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About My Trips to Mexico

Mexico has completely captured my heart! Cancun’s beaches were the first to draw me in, but my adventures have taken me far beyond the turquoise waters. Tulum and Chichen Itza’s ancient ruins whispered stories of the Mayan civilization, while Isla Mujeres offered a charming island escape. Venturing further south, I wandered the colonial streets of Villahermosa, soaking up the rich culture. But my trip wasn’t all about cities – conquering the Chichonal Volcano was an experience I’ll never forget.

The best part about Mexico? There’s still so much left to explore. From the vibrant markets of Oaxaca to the surreal rock formations of Copper Canyon, my Mexico bucket list keeps growing. One thing’s for sure – I’ll be back for another adventure soon, ready to uncover more of this fascinating country’s hidden gems.

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Joining Jungla Experience for their Chichonal Volcano trek was one of the most difficult hikes of my life. The unrelenting heat and steep inclines had me reaching for my water bottle like a lifeline. There were times I thought I’d run dry, but luckily, our guide, Ramon Rodriguez, knew exactly when to call for rest stops and had plenty of extra water. Despite the challenge, the camaraderie and Ramon’s interesting tidbits about the volcano’s history kept my spirits high.

Finally, after what felt like forever, we summited the crater rim. The view was absolutely breathtaking! We spent a good chunk of time exploring and capturing the panoramic vista before slowly making our way down, forever marked by this unforgettable conquest.

The climb up Chichonal Volcano with La Jungla Tours was no walk in the park. Sure, the tour advertised it as “medium difficulty,” but let’s just say my definition differs. Those 11 kilometers felt relentless, and the 600-meter elevation gain had my legs burning. I even took a tumble at one point, and managed to get a little lost (thankfully not for long!)

Dehydration almost got the best of me too, even though I swear I drank five liters of water! I ended up being the last one back to basecamp, but hey, nobody said it would be easy, right? The view from the summit, though? Absolutely breathtaking, worth every drop of sweat and wrong turn. And seeing the smiles and claps from the rest of the group at basecamp – that made the whole experience unforgettable. Yeah, today, I was definitely “that guy” on the tour, but you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I took a tour of the Mayan Ruins of Palenque from Villahermosa. My guide was Ramon Rodriguez from Jungla Experience, just like the guide I had on my hike up the volcano! The ruins were part of a Mayan city that was abandoned in 799 AD.

Our tour included the Temple of the Inscriptions, the Temple of the Skull, the Tomb of the Red Queen, and the Palace. The Temple of the Inscriptions is where the tomb of Pacal the Great was found, and the Palace was his residence, which had a sophisticated air conditioning system and an aqueduct that supplied fresh water, which must have been amazing for such an old building.

Palenque was amazing, but wow, that Chiapas heat! Just like my volcano climb, the weather was a test. My guide said it’s a two-season place: hot and very hot. Luckily, they had the perfect solution – a cool-down mission to Misol Ha Waterfall!

Misol Ha was about 40 minutes from the ruins, and let me tell you, that refreshing plunge into the pool at the base of the falls was pure bliss. If you ever visit Palenque, take my advice – factor in a post-exploration chill session at Misol Ha.

Cuidad de Mexico

My trip to Buenos Aires started with a flight from Chicago O’Hare to Mexico City on AeroMexico. Finding a decent review for this specific leg was a challenge, so I figured I’d write one myself.

The plane was a Boeing 737-800, with fancy, comfy Premier Class seats in the first few rows, followed by a smaller AM Plus section (which is what I ended up with), and then the regular main cabin. Originally, I snagged an exit row seat for that extra legroom, but when I saw it had a middle seat taker, I panicked! Luckily, AM Plus had an open middle seat in row 8, so I upgraded for $28. My master plan was to snag some extra space by hoping the middle seat stayed empty.

Of course, that didn’t fly (pun intended). The flight ended up packed, and yep, someone filled the middle seat. The extra legroom of the AM Plus wasn’t bad, but I probably should have stayed in the exit row.

Quintana Roo

Cancun’s Hotel Zone was my playground for a few days in December, both 2020 and 2021. Staying right between the sparkling Caribbean Sea and the Nichupte Lagoon – prime location, let me tell you! Of course, the beaches were the main draw – who can resist the Caribbean? But the Hotel Zone surprised me with how much more it had to offer.

