hot and humid here and the last thing you want to be is in pants but you still need them at a lot of restaurants and nightclubs, even within your own resorts. They won’t let you in without them so remember to pack a pair! This applies a lot to guys when traveling internationally.
Now let’s move on to more important matters, the food! The food was honestly the biggest disappointment in my opinion. First off, the room service menu was limited and it took almost an hour to get our food every time we ordered. That wasn’t even the worst part. The food itself was bad. If you know me you know I’m not a picky eater either. I eat almost anything, even if I don’t like it. This resort’s food was extremely bland and tasted like it had all been microwaved or made from a box, including the fries. I love all kinds of ethnic food so I was extremely excited to eat authentic Mexican food again. (I had some of the best food of my life during last two trips to Mexico so I had pretty high hopes again.) To be honest, I was looking more forward to the food than anything else on my vacation. I was always ready for my next meal, craving new flavors and fresh food. When I tried to order a side of rice and beans through room service, the lady on the phone hesitated and told me they did not have rice. Umm what?! I’m at a nice resort at a popular destination in Mexico and they don’t have rice? 😦 When I asked how they didn’t have rice, she managed to somehow find rice they could make. Although she was able to get my rice, her attitude about me ordering it was not friendly. Regardless, that was a huge disappointment in my book. That was a clear sign this place lacked authenticity so I found that to be pretty lame. I didn’t come here to eat American food haha. On the bright side, their flan was good in my opinion (at least they had one authentic dessert.) Yet, the rest of the food quality was pretty bad and discouraged me from eating there. The food and service were the reason we moved to a different hotel the next day. Although this was not my decision, I’m glad we switched because the next hotel was different. Overall the Grand Fiesta American Resort was really nice physically. I would still recommend this hotel for it’s clean accommodations, ocean views and tropical interior but I would not recommend it for quality hospitality and their food services. For being an all-inclusive hotel, the food should have been a lot better, as well as the service from the staff. This is one of those hotels I’m willing to come back to as long as I eat outside of the resort everyday, which defeats the point of it being all-inclusive.
Le Blanc Spa Resort: Talk about an upgrade and quality hospitality! For the other 3 nights of our trip we stayed at Le Blanc Spa Resort Hotel, which is also located right on the beautiful beach of Cancún, except this resort is the #1 rated hotel in all of Cancún. It’s also an all-adult hotel, which is great when you’re trying to relax in a more peaceful environment and don’t have kids. Anyways this place was absolutely amazing and makes me want to work here. Not only does Le Blanc have a 5 star rating but it also has 5 diamonds.
Quick Hospitality lesson: For those who don’t know how hotel rating systems work, this is very helpful to know when booking hotels! Although star ratings still look at the amenities and services hotels offer, what you might not know is star ratings don’t necessarily determine good or bad service because it can be rated by anyone. On the other hand, diamonds are earned by hotels that are inspected by AAA and meet their standards. The inspection for earning diamonds is a lot more extensive than stars and AAA rates hotels on a more “luxurious scale” that focuses just as much on the quality of services as well as the amount of services offered. For example it focuses on small details such as the thread count in the bedding and the temperature of the jacuzzis. Diamonds are lot more challenging to earn than stars so if you ever see a diamond that is good sign. Look for diamonds when looking for the level of luxury because whether it’s 1 diamond or 5 diamonds, it’s guaranteed to be a good hotel. On the other hand, when looking at star ratings – don’t determine the rating by the stars, determine it by the reviews you read.
