Recently I went on my dream trip to my dream location, Mexico, as a celebration for my 18th birthday. I’ve always loved everything about Mexico; the culture, the food, the nature, and so to be able to travel there was absolutely incredible, it definitely lived up to every expectation I had. Not only was it a tropical paradise with temperatures above 30°C – my kind of weather! – but it was also so incredible to experience the
culture and learn about the amazing history of this beautiful country.
During my trip, I stayed at the Occidental Grand Xcaret in the Riviera Maya near Playa Del Carmen, which was an absolutely stunning resort placed in the middle of a rainforest and surrounded by wildlife, an experience I definitely will never forget. There were also Mayan ruins in the grounds of the hotel which you could explore, something I loved to do almost daily as I walked around the grounds and learnt more about the history of Mayan culture, whilst also feeling a little Indiana Jones-y!
One of my absolute favourite things about this hotel, and actually the whole trip in general, was the amount of wildlife we were able to see on-site at the hotel. This hotel is actually an eco-hotel and is attached to the eco-park, Xcaret, next door (but I’ll get onto that later), which meant that the wildlife in and around the hotel were protected there, and actually remained there because it’s a safer place for them in the hotel than it is outside due to poaching, yet because the resort itself is so huge they still have plenty of room to roam around and aren’t kept in captivity. This made me super happy, because I think it’s incredibly important to take care of our planet and the animals on it, plus it allowed me to get really close to some beautiful, exotic animals! The most amazing thing for me were the monkeys that were constantly swinging through the trees as you walked around the resort – I saw about seven monkeys a day! – and I was even fortunate enough to have one try and jump onto my balcony!
The entire resort was all-inclusive, which was awesome because who doesn’t love a free bar! I must admit by the time I got home I was probably more mojito than human, but it was a lot of fun to try out a bunch of different cocktails that were recommended to us by different bartenders! My favourite? A questionably named “Wet Dream” that was surprisingly very good, containing a mixture of amaretto, coffee liqueur and orange juice among other things, although it was a little difficult to order! I also tried out the “Riviera Maya” – because how could I not? – which was a beautifully layered, melon-flavoured cocktail that was super refreshing during those hot days.
The resort itself also had a Royal Club section, which is where I stayed, which had a separate hotel, pool, restaurant, beach area and bar that was exclusive for Royal Club guests. This was a really awesome addition to the holiday and I would definitely recommend upgrading to Royal Club if you’re thinking of staying in this resort, as the facilities and staff are much better than those of the standard section. Royal Club also had special events most days, such as BBQ on the Beach night and tequila tasting around the pool one afternoon, which were a lot of fun!
Something that was really great about this resort is that they had a man-made beach, which is a necessity because the ocean in Mexico is crazy rough and pretty dangerous to swim in. Even though it is a man-made beach, there’s still loads of exotic fish and it’s perfect for snorkelling in. Although it’s recommended that you don’t swim in the ocean around the resort, there are still so many beautiful walks along cliffs where you can go and watch the waves crash against the rocks, which is such a therapeutic thing to do and really makes you feel as though you’re in paradise.
One of the coolest things was that right next door to our resort was the Xcaret Eco-Park, which you could either walk to or take a boat ride along the canal which runs through the hotel, but is also open to non-guests of the resort. We had a two day pass to Xcaret Park, which I personally think is all the time you need to walk around the entire park and visit all the historical buildings, unless you want to pay extra to do some of the water activities such as swimming with dolphins, nurse sharks or stingrays, which I wasn’t too bothered about because it was quite expensive and I’ve swam with dolphins before anyway. One of the best activities in my mind is the river swim that you can do, which is included in the price of the ticket, where you swim along the natural rivers either through caves or out in the open depending on the route you choose. This is something I would definitely recommend, as it’s pretty exclusive to Mexico and is a once in a lifetime experience.
One of my favourite things at Xcaret Park is the boat ride through the rainforest, which honestly just looks magical and is an awesome way to cool off in the heat. This was another free attraction that I would definitely recommend, because it’s an amazing and relaxing experience to just sit on a boat and get lost in the beauty of nature – I would go back on this in a heartbeat. They also have some shows at different times in the day in Xcaret Park, one of which is The Flying Men, during which five men are on top of this incredibly tall pole and essentially “fly” down whilst attached to nothing but ribbons, which is simultaneously cool and terrifying all at the same time. Another great show is the Mexico Espectacular, which is an evening show that explores the history of the Riviera Maya through dance, music and sport, and is definitely not something to be missed.
Another great area of Xcaret Park is the aquarium, which although is fairly small still has some awesome jellyfish which I always love. There is also a beautiful aviary, which is huge and contains a number of waterfalls, as well as stunning, exotic birds of which most are endangered. A replica of an Ancient Mayan village can also be found in Xcaret Park, which is so interesting to walk around and learn about the history of what they used to do there, plus you can make your own chocolate! Although I really loved exploring Xcaret Park, I definitely don’t think you need more than two days there unless you plan on doing all the extra activities.
Although I didn’t do any of the major excursions – Chichen Itza was a four hour coach drive each way! – I did love going to Quinta Avenida, or Fifth Avenue, down in Playa Del Carmen and walking along the beach, as well as doing some shopping – you can check out my haul here! Fifth Avenue was really beautiful, and although there were a lot of areas that are more westernised with a Sephora and Victoria’s Secret, the streets were still full of colour and it was awesome to walk along the beach and stop in at some of the beach bars, which is one of my absolute favourite things to do. My favourite bar that was right on the beach was Wah Wah Beach Bar, which had awesome food and live music on weekends! I have to admit, I did take a trip up to Walmart to see all the different stuff they had – another hobby of mine is shopping in foreign supermarkets, I don’t know why but it’s so much fun – and ended up finding my new favourite candy that I now can’t find anywhere!
One of my most memorable moments from this holiday was the last evening, where we got a special Mexican dinner! This included guacamole being made at our table using tequila and fire, which was such a spectacle and not something I will quickly forget. It also tasted amazing, just fyi. The staff at the resort really worked hard to make us feel special, even putting balloons on my bed in my hotel room for my birthday – which for some insane reason I didn’t take a picture of!
I loved absolutely every moment of this holiday, it’s probably the best trip I’ve ever been on and I feel so fortunate that I had the opportunity to go! I would absolutely jump at the chance to go back to Mexico, because it’s such a beautiful country and I would love to explore different areas; everyone should have the chance to go and experience this incredible and magical place.
Let me know in the comments below what your dream holiday destination is, and whether you’ve ever been to Mexico and what your thoughts are on it! Until next time!