Cancun, Mexico

A short visit to a beach resort in Cancun allowed us time to explore the Mayan ruins of Tulum and Chichen Itzá.

Beach resorts are not really my style, so I was surprised to find myself disembarking among the crowds of beach-worshipping American snowbirds in the airport near Cancun, Mexico.  Cancun’s barrier island is a thin strip of land on the eastern shore of the Yucatan Peninsula, with wall-to-wall mega-hotels lining a pretty beach and crystal-blue waters.  Still, the 80-degree weather was a nice respite from the cold and snow of New England, if only for three days.  And a nice opportunity for photography and touring historic sites.Sunrise on the beach in Cancun.

We had selected a pleasant, if not luxurious, suite-style hotel complex with multiple pools and bars and restaurants, and a nice beachfront area.  The weather was sunny and warm every day, but extremely windy, making it unpleasant (and rather risky) to swim in the ocean.  Still, we enjoyed a bit of sun and Piña Coladas beside the pool. Sunrise on the beach in Cancun.

My main interest here, though, was the opportunity to visit the historic Mayan cities of Tulum (south, about two hours along the coast) and Chichén Itzá (inland, about three hours).  I’m still fond of a Dartmouth course I attended in 1982, Ancient Meso-American Civilizations, in which I became fascinated with the Maya and their calendar system.  So we toured Tulum one day, and Chichén Itzá the next; indeed, we were fortunate to have a guide of Mayan descent who was able to tell us about both the ancient and the current culture of the Mayan people.2019-02-18-64893

As it happens, we were set to visit Chichén Itzá on the night of the full moon – indeed, a supermoon – and the tour was scheduled to arrive on site just before sunrise and to stay well into the evening, after the moonrise.  I excitedly packed my tripod, and used the  PhotoPills app to map the path of the sun and moon so I could plan the best angle for photographs during Golden Hour, Blue Hour, and moonrise.  So you can imagine my disappointment when the guide told me that tripods were not allowed – not unless I had made an application to the central government, weeks in advance, for a professional photography permit.  Dang!  Second time in a month that I’d been foiled from using a simple tripod at a historic site (last month, it was at Hampi).El Castillo (the main pyramid) at Chichen Itzá.  Yucatan, Mexico.

Nonetheless, the weather cooperated and I was able to snap some nice photos of El Castillo (the main pyramid) with some sunset glow; and later, once the park had illuminated all the monuments with colorful lights, to catch the moonrise over a purple El Castillo.El Castillo (the main pyramid) after dark, at Chichen Itzá.  Yucatan, Mexico.

We also had the chance to explore the darkness of a cavern, wading an underground river, near Tulum, though I was not able to bring phone nor camera underground.2019-02-18-64902

And, we joined throngs of other tourists swimming in the beautiful Hubiku Cenote, near Chichén Itzá.  Truly impressive, despite the crowds and touristy gift shop. Swimming in Hubiku Cenote (underground lake), Yucatan, Mexico.

All in all, it was a pleasant and worthwhile vacation.  I’ve posted a couple dozen photos!

Author: dfkotz

David Kotz is an outdoor enthusiast, traveller, husband, and father of three. He is also a Professor of Computer Science at Dartmouth College.

3 thoughts on “Cancun, Mexico”

  1. Nice pics. We just got back from a week on Kauai, which was awesome. Only did two short hikes but they were a lot of fun, although one in the rain and mud.


    Funny, we were considering going to Cancun for next year’s winter school break. I saw the temperature was good, but what was the problem it’s the wind? Waves too big? The beach there as I remember is awesome, so it would be a shame to travel there and not be able to swim next year. I wonder if the winds are always bad this time of year, or if it was just the weather being the weather! The waves in Kauai were huge at the start if the week, even in the south shore where they are generally small in the winter (failed attempt at snorkeling below…we were pummeled). Luckily things had calmed down by the end of the week so I was able to snorkel with the turtles!


    1. Winds made the waves large and rough. Great for kite-surfers but not so great for swimmers. Still, I took a brief dip in the ocean, and swam in the pool.

      There was a full moon (indeed, supermoon), which made tides high everywhere.

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