Destination Mexico Playa del Carmen

Adventuring through Xplor in Playa del Carmen, Mexico

I haven’t been traveling much this year since I’m really buckling down and focusing on my financial goals so I’m living vicariously through myself and going through old photos. I realized I have a ton of trips I haven’t blogged about (I’m still backlogged on Hawaii earlier this year) so I figured, why not post all #laterblogs! I totally forgot I had this post sitting in my drafts so this Travel Thursday, we’re starting with Xplor theme park.

Xplor is an adventure theme park near Playa del Carmen, Mexico – about halfway between Cancun and Tulum. A coworker told me about it because she went ziplining there and loved it and I mentioned it in passing to one of my friends and she really wanted to go. I’ll be honest, I was not all for ziplining – I’m afraid of heights and the complete opposite of an adrenaline junky – but I am the friend who’s down for whatever so ziplining we went.

Admission is broken up between the day park and night park, which they call Xplor Fuego. The day park is open from 9 AM – 5 PM and Xplor Fuego is open from 5:30 PM – 11:30 PM. We opted for Xplor Fuego because we wanted to zipline through a ring of fire.

there are maps of the park all over

We looked on the Xplor website and found admission tickets for $89, but we didn’t have a car and needed transportation there so we talked to the concierge and got a round trip shuttle bus ride plus admission for $129. The shuttle bus picked us up at 3:30 PM, we made a few pit stops to pick up more people, then transferred at a bus station. Once we arrived at the park, we waited in line to get our helmets and a locker key then were let out into the park.

I wasn’t sure that we would need all 6 hours to see everything, but you really do. The major activities were:

  • Ziplining through a nine circuits and ending through a ring of fire and into the water.
  • Driving an Amphibious Vehicle through the jungle and caves.
  • Swimming in a 437 yard Lava River inside ancient caves
  • Paddling through 580 yards of underground river with special hand paddles
paddling through the underground river

I surprisingly really liked ziplining. I hate that feeling in your stomach you get when you drop on a rollercoaster, but it didn’t feel like that at all. It is scary being that high up but it’s so quick and there’s so much of the view that you wanna take in. The swimming was the most draining for me, mostly because I do not swim well so it took forever but it was still pretty cool. There’s also a decent dinner buffet and rest stops with coffee, drinks, and snacks. I wish I had better pictures, but I had to take my old waterproof camera and it was too risky taking it out while we were adventuring. Overall, if you’re into theme parks, I think it’s definitely worth a visit.

tons of cave photo ops walking to your next adventure

Have you ever been here? What's the best theme park you've been to?
Let me know in the comments below!

Cancun Destination Hotels Mexico

All Inclusive Stay at the Sunset Marina Resort in Cancun

The first 2 days of my Mexico trip, we spent in Tulum and the last 2 1/2 I spent in Cancun with my girl, AE. She booked the Sunset Marina Resort for the two of us and it’s an all inclusive resort! I’ve never stayed at an all inclusive before and as much as I loved the casita at Papaya Playa Project, I was so happy to be in a legitimate hotel and having unlimited food and alcohol was amazing!

The resort is located on the peninsula in Cancun with a strip of beach area. There are a ton of activities to do everyday like water sports, activities for kids and nightly shows. They have a concierge who can tell you about any tourist activities – like visiting Chichen Itza or Xplor Adventure Park (which I’ll talk about in my next post!) or getting bus rides and cover into one of the infamous Cancun clubs. There is an option to just book a room and not do an all inclusive package, but like I said,
we definitely did all inclusive.

I don’t know what type of vacationer you are, but I’m very go with the flow and “let’s just see what happens and how I feel to decide.” We had absolutely no specific plans in Cancun and the two days we had there were definitely for rest and relaxation. The first room at Papaya Playa was such a let down, when we walked into the studio apartment style room at Sunset Marina we were amazed! There was a little kitchenette (no stove) with a mini fridge with a few beers, a tall dining table, sitting area, and outside jacuzzi!

pull out sofa / sitting area
king sized bed

I loved the blue tufted headboard and you know we definitely made use of that jacuzzi!

view on the patio
jacuzzi on the patio

There are three different restaurants on site – La Vela a more formal, sit down, a la carte restaurant, La Pergola a more casual, buffet style restaurant, and Il Forno a casual open pizzeria posted right on the beach. We ate mostly at La Pergola, but had a pizza the first night at Il Forno. We didn’t eat at all at La Vela, but there was just so much to choose from in the buffet.

dining room at La Pergola
view of the buffet from the dining room

My favorite thing about the whole experience was definitely having the open bar. You basically have a running tab billed to your room, but since its all inclusive, you don’t have to worry about it! You’d think I was sitting poolside with margaritas, but my favorite drink was their micheladas! Every other michelada I’ve had has had clamato juice in it, but these were different because they didn’t have clamato in them at all!

the best michealda

We watched them make it and it looks like lemon juice, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, tabasco, salt, and of course, beer! The soy sauce surprised me and the combination sounds so weird together but oh my gosh. I loved them!

