November 2018: Day 2 & 3 W Trek Recap (Patagonia)

Day 2 W Trek Recap: 13 km (8 miles) from Refugio Torres Central to Refugio Los Cuernos

Day 2 was my favorite day of the W Trek mainly because I woke up energized and ready to tackle the day. Part of this exuberance stemmed from these electrolytes that were laced with caffeine but who cares, I’ll take it! My muscles were sore and stretching them the night before and the morning of really helped. Breakfast at the refugio was nice but very basic (eggs, ham, cheese, cereal, bread and yogurt). We started our hike at 9:30 am and had to retrace some of the trail we took yesterday before it splits off to Los Cuernos vs. Mirador de Torres del Paine. After about a half hour, we reached ‘new trail’ and off we went.

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We had another brilliant day of warmer weather, sun, and no wind. The hike was not super easy but definitely easier compared to the day before. There were a couple of intense steep uphills for 20 minutes but overall this trail was a gradual ascent and descent throughout. After about an hour after we started, we came to this gorgeous view. I love how these two lakes are completely different tones of blue.

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We hiked alongside Lake Nordenskjold for most of the trail and it was a brilliant, clear aquamarine. I remember thinking how beautiful this part of the trail was and I couldn’t imagine seeing anything more beautiful. Pictures don’t really do the views justice, everything is magnified in person.

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Even the guides remarked how still the weather was. Generally due to the winds, you’d see ripples and waves on the lake, not a perfect reflection. In the two years one of our guides has been doing this trek, he said he’s only seen it like this a handful of times, when the weather was gorgeously calm.

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This is the main reason why I would never do the W Trek again. I can’t imagine my experience being better than what it was with the incredible weather we had. Although I braced myself for wind and rain, we luckily only experience one day of it.

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Our initial plan was to hike all the way to Domo Frances, which would’ve been another two hour hike after Los Cuernos and this section of the trail is steep. However, when we arrived at Refugio Los Cuernos for a break, our guides checked with the lodge and they had space to take us! Apparently a lot of tour companies may block off rooms but I guess there was a cancelation. The lodge allowed us to switch (although Domo Frances and Los Cuernos are operated by two different companies, I guess they work together somehow and allowed it to happen). I was relieved as Domo Frances has pretty crap reviews, even though it’s one of the newer ones. Thus we ended up finishing the day early before 4 pm and just hung out and relaxed around the lodge. You can even hear the avalanches from the French Valley here (I heard a couple in late afternoon!).

Day 3 W Trek Recap: 17 km (10.5 miles) from Refugio Los Cuernos to the French Valley to Refugio Paine Grande

This day was TOUGH and might have been even worst than the first day as it felt much longer than the 8 hours it took. We left at 8:30 am and finished at 4:30 pm. I woke up super early at 5:30 am as I wanted to see the sunrise hit the mountains and exude the sky with red. However I just missed the golden hour and only caught remnants of it (I should have skipped brushing my teeth and headed out then!). The other days were cloudy in the morning so there was no other chance.

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From Refugio Los Cuernos, we hiked a very pebbly path to the beach by the lake. At the end of this was the start of an uphill climb towards Domo Frances and Refugio Italiano. We got to use decent bathroom facilities near the campsite of Domo Frances (we never saw Domo Frances as you need to go down a different pathway) and then continued on to Italiano Campsite to start the roundtrip hike up to the French Valley to see glaciers and listen to avalanches.

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The hiking along this portion of the trail seemed rockier and it was definitely steep but not as steep as the very first day. Once in a while I would look up to see the views behind us but for the most part it was just go go go.

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We reached the Italiano Campsite (no refugio here, just tent camping) at about 10 am and dropped off our large hiking backpacks (everyone does this but don’t leave anything important just in case!) and switched to carrying just a daypack to the French Valley. It took about two hours to get up to the overlook and we had our lunch up there while admiring the view and listening to the crumble of avalanches. This picture below doesn’t capture all of it—it’s much wider and grander in scope. We stayed up here for about 45 minutes before heading back down to pick up our bags and continuing on to Refugio Paine Grande.

