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Winter Getaway: Cancun Travel Guide

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Our first glimpse of the ocean right when we arrived at Playa Mujeres! 

Happy almost Friday! Wahoo!

We’re just getting settled and back in the swing of things from our Mexico trip! I spent all day editing my photos hiding in a coffee shop from the chilly rain. (WAH!) But all good things must come to an end, right? At least the high here was in the forties–it would’ve been really cruel coming back to typical Chicago January weather! 😛

Because I’m still trying to hold onto our beachy vacation a little longer, I was excited to get to work on this post! I’ve honestly never taken a warm-weather vacation in the dead of January before–I had no idea what I was missing!

I’ve been to Mexico several times in my younger years, but never to Cancun. Honestly, I’ve kind of always viewed Cancun as the place where college kids go on spring break. (Blame it on watching too much “MTV Spring Break” in high school.)



That could not have been further from the truth, and in fact, I thought Cancun was the most beautiful part of Mexico I’ve ever been to! (Because it’s on the East coast, where the waters are the gorgeous Gulf of Mexico blue, vs the cold, dark Pacific ocean on the West!)

So, if you’re looking for a warm weather getaway this winter, and you’re not sure where to go–CANCUN all the way. Read on below for everything you need to know about booking the perfect winter getaway!

Getting There

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Secrets Resorts Playa Mujeres-First arrival!

This is our “OMG ARE WE SERIOUSLY HERE RIGHT NOW?!” face

We worked through Apple Vacations, the tour operator who pulled all of the details of the trip together. I honestly don’t have a lot of experience working with tour operators or travel agencies–with so many deals available on the internet, I never really considered using one!

However, booking with a company like this is an awesome idea when you’re looking to do an all-inclusive trip out of the country. Apple is very well-known for all-inclusive destinations–Cancun being one of their mainstays–as they have a lot of local partnerships and can offer awesome deals on direct flights, free upgrades not available to other travelers, and the ease of booking all your activities from one spot!

A couple of things to note when traveling to/from Cancun: 

  • You may find that the budget airlines like Frontier/Spirit/Etc offer the best fares to Cancun. If you’re from Chicago and traveling from O’Hare, know that you likely will NOT be flying out of the International terminal. (Which doesn’t make a lot of sense, because, you know. Travel to Mexico should be considered international?) Make sure to triple check before you leave so you don’t get stranded in the wrong terminal.
  •  When you land in Cancun, you’ll have to fill out a customs form, which is pretty standard, but you’ll be given a perforated section of the bottom to keep for your return. Do NOT lose this form–it will make things very complicated, and you’ll have to pay $50 for a new one.
  • Gates will not be announced until about 30 minutes before boarding. Keep this in mind and don’t panic. If you can’t find your gate, ask any airport attendee. We found that pretty much everyone speaks english and is very friendly and eager to help.

Getting to and from the airport:

Our airport transportation was through Amstar, a company which offers both airport transfer services and various guided tours and activities around Cancun, and tons of other tropical destinations in Mexico and beyond. (Another plus–airport transfers are included for free when you book through Apple!) Instead of having to wait in line for a cab, we went straight outside and were met by our Amstar driver. (You can even request a round of Coronas upon arrival for a few extra bucks. Yessss!)

Our drivers were seriously awesome, and when we departed, we were greeted and walked straight up to the front of the line to check in. (We bypassed what must have been a 20 minute line!) Honestly, I’m not sure if this was just because our Amstar friend, Pablo, had connections or what, but it was AWESOME. Then he walked us all the way to security and made sure we knew how to find our gate.

The Resort: Secrets Resorts Playa Mujeres

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The gorgeous view of the pool Secrets-Resorts-Playa-Mujeres-Spa-Review
Rooms were complete with plush, comfy robes, which obviously I lived in for four days 

If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you already know that we stayed at Secrets Resorts’ Secrets Playa Mujeres on our trip! Upon getting out of our airport shuttle, we were given cold towels and a glass of champagne–from that point on through the next four days, we were pretty much on cloud nine!

The resort is the newest of all the Secrets in Cancun, and has five upscale restaurants–from Italian to French, Sushi and Hibachi, fresh seafood, and of course–Mexican! It also features two grills, three bars, a buffet, and a coffee shop. One restaurant stays open late into the night, and room service is 24 hours! Our favorite restaurant was “Oceana”–which looked right onto the beach! Neal also loved the cigar shop (they also have a cigar rolling class on Tuesday nights, which he was really we missed!)

Speaking of dinner–one quick note if you decide to visit the resort–make sure you pack with the dress code for several of the restaurants in mind. I’d call it “dressy casual”–for dinner, men are required to wear pants (they don’t have to be dress pants–khakis or linen pants are fine), a collared shirt, and close toed shoes (aka not flip flops or sneakers) and for women–dresses, skirts, blouses, or dressy shorts. (No cutoff jean shorts, flip flops, or tee shirts). Essentially, dress as if you were going out to a relatively nice dinner at home.