Right outside of La Pergola is the pool area. There’s a lower pool with a slide and an upper pool complete with pool side bar.

slide into the lower pool – the bridge leads to La Pergola & the hotel bar area

This deck is also outside of La Pergola. I don’t know where it leads to, honestly.

deck area
kids area
upper pool at night
looking up to the pool bar
lounge chairs lined up along the water
view from the top of the pool looking out

enjoying my michelada!
AE staring off into the sunset

Overall, I loved staying here, the all inclusive route was definitely the way to go and the service was great – just look at the cute little bird housekeeping left on the bed when they cleaned the room!

Destination Hotels Mexico Reviews Tulum

Staying at Papaya Playa Project in Tulum, Mexico

Papaya Playa Project (aka PPP) is a 100 room boutique hotel located right on the beach in Tulum, Mexico. Owned by Design Hotels, the hotel was constructed with the intention that its guests experience being a part of nature – and they definitely did that. Walking to the cabanas felt like walking through the jungle and on the first night, we could hear the waves of the ocean crashing from our bedroom. There were 4 of us on the trip and we arrived on different days, so the first night we had separate Maya Ocean View Cabana and the second night, we all stayed in a Casita with Private Pool.



On the website, the pictures are amazing and don’t get me wrong, because I got some good shots, too. But the hotel itself wasn’t really what I was expecting. Everything is outdoors, like the check-in desk, restaurant, and juice bar – even the public bathrooms were semi-open. I absolutely, LOVED the casita, but I don’t think that I would stay in the cabana again. When we checked-in they gave all of us these brown bead bracelets, which were literally the bane of our existence. I kept thinking it fell off my wrist and I lost it when we were out and about, but these bracelets were kind of a big deal at the hotel. There was even one point when we were trying to go back to our room and the workers said to themselves, “Oh, they have the bracelets they can go.”

the bane of my existence at PPP

As far as dining options, they had a restaurant/bar and juice bar near the lobby. We ate at the hotel restaurant one night and I had the bone marrow tacos. They were really good, but really fatty. Their michealdas were good and spicy, though! Overall, their menu seemed kind of overpriced to me but I guess that’s to be expected when you’re staying at a hotel.

bone marrow tacos at the hotel restaurant

There was AC in both rooms, but for some reason, the cabana just wasn’t as comfortable. In the cabana, there’s a mosquito net around the bed and the bathroom didn’t really feel that clean to me. There were a few steps that led up to the bathroom, an open shower, and concrete floors. The shower head in the cabana leaked a lot, so the shower was always wet. The view from the front door was so pretty, although I am a bit biased because I am all about the ocean.

bed in the cabana

The casita was to die for – it was huge and roomy and had a rooftop pool with a 180 degree view of the ocean! There was a waterfall shower head with a huge open shower area. The 4 of us fit in the room comfortably – there was a giant king sized bed with what I think was a full sized mattress at the bottom – but be warned, the person limit is 3 and we had an extra $84 charge for having that 4th person! We were pretty upset about that because the front desk guy knew there were 4 of us and didn’t mention anything about the charge when we checked in.

the cabana room
ledge separating the shower area from the bed in the cabana
open shower in the cabana
stairs leading up to the rooftop pool

The best part of the cabana – the rooftop views!

We paid $282.02 for one night in the Cabana room and $402.15 ($317.71 + $84.44 for the extra person) for the casita – my cut was roughly $240 for the weekend. I thought the rooms were pretty pricey but I have no clue if it was peak season when we went or not (it was Thanksgiving weekend). The cost of the casita made sense to me, but I personally felt like the cabana was a little overpriced. Looking around, it was kind of average priced for the area but I think we could’ve stayed at a nicer place on the first night. The accommodations are so much nicer in the casita, which was to be expected, but the stark contrast was kind of surprising to all of us. There was a mini fridge and snacks in the casita, whereas there were only a couple of bottles of water and some matches in the cabana.

first sunset in Tulum from the open dining area

Apparently it’s the party spot to be on Saturday nights – they have a big open dining area right outside the lobby in front of the beach where they hold monthly full moon parties and there’s a DJ in house every weekend. We stopped by to check out the party the Saturday night we were there, but it definitely wasn’t our cup of tea. The DJ played trance all night (I’m an EDM fan, but it literally sounded like the same song all night) and we could hear it bumping from the casita all through the night.

We spent our last morning lounging around the rooftop pool and in true girl fashion, we got a ton of shots for the ‘gram. I think we all kind of regret not spending more time up there.

poolside chillin
laying out

Overall, it was an amazing experience, but if we had to do it all again at PPP, I’d chose to book the casita the whole time.

