Today it was absolutely gorgeous out, so we decided to visit the nearby El Rey Ruins. They’re about a half hour bus ride from our ‘home’ in downtown Cancun, located at the southernmost end of the Hotela Zoneria – or Hotel Zone. They also happen to be conveniently tucked in between a lagoon and a great public beach. Looks like a fun afternoon!
The bus dropped us off just outside the entry to the small Mayan archeological site, and I was excited to return there after our first visit six years ago. At the well-kept entrance, we paid the $37 pesos (about $3.10 U.S.D.) and I immediately started looking for the iguanas – which I knew would be basking on the stones like sunbathers.
The title El Rey means “The King” in Spanish. If you get to Cancun and don’t happen to have time to go farther inland to Chitzen Itza or one of the other larger Mayan ruins sites on the Yucatan, this afternoon excursion can provide a small-scale but realistic sense of them. In a few hour’s time you can take a bus there, stroll around and get back to your room for dinner.
Rich and I are historic-plaque-readers, so we scanned the signs on the way into the park, to freshen up on its’ history. (I love having a fellow-history buff in my husband!) The Mayans lived in sites like this one, primarily fishing and trading, from around 900 A.D. to 1500 A.D. – a timeline that happens to coincide with the Spanish Conquest of Mexico.
The mottled white and gray limestone structures of the El Rey Ruins remain impressively intact, forming sculptures that beg to be photographed against the blue skies. The ruins are comprised of the expected stone columns perched upon crumbing rock foundations. But there’s an added entertainment factor provided by a plethora of iguanas the size of small dogs and cats, popping up from their burrows to stare at you. We didn’t realize it at the time, but I later read that these reptiles are fed bread and other goodies, which explains their extra tameness and interest in us.
I’ve always been fascinated with the lizard family, and iguanas are no exception to my preoccupation. In the Yucatan, they’re Green Iguanas, and are simply fun to observe- with their prehistoric look and their camouflage colored scaly skin! I also like the way they dart around. In an odd way their movements remind me of the drivers in Mexico!
So wandering through the rock formations, Rich and I were both quite happy scavenging for the elusive-yet-friendly lizards, trying to spot the largest or strangest-looking ones. Rich was also in his element strategically capturing photos of these willing models.
Whenever we go out hiking or exploring, Rich and I always seem to experience something unexpected in nature. Once we saw a javelina (a small wild pig-like creature), leaping in the air. Other times it’s a coyote loping right past us -or it can be as simple as a gnarly “Lord of the Rings-esque” looking tree.
Today our nature bonus arrived near the end of our relaxed tour, when I was standing under a shade tree. I heard a rustle above my head, and was startled to see a large iguana leap from the tree right past my head, landing like a gymnast. Apparently, iguanas are adept at jumping as much as 40 feet without getting hurt – and are also excellent swimmers.
Mission accomplished, we took a few more photos, said farewell to our reptilian friends and decided it was time to hit the beach! Of course, all the Caribbean beaches are known for they’re postcard-level beauty, but El Rey Public Beach is so beautiful it’s almost indescribable. At its’ entrance a freshly painted, white picket fence frames the powdery soft sands. A smattering of cheerful palapas provide shade, and the rich, turquoise water of the classic Carribean provides nature’s perfect backdrop.
The sun was still out in full force, but a gentle breeze kept the temperature just right. We were even pleased to see a banos (restroom) on the edge of the beach, as that’s the first one I’ve seen in any public place. We were all set to relax on some lounge chairs, but noticed they were inexplicably chained together in a pile, with perplexed sunbathers sitting on the sand around them. We’ve noticed that tourist-deterring oddities like this occur at random throughout Cancun.
Anyway, no problem. Rich and I decided to wade into the ocean. The waves were slightly more aggressive than the last time, frothing and foaming around us energetically. It was spa-like, tepid bath water so I enjoyed getting splashed while watching hang-gliders, children playing and an occasional brown pelican fishing and bobbing on the water.
Walking along for some time, we eventually found the perfect lounge chairs waiting for us, just 10 yards or so from the water’s edge. It was good to rest, and we laid down on the bright blue pads enjoying the view for some time, while breathing in the exceptionally fresh air. Like any city, downtown Cancun can get somewhat congested with traffic fumes, so we really appreciated the chance to clear our lungs.
Inevitably, the sun started to drop and the air cooled, so satisfied with the day’s quest we left our spot, walking out through the Hilton Hotel. It’s pool area is really quite impressive -with a multitude of wading pools, floating bars, hot-tubs, waterfalls and play areas. Once inside the grand atrium, we exited through its’ temple-sized, open-aired hallways, peeking into massive ballrooms which sported splendid views, on our way out.
Moments later on the bus headed toward home, Rich and I talked about the sharp contrast between Cancun’s more rustic and humble downtown, and that of the grand and opulent presentation found throughout the Hotel Zone. We stayed there – at the Casa Magna Marriot last time, and are glad for the perspective of both equally enjoyable vantage points today.
Until next time, happy trekking!