By Celece Seegmiller, for The Spectrum Newspaper/September 6, 2011
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to take my daughter Ashlie on a vacation following graduation. It was my way of rewarding her for all of the effort it took to graduate from Dixie High School and receive her Associate of Science degree from Dixie State College simultaneously. When I asked Ashlie where she wanted to go, her first response was Australia. Although Australia is a destination on the top of my bucket list, I knew it would not be feasible this year. So I started researching, informed Ashlie her trip would be a surprise, and sent her straight to the passport office.
A few weeks later, I found a great offer to Cancun for a week. I wrote an article a few months prior regarding safety and tourism in Cancun and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to check it out for myself. I have traveled to Cancun several times throughout my life, but had not been back since 2006 and I knew there were still many great attractions waiting to be discovered.
When Ashlie’s passport arrived, I wrapped it up and presented her travel documents to Cancun on the night of graduation. She was elated! I am sure she had typical visions from MTV Spring Break of college students partying on beautiful beaches and dancing all night long in the clubs, but I was determined to show her a different side of Cancun. We left on May 28th and the convenience of flying from our beautiful new airport in St. George and avoiding the drive to Las Vegas was wonderful. It was a simple flight to Salt Lake City, a 45 minute connection and then a non-stop flight to Cancun. In under 6 hours, we arrived in paradise!
Upon arrival, I could not help but notice the increased security at the airport and the swift operation of transferring us to our hotel. We were greeted by our friendly transportation company as soon as we cleared customs, and escorted to our van within minutes. We even had to show identification as registered guests in order to proceed into the hotel parking lot. This procedure was much different than my previous visits.
We checked into the lovely Fiesta Americana Condesa hotel, located in the southern portion of the hotel zone. I stayed at the re
sort ten years ago and it has always been one of my favorites. The hotel captures the spirit of Mexico with the open air lobby and rooms that overlook the white sandy beaches and stunning turquoise water of the Caribbean. The hotel has undergone renovation since my last stay, but the friendly service and delicious food remained the same. The property is now all-inclusive, meaning all of our food and beverages were included in our package price. This is a great value, especially with my daily trips to Cevichería for some the best fresh fish tacos, guacamole, salsa and ceviche I have ever had the pleasure of encountering. I can’t forget to mention the grilled bananas, served with warm caramel sauce and coconut ice cream! Cevicheria is a delight to all of the senses as it is set in an open-air palapa, surrounded by sapphire blue swimming pools, waves crashing on the beach, and rhythms from the live Mariachi band playing in the background. Now that is what I like to call atmosphere! The hotel features four other restaurants offering everything from American to Italian, all of which are “delicioso!”
As much as I would have loved to have stayed in my favorite beachside lounge chair soaking in the sun with a good book, Bob Marley playing on my iPod, and my attentive waiter catering to my every need, I decided to take Ashlie on a few excursions. Even though I could not give Ashlie the Great Barrier Reef, I could give her the Great Mayan Reef. The reef is the largest in the Western Hemisphere stretching 420 miles from the Yucatan Peninsula to Honduras and features over 3000 species of flora and fauna. We departed for a snorkeling excursion in the town of Puerto Morales, a charming fishing village just a short drive from Cancun. We encountered colorful coral, stingrays, starfish, and barracuda. After four hours of snorkeling, we enjoyed lunch at a beachside restaurant where we dined on fresh fish, caught earlier that day. It does not get much better than that!
There are many so many sights and excursions to choose from in Cancun, it’s often hard to make a decision and I have been very fortunate to experience almost all of them. Some of the most popular activities include the awe-inspiring Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum; Xel Ha and Xcaret eco adventure parks; sailing on catamarans; swimming with dolphins; ziplines; scuba diving; snorkeling; parasailing; jetskiing; and more. There was a new tour that really caught our eye with a company called Alltournative. We spent a full day on the Coba Mayan Encounter, a tour that included a hike, rappelling into a Cenote (an exposed sinkhole containing water); zip lining through the Mayan Jungle; a canoe ride, and climbing 120 steps to the top of the Nohoch Mul pyramid at Coba. It was definitely a day full of adventure and a great way to explore the Mayan culture.
I have traveled to many destinations throughout my career and Cancun will always be one of my favorite vacations. It is incredibly beautiful, but the people, their service, and genuine hospitality continue to exceed my expectations. From the friendly entertainment staff at the hotel, to the Mayan Medicine Man who performed our “cleansing”, we enjoyed learning about the Mexican culture. During our hike in the middle of the Mayan jungle, we found beautiful ladies sitting around an open fire making fresh tortillas and empanadas – the best we have ever tasted! At Coba, we encountered a delightful ten year old businesswoman named Andrea with a huge smile that melted our hearts. She greeted our tour group with homemade cookies and coconut milk popsicles. We enjoyed listening to the traditional mariachi band, watching the beautiful dancers, and learning the Mayan language from cultural lessons at our hotel. Everywhere we went, the locals were eager to share their history and traditions with us.
Since my return, I have had many questions about safety and how I felt traveling alone with my 18 year old daughter to Mexico. I can sum it up by saying that there are cities within the United States where I have felt very unsafe. I felt completely comfortable throughout my vacation and I am happy to report that Cancun is making every attempt to make their guests feel safe and secure. I would not hesitate to return or suggest it to our customers. I know I can’t wait to go back!