I know what you're thinking: Cancun has a rep for being a party destination for college kids, but I'm here to say that it is so much more. What makes me a credible source? My boyfriend and I decided to try out Cancun the "adult" way for a week.
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Full disclosure: I’m in my early twenties and the only reason I feel qualified to claim that I did it as an adult is 1. I paid for the trip with money I earned myself, and 2. I didn't get sunburned. Here's how we did it.
What to Pack: Bring Basics
Adults love functionality. The best pieces can work in multiple situations, so I tried to pack items I knew would work in various settings. My Rae Feather basket acted as my carry-on and beach bag. It can hold a lot and sits up on it’s own, which is great in the sand. Dresses like this Madewell cover-up are great because they can be thrown on with a pair of sneakers for a day of activities or dressed up with strappy lace up sandals for a night out to dinner. My favorite swimsuit this summer was the Molly Bikini from Solid and Striped. It's super chic while also being very practical in waves because it felt like wearing a sports bra. As for shoes, a pair of black leather sandals are a no-brainer to bring because they work for most situations in Cancun (beach, restaurants, shops, etc.). A sun hat, like this one, is the perfect accessory for protecting yourself from the sun and looking cute at the same time—always a win. My favorite shades are these Erika Ray Bans. I have a theory that this style looks good on every face.
The two most used items in my bag were my Apple iPhone charging case (being able to watch movies and TV shows all while not worrying about having enough power to show your boarding pass is complete bliss) and a bottle of Hawaiian Tropic SPF 50 Sunscreen Lotion. I was not, I repeat, not going to get sunburned in Mexico. Adults don’t get sunburned. I applied this throughout each day and swear it felt like a regular moisturizer without that sticky/oily feeling.
Flights & Hotel: Research Places That Check All Your Boxes
While looking for a tropical destination with lots of things to do, we found a flight & hotel bundle deal at The Royal Carribbean Resort. The hotel came with an ocean front view, which meant we could walk right out onto the beach (see above), while still being near the pools (essential). Anywhere you went came with service, whether it was food or drinks, including a bar you could swim up to. We had everything we were looking for.
Food: Avoid All-Inclusive
The anti-spring-breaker in us decided not to do an “all-inclusive,” meaning we opted to only have breakfast built into our stay instead of all of our meals. I would highly recommend this because we really enjoyed exploring different restaurants in the area.
One of our absolute favorite restaurants was a new experience. When we arrived at the Black Hole, the host led us through a black door into complete darkness and closed it behind us (a little spooky). They decide what to feed you, so you have no idea what you’re eating. The meal consists of many small courses, and the servers enjoy tricking you by saying you’re about to eat one thing when it’s really something else. There is also a black light, meaning white things glow, which the servers use to their advantage. For example, one might sneak in front of you and just pull a white paper flower from their sleeve while another one may come up behind you to whisper in your ear. We were belly-laughing the entire time. It was one of the most entertaining and adventurous dinners I’ve ever had, plus the food was delicious. Side note: While on Isla Mujeres, we went to this local beach shack-like restaurant called Bally-Hoo. The margaritas and fresh ceviche were definitely worth boating to the island.
The Itinerary: Consult Your Bucket List
To top our interesting dinner, we went swimming with whale sharks the next day. Yes, real whale sharks. Adults are always looking to make the most of their time on a trip, and we thought nothing could be better than sharks. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean. As filter feeders, they only eat small organisms like plankton (aka they don’t eat humans, phew!). Cancun is one of the few places in the world where you can swim with these beautiful creatures. The guides picked us up in the morning, reassured us multiple times that the sharks wouldn't try to eat us, and then brought us to a boat. Once our boat found them, we jumped off into the water and swam directly next to them.
The most amazing part about all of this was their size. They are absolutely massive. They mostly ignore people, but sometimes they turn quickly and you get caught in their path (they swim with their three-foot-wide mouths open, which can be problematic for numerous reasons). This was one of the most incredible things I’ve ever done, so if you go to Cancun, this is a must!
We also toured Chichén Itzá, which is known as one of the Seven Wonders of the world. And if you’re like me, you enjoy checking things like that off your bucket list (four to go!). We snorkeled in The Underwater Museum (MUSA), which is an area near Isla Mujeres with hundreds of concrete statues posing on the ocean floor. This was definitely a sight worth seeing, but I would recommend doing a private tour. (The group tours can get to be very large...)
When we weren’t playing Indiana Jones, we spent all of our down time on the beach. The water in Cancun was the clearest and warmest I’ve ever swam in. We particularly enjoyed the areas with no waves in sight, which felt like a pool.
OK, I’ll admit: We went to a nightclub and loved it. But even adults like to dance, too, right? On our last night, we went to Dady’o, which is in an area surrounded by similar clubs. The music was great, and it wasn’t too loud, crowded, or hot. We were dancing until 2 a.m. (which is well past my bedtime) and didn't even want to leave. The DJ, crazy lights, and smoke show made it such a fun atmosphere.
Cancun, Mexico, was an amazing getaway spot. There's a ton more to it than just the party scene, though you have to check that out, too. I would highly recommend it for your next tropical escape. (Just make sure to go during the whale shark season!)