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Alternative spring break destinations in Central America

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The buzz around spring break destinations has begun with internet top ten lists spouting out the usual spring break ‘hotspots’. Some people might prefer the predictable debauchery in places like Cancun, Acapulco or Panama City, but for those looking for beach holidays with warm weather, cheap beer and, for the young ones out there, a lower drinking age, we have some alternative spring break destinations tips, after spending the past eight months traveling through Mexico and Central America…

Skip Cancun/Cozumel -> Explore the Yucatan

There are countless Cancun spring break package deals for those looking for the ultimate party. But Mexico’s Yucatan has much more to offer than the package party scene. Just a short ferry ride from Cancun is the tiny island of Isla Mujeres, easily our favorite beach spot in Mexico – for a country of thousands of miles of beautiful coastline, that is saying something. The island is so small you can see beach on both sides while standing in the center. The north end has ankle-deep crystal clear water stretching out over 100 feet in front of you. Visit the many restaurants, bars and very chill lounge bars by golf cart – the main mode of transport on Isla Mujeres.

Back on the mainland, visit Puerto Morelos, a sleepy fishing village which is an easy 30 minute bus ride away, or head down past Playa del Carmen to the beautiful beach town of Acumal, an almost undiscovered beach paradise. There are hotels and timeshare resorts surrounded by several small restaurants, but this is an insider spot, and very near to Tulum. Here, visit the indigenous Mayan ruins which have the most beautiful backdrop of any we’ve ever seen – the brightest blue water that looked photoshopped to our bare eyes.playa del carmen

Skip Acapulco/Mazatlan -> Go to Mazunte and Zipolite

On Mexico’s Pacific coast, Acapulco has had some bad press recently as dangerous drug-related incidents continue to happen here and while it and Puerto Vallarta have traditionally been spring break hotspots, we much preferred the two tiny pacific coast beaches of Mazunte and Zipolite. The two beaches, separated by a 15 minute ride, offer up all sun, beach and beer you need.Visitors here tend to be total hedonists, but hedonists who like a laid-back vibe. Zipolite is Mexico’s only nude beach (though this is frowned upon by locals), and at both beaches there isn’t much more to do than lay out (nude or not), explore the nearby jungle and party the night away with beach bonfires.

spring break destinations

Skip Costa Rica -> Head to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

Costa Rica is gorgeous – who wouldn’t love the stunning beaches, wild animals and great nightlife. In fact, we are in Costa Rica right now and loving it! However, culturally and economically Costa Rica is much more similar to a vacation in the United States or Europe. And it’s pricey. For an alternative spring break destination, we suggest heading to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua instead. The Nicaraguan beach town has everything you would ever need for parties, but spending a week in this chilled out surfer town will easily cost you half of any trip to Costa Rica. Beers here will run you $0.50 instead of $3 per beer in most Costa Rican vacation towns, dinners don’t cost more than $16 for two people, while in Costa Rica even a trip to the local ‘soda’ or diner, sometimes cost us $18 for two– no beers included. There are several neighboring beaches which are even more beautiful than the town beach, easily reachable by rent-a-car or group transport, and supposedly the best surfing in all of Nicaragua.spring break destinations

Skip Panama City, Florida -> Go to Panama City, Panama

The beaches of Florida are stuffed to the gills with wet t-shirt contests and binge drinking – the classic spring break party madness. But rather than go to Panama City in Florida, you could spend the same amount of cash dancing salsa with sexy strangers in Panama City – Panama. The city has the most beautiful skyline in all of Central America and a sexy nightlife to match Miami, plus you can visit the Panama Canal and ride the train along it through the lush rain forest.

If a beach is a must, Bocas del Toro is Panama’s party place on the beach. The chain of small Caribbean islands off the coast of Panama has a motto of ‘take it easy’ by day, while people go snorkeling, surfing, or just chill out and take in the sun. By night, the drinking, dancing and party offer up the perfect spring break vibe.

Panama

Skip Jamaica -> Head to Belize

What draws so many people to Jamaica – its crystal clear azure waters, verdant jungle countryside, laid-back attitudes, reggae, plus no foreign language to muddle your way through – can all be had in Belize at a fraction of the price. We visited both popular Cayes (pronounced keys) off the coast of mainland Belize – San Pedro and Caye Caulker.

The two cayes are very different, with San Pedro home to a large, and mainly older, US ex-pat community (who still like to party hard, so don’t let the ‘older’ bit completely turn you off), and Caye Caulker is a much more laid-back, car-free island with dirt roads and one main dancehall, though there are plenty of spots serving up the local rum punch for next to nothing. The snorkeling through Shark-Ray Alley here was the best we have ever experienced, as we saw not only loads of sting rays and sharks, but also turtles, loads of schools of fish and amazing coral. We don’t dive, but the tours off the Cayes are the best in Central America, and we don’t eat fish, but the just-caught fresh seafood is supposedly super cheap and delicious. We do drink beer, however, and we loved washing down our food with the Belizean Belikin beer. Tours on the mainland of Belize can also be organized, with everything from visits to Mayan ruins and ziplining to the ultimate caving adventure – the ATM tour – one of National Geographic’s top recommended adventure experiences in all Central America, and by far the most adventurous activity we have undertaken during our time here.Happy Hour Sign Belize

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The Best Things To Do in the Riviera Maya

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The Riviera Maya is one of the most popular destinations in Mexico, and it’s easy to see why: crystal clear Caribbean waters, pristine beaches, beautiful beach towns and Maya ruins galore! Add to that the unique natural feature of this region: cenotes, which are underwater sinkholes, the marine life, which includes turtles, and plenty of adventure activities, and you’ll want your vacation to never end. If you booked your vacation but you’re still not sure what to do in the Riviera Maya, read this articles for some ideas (and to get you excited for your trip!).

I’ll share some of the best things to do in the Riviera Maya and how you can have the best vacation of your life. No matter if it’s the first time you visit this region or the second or third time – there’s always something new to discover.
riviera Maya

Places you should see in the Riviera Maya

1 Cancun

Cancun is mainly known as a resort town, thanks to its expansive “hotel zone” – a narrow, L-shaped sandbar with nearly 100 hotels, many all-inclusive resorts and 13 miles (21 kilometers) of beautiful white-sand beaches. This part of Cancun, which is completely built around the tourist industry and caters to tourist needs, is perfect for travelers who are just looking to relax and enjoy the beach for a few days. However, there’s more to Cancun than just the Zona Hotelera. If you head downtown, you’ll experience the more authentic part of the city: This is where the locals live and hang out, where you can dine at excellent restaurants that don’t just cater to tourists and that are cheaper than the restaurants in the hotel zone, and there are several markets and shopping centers.

Cancun is also the perfect place to base yourself to explore other parts of the Yucatan, and you can book tours to archeological sites, to cenotes, to nearby colonial towns and beautiful islands. You can find some of the must-do activities and best things to do in Cancun here.Dani 2016 Mexico Isla Mujeres

2 Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen is the most popular tourist destination in the Riviera Maya, and you’ll find everything you could possibly need in Playa: a number of malls and excellent shopping, especially along Fifth Avenue, the main pedestrian street in Playa del Carmen. World-class dining – in addition to Mexican fare, you can also find international cuisine in Playa. No matter if you’re looking for high-end dining options or local street vendors – Playa’s got you covered! There are also movie theaters, spas, beach clubs and nightclubs in Playa.

If you want to visit Holbox island, the ferry for Holbox also leaves from Playa.playa del carmen

3 Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is easy to visit – you can either take an organized boat tour from Cancun, or simply hop on the ferry and spend a day there. The island is tiny, and the best way to get around is by golf cart. You can rent them right near the ferry pier. If you don’t want to explore but just enjoy some of the best Caribbean beaches in all of Mexico, head to Playa Norte, which is just a short walk from the ferry.

Things to do in the Riviera Maya

4 Tulum

Tulum is known for two things: the breathtakingly beautiful Maya ruins, which overlook the turquoise Caribbean Sea, and the picturesque beach with soft, powdery, white sand. I recommend visiting the Maya ruins early, because around 10am, all the tour buses from Cancun arrive and it gets crowded. The earlier you can get there, the less people will be there, and the more you’ll be able to enjoy the ruins. It’s also a good idea to visit the ruins early because it gets hot later in the day – and that’s when you’ll want to be on the beach. Tulum ruins open at 8am and close at 5pm.

If you have a car, you may also want to add the Gran Cenote to your visit, one of the most scenic cenotes in the Riviera Maya.tulum castillo

Cenotes and beaches in the Riviera Maya

These natural sinkholes, usually created through the collapse of the ceiling cave, are one of the unique features of the Yucatan peninsula. The Yucatan is full of them – there are thousands of cenotes here. Many of them are located right along the Riviera Maya, and these sinkholes make for perfect swimming spots. The water is usually crystal clear and begs you to swim in it, and if you visit several cenotes, you’ll discover that no cenote is like the other. They’re vastly different – sometimes you can’t even see the sinkhole from above and have to enter through a tiny entrance! If you dive, you should not only plan a dive in the ocean, but also seek out a cenote to dive in (there are various cenotes in which you can dive) because that way you’ll be able to explore even more of these fascinating creations of nature and see spectacular underwater stalagmite formations. Here are some of the best cenotes to visit in the Riviera Maya.tulum gran cenote

Water Parks and Eco-Parks in the Riviera Maya

If beaches and cenotes aren’t enough, check out one of the eco-parks in the Riviera Maya, like Xel-Ha and Xcaret. Xel-Ha offers amazing snorkeling in an inlet that flows directly into the Caribbean Sea, a scenic lighthouse from where you can enjoy amazing views over the Riviera Maya from 98.5 feet (30 meters) high before descending in a spiraling waterslide, a cliff climb and jump, and several cenotes.

