The Repeat Offender’s Travel Guide to Cancun + Riviera Maya

¡Hola! ICYMI, I just got back from a “workcation” to Mexico…I know, I know, what a hard knock life amiright??? HA. My  fabulous intern, Sarah, and I trekked down to good ol’ Cancun on the first snowfall of the year (#BlessUp) in pursuit of warm sunshine and cold drinks with tiki umbrellas in them. This wasn’t my first time in Mexico; J and I honeymooned in the Riviera Maya – basically down the street – in September. This time around, Sar and I were at a different resort with a different itinerary because we were on a press trip with a few other bloggers, so a lot was planned out ahead of time. To be as helpful for y’all as possible, I’ll outline our entire trip, add travel tips all throughout, answer all of the Q’s that I got from you guys via Instagram and Snapchat (Snap name: erica_lig), and and aaaaaaaand throw in some other fun goodies along the way. Consider this your all-inclusive Cancun travel guide to the all-inclusive lifestyle! 😉

SO.

Riviera Maya + Cancun TRAVEL GUIDE from a repeat offender! - on Coming Up Roses

If you’ve never been out-of-country before (this was Sarah’s first time!), first thing’s first: Get a passport! Passports have a bit of processing time attached to them, so get that taken care of a few weeks before you need it.

All of our travel was arranged via Apple Vacations; we flew Frontier, which is a “more affordable” airline option, but just be aware of hidden fees since there are a-plenty!

As you near your destination, the flight attendants will pass out customs forms to fill out – do NOT lose the little perforated piece at the bottom of the form. You’ll need this to get back into the USA. 😉

Once in the airport, I *highly* recommend working with a travel agency to make the process simpler, as well as specific transportation people. We used Amstar DMC for airport transport (which stands for “destination management company” – pro chaffeurs to cool places, basically). The reason being…the Cancun airport situation can get hectic. The place is PACKED with agencies and transports and people with signs, so it can get v overwhelming v quickly if you don’t have a sort of organized plan or system all ready to go. Amstar greeted us immediately and just escorted us right to our van to head to our resort – with a cooler of Cokes, waters and Coronas waiting inside. Bless. They’re always on time, always friendly, always a comfortable ride where you don’t have to think – always a plus.

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

I got a lot of Q’s asking where we stayed! We were at Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort; if ya caught the Golden Globes, you might’ve seen their *intimate* commercial around 9:20 pm EST. 😉 This was not where J and I stayed for our honeymoon, so if anyone wants/needs a sortof compare/contrast on specific resorts, let me know in the comments section below so I can plan something accordingly!

It IS an all-inclusive resort, meaning you pay one fee for your stay and accommodations, and that covers errrrthaaaaang. Food, drinks, the works. Whether you’re ordering room service breakfast, endless piña coladas from the swim-up bar, or a midnight snack after dancing your heart out – it’s covered already. This meant I could eat all the nachos in the world, which made me a very happy camper. 😉

More on this resort below, but a sneak peak:

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Some folks asked about “making the most of the all-inclusive experience”…basically, go all out. Treat yo’self. If it’s included, enjoy it. Personally, I think fully embracing the all-inclusive experience ends up being a better deal than being at your family at the Jersey shore for a week, because you’re eliminating all of those add-on costs for every meal and drink.

For everyone curious about best time of year to visit…anytime January 1st through December 31st. 😉 Really tho, if you Google search that, you’ll be met with forum after forum of every answer under the sun. It depends on what you’re looking for! If you want to be one of the only people on the resort, go in the heart of winter – but know that you might have cooler days. We did have two full rain days where it was cold and windy – not snowing, obvi, but too cold to be laying out by the pool. The weather is definitely a bit wet down there, but it’s variable. When we went for our honeymoon in mid/late-September, there would be a 20-30 minute rainstorm every single morning…and then it would clear up completely to be cloudless, sunny, and 90 degrees. I think Mother Nature has a few too many tequilas down there. 😉 Ha!

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

P.S. This photo right above here is the view from our balcony at dusk. Casual.

So any Cancun travel guide should include details on all-inclusive resorts, since they’re pretty much the name of the game if you’re heading down south for a swoonworthy tropical vacay.