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After getting back to the Italiano Campsite, we headed westwards towards Paine Grande and it started to get really hot and sunny. It didn’t help that there was zero shade. In Dec. 2011 an Israeli backpacker set this forest on fire by accident and it burned for two months, destroying wildlife and a lot of this area of the park. He has since been banned from the country but the damage is brutal. Due to the damages, there are quite a few boardwalks around here instead of trails. By this point I was really tired and had to start singing songs to myself to get through the hike and make the time go by quicker. In total it took us about 2.5 hours to get from Italiano to Paine Grande but it felt way longer than that. During the last 40 minutes, the bottoms of my feet began to feel like they were burning, which I’ve never felt before when hiking.

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This view below of Los Cuernos though was the highlight of my day. I’ve seen a bunch of glaciers already (New Zealand, Alaska, Iceland) and so to me, the terrain of mountains, lakes and valleys are more appealing to me. I remember sitting here and staring at this and it looked so unreal even though it was right in front of me.

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As we moved closer to Paine Grande, the wind REALLY picked up and apparently this area of the park is the windiest. We were so hot and sweaty though that the gusty winds helped invigorate us to get to the end. I remember feeling a small ounce of joy once the refugio came into view from afar. As I mentioned in my Refugio post, this was my favorite place to stay because I loved the scenery around it. It was a great relief to kick off our shoes and enjoy the warm windy evening outside by the lake and watch the sunset.

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Skipping stones and chatting with everyone else from our tour group here was my favorite evening of the trip.

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November 2018: The Refugios of Torres del Paine

The refugios of Torres del Paine are hostels inside the park and serve as points of rest and refuel after a long day’s hike. I didn’t know what to expect and for the most part, I found the refugios to be clean (as they can be given the amount of people who stay in them!) and I’m glad we booked early (in May 2018 for the November 9th trek with Chile Nativo). Some people in our ten person guided tour had to sleep outside in tents as beds were booked up (they booked about a month or two before we left).

The four we stayed at during the 5 day trek were:

  1. Refugio Torres Central

  2. Refugio Los Cuernos (we were supposed to stay in Domo Frances, which is one of the worst-reviewed places and further west on the trail but when we got to Los Cuernos, they had room and allowed us to switch!)

  3. Refugio Paine Grande

  4. Refugio Grey

Of all the refugios, I think Paine Grande was my favorite. It’s one of the newest ones and it’s nicely decorated inside, huge, and cozy and the landscape of Los Cuernos in the back is breathtaking (see last pic below). The dinner here was also the best (juicy big piece of chicken) but the bathrooms were kind of terrible by the time we left in the morning. Paine Grande is different than the others as I think it’s owned by the government who leases it and operated by a private company. You’ll just notice the service is different. The other Refugios are run by private firms.

I also liked Torres Central—it’s a big beautiful cozy lodge with warm common rooms but I just thought the view of Los Cuernos at Paine Grande was the best view of any refugio. In terms of comfort and cleanliness though, Torres Central was the best. Torres Central was also the ONLY one of the four lodges that had personal closets for your bags/personal stuff (you need a lock to lock it though).

Refugio Los Cuernos was my least favorite. Although it was nice, the food wasn’t as good, the staff didn’t seem as friendly as the others, and the rooms and bathrooms were the smallest. We were also given sleeping bags to sleep here inside the beds as there’s no heating.

Refugio Grey was also nice, the staff was friendly and the rooms were clean and cozy and the food was good too.

Staying at the Refugios vs. camping is more expensive but includes all your meals. I’m not sure the price of each since we booked with a tour but it’s not cheap given the fact you’re sharing rooms and bathrooms with everyone else. But there are no other options so it is what it is, unfortunately.  