You can zipline (and end the ride in the water!), explore mangroves and jungle trails, and for kids there’s a “Children’s World” full of adventures. You can swim with dolphins and snorkel with manatees, and even have a stingray encounter. At Xcaret, you can swim in underground rivers, enjoy the vistas from a scenic tower, snorkel with stingrays, and get close to turtles. There is a designated Children’s World, where kids can swim in shallow cenotes and wading pools, and nature lovers can see flamingos, jaguars, deer, manatees, spider monkeys and saraguato, bats and tapirs. Both parks are massive, so if you go, definitely set aside an entire day for your visit.

If you are looking for an adrenaline kick, visit Xplor, where you can enjoy ziplines, go on a jungle ride in an amphibious vehicle, take a ride on a raft through an underground cave, and other thrill rides. Rio Secreto is another great place to visit if you’re feeling adventurous: a huge underground cave system, where you swim through spectacular cave formations.Riviera Maya

Hotels and resorts in the Riviera Maya

There are plenty of hotels and resorts along the Riviera Maya – when choosing a hotel, it’s important to consider what you like in a hotel. Most of the larger all-inclusive resorts are further away from the town, so you won’t be in walking distance to local restaurants and local shopping, but if you prefer the amenities of a large resort, some of them are absolutely stunning. Just be aware that you’ll need a car or hire a taxi to visit other places along the Riviera Maya.

If you want to be close to restaurants and nightlife, I recommend staying in Playa del Carmen. For the best small boutique hotels, check out Tulum. One of my favorite hotels in Playa del Carmen is the Grand Hyatt Resort.

If you don’t need the amenities hotels and resorts offer, check out Airbnb. There are plenty of vacation rentals along the Riviera Maya, and smaller towns like Puerto Morelos and Akumal present a much more “local” experience than Cancun’s hotel zone.hyatt playa del carmen

Transportation in the Riviera Maya

The closest airport to the Riviera Maya is Cancun International Airport. Cancun has direct flights to most of the major hubs in the U.S., including Chicago, New York, Miami and L.A. It is easy to get from Cancun airport to all popular destinations along the Riviera Maya, and Cancun Airport Transfers service bring you to Playa del Carmen, Akumal, Tulum, or whatever your destination is in that area.

These are the distances from Cancun airport to the main tourist destinations:

  • Playa del Carmen (45 minutes / 35 miles)
  • Tulum (90 minutes / 73 miles)
  • Akumal (75 mins / 57 miles)
  • Puerto Morelos (20 mins / 15 miles)
  • Bacalar (4 hours / 208 miles)

You can also rent a car in Cancun if you’d like to be mobile during your stay. The roads are in good condition, and it’s easy to drive in this part of Mexico. Because the attractions, beaches and towns are quite spread out along the Riviera Maya, having a car will give you more flexibility and enable you to explore at your own pace.Riviera Maya Road Trip

Prepare for your trip to the Riviera Maya

To make sure your trip goes flawlessly, it is essential to take some precautions and prepare for your trip. The three main things to consider are:

● Buy travel insurance.

This is especially important if you’re planning to do partake in any adventurous activities: ziplining, diving, snorkeling – but even swimming in a cenote, or visiting Maya ruins. In some of the Maya ruin sites, you can climb to the top of the pyramids, and accidents can happen.coba main ruin mexico

● Get money on arrival at the airport.

You could try to pay with US Dollars everywhere, but then you’ll be charged a “tourist tax” – meaning you’ll be charge more than the actual price in Mexican pesos. I don’t recommend exchanging money at a Money Exchange, especially not at the airport, because they take a big commission. Get money out of the ATM instead. On that note: familiarize yourself with the current exchange rate. You don’t want to end up taking out $2.30 in cash because you didn’t know how much 50 Mexican pesos are.

One US Dollar currently buys you around 21.40 Mexican pesos – I recommend taking out at least MXN4,000 (US$187) for a week long vacation – this will cover tips, meals in local restaurants that don’t accept credit card payment, ice cream on the beach and snacks. If you are planning to visit some cenotes, check online to see if you have to pay in cash (Tripadvisor is a great resource, GoogleMaps reviews are also helpful).

● Buy eco-friendly sunscreen.

Be considerate of the environment and buy eco-friendly sunscreen prior to your trip. The underwater world of the Caribbean Sea is fragile, and if you’re planning to swim with turtles in Akumal, you should be conscious of what kind of sunscreen you use. Sunscreen is usually more expensive in tourist destinations, so it makes sense to stock up before your trip. Amazon has several eco-friendly sunscreens.swimming with turtles

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Planning the Perfect Vacation on the Yucatan Peninsula

playa del carmen

The Yucatan Peninsula is a dazzling travel destination like no other. The stunning beaches, clear waters, spectacular wildlife, small villages, and ancient Mayan ruins make it one of Mexico’s finest vacation spots. There is a lot to see and do in Yucatan, and millions of crowds are there every year to have fun and enjoy a good time.

The Yucatan Peninsula is bordered by the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. It offers everything you associate with a Caribbean island. It is also easy to get to and from Yucatan; cheap flights and accommodation mean that you do not have to overextend your budget to have a swell vacation.Yucatan Mexico

Fun Things to Do in the Yucatan Peninsula

In planning your Yucatan getaway, you may want to create a list of things to see and do. The peninsula offers a lot, so you would have to spend some time to get the whole Yucatan experience. Here’s our list of top things to explore while you are in Yucatan:

Party in Cancun

Cancun is Yucatan’s most popular city for a reason. Mexico’s official party capital has beautiful beaches and nightlife to rival any other city in the world. Cancun welcomes visitors all year round to jet ski, race Lamborghinis, or swim with whale sharks. If you’ve had enough of the chaos, you can head over to Downtown Cancun for a taste of the local life. This part of the city is teeming with local delicacies, tacos, and green parks. You can also take in some live Mexican wrestling.

Chill out on Tulum’s Beaches

You will find the finest beaches of Yucatan when you visit Tulum. The beautiful coastlines of this town are splattered with great restaurants, spas, and even yoga studios if that’s your thing. Enjoy the sunshine as you go scuba diving, snorkeling, and kite surfing in clear waters that excite and inspire.tulum beach

See the Pink Lakes in Las Coloradas

Get a breathtaking view of nature at its finest when you visit the Coloradas. These Las Coloradas lakes are covered by unique plant life that gives them a beautiful pink glimmer when the water evaporates. You may also get to see some pink flamingos hanging around the lake. These usually white flamingos get their pink color from eating the plants in the lakes.

Tour the Chichen Itza Ruins

The Ancient Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza span 740 acres and provide a fascinating insight into the history of the Mayans who settled there centuries ago. Chichen Itza is designated a UNESCO world heritage site and is also listed as one of the world’s new seven wonders.chichen itza el castillo mexico Explore the impressive 98-foot tall pyramid Temple of Kukulkan with the enormous serpent heads at the base of the stairs. Hear the Quetzal bird echo when you clap at the pyramid, and see the temple of the warriors where ancient Mayan ceremonies took place. Also, visit the Maya Ball court, where the first organized sporting game was ever played on your tour.

See Izamal, the Yellow Town

In 1993, Pope John Paul II visited Izamal on a special visit, and the residents painted the major walls in the city golden yellow in anticipation. The city seemed to fall in love with the color, and no one thought to change it since. See the hills where Mayan pyramids once stood and explore the gigantic yellow Franciscan monastery in Izamal.

Swim with Whale Sharks at Isla Holbox

How does the thought of swimming with a whale shark make you feel? Nervous right? Not in Yucatan. You can swim with large whale sharks in Isla Holbox, an island off Yucatan. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean, but they feed on planktons and little fish, so you have nothing to worry about if you choose to go on this adventure. They also move relatively slowly, so you can keep up with them underwater if you are a fast swimmer. Just don’t swim under them; they might descend without warning leaving you trapped.

Swimming in a Cenote

If you wonder what a cenote is, it is a large cave found in sedimentary rocks containing clear freshwater. Yucatan is filled with cenotes and provides a perfect way to cool off on a hot day. If you enjoy cave diving, Yucatan also provides cave diving opportunities for certified divers.cenote xkeken dani

Buy a Locally-made Hammock in Merida

Some of the world’s most beautiful hammocks are made in Merida, a city in Yucatan known for its striking architecture and pedestrian-friendly center. Merida is called “the white city” from the extensive use of white limestone in its construction. Hammock weaving is a centuries-old tradition in the city, and you can get one as a souvenir for your Yucatan vacation.

Moving Around Yucatan

Yucatan has a pretty efficient transport system, so getting around is easy. The available means of movement include:

Buses

Once you land on the Yucatan Peninsula, you can board a bus from Cancun airport to Tulum or any place you have in mind. Buses run round the clock, and you will almost always find one going your way no matter when you arrive. They are also cheap, with bus fares as low as 6.5 pesos ($0.6) to some destinations. If you are unsure of where to stop, you can always speak to the driver for clarification.Yucatan volkswagen beetle

Taxis

Taxis in Yucatan are relatively more expensive but offer some level of comfort and privacy. Ensure to negotiate a price with the driver before starting any journey. Exclusive taxis charge up to $400 MXN ($40) though you can get a shared ride (Colectivo) for half the price. Taxi drivers almost always try to rip off tourists, so you should be a little vigilant.

