Both Cody and I saved our PTO days for our wedding and honeymoon. We really had hopes of going to Tahiti or somewhere in French Polynesia, but due to COVID travel restrictions, we really only had a few options in the Caribbean: Aruba, Barbados, Dominican Republic, and Mexico. We decided to check Expedia packages for these locations and found an amazing deal for flight & hotel for 8 nights/9 days at an all-inclusive 4.5-star resort for under $1600 in Cancun. For around $85/day it seemed too good to be true.
A few days before our wedding, we heard the news that Hurricane Delta was set to “Demolish Cancun” lol let me tell you that nothing about planning wedding related items in 2020 was easy. We hurried online and tried to find alternative options but with some convincing, we decided to wait and see how back Hurricane Delta would truly be. It was funny packing for this trip because we left for our wedding in New Braunfels on Thursday so I was packing for a honeymoon without knowing the destination on Wednesday night. Luckily, Hurricane Delta dropped in intensity and did only minor damage to Cancun.
Since our wedding was on a Saturday night, we decided to fly out Monday so we could have Sunday to take down the lights, pack up all the décor, and drive back home. I’m so happy we decided to do this because we ended up not getting home until 8:30PM on Sunday because of take-down. I would highly recommend giving yourself a day between your wedding and your honeymoon! We too United and our flight was absolutely packed, no middle seat left open, just wear your mask and they handed you a wipe to wipe down your seat. It was funny because they got mad at a man behind me who momentarily took off his mask when we first boarded the plan, but then they handed out water and snacks and allowed people to eat and drink without a mask. I wouldn’t say it was COVID safe, but we knew that risk going in.
We arrived in Mexico and took the “Happy Shuttle” to our hotel. We booked the transportation that morning online for $54 round trip for two people. Pulling up to Iberostar was jaw-dropping. It is such a nice hotel and I couldn’t believe that we were staying there for the price I told you we paid. The décor was beautiful, the service outstanding, and the drinks and food were everything you could want. We were at “coral level” which is basically a large resort of its own that is adults-only and their more prestige level. We frequented the regular Iberostar every morning for their coffee shop and I personally didn’t see a difference in quality, food, or service between the regular or coral level, but they had more top liquors and obviously no children in the coral-level, with it being adults only. In addition, the pool at Coral Level had a swim-up bar, cabanas by the pool, cabana beds on the beach, and “egg chair” style beds on the beach.
Due to Hurricane Delta, two of the restaurants were destroyed, the main foyer in the regular Iberostar was broken, and the glass balcony on the coral level. For the majority, the hotel was open as usual. We could see the hotel next door, SeaCrest, had much more damage and was closed. They had construction going all day and night but it wasn’t loud or obnoxious.
We were both exhausted day the afternoon we arrived but because the next day had sunshine in the forecast, we decided to book an all-day trip to visit 4 cenotes on our first full-day. Something I wish people had told us, is that rain in the forecast in Cancun is not like rain in the forecast in Houston. It comes and goes so quickly. So even if the day has a 90% chance of rain, it only rained for maybe 30 minutes, then the rest of the day was beautiful. Every day we were in Cancun it said it would rain, and we saw rain only twice and it went by so quickly. So our rush to do an excursion on “the only sunny day” really didn’t matter in hindsight, but we had a blast on the cenote tour. We booked with Xenotes, the name of the tour, and got to see two semi-open cenotes, one open cenote, and one completely closed cenote. One thing I was not prepared for was the giant tarantulas that are out in the jungle here. I saw three in total but the one in the open-air bathroom was the scariest of them all and bigger than my hand spread wide. If you know me, you know how much I hate spiders so this was quite scary. Another thing to warn about, the water is quite chilly, especially in the closed cenotes. I brought a shorty wetsuit with me and was so happy to have it. This was the most expensive activity we did on our honeymoon. We paid $265 total but were provided transportation, lunch, snacks, drinks, etc. and like I mentioned it was an all-day activity. I almost backed out of this tour because of the price being so high but my coworkers had gifted us a Visa gift card for our honeymoon which we used for this trip. Shout out to my AltruVista coworkers for this!
On day two we did a 4 stop snorkel tour with Total Snorkel. We also really enjoyed this tour which went to a shipwreck, coral reef, seagrass (to see sea turtles grazing), and an underwater statue museum. The shipwreck was the coolest to me as it’s turned into a little reef of its own for fish to hideout in. They provided masks, fins, and a snorkel you can keep. I always HATE using used snorkels because I don’t know how well they’re cleaned. This is the first place I’ve ever snorkeled that they let you keep it afterward. I also like that they provided lockers at the dock to keep your belongings safe until you get back. We paid $65 a person for this tour then a $10 dock fee per person paid in cash upon arrival.
Day three and four, I was so happy to have without activities. With wedding prep, guests in town, set-up, rehearsal dinner, wedding, take-down, packing, and everything in between, we were beyond exhausted. We slept in, hung out on the beach all day, watched the resort shows, and enjoyed some tropical drinks. That afternoon we set up a car rental and did research on public cenotes in the Tulum area.