 Pretty sure this bag from REI weighed anywhere between 16 and 19 lbs. during the trip, depending if I wore my fleece jacket and how big the bagged lunches weighed. Glad I practiced hauling 20-25 lbs. on my shoulders weeks before the trip! This bag is great though—it really distributes weight evenly and is comfy (the shoulder straps are cushioned).

Pretty sure this bag from REI weighed anywhere between 16 and 19 lbs. during the trip, depending if I wore my fleece jacket and how big the bagged lunches weighed. Glad I practiced hauling 20-25 lbs. on my shoulders weeks before the trip! This bag is great though—it really distributes weight evenly and is comfy (the shoulder straps are cushioned).

General Characteristics of the Refugios (Here’s What to Expect)

  • Bring your own toiletries and towels. Even though a couple of them offered shampoo/soap, it didn’t mean it was always available. Only two of the four (Torres Central and Cuernos) had any soap for the showers.  The bathrooms are cleaned certain times of the day (generally when everyone is out/sleeping) and hot water is also only available at certain times (generally after 5 pm). Towels were not always given.

  • Lights out at 10 pm (maybe a little later at others). This goes for electricity too so if you’re charging your phone, you might need to wait until the morning to finish up.

  • Dinner is served buffet-style or by meal times. There’s usually two meal times and you have to sign up for them. Our group sometimes had the early dining seating, sometimes later. Same with breakfast.

  • Water may/may not be available to fill up. For example on the first night, I was able to get water from the bar at Refugio Torres Central (they had a big water jug) but by the morning they ran out and wouldn’t offer anything for your personal bottle. Glacier water from the rivers and streams around the park is way better anyway but it’s so dry out there that having your bottle full is important! Bring electrolytes for added hydration!

  • Toilet paper must not be thrown in the toilet. As a result, the women’s room would stink after a few hours especially in the morning and late at night. It’s all thrown in the garbage, which may/may not be efficiently taken out (although the staff seems to try to keep up with it).

  • Any trash you take in with you into the park you’re expected to take out. The only trash cans that exist are the ones in the bathrooms so I would throw away the little litter I had in here. Trash is carried out by horses since there are no cars around either.

  • Hot water is a commodity but I never had any issue with getting a hot shower at any of the refugios. One shower you had to press every 90 seconds to keep the water going but otherwise I was able to take a decent shower at each refugio after every hike.

  • My trip was in November and while the refugios seemed full to me, not sure if they were. I never felt like it was overcrowded though. If you’re paying to tent outside, they set up the tents for you and provide everything but the tents may be a bit far from the bathroom areas. There were howling winds at night in a couple of the places we stayed at—not sure it’s pleasant to sleep in a tent but it is cheaper. I had bunk beds the whole time with my friends, anywhere between 4-7 people in a room. Co-ed as well. Bathrooms are not co-ed though.

  • Each refugio provides a bagged lunch. It was enough for me, I never ate any of the extra snack bars I brought on my own! It’s usually some kind of sandwich, and chocolate or sugary snack and fruit and/or cereal bars. Sometimes a juice as well. The best lunch was from Torres Central (and much needed for the long hike up to the Blue Towers) but don’t expect much. When you’re burning so many calories everything will taste good. Our sandwiches were either ham, turkey, or tuna. Breakfast was usually scrambled eggs with ham/cheese and cereal and yogurt and bread.

  • Pisco sours are delicious! The bars take credit card.

 Pisco sour rewards for finishing a long hike

Pisco sour rewards for finishing a long hike

I loved the bar at Paine Grande as it had this amazing view of Los Cuernos.

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Seeing a refugio towards the end of a hike was a great boost to finish. I remember on the fourth day, I was so winded but as soon as I saw the roof of Refugio Grey from half a mile away, energy surged back in my bones and I practically ran to finish the W trek the last 5-10 minutes of the hike.

Definitely book early if you want a bed at a refugio. My guess is most refugios only have about 30-50 beds.

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November 2018: Planning for Patagonia

Planning for Patagonia is not logistically easy. It basically took me and my friends three days to get to Torres del Paine (pronounced Torres del “Pine-ay”), which resides in Chile, from NYC. Most people fly into Santiago, Chile to travel to Torres del Paine but we chose to go through Buenos Aires, Argentina as we wanted to end our trip visiting the vineyards of Mendoza.