Rental Cars in the Yucatan

Rental cars are cheaper than taxis and are a better option if you are traveling while you are in the Yucatan. You can rent a car or a scooter for easy movement in and around the peninsula. Compare the best rental car rates here, but remember: if a rate offered looks like it’s too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true (read reviews about the rental agency you’re considering to see what other travelers’ experience was like.)

Conclusion

The Yucatan offers the perfect vacation getaway and has seen its stock as a tourist spot rise in recent years. The clear oceans, pristine sands, unending fun, and the general hospitality of the people make the peninsula a must-see travel destination.dani coba

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Polaroid of the week: Island paradise on Isla Mujeres, Mexico

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polaroid of the week mexico 2016 isla mujeresI visited Isla Mujeres in 2010 on a day trip while I was living in Playa del Carmen, and even though it was a (too!) short visit, I was smitten with the tiny Caribbean island immediately. Crystal clear water, powdery sand beaches, palm trees softly swaying in the wind. It was a glorious day. And yet it took me nearly six years to return to Isla Mujeres, the Isle of Women. I decided to spend my last weekend in Mexico on the island, and I don’t think I could’ve chosen a more perfect place to end my Mexico trip with a bang, but it also made saying goodbye even more bittersweet. I know that I’ll be back in Mexico (hopefully rather sooner than later), but I was definitely not ready for this trip to end, especially after our fabulous road trip.

As the last stop for our road trip, the island was perfect! It is tiny enough to be explored in a golf kart in half a day, so we didn’t feel like we missed out on anything when we spent most of the weekend on the beach, sitting in a swing bar with a cool beer or searching for the best palm tree to spread out our beach towels under.

Even though Isla Mujeres isn’t the tiny fishing village it was once, and word has definitely gotten out about this little gem, it is still paradise. The island was much less touristy when I first came here, but being only a short 20-minute boat ride from Cancun, I was surprised that word hadn’t gotten out earlier. And even though we were there over the weekend, it didn’t feel crowded, and none of the spring break crowds that you find in Cancun had made their way over to Isla Mujeres.

Next time I’ll be back for a whole week…

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Polaroid of the week: Mysterious and beautiful – the cenotes of the Yucatan

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polaroid of the week mexico 2016 yucatan cenote jardin del edenWhat a week it’s been – my whirlwind road trip through the Yucatan is coming to an end – how can this even be?! It seems like it was just yesterday that I boarded my plane to Cancun in Mexico City, but looking back at all the places I’ve visited since then, it almost seems too much to fit in one short week!

After so many adventures, which I’ll be sharing in detail with you soon, I am having the hardest time deciding which picture to share with you today! The magnificent pyramid of Chichen Itza? The stunning Mayan temples of Tulum, with the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea as a backdrop? Or the jungle ruins of Coba? One of the many beaches I’ve visited in the past seven days? But since I just posted a picture of an ancient pyramid in Mexico and will be posting a picture of one of my favorite beaches in the world next week (so excited about returning to this place – you can get a sneak peek of it in my journey through Mexico picture post from 2010, it’s the second to last place we visited in Mexico back then), I narrowed it down to a cenote – but even that wasn’t easy, considering we visited five different amazing cenotes last week!

If you’ve never been to Mexico, you might not be familiar with cenotes, which are unique to the Yucatan peninsula: there are over 3,000 of them scattered across this part of the country! So what are they? Cenotes are underwater sinkholes, natural swimming holes that were formed by the collapse of porous limestone rock. Some of them are open, framed by the limestone rock, some are closed, only accessible through a small hole in the ground. What all of them have in common? Mineral-rich, fresh water, and incredible underwater rock formations. The water is usually crystal clear, which makes for splendid snorkeling or even diving in the bigger ones, where the small opening often doesn’t even reveal how far underground their cave systems reach. In some cenotes I saw divers appear seemingly out of nowhere; it made me almost want to give diving a try (it’ll happen one day, I guess!).

The word cenote means ‘sacred well’, by the way, and cenotes were used by the Mayans for sacrificial purposes long before we used them to cool off from the hot and humid temperatures of the Yucatan. What makes these swimming holes so special are not just the underwater rock formations and the stunning stalactites in the closed cave-like cenotes,  but also their surroundings – usually lush green jungl-y scenery. Sitting on the edge of the limestone rock looking out over the crystal clear water never ceases to amaze me, no matter how many cenotes I’ve visited.

On this trip, I visited Cenote del Jardin (pictured above), an open cenote south of Playa del Carmen, Cenote Zacil-Ha (also open) near Tulum, el Gran Cenote, which is partially covered and partially open (also near Tulum), and two closed cenotes near Valladolid: Cenote Samula and Cenote Xkeken. You might think one would tire of cenotes after a while, but they are all so different from each other that each and every one is an awe-inspiring experience – at least my fellow globetrottergirl and I were in awe in every single cenote we visited, and we would’ve happily visited more had we not been on such a tight schedule.

Stay tuned for one last dispatch from Mexico next week!

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Life Lately & Upcoming Travels: April 2016 Edition

Isla Mujeres playa norte

In my monthly round-ups, I am looking back at my travels over the past four weeks, what went well and what didn’t, and what’s next for me. April 2016

Where I’ve been

I began April in Mexico City, road tripped around Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and finished my month-long stay in Mexico on the tiny Caribbean island of Isla Mujeres. After a short stop in New York City (just enough time to say Hi to a dear friend and to stuff my face with a bagel, something I’d been craving for months!) I flew to Tucson, Arizona, where I am ending the month – but I am actually packing up my stuff right now, about to head out on a mini road trip to my next destination, but more on that below.April 2016 Mexico Arizona

What I’ve been up to

This month was supposed to be a relaxing one, at least the second half, but somehow I never slowed down.. Story of my life, I guess. I ended my time in Mexico City with a near disaster (more on that below), but also with a great weekend that involved a return to Frida Kahlo’s house, the Casa Azul, and a fun day in Coyoacan, market madness and lots of craft beer. Then I flew to Cancun where I met up with my favorite travel buddy (again, after traveling together in Colombia a couple of months ago) to road trip around the Yucatan, which just so happens to be one of my favorite parts of Mexico. For eight days, we swam in cenotes (underwater sinkholes), beach hopped along the Caribbean and got our culture fix by visiting several Mayan ruins before a chilled out island getaway in Isla Mujeres. And with that, my 3-month winter escape to Latin America came to an end..MexicoMid-April I found myself in New York for a minute before I jumped on a plane to Tucson for my fifth visit to southern Arizona since 2010. While I usually use these weeks of housesitting to catch up on work, this year it seems like I had much more ‘play time’ than work time.. First, my friend Katie came to visit me and I found myself frolicking around old western towns, hiking in between giant Saguaro cacti, revisiting the beautiful San Xavier del Bac Mission and sampling all the craft beer Tucson has to offer (well maybe not all of it, but quite a lot!)

Then I had a surprise visitor distracting me with a visit to a PowWow (get together of Native American communities) in Phoenix and a sweaty canyon hike. Plus, I also finally made an effort to meet some new people in Tucson and caught up with friends I made on previous visits. And just like that, my three weeks here are over.. But I hope this wasn’t my last visit, because the more time I spend in Tucson, the harder I fall for the city, discovering more and more cool stuff.

Arizona

Highlights

Road tripping around the Yucatan

I spent hours planning this road trip, but in the end it was so worth all the sleepless nights and the effort that went into it: the road trip couldn’t have gone any better. Beginning with a fabulous stay at the exquisite Grand Hyatt in Playa Del Carmen to accident-free driving to introducing my favorite girl to really good Mexican food, not the stuff you get in the States!yucatan road trip
Desert hikes in southern Arizona

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know how much I love the desertscape of Southern Arizona – and I was happy that I had several visitors who got me out of the house to hike some of my favorite trails here and explore some new ones. Bonus: it’s spring, which means the cacti are blossoming, making the dessert look extra pretty.arizona desert hikes

Returning to Isla Mujeres

I fell in love with Isla Mujeres when I first visited the tiny Caribbean island in 2010, and I decided to spend an entire weekend there after our road trip – even though I had no idea if I’d still like the island after all these years of travel and all the places I’ve seen since then. Moreover, I didn’t know if Isla Mujeres had changed – had it become just as touristy and crowded as Playa del Carmen, a place I used to like a lot but that doesn’t do much for me now? I had nothing to worry about: Isla Mujeres was as charming as ever, and yes, it had become more touristy, but just look at these pictures… what’s not to love?!isla mujeres

What went right

Great publicity

Bild Der FrauThis month was an awesome month for publicity – An article about me appeared in one of Germany’s biggest women’s magazines, and I was featured by Lonely Planet! Being included in a list of the Top 50 Travel Bloggers was another pleasant surprise yesterday.