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford staying at this resort again considering it was over $800 a night but I’m so happy I had the opportunity to experience it once because the hospitality here was absolutely superb and really inspiring for my own major and future career. We were greeted with warm hellos by every staff member and were given fresh almond-coconut milk the moment we walked in, which was a great first impression. The resort itself was absolutely beautiful and elegant. It has a minimalistic, modern, all white and sleek design from top to bottom. Each floor had a different aromatic scent from the essential oils. It was really soothing. The resort had 4 restaurants (Italian, International, French, Asian-Fusion) and 6 bars. Each room not only came with its own whirlwind tub and alcohol dispenser but it also came with it’s own butler! Never in my life would I have thought I would have a butler but I have to say it was pretty cool. Since Le Blanc is spa resort, they had a spa that offered various treatments. On top of that they offered amazing complimentary in-room services such as aromatherapy pillows, soothing essential oils, and aromatic bath salts, which were all found in the comfort menu in our room! This stood out to me a lot because I love aromatherapy so I feel like it enhanced my experience by constantly smelling different calming and energizing aromas throughout my stay there. I definitely took advantage of these services by ordering lavender pillows two of the nights and balancing bath salts one of the nights during our stay. I forgot to mention the butler set up our bath tub with the bath salts! We didn’t have to do a single thing. If that’s not top-notch hospitality I don’t know what is. Some other cool services included with our stay at Le Blanc included free hydrotherapy and free $500 room credits per room that could be used for the spa, a private dinner, shopping, or cool activities like swimming with dolphins (you’ll read about that later!)
The food here was a lot better than the Grand Fiesta Americana and offered a lot more options. Yet, there was still no Mexican restaurant to be found! 😦 Although the International restaurant was my favorite because it was a big buffet with various cuisines, they still lacked authentic Mexican food, which is my only complaint. At least they had rice, beans, chilaquiles and taquitos though. What made up for the lack of Mexican food was the fact the servers actually put in effort to make our experience better by making sure the rice they had was cooked the way we wanted – white or Spanish style. They may not have had mole, tostadas, or chili rellenos but they had genuine hospitality and that’s what mattered to me the most. Plus all I really need in life is rice and beans to be satisfied (and maybe some fresh tortillas on the side!) 🙂 On the bright side, this place had a wide variety of delicious food. My favorites from the trip were the fresh sushi, stuffed cheese pastas, fruit smoothies and the omelettes from the International restaurant (they made the omelettes right in front of you too!) I also really liked the mozzarella sticks from one of the lounges. We liked them so much we got 6 orders in one sitting whoops! My cocktail of choice this trip was a Paloma, which is tequila, lime and grapefruit juice. Apparently it’s a really common drink in this part of Mexico and it tasted similar to a margarita but with less sugar. I also really enjoyed the fresh orange juice and beet juice here and the coconut milk. I find that fruit outside of America always taste better so I try to eat a lot of it when I’m traveling internationally. During our stay, we also had a food and wine pairing Italian dinner and that was a cool experience since I’ve never experienced it with my friends before. The portions were small but most of the food was good. My favorite wine they offered was the Sauvignon Blanc. I’m not sure of the exact name but it light and refreshing. Overall, this hotel was hands down the best hotel I have stayed at. I definitely see why this resort has 5 diamonds and they definitely earned it because their hospitality was over the top. Every single staff member was so attentive and personal. They also a lot of bilingual staff, which is amazing for those who don’t speak Spanish like me when traveling. Language barriers can sometimes impact the quality of service but that was not the case at all here. My one complaint is Le Blanc still needs a Mexican restaurant or at least more Mexican dish options offered! But honestly the service, amenities, and food made up for my complaint easily. It’s a truly amazing place to stay at. I honestly would love to come back to this resort because it was so amazing. I would totally recommend this resort to anyone willing to invest in it. It’s definitely worth it. If you ever have the chance to check this place out in Cancun, do it.
