About Monica U
Lives in Sydney, Australia
Since Jan. 2014
35-49 year old female
Globetrotter, foodie and lover of good festivals, digital marketing and writing. I have visited more than 80 cities around the world but have called Sydney home for the last 10 years. Previously , I lived in Cancun, Mexico and Playa del Carmen for 5 years and learnt to scuba dive. Having a partner that skies, Queenstown is one of our favourite destinations both in winter and in summer, and just a little "jump" from Sydney. Nothing gives me more pleasure than to cook a meal and share it among friends.
Flea & Street Markets
Dinner Theatres, Boat Tours
Geologic Formations, Bodies of Water
Bars & Clubs
I am the kind of person who likes to buy souvenirs straight away in a local market; it's a good way to sample the local culture, try the cuisine, and interact with the people — not to mention practice my Spanish. Located in Cancun's downtown, Mercado 28 is the biggest souvenir market in the region. Whether you are looking for handcrafted plates and glasses, hammocks, traditional sombreros, toys, handmade statues and dolls, T-shirts or even Mexican piñatas, this is the place to find them.
Tucked away inside Mercado 28, this hidden gem offers some of the best value for your money in comparison with other downtown seafood restaurants. The food, cooked with local spices, is both affordable and delicious. This is a great place to mingle with the locals, listen to some tunes, and pretend you are a long-time resident of Cancun.
In my opinion, the Captain Hook offers the best dinner theater around Cancun. Imagine boarding a replica of an 18th-Century Spanish Galleon, and then getting whisked away into a Pirate adventure in the middle of the ocean. While you indulge in steak and lobster, the pirates and their Captain provide entertainment... until suddenly an unknown 'pirate ship' attacks! Add in contests, drinking, and dancing, and you have yourself a night to remember!
I am a bit of a history buff, so in my opinion a visit to Chichen Itza is as crucial to any Cancun visit as is sipping cocktails by the azure sea. The center of Mayan culture from A.D. 700-1200, the ancient city is truly fascinating to behold. My suggestion is to hire a car and spend a day exploring. Set out early and explore Chichen Itza before the throngs arrive, then stop off for adventures on your way back.
According to Mayan hieroglyphics, the word 'dzonot' (which the Spanish translated as 'cenote') means 'abysmal and deep.' To the Mayans, these subterranean sinkholes, formed by porous limestone, were 'Sacred Wells,' believed to be doors to the Underworld. Cenote Dzitnup is one of the largest cenotes in the Chichen Itza area, a cavernous underground swimming hole with limestone walls and ropy stalactites. The ethereal lighting, stalactite formations, and vibrant turquoise waters create an enchanting world that just begs you to jump in.
Set on the grounds of an old cattle ranch, only five minutes from the city of Valladolid, Hacienda Selva Maya provides a fabulous dining experience: a delicious and authentic Yucatan buffet to be enjoyed in a beautiful tropical environment. The kitchen staff here take great care in cooking the traditional dishes — such as cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork), longaniza de Valladolid (a delicious local sausage), and queso relleno (cheese stuffed with ground beef) — all according to the traditional recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation.
On the way back to Cancun, stop in Valladolid to visit its stunning Convent de San Bernardino de Siena. Founded in 1552, this Franciscan convent is an architectural treasure. In one of the chambers, you can still see some of the hand-painted murals that portrayed a procession of saints.
Isla Mujeres is an island located only 20 minutes by ferry from Cancun. There are great snorkeling spots, Mayan ruins, and beautiful beaches to explore here. The turtle sanctuary is also well worth a visit, or you can venture to beautiful El Garrafon park at the end of the Island.
On the way to El Garrafon, stop at Playa Lancheros ('Boatman's Beach'), a popular stretch of sand with calm waters and kayak and canoe rentals. The small open-air restaurant here, founded in 1940, prepares a very special fish 'Pescado Tikinxik' (grilled fish in a special marinade, wrapped in a banana leaf) according to a secret Mayan recipe that has been handed down through generations. The restaurant also serves live lobster, and a variety of other seafood dishes.
Upon your return from Isla Mujeres in the afternoon, you might be in need of some retail therapy. La Isla Cancun, located on Boulevard Kukulkan, is an outdoor shopping mall with more than 160 shops, as well as a variety of entertainment options that surround the villa: an aquarium, swimming with dolphins, and even a boat that goes around the canals.
La Madonna is a glamorous Italian eatery at La Isla. The food is authentic, the decor fantastic, and the bar offers a list of the 10 best martinis in the whole of Cancun.
It's hardly Cancun if you don't go dancing, so why not end your day at one of the hottest nightclubs in town? From the minute you walk into Mandala, you will feel like you've stepped straight into a VIP Lounge. The eastern decor sets the glamorous tone, and the dance floor is packed with pretty people, grooving to the DJ's fabulous beats.