Cancun/Chichen Itza - hotels, accessibility, general tips.

I am traveling to Cancun this December with my husband and our friend, who is disabled. To be more specific, he has type 3 osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bones) and as a result is under 4ft tall and uses a wheelchair to get around (although he can walk short distances). Would Chichen Itza be too much for him to handle? FTR we’ve gone to Sequoia, Yosemite and Disneyland without a hitch; he can handle much more than he looks like he can. I am still curious about accessibility for him though - maintained trails, etc. are nice. FTR I’ve already asked him and he said “Hell, I’ll go wherever you guys go!” so all the planning has landed in my lap.

I’d also take recommendations on hotels around the ruins and Cancun/Riviera Maya - we don’t need anything real fancy, mostly just relatively clean and relatively cheap and decently close to the beach and a bar. Any other tips too would be most welcome - this will be my first time out of the country (haven’t even been to TJ despite my best efforts).

Is Xel-Ha worth going to?

We went to Cancun/Riv Maya on our honeymoon, and it was nice. Chichen-Itza has a lot of interesting stuff, but understand that some of the coolest things are eing able to climb the pyramid, and being able to go inside it. Those are 2 things that the wheelchair-bound cannot do.

However, with a good tour guide (the one who came free with our hotel stay was awesome), you will see a lot of cool stuff even without it. There are some defined trails, but much of it is simply grassy areas surrounded by ruins, so you will have some work cut out for you pushing a wheelchair.

I would lean toward Cancun if you are interested in the beach. The waters there are crystal clear and gorgeous, and there is a lot to do within walking distance of most hotels. Riviera Maya is further away, the water is not as nice, and you won’t e walking to anyplace I am aware of.

I don’t think that any of the ruins are able to be climbed anymore due to fatalities over the year (someone feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) so that’s neither here nor there.

I think I will base more of my hotel searches around Cancun - we are definitely looking for some quality beach time. One thing though: what is the likelihood of the college fratboy demographic dominating the scene during Christmastime? I’m sure it’s still bound to be quite busy but I’d rather avoid the Girls Gone Wild set. (Not that I’m not up for a few nights of tequila-soaked debauchery).

I climbed the pyramid at Chichen Itza when I went there about a year or so ago. There were some areas that you couldn’t go in, but that was due to recent vandalism rather than safety.

I would suggest looking into Playa del Carmen. It is about a 45 minute ride from the airport (I was there nine years ago, so I could be remembering wrong). The beaches were nice and at least while I was there it was a lot more laid back than Cancun, i.e. not really a frat boy magnet. There were plenty restaurants and shops to check out within walking distance as well.

One thing to think about - Chichen Itza is further away from Cancun than you might think it is. It’s a day trip, yes, but it’s about 3 or 4 hours away, one way. And the roads aren’t great. I really, really enjoyed my trip out there, but the ride was a little more than I was anticipating.

Wiki is saying they shut down climbing El Castillo last year so I am all sorts of :confused:. I will go to B&N later today to find an updated tour book and get the skinny on it.

Snickers, thanks for the concern about the bus ride. We all commute 200 miles+ a day, and while I’m sure it’s not quite the same as rush hour on the 405 I’m sure we can handle it. :slight_smile: We’re all old hands at balls to the wall roadtrips as well.

Baracus, I’m looking around Playa now too, thanks. :slight_smile:

Huh, so it does:

That’s a shame, both the death and the closure. The steps were steep, much steeper than your average courthouse or-what-have-you steps, with a rope to hold on to as you climbed up. It was also raining every thirty minutes. I remember thinking that they probably wouldn’t let you climb them in the states. I guess I was lucky to go when I did.

It’s been about 3 years since our last visit to Mexico, so some of my information may be out of date.

The hotel that we’ve stayed in for 2 of our last 3 visits is the Flamingo Cancun. It has the advantage of having an all-inclusive plan, is centrally located on the beach, and wasn’t too terribly expensive. Is it the same as the 5 star resort we stayed out for the one trip? No, but it was clean, the staff was friendly, and the food was decent. They have 2 pool locations, so pleanty of room to sit by the pool, or on the beach. There are several second floor rooms that would be perfect for wheelchair accesability. I’d just call when you make the reservation and tell them you have a wheelchair and ask for a second floor room. Keep in mind that the first floor is actually lower than the second floor…so from the lobby you’d go down to the first floor. There are several bars, one by the pool, and another that is down by the beach. So if your friend doesn’t want to lay out or anything he can just sit, drink, and watch the beautiful scenery.
As for Chichen Itza I’m torn. How easy is it for him to get around? It’s not wheelchair friendly at all…and it’s spread out all over the place. It can be quite a haul from one end to the other. Were it me, I might suggest a trip to Tulum and Coba. Tulum is small, and you can’t climb on any of the buildings anyway…so your friend can get around to stuff a lot easier, and won’t feel left out that he can’t go up any structures. Coba does have two large pyramids that you can climb, and normally I wouldn’t perhaps recommend it but for one thing. They have guys at the entrance to the ruins that will peddle you in a little rickshaw sort of thing to the main sites. So that way noboby has to push the wheelchair. You can ride to the main buildings (there are only like 4 or 5 to see) and look from the comfort of the seat. Plus both sites are a much shorter drive from Cancun itself.