Notes about All-Inclusives in general:

  • Some all-inclusives offer wristbands as means for staff knowing you’re supposed to be there. At Secrets Playa Mujeres, there are no wristbands – you’re just asked your name and room number before entering any restaurant, etc. A plus of having no wristbands comes when you’re traveling off-resort at all. Locals know what wristbands mean. Anytime you’re at little street shops, no prices are listed – and you can guarantee you’re going to be quoted higher prices if you’ve got a wristband indicating you’re at a 5-star, luxury all-inclusive.
  • Bring cash! Tips are not included at all-inclusives. Be sure to have singles with you to tip your waitstaff, maids, drivers – basically anyone and everyone who is helping you along the way.
  • Dress codes exist – and are enforced. All-inclusives oftentimes have restaurants on-site that are *also* included. They have dress codes before entering. For girls, this means “resortwear” – maxis, wedges, cute skirts…dressing the way you would for a nice dinner out in summertime basically sums it up. For guys, it’s a bit more complicated (so ladies, help yo’ men out!). Many places require that guys wear a collared shirt and have their knees covered. I know they enforce collars, because our guy friend couldn’t get in in a short-sleeve henley! SO, pack accordingly.
  • Tours and excursions – See your concierge first thing upon arriving to book everything in advance. As soon as arriving for our honeymoon, J and I spent a solid hour with the concierge looking through books and getting the entire rest of our trip taken care of (we did quite a few awesome ones – see our honeymoon recap here for details!).
  • Many all-inclusives are adults-only. If you’ve got kiddos that you’re toting along, make sure your resort will let them in!
  • Be careful with wine – oftentimes, there will be a few “house” wines, but bottles beyond that won’t be included in your all-inclusive stay. If you’re tryna avoid paying extra unnecessarily, I’d recommend enjoying what they’ve got (they’re always good!).

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Fun facts about Secrets:

  • There are multiple Secrets locations. There are at least six around the area, so you’ve got options.
  • Secrets is not located amongst the larger “strip” of resorts. Where we honeymooned, you’ve got resorts basically all next to each other (although spread out, so you don’t see them at all – these properties are *massive*). Secrets is about a 45-minute van ride from the airport, whereas our honeymoon destination is about 20 minutes.
  • Secrets IS right next door to Dreams Playa Mujeres, which is kid-friendly. Secrets is adult only.
  • Every suite has a king-size bed or two double beds, a private terrace or balcony, a full bathroom with a hydrotub (yup, the awesome jet kind), and a mini-bar (which is ALSO all-inclusive).
  • Suites also have comfy robes + slippers to lounge around in when clothes just won’t cut it.
  • The Wifi is fabulous. #Important
  • There is 24-hour dining + drinking, five gourmet restaurants, a haaaaaauuuuuge buffet, two grills, and a cafe, none of which require reservations.
  • My one big issue with the entire trip was that the “Manatee Bar” did not have actual manatees swimming around us. Was legit bummed about that one. 😉

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Upon arriving to Secrets Playa Mujeres, we were greeted with champagne and cold towels, and our bags were taken straight to our rooms. After getting situated, we immediately just went touring the place, seeing the pools + beach area and settling in. We grabbed strawberry mojitos at the beach bar, which has swings on it…I fell off my swing. Oops. BUT, that was before any alcohol whatsoever, so it’s just me not being able to really adult yet. Or forgetting how to be a kid. You decide. 😉

What to do at Secrets Playa Mujeres:

  • There are nightly activities, shows, concerts, etc that are 100% worth the watch! Night one we saw a circus show set to a rock n’ roll concert, and it was the most mind blowingly epic thing ever. Like Cirque Du Soleil meets The Rolling Stones. If you follow me on Snapchat, you might’ve caught clips of that – INSANE. The second night was a magic show with this amazing dude from Vegas named Fernando Keops. His hair slightly resembled Aslan from Narnia, and it made the act all the better. He rocks at card tricks, and I could’ve easily watched him perform all night. The place is just *poppin’* with shows (also included in the all-inclusive!), and the Secrets Entertainment Team really goes above and beyond to make sure you’re having a fun time. Shoutout to Omar!
  • Already mentioned it, but there are five fancy schmancy (+ yummy) restaurants on site, so dinner is always taken care of. These places are *legit*. There’s French, Italian, Mexican, Asian/Hibachi, and Seafood. You would think the chefs train straight up in the restaurant country of origin, because the food is phenomenal and tastes *so* authentic.
  • THE SPA. Y’all. We spent too much time there, tho. Lemme break it down.
    • The Spa has hydrotherapy treatments, and access to this is complimentary with certain resort privileges. This includes the showers, sauna, steam room, hot tub, cold tub (like, ICE cold), and the main pools with jetted treatments.
    • Otherwise, there’s a full lineup of spa and salon services available. On Day 2, we did massages. I got a Deep Tissue, and Sarah got a Swedish. On Day 3, we went back to get facials. We both got the Secrets Exclusive facial, which is focused heavily on clarifying and cleansing (ie: extractions. Oy.).
    • The Spa also has fish pedicures, which is my ONE REGRET from the trip…not getting one. They aren’t offered anywhere near me, so I should’ve jumped at the opportunity, but #time. This is that thing where you stick your feet in a tub of fish that live off of dead skin cells…yum. HA. But really, it’s supposedly a really fabulous exfoliating experience.

