In This Post
The title of this post is one of my favorite sports references. To be specific, an NBA reference, popularized mostly by Charles Barkley, Kenny “The Jet” Smith, Shaquille “Shaq” O’Neal and Ernie Johnson on their Emmy award winning show “Inside the NBA” on TNT. Whenever a teams season is coming to an end, the guys will jokingly say, “One, Two, Three… Cancun.” It’s their way of saying let the vacation begin. I always find it hysterical. This post merges two things I’m passionate about together — NBA Basketball & Traveling.
Cancun offers all-inclusive resorts with multiple infinity pools, white sand beaches, chic bars, gourmet restaurants and the Caribbean Sea just steps away. I know this because I stayed at Sandos Cancun all-inclusive resort in June of 2019. After the first 5 months of 2020, don’t we all deserve an all-inclusive get away with infinity pools, Mai Tais, delicious tacos and the Caribbean Sea? That’s what made me think, now is the perfect time to tell you about my first experience in Cancun, Mexico and at an all-inclusive resort.
In Cancun, Zona Hotelera (Hotel Zone) is where you want to be. The lively Zona Hotelera area is home to all-inclusive resorts, international restaurants, tranquil sandy beaches and fun water activities. There are many resorts to choose from, but after researching many of them, I opted for Sandos Cancun all-Inclusive resort due to its reasonable price ($195 per night), favorable TripAdvisor ratings, selection of multiple restaurants and bars, and beautiful infinity pools.
I rented the King Superior room with ocean view. The room was spacious and clean, which is always important. My window beautifully overlooked the pools, outdoor restaurant & bar area — and had an amazing view of the beach and ocean.
I found the grounds of Sandos to be quite clean and aesthetically pleasing all around. From the moment I arrived, walked around, it felt like a place I could recharge at.
Zango was where I ate breakfast each morning. Zango allows you to begin each day in paradise with an impressive and luxurious spread at the breakfast buffet. As someone who cannot begin his day without breakfast, this was quite pleasing. There was a casual dress code — men had to have sleeves on their shirts and shoes were required. Additionally, no swimsuits or wet clothing were allowed. Zango was considered the main restaurant at Sandos Cancun — as the day progresses, the restaurant serves themed lunches and dinners of international specialties. I only ate breakfast here, but I enjoyed the spread each morning and no reservation was required.
Frattini’s provided an evening of contemporary Italian ambiance with traditional Italian dishes. However, the best part of the restaurant was its modern design that highlights the stunning Caribbean Sea views through its enormous windows. Frattini’s was only open for dinner (6-11pm) and it had a smart casual dress code. I wasn’t impressed with the food here and that was a slight letdown since I do love Italian food. I found it to be a bit bland, but could still be a great place for a romantic dinner. No reservation was required for dinner.
Gaijin was considered the crown jewel of the restaurants at Sandos Cancun. It did require a reservation and you needed to put your name on the list first thing in the morning if you wanted to eat there for dinner (6-11pm). Also, there was a smart casual dress code. Gaijin was very similar to what you would experience at Benihana, but a bit more intimate. The chef is cooking teppanyaki-style dinners (Japanese cuisine) live at the table you’re sitting at. He’s entertaining, performing tricks and keeping everyone engaged. I found it to be a great time and the food was delicious.
Seasons was an upscale steakhouse with elegant decor and floor-to-ceiling windows. Various cuts of steak is the primary focus, but Seasons also offered Mediterranean cuisine in various dishes and of course salads. I found the dessert here to be the best of the restaurants. Of course with the more upscale decor, you had to stick to the smart casual dress code — really wasn’t a big deal. Seasons only served dinner (6-11pm)
St. Trop was probably my favorite place because it was the outside restaurant. You could be swimming in the pools, laying out in the cabanas, or relaxing on the beach and get drinks (as many as you want), lunch and snacks. St. Trop served up awesome fish tacos, pizza, classic snacks and I can’t forget the Mai Tais — it’s fair to say I had my share. They were open from 11-5pm daily. If you wanted to eat inside the restaurant — you couldn’t have wet clothing. There is an awesome view of the ocean from anywhere in the small inside area of the restaurant.
Of course, I’m not wired to go on any vacation and just relax. I had to look for some excitement, fun activities I could get into. The great news was Sandos Cancun provides you options right at the hotel. At the towel stand out by the pools, there were a few employees selling package deals for activities. Some activities took place on the beach by the hotel and others took place at Aqua World — which was about a 15-minute walk from the hotel or a 5-minute bus ride which was $8.50 pesos (40 cents US) one way.
I purchased a package with 3 thrilling activities and a 4th for free — the package included Skyrider (Parasailing), Jungle Tour, where I was able to drive my very own boat through the jungle to a great location for snorkeling, Waverunner (Jet ski) and the free activity was Flowrider (surfing activity). There were about 20 activities to choose from, so you will definitely find something that interest you. The package total was $105 USD and I couldn’t have been more excited. I broke it up into 3 separate days — Day 1 Skyrider, Day 2 Jungle Tour & Waverunner, and Day 3 Flowrider.
I had never been parasailing in my life. I witnessed people partaking on the beach in front of the hotel and was highly intrigued. The process was unlike anything I had seen with relation to parasailing — you were sitting in a comfortable and reclined seat (fits 2) which is lifted from a platform on the back of boat up into the sky. You are sitting very high overlooking the beautiful clear Caribbean Sea and what feels like all of Cancun. The view was surreal — and those 15 minutes were some of the most thrilling of my life. If you are deathly afraid of heights, you will need to push through that fear to do this activity.