My first Mexican road trip

As I said above, my Mexican road trip was a blast, but it was also my first time renting a car in Mexico for longer than a day and driving on roads I hadn’t driven on prior to this visit. The only reason I was confident enough to sign up for this trip was because I remembered from living on the Riviera Maya in 2010 and 2012 that driving was a breeze in this part of Mexico, but I was still nervous if everything would go okay with the rental, if the route I had mapped out was too ambitious and if the car would be safe everywhere we parked it (sometimes with all our belongings inside). I am happy to report that everything went smoothly and without a glitch – and this road trip is perfect for anyone who wants to explore the Yucatan, so I’ll be writing about it in more detail soon.Mexico road trip

What went wrong

The almost robbery in Mexico City

My time in Mexico City almost ended with a tragedy – on my very last day in the city my friend and I were strolling through the big Saturday market that sprawls out into the streets surrounding La Merced, the city’s biggest market.

I was happily snapping some pictures and munching on a mango when all of a sudden I felt someone grab me from behind, wrapping his arms around my chest so that I couldn’t move my arms, while a second guy tried to rip my dSLR camera out of my right hand. Luckily I had strapped it around my wrist tightly and he couldn’t just grab it, and I started screaming like crazy. My friend pushed the guy who was holding me, and we both fell to the ground, I was holding my bag and camera tight to my body prepared to defend them, but they decided to run. My friend ran after them, not sure if they’d gotten anything from me or not, and saw them disappear into a courtyard right off the market. Knowing where these thieves lived we decided to get the police involved but they seemed a bit lackluster about the situation. They still came with us to the house, but told us they couldn’t go in without a permit / order.

I can’t believe how lucky I was – this could’ve ended much worse. I had my passport in my bag (required to go inside the National Palace which we had planned for that day), my Kindle, and a chunk of cash. However – I wasn’t entirely lucky during the incident: in the fall, I smashed my camera lens which died a slow death after the incident and had to be replaced, and I hit my big toe so hard that I was sure it was broken.

mexico city merced market dani
This picture was taken minutes before the attack happened…

The credit card scare

At the beginning of the month, I logged into my account to check the balance on my credit card. But what was that? In my ‘Account Summary’, my credit card didn’t show up! Where was my credit card balance?? I looked everywhere in my online banking account, but there was no sign of my credit card. No message either about it being blocked or something. It was midnight in Mexico, so I had to wait until the next morning to call my bank in the UK. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep that night. How could my credit card simply disappear from my account?!

When I finally got hold of my bank the next morning, it took an hour on the phone with them to resolve what had happened – the card had been blocked after I the rental car company I rented with try to charge a $2,000 deposit for the car. Yes, these high deposits are customary here in Mexico.. And so my bank put a flag on the account.

dani isla mujeres
Dealing with British banks makes me want to RUN.

I lost more things… And this time, really expensive things.

The ‘lost items’ section seems to evolve into a running segment in my monthly round-ups, much to my dismay. After losing clothes and my Sennheiser headphones last month, and my Kindle charger as well as camera charger the month before, this month’s loss was very tragic: I left my beloved $300 JBL headphones on the flight from New York to Chicago on my way to Tucson. When I realized what had happened while waiting for my connecting flight, I immediately ran back to the gate I’d arrived on, but I was told nothing had been handed in. Oh well, I guess somebody else is enjoying these amazing headphones now.

And not only did I lose my headphones in transit, I also managed to leave my belt behind in Cancun when I took it off to go through security in the airport. Only on the plane did I notice that I was suddenly belt-less! I really hope May goes by without me losing something.

isla mujeres dani cliffs
If I lose anything next month, I might jump off a cliff

What went almost wrong

The almost missed ferry & almost missed flight

For my last night in Mexico, I had booked a hotel near the airport in Cancun, because we were leaving on a super early flight the next morning. The plan was to spend the entire day on Isla Mujeres and head back to the mainland just to sleep there – why waste a day in Cancun when we can spend it in this island paradise? I had seen online that ferries were running until late at night, which was perfect for us – that way, we could even have dinner on Isla Mujeres!

But when we, happily stuffed with tacos, made our way to the ferry terminal around 8pm, we arrived to complete darkness – the terminal was closed! I panicked immediately, knowing that the first morning ferry wouldn’t run until 5am – too late for us to make it to the airport and to catch our flight. I started to hyperventilate, because neither my friend nor I could miss that flight the next morning.

In my head, I already saw us pay for a private boat to the mainland, and ran over to a taxi driver to find out if there might be a car ferry or another way to get off the island that night, and he simply pointed to the ferry terminal next to the one we were at. Yes, this one had closed for the night, but the main one was still open. I almost suffered a heart attack in that near-travel fail, thinking I had screwed up and maybe ferries weren’t going late on Sundays. Luckily, everything went according to plan when we finally boarded the ferry.

isla mujeres sunset - Copy
The sunset was worth missing the ferry for

As if that wasn’t enough, the next morning we then nearly missed our flight even though we were at the airport two hours prior to our flight departure – and just because we were chatting at the gate waiting for the flight to board.. Our conversation was so deep that we forgot to pay attention and somehow missed that everyone had already boarded – they were ready to close the doors! Luckily we noticed that we were the only ones left in the departure area before the plane departed.

What’s next for me

I am finishing up my housesit in Tucson and am almost on my way to the next housesit: a month in Austin, Texas! I’ve been wanting to visit Austin for years, so when this opportunity came my way, I didn’t have to think long.

And because my travel plans aligned with those of a travel buddy I am finding myself now road tripping from Tucson to Austin, stopping along the way at one of the most remarkable places I’ve visited in the US, the stunning white desert of White Sands in New Mexico (which I hope I’ll get to photograph at sunset this time around) and in Big Bend National Park for a day of hiking before eating my way through Austin for the next few weeks. If you know Austin and have recommendations for restaurants, food trucks, craft beer bars and things to do, please share them in the comments!tucson cowboy hats

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Cenotes, Beaches & Maya Ruins: A Taco-Fueled Yucatan Road Trip

valladolid-mexico

Not long after our two weeks in Colombia together, I was reunited with my favorite travel buddy, Miss G, in Mexico. It was her first time in the country, and it was my job to give her the best introduction to Mexico possible – a mix of culture, food, and scenery. What better way to do this than taking her on a Yucatan road trip!?dani coba ruins

Why the Yucatan Peninsula/the state of Quintana Roo? This part of Mexico, a peninsula in the southeast that stretches along the Caribbean coastline all the way down to Belize, is my favorite part of the country, a region that I could return to over and over again. And because I know this region of Mexico well, it was easy for me to map out a Yucatan road trip itinerary.tulum beach mexicoI knew I could give her a great taste of Mexico in the Yucatan, with abundant Mayan culture at historic sites like Chichen Itza, Tulum and Uxmal; beautiful Spanish-colonial towns like Valladolid, Campeche and Izamal; dreamy beaches in Playa del Carmen, Tulum and Mahahual; dozens of cenotes – natural freshwater sinkholes – for something completely unique; swimming with turtles and flamingo watching for wildlife, and plenty of taco stops along the way.
cenote valladolid

Planning the perfect Yucatan Road Trip

Once I started to map out my dream Yucatan road trip in detail, breaking it down day by day, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to fit in all the places I ideally wanted to visit.

yucatan road tripIf you have more time than we did (ten days), I recommend you take this slightly longer route for your Yucatan road trip, which includes the Yellow Town of Izamal and Las Coloradas, the Pink Lakes near Rio Lagartos (flamingos included, if you’re visiting at the right time of year!). You could end your trip in Isla Holbox and swim with whale sharks (July until October) or on Isla Mujeres like we did.yucatan road trip itineraryIf you’re wondering why I didn’t include Merida in the second option, which is just a short drive from Izamal, it is because I wasn’t too fussed about Merida when I visited a few years back, but that’s my personal opinion. I know a lot of people would disagree and definitely include Merida.

But back to our Yucatan road trip route. I chose my route with the intention to showcase some of Mexico’s finest: remarkable Maya ruins, splendidly beautiful beaches, and some authentic Mexican village life.valladolid mexico churchMexican village life in the form of a sleepy little fishing village was our first stop. We picked up our US$9 per day rental car at the airport in Cancun and headed straight south towards Playa del Carmen. On the way, just off the main highway to Playa, sits Puerto Morelos. Even though it’s far from not touristy – there are some fancy condo buildings further down the beach – in its core, it is still pretty much untouched by the mass tourism you find in Playa or Cancun. Fisherman sell their catch right on the beach, which is lined with colorful little fishing boats. You won’t find a Senor Frogs or a steak restaurant here, but instead, little mom-and-pop restaurants dominate the ‘restaurant scene’, if you can even call it that.puerto morelos mexicoFrom Puerto Morelos, it is only another 45 minutes to Playa del Carmen, where we spent a couple of nights during our Yucatan road trip. Playa del Carmen is a great base for some beach time and to explore a couple of cenotes, because there are quite a few of them just a short drive from Playa.