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Why yes, Secrets does have an infinity pool. I DIED.

What to do in Cancun (off resort):

I also got a lotta Q’s about excursions, activities, and what to do in Cancun, generally speaking! Cancun and the Riviera Maya are soooo close together, they’re one and the same in my book. So to round out a Cancun travel guide, here’s what I’ve done and/or known personally about – I’m sure this list could go on and on, tho, because there is just SO much to do! So like I said, hit up your concierge first thing’s first. Many will have big books or folders to just flip through and see everything all laid out. And and aaaaaand, you don’t have to worry about transportation, timing, etc! Resorts will coordinate with transportation companies (like Amstar!) and just tell you when to show up and where – they handle the rest. Seriously, SUCH a weight lifted off – you’ve just gotta show up!

  • Chichen Itza tour – 2.5 hours away on the Yucatan Peninsula. This was the main excursion that we all did on our last full day – and it was a full. day. Chichen Itza is the largest site of Mayan ruins and one of the new 7 Wonders of the World, so I’d definitely recommend seeing that at some point in your life – it’s worth the bucket list! Our tour guide was the *cutest* little old Mayan man with the biggest wealth of knowledge + passion for his culture, so it was dual parts educational and enlightening.
  • Tulum – 45 minutes away, food for thought if you’re not feeling the drive to Chichen Itza, just want half a day, and/or aren’t the biggest fan of history or archaeological things. Tulum is also Mayan ruins! Tip: Bring a swimsuit – it’s on the coastline, and there’s a *gorgeous* natural beach area to go down to and swim!
  • Isla Mujeres – Did on our honeymoon, where we went out on a cataraman, snorkeled in the reefs, and swam with dolphins. Absolutely amazing. Our day here included free time on the island, as well, which was an awesome experience. The streets are lined with vendors and shops, but beware – it’s not all the most authentic. PLUS, you risk getting majorly upcharged for things, and/or being lured into a storefront with promises of tequila shots inside…no bueno. Ha! Tip: If you can speak Spanish, negotiate everything in Spanish! The second I started speaking Spanish to everyone I was taken more seriously, and I was able to hardcore negotiate prices. Bonus tip: Don’t take free tequila. from anyone.
  • Xplor – Also from the honeymoon! Xplor is for the more adventurous. We ziplined above the jungle, rode ATVs *through* the jungle (that are just for two people – so you literally just drive yourself through it all!), and rafted + swam through cenotes, or underwater caves. Felt straight outta National Geographic.
  • There is a Cirque Du Soleil-esque show in Cancun (I believe called Joya!), and other day excursions depending on what you’re looking for. One I want to do someday if/when we go back is called Xcaret – I believe it’s a more laidback one involving snorkeling amongst fish and giant sea turtles!

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Riviera Maya and Cancun Travel Guide from a Repeat Visitor - on Coming Up Roses

Aaaaaand VOILA.

I think I covered everything on this massive Cancun travel guide? Ha! If I missed something and/or you’ve got Q’s on anything specific, feel free to shoot me an email (erica@cominguprosestheblog.com) or drop a comment below and I’ll answer ya ASAP!

Have you ever been to Cancun or the Riviera Maya?

I hope this lil’ Cancun travel guide is helpful for any of you planning upcoming trips. HUGE shoutout + thank you to Secrets for having us, to Amstar for escorting us, and to Apple Vacations for flying us!

TGIF.

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