This is the fourth time I attempted to plan this trip and I’m glad I waited this long. The first time I looked into going was more than 10 years ago and information on Torres del Paine is not as plentiful as it is today. The internet/communication infrastructure has probably improved over this period of time as well and a lot of things in place years ago are no longer. Four years ago I went to Argentina to visit Iguazu Falls (amazing, highly recommend waterfall lovers to go) and had to pay a $100 or so reciprocity fee (valid for 10 years) to get into the country. Well, apparently as of last year that’s no longer in place. In addition, the last time I was in Argentina, I had to exchange all my money on the ‘black market’ because the exchange rate was fixed as $1 USD = 8 pesos (on the black market you could get up to 12 or 14 pesos) and today, $1 USD = 35-38 pesos!

Anyway, planning a trip to Torres del Paine is no easy feat unless you have a lot of time on your hands. You need to register with the park and also make reservations in advance if you want to stay at the limited number of refugios (hostel lodges) in the park. From what I read on the internet, booking a bed or tent at the refugios was frustrating (payment won’t go through, people don’t respond, sold out, etc.) so early on my friends and I decided to bite the bullet and sign up with a tour guide instead to do all the bookings for us.

After a bunch of research, we decided to go with Swoop Patagonia. They have a flashy website and were very responsive and their itinerary worked out for us. However, as soon as we said yes to booking, they turned us over to Chile Nativo! So it turns out Swoop Patagonia is a 3rd party seller of tours and Chile Native is the local operator who actually takes you on the tour. It worked out anyway though as we LOVED Chile Nativo (and after speaking with them, I can see why they need Swoop—the agency has been around for over 15 years but is a small-run tour operator which has grown bigger in the last year and they just haven’t done as much marketing as they can be doing).

We found the price to be reasonable for our budget (we did the 5-day trek for $1695) though yes, if you planned this on your own, you’d be saving more than half. We just didn’t have the time to plan it all ourselves so to us, it was worth it. And no one in our group is an experienced camper or hiker so we felt more comfortable going with a guide in case something happened or someone got sick/injured but you don’t really need one. The trails on the W Trek are all well marked paths.

When I was doing my research for the tour, I read many mixed things about going either west to east or east to west on the W Trek (the other option is the O trek, which is much longer and you’ll see all of the park while the W hits the highlights). As Torres del Paine is known for its wind, most people suggested going west to east (to move along with the winds) but I am SUPER glad we went with Chile Nativo and did the route from east to west. I think this route is better because:

  • you’re moving along with the sun (if it is sunny—this will be incredibly helpful, hiking without the sun in your eyes)

  • we got the hardest part of the hike over on day 1, going up to the Blue Towers (which is what Torres del Paine means)

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 This is literally what you can expect from hiking Torres del Paine. Our trip started at Refugio Las Torres and we stayed overnight in Los Cuernos, Paine Grande, and Grey. The first day of the hike to the Base of the Towers was the hardest (22 km roundtrip back to Refugio Las Torres) and took 8 hours.

This is literally what you can expect from hiking Torres del Paine. Our trip started at Refugio Las Torres and we stayed overnight in Los Cuernos, Paine Grande, and Grey. The first day of the hike to the Base of the Towers was the hardest (22 km roundtrip back to Refugio Las Torres) and took 8 hours.

In addition to planning all our accommodations, meals, and guides in Torres del Paine, Chile Nativo also booked our first and last night in Puerto Natales (the gateway into the park). We stayed at Hotel Vendaval, which was a wonderful stay, and you’re able to leave whatever luggage you’re NOT taking into the park here (which we found to be safe and we had locks on our luggage as well).