Don’t underestimate the heat. It’s going to be hot as hell in December…although you shouldn’t get the party crowd. Wear sun screen and drink lots of water…bottled of course.

If you could let me know any other types of things you like to do, I might be able to make some more recommendations. There are a ton of activities in the area, as well as sites that are a day-trip away. I’d be happy to ramble on much more if you’d like.

I’ll be bummed not to go up there, but I’ve been wanting to see Chichen Itza since Cheez_Whia put a book on AmerIndian archaeology into my hot little hands 20 some odd years ago. It’ll be great to go anyways.

**Atrael **- thank you for that info! I was looking heavily at the Flamingo. I will reply more fully a little later this evening - I have to head out for a while. I will definitely give Tulum a thought as well. As for what we’re most interested in, well pretty much everything but clubbing.

Anyone have recommendations on where to spend Christmas day? I don’t need a four course meal (I’d be doing that if I were staying here in Drama Central for Christmas) but something astoundingly delicious would be excellent. :slight_smile: FTR, I have no problems traveling outside the main drag.

I was in Cancun last Christmas with my brother’s family, our parents, and his in-laws. One thing to keep in mind – the water is cold that time of year. It’s probably okay for snorkling or scuba, but swimming at the beach or in pools was pretty darn frigid.

We were at an all-inclusive resort (Moon Palace) so went to one of the on-site restaurants for Christmas dinner. This was also because my brother’s in-laws, who had planned the whole thing, didn’t plan ahead for reservations for Christmas dinner. So if you’re planning to go someplace special, research ahead of time about reservations.

FWIW, I’d recommend going to an all-inclusive. They’ve got tons of activities and excursions that are part of the package or for minimal cost (ours included a day excursion to Chichen Itza, among others at no added cost), and the free drinks and food is really nice. Just do the research on what the resort offers – we found out that Moon Palace was a poor choice for groups with little kids, for example.

Xel Ha is definitely worth the trip…but don’t take the hotel tour…for smaller $$, you can book independently (should be a hotel destination clerk). It’s much cheaper, usually includes lunch and all your floaties.

Chichen is beautiful, if I remember correctnly the pathways are gravel and easy to get around.

Coba is spectacular as well as Tulum. Tulum is a defensive city so is mostly on the water so not sure about wheel chair accessibility.

You will have a wonderful time. We stayed at the Barcelo Maya, try website “unofficial barcelo maya dot com” for lots of local information.

**Canadiangirl **- thanks for the vote of confidence in Xel-Ha. On closer inspection, I don’t believe I can turn down a place with a feature called “Hammock Island” :D. Booking directly from them gives me 50 bucks/person/day all inclusive. Hubbo wants to know if they serve alcohol? (What can I say, the man has his priorities). I’m a little freaked out about getting reservations for outside attractions because I am unsure of the hours, especially with it being Christmastime and all. None of the websites seem too helpful in that regard.

I haven’t conferred with my friend yet, but it’s looking like we will probably stay at the Flamingo in a deluxe room. Is reputable for booking? I get cheaper prices there than I do at priceline,, or kayak.

I can’t speak for specifically, but what you can always do is book the room through them…wait a week and then call the hotel directly to make sure that a reservation has been made. Then if something looks hokey you can call your credit card company to investigate.

I’ve never been during the winter months, but if the water is really that cold, then Xel-Ha may not really be worth it. As I recall, it’s mostly water-type attractions. Don’t be afraid to rent a car/SUV and drive yourself to some of these places…as long as you don’t drive after dark and watch out for the speedbumps (TOPAS!) then you’ll find it’s fairly easy to get around. And it’s nice to have that independance sometimes.