Now, it’s definitely a tourist hotspot, so be prepared for folks trying to sell you everything from souvenirs to tours to rides. After a while, it can get a little much. My trick? A polite “No quiero, gracias” (no thanks) followed by a friendly “Feliz Navidad” (Merry Christmas) or “Feliz Año Nuevo” (Happy New Year) depending on the season. Usually, a smile and an “Igualmente” (you too) came back my way, which was nice.

Money-wise, both pesos and US dollars worked, but I found using pesos was the better deal. Safety wasn’t a concern – I felt secure even walking around at night. Basic precautions like keeping my wallet zipped and camera strapped helped too.

Speaking of exploring, I bounced between two hotels and hit five different beaches during my stay. The whole Hotel Zone is walkable if you’re feeling ambitious, but at 22.5 kilometers, I opted for taxis. They were a lifesaver for my feet! All in all, the Hotel Zone was a great jumping-off point for my Cancun adventures, offering a mix of relaxation, exploration, and that awesome Caribbean vibe.

Cancun’s cenotes were calling my name during my trip – turns out there are hundreds of these fascinating sinkholes around! This webpage was like a guide to the coolest ones, and I ended up hitting three that totally blew me away.

Cenotes are these natural pools formed when limestone caves collapse, exposing crystal-clear groundwater. Apparently, they’re all over the Yucatan Peninsula, not just Cancun. The Mayans even considered them sacred, using them for everything from freshwater to religious ceremonies. Fun fact – the amazing acoustics at the Temple of Kukulkan in Chichen Itza? That’s thanks to a cenote it’s built on!

The coolest part? They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are so deep you need scuba gear, while others are shallow enough to just wade right in. Definitely going to try and explore more on my next trip!

Mother Nature threw a curveball at my Cancun trip – a blizzard threatened the Twin Cities on my departure day! Since my hotel was booked solid, I scrambled to find a place to stay for an extra night. Luckily, came to the rescue with a killer deal on a premium room at the Krystal Grand Cancun. For just $130, I scored a king room with a view – not a bad way to spend a weather delay!

The Krystal Grand Cancun wasn’t just a room (although that king bed was pretty dreamy). The place had its own beach and multiple pools, basically an all-inclusive paradise. They even offered an all-inclusive package for an extra $100, but I opted to explore the local eats.

Safety during COVID was a big deal for me, and the Krystal Grand was on top of it. Temperature checks, hand sanitizing stations, and shoe disinfecting were all part of the check-in process. The design of the hotel was pretty cool too – open-air hallways wrapped around a central rotunda, with all the rooms opening up to it. The view from the inside was almost as stunning as the one from my balcony!

Cancun hotel hopping was on the agenda for my trip, and for the glitzy Hotel Zone, I decided to check out the Canopy by Hilton, Cancun. As a Hilton Honors Gold Member (score!), I get perks like free upgrades, which came in handy. Plus, using my Hilton points brought the price way down – essential in the pricier Hotel Zone. 

The hotel itself didn’t have direct beach access, but there were public beaches nearby, no biggie. Being brand new (just a few months old when I visited), it had that fresh, modern feel that I loved. In the end, it was a perfect combo of using my points, getting a great room, and staying in a trendy spot. Win-win! For two nights, it cost me $47 plus 102,000 Hilton points – way cheaper than the over $650 it would have been without points!

The Mayan Ruins of Tulum were definitely a highlight of my Cancun trip. This ancient city, built right within its own walls, was like stepping back in time. Apparently, it was one of the last the Mayans built, and they lived there from around 1200 to 1400 AD. Sadly, the Spanish arrived and brought disease, leading to the city’s abandonment just 70 years later.

The restoration of Tulum began in 1913 and really took off in the 60s. Here’s a cool fact – during this process, they even found a skull in an underwater cave that dates way back to 7000 BC! That means people were living in this area long before the Mayans even showed up. And guess what? The work on uncovering and restoring Tulum is still ongoing today. 

Cancun is great, but Isla Mujeres stole a piece of my heart on this trip. This tiny island is a must-visit, whether you just want a day trip or a longer escape. I opted to spend two days soaking it all in.

Isla Mujeres has a rich history that stretches all the way back to 546 AD, when it was part of the Mayan Empire. Fast forward to the 16th century, the Spanish débarqued and named it “Isla Mujeres” (Island of Women) because of all the Mayan goddess statues they found. Apparently, pirates even hung out here in the 1800s – intriguing, right? Finally, around 1970, Isla Mujeres transformed into a tourist destination for Cancun visitors.