Getting to Torres del Paine from New York City

We traveled through four airports, two taxi rides, and two buses over a 72 hour period to get to Torres del Paine. We flew with Aerolineas Argentina (pretty decent airline, I have no complaints—besides the very first 5 minutes of my trip, the check ins were smooth, service was friendly, and had no issues traveling with this line). In summary, these were our travel logistics:

  • On Tuesday, Nov. 6, we took a 3:30 pm direct flight from JFK to EZE, the international airport in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The trip may have started off on the wrong foot had I not watched out for my luggage! I ended up bringing just two pieces—a carry-on size hiking backpack for the trek and a carry-on size suitcase that I checked in. Well, while the Aerolineas Argentina agent gave me my plane ticket at check in, I noticed he totally forgot about my checked-in bag! When I asked him about it, his eyes got wide and said “Oh, yes! Sorry about that!” and ticketed my luggage, stuck the slips on, and put it on the conveyor belt. Had I not watched/said anything, who knows if my luggage would’ve made it out! Probably not, since he didn’t even issue a luggage ticket until I asked! My other friend also had an issue with her luggage and bringing on her trekking poles. Mine were foldable and hidden but hers were bigger and sticking out and had metal tips and they had to recall her luggage (after she checked it in) to put the metal tips away. They wouldn’t let her pass security otherwise. Anyway, after the luggage issues, we otherwise had a smooth overnight flight and arrived in EZE by 4 am, and in November, Buenos Aires is two hours ahead of NYC.

  • By the time we got our luggage and through customs, it was 6 am. I was paranoid about getting money from the ATM (last time I was in Argentina my cards didn’t work at all!) so I exchanged U.S. dollars at Banco Nacional, a local Argentinian bank. The bank is located directly outside the luggage, to the right. ATMs may have a limit to how much you can withdraw every day so I withdrew $600 USD which was more than enough to get me through the two week trip (most places except taxi cabs take credit card). The exchange rate I got it for was AR 34.60 vs. the official rate at the time of 35-36 pesos so not much of a difference. And if you do use the ATM, you will probably pay additional fees there too.

  • We booked a car transfer with Taxi Ezeiza. I made the rsvp a few days beforehand online and they charged $35 USD for 4 people. They’re also located right outside the luggage terminal, at a big booth and if you make a rsvp your name will be on a sign at the desk. You can pay in dollars or pesos (or in credit card). We had rush hour traffic and it took just over an hour to get to AEP, which is the domestic airport in Buenos Aires.

  • From AEP, we took a 12:15 pm flight from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, Argentina. You can either fly to El Calafate to get to Puerto Natales (the last town before Torres del Paine) or to Punta Arenas, Chile (which is further south than Puerto Natales). Two of my friends told me there was NOTHING to see in Punta Arenas whereas in El Calafate you at least have the Perito Moreno Glacier so I’m glad we stuck to El Calafate. Also, if you plan to visit more of Argentina after Torres del Paine, it’s cheaper to fly within Argentina than to fly to Chile and then back to Argentina. We arrived in El Calafate by 3:30 pm and grabbed a taxi to pick up our bus tickets for the next day’s trip to Puerto Natales. The bus terminal is about 15 min. away from the airport and costs like $10 USD to get there by taxi. We had to pick up our tickets the day before because they needed to verify our passport info for the border crossing. The bus office (Cootra) closes at 4:30 pm so keep this in mind if you choose to use them and fly into El Calafate before then! We stayed overnight at Hostal Gnomos, which is a 5 min. walk from the bus station.