Another thing we loved at the resort was the staff–they were all incredible. Our expectations with the service here were far exceeded. We made friends with several staff members, who even went out of their way to find us to say goodbye before we left! (In fact, sadly, Neal had to leave a day early to get home for a meeting, and several people stopped me and asked where he was!)

Also, for those who don’t know a lick of Spanish–you have absolutely nothing to worry about here. We encountered zero language barrier. (Everyone was also very patient when we tried to practice our Spanish, haha!)

If you’re like me, you like to know what makes a place special. (Why should you stay at option A vs. option B.?)

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Our fancy canopy bed made me feel like a princess! 

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Neal’s fresh ceviche at our favorite spot, Oceana 

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The balcony view from our room 

Based on what I’ve learned and experienced first hand, here is what makes Secrets Playa Mujeres a bit different than the other resorts in town:

  • It’s not in the “hotel zone”–so it’s more secluded and a bit further away from downtown Cancun. The best part about this is that the beach isn’t swarming with people.
  • Secrets Playa Mujeres is adults-only, so if you’re looking for a getaway with no risk of splashing or crying little ones–this is the place, for sure.
  • Secrets Playa Mujeres is known for great golfing, complete with an 18 hole golf course–which is pretty unique to resorts in Cancun.
  • The only neighboring hotel is Dreams Playa Mujeres (which is family friendly!)–those staying at Secrets Playa Mujeres resort also get access to all of the Dreams Playa Mujeres restaurants and bars.
  • No wristbands in sight–(which reminds me of my college days, haha!) You’ll never have to wear a wristband in the resort. They simply ask for your name and room number.
  • Tons of activities–each day and night, they have different activities going on in several different areas of the resort–more on that below!
  • Insanely clean. Like, I’ve never seen anything like it. The whole resort is outdoors (obviously) and several times I witnessed employees mopping the ground. (Yes, they mop the WHOLE outdoor resort. Even the concrete.) There are never leftover room service plates outside of rooms, not even dirt in the corners of the outdoor hallway on the way to the rooms. It was all pristine.
  • Every room gets a balcony or private terrace. You’ll never be stuck with a bad view!
  • The mini bar comes with a mini fridge stocked with mini Coronas and Mexican cokes, and is also all-inclusive. (Is it so weird that I got SO EXCITED about that?!) Our room also had it’s own Nespresso machine, which we loved!

Overall, I’d say if you’re looking for something very relaxing, upscale, with lot’s of dining and activity options and incredible service, you will really fall in love with this resort.

Things to do:

Secrets Resorts Playa Mujeres Spa:

On the second day we were there, the weather got a little stormy in the afternoon, which was the perfect excuse to hit the spa. The spa area was wonderful–again, pristinely clean and upscale.

We both did the “Hydrotherapy” spa treatment (if you happen to upgrade your stay at all, you get this service included). It consisted of rotating stations of different treatments–first a sauna, then into the steam room, a plunge in the ice pool (EEEP!), soak in the jacuzzi, and then a swim in a pool with all kinds of jets, waterfalls, and the like! They also bring you cool chlorophyll water in between treatments, which was SO good and such a detox. Afterwords, we were totally recovered from the several margaritas we’d had the night before, and ready for another night!

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Enjoying the waterfalls, showers and jets in the Hydrotherapy spa pool! 

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The view from the spa’s Hydrotherapy pools–how cool are those trees? 

Resort Activities: 

From yoga classes to special event viewing parties, “Secrets Resorts Idol” (yes, you guessed it–a singing competition, haha!), cigar rolling classes, dance lessons, you name it–there’s always something interesting to check out. The below photo was snapped before attending the Secrets Golden Globes viewing party! It was an awesome buffet (Neal beelined straight for the raw bar and came back with a plate full of huge crab legs, haha!) and they had huge screens showing the awards! You may have also seen the premier of their super steamy commercial if you were also tuning in 😉

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Headed to the Secrets Golden Globes party! 

Guided excursions: 

There are so many activities to check out around Cancun! There is also a ton of history–for example, the Mayan pyramids which are about 2.5 hours away from the city. Some of those on our media trip decided to take the Chichen Itza tour to scope them out and had amazing things to say!

Amstar offers a ton of different activities and tours–had we had more time, I really would’ve liked to do the boat cruise to Isla Mujeres–an Island just a few miles off of Cancun’s coast that is supposed to be breathtaking. I’ve also always wanted to swim with dolphins!

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Cabana dining at the Seaside Grill. (How cool are those light fixtures!?) Secrets-Resorts-Secrets-Playa-Mujeres-Beach-View

Overall, we can’t say enough wonderful things about this entire trip! We’re seriously considering going back here for our honeymoon. Still going through withdrawals! Agh!

Stay tuned for outfit posts from Mexico, coming soon!

Our trip to Cancun was provided in-kind, in exchange for an honest travel review, but all opinions are 100% our own. A huge, huge thanks to Secrets Resorts Playa Mujeres, Apple Vacations, and Amstar for giving us an experience of a lifetime. We will be back!