Today, it’s a vibrant mix of locals, seasonal workers, vacationers, and tourists all sharing this little slice of paradise. Such a cool vibe!

Cruised around the entire perimeter of Isla Mujeres on this trip – talk about an island tour! The whole island is only about 15 kilometers around, so it was perfect for a scenic golf cart adventure.

Golf carts are king when it comes to getting around Isla Mujeres, and that’s exactly what I rented. To capture the whole experience, I mounted my GoPro Hero 9 on the cart – set to ultra-speed, of course, because who wants a slow-mo island tour? It was a fun way to see everything and get a feel for the island’s vibe. Definitely recommend it if you’re ever there!

Isla Mujeres’ Punta Sur is known for its dramatic scenery, not its swimming. Unlike the calm waters of Playa Norte and Playa Centro, Punta Sur was all wild waves crashing against rocky shores. It was definitely picturesque, like something out of a postcard, but way too rough to even think about jumping in. 

The entrance fee was only 30 pesos (about $3), so I figured I’d check it out. There were these lower paths that followed the shoreline, perfect for exploring. Just a heads up – the rocks can be a little slippery, so watch your step

Isla Mujeres adventure time! This video captured my whole Ultramar Ferry experience from Puerto Juarez, GoPro rolling the entire time.

We started with me hopping out of the taxi, then it was ticket purchase time. Next up, the queue – gotta wait your turn, right? Finally, boarding the ferry and finding my seat. The actual journey to Isla Mujeres is sped up to 30 times (because, well, who wants to watch a slow ferry ride?), but you get the idea. The video wrapped up with me disembarking and leaving the terminal. A handy little guide for anyone who wants to follow in my footsteps!

Isla Mujeres beaches – what a dream! This video took me to the two most famous ones: Playa Norte and Playa Centro. Both had that gorgeous white sand you expect in the Caribbean, and the water was super shallow, perfect for wading out as far as you wanted.

I even spotted some party boats out there in the distance – looks like the fun follows you wherever you go on this island! The video showed me walking the shorelines of both beaches, and even included a pit stop at a restaurant for some food before taking a dip. Definitely a good call to refuel before hitting the crystal-clear water!


Since I love checking out lesser-known airlines, my flight from Cancun to Villahermosa on Aeromar was right up my alley. Aeromar’s a Mexican airline that uses ATR turboprop planes, and to my surprise, they fly both within Mexico and internationally, including a flight to Havana, Cuba which was also checking in at the same time as my flight.

The price for the Cancun-Villahermosa trip was just over $130, and I splurged for the premium ticket. This gave me a checked bag, and a carry-on, and even let me pick my seat – not bad for the price! This flight was all about trying out a new airline, so I figured I’d document the experience for everyone else who likes to fly off the beaten path.

On my December 2021 trip to Mexico, I had my heart set on visiting Villahermosa. Flying straight there from Minneapolis wasn’t exactly budget-friendly, so I decided to get creative. First, I snagged a flight to Cancun, then booked a separate ticket to Villahermosa on Aeromar (which I reviewed separately).

For the return trip, I wanted to experience one of Mexico’s budget airlines: Viva Aerobus. Since there were only two direct flights from Villahermosa to Cancun, and I’d already flown on Aeromar, Viva Aerobus was a perfect choice! The ticket itself was crazy affordable – only $89! But, remember, Viva Aerobus is a budget airline, so extras like a carry-on bag, checked luggage, and seat selection all cost extra.


Chichen Itza, an ancient Mayan city that was once the empire’s heart, stole the show on my Cancun trip. Built practically in the center of the Americas, this city thrived from 600 AD to around 950 AD before a drought forced its abandonment. The Mayans themselves were a captivating civilization. Short in stature and without facial hair, they focused on astronomy and inventions, even creating the most accurate calendar ever and the concept of zero. Their beliefs were unique – they worshipped nature, believed the world was flat on turtles at first, and practiced human sacrifice (with volunteers!).

Visiting Chichen Itza was a history buff’s dream. The impressive buildings, like the Kukulcan temple (meaning “feathered serpent”), spoke volumes about their culture. Learning that “Cancun” itself means “snake’s nest” was another fascinating tidbit. This trip was an amazing introduction to the Mayans, leaving me wanting to delve deeper.

If you’re ever in Cancun, don’t miss Chichen Itza. It’s a must-visit for anyone interested in history, ancient civilizations, or just exploring a truly unique place.