Our last few days in Cancun had been spent exploring the different beaches around the zona hotelera. There are three sides, and each side has a completely different environment, colour of sea and current. Roughly, the best family beaches are on the northern edge where kids are greeted with still, shallow waters and practically zero undercurrent. A good northern beach is pearl beach. As you move around the zone you come to the eastern beaches which is where all the world class hotels are. The reason is because this is the most picturesque of Cancun’s beaches. Think deep turquoise oceans, palm trees, miles of white sand, rolling waves and topless, tanned women, a great place is dolphin beach. The southern beaches are a bit more remote and tree huggers should head to the wind swept beaches and perhaps the only piece of cancun yet to be dephiled by some international hotel chain. The southern beaches are also where the best snorkelling is. Obviously a fishing boat out the mesoamerican reef is the best option, but for a bit of fun from the shore look to playa Nizuc which can be reached by taking R1 or R2 to the last stop and then walking for a bit.
Be sure to stop on the bridge and thrown yourself into the lagoon to cool down 🙂
As we wound down our time in Mexico I had saved what I believed to be the best thing until last. Years earlier I had been to an island some 5 miles off the shore of Cancun called La isla Majures, which translates literally to ‘island of women’. Prices from zona hotelera are $19 each return with ultramar. Coming from downtown head to Playa Juarez where it costs $12 with kids being $7.
It was literally our last day in Mexico and we rocked up at Playa Juarez with 20 litres of water, our snorkelling gear and our mojos. Deciding we wouldn’t have a bag watch on the islandI brought enough cash for 2 adults, 2 kids and a munch whilst there. So, when I got to the front of the queue and was told that all my kids had an adult fare it left me in an awkward position. Officially kids over 1.2m pay full fare. Despite me arguing my case that Jack was miniature the woman was having none of it, she was completely uninterested in what I had to say. I had enough cash on me to get the tickets, but it would’ve cut things fine in regards to lunch and so I spoke to a guy who worked for Ultramar. He assured me that both Jack and Abi should be kids fares and went off to sort out the situation. I could see through the window that the woman was shaking her finger, her head and doing some kind of wobble. The guy came out and told us no sorry, it was adult fares only.
Outside the terminal I was talking to a local guy who told me that some 4 miles up the coast there was a car ferry and though it took a bit longer was much cheaper. We hopped in a collectivo headed north, paid just 7 pesos each and were dropped off at Punta Sam.
The times are listed here for anyone looking to use the car ferry and the price for foot passengers is just MX$38 each, with kids being half. That is a huge saving on Ultra Mar and is just not publicised anywhere, even Lonely Planet negate to mention this service that is less than half the price of Ultra Mar. Naturally, we arrived at 11.15am and the next ferry was at 2.45pm. I called a vote with the kids and they voted we wait. So, we found some shade, sat back and relaxed.
It was, as you can imagine, brutally hot, and after an hour I called another vote and we ended up sacking it off and finding a beach up in the zona hotelera. We had stumbled upon a woman with an attitude and problem which was dictated by her ego, and then being let down by the fact no one mentions the Punta sam boat.
After a few hours on the beach we sat in the pool at the Westin Regina, leant out of the infinity pool we looked out to the sea and I knew it would be some time before we ever saw something as beautiful again. I am not joking, the beaches around the Yucatan are the best we have ever come across, and it’s not like you find one decent beach amongst a load of shit. Every beach is gorgeous, over and over again you are blown away by spectacular slices of sand washed with beautiful crystal clear seas that are an amazing turquoise in colour. From tropical fish, to whale sharks, king sized stingrays and sea turtles, the coast of the Yucatan is special and I just cannot recommend it enough.
But we searched beyond the beautiful coastline, we found underground caves, swam in cenotes illuminated by speckles of natural light, rode bikes for miles, trekked jungles, investigated ancient mayan cities, colonial cities, churches, tried sneaking into Chitchen Itza, braved crocs swimming in a lagoon, jumped off bridges and found ourselves alone much of the way. The Yucatan is designed for tours, but step past the cheesy looking guy trying to sell his soul and do it yourself. The Yucatan is there to be explored, enjoyed and as we found – loved.
