The summer was coming to a close, and my intern friends and I wanted to pick one last destination to fly to. I spent my weekends spent all over the place—from Puerto Rico to San Diego, from New Mexico to St. Maarten. But as a final group trip, we really wanted to visit another tropical destination.
We chose Cancun as it was an easy, four-hour flight, and we wanted the all-inclusive experience, which I had never done before. It sounded more than ideal to pay an upfront cost and to have all meals, lodging, and amenities included. If you’re on a time crunch and on a budget, you can totally manage to enjoy the craze of Cancun in its entirety! Here is a breakdown of everything we did during our epic final adventure.
Itinerary at a glance
Saturday, August 10th
- JFK – CUN 7:20AM-11:38AM
- Day 1 Resort
- Dinner at Porfirio’s
Sunday, August 11th
- Day 2 Resort
- CUN – JFK 1:00PM – 4:40PM
Picking an all-inclusive resort can be overwhelming, especially in a place such as Cancun that is known for its endless amenities. In fact, Cancun has (& what is formally known as) “The Hotel Zone,” which is the strip of land that spans for miles of hotels and resorts on end. Realistically, we were only going to be spending one night in a resort, so we wanted to make sure that this resort was safe and had all of the amenities we needed at a fair price. We settled on the Occidental Costa Cancun, a 4-star hotel located 30 minutes fom the airport. In the end, the rates were super fair. There were four of us on this trip, so we split a room with two double beds. Each of us paid $130, which felt extremely justified as it included unlimited meals and drinks, access to the beach and pools, entertainment, and more.
The hotel itself was very clean and had a fun, tropical vibe to it. There was a nice mix of families, couples, and young travelers, such as my group. While we opted for the cheapest room, there were definitely options to upgrade for a more luxury experience. We arrived at the Occidental a couple hours earlier than check-in, but the staff were very accommodating and allowed us to store our bags upfront until our room was ready. We visited the first bar, which was located next to the check-in counter, and celebrated with a delicious piña colada. As a general note, I would make sure to bring some sort of cash (can be USD) with you, as the employees are very friendly and deserve tips for providing excellent service!
Next, we changed into our bathing suits and spent the next couple of hours at the beach. There was a beachside bar, and plenty of chairs and towels available. The beach itself was relaxing and picturesque, with stretches of white sand and turquoise water. However, we did notice that there were patches of brown seaweed in the water. Apparently, this happens in Cancun during “sargassum season,” which runs from April to August. Depending on the type of day, the seaweed wasn’t too bothersome, as resort employees did attempt to clean it up periodically. This is just a heads up if you will be traveling to Cancun during these months! Again, I wasn’t too affected by it, but I did prefer being in the water in Puerto Rico and St. Maarten for this reason.
While our room was eventually ready, we wanted to spend as much time in the sun as possible. Once the sun started to set, we headed back to the room where we quickly showered and decided to make our next move. The dinner tonight at the resort was barbecue-style. However, one of my friends is vegetarian, and she asked if we would be willing to leave the resort and have dinner somewhere else instead. We were all down to explore more of Cancun than just the resort, so we took a very cheap Uber to the restaurant called Porfirio’s.
I assumed we were going to a no-frills Mexican restaurant with cheap eats, so my hair was still soaking wet from my shower, and I was wearing my college t-shirt and athletic shorts. When we got dropped off at the restaurant, I immediately knew that I made a mistake. The restaurant was gorgeous, with beautiful dimmed light fixtures and glass tables. We had a table outside looking over the water, which was even more stunning than the interior. There were about ten different waiters waiting to serve us. I wished that I had known how fancy the restaurant was going to be, or I wouldn’t have shown up in what I was wearing!
After living in New York City all summer, I was nervous at how expensive dinner was going to be. The menu at Porfirio’s was extremely vast and was entirely in pesos. But after doing some calculations, the dishes were surprisingly inexpensive. I ordered a margarita and a squid dish, which were delicious AND under $20 total. For how classy and elegant the restaurant was, I was more than ecstatic that we were able to dine on a budget. It was a phenomenal experience as we watched the sun set, and we had about eight waiters tend to us the entire night.
During our car ride back to the resort, we passed by a ton of nightlife and shopping areas. Although we didn’t have time to experience anything else while we were in Cancun, I could tell that these were popular areas for tourists.
Day 2 was more like a half-day, as our flight was at 1PM. We wanted to take advantage of all the resort had to offer, so we spent an early morning at the beach, eating at the restaurant at the resort and having a bite to eat later at the snack bar. The food at the resort was decent, and there were lots of great options to choose from. And soon enough, it was time to pack up all our belongings and head back to the airport.
Although our vacation was extremely short-lived, I had a great time in Cancun. I would definitely visit again, as the all-inclusive resorts made for quite an affordable tropical vacation. Next time, I would love to spend more days at the actual resort, but we were definitely able to get a quick taste of the Cancun life.