My First Mexican Hopper
I’ve been in the student travel industry helping people plan and experience their dream Spring Break vacations for almost 15 years. During that time, I’ve been able to visit all of the Mexico Spring Break hot spots, like Cancun and Acapulco. Here at Go Blue Tours, while my focus is on Spring Break, we also organize Hoppers that can take you all over the Yucatan Peninsula. This past April, we headed across the border to do some hotel site inspections and I got to experience my first hopper. Our schedule was quite intense (9 cities, 25 hotels, 5 days) and not the norm for our hoppers.
NOTE: All of the Orange Links are 360’s like this one of me on the beach in Playa del Carmen thanks to my new favorite app called Spincam.
After a real early morning wake up, drive to airport, park, check in, security, coffee, flight 1, layover, flight 2, land in Cancun, immigration, customs, pick up rental car, 30 minute drive, we arrived in Playa del Carmen by 1pm. We did a ton of hotel inspections all up and down the beach in Playa del Carmen and in Playacar.
After a long day, we headed out to 5th Ave (check out a 360). This was my first time experiencing “La Quinta” and I loved it. It is a pedestrian only street, lined with shops, restaurants, bars, clubs, art and craft galleries all open to the street. We walked the full strip, probably about 20 blocks, then found a spot to relax and enjoy a few cervezas. It was a real cool vibe, we saw people walking back from the beach in their flip flops and later on out in their high heels to hit the clubs. There was nonstop people, yet it never seemed crowded. We enjoyed some more cervezas, a fantastic dinner at an Argentinean restaurant, some wine, and a few more cervezas before heading back to our hotel for the evening.
Another early wake up, quick breakfast, and we drove about 30 minutes south to check out some hotels in Puerto Aventuras. This is a cool, private community based around a marina. There are gorgeous homes, huge yachts, and a handful of beautiful resorts. You can swim with dolphins and manatees, go for relaxing bike rides through the community, or just set up shop on fantastic beach (here’s a 360 of my favorite). We visited 3 hotels (one with a mini spa treatment) and headed about 10 minutes south to Akumal where we checked into our second hotel, which was an enormous resort (1,000 rooms through 20 buildings, 5 pools, a huge beach). After a tour of the report, we headed to the Akumal town center.
I had been dying to see Turtle Bay where you can go snorkeling with the Marine Turtles. We made a wrong turn and ended up at my new favorite beach bar, la Buena Vida. This place was awesome. They have a huge open air bar with swing seats, beachfront tables, hammocks, bean bag chairs in the sand, according to our waiter “every beer”, a small little pool, and a great view. But wait, there’s more. You can climb a ladder up into a palm tree where they have table and 4 chairs in the tree to have a few cervezas. There’s a bucket hanging from a rope that your waiter can put your drinks in to get them to you. Awesome!
I didn’t want to leave, but we headed back to Playa del Carmen to Senor Frogs. We hung out for a bit, saw some drunk tourists having a blast, then took stroll up the beach. After the beach, we were back to 5th Avenue to do some people watching, eating and yes, more cervezas. We sat there for hours enjoying the views and atmosphere before heading back to the hotel to crash for the night.
Woke up early, hit the beach/pool/lazy river for about an hour, breakfast, and we drove about 20 minutes south to Tulum. Tulum is a strip of about 5 miles of the nicest beach I’ve ever been to with small little cabana style hotels, beach bars and restaurants, and a real relaxing vibe. I loved this place, I could have stayed for weeks! We toured some great hotels, ate some lunch on the beach, and unfortunately had to leave. We headed out for our longest drive of the trip, about 2 hours northwest to the Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza. We got there at night, grabbed a quick bite, saw the story of the Mayans in the planetarium at our hotel, then called it a night early, we were expected another busy day to come.
After waking up early yet again, we grabbed a quick coffee then met up with Victor, our private guide for our tour of the Ruins. It was a 2 minute walk from our hotel and we were there. I was there once before, when I was 22, and to be honest, was so hung over and hot that I didn’t care about any of it, I saw the big pyramid and was ready to go. Not this time. Victor told us the history of the Mayans who built the city, the pyramid, the Great Ball Court, how they did it, why they did it, what happened when the Aztecs showed up, the full story. It was great and something I recommend that everyone do at some point in their life.
When we were getting ready to leave, I told Victor I wanted to go swimming in a cenote (a natural sinkhole, there are thousands throughout the Peninsula) and he recommended one called Cenote Samula that was on our way to our next stop. We hit the road and arrived 15 minutes later. You are about 25 feet underground, in crystal clear water, in what feels like a cave. You look up and see a hole in the ceiling, maybe 10 feet wide with a huge tree going up while it’s roots stretch all the way down to the water. It’s a cool experience and great for photos.
After a quick dip, we were back on the road, driving about 2 hours north to get to the port city of Chiquila. We missed our ferry by about 5 minutes, but $40 later got a ride from a local fisherman over to Holbox. Holbox is a tiny island, about 25 miles long, about 2,000 people live there, 30 or so small hotels, no cars (just golf carts), sand roads, extremely nice people, and quite possibly to most relaxing place you will ever be (close call with Tulum for the #1).
When we arrived, we hopped onto the back of our golf cart taxi and headed off to our hotel. The guy at our front desk made a call for us and about 15 minutes/$25 later we had had our own golf cart for the evening. We visited a few hotels (all awesome beachfront cabanas), enjoyed the sunset, grabbed a bite to eat, hit a beachfront bar, then headed back to our hotel where we hung out on the beach until about 2am. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life, unbelievable.
Up early, took a quick dip in the calm water, back to the ferry, we missed it again, $40 fisherman special, back on the road for about 2 hours east to Cancun. Now I’ve been to Cancun many, many times. I was pumped to get back there, it had been a few years. There were a few places that looked a bit different, but the awesome beaches, the luxurious resorts, and the infamous Party Center were still the same. We toured some of the hotels and headed out for one last dinner with some local friends at a wonderful lagoon front restaurant. Despite every urge in my body to hit the clubs and then go straight to the airport for our 7am flight, we called it a night a bit early and grabbed about 2 hours of sleep before the earliest of wake ups and the the trip home.
It was an amazing trip. I saw some beautiful places I had never been and visited some favorites from the past and remembered why I loved them so much. I learned there is more to the Yucatan Peninsula than just Cancun. Everything is so close, you can stay in more than 1 destination so easily. I am counting the days until my trip down there for pleasure, not work, where I can skip all the hotel tours, soak up some more beach/pool time, and plan my own route. I won’t hitting all 9 cities next time, although I can’t figure out which ones to pass on!
Interested in your own custom hopper, let us know, and we’ll help plan your personal route today!