Now just like Puerto Vallarta, Cancún is a popular tourist destination surrounded by lots of beautiful nature and wildlife. The main difference is Cancún is way more developed and a lot more Americanized. To some people this might be a great thing but for me, I want to be enriched in the culture as much as possible whenever I travel. Cancún felt a lot like the Las Vegas strip and a couple tours and activities would have added up to be more than my Coachella ticket from this year. In my opinion, it’s great to see a part of Mexico that is so developed and modern but at the same time this usually means it more expensive. Yet, there’s of a lot day tours and activities to do in and around Cancún. For example, you can go swimming with whale sharks, snorkeling on a booze cruise, visit Tulum or Playa de Carmen nearby, visit the Mayan ruins or one of the 7 Wonders of the World. This was probably the part of the trip where I wish we took more advantage of. One of the main reasons I didn’t get to do as much as I wanted to was because of how expensive everything is here and and we were only here for 4 nights so we were on a time crunch. If it were up to me I would have done a different tour or activity everyday but I’ll just have to save those for the next time I vacation in Cancún. I’ll also be more financially prepared next time since now I know a zip-lining tour in Cancún will be $100 opposed to Puerto Vallarta, where it’s only $10 for zip-lining. I still think everyone should take advantage of doing something fun here, at least once!
Isla de Las Mujeres: On the bright side, my friends and I got to visit Isla de Las Mujeres, which is an island about 45 minutes off the coast of Cancún. We decided to go to this island because we wanted to swim with dolphins there. Like I mentioned earlier, Le Blanc Resort gave each of our rooms $500 worth in credits that could be used on activities. My friends and I booked the activity late so swimming with dolphins was one of the only activities still available, which was perfectly fine because it still sounded fun. Thankfully our credits applied to this so we only had to pay $8 for a service fee, instead of like $120 each. The only other thing we had to pay for was our taxi, which was $20 on the way there and $15 on the way back. We were dropped off at a dock and boarded a boat (similar to the one Catalina Island has) and we were off. The boat had an open bar so we had a couple of drinks on our way there. We were sitting on the top deck of the boat, which was scorching hot so the beers were refreshing. When we got to Isla de Las Mujeres, we walked around for a bit. There wasn’t as much to do as I expected but that was ok. There wasn’t a public beach but we could still go in the ocean as long as we had a life vest on (which was kind of lame but at least I wasn’t going to drown). A few of my friends and I decided to quickly zip line into the ocean, which was pretty fun and it woke me up. We had to wait about 3 hours until we swam with dolphins so in the meanwhile we decided to eat. We didn’t like the buffet that came included with our package so we decided to upgrade to VIP for $20 each. Since we had a group of 7, I tried to negotiate with one of the gentlemen working to see if we could get a group rate. Although he said he couldn’t give us a discount, he gave us a wristband to swim with manatees for free! (This is why knowing Spanish helps me out so much, especially when it comes negotiating in super tourist destinations).
Travel Tip: When traveling to any country, it’s always important to know the current currency exchange rate. Even if you don’t know the language of the country, at least learn to do the conversion math or prepare to get ripped off for being a tourist. Also, always negotiate but do it nicely! Even with a language barrier, negotiate into getting group rates or upgrades at a cheaper price. Even offer to tip more if they lower the rates of whatever it is you’re doing. It will usually work and can help you save a lot of money, trust me! This is great for us college students because we usually need to save every dollar we can to make the most of our trip. You have nothing to lose so might as well try!
The VIP lounge was pretty cool because it was upstairs overlooking the ocean with it’s own pool and 2 lunch buffets. This was probably the one place on my whole trip that had the most authentic Mexican food so I was happy. They even had fresh tortillas! I ate a lot of rice and beans and some carne asada. The bartender gave us tequila shots but made us stand up from our table to chant, “Para arriba, para abajo, para el centro, y adrento!” , which is a common chant done in Mexico while taking shots. It’s one of those sayings that sound way cooler in Spanish than English so there’s no point in translating or else it sounds kind of weird haha. When it was time to swim the manatees and dolphins, we were required to put life vests on before going in the water. We got to get in the water with the manatees first, which was kinda scary but super exciting. We were able to pet a couple of them, including a baby. Their skin was so rough yet smooth because they’re covered in algae! We also got to feed them cabbage and it was so cute to see them eat it! I learned that manatees are vegan, which I thought was interesting. Unfortunately, they’re manatees are endangered and it’s strictly because of humans since manatees do not have any predators to hunt them. This made me sad but it also made me appreciate being able to connect with them before anything worse happens to them. It made me want to be more conscious of my actions so that these sweet “cows of the sea” don’t have to suffer. Next, it was swimming with the dolphins. We didn’t expect to actually swim with them since we were told we would be touching them from a platform. Some of us were more excited than others but I think we all ended up having a lot more fun than we expected. It was so cool to see all my friends get pushed by a dolphin while they were riding boogie boards. The dolphins were so sweet and so smart! I wish I could do that again honestly. That was definitely one of the highlights of my trip forsure! Unfortunately, our pictures were $60 per person, which in my opinion was too overpriced when I could have paid a stranger half of that to take pictures with my Nikon for an hour and had the same outcome. Lily was able to sneak a picture in before getting told to put our phones away so here’s me with a dolphin!
