Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Travel Mexico Hat Adventure
Travel Mexico Hat Adventure
Jackie Ryan / Her Campus

Travel In Mexico: A Reflection

Updated Published
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UNH chapter.

Spring Break 2024

After a whirlwind of a start to the spring semester, my friends and I arranged a trip to Cancun over spring break. We planned flights and lodging a month in advance as well as some excursions just a week before, but nonetheless we had a blast.

The culture in Mexico is hard to label. Every block has a different personality and every store has a different vibe. The locals never fail to greet you with an “Hola!” and a welcoming smile. Although this vacation wasn’t for education, we all improved our Spanish skills and enjoyed navigating a new culture with the best friends in the world.

Sunday, 3/17

Leaving Charlotte Street in the morning was so exciting. My mom dropped us all off at Logan Airport at 9 a.m. and we got in the mandatory Dunkin’ stop. We all had an early morning the day before for the HOSA State Conference and I only ended up getting three hours of sleep.

Our flight to Orlando was smooth and we saw our luggage get on the connecting flight plane which was reassuring. We did have a little delay in Orlando, but we grabbed some lunch and made it to Cancun by 6 p.m.

We picked up our luggage and took a shuttle to our condo for the week at Residential Bellemar in the Hotel Zone in Quintana Roo.

Once we arrived, none of us had service so we had to wait an hour or so for the host to arrive after they notified her we were there. She let us in, showed us around and gave us wristbands, the door passcode, the wifi and a little swipe card for the elevator. We jokingly brought our luggage up the stairs due to the tiny nature of the elevator and Liz laughed.

We settled in for the night and explored the scenic lagoon right outside our window as well as the beautiful pool with a luxurious hot tub inside.

We came inside after a long day for showers and the boys ran to grab food for dinner since I wasn’t feeling well. Jake and Joe brought back fettuccine alfredo for me and grabbed a bunch of different Mexican goods for us to try from the place next door.

Monday, 3/18

We got picked up at 8 a.m. the next morning for our first day of fun. Ready to jump right in, Alan gave us our wristbands as we stopped at the other hotels to pick up the other excursion guests. We eagerly headed to the horseback riding sight. A dad and daughter got on at the stop after us and sang almost every song with us on the way there — Joe said he deserved the best dad award.

Jake and I rode our horses in the back of the line while Mena and Joe were up front. We rode through the forest and ended our ride with a safari trolley to the zip lining site. At the zip lining site through Cancun Adventures we walked through a breathtaking botanical garden to the gear platform where they gave us helmets and safety equipment. The first obstacle was the swinging bridge. Mena was very obviously nervous, most of the guides asking her “you alright mamacita?!” Nevertheless, she made it across minus a few tears. We then zoomed across seven different scenic zip lines and on the last one we even hung upside down!

We headed to the cenote for swimming shortly after. A smaller cenote, where music was playing and there was a place to jump off as well as another mini zip line. We swam for about an hour then dried off just in time for ATVing.

Mena and I took one of the big dune-buggies while Jake and Joe took the other. While it wasn’t super muddy because it hadn’t rained in a few days, we had “albino eyelashes” from all the dirt being kicked up. We got to fly through a few laps and do some drifting. Alan guided us the whole way, and brought us to get authentic Mexican tacos from Cancun Adventure’s restaurant.

After a morning packed full of fun, we headed back to our Airbnb and got ready for our boat tour later in the evening.

At 7 p.m., we departed for our Xoxomilco Boat tour where we met at Base Xcaret. We arrived at the Xoxomilco Boat Base and boarded our boat, Tobasco. We set sail around 8 p.m. and didn’t return until about 11 p.m. We were served a delicious platter of dips with chips, a plethora of various meats and mexican rice, and of course, we took full advantage of the open bar. Getting off the boat for a bathroom break halfway through was our moment of realization. Let me tell you — getting on and off a boat was a task. We eventually made it back to our hotel where we all danced and laughed and listened to music for much longer than we should have. It was the best time.

Tuesday, 3/19

After a late night, the morning was atrocious. Nevertheless, we got picked up at the Aquamarina Beach Hotel next door to our Airbnb and made it to the boat dock by 10 a.m. where we indulged in some morning drinks. They checked our tickets and gave us our wristbands and boarded our boat for the day, Victoria. This was probably my favorite day — everything was perfect.

Once we left the docks, we sailed a few miles into sea where we were given snorkeling gear (including super flattering flippers). Mena stayed on the boat like a proud mom staying in the lodge while her kids went to explore and we did just that. The fish, coral and other sea creatures were right before our eyes. I was bummed because I forgot my underwater camera, but it was absolutely breathtaking. We followed a guide out to the middle of the snorkeling circle where many other boats also anchored and saw a Stonehenge temple underwater with many fish swimming about in schools. It was stunning. Once we returned to the boat, all four of us went to the top to enjoy a tequila sunrise or three before arriving at the island of Isla Mujeres. We took photos at the top of the boat and they turned out to be some of my favorites. Yes, we bought them and yes, we are suckers for the tourist traps. The moment we docked at Isla Mujeres we were ready to eat. We enjoyed a full buffet lunch at Ixi Restaurant and then headed out for a few hours of adventuring on a golf cart. We traveled to the Dolphin Discovery Location via Golf Cart and attempted to break into the Tortugranja Turtle Farm. We got the gate and it said it was temporarily closed but the lock just so happened to be off the chain. One thing led to the next and they were in, but not for long. After Jake posed for a picture on a random moped a man yelled “hey!” and I have never whipped a golf cart the way I did right then and there.

We continued our exploration of the island and ended up following some random family and got stuck in a dead end. However, there were some cute vendors there so it wasn’t a total waste. We figured out where we were and drove all the way south to the Faro Lighthouse. The view was muy bonita and we didn’t even notice there were a few lizard friends just below our eyes perching on the rocks. We took in the view for a few moments and headed back on our speedy golf cart zooming through traffic just because we could (liquid courage).

After returning the golf cart with just seconds to spare, we had quite a difficult time navigating where the dock was. We ended up walking in a very large circle after locals told us conflicting directions but we ended up finding our way just in time to take a quick dip before departure at 3:40 p.m.

We boarded the Victoria once more and embraced the open bar with open arms. Six tequila sunrises deep, we headed back to the hotel with smiles ear to ear and burns from head to toe. After everyone showered, Mena cleaned up while Jake, Joe and I rented Bird scooters to acquire grub and some drinks. Once we reached the edge of the Hotel Zone, to our surprise, our scooters shut off. We ended up walking 20 more minutes to explore Mercado 23, but it ended up being closed. We found a super good empanadas place nearby and grabbed Mena a hot dog instead. We stopped at GOmart for Havana Club, Coke and some juices — you know, the essentials. Driving back on scooters with no bags was hilarious. Mena was asleep by the time we got back, so we put on Planet Of The Apes and went to bed soon after in preparation for another early morning.

Wednesday, 3/20

Jake, Joe and I woke up nice and early with high hopes of Camelback Riding in Riviera Maya. We left our hotel by 7 a.m. and I was confused to see no bus at the Aquamarina pickup spot. I asked the attendant there if he had seen the bus yet in case we had missed it, but he said no so I gave the tour company a call to find out our bus had actually gotten into a T-Bone car accident and that we were unable to go. Although we were bummed, we got to go pick Mena up and went early morning exploring. We went to Oxxo and grabbed a delightful breakfast at a food stand next door, Mar De Miel. Jake and I were super happy to finally have a good black iced coffee.

We ate breakfast at the Airbnb and got ready for the day. We then took an Uber to Mercado 28, with a plethora of vendors and different characters to interact with. Mena and I found ourselves lured in by the free tequila shots. We ended up with a very high class strong tequila for just $22. After our little side quest we found the cutest shop with different trinkets that the vendor hand engraves. I got a lighter case with my name on it and a lizard and Mena got a little jewelry box with her name and a panda.

We ubered back to the Airbnb to enjoy the lagoon, pool and hot tub. We made ourselves some drinks and soaked up the sun for a while before showering to go to dinner. We put on March Madness every chance we could since Jake lives and breathes for it and we all ended up getting invested in it by the end of the week.

We took an Uber to Señor Frog’s, one of the most fun restaurants in town. We had a blast. We all ordered tall frozen drinks in a fun souvenir cup and got balloon hats and funny name tags from the waitress. After we ordered, a different waitress came up and offered us two shots for $9 and everyone caved except Mena. Little did we know, the shots entailed pats on the head, chest gropes, whistling and lots of laughs. We ended up getting shots twice but we got to keep the shot glasses at the end (makes it worth it). We ubered back to the Airbnb and watched a movie before heading to bed.

Thursday, 3/21

After an earlier night in we decided to go for a sunrise swim at the lagoon. A family staying nearby came and took out their kayaks while we swam in front of what seemed like a painting. We stayed out for a little while admiring the view then headed back inside for shower rounds. We kind of just relaxed for the rest of the morning and took a group nap before getting ready for Coco Bongo.

At about 2 p.m. we got dropped off outside Coco Bongo Beach Party, right next door to our dinner spot from last night. We headed inside, scanned our tickets and booked it to the open bar. We found a table closest to leave our things and we went venturing on the beach. Joe and Jake went climbing rocks and playing volleyball while Mena and I danced the day away in the pool. The boys eventually came to the pool where soap suds, dance contests and drinking competitions were all abundant. We took full advantage of the open bar once again and had ourselves a time until about 7 p.m. when we decided to Uber home since we were all super pruney… While we waited for our Uber we finished our last drinks while roaming downtown and got to listen to a live band. Once we got back, we took showers and watched a movie before crashing. Hard.

Friday, 3/22

On Friday morning we got picked up as the sun was rising for a two and a half hour venture to Chichén Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the world. When we got to the site we first explored the many vendors available then got a guided tour from our amazing tour guide, Cesar, from Sat Mexico.

At the Chichen Itza site, we learned all about the Mayans and specifically their unique architectural designs. They often conducted a sacrificial ritual playing soccer or football or the like offering a sacrifice to the gods for a good harvest season. The losing team’s captain gets sacrificed and the king had his own seat above everyone else to watch the games play out. In the bag of the sports arena there are seven stonehenge columns to make any guest rulers speak loudly to one another and to make their conversations public. Cesar explained that the brick size of the limestone enhances the sounds and that the Mayans used that to their advantage. If you clap towards the end of the arena, you’ll hear an echo or three. If you clap closer towards the front where the king sits, you’ll hear five or seven echoes. As we traveled to the main temple, we saw a bridge where the Mayans captured enemies and publicly decapitated them to intimidate others and display power. The higher the rank of the person killed, the more power on display.

Inside the main temple of Chichen Itza is a water supply as well as more temples. The Mayans rebuilt temples based on the lunar calendar; the 52 year cycle. Every 260 days the first temple is abandoned and a new one is built on top causing the alignment of lunar and solar energy. At the front of the temple, twice a year the sun shines through the stone head to create a snake looking ray of light which actually attracted over 25,000 visitors just the day before our visit. Despite all of these impressive temples, only five estates were Mayan in Mexico, making this so much more impressive.

Soon after the site we drove to enjoy a cenote and a buffet lunch where we got to hold a parrot and visit the Mother Tree where we all left items in return to activate our new obsidian bracelets. At the cenote location there were various vendors where we witnessed a water bottle slice like butter with the use of an obsidian knife. Cesar showed us it’s balancing ability by lightly shoving one of the people on the tour on one foot and sure enough he wasn’t able to balance without, but he had no problem when wearing the obsidian bracelet. All four of us bought one. The way to tell its real obsidian is by shining it in the light and if the color appears cloudy/like gasoline it’s real but if it’s pitch black it’s fake.

Jake, Joe and I took showers, rented life vests and headed down to the cenote. It was absolutely beautiful. We all jumped in and not even 30 seconds after we get in the water we spark up a conversation with a local Mayan, Zotz’, which directly translates as “bat.” He shared so much about the Mayan culture and taught us a few phrases like, “nipah” (nee-po-lah) meaning good health, and “In lak’ ech, Hala ken” (ee-la-cage eh-la-king), meaning we are one. Instead of shaking hands while saying that greeting, you hold one’s hand, representing united energy, not the mixture of energy.

On our way home we explored the great downtown area of Valladolid. We first were led by Cesar to a local tequila shop where we sampled five tequila brands. One of which (the strongest one) was the one Mena and I had bought from Mercado 28 earlier this week. The tequila store owner shared that most handcrafted Mexican tequilas utilize sacred flowers and take about six months for fermentation. Tequila is of Mayan origin and the color turns darker with age. We then indulged in cheese ice cream (don’t knock it until you try it) and frozen bananas. We checked out a few more shops and gazed at the marvelous church then headed back on the bus to our Airbnb.

Back at the hotel we watched Tinker Bell and winded down in preparation for a travel day on Saturday, or so we thought.

Saturday, 3/23

An abrupt start to an obstacle of a day, we woke up late and missed our shuttle to the airport for what we thought was our returning flight home. We checked out of our Airbnb and took an Uber to the airport only to find out our flight was actually scheduled for tomorrow (Sunday), not Saturday. We ended up trying to ask a Spirit agent about changing it to today but there weren’t four seats on the same flight. Originally, we booked our Airbnb until Sunday so we thought we could return with no issues. However, we called Liz and after we checked out they relisted the space and someone had already swiped the space. Nevertheless, we sat in the airport for an hour or two while I frantically swiped through Airbnbs begging various hosts to let us check in at 10 a.m. (normal check in is at 3 p.m. so this was a task) and we finally found Ernesto. Through my conversations with other hosts, we found a driver willing to come through the crazy airport traffic since Ubers weren’t working. We used a different driver and made our way to our new Airbnb for the night that had a sliding door to a pool right outside. We checked in early and paid a $25 fee to do so, but they didn’t have change so we sucked it up and Mena handed them a $10 and a $20.

