A Travellerspoint blog

Mexico: Yucatán

Mayan Riviera and Mérida; immaculate beaches, amazing ruins, wonderful towns, diving beneath the jungle and phenomenal oceanic sites.

sunny 42 °C

Ace Mexico

I had an amazing, adventurous and sun drenched two weeks in Mexico..... super accommodation, amazing beaches, awesome diving , interesting Mayan culture and amazing ruins, a bustling town in Merida, friendly people, etc… and an all round ace time.

Transport

I flew from Madrid on new budget airline, Evelop, opting for their premium economy package at roughly 300 euros.
This got me seat #A1 with silver service, extra snacks plus more soft drink and coffee than I should have had!
I arrived at Cancun Airport feeling very refreshed after the 10 hour flight .... and jumped on a bus bound for Playa del Carmen.

Note: I was initially refused check-in at Madrid for not having a return/onward journey ticket....
Sky scanner saved the day, and I quickly found a flight to Cuba via Interjet... all sorted in 3 minutes.
I had to show the email receipt to the check in clerk and her manager before proceeding.... you've been warned.

Playa del Carmen

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PdC is a lovely, easy going, friendly, safe and well layed out town, centred on the main Avenue #5, just off the beach.

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You can get almost anything in the pharmacies here; diet pills, romance assistance, hormone injections, etc, etc...
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Lodgings

I stayed at Playa Karma Hotel, and really enjoyed it there.
It’s very well priced, well appointed and very quiet considering the 2 minute walk over to the clubs/beach.
It's a family run place and they gave me a lot of advice and assistance for my onward travel.

Diving

There is a huge diving community here and it is very cost effective.
I did 3 full days of diving with Scuba Playa, at sites around Playa DC, Cozumel and the Cenotes for USD280 including gear hire and lunches each day!
They were recommended to me and I absolutely recommend them to you.
Their service, staff, culture, knowledge, general organisation and offerings are first class.
It was also phenomenal value.

Day 1: Wrecks and Mayan Waterways
We dived around one of the wrecks sitting just off the coast of Playa. It had sunk in 1996 and was immersed in a lot of coral and wildlife.
Between dives the boat took us to shore at the mouth of an ancient Mayan water system!
We walked along the canals and our dive master explained the history!

Day 2: Cozumel
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Cozumel is a small island facing Playa del Carmen and takes roughly 30 mins by ferry to get there.
I joined my diving compadres from Japan, Germany and China on or ready-to-go dive boat And set out for our sites.

The water was crystal clear with amazing visibility, which was great because there was plenty to see. We saw at least three massive turtles, many, many kinds of fish and coral.
Cozumel island itself looks pretty ritzy with many high end resorts, and caters to the serious diver.

Day 3: Cenotes
The Cenotes are underground caves located in the jungles, and now full of freshwater, with enormous stalactites formed over (possibly?) millions of years.

Diving these sites is not for the timid, and requires an advanced open water cert. at minimum to join a trip.
We followed our dive master single file through many caves and tunnels, creeping past stalactites and interesting formations.
The passages are dark and narrow, but very, very rewarding!!

We passed through many tunnels and very low depths (approx. 45 metres).
I had to conjure a bit of calm and courage at points, but it was all worth it.

Enormous stalactites enhanced by the glitter and reflection of the water, it really felt and looked otherworldly!!
Absolutely up there with the best diving experiences of my life!

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Nightlife

All of the big nightclubs are on one street (Calle 12), making them easy to either avoid altogether, or stumble between them.
I had a great time dancing Salsa and Bachata with locals and tourists at Salsanera, and also experienced the truly memorable Coco Bongo....

Coco Bongo

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Visitors to Playa del Carmen will inevitably become aware of Coco Bongo.
I was sceptical about it, but gave it a go..... and so glad I did.
For me, it was a unique entertainment immersion experience with great acrobatics, choreography and music.
The show starts at roughly 11pm and finishes roughly four hours later!
There are many sets with many themes and featured artists /films including Guns n Roses, Madonna, MJ, Tron, etc.

The Michael Jackson section was thriller and bad.... chaaamone...
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When the show ended, the fun continued into the night, as the DJ span Reggaeton to the max and everyone boogied till dawn.
Ushers even encouraged people to dance on the bar(!) and let loose.
I had a great time!

Chichen Itza

This is an ancient Mayan site, of what once was a metropolis designed and built from pure genius.
The detail would be poorly explained here, suffice to say it was a marvellous experience and a highlight for everyone visiting this region.
I recommend watching the film, Apocalypto before visiting!!

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After some hunting around I went with Cancun Bay tours.
The tour took in one of the more scenic Cenotes first with an opportunity to swim and then lunch.

At Chichen Itza we were divided in to English and Spanish language groups.
The guides were very informed having extensive qualifications in Mayan archeology, history and anthropology.
Their insights really added to the experience, and I left feeling somewhat informed and mesmerised at the end.

We were on the bus for a total of 5 hours, and in Mexican style the beer, tequila (mixed with lemon) flowed all the way home courtesy of the tour company!
The mood was jovial, the conversation flowed and everyone agreed it was a really amazing and experience!!

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Tulum

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After a really nice time in Playa, I moved south to Tulum in search of more Mayan ruins and a bit of PnQ.
Tulum is a tiny, friendly town with strong Mayan roots and the most amazing Mayan site I saw in Mexico.

My hotel, Teetotum was amazingly lovely, unique, and charming...
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Tulum Ruins

The ruins are worth the journey. Incredible! Set on the coast to add a bit of drama.
You can get close and in some cases climb the stairs of some ruins.
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The surrounding restaurants are a bit of a tourist trap and charge exorbitant prices.
I'd recommend going to Subway instead.

Tulum beach is lovely, sleepily super chilled, with no shortage of great places to stay, eat and drink.

Mérida

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The Capital of Yucatán is a beautiful city with warm, friendly people and a thriving arts culture.
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It would be a great place to live, and many Americans do immigrate here.
I saw really interesting art, co-ops, studios, galleries, resto-galleries everywhere... complemented by the music you can hear throughout the city!
Salsa, Reggaeton, Reggae.
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As the world celebrated Octoberfest, Merida was no exception.
An entire street was closed to traffic in favour of Bavarian style open air beer halls, bratwurst BBQs and German music.
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I stayed at the amazingly serene Lux en Yucatán, for seven nights and definitely recommend it.
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Mérida is an amazing town, and really shouldn't be missed if you visit this part of the world!

Muchas Gracias Mexico. Adios

Yucatán is an amazing part of the world, particularly for diving, incredible beaches and Mayan ruins.
It's very safe an easy to get around, and I had an awesome time.

Over to Cuba....

Posted by SkinnyFists 18:15 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches diving ruins maya cenotes chicen_itza play_del_carmen

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