Enjoying Cancun Mexico
Travel, Travel Stories

A Midlifer’s Review of a Cancun Trip

I took a short trip to the sunny Cancun in Mexico mid January. Here is the Midlifer’s Review of that Cancun Trip.


This is my second trip to Cancun. The first trip was 13 years ago to Puerto Morelos, south of Cancun.

Background – A Free Ticket & Free Accommodation

Three key reasons made this almost five-day trip possible:

  • A free buddy-pass from Air Canada which meant I could travel free within North America (excluding Hawaii). I had to pay the airport taxes which amounted to CAD200.
  • I had lots of Air Miles. The five nights at the Sunset Royal Cancun Resort cost me just under 15,000 Air Miles plus about CAD 450. The amount included an all-inclusive package for two.
  • The need to see some sun. This winter has been warmer than usual but mostly gloomy. And I needed some warmth together with sunshine.

So, the tickets were reserved and the hotel booked.

 At Toronto's Pearson Airport
At Toronto’s Pearson Airport

These Plans Were in My Mind for the Trip

  • Take it easy
  • Beach, lots of it
  • Good food (specially seafood and tacos)
  • Visit Cancun city center
  • Xel-Ha park
  • Kayaking
  • Standup Paddling

About Cancun’s Tourist Area

Before I describe what I did in Cancun, here is a brief description of the city.

Cancun is more than a tourist city. It is home to close to 900,000 people and besides the tourists area, there are the residential and city center (El Centro) areas.


However, for outsiders Cancun is known for its Hotel Zone.

The Hotel Zone

Set in the shape of “7”, the Hotel Zone – officially the Boulevard Kukulkan – is about a 22km long stretch with dozens of hotels of all kinds catering to everyone, from the rich to the backpackers. The zone is sandwiched on one side by the Caribbean Sea and on the by the Nichupte Lagoon.


Cancun’s Hotel Zone has a good cab service and recently Uber was introduced. But the best part is the public transit, with buses plying to different destinations and routes going through the Boulevard. It cost 12 pesos or USD 1 for every ride.

The Sunset Royal Cancun Resort

The Sunset Royal Cancun Resort is located near the top of the slanted line of the “7”.


Day 1 – Arrival

Outside Cancun Airport
Outside Cancun Airport

I was supposed to have arrived in Cancun by mid-day and expected to be at the hotel by 2.30 pm. However, the flight from Toronto left almost four hours later, so I didn’t arrive until around 4pm. Our all-inclusive package didn’t include transportation from and to the airport (as well as the airfare) but we had booked the transportation through the hotel. It was USD 19 p/p.

After finding the driver we drove to the hotel and reached it around 6 pm.

Sunset Royal Cancun Resort
Sunset Royal Cancun Resort

And the first thing I asked was a cold beer and I got one.

After shower, I headed for dinner. Being in Mexico, I decided to have my dinner at the Mexican restaurant in the hotel. Later, there was live music and dance in the lobby and then it was time to rest.

Day 2 – Beach & a Walk to the Hotel Zone Center

It was time to hit the beach. The beach is where those dreamy photos of balmy beaches with turquois waters are made. Almost flawless sand leads into the water. Just about five feet into the water and it gives one the feeling it is going to get deeper but then it is shallow for a few dozen meters. However, it was mostly wavy.

Still, I was coming from a winter country so this was very dreamy. I spent some time enjoying dips.

After lunch, I decided to take a walk along the Hotel Zone. And then I realized that the Hotel Zone has its own city center/downtown area.

The Hotel Zone's Center in Cancun, Mexico
Cancun Hotel Zone’s Center, Mexico
The Hotel Zone’s Center in Cancun, Mexico
The Hotel Zone's Center in Cancun, Mexico
Cancun Hotel Zone’s Center, Mexico

The downtown area has its own flea market.

Cancun Hotel Zone Center Flea Market
Cancun Hotel Zone Center Flea Market

I walked late afternoon and it was getting crowded. The restaurants were getting filled up and I knew that as time passed by the partying will begin.

But I returned to the hotel.

Day 3 – Exploring Market 28

Having gone through the Hotel Zone’s center, it was time to discover Cancun’s center including the famous Market 28 (mercado 28). I did not have any internet package in Cancun and, therefore, depended on the hotel’s wifi.

However, I had earlier downloaded Google’s offline map for Cancun and marked Mercado 28. As well, one of the officers in the hotel had given me a rough sketch of Cancun’s center.

So, armed with my offline map and the sketch, I decided to try out the public transit.

The R2 Route to Market 28
The R2 Route to Market 28

The officer had also told me the R2 line will take me direct to the mercado 28.

And sure enough, it stopped at the Market itself.

As soon as the bus stopped, a few employees from the Market greeted us. But I knew that the market was more than the first building, where stuff was supposedly even more expensive than in other places in tourist Cancun. I decided to skip going into the building and instead walked along the side wall, crossed the road and then entered the main market – it was like a labyrinth with narrow alleys stacked with stores selling everything from souvenirs and cloths to leather goods and tequila. The Market reminded me of the souks in Oman, Dubai, Qatar and Turkey.

Market (Mercado) 28 in Cancun Mexico
Market (Mercado) 28 in Cancun Mexico
Market (Mercado) 28 in Cancun Mexico
The Market (Mercado) 28 in Cancun Mexico
Market (Mercado) 28 in Cancun Mexico
Market (Mercado) 28 in Cancun Mexico

A Pedicure

And along the way we found a pedicure place. It looked clean so I decided to get my feet done. Lot of barefoot walking meant my feet were full of rough edges and whatnot, and the pedicurist went very meticulously treating the soles and the sides of my feet.