What is a cenote, you ask? Cenotes are underwater sinkholes or underground caverns which result from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. They come in different shapes and forms, some are covered, others are open, and there are over 7,000 of them scattered all over the Yucatan peninsula.cenote jardin del eden yucatanIn fact, they are unique to this part of Mexico and belong to an extensive underground network of rivers and caves, many of which remain unexplored. Those that are explored have one thing in common: they all have crystal clear turquoise water and often they have a large underwater cave system which you cannot see from the usually round, open cenote entrance. In short: they are perfect for snorkeling and diving and are a must-visit on a trip to the Yucatan.dani cenoteI tried to fit as many of them as possible into our road trip to introduce Miss G to several kinds of sinkholes: covered ones, underground ones, and open ones, and our first one was going to be an open cenote south of Playa named Jardin del Eden, Garden Of Eden.cenote jardin del eden iguanaJardin del Eden is aptly named in my opinion, because this open cenote is surrounded by lush green plants and trees, and you can see all the way down to the bottom of it. This is one of the bigger cenotes I’ve seen, and what you see from above isn’t even everything there is: we kept seeing groups of divers peek out of the water every now and again, which made me wonder how big the underwater cave system was.cenote jardin del edenOur second day in Playa was spent right in town, because this beach deserved some time, too:playa del carmenI have to admit that I am not the biggest fan of Playa itself though, simply because it is very Americanized and tourist-focused, but I know that other people like it and return to Playa year afer year. Fifth Avenue, the main drag that runs parallel to the beach through Playa, is lined with malls, souvenir shops and restaurants, many of which don’t even serve Mexican food, but European or North American fare at U.S. prices. I don’t mind it for a stroll, but we didn’t spend much time in Playa itself.yucatan road tripOur hotel, the Grand Hyatt Resort, was right on the best stretch of the beach, Playa Mamita, and I have to admit that I found it hard to leave my sun lounger by the gorgeous infinity pool. Can you blame me?hyatt playa del carmenI know that other travelers spend a week or longer in Playa, but some of my favorite places along the coast, the Riviera Maya, are actually further south. Our next stop was one of them: Akumal.akumal beachThis small beach town is located about 30 minutes south of PdC, or 25 minutes north of Tulum. Once a hidden gem, the secret is out now. During previous visits, I’d never seen the beach as busy as this time around, and that’s for one very good reason: there are sea turtles feeding off the sea grass right off the shore here, and you can swim with them. While years ago, you’d see only a few individual tourists floating face-down in the water turtle watching, this time around there were entire tour groups in the water, easily recognizable by their bright yellow, orange or red life jackets.
dani akumalAs soon as we walked up to the beach, we were approached by a bunch of guys trying to sell us a pricey snorkel tour. Since when do we have to pay for this?, I wondered. For all I knew, access to the beach was free. So be careful: Don’t let anyone convince you you need to join a tour. No need for that! All you need is a snorkel and a mask.I wasn’t surprised when I later read in an article that Akumal is struggling to maintain sustainable tourism due to the increased number of tourists, and that the turtles are showing signs of stress due to the high number of humans in the water.turtles akumalApologies for the bad quality of these pictures – Just to give you an idea of how close you’ll get to the turtles. Make sure to bring a good underwater camera and, extra pro tip, a disposable camera doesn’t qualify as such.

I hope that the officials will find a way to protect the turtles and increase their efforts in making tourism sustainable here, because, with or without turtles, Akumal is one of the most beautiful stretches along the Riviera Maya, and I’d hate to see this little paradise ruined.akumal beach pelicanDespite the popularity of the turtles, which are on the part of the beach that is closest to the street, it is still possible to find an empty stretch of beach here, if you walk further down the bay, away from where the turtles are.akumal beach mexicoFrom Akumal, we drove further south, and half an hour later, we arrived in Tulum. Tulum was a stop on our Yucatan road trip I was especially excited about, because here we would visit the first (out of three) Mayan ruins which I had planned our Yucatan road trip around. I had been to Tulum years ago, and even though the ruins there are not as stunning as Chichen Itza or Palenque, their spectacular cliff top setting, overlooking the turquoise Caribbean waters, makes them stand out from all the other Mayan ruins in Central America.tulum ruinsThe Maya lived in the region which today is made up of Mexico, Belize, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, and are known to be one of the most sophisticated civilizations of their time (AD250 – AD900). To this day, you can find the ruins of their cities, their temples, their religious centers and their infrastructure throughout Central America, and there are around 20 Mayan ruin sites on the Yucatan Peninsula alone.tulum ruins yucatanTulum was mainly serving as a port for the larger Mayan city of Cobá, which would be the next set of ruins we’d visit. Tulum is believed to have had between 1,000 and 1,600 inhabitants, compared to around 50,000 in Cobá, to give you an idea of the size of the site. There is only one major structure here, El Castillo, a 25 feet (7.5 meters) tall pyramid.tulum castilloBecause of its proximity to Playa del Carmen and relative closeness to Cancun, Tulum is one of the most popular ruin sites, and always packed. Knowing that, I made sure we’d arrive at the crack of dawn.. well maybe not that early, but we got to the gates just after 8am, when the site opens, and we got our tickets without having to wait in line, enjoying our stroll around the ruins with barely any other tourists around.tulum ruins mexicoBy the time the sun started burning down on us, we were ready to leave. We had timed our visit perfectly: when we walked back to the car, several massive tour groups were entering the ruins, and no less than 20 large buses were spitting out tourist after tourist into the parking lot. If you want Tulum without the crowds, definitely head there early.tulum ruins1Instead of returning to our hotel, we drove straight to Tulum’s glorious beach – without a doubt one of the prettiest along the Riviera Maya. An extra wide stretch of beach with powdery, white sand for as far as the eye can see, and this water, with its incredible I-don’t-know-how-many shades of blue.tulum beachWe found a beach bar, settled into our beach chairs and didn’t leave our spot for the rest of the day, until it was time for dinner, which brought us to Antojitos La Chiapaneca, a taco place in the village (not by the beach) that came highly recommended and exceeded our expectations by far. It was so good that we ended up going back there the next night – even though Tulum has dozens of dining options. But could there really be anything better than these seven peso tacos?tacos tulumWe could have easily spent another day on the beach in Tulum, but the next day was reserved for more cenotes. After having swum in an open cenote, we wanted to see a different kind of cenote – a covered or partially covered one. After doing some research, it was a close tie between Gran Cenote and Cenote Dos Ojos, and I finally went for Gran Cenote. Dos Ojos, a covered cenote, seems to be the most popular cenote in Tulum, but I found the admission pretty high (MXN200 admission if you bring your own equipment and are prepared to walk 3km to the cenote, or MXN500 for a ride to the cenote, a guide, snorkel equipment, and a lamp), and I knew we would be visiting a couple of covered cenotes in Valladolid later in our trip.tulum gran cenoteGran Cenote was the perfect mix of covered and open cenote, and with a lower admission (MXN150) it allowed us to add another cenote to our tour of natural sinkholes. Gran Cenote did not disappoint: crystal clear water, a large area for swimming, and a covered part where you could swim through and reach another open part of the cenote. We snorkeled, marveled at the underwater rock formations and the stalactites hanging from the roof of the cave, sunbathed on the wooden deck and watched the turtles that were swimming in a separate area.Gran Cenote MexicoAfter a couple of hours, we were ready to check out another cenote and we went to Zacil-Ha, which was just a little further down the road. This cenote was mainly frequented by Mexican tourists, I had read, and was only MXN50. When we arrived, there were only two other people around, and later on three girls arrived to film a music video there, other than that, we had Zacil-Ha to ourselves.tulum cenote zacil haThe cenote is much smaller than the Gran Cenote, an almost perfectly round-shaped natural swimming pool – at least that’s what you see from above. After a while, we saw a couple of divers emerge, and descend again, and were gone for long enough to lead me to assume there must be quite a large underwater cave system here.cenote zacil-haThe best part of Zacil-Ha was the zip-line that went right above the cenote. You can take a thrilling ride which ends with you plunging into the water from a considerable height. Don’t expect a proper zipline with a harness – it is basically just a handle that you hold on to and let go of once you reach the center of the cenote. Definitely worth the 10 pesos we paid for it. Since this cenote is small and on the road to Cobá, you could even stop here for a quick dip on the way to the Cobá ruins, where we’d head the next day.dani coba treeThe next stop on our Yucatan road trip was Cobá. Cobá is about an hour inland from Tulum, and couldn’t be more different from the seaside ruins. This Mayan city is surrounded by thick jungle and gets much less visitors than Tulum or Chichen Itza, and the grounds are so spread out that it’s nearly impossible to see everything without a bicycle. Luckily, there are plenty of bikes right at the entrance, waiting to be rented, or bicycle guides, who have a seat for two in front of their bike to drive you through the jungle from one structure to the next. Feeling a little lazy, we opted for the latter option which turned out to be pretty convenient, because that way we were taken on the route that made the most sense and we were able to take in the beautiful jungle instead of focusing on not getting lost.coba bicyclesThe most exhilarating part of a visit to Cobá is the climb up Nohoch Mul, which isn’t only the highest pyramid in this city, but in all of the Yucatan. The views from up here make you realize just how green this part of the country is: the jungle stretches to the horizon in all four directions. It is one of the few ruin sites where you can still climb a pyramid, and Nohoch Mul with its 120 uneven, large stone steps up to reach the top at 137 feet (42 meters) is quite the challenge for most visitors. The way down seems even more daunting, and the lone rope dangling from the top for tourists to hold on to is used by every single person slowly clambering back down.coba main ruin mexicoCobá is certainly one of the most interesting temple complexes on the Yucatan: older than Chichen Itza, known for its elaborate stone carvings, and the famous sacbeob, a network of elevated roads that connected Cobá with other Mayan cities throughout the region. What I love most about this site is the jungle setting, and that it is less crowded than the other Mayan ruins in the Yucatan, Chichen Itza in particular, which would be our third set of Mayan pyramids.Coba MexicoI am not sure why Cobá is less popular with tourists, given that it is close to both Playa Del Carmen and Tulum and has a ridiculously low admission fee of only MXN57 – especially compared to the steep MXN232 Chichen Itza charges.coba ball courtAfter touring the ruins for a couple of hours we stopped in the actual town of Coba (which is tiny) for a quick lunch in a local Mexican restaurant before hitting the road again. According to GoogleMaps it would take us about an hour to get to Valladolid, where we’d be spending the next couple of nights, but it took us closer to two hours for us to finally get to what is still my favorite Mexican village.yucatan road tripValladolid was the stop on our Yucatan road trip I was most excited about, because I had fallen in love with this colonial town in 2010, but during all of my visits to Mexico since, I had never made it back there. Now that I’d seen so many other Spanish-colonial villages all over Latin America, and visited several ‘magic villages’ (as 83 villages in Mexico were declared, thanks to their cultural, historical, or natural treasures) – would I still adore Valladolid as much as I did all those years ago?valladolid mexico churchI didn’t have anything to worry about: Valladolid had barely changed over the past few years, and was still as charming and sleepy as I had remembered it. The pastel-colored houses with their colonial courtyards were still beautiful, the churches striking, and the main plaza with old ladies chatting on benches while vendors were walking around selling granizados out of their little carts was as delightful a place to sit in as ever.valladolid cathedralAnother thing that hadn’t changed? How hot Valladolid was. With average temperatures of 93ºF (34ºC), the town can feel unbearably hot, especially in the afternoon, and with no ocean anywhere nearby, we were thankful for the three cenotes here. Cenote Zaci, is right in town, and Cenote Dzitnup, is about five miles outside of town.
valladolid housesDzitnup was the one we chose for our first afternoon in town, a cenote that is actually made up of two different sinkholes, Samulá & Xkekén. They are both covered and undeniably two of the most remarkable cenotes I’ve been to, so it didn’t surprise me that the setup was vastly different from when I first came here a few years ago.
cenote valladolid (2)Back then, you could nearly miss the entrance to the cenotes if you didn’t pay attention, but now, a big tourist plaza had been built around them, charging MXN90 admission to enter both, and a number of souvenir stands lines the path to each cenote. I realized that these two cenotes had become part of a tour, probably the Chichen Itza tours from Cancun, but luckily we didn’t encounter a bus load of tourists while we were there – as a matter of fact, the tourists in both cenotes seemed to be mainly Mexicans.
cenote xkeken mexicoWe started with Cenote Xkeken, which you can’t see at all from the outside. A small entrance leads to some stairs which go down into the cave, and once you reach the big cave room it is almost impossible not to be in complete awe. The ceiling is covered in stalactites of all sizes, and then there is the bright blue refreshing water.cenote xkekenAfter a quick dip we walked over to Cenote Samula, which used to be famous for the long tree roots hanging from a small hole in the ceiling of the covered cenote. However, there wasn’t much of the tree roots left when I went there this year – either they were cut off or fell in, I am not sure. This doesn’t make Samula less impressive though, and again, you can’t even see the entrance, but access the cavern through a tiny hole and walk down a set of stairs until you reach the water. In this cenote, the rocks and stalagmites underwater are even more dramatic than in Cenote Xkeken, and you’ll want to bring a mask and a snorkel to be able to fully appreciate them.cenote xkeken mexico1We got off to an early start the next morning – once again to beat the tourist crowds. The final, grand destination of our Yucatan road trip was Chichen Itza, the most popular Mayan ruin site of the Yuctan.
chichen itza daniAnd it is easy to see why this UNESCO World Heritage site is so famous: the structures here are extraordinary, especially the perfectly restored main pyramid, El Castillo, which is jaw-droppingly stunning. It is on this stepped pyramid where during the equinoxes (21 March and 21 September), shadows on the steps of the pyramid resemble a descending snake. The temple has 365 steps – one for each day of the year – which is only one feat to show how sophisticated the Mayan culture was, and how it was integrated into their buildings and religious centers.chichen itza mexicoThe site has enough structures to keep you exploring for at least half a day, with the Temple of the Warriors, and the massive Great Ball Court, where the Mayan ballgame was played and which is the largest in the Mayan world.
chichen itza mexicoThere are fascinating structures like El Caracol, an Observatory, and the Jaguar Temple. All of Chichen Itza’s buildings are restored in such detail that there are frescos and the ubiquitous serpent heads that ornate many of the temples.chichen itza el castilloUpon leaving, we saw tour bus after tour bus arrive, and I can only recommend staying in Vallodolid or one of the hotels near Chichen Itza if you don’t want to share the site with hundreds of tourists (the pictures at El Castillo were taken before the crowds arrived).chichen itza skulls mexicoFor us, all that was left was the long drive back to Cancun, and long before handing over the keys to our rental car at the airport we were already pondering where our next Mexican road trip would be..tulum sunset