Cody rented a tiny, manual car for $32 and we headed out at 8:00AM to Tulum for a day visiting Cenotes. The drive to Tulum was a little under 2 hours but we felt safe during the drive. The drivers are a bit crazy. No one obeys posted speed limits or stop signs, and there are random police checks you drive through with huge speed bumps. We learned our lesson that the tiny car didn’t use much gas and only used about 1/8 tank for the entire trip there and back. So the next person who uses that rental will be happy it’s still full lol.
Tulum was such a cute city filled with culture and much less commercialized than Cancun. I’m sure the resorts there are pretty “touristy” but the town itself was authentic and we were one of the few tourists on the streets. We ate at an open-air Mexican food restaurant on the main road (so mad I can’t remember the name) that had a two-man band playing music at the front. The food was great and the prices were amazing. If you decide to travel to Tulum, I’d highly recommend bringing pesos. Unlike Cancun, most places only take pesos and will not exchange your USD fairly. After eating and walking the streets a bit we headed out to explore some cenotes.
Dos Ojos is a well known public cenote so it was first on our list, but turned out to be our least favorite of them all. It cost $20/person to get in and you’re only allowed access to one of the “eyes” (Dos Ojos means two eyes in Spanish.) It was crowded and you were forced to wear a life jacket at all times so you couldn’t swim down and see the cool cave formations. The other “eye” of Dos Ojos had quite a few divers and must be an awesome location for scuba diving. I’m only saying it wasn’t our favorite as snorkelers/swimmers but I do think it would be incredible to scuba.
The next on our list was Gran Cenote which quickly took our hearts as our favorite cenote. It was $13/person to get in and was quite large and not crowded. Like most cenotes, you must shower before getting in and not apply sunscreens or lotions to help protect the environment. In addition, they bleached our shoes before entry which was strange but didn’t bother us as we had old flip flops anyways. I would definitely have been upset if I had nice sandals that were bleached though haha. Gran cenote had three distinct areas, a semi-open moon-shaped cave, a full cave (filled with bats), and an open area with was almost a mote around an island. We really enjoyed this one and stayed for quite a while exploring all of the areas.
The final cenote of the day trip was to Calavera. Calavera was one of the most uncommercialized but was really cool in structure. Calavera means skull in Spanish and it had two holes (the eyes) and one big open hole (the mouth.) It took a little courage to jump through the eye holes at first but once I did, I kept going back. It was so fun and there was hardly anyone else there. This one wouldn’t be good for anyone with physical disabilities as climbing down the rocks to the cenote and then climbing up the handmade ladder took some strength. To visit Calavera, screenshot the map and then look for this sign that just says “cenote” on the road. There’s no name of big entrance for this one. We paid $15 to get in and were able to park in a gated area.
Our final excursion of the trip was a trip to Akumal Bay to see the sea turtles. Akumal Bay is close to Tulum and known for its sea turtles because of the seagrass in the Bay. We paid $150 for this trip which included transportation and a stop at a cenote. It was funny because although I wanted to see another cenote (I think I’m obsessed) we decided to book the snorkel only tour to save money. When we boarded the shuttle in the morning, the driver said the other people on the trip paid for the cenote stop so asked if we’d like to go for free so he didn’t have to make two trips. We happily agreed and got to go to Casa Tortuga cenote.
Casa Tortuga turned out to be a really close second in ranks to Gran Cenote. It was huge and completely empty except for us and the 4 other people we became friends with on our shuttle. It was very large in size, just like the Gran Cenote, and had a large open swimming hole and then had a river like wrap-around with multiple ledges for jumping. There are no lifeguards are life jackets and you’re dropped off to swim freely. We had such a good time swimming around and jumping here. There’s little fish that tickle because they eat the dead skin on your feet if you sit still too long. Again, it was chilly but this cenote is exposed to the sun so it wasn’t as bad as the others. I would highly recommend visiting this one and Gran if you choose to visit some cenotes on your trip.
Akumal Bay was kind of underwhelming. Yes, we did see sea turtles- I think 7 in total, but the set up makes it hard to enjoy. They do not allow sunscreen to protect the turtles, which I totally understand and am all about protection, but as a ginger, I had planned ahead and bought super environmentally friendly sunscreen that is reef safe. They would not allow me to put it on so my pale ginger skin burned on the tour lol. In addition, they require foam life vests so you can’t dive down to look at the sea life. Also, we were not given flippers so we swam for an hour following a guide who had flippers. I think we were all ready to be back on land after swimming around the bay trying to follow a guide for an hour. The sea turtles we very cool though and we got to see two stingrays too.
Not planned or an excursion, but by chance, on our last day, we had reservations for the Mexican restaurant at the resort which is located on the beach. While eating, I nearly knocked over the table jumping up because I saw baby sea turtles crawling on the sand. I ran over and started carrying them to the water and (maybe because I made a scene) the other people in the restaurant jumped up to help too. Together we carried about 10 baby turtles safely to the water. It was the coolest experience.
Our last day at the resort was a half-day but we soaked up the beach in the morning then went back and checked out and ate lunch before catching “Happy Shuttle” back to the airport.
We had such an amazing time and said a million times how lucky we were to find this deal. The resort was amazing, the weather was great, and we could not believe the price.
Now for the fun part, the outfits. I clumped my outfits into two categories: beach dinners (we only did one nice dinner and I didn’t snap a photo) and the second category, swimwear & coverups. Scroll to the very bottom to shop the items 🙂
Beach dinner looks:
Swimwear & Coverups: