I confess, I felt like a naughty student playing hooky. It was exciting and adventurous, yet I didn’t want to tell anyone about our adventure. I feared to be judged reckless and irresponsible because everyone else was canceling trips to stay home. Yet this was exactly what I needed!
If ever a trip was booked last minute, this was it. The decision (and a reservation or two) to go to Mexico had only been arranged a mere 12 hours prior to leaving for the airport.
Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, Oregon schools had closed a week early for their annual Spring Break extending the normal one-week vacation to two full weeks! Our previously planned Spring Break getaway as well as trips scheduled for April, May and July had all fallen through. In my opinion, to not take advantage of this window of opportunity was crazy.
Just a few months back airline prices were prohibitively high for Spring Break, but now were a real bargain. All across the country places were shutting down. Was there any warm place where we could go and just chill?
We considered the pros and cons of staying in the USA and flying to the Hawaiian Islands versus staying on the North American continent and going to Mexico. We reasoned that crossing a land border was easier than a vast ocean if we needed to get home quickly or in the event that flights were canceled.
Mexico won out over Hawaii for being the better economic value. Accommodations were less expensive and we would not need a rental car.
First I found Southwest flights for a 12-night round trip to Cancun. Regarding accommodations I wasn’t sure where to stay. My brain was swirling with all the options: Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Akumal, Tulum…? I called a friend who recommended the LocoGringo.com website and after a super quick perusal decided on Playa del Carmen and used Booking.com to reserve a hotel for the first four nights. I liked the idea that we could wait and see how we liked PDC and perhaps move around to experience a few different locales. I also booked and paid for a shuttle service to meet us at the airport.
The Playa Palm Beach Hotel was a treasure which exceeded our expectations and our usual budget. A small hotel, yet it had a lovely courtyard of lush tropical plants and colorful flowers, a small pool, palm trees, chaise lounges right on a sandy beach, and provided drinking water and breakfast, as well as being within walking distance to everything.
Mexico is considered a foodie destination. The variety of flavorful Mexican food and sweet tropical fruit was a big draw for us. It is a real reason to return in the future.
If one goes to the Yucatán they must see Chichén Itzá, named one of the Seven New Wonders of the World! We purchased the excursion from our hotel concierge and extended our stay at Playa Palm Beach Hotel for another night.
The all day tour included a visit to a cenote, a small village and the Mayan site. Chichén Itzá is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico with over 2.6 million tourists in 2017.
According to Wikipedia, “The Mayan name “Chichen Itza” means “At the mouth of the well of the Itza.” Chichen Itza was constructed from 600-1200 AD.
“The northern Yucatán Peninsula is karst, and the rivers in the interior all run underground. In 2015, scientists determined that there is a hidden cenote under Kukulkan, which has never been seen by archaeologists.” – Wikipedia
We had agonized over the decision of where to book our next stay and decided to try resort living. We booked a condo in Xio Akumal of the Tao Wellness Resort, inside the Gran Bahio Príncipe Resort for the next three nights – or so we thought.
Returning from our Chichén Itzá excursion we received a text message from the U.S. State Department recommending that “Americans return home – or be prepared stay abroad indefinitely.” We were very thankful that we had the foresight to not make reservations for all 12 nights of our intended vacation because they would’ve been non refundable.
The next morning we had news that out return flight (still 6 days in the future) had been canceled and that Southwest Airlines was suspending all international flights. Their last scheduled flight out was in two days!
California’s Pacific Coast Highway this is not. Traveling south over the very flat terrain of the Yucatán Peninsula there are no ocean views, but billboards advertising adventure parks and resorts are abundant. Also hard to miss are the grandiose gated entrances to luxury resorts that guard the privacy of the rich and famous. They make you feel either like a million bucks – or poor and excluded.
We did not feel like a million bucks as we pulled our suitcases behind us and crossed the highway to a less assuming and unmarked gated entrance. The colectivo (the local inexpensive bus service) had just dropped us off on the side of highway at South Akumal. We assured the guard someone from Reception was coming to pick us up. He probably didn’t know what to make of “these poor creatures” who traveled by colectivo instead of private car or taxi.
Waiting for our ride, we witnessed workers departing the grounds on foot or by bicycle, each one opening their personal bags to be examined by the guard. The guard informed us that we had arrived at the “auxiliary entrance” – the workers’ entrance.
No restaurants, but we didn’t go hungry. Prior to arriving we had stopped at a fruit stand to purchase a papaya, mangos, and an avocado. We met a family at the pool who were leaving in the morning and gifted us a bag of groceries including a brand new bag of tortilla chips to go with our avocado!
Mexico has long been a popular Spring Break destination. The place was busy, but we don’t know if the size of the crowds were normal or smaller than usual. Many of the tourists were from Europe and other Spanish speaking countries. We heard talk that the coronavirus was beginning to affect Mexico, that business was slowing down and cruise ship ports closed. I believe the pandemic will cause many Mexican families financial hardships.
The Cost of Travel for one week: Costa Maya, Mexico
I share our cost of travel not for bragging rights, but to encourage travel and help others with budgeting their travels. Our transparency in sharing our actual expenses is to demonstrate the affordability of travel. One can always spend more or less.
$1398.69 for 7 nights/8 days = $174.84 a day including airfare.
- Airfare: $178.10 (for taxes on Southwest flights that were paid with 35,568 points.)
- Accommodations: $739.29 = $106.61/night
- Transportation: $125.57 = $15.70/day (includes airport transfers, taxis, buses, and tips, but not flights.)
- Entertainment: $186.97 = $23.37/day (includes 4 1-hour massages, Chichén Itzá excursión, tips.)
- Food: $177.75 = 22.22/day (includes all coffees, snacks, meals, and gratuities.)
We are home and are grounded! That is to say, the day we arrived home Oregon’s Governor issued Executive Order 20-12 ordering people to stay home. We survived the flights with no illness. May life, work and travel return to normalcy soon!