Practical information

Tips for renting a car in Mexico

I was initially tempted to rent a car via RentalCars.com, an Expedia-owned car rental company I often use in the US – but these prices seemed too good even for me (being a cheap ass!):

yucatan road trip

Instead, I opted for the slightly pricier Priceline.com, where cars start at US$4 per day. I was skeptic but willing to give it a try, thinking that even with additional fees and taxes it couldn’t add up to more than $20 a day. And sure enough, there are some additional charges in Mexico that are not covered by credit card car insurance (most credit card companies offer up to 14 days coverage overseas – before you go on your trip, check what kind of coverage is included in your credit card. Nerdwallet has a good overview of all credit cards and what kind of insurance they cover.)

Note: All car rental companies in Mexico require you to purchase basic personal liability insurance (sometimes called third-party liability insurance). They do not accept personal liability insurance through U.S. credit cards. However, they are by law required to include this fee in the rental price, so don’t let them fool you and tell you it has to be added.

Some car rental companies will try to sell you a so-called ‘supplemental liability insurance’ on top of that. It is not mandatory, but at only around $13 a day it is worth considering.

A comprehensive article on everything you need to know about renting a car in Mexico can be found here.grand hyatt playa del carmen infinity pool daniThird-party liability insurance can also be purchased through an independent insurance provider, by the way. I’ve done that several times (through iCarHireInsurance, a UK-based company), including this trip and their daily rates are about half of what you pay at the rental car counter. I paid around GBP6 per day. If you decide to go for this option, there are two things to note: 1) You have to purchase your insurance before you start the rental and present the policy number at the counter. 2) Not all countries accept third-party insurances, so check beforehand if your destination does accept it.tulum beach

Important: Another additional and not insignificant charge to your credit card will be a security deposit which you’ll get back when you return the car. The amount of this will depend on the total of your rental – I was charged around $1,500 but other companies charge more (US$3,000 are not uncommon). The amount was returned to my credit card upon returning the car.

Road conditions: The roads in the Yucatan are in very good condition, especially the 4-lane road between Cancun and Tulum and the fast route between Cancun and Valladolid. We found ourselves on unpaved roads occasionally (usually to get to a cenote) but nothing our economy car wouldn’t have been able to handle. Be careful with the ‘topes’ though, horrid speed bumps which you’ll encounter frequently.cenote drive

Gas stations: There are plenty of gas stations all over the Yucatan, but note that there are still gas stations that only accept cash, no credit cards  – something to keep in mind when mapping out your own Yucatan road trip.

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What to do and see in Cancún

mexico our coconut tree and ocean

Cancun is a wonderful destination that you have to visit if you want to see the most beautiful beaches in Mexico. One of the reasons why people decide that Cancun is the perfect holiday destination is because of its incredible location: Cancun is located near many of the attractions that you will be interested in visiting to learn a little more about the Mayan culture, and of course its stunning white beaches. There’s more to Cancun than Maya culture and beach, though, so read on to find out the best things to do in Cancun.

Cancun is also a great base for day trips to some of the best places to visit in the Yucatan: Marvel at one of the seven wonders of the modern world – the pyramid of Kukulcan in Chichen Itza, get to know Playa del Carmen, a city with a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere, or take a bike ride through Tulum, one of the most stunning places in the Riviera Maya.

Hundreds of tourists arrive in Cancun every day with the sole purpose of spending an incredible vacation, and I can assure you that you will see places that will leave you breathless. So without further ado, here are the best things to do in Cancun:things to do in Cancun

Mayan Museum of Cancun

carved head

If you’re a history buff, one of the best things to do in Cancun is visiting the city’s Mayan Museum, where you will learn everything about the Mayan culture in the interactive rooms and the small archaeological zone inside.

The Mayan ruins of San Miguelito are known for their authenticity and the important role they play within the Mayan culture.

How to get there

This museum is located in the hotel zone, so if you are staying in one of the nearby hotels, it will be very easy to get there, either walking or by taxi.

Scenic Tower of Cancun

In the hotel zone, just after the Calinda bridge, you will find Cancun’s Scenic Tower, which offers stunning panoramic views of the hotel zone, the Nichupté lagoon and of course the Caribbean sea that surrounds Cancun and made this city so popular.

Ferris Wheel

The Ferris Wheel, “La Gran Rueda”, is one of the best things to do in Cancun if you have children – but not just kids love the spectacular views over Cancun from 60 meters above the city! Each of the 42 cabins offers space for up to 6 people, and it’s easy to get there, since it’s located right in the heart of the hotel zone. Tip: For an especially romantic moment, take a ride during sunset.