I had never driven a boat myself, so this was a major thrill for me. I needed to head to AquaWorld for today’s activities — once you’re there, you show your purchase sheet which indicates your activities and they’ll give you wristbands. From there, you may need to wait for others to arrive, and get your life vest before heading over to the boats. There the tour guide will demonstrate to everyone how to drive the boats and provides instructions for us all to follow. I was confident I would do fine — it helps knowing I can actually swim fairly good — some people were questionable in my group. It was such a rush driving the boat by myself and ending up in a great location about 10-15 minutes away from shore to snorkel. The guide provided all the necessary equipment. There were many other tours in the area, so lots of people and many boats — but you have about 30 minutes to snorkel and see some cool fishes. I loved it and I plan to do this again when I go back.
I had previously been on Jet Skis 2 times in my life — in Orange County, California & Bali, Indonesia. The last time in Bali, I was a bit skittish. The waves were fairly strong and I was unsure of how the jet ski would handle it. However, the guide that rode with me (I highly recommend riding on your own) did teach me a few tricks, so this time I was well prepared. I was a speed demon in Cancun. We had a certain area of the water we could ride in, but more than enough room to let your hair down on the jet ski. I made turns with confidence and handled myself like a pro — I can’t recommend this activity enough.
Although, I enjoy watching people surf — I wasn’t particularly interested in it myself. When I arrived, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but all the other activities had been great, so I kept an open mind. I was in a group with 2 other young teenagers — I thought for sure they were going to make me look bad. They provide you a body board and have you dive into flowing water and from there you have to perform the stand up method. It turns out, I can follow instructions pretty well — I was able to stand up on my board multiple times and lasted the longest of the group on my feet. I looked a bit stiff, but I ended up having a great time over the course of the hour.
Other Notable Activities
I chose to eat all my meals and have all my drinks at the hotel — that’s the reason I paid for an all-inclusive hotel. However, I did do a little shopping. There were 2 shopping plazas — Luxury Avenue (15 minute walk) and Fashion Harbor (25 minute walk) north of the hotel (you can walk on the beach or sidewalk of main street). You can also take the bus to either in under 10 minutes. At the Luxury Avenue, I found the Ray-Ban sunglasses I had been dying to purchase in Sunglass Hut, but 20% cheaper than in Los Angeles. The mall was mostly empty, but it had good selection of stores open. The Fashion Harbor is an outdoor mall and a bit more upscale. It has a giant ferris wheel outside the plaza.
On the beach, there are endless locals trying to sell you cigars, especially Cohiba Cuban cigars. I had no idea they sold those in Cancun — I had never had one, but was always curious about them. I wanted to experience something I’ve heard for years is one of the best cigars. However, I was leary of buying from the street vendors — there was no way to know if they were authentic. It seemed unlikely with the temperature being so hot and the sellers have the cigars out all day in the heat. All my worries went away when I spotted Mojitos Havana Cigar Club walking to Fashion Harbor, I quickly stopped in to see if they sold Cohibas.
I was in luck! This was an awesome cigar club that offered a bar to grab drinks, a sitting area with televisions to watch while you smoke cigars and of course a decent size humidor to hold their selection of cigars. In that selection were the Cohiba Cuban cigars I had been hoping to find. The owner explained to me that the vendors on the beach were definitely selling fake Cohibas. He noted the extreme heat and the way they are stored are the giveaways. I’ve tried cigars in the past and I do enjoy having them — however, if I smoke a cigar on an empty stomach it can cause me some stomach issues and even at times a mild headache. I need to make sure the conditions are right, but there was no way I was passing up a chance to try a Cohiba cigar. It turned out to be the best cigar I ever had. You are allowed to bring back as many as 100 cigars, so I wish I would of purchased a few additional Cubans, but I didn’t.
At this point, you’re probably wondering, did this guy relax at all? I promise you I did, but definitely not as much as I should have. Over the 3 days at Sandos Cancun, I swam more than I have in years. The pools are so alluring and the view while relaxing or having a drink at the edge of the pools were spectacular. This really was very relaxing for me — there were times when I was just alone with my thoughts while my mind drifted off into the blue sky.
I took my relaxation to another level when I came down to the pool area early morning (by 8:30am) to secure one of the cabanas near the pool closest to the beach or the pool on the second level, which was elevated and provided an awesome view of the outside area within Sandos — but also the beach area as people walked by. I would hang a towel from the beam at the top of the cabana to partially block the sun and I would lay there for hours people watching, reading a book, trying to nap (I’m not a great napper) and drinking Mai Tais and beer. It was cool to see people from all around the world at the hotel. I will say the month of June must be a slower month for resorts because it was not overly crowded at the resort, which was good in the sense I had more room to relax.
While relaxing in the cabana, I made two awesome friends from Texas — Ron and Rochelle. They were a cool, married couple, with 3 young boys who love traveling. We talked for hours one afternoon and have kept in touch till this day. That’s one of the beautiful things about travel — you make these connections that sometimes are just for the moment, but allow you to have an even better time — and other times, they last for years plus.
The resort did put on different events each day and night to entertain the guests. I joined a few times — like the live music performance outside, a club night at St. Trop and other things I watched. I enjoyed my time quite a bit in Cancun and at Sandos. Below are a few additional pictures of me doing just that, enjoying myself.
In closing… More Travel, More Life!