And then it was over.

Afterwards, I walked around, enjoying the warmth and the sights. There were a few restaurants and some of them even had live music outside. I had initially wanted to have some tacos but the appearance of lobster in some restaurant menus made me salivate.

I love lobsters.

Live Music for Restaurants in Cancun Mexico
Live Music for Restaurants in Cancun Mexico

Outside one of the restaurants the salesperson was pitching me lobsters and more. He was friendly and persistent, so I decided to reward him.

Grilled Octopus for Lunch
Grilled Octopus for Lunch

I ordered grilled octopus for appetizer and then lobster on red chili sauce for mains. Of course, beer while children and adults came about, selling souvenirs.

Lobsters for Lunch
Lobsters for Lunch

I found both the octopus and the lobster slightly over grilled. I had expected the lobster to be softer like I usually get in non-Chinese restaurants in Canada but I think they over grilled it.

Afterwards, I used my offline maps and some help from locals to find my way to the bus halt to get to the hotel.

Day 4 – Beach & 2-hr Kayaking Trip

It was back to the beach in the morning. I noticed that the sea in this area has phases with waves and without much waves. Either way, it was enjoyable with the water not being too cold.

We had also found a two-hour sunset kayaking trip within the Hotel Zone. The trip was being run by Go Kayak Cancun and its owner, Andres, said that the almost-windless, sunny day was a perfect day for kayaking.

The tour started from within the Hotel Zone so it was easy to get there by bus.

After a brief safety instruction on how to handle the kayak, how to maneuver etc., we started off just past four with two other kayakers.

Initially, we paddled along the shallow waters of the lagoon. In a way, this was our ‘training’, Andres said. In some places it was so shallow and clear that we could see the grass underneath.

But the shallow section would not remain with us as it got deeper and a number of leisure boats passed by, and I had to maneuver the kayak carefully so that it would not tip.

A Kayak Adventure in Cancun Mexico
A Kayak Adventure in Cancun Mexico

And then we quickly crossed the channel to enter a narrower channel. I noticed a number of even narrower channels shooting off, just like the Market 28. We were just four kayaks, enjoying the quietness of the mangrove-filled channels.

Then we entered the narrowest of the channels. I had to try hard not to hit the mangrove trees but paddling was a challenge as the paddles hit the low branches often. At one point I got too close to a mangrove and had trouble paddling as the branch was so low. But fortunately, the channel was only about 100 feet in length, and I managed to leave it without hitting any mangroves.

Kayaking Through a Very Narrow Channel in Cancun Mexico
Kayaking Through a Very Narrow Channel in Cancun Mexico

After we entered a wider channel again we kayaked closer to the mangroves and Andres stopped at times to show us starfish and stingrays, tethered to the grass or just lying on the floor in the clear water.

The wind was picking up as we got closer to the shore and it was somewhat rough paddling as we reached the mini marina and said good bye

It was almost two hours of continuous paddling but I managed it. I was more worried about my back that had to sit still for that amount of time. But all was good.

Day 5 – Beach & Massage

This was my last day in Cancun.

So, it was time to enjoy the beach one last time. And then the pool.

After lunch, we took the small water taxi to our hotel’s sister property, the Sunset Marina Beach Resort.

It was about a ten-minute ride and along the way the ‘captain’ showed us iguanas and even a lazy crocodile, perched on a concrete slab.

An Iguana Perched on a Tree in Cancun Mexico
An Iguana Perched on a Tree in Cancun Mexico

The Marina Resort has a Greek vibe to it, with narrow, semi-winding alleys leading to smaller, almost-rotund buildings. It also appeared to be a much smaller resort than the Sunset Royal and is located along the lagoon, not the sea.

After a brief walk-around the resort, I was about to leave when a young hotel employee asked whether we would like to join a California roll make class and who says no?

It was run by the chef of the Asian/Japanese restaurant in the hotel.

It was a cool lesson as the chef showed how to place the rice and then roll it. We were late so did not participate in the roll making process. However, it did not stop me from enjoying the prepared food.

The employee excitedly explained the restaurants available at the resort but unfortunately, we would not have time because this was our last day.

From there, I took a bus, passed the hotel and got down near the Secrets the Vine Resort.

The destination was Bamboo Spa.

The Massage

The massage place was very clean and I was taken to a room. Again, the bed, the linen and everything else looked clean and fresh. I had chosen a full body massage and what followed was a full hour of bliss. The masseur kneaded and massaged part by part and it felt good.

It was a fitting end to a short but memorable trip to Cancun.

Day 6 – Time to Leave Cancun

Time to leave the sunny Cancun to cold Canada.

Final Comments

Cancun is a safe place, at least the Hotel Zone and the Market 28 area. I also walked from the Market area to the bus station, which was about 500 meters and did not feel threatened.

The people are nice and I never had trouble getting help. Of course, the hawkers jack up prices and even when the final price is settled after negotiation I knew it was way too much but the salespeople also have to live. Besides, they were not too aggressive.

And I have read comments about tourists being stalked by timeshare people everywhere, right from the airport, and by taxi drivers. My experience was different. Inside the airport, only one person asked me whether I have arranged transportation to the hotel and I ignored him. Outside the entrance the taxi drivers clamored for my business but they were kept in line and I did not feel threatened. The hotel is part of some timeshare arrangement and they did try their best to offer me incentives to partake in one of their presentations but when I declined they accepted it.

Cancun Airport Mexico
Cancun Airport Mexico

I did not get to do everything I had intended to. The Xel-ha, for instance, looked like a full day experience and considering that I had only four full days in Cancun I did not want to spend that much time in one place.

But the bottom line was to have a good time and that was achieved.

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