Plaza La Isla

One of the most famous places in Cancun is Plaza La Isla, a beautiful open air shopping mall with a unique feature: canals! You can experience a trip through Venice-like canals in Cancun and at the same time enjoy of the views over the Nichupte lagoon that this place offers.

Inside the mall, you can enjoy activities such as swimming with dolphins at the local aquarium and visit restaurants, a wax museum, a movie theater, boutiques and souvenir shops as well as a number of coffee shops. There’s something for everyone at La Isla, and you can easily spend an entire day here.Plaza la Isla, Cancun

Ka’yok Planetarium

The Ka’yok Planetarium is the most sophisticated planetarium in the area, and a must-visit place for anyone with an interest in astrology. You can even take a simulated space trip during which you learn about the orbits, the planets, and the entire solar system with a detailed explanation.

 

 

Places to See Near Cancun

Isla Mujeres

Don’t miss the best experience of your life in one of the most beautiful paradise islands in the world! Only a few kilometers long, Isla Mujeres promises to seduce anyone who visits the island, no matter if they’re spending a day there or an entire week.

How to get from Cancun to Isla Mujeres

You can take a ferry from the Cancun pier near the Calinda Bridge and next to the scenic tower. Ferries depart every 30 minutes to sail to this beautiful island. Make sure to book your tickets in advance. isla mujeres

Tulum

Tulum is one of the most beloved destinations on the Riviera Maya. The bohemian beach town is famous for its paradisaical beaches, the Mayan ruins overlooking the ocean, and its many boutique hotels. You can visit Tulum as a day trip from Cancun or you can spend a night there if you’re planning to visit more than just the Mayan ruins. There are also several cenotes (underwater sinkholes) around Tulum that are worth checking out and deserve more than just a quick visit.

How to get from Cancun to Tulum

If you don’t want to drive yourself, you can book a transportation service from Cancun to Tulum. Roads are excellent though, so I recommend to rent a car in Cancun and take a road trip to Tulum. That way you have more flexibility and can make some stops along the way – for example in Playa del Carmen (see below).tulum ruins

Playa del Carmen

Playa del Carmen has it all. It has picture-perfect beaches, pedestrian streets lined with bustling shops and restaurants, and plenty of entertainment. It’s easy to explore the main area of the city quickly since it is not very big – no matter how much time you spend in Playa, don’t miss Quinta Avenida (the main pedestrian street) and the 3D Museum of Wonders.

How to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen

It takes only 30 minutes to get from Cancun to Playa del Carmen by car. There are several shuttle services that cover this route,  or the ADO bus.dani playa del carmen

I hope this article has given you some ideas for your next trip to Cancun!

Cancun Riviera MayaPhoto Credit: Plaza la Isla by 72eViL1A Gerardo Revilla on Flickr.com

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Isla Mujeres: Finding Paradise in Mexico

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The first mistake I made when I visited Isla Mujeres? I only stayed for a day. That was in 2010, during my first trip to the Yucatan peninsula, when I lived in Playa del Carmen for a month. I fell in love with the little island off the coast of Cancun immediately.

Can you see why?isla mujeres beach mexicoThe second mistake I made? I waited nearly six years to travel to Isla Mujeres again, even though I was raving about it to everyone who was planning a trip to the Yucatan and asked me for advice on where to go, and despite the fact that I returned to the Yucatan in 2012. It is still beyond me why I didn’t plan in time for a little island getaway back then, but I guess after two months of living on a remote Caribbean beach I wasn’t craving more beach time.dani isla mujeresWhen I planned my Yucatan road trip this year, I made sure that we would also have time to visit Isla Mujeres.isla mujeresThere isn’t much to do on this tiny island, which is only 1.3 miles (7 kilometers) long and 2,130 feet (650 meters) wide. As I recall, there weren’t even cars on the island then, only golf carts, but this time around there were a few cars as well. However, golf carts are still definitely outnumbering cars on Isla Mujeres, and most tourists rent those for the day instead of scooters.isla mujeres golf kartI later found out exactly how many vehicles there are on the island: about 130 taxis, 500 golf carts and 1,500 scooters.isla mujeresEven though we wanted to rent a golf cart to whiz around the island, that wasn’t our first priority. Our first priority was this:isla mujeres caribbeanPlaya Norte. This beach on the northern end of Isla Mujeres is one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to, along with Koh Poda, my Thai paradise island, and Boracay, the paradise I found in the Philippines.isla mujeres loveIt’s one of those beaches where you can just sit and look out at the ocean for hours, without the desire to do anything.isla mujeres shades of blueThe color of the water is what Caribbean dreams are made of! Have I convinced you to visit Isla Mujeres?isla mujeres boatI could’ve spent my entire time at this beach, with the occasional swim in the ocean – the water here is so shallow that you can walk for about 160 feet (50 meters) into the ocean and still be only knee deep in the water. visit Isla MujeresBut we weren’t only here to relax on the beach (even though this was our main reason to visit Isla Mujeres), we also wanted to see the rest of the island.isla mujeres palm treesWe were staying on the far northern tip of Isla Mujeres, where the ferries from Cancun arrive and where you have the biggest congregation of restaurants and small hotels – none of the massive concrete blocks you can see in the far distance in Cancun! – a small village if you want to call it that.isla mujeres housesThe ‘village’ doesn’t even have a name, it is simply known as ‘El Centro’, and Hidalgo Street is the main drag here with plenty of restaurants, souvenir shops and hotels. But all of the restaurants and cafes in neighboring streets can be reached within five minutes from anywhere in ‘El Centro’. Don’t expect shopping malls or anything like that when you visit Isla Mujeres!isla mujeres housesThe houses here are as colorful as one would expect from a Caribbean island, and there is even some street art!isla mujeres street art mexicoMost of the murals have a deeper meaning: they were painted in 2014 during the Murals For Oceans street art festival in order to promote respect and protection for endangered whale sharks and manta rays, which migrate to Isla Mujeres every year to feast on plankton.Street Art Isla Mujeres MexicoWe balked at the costly price for a 24-hour golf cart rental ($40 – I had paid $9 per day for a rental car in Cancun!) but sucked it up because I wanted to go to the southern part of the island, which is quite the opposite from the northern part with its long sandy stretch of beach and crystal clear water.isla mujeres lizard statueDown there, you find cliffs that tower high above the ocean, which is a deep blue color here. It is a spectacular sight and reminds me of the coast of Ireland – the lush green on top of the cliffs, and the roaring ocean below.isla mujeres dani cliffsOn the southern tip of the island you also find a hint of the origin of the name of the island: Isla Mujeres means Island of Women.isla mujeres statue

The Mayans had a presence on the island and during that time, it was sacred to Ix Chel, the Maya goddess of childbirth and medicine. When the Spanish arrived here in the 16th century and saw all the images of Ix Chel, they named it Island of Women. And on the southern end of the island, you find a statue depicting Ix Chel.

There is also a little sculpture park there, which was free to visit the first time I was on the island, but this time around, they were charging 30 Pesos per person, so we skipped it and cruised around in our golf cart some more, stopping at a little marina with a hotel restaurant for a snack.

isla mujeres punta surWe decided to stop in a little marina along the way for some snacks in a hotel with a restaurant right by the ocean – I had been hoping to find a beach club I had randomly stumbled upon during my first visit to Isla Mujeres, but sadly I couldn’t remember where it was.
isla mujeres boatsAfter a long day of sightseeing we returned to Playa Norte in time to watch the spectacular sunset – there is no better place on the island to watch the sunset from!isla mujeres sunsetThe sunsets on the island alone are worth an overnight trip, but most people seem travel to Isla Mujeres on a day trip from Cancun, which includes a short stop on the island and several snorkeling stops.Dani 2016 Mexico Isla MujeresI would, however, recommend to spend at least one night here. If you are looking for a Caribbean experience that isn’t pricey (prices in Cancun are en par with US prices for drinks, dinner and entertainment these days!) and easy to get to, Isla Mujeres is the place for you.isla mujeres playa norteI hope that it won’t take me six more years to return to Isla Mujeres, my Mexican paradise…Isla Mujeres Mexico Cancun

How to visit Isla Mujeres

From Cancun, it is super easy to get to Isla Mujeres. I recommend spending a night or two on the island (if not longer) instead of opting for a day trip from Cancun.isla mujeres oceanYou can take a cab straight from the airport, and if you don’t want to wait in line I recommend downloading the EasyTaxi app and ordering a cab via the app. Take the cab to the Gran Puerto ferry port.

If you’re on a budget, take the ADO bus from the airport to Cancun’s central bus station (MXN$66 /US$3.50) and change there into a colectivo (shared minivan) to the ferry terminal in Gran Puerto (two blocks from the older ferry port Puerto Juarez). The colectivos stop right across from the ADO station in front of McDonald’s and cost MXN$8 ($0.45).isla mujeres dani golf kartThe Ultramar ferry from Gran Puerto is MXN$160 (US$8.50) for a round trip or MXN$80 (US$4.25) for a one-way ticket.

The ride takes about 25 minutes. You can check the ferry schedules here, but ferries run several times an hour between 5am and 11.30pm.

