In this series of posts, we share the highlights of our visits to the countries in the Central America Grande journey. It’s hard to put everything that impressed you about a country in a single post, but we’d love to give you some good and brief introduction. If something sparked your interest, let us know that you want more details and we’ll do our best to elaborate on that in a separate article.
Without further ado, let us introduce you to country number 60 on our list, as well as the beginning of the CA Grande journey, Mexico, and the Yucatan peninsula.
The journey took us to the Yucatan peninsula, mostly in the Quintana Roo province and a bit in Yucatan province. We started in Cancun, then we jumped over to Valladolid and Chichén Itzá, afterward, we continued to Akumal, Playa del Carmen, and Cozumel island. We continued further south along the Riviera Maya to Tulum, then jumped to Cobá and ended in Laguna Bacalar.
Weather and Nature
We knew we’re going to Central America in the rainy and also end of hurricane season so few showers per day were no surprise to us. The heat was close to unbearable but we stayed hydrated, put lots of sunscreen and wore breathing clothes. When tropical storm Nate was announced to get closer and potentially cause troubles, we decided that we can change plans and head in a different direction if necessary.
We didn’t have to. Nate didn’t really hit the ground around Cancun so we could continue south freely, as it was moving north. Except the fact it ruined our plans for Isla Mujeres, we didn’t have to change the itinerary because of weather. The day for Isla Mujeres was the one they preventively closed the marinas. Also, lots of restaurants and venues chose to close, also pretty much everything to do with water. The Maya Museum was also close due to bad weather (yes, Mexican museums are kind of lazy).
Other things specific to the region are the mosquitoes. We didn’t have much trouble until we reached Tulum and Bacalar lagoon. Mosquitoes made a party and we were the main dish. But this is how it works in the jungle, around the ruins, at the seaside in a tropical environment.
Our hosts everywhere where super friendly, helpful and fun. We got the best tips and positive mood everywhere. In an eatery at the market, a bartender went so far just to please us and introduce us to the country. We felt welcome!
When it came to transportation, we had to bargain a lot when the prices weren’t fixed. Somehow they see a foreigner and they want to charge more. We had to bargain actually everywhere, where the prices weren’t fixed. And we didn’t like the fact that just being a foreigner entitles you to higher costs. And we speak Spanish! Imagine what happens to people that can’t speak the language.
If we exclude that bad colectivo drivers and small business owners (read festival stall merchants) that thought few pesos more will make them happier, we felt completely fine with all the people we met. By the way, we didn’t cut a deal on one of those amazing embroidered Mexican dresses and we regret it. Mexico seems to attract only good travelers so we were happy to even hitchhike with some or do little trips with others. We felt empowered with good advice and many travel stories.
Our time in Mexico started by landing in Cancun. Although some people find Cancun a bit too touristy in a negative-resort way, we found its special spots. For few days around we felt like locals, exploring the beaches, the streets, the shopping venues. We even ventured further afield to Valladolid and Chichén Itzá. Tropical storm Nate ruined our plans to visit Isla Mujeres, let’s see if we manage to get to it on our very last day of Central America Grande. Btw, Nate didn’t cause any troubles in Cancun area, or at least as far as we know, and we checked a lot.
We continued south along Riviera Maya to swim with turtles in Akumal, find the local vibes of Playa del Carmen and sail to Cozumel island for some snorkeling. It was all beautiful and we even became part of a bachelorette party on the snorkeling boat the reef near Cozumel.
Next time we’ll spend more time on Riviera Mata and explore hidden gems like Xpu-Ha beach.
Adding new stops
We headed to Tulum to visit the picturesque seaside Maya ruins and then chill under the shadows in a cool hostel garden. Got lucky to be part of an annual Festival – Fiesta Maya Tulum. We enjoyed traditional dance, bull-friendly corrida, and many shopping and eating stalls.
Next time we’d love to do a day trip from Tulum to Rio Lagartos and its lovely flamingoes.
We ventured to Cobá ruins to get the real Indiana Jones feeling of walking in the jungle and climbing rough pyramid steps. Well, we did use a bike taxi for a while (it was so hot and we got really tired).
Our last stop in Mexico we put in our itinerary thanks to the people we hitchhiked with. We found Laguna Bacalar just a magical piece of paradise and we couldn’t have wanted a better finish of our stay in Mexico.
We rode to Chetumal to take a boat to Belize. There came the uncomfortable surprise of an exit fee which is usually included with the plane ticket but we couldn’t find it in our receipt so we paid and got ready for a fresh start in Belize cayes (islands).
In a few words
Well, highlights of Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico for us included:
- The food ( o my god those tacos, burritos, nachos, panuchos, quesadillas, …) – Yucatan food for the win!
- The Maya ruins – the story, the atmosphere, the experience
- Swim in cenotes – those amazing natural swimming pools full of life
- The overwhelming Caribbean coastline – we love water, we love the Caribbean!
- The smiles of everyone we met – there’s something in the air that makes people smile (and sometimes sing), or maybe there’s something funny about our faces!
So these were our highlights from roughly nine days in Mexico. We’re so excited and even putting this article together makes us smile and appreciate our time in this part of the world. Hasta la vista, Mexico!
Have you ever been to Yucatan peninsula? What surprised you the most? Do you have a favorite spot?