MEXICO'S CARIBBEAN ITINERARY
The Caribbean is known worldwide for its white sand beaches, turquoise blue water, warm weather and feel good vibes. Mexico's Caribbean coast delivers exactly what you expect with its own Mexican spice thrown into the mix. Our highlights from the spectacularly beautiful region of Quintana Roo include the luxury of Cancun, picture perfect Isla Mujeres, heaven on earth Tulum and one of the former seven wonders of the world.
How to get there?
From Mexico City - You can take a flight with Aero Mexico for around 1,100 MXN (£44.90)
From San Cristobal - Apparently, there are a few bus companies that run this route but, when you consider the price is pretty much the same as flying, 1,500 MXN (£61.22), and takes nearly 24 hours, it's a no-brainier to catch a flight.
Now Cancun isn't exactly your typical backpacker destination. It's more synonymous with all-inclusive, package holiday tourists and never-leave-the-resort vacationers.
After a fast, hard and trying slog through Central America, Cancun was actually a welcome break. It was nice to finally have more than one choice of meal and sleep in a comfortable bed. Cancun is a very modern city and has all the comforts and luxuries we'd been missing from home.
So, what is there to see and do in Cancun? It's definitely a place to where you need to loosen the purse strings (like it or not) and treat yourself a little. You're spoilt for choices when in comes to restaurants so if its been a while since you've had a decent meal, or a taste of something from home, you'll most likely find what you crave here. Undoubtedly, you would have heard about Cancun's wild nightlife. There are dozens upon dozens of bars and clubs for you to let your hair down and party into the small hours.
If you've come to the Caribbean coast, it's a safe assumption that you want a little R&R on the beach. Well, we personally found the beaches in Cancun to be fairly over-crowded and, honestly, not that pleasant. There are plenty much nicer beaches outside the city which we'll get onto a little later in their post. Having said that, we did visit Playa Delfines. Take a bus from the main avenue to the far end of the hotel district on Boulevard Kukulcan. Playa Delfines is actually pretty nice and should keep your beach cravings in check for a few days.
Finally, no trip to Cancun would be complete without an evening at Las Palapas. Las Palapas is a plaza/park just behind Avenida Tulum full of families, couples and visitors. There is plenty of great food and places to get drinks and there are a few bars close by (try the Michelada ). It's a very wholesome and relaxing way to end your day.
How to get there?
From Cancun - A bus from the ADO station takes less than 2.5 hours and costs 86 MXN (£3.50)
For us, Tulum was the cherry on the Caribbean cake. Cheaper than Cancun with fewer people and so much more beautiful and authentic. It's the kind of place where you feel like you're way off the beaten path. Although recent years have seen a spike in tourism in Tulum, it has still maintained its warm and charming hippy vibes. Tulum is small and personal and we highly recommend renting bicycles to get around. Everything is easily accessible by bike and the town is so pretty that you'll want to ride through slowly and take it all in.
One of the most common reasons people visit Tulum is for its cenotes. A cenote is a natural pit or a sinkhole full of water where you can swim, snorkel or dive. Surrounded by thick vegetation and caves you feel completely isolated from the rest of the world. Tulum and its surrounding areas are dotted with some of Mexico's most famous cenotes. Our personal favourite was Gran Cenote which you'll find a few kilometres out of town on the Carretera Tulum. Why is this one our favourite? Because there are dozens of turtles in the water and you snorkel right alongside them. You'll need to pay an entrance fee for pretty much all the cenotes, that's why its worth picking one or two of the best ones and visiting during the week or early on the weekend. To visit Gran Cenote it costs 180 MXN (£7.35) and we also went to Casa Cenote which is 120 MXN (£4.90). Both are within riding distance of the town.
As promised before, if its good beaches you're looking for, this is where you'll find them. In Tulum itself is Playa Paraiso (Paradise Beach) which is right next to 'Temple of the Sun' archeological ruins. Paradise Beach has been ranked as the number one beach in Mexico on multiple occasions and it's clear to see why. Palm trees to back, white sand in the middle, blue water at the front and the sun up above.
The other beach worth visiting is Akumal. If you've heard of Akumal that's because this is where they do the turtle snorkelling tours. We saw hundreds and hundreds of people part with up to 1,000 MXN (£40.80) each to take part. It is an absolute rip off and there are many other places where you can enjoy swimming with turtles without paying anywhere near that much. The beach itself though is every bit as beautiful as Playa Paraiso and, if you're in Tulum, is definitely worth visiting for the day. Akumal is about 20 km out of town and you can catch a bus there from the central avenue for 35 MXN (£1.45).
How to get there?
From Tulum - The ADO bus takes 3 hours and costs 123 MXN (£5)
From Cancun - The ADO bus takes 3 hours and costs 205 MXN (£8.35)
Chichen Itza is a complex of pre-Colombian ruins and is the largest of the archeological cities of the Maya civilisation. Such is its magnificence, it was once listed as one of the seven wonders of the world and is a UNSECO world heritage site. This is an incredibly popular tourist site with nearly 1.5 million visitors each year.
The complex is made up of numerous stone structures with its crown jewel being 'El Castillo' which dominates the centre of the site. Whilst we didn't take a guided tour of the site, we did read plenty of information of its history and importance before hand and we'd recommend you do the same. You appreciate the significance and impressiveness of what you are seeing so much more.
You can easily spend a good 3-4 hours walking around the various parts of the complex. The admission fee is payable in 2 parts - state tax and municipal tax - but the total cost is 252 MXN (£10.30). If you're like us and have your big backpack with you, there is a storage area where you can leave it for 100 MXN (£4.10).
Also worth noting that Chichen Itza is (surprisingly) one of the best places for souvenir shopping. There were hundreds of vendors scattered all over the site selling absolutely everything you can imagine, and at very reasonable prices.
How to get there?
From Cancun - The ferry from Gran Puerto takes about 20 minutes to cross and the (tourist) price for a return ticket is 300 MXN (£12.25).
Isla Mujeres is a small island of 12,500 inhabitants about 12 kilometres off the coast of Cancun. It is quite simply one of the most beautiful places we have visited and was the perfect end to our tour of Mexico's Caribbean coast.
The town itself is pretty small, a few hotels and bundles of souvenir shops, bars and restaurants. None of this matters because there's only one reason you'll come here, and that's for Playa Norte. This beach is truly spectacular and water is the most breathtaking shade of blue we have ever seen. The vast majority of people come only for the day, but we stayed for four and spent pretty much every minute on the beach.
You can make your trip to Isla Mujeres super cheap. Avoid the hotels, book yourself an Airbnb and shop in the local supermarket. There is literally nothing to do aside from chill on the beach all day long. If that isn't perfection, we don't know what is!