How big a fan of Mayan ruins/architecture/history are you? I’m absolutly passionate about it. Like you, I first saw pictures of Chitchen Itza/Tikal/Palenque when I was a teenager and wanted to visit those places myself more than I can really express. Took 15 years, but I’ve visited a lot of the big sites, and a number of smaller ones. One of the things we did on our second trip was drive across and stay in Merida for a night. We left our hotel early in the morning (had the included breakfast first) drove across to Chitchen Itza and walked around there for a couple of hours, then pushed on to Merida. I did some research and found out that Merida has an outdoor festival every…damn, can’t remember the day anymore…but anyway one day a week…every week they close down the central square and have music and dancing in the street. So we timed our visit to be there for that night. Spent the night watching and mingling with the locals and had a great time. The next day we again left early and headed down to visit Uxmal and the rest of the sites on the Puuc route. I hit just about every site on that page in one day. Most of them are pretty small, so you can do them quickly…maybe 45 minutes to and hour at each one. I will say that by the end of the day my wife called enough and sat in the car for the last one…but she realized that it was my passion to visit and see all these sites…many of which don’t get nearly the traffic that the bigger ones get. So you have more of a feel of exclusivity…you know that there aren’t that many people that make the effort to visit. We finished up with those, and drove back to Cancun in time to make the dinner meal at our hotel. Let me know if you’re interested in any more details about that type of trip.

Most important? Have fun!

How “really cold” are we talking about? I go swimming in the Pacific not all that infrequently and grew up swimming in mountain runoff. Not that I’m looking for 32 degree water on my vacation, but I have a pretty high tolerance for these things. :slight_smile:

Pretty big - but I think the emphasis on this trip is more about getting our feet wet, so to speak - like I said upthread, this is my first time out of the country and the guys have only been to TJ (and James’ family lives in Victoria BC). That’s the extent of our out of country travel.

I just got done with a big adventure in the US Southwest, so we’re also thinking more of kicking back than going out on an archaeological adventure. I think I could probably get the guys to do a few other sites though in addition to Chichen.

I read a lot of warnings against renting a car there due to police/bribery but my husband’s still pretty interested in driving around.

Another vote for the Puuc route and Uxmal. Those who only see Chichen Itza are I think missing out … unfortunately you really need a car to see 'em properly, and they are not wheelchair accessible at all.

A personal favourite is Kabah. This is one of my favourite pics I’ve ever taken:

Hmm…I forgot that it’s your first trip. On our first trip we went to Chitchen Itza with a small group. We did the executive level tour group. It cost more, but it was my wife and I and two other people in a van, rather than 50 people in a bus. The guide was very friendly and knowledgable. We stopped for some shopping on the way, spent about 2 - 3 hours at Chitchen…then to this really cool cenote for swimming…then a lunch stop…and back to the hotel. A great trip…but it did show us how easy it was to get around. So instead of an organized tour to Coba, we drove ourselves. It’s not hard to find, and you’ll find that around the “Mayan Riviera” you won’t run into many (if any) cops trying to shake you down. We’ve driven every time we’ve been, and never had a problem. Including the last trip where we drove across Mexico from Cancun to Acupulco.

I really would suggest you do Coba/Tulum rather than Chichen. If nothing more that since they’ve closed down the pyramid at Chichen and won’t let you climb it, you’re going to have to go to more out of the way spots to be able to climb a Mayan Pyramid and look out over the jungle. Which is just something everyone should experience. I remember when we were driving down, all the brush and trees aren’t that tall…like 20 or 30 feet. And thinking to myself “This isn’t the primordial jungle I was imagining…how the hell did they loose a 100meter pyramid in this crap”? Then I climbed to the top of one of the pyramids at Coba, and couldn’t see the other one…even though it stuck up almost as high. Made a lot more sense then.

We usually take an every other day approach to activities. We’ll plan to venture out to do some stuff one day, but the next day is a beach day…or just bumming around the mall or something. Can your friend do water-type activities? Swim with the dolphines? Feed the Sharks? Ride and underwater scooter? Depending on how mobile and adventerouse he is, all those are available in the local area. I haven’t fed the sharks, but I’ve done the other two. In the case of BOB, I’ve done it twice.

Oh and I can’t look at that picture from work Malthus but I can see we may have a “mayan ruin” photo shootout here. :slight_smile:

Ah - so the ride won’t be bad for you then at all. (Oof. 200+ miles a day? You people are nutsos. But I can respect that. :slight_smile: )

I think that Chichen is still worth it, even if you can’t climb the pyramid anymore. (And dang! That thing is steee-eeep. I’m not afraid of heights at all, but I was even thrown for a loop on the way down. Wow. And there weren’t any ropes when I went.) It’s really an amazing site.

We stayed in Playacar, and our resort was an all-inclusive and very nice. If it says it’s all-inclusive, then yes, the alcohol is included (this was something of special concern to my husband as well.)

Just another vote for Xel-Ha. Very nice place, a lot of fun, pretty good food, and when I got the worst sunburn of my adult life (I put on suncreen twice before noon, and was purple by noon…) they were very helpful and professional.