This is a paragraph for all those questioning the departure tax from Mexico.
All passengers leaving Cancun have a departure tax of around $30 US dollars per person, including all kids over the age of 2. For anyone flying to the USA this tax is included in your airfare and you have already paid it. That is every single airline headed to the US, and if you look on your ticket you will see MX TUA or Mexico TUA. This is the airport tax and has been paid when you purchased your ticket.
The tax is also included in MOST flights to Europe and will again be on your flight receipt as Mexico TUA or MX TUA.
However, if you are flying Thomas Cook or other CHARTER airlines to the UK and Europe it is likely (and usually) NOT included in your ticket. The airline will tell you this is to keep prices transparent. The reality is so that they can screw you one last time since they collect the fee at check in. Rather than collect $30, they will charge you around $60, usually in pesos so they can scam you on the exchange rate too. Just know, that every peso you hand over above about MX$400 is being paid for no other reason than to rip you off.
All other passengers, such as hose on British Airways and Virgin will notice they should have paid the fee and have nothing to concern themselves with.
Car Hire Clarity
People often wonder if you can hire a car with a debit card. I usually use a credit card, but just to see if you could or not – Yes you can. I use dollar and have now hired 5 cars throughout Florida using a debit card (Visa Debit). The odd thing is they have never secured a penny on my card. But, for anyone wondering – With dollar, yes you can. No checks, nothing. Just scanned, approved, thank you very much. Also, never have I been asked for a counterpart and I have hired about 20 or so cars in the US across various rental companies.
Leaving Mexico wasn’t something I was too bothered about, yes we were in many ways leaving paradise, but the trip was entering the third and final stage and it was something that we were all looking forward to.
First of all I am meeting Bekkie (Charlie and Abi’s mum) in Florida where I will leave the kids with her so she can spend some quality time with them before heading back to the UK. Jack and I will head west to San Diego where we will meet Gemma, and then will have Toby with us for a tour of the western USA.
It is for us all an exciting time of change, Bekkie has never holidayed with Charlie and Abi alone, I have never travelled without them at summer. But I feel we achieved a lot on this journey, Charlie, Abi and Jack are close and have secured the bond that Jack had not been privy to before. The bond that is created through tough times, a kind of self security in times of difficulty. They have really been amazing together and I am sad to see the split, but know that we will all now face our own adventures and am looking forward to what that brings. For example, Charlie and Abi will now spend their days immersed in Disney, Jack and I head for canyons, deserts and Las Vegas. Whatever happens I will always be grateful for the time we have spent together, the smiles we have shared, the fake laughs, the real laughs and everything in between. I have to of course announce that I am the ‘shamone-off’ champion of the summer, which basically is who can say ‘shamone’ in the best and most inventive way. Yes, it might sound sad, but when we have been at the ends of our energy, when we have been covered in sweat, mosquito bites and carrying huge weights which have felt back breaking combined with jet lag, lack of sleep and hunger; a suggestion of a ‘shamone-off’ has brought a smile to all our faces.
I look back to seeing Jack completely soaked with sweat, droplets were hanging from his face, he was clutching a bottle of water and struggling to catch his breath as we trekked through a jungle. He was almost defeated, a shamone-off was called and through an exhausted face he gave it his best shot, springing to life in the process.
I think back to Africa and high up a mountain where my little girl through a selfless fear of letting the family down pushed herself so far beyond her own capabilities that as her nose dripped with blood down her sun beaten dry face she still chose to go on. And then I think to Charlie and how he carries bags half his body weight for miles in heat which would leave most adults beaten by the roadside.
On our final flight together from Fort Lauderdale up to Orlando a stewardess saw us all sat together in a line as we usually do and commented that I had a beautiful family, I smiled in thanks and she responded by saying “you are very blessed man”. I was left content for a moment as I realised that I really am.
So a huge thanks goes to Charlie and Abi for everything they have given this trip, they deserve the break they are now getting and as Jack and I head for more adventures I say to the most beautiful two year old on earth: daddy is coming, see you soon x