Secret Flying offered round-trip flights from Chicago to Cozumel for only $159 per person and we knew we had to jump on it! With a limited budget and a long list of bucket list items we were off! Below is our breakdown of how we did it, and hope that you can get some ideas and inspiration for your next trip!
Upon arrival, we withdrew funds in Mexican Pesos (MXP) and paid everything in the local currency saving us an additional few hundred dollars. (Most shops do accept US funds however you will pay an additional fee to deal with their personal conversion rate.) Always deal with the local currency!
You will also notice that I have not included a grocery line in the budget. Because we do most of our cooking at home, our grocery budget was simply ported from our home budget. Depending on the country this may mean our grocery budget is reduced or we get more bang for our buck. (Eating at restaurants etc was is an additional expense and included in the budget/itinerary)
We arrived in Cozumel after a series of connecting flights to a vibrant and bustling little city. Cozumel is a frequent stop for most cruise ships and the streets were packed with people and vendors. Once arriving in the city square we walked down to the nearest grocery store to pick up a few grocery items. We sat in the park feasting on deli items and whatever we could find that would make an easy lunch/supper. The park sprinklers came on and local children flooded the area playing in the water. It was a welcome surprise given the intense heat at the moment.
Our hotel was quaint and clean and we all packed into a double private room. The hotel had a beautiful courtyard where they served breakfast and had about 20 tortoises roaming around. The kids had a great time feeding them cabbage and watching them roam around. If you were to ask them what their favorite part of our entire trip was, they would probably say feeding the tortoises!
Flights to Cozumel: $738
Cozumel Hotel Mary Carmen: $63
Life-saving Starbucks: $7
Shuttle from airport: $17
Mysterious car arrangement: $37
We woke up bright and early to catch the ferry to Playa Del Carmen. After picking up our rental car through Budget we drove up to Rio Lagartos and to the pink lakes of Las Coloradas. The ferry was only 45 minutes and we met some lovely children aboard.
Once arriving in Playa we walked a few blocks down to the Budget Rental Car and picked up our cute little 5 seater.
After a long 3 hour drive in the car we had made it to the top of the Yucatan where you can find the famous pink lakes! We took our time exploring and even feeling the water. Because of the concentration of brinal bacteria, the water feels slimy. Read more about the famous Pink Lakes of Rio Lagartos.
After the pink lakes we made our way down to Valladolid, a quick 20-minute drive from Chichen Itza.
There seemed to be some sort of event going on in the city square. We roamed the streets and made our way back to watch the dancing despite the warm gentle rain coming down.
Ferry to Playa Del Carmen: $20
Car rental through Budget: $90
Hotel Mary de la Luz: $57
We woke up extra early in anticipation of our visit to Chichen Itza. The gates open at 8am and the tour buses start filling the grounds at 10am. For 2 whole hours you have the place to yourself while the locals set up their booths. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get here right when the gates open!
The size of the temple alone was quite staggering. We stopped for several moments just to stand in awe of such a beautiful landmark.
We opted not to get a tour guide, but upon approaching the base of El Castillo we did clap our hands so that we could hear the call of the Quetzal bird. Read more about visiting Chichen Itza.
Back in the car we went towards Tulum and stopped at our first Cenote; Ik Kil. Once again, get here early!! We had the entire place to ourselves, and the grounds were stunning. As you descend into the cave you can hear the water trickling down the rocks and the haunting music that they play. In the water are thousands of small black catfish that quickly scurry away as you enter the water. We had a blast jumping off the cliffs into the water before making our way towards Tulum. Read more about the best cenotes in Mexico.
Chichen Itza: $25
Ik Kil: $12
We were eager to see the Tulum ruins today and once again had an early start. The ruin grounds were beautifully manicured and you get the opportunity to have a photo op with the famous Jaguar clan as well as several domesticated pets. Like everywhere in Mexico, these photo ops and souvenirs are how most of them make a living. We politely said no thank you and continued on our way.
We packed a picnic and spent the afternoon at the Tulum Ruins beach, which are spectacular! Be advised however that there is no shade – so bring an umbrella especially if you are with kids. Read more about visiting the Tulum Ruins.
From there we went to Gran Cenote and the kids tried out snorkeling for the first time. This is a perfect place to learn since there are tons of small fish and turtles to chase. There is a sandy entry on the right side and a place to jump in as well as swim into the caves.
Tulum Airbnb for 4 Nights: $264
Tulum ruins parking: $6
Ruins admission: $4
Drinks/ice cream: $18
Gran Cenote: $25
We were on the hunt for the famous Akumal Turtles today. We read online that an excellent place to go would be Yal Ku, close to Akumal so we thought we would try that first. Yal Ku, although beautiful, ended up being pretty disappointing. We took turns with our eldest snorkeling in the sheltered cove, but the water was unfortunately quite murky and we were unable to see much. It also came at a hefty price, which was also very disappointing! If your kids are older and you aren’t on a tight budget, by all means go for it – otherwise stay clear. Read more about Yal Ku.
Thankfully we were determined so we found some shade at the Akumal public beach and set up shop. When you arrive on the beach you are going to be bombarded with salesmen trying to sell you on tours with the Turtles, feel free to go for it – but if you are like us and want to do it for free – Read how to Snorkel with the Akumal turtles for free!
Yal Ku: $48
Life jacket rental: $10
When you travel with kids, especially young ones, you learn really quick that you are going to have “down days”. Today marked our last day in Tulum and we were desperate to find a beautiful beach we could spend the day at.
We picked up breakfast along the way and turned left at the roundabout instead of right where all the shops are. Here you will find access to the beautiful public beach that you have certainly seen photos of. We spent a few hours in the sun before retiring to the house for a day in the pool.
Since it was our last night though, we treated ourselves to a quick dinner on the beach of tacos and quesadillas to make up for it.
Gasoline for the car: $70
Total = $100
Day 7 – 10
Back on the road towards Playa del Carmen to drop off our car. We were slightly nervous dropping the car off since we have heard so many horror stories, but the guys were great! Curious about renting a car in Mexico? Read my review here.
We hopped on the ferry and made our way back to Cozumel where we would finish our vacation at the Allegro Cozumel. This was our first time trying an all-inclusive, and it will certainly be our last! We love traveling and meeting people, and despite the waterpark for the kids, we all grew bored and restless. Read our honest review of Allegro Cozumel.
In order to receive free entry into Punta Sur, a car rental for the day and reimbursement for all previous public transit (shuttle from airport and ferry rides) we had to sit through a timeshare presentation. Thankfully it didn’t take long and I have promised everyone in my family that it will be our last! 😉
Punta Sur was an incredible outing and definitely worth a stop! Read more about it here.
Ferry to Cozumel: $20
5 Days at Allegro Cozumel All Inclusive: $699
Reimbursement of Ferry and Shuttle: + $50
Taxi to airport: $18
Total expenses for 10 days in Mexico : $2,490
Airbnb Rental on our personal home for 3 days : +$672
10 day Mexican Vacation : $1,818
*all prices have been rounded up the next dollar and quoted in US dollars.