Once the sun goes down, Cancún is ready to play and dance all night. Cancún may lack good Mexican food but it certainly does fall short of having a fun nightlife scene. Like I said, this place reminds me of the Las Vegas strip. Walk down the main Cancún street and it’s just nightclub after nightclub after nightclub! The bass from the venues can be heard from down the street, there’s colorful lights beaming, and the every place is filled with people. If EDC and Coachella decided to open multiple nightclubs next to each other, I would imagine it would be a lot like the ones in Cancún. Not too mention all these nightclubs charge you cover fees as if you were attending a music festival or something.
Travel Tip: This one is super important, especially for us younger travelers who are more likely to party every night when traveling. BE SMART WHEN GOING OUT! I can not emphasize this enough. Yes I may sound like a mom but seriously, just because you’re on vacation doesn’t mean your common sense has to be. Have fun but be careful, especially in other countries such as Mexico. Places like Cancún have had incidents of alcohol being tapered with recently, which is more common than you think and that’s scary. Be aware of your surroundings, how much you’re drinking remember to drink water in between (bottled or filtered water only!) and listen to your gut feeling! Even if the alcohol is fine, your body might react to it differently because of the different ingredients so just be smart while you party all night 🙂
Daddio’s: This was the nightclub we went out to on our first night. This place was pretty cool because it had a huge dance floor in the middle and had stairs wrapping around it on both sides. Thankfully we had a table upstairs with the perfect view of the dance floor. This was convenient because we didn’t have to go to the bar for drinks at all the whole night. Although this place wasn’t raging when we got there, my friends 110% started the party. There was not a single person on the dance floor so we decided to do what we do best – start dancing. Within minutes, more and more people started coming to dance floor from out of nowhere and all of a sudden it was packed. I’m not even kidding, we started the dance party. This was the first time I witnessed a real life scenario of the bystander effect and I’m glad we got the club dancing haha. It was honestly pretty epic. I think my favorite part about this place is that they have legit DJs come perform. We came on a good night because DJ Tay James performed, who is Justin Bieber’s DJ. We found it funny because Justin Bieber had just cancelled his tour earlier last week so this was as close as we were going to get to the real deal. My favorite part about Daddio’s is that the dance floor rotates! We did not see that coming at all and all of sudden we’re going round and round while dancing to hip-hop, house and and Spanish EDM. (I know EDM is a lame term but I don’t know what to categorize the music in, especially when it’s in Spanish.)
Coco Bongo: This isn’t just a nightclub, but it’s also a live show. If you’re ever in Cancún, go to Coco Bongo! Reserve a table if you can, it’s so worth it because it includes an open bar and you won’t have to be crowded in the pit. This show blew mind. I honestly expected it to be corny but it ended up being an epic Spanish Cirque du Soleil mixed with a rave mixed with live movie performances that went on for hours. There were pretty go-go dancers, acrobats hanging from the ceiling, and even dancers in realistic costumes from Sparta and Pirates of the Caribbean! Right when you thought it was over, another live performance would come on and would keep the party going. In between performances, they would play live music videos on the screen and put the the lime light on girls dancing in the cages they had upstairs. Brandi, Lily and I were lucky enough to have been in the cage for most of the show. We got to dance on screen a lot but more importantly we had a front row view of the whole show. The dancers from Coco Bongo were so talented and in shape that it made me want to start doing aerial flow yoga. This was some of the best entertainment ever and I highly recommend going here!