Mexico Tulum

Exploring Cenote Dos Ojos

After visiting Chichen Itza our next stop was Cenote Dos Ojos about 22 km or 13 mi north of Tulum. Cenotes (pronounced si-no-te) are natural sinkholes that were formed when the limestone collapsed and exposed the groundwater. They’re usually associated with the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico – there are over 6000 cenotes in that area alone!

Cenote Dos Ojos means ‘Two Eyes Cenote’ and it’s named so because it’s comprised of two sinkholes connected by a passageway. When we got there, we drove up to the ticket office to pay our admission – you have the option to just pay to swim in the two sinkholes or get a guided diving tour which will take you through the passageway. We paid around 340 pesos (~$17 USD) for just admission. I heard it’s a great place to go diving, but I don’t swim very well so, we definitely didn’t do that. After getting our tickets, we had to drive along a super bumpy dirt road to get to the actual cenote. WARNING the mosquitos out there are vicious – I felt them as soon as we got out of the car! – but you’re not allowed to wear bug repellent or spray when going into the cenote because the Mayans use the underwater river system as a fresh water source.

TRAVEL TIP: don’t put on bug repellent or spray before going to the cenote!

There’s a little bar / restaurant area near the parking lot where you can grab a drink or some food. The bartender was super friendly and made us some mixed tequila shot to ‘warm us up’ before we went in, then we walked over and down some stairs to the first ‘eye’ on the left. It was pretty crowded in that ‘eye’, so wet took a couple pictures and went over the the second ‘eye.’ The second eye was much bigger.

I have an old waterproof Sony Cybershot camera that I brought with me and even though these pictures still look pretty cool, but it really doesn’t do it justice! The water was so clear and blue! It would have been nice to explore some of the other cenotes in the area, but I’m definitely glad that we got to see Dos Ojos.

I wish the resolution was better but I still love this picture (above) because you can see the limestone way under the water. I’m sure the diving experience is even better! Overall, I definitely recommend seeing at least one cenote if you’re in the Yucatán peninsula!

pin this to your travel board!

Have you been to a cenote in Mexico? Which one(s) have you been to?
Destination Mexico

Visiting the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza

I spent this past Thanksgiving weekend with 3 of my friends in Tulum and Cancún, Mexico. Before this trip, I had only been to Puerto Peñasco (aka Rocky Point) so I was super excited to go! I was pretty much open to doing anything while we were out there, as usual, but I really wanted to see the ancient ruins of Chichen Itza. We spent our first few days in Tulum and on our first full day there, we took the 2 hour drive out to Yucatán.

Most tourist take a tour bus from Tulum or Cancún which ends up being a day long excursion, but we had all chipped in to rent a car so we could do everything on our own time. We woke up bright and early Saturday morning to make the drive out. Admission to Chichen Itza is about 250 pesos and I think parking was around 10 pesos. The exchange rate was ~17 pesos to 1 USD which translates to ~$15USD for admission so the price is pretty reasonable. There’s a restaurant, food stand, souvenir shop, an ATM, and restaurants near the entrance. I definitely recommend bringing a bottle of water because it can get hot.

walking into Chichen Itza
map of the city

When you think of Chichen Itza, you automatically think of the infamous pyramid, but it’s the ruins of ancient Mayan city. We didn’t take a tour guide with us, so I didn’t learn a lot of random fun facts, but just being there is kind of crazy. I always look at pictures of places I wanna go or things I wanna see, but I was kind of in awe standing back and looking at the pyramid.

I did learn that if you stand in a certain spot near the bottom of the steps and you clap, the temple echoes a sound that sounds like the sacred quetzal bird. It can get really busy, so I also recommend going early, especially if you want a picture without tons of groups in there. As an FYI to those of you who want that perfect Instagram pic – there’s a specific corner that we called the money shot:

It’s not as ‘ruined’ as the other sides – you’ll know it when you see it. 😉

plaza of 1000 columns

There’s a cenote in the city, known as the Sacred Cenote. The Mayans threw people in this cenote as a sacrifice to the gods. The water in the cenote is green and it’s kind of creepy thinking about how many bodies are in there

The path to the cenote is lined with stalls of people selling souvenirs like magnets, Mayan decor, clothes, sugar skulls, and random knick knacks. If you want to purchase something, you’ll get further using pesos over US dollars and definitely haggle with the vendors because majority of them were willing to give some kind of discount.

sugar skulls at one of the vendors

Overall, I think it was worth the 2 hour drive to check off one of the new seven wonders of the world off my bucket list. I don’t know that I could’ve spent an entire day there with a tour group, so I’m kind of glad we did it on our own time.

Have you been to any of the new seven wonders of the world? Which one(s) have you been to?