Swimming In Underground Caverns

Valladolid is Just 2 Hours From Cancun but a Separate World

I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go to celebrate the New Year, but I knew I had to go somewhere. Then, when I saw a friend’s Instagram post about these cool sunken caves with pools in Mexico, I suddenly knew where I was headed. These “cenotes” are natural pits, or sinkholes, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. Basically, they make for an awesome place to swim and escape the hot sun of Mexico.

Doing my research, I found that a large number of these cenotes can be found in Yucatan, Mexico, which is also conveniently where Chichén Itzá is located. Chichén Itzá is one of the “7 Modern Wonders of the World”, and so visiting here would also bring me closer to my goal of completing a visit to all 7 of these Wonders by 2018. Clearly this trip was destined to happen, so I started booking my trip about 2 weeks before New Years.

I was able to schedule a 6 day trip roundtrip on Southwest using Rapid Rewards points and just about $50 in fees. The total points spent was not bad at all for a roundtrip flight over the New Years holiday on short notice. I also managed to get a room in Cancun at the IHG Presidente for just 30,000 IHG points a night. With my IHG status, I was also upgraded to a top floor ocean-view room with a balcony and treated to complimentary champagne. I covered that amount just by using up a stockpile of points from the Priceless Surprises promotion last year. You can also earn 80,000 points just from the sign-up bonus with the Chase IHG credit card! Not bad for a room that would have cost close to $750 a night.

IHG Hotel Presidente Balcony

This was the view from the bed – Not a bad way to start the day

While the beaches and sunshine were amazing in Cancun, I wasn’t there to party with the drunken college crowd, so I was anxious to go further inland to Valladolid. There I booked a bed at the well-reviewed Hostel La CandelariaWhile I was there I was able to spend New Years Eve dancing late into the night and well into the morning with a wonderful mix of fellow travelers and friendly locals in the Town Square. 

I soon visited my first cenote – Cenote Zaci which is located right in the town of Valladolid, just a few blocks away from the hostel. Here you can jump into the cenote from platforms ranging in height from 5 to 30 feet. This isn’t for the faint of heart, but the thrill is well worth the leap!

Just a short 3 1/2 kilometers from town were two more cenotes to visit. You can get to these two cenotes by shared cab, but I chose to get some good exercise and rented a bike. There is a dirt path that runs along the highway to the cenotes, and the trip takes just about 30 minutes on the rickety bike that I rented from a hostel in town. ($3.50 to rent for the day)

Cenote Xcanche

Look forward to more details about my trip to Valladolid, Chichén Itzá, and the cenotes in later follow-up posts!

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