Mexico has a bad reputation for crime and violence, it is all over the news. Yet, there are some beautiful and safe parts of Mexico, like Cancun. It is on the eastern tip of Mexico, sitting on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. It is well protected from most of the hurricanes and enjoys gorgeous weather year round. There is no need to drive across the border, Cancun is easily accessible from most major airports.
Cancun boasts beautiful beaches, the northern section of the Great Maya Reef, Mayan ruins and museums, art, spa activities, shopping, nightlife, and friendly locals. Far less expensive than the Mediterranean cities, Cancun is a great value for a luxury vacation on a budget.
The most well-known Mayan ruins and archaeological sites are in the interior of Mexico and Central America which can be difficult to visit, often requiring long car or bus rides. The nearest airport to Chichen Itza is Cancun and then it is still several hours travel by car. There are two noteworthy Mayan sites located within Cancun.
El Rey is located along the Hotel Zone of Cancun, tucked away behind large trees and a small sign. For 43 pesos (per person) this hidden gem is an old Mayan village for exploration. The area surrounding the structures is cut back leaving very little shade. The site opens at 8 AM for the coolest temperatures. There are plenty of signs in both Spanish and English translation.
The entire site takes less than an hour to walk and take a few photos.
The Mayan Museum, Museo Maya de Cancun, is just down the street from the El Rey site. The museum opens at 9 am, one hour later than El Rey, allowing for a full morning of Mayan history. At a mere 57 pesos, the entrance fee is one of the best bargains in Cancun!
Explore the incredible ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza! Travel Guide with transit time, tours, the pyramid, beyond the pyramid, Mayan History in Mexico, and more!
Art, Museums, History, Science, Natural Wonders, and Archaeology are a few of my favorite things! So what could be better than an archaeological site full of art, culture, science, an ancient pyramid, an astronomical observatory, and more located in a jungle? That was my motivation to spend the day at Chichen Itza Mayan archaeological site.
The Chichen Itza site is located in the Yucatan state of Mexico, the nearest village is Piste (pronounced pis-tay). Our adventure started in Cancun, Mexico on the far East coast. The cheapest way from Cancun to Chichen Itza is by tour bus, it is also the slowest and most restrictive. We skipped that and arranged for a private car through our resort, paying $250 USD for private driver all day including fuel. Slightly more expensive, but we set the schedule and our little car passed all the buses so we arrived before the crowds. By car, it is a 2 hour drive using toll roads, or an extra hour to avoid the tolls. Tolls are charged by type of vehicle, meaning that our private car paid approx $500 pesos for both tolls (approx. $42 USD) but van or bus is more expensive.
The entire city of San Juan was a pleasant surprise. It is not quite modern America, but a blend between downtown Tucson and a historic town that time really does not closely pay attention to. At 18 degrees north of the equator, the weather is fantastic and warm year round on the beautiful little island.
We arrived at the port in San Juan and explored the old part of town on foot in a few hours. In old San Juan there are narrow cobblestone streets, historic forts, and gorgeous views of the water. All of that walking made us hungry, and thirsty. As a US territory, my smartphone had excellent coverage and thanks to Open Table we found Barrachina for dinner.
Famous for the origin of the Pina Colada, it was the best Pina Colada that I have ever tasted! The food was amazing and fresh. Barrachina is reasonably priced, providing great service, and amazing food.
We started with Grouper Fritters that were fresh, perfectly prepared (not too greasy for breaded & fried fish), and delicious. Due to all of our walking before dinner, these yummy appetizers did not last long enough for a picture.
Mofongo beef, chicken, and shrimp is a fried green plantain dish, that can only be described as a flavor explosion. My mouth waters just remembering how good it tasted. The spices reminded me of Spanish cuisine, complex and mild that would not count as “spicy” compared to any Mexican dish.
The ultimate treat was the local caught, grilled whole red snapper fish with shrimp and putanesca sauce. Yes, it is a 24 ounce entire fish with scales, eyes, tail, and face. Admittedly, I skipped the eyes and tail. The fish alone could easily serve 4, then they added shrimp, rice, veggies, beans, and hearty tomato putanesca sauce. Two of us barely put a dent in this wonderful dish.
With so much to see just in San Juan, we did not explored much of Puerto Rico and now I have another must-explore list to my future travel plans. We will definitely dine at Barrachina on our next visit to Puerto Rico, which I hope will be soon!
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