The new airbnb had a glass table set with dinner plates and a long couch perfect for a movie. The sliding door with the pool was just perfect and it made the sprint to the showers after much easier. One of the rooms had a king sized bed but the other had two twins, so we moved the two together. We all took a long nap in the afternoon and woke up to go swimming for a short while.

We then ventured out to find dinner and stumbled across another location of the restaurant the boys got on the first day. We got Los Chachalacos and brought it back to the Airbnb at the bar by the pool. We also stopped GOmart and grabbed Malibu, mango juice, coffee for the morning and some delicious gas station pollo empanadas. After reflecting on the amazing week we’ve had by the pool we headed inside to wind down and watch Pirates of the Carribean. All I could think about was how lucky I am to be on this trip with these people and how everything worked out after such a hectic morning. Even though it wasn’t planned, I wouldn’t have wanted it to play out any other way.

Sunday, 3/24

Sunday morning was bittersweet. Taking in the last breaths of Mexican tropical air and saying goodbye to the street iguanas made saying goodbye so much harder. We got to the airport with a couple hours of wiggle room and grabbed breakfast before taking off. In the checked baggage line, Spirit had an overwhelming amount of travelers. They called everyone going to Fort Lauderdale to a separate line and there was one family in particular that was not so happy with that (hint hint, they weren’t going to Fort Lauderdale). The mother argued her way to the front and ended up getting through before all of us. To top it off, in the security line a family of eight tried cutting Joe, Mena and me in line (Jake’s fancy and has clear) so I very obviously gave a look and moved in front of her and that’s when she had the AUDACITY to go “You know this is one line and you’re cutting me right it’s not two”. My veins began to pop and eyes began to bulge and I said “Yeah, we were behind these two but yes it is one line.” Homegirl didn’t appreciate that so she kept going saying “Okay. You’re cutting,” over and over with little looks. I laughed and went on my way but man do airports bring out the worst in people. Forget road rage, I have airport anger.

They sat Joe behind the rest of us on the flight to Fort Lauderdale and he actually ended up chatting with Amy, a Spanish literature teacher from Florida, for the entire 2 hour flight. She had been to 50 countries and they both exchanged their stories. Jake, Mena and I budded in a few times but for the most part we took joy in just listening. One of my favorite things she said was “Travel helps you understand yourself and the world better.”

We landed in Fort Lauderdale for our eight hour layover at around noon. Once we rechecked our baggage for our flight to Boston later, we booked an Uber to the closest Dunkin’. I know, VERY important. We had a little picnic outside and our Uber driver, Abdel, picked us up after.

On our way to what we thought was a Manatee Beach, Port Everglades, we get stopped by a security guard and he not so nicely asked for our IDs and asked if we had any weapons. Abdel, just as confused as us, repeated that he was just an Uber so the guard turned to the back seat and asked our purpose for traveling. We told him we just wanted to see manatees and he giggled and told us this area was for cruise ship personnel only due to the gas. Abdel hit the feet’s and pulled a u-turn and dropped us off at a nearby Walgreens where we waited for our new Uber to Flamingo Gardens.

We got to Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Florida around 3:15. We got to watch a Wildlife Encounter show that highlighted a rehabilitated vulture, possum and boa. All unfit for the wild but thriving in the sanctuary, they each had an individual story and the handlers were super knowledgeable. After the show concluded we explore the rest of the wildlife sanctuary and rehabilitation center. We had no idea we would be able to see so many animals — all we expected were flamingos. We were delightfully surprised by the black bear, a bobcat, a botanical butterfly garden, a pond filled with pelicans, ducks, hawks, otters, turtles and iguanas, along with a row of birds including parrots, macaws, toucans and, my personal favorite, hundreds of free-roaming peacocks. While Mena and I were hanging out with the toucans, a wild armadillo came up right next to the cage digging — neither of us had seen one before so we just stood there with our jaws dropped for a minute. We stayed until the sanctuary closed at 5 p.m. then headed out to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park where we walked the trails and explored the woods.

We returned to the airport and got through security super smoothly. Our bags were already checked so we had plenty of time to chill at our gate and grab our final Mexican dinner which actually was probably the best meal I had the entire week. I know, embarrassing. Americanized opinion or not, the tortillas in Cancun tasted rubbery and the airport place made it PERFECTLY with all the good toppings. Heavenly. On the flight home we all ate our dinner and they took naps. I finished writing this very reflective journal and thought about how grateful I was for all of it. For the locals we had the pleasure of interacting with, for the patient guides explaining everything in two languages, for the guards who went searching for my phone, for getting closer than ever with my best friends and of course for having the opportunity to go on a trip like this and experience these things.

UNH CHHS 2025 Health Sciences & Kinesiology (603) 998-9746