  • The next day: woke up early to catch the 7:30 am bus to Puerto Natales. We got to the bus station by 7 am though as we heard horror stories of buses leaving without people if they were not on time. The Cootra bus was quite nice and comfortable. It’s a double decker bus (you can reserve seats in advance) and there is a bathroom on board for the 5-6 hour drive. The driver didn’t really speak English though but we figured things out. By the time we got to the border crossing it was about noon and the whole process took an hour. On the Argentina side, they just stamp your passport. On the Chile side, they stamp your passport but they also scan your luggage (we had no problem bringing in snacks or food—I think someone got fruit in—but from what I heard it really depends on the mood of the officers!). The Chile passport security check has bathrooms which was much needed after the long drive. The Argentina side does not, and going on the bus is not really fun. So after security check it was another 45 minutes to Puerto Natales. When we arrived, we grabbed a taxi for 2000 Chilean pesos to Hotel Vendaval (like $5 USD). I had gotten Chilean pesos before the trip at Chase Bank (they didn’t offer Argentian pesos though and all I took was $60 USD equivalent in Chilean pesos which was more than enough. I never needed Chilean pesos on the W trek, just for the taxis. We ended up using the money for dinners in town though but they take credit cards). Checked into Hotel Vendaval.

  • In the evening, we had our briefing at the office of Chile Nativo (literally a 2 min. walk from the hotel) and met our two tour guides, the rest of our tour group (10 people in total!) and got the details of the trip.

  • The next day: got picked up at 6:30 am on Friday morning, November 9, 2018 for the hiking trip of a lifetime!!!

Other Info

Other resources that really helped me for the trip:

  • This website someone recommended on Trip Advisor was amazingly helpful to check out the weather forecast in Torres del Paine: www.mountain-forecast.com. Just be sure to pick the lowest altitude and convert it to Fahrenheit if needed. I checked the forecast every day for a week before arrival and it was 90% spot on in predicting the weather we would be having in an unpredictable place.

  • REI. I love this store. I know I’m late to the game but I grew up as a city slicker. I never grew up camping or being in the outdoors! But REI and the people who work there were wonderful resources for me in terms of what gear I needed for this trip. I got my backpack, trekking poles, jackets, windproof pants, blister bandaids, everything here. I’ll do a post later on the gear I got.

January 2018 Trip Report: Cancun

It breaks my heart to see all the violent news coming out of Cancun these past few months. I've been to the Cancun region the most out of any other trip, 5x in the past 10 years. Most recently I went over Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend this past January and as usual I had an amazing time. If you haven't been yet, below are some of my thoughts and observations over the years:

 Pool at the Westin Lagunamar

Pool at the Westin Lagunamar

The Cancun Area

  • Cancun, Playa del Carmen, and Tulum are all accessible from the Cancun airport. Cancun is the closest (20 min away), while Playa del Carmen can be anywhere from 45 min to an hour by taxi, and Tulum is about 90 minutes away by taxi. I haven’t been to Tulum yet, but it’s probably next on any future trips down there. Tulum is more low key/casual—the hotels there are more boutique, or bed and breakfast-style. It won’t be like grand resorts or anything and not as lively. From what I hear, most people go there for the more laid back/wellness-type vacations (ie yoga/hipsters, etc). Playa del Carmen and Cancun is much more family friendly. Cancun is super commercialized though, and I prefer Playa del Carmen more in terms of the downtown scene and the food (cheaper, more local Mexican food). Cancun is much more touristy. Both areas are pretty safe to visit, but you do have to watch out for scams and don’t go off the commercialized streets (ie don’t go anywhere that looks empty).
  • If you do go, they take both US Dollars and pesos, but you will get a better rate if you exchange dollars for pesos. So for example when I was just there, a taxi ride was 130 pesos but I didn’t have enough pesos on me and I knew the conversion was $8 USD but the driver charged me $10. Some charged $8 but others will say 10. It’s not metered, they’re flat rates so you have to ask before you get in how much it costs. I know I could’ve argued but given that I know they don’t make much I didn’t (but I was annoyed based on principle). Right now the exchange rate is about $1USD to 20 pesos but the hotels will exchange it for 18 pesos, which is not bad. You can def get a better rate at the ATM or whatever but at the end of the day I only spent like $60 USD in pesos btwn me and my friend (we were super lazy and took taxis to dinner the whole 4 days we were there). We didn’t have a problem using credit cards for food, just for taxis and tips you may need pesos for (and I also brought small $5 USD bills for tips).
    • I went to Cancun because SPG (the hotel rewards) sent me this amaaaaaaazing deal for the Westin Lagunamar. The deal was $320 for 4 nights, total. So I split w a friend, and we stayed there and the resort is fantastic. However, the reason why I got the deal was because they tried to sell me on a timeshare when I was there (I had to sit thru a 90 min presentation) but honestly, it was worth it cuz we paid so little for a great place and I got additional points for sitting thru the presentation (and I stood my ground and said no to the timeshare….they can’t hustle a hustler! Haha). I like going to Cancun though because there are SO many resorts and so I find the experience to always be different. You should research which resort to stay at though, as the beach property does depend on where you stay. The beachfront at the Westin was really clean and gorgeous. The neighbor resorts were also as nice, but not as nice as the Westin. But, not bad either. Other places I’ve stayed at and liked were:
      • Beloved Playa Mujeres: https://belovedhotels.com/; I stayed here for a friend’s wedding maybe 3 years ago. Nice resort, and all their water activities were free too (ie paddleboarding). I remember the ocean here was calmer too. Just FYI the ocean in Cancun is super rough, so you don’t really go in the water unless you’re a good swimmer. I think the water by Playa del Carmen is a lot calmer than Cancun. Cancun also tends to be windier as well. We were lucky and have two great warm sunny days, but the other two days were a bit chillier and windy (but still good enough to sit outside).
      • Royal Haciendas: https://royalreservations.com/resorts/the-royal-haciendas; I stayed here a few years ago for a friend’s bachelorette party and this was soooo nice too. Excellent pools and rooms (they have kitchens). This is closer to downtown Playa del Carmen as well I think.
      • Hyatt Playa del Carmen: https://playadelcarmen.grand.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html; I stayed here two years ago in Feb. I actually went solo and I had a great time. The beach was not as nice, but the pool was great and they have an amazing spa where I spent a whole afternoon in. It is also right next to downtown so no taxi required to go into downtown, unlike other resorts which are further away. But, may not be good option cuz it’s kind of clubby (they play loud music for the younger people to hang out to).
 Sunrise from my hotel room this past January

Sunrise from my hotel room this past January

  • Other things to do in Cancun: There are tons of activities and tours but honestly I like to go and just chill at the resort. The Mayan ruins sound interesting but in my opinion are not really. Ha. They used to allow people to climb them but they don’t anymore, and the bus ride to get there is long. Isla de Mujeres is also touted as something to do but I also think you can skip it unless you just want to get out of the resort for a day. You take a ferry there and spend an afternoon walking around, but it’s mostly the same shops (touristy) that you’ll find downtown. You can do snorkeling etc but it’s not that great.
  • They do have some water amusement parks—I’ve been wanting to check those out but haven’t. But they seem fun/different than the ones in the US. 
 Life's a beach

Life's a beach

  • If you do go, def arrange your hotel transportation in advance. Some hotels provide it, others don’t. If hotels provide it they will still charge you though and it’s not always the best rate. I used Canada Transfers for Cancun and it was great, so easy and great rates: https://www.canadatransfers.com/

We paid $53 round trip for two people, and it’s a private transfer so you are not stuck waiting for other people. I made the rsvp online and printed the vouchers and paid in USD cash in person when they picked us up. Returning to the airport they were also right on time. I highly recommend using them (and they give you water bottles when you arrive—do not drink tap water in Mexico, ever!).

  • Exiting the Cancun airport is overwhelming. People will try to get your attention and sell you something (anything, a tour, a taxi, etc). When you exit, just leave the terminal, don’t stop to talk to anyone, and just look for the guy wearing the Canada transfer shirt and holding up a sign w your name on it (it will have other names on it as well)
  • Do NOT throw away the bottom portion of the Mexico document you have to sign when you pass thru customs. They take the top part of the doc, you keep the bottom w your passport and hand it in when you depart at the airport. My friend wasn’t paying attention and threw hers away and had to pay $32 USD for a new one to exit.
 The reason why I always return

The reason why I always return

 Viva Mexico!

Viva Mexico!