Note: Returning to the airport from the ferry terminal, make sure to negotiate the taxi rate before you get in. Taxi drivers will start their negotiations at around MXN$700 (US$37), but I was able to get our driver down to MXN$300 (US$16).

dani mexico

Where to stay on Isla Mujeres

I’d recommend staying in El Centro – simply because that’s where the best beach (Playa Norte) on the island is, and you have a variety of restaurants and bars to choose from. If you’re staying in another part of the island, you’ll be depending on taxis or renting a golf cart to get around. There are also not a lot of great beaches (only a few small ones, most of which belong to private beach clubs) and the beach is the island’s main draw.isla mujeres playa norteThe number of hotels on Isla Mujeres is limited, but you can find a great selection of apartments on Airbnb. Check out AirBnb rentals on Isla Mujeres here (if you’re not signed up with AirBnb yet, use my referral code and get $30 off your first booking!)

The top-rated hotels in Isla Mujeres are:

  • Nomads Hotel & Beach Bar – Stunning hotel with a seaside pool-bar, sun-beds & hammocks. Aimed at a younger clientele. Dorm bed from US$12, king room with balcony from US$109
  • Casa Barco Boutique Hotel – Small boutique hotel with a rooftop pool and stunning ocean views. Rooms start at US$65 per night
  • Casa Azul Maya – Spacious rooms with fully equipped kitchenette(fridge, microwave, coffee maker), dining area, and a private bathroom. All rooms have AC and a flat-screen TV. Rooms start at US$100 per night
  • Hotel Secreto – Artsy hotel with stylish suites and an infinity pool overlooking the ocean. King Room with Garden View from US$127; Junior Suite from US$138
  • Hotel La Joya Isla Mujeres – gorgeous waterfront hotel with outdoor pool, barbecue facilities. All rooms have balconies / terraces. From US$140 per room per night
  • Izla Beach Front Hotel – New beachfront hotel with large swimming pool near Paraiso Beach. From US$188 per room per night
  • Privilege Aluxes Adults Only Resort – Stylish hotel with 2 outdoor swimming pools right on Playa Norte (ALL INCLUSIVE from US$230 per couple per night)

Check out all hotels on Isla Mujeres on Booking.com here.

Villas & Apartments in Isla Mujeres

  • Villas Najo’ Isla Mujeres – 1-bedroom apartment with a patio and pool views, a living room, flat-screen TV, kitchen equipped with microwave and fridge. Shared outdoor pool. From US$125 per night.
  • Casa Santosha – Modern 3-bedroom villa with an outdoor swimming pool, a beautiful terrace, and a garden. The lounge has a flat-screen TV, the kitchen has a microwave and a fridge, a washing machine, and there are 4 bathrooms with a shower. Starting at around US$420 per night.
  • Aruma – luxurious villa with a private pool. The villa has 5 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms, a flat-screen TV, a dining area, a fully equipped kitchen, plus a balcony with sea views. From around US$700 per night.

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33 Things I Love About Mexico

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I spent around nine months in Mexico—a country I know I’ll visit over and over again. I have traveled along the Pacific Coast, done several road trips in the Yucatan, I’ve eaten my way around Mexico City, and visited more Maya ruins than I can remember. I have so much love for Mexico—and I’d like to share some of the things I love about Mexico with you:

things I love about mexico
1. Mexican Food – Mexican food is completely different to what we expected, but it turns out we love almost all of it! From Tlayudas and panuchos to bean quesadillas and potato tacos plus chilaquiles and tortas (filled sandwiches – Mexico City has the biggest ones) it has been amazing to discover the food here!
 
2. Driving golf carts around the island of Isla Mujeres. This little island in the Caribbean is one of the things I love about Mexico the most—one of my favorite places in the entire country.

isla mujeres mexico

3. Mexicans – Friendliest people on the planet!

4. Markets – Though at times they can be shocking (squealing pigs the minute before their eventual slaughter and large yellow chicken feet spring to mind) the markets in Mexico are amazing to explore. The 20 de Noviembre market in Oaxaca was our favorite for the best selection of food (including the hundreds of mounds of deep-fried grasshoppers!) and mezcal.

5. Huevos motuleños – Yes, yes, we already said we loved the food, but this all day breakfast food quickly became our favorite after we discovered them during a long wait in Palenque for a bus to Merida. Huevos motuleños involve a fried tortilla topped with black beans, fried eggs, sauce and plantains, plus ham for the meat-eaters out there. Heavenly!

6. Cenotes – considering we had never even heard of these underground waterholes, swimming in the cenotes on the Yucatan felt a bit daring and definitely refreshing.

cenote mexico

7. Victoria beer – There, we said it. We love Victoria beer!

8. Mexico City – It’s a magnificent mega-metropolis which requires some patience and understanding, but Mexico City is a hub of creative, forward-thinking groups and individuals with art, markets, and music everywhere you turn. Sure it has its problems, but what city doesn’t? It’s the combination of it all that makes the city so great: Posh areas like Polanco are offset charming bohemian areas like La Condesa and by more run-down parts of the Centro Historico where culture and tradition seep into your soul. How cool to see Mariachis and Mayans catching cabs, Mexican rock bands headbang on a plaza next to a salsa club, sleek and stylish club-goers passing by happy families in the park until the wee hours and openly gay men and women walking hand in hand with their partners more often than in any U.S. city we know of. Frida and Diego (Kahlo and Rivera that is) can be found everywhere, and there are hundred of art museums, exhibitions and co-operations with institutes world wide. Mexico City is chaotic, yet quaint, crazy and creative. We miss you Mexico City!

Mexico City

9. The Caribbean coast, especially Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres, where you can walk 40 to 50 meters out into the crystal blue water and it only comes up to your knees… but there are so many beaches along the Caribbean coast that are stunning – including Tulum, Akumal, and our own private beach in Xcalak.. they all deserve their own spot in my list of things I love about Mexico, but I’ll try to keep this short 😉


10. Valladolid – we fell in love with this little Pueblo Magico (magic village) on the Yucatan, but we’d like you to please not visit Valladolid.

11. Mariachi Bands – always fun to listen to, even if they don’t quite hit the notes.

things I love about mexico

12. Agua fresca – We might actually be able to slowly wean ourselves off Diet Coke thanks to these giant one liter drinks of water blended with fruit. We especially like Cantaloupe and Guayaba ‘aguas’.

13. Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul – Stuffed with her art, personal belongings and pictures, it makes you feel like you really get to know her, plus the gardens are gorgeous.

14. The cattle in front of our house in San Luis Beltran, Oaxaca.

15. The colorful traditional clothes worn throughout Mexico, from the many wool variations to be found in Oaxaca and San Cristobal de las Casas to the beautiful long white gowns embroidered with flowers that the woman of the Yucatan wear.  Oh, and real life cowboys!

Sure, we know this continues on from Guatemala down through South America, but there is also something so unifying about how even the non-indigenous men/women will wear very traditional Mexican clothing rather than identifying with global fashion. It seems like for many here, people are Mexican first, class/race/socioeconomic status comes second.

16. Diego Rivera Murals in Mexico City – The murals are so insightful into Mexican history and culture, and you could spend more than a day hunting them all down throughout Mexico City. Diego’s influence as an artist was enormous here.

17. San Cristobal de las Casas – the prettiest colonial town we have seen so far.

san cristobal de las casas

18. The tacos from the taco vendor in Calle Uruguay – Near the bakery Pasteleria Ideal in #74  in Mexico City, you’ll see the large group of people crowded around the vendor – that’s the spot. Try an agua fresca here too – delicious.

19. Lizards galore! Mexico is filled with lizards big and small, from our pet gecko in our apartment in Playa del Carmen (and its subsequent tiny tiny little babies), to the giant iguanas in Tulum, Valladolid, Isla Mujeres and Chichen Itza. Plus we have come within a few feet of countless crocodiles, something we never thought was possible!

20. The historical ruins – The Mayan and Aztec ruins in Mexico are so majestic! We visited Teotihuacan near Mexico City, Monte Alban near Oaxaca, Palenque in Chiapas, Tulum and Chichen Itza on the Yucatan.

palenque mexico

21. Mexican bakeries  – Even just window-shopping makes our (read: Dani’s) mouths water. Cakes, fresh fruit and yogurt parfaits, cupcakes, sweet breads and freshly baked rolls are all delicious. Special shout-out to Pasteleria Ideal in Mexico City!

22. Cheladas and Micheladas –Beer mixed with tomato juice, salt, pepper and hot sauce. This is basically like a Bloody Mary but beer replaces vodka. Genius!

23. The tuk-tuks in Oaxaca.

24. Mexican buses –  The buses in Mexico are top standard, reliable and clean. ADO, OCC and Oriente all provide great service, though ADO’s films and air-conditioning are good for longer trips (more expensive, though).

25. Hostal La Candelaria in Valladolid. The best hostel we stayed at in Mexico. Clean rooms, two kitchens (one outside), a gorgeous garden, and very friendly owners. Plus two of the cutest little Chihuahuas of all time.things i love about mexico

26. Free wi-fi – In any public park or square in even the smallest city/town, at least a dozen people can be found with their laptops, not only using the free wi-fi, but also charging their computers. The parks have outlets for charging! Who needs Starbucks, when you can have free wi-fi in the park!

27. Lucha Libre – Mexican Wrestling rocks. Yes, it’s fake, but the crowd goes crazy and we loved it!

28.  Policemen, on horses, preferably with sombreros.

29.  Fruit in a bag, freshly cut and topped with spices & lime, for $1.00. One of the things I love about Mexico most!

30. Getting our laundry professionally washed – For less than $4, a lady with a brand-new washer and dryer will scrub