Mandala: Oh Mandala, we meet again and I’m so glad we did because it’s always amazing! Mandala is more of a franchised type of nightclub that can be found in Cancún, Cabo and Puerto Vallarta. I went to the one in Puerto Vallarta last year and it was my favorite nightclub so I knew it would be a great time in Cancún as well. The main difference between the one in Puerto Vallarta and Cancún is that one here in Cancún is smaller and lot more expensive. There was $55 cover fee (even for girls), which included an open bar but to me that is pretty pricey considering I don’t even pay that much to get into places in Hollywood and LA back home. We even got into Mandala free when we went to Puerto Vallarta so I was kind of disappointed at how expensive it was here. There were a bunch of promoters outside the club trying to offer the “best” rate but honestly they were all overpriced. I think if it would have been just girls going, we would have gotten in for free but that wasn’t the case this time. My favorite thing about Mandala is their taste in music every time. They play the perfect balance between Spanish and English music, as well as house, hip-hop and everything in between. I also really like that they play music videos of the songs their playing but then again most nightclubs in Mexico do. (I still think it’s pretty cool though). The highlight of my night was when Lily and I got picked from the crowd to go on stage with the DJs. I feel like this has happened to us a few times but it’s still always as exciting as my first time. As lame as being that girl on stage can seem, it’s pretty fun to have a view high up from the DJ booth where you can see the whole crowd vibing and dancing down below. We were only there for a couple of minutes but it was cool that they picked us out of all the girls in the crowd that night.
Overall the nightlife in Cancún is great but it’s overpriced at American rates. The one good thing about is that they’re open bar and stay open until like 5 am, so you can dance there all night long. There’s a lot of other nightclubs to hop to nearby that I didn’t go to but I wish I could have. Once again, that will be for my next vacation in Cancún.
Cancún Wrap Up
Overall Cancún was an amazing trip. It was the chaotic but fun and I was able to explore a new place and learn a lot of new things, including more about myself. I always come back from trips with more knowledge, a stronger self of myself, and lots of gratitude. Although this trip had a few bumps in the road, it was still a wonderful and relaxing trip. I’m so grateful my friends and I were able to experience new things together, like swimming with dolphins and exploring new beaches. Would I go back to Cancún? Definitely! Next time I would just save up more since it’s not cheap and next time I would visit more places like Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and the Mayan ruins and Downtown Cancún for some authentic Mexican food. I would also recommend coming for at least a week so that you can fully enjoy everything Cancún has to offer. Yet if I had to recommend to someone my age if they should go to Cancún or Puerto Vallarta, I would say Puerto Vallarta in a heartbeat. Why?
Although Cancún’s beaches are way prettier, I feel like Puerto Vallarta has everything Cancún has and a lot more! It’s also about 10x cheaper than Cancún and you get a sense that you’re actually surrounded in Mexican culture while still feeling safe. They both have amazing all-inclusive resorts on the beach and offer booze cruises, zip lining, jungle tours, banana boats, etc. but Puerto Vallarta saves you a lot more money for the same experiences, has authentic Mexican food everywhere, including the resorts and the weather is not as humid. I also surprisingly felt safer in Puerto Vallarta even though it’s not as developed as Cancún. If you have more money to spend and would rather feel like you’re in America, then I would recommend Cancún. If you’re traveling on a tighter budget but want to experience more culture, more adventure, better shops and food, then I would totally recommend Puerto Vallarta.
Cancún, you were hot, beautiful and fun but this vacation was too short. I hope we meet again so I can explore more of the natural beauty you have to offer. Thank you for showing me new places, teaching me new lessons, and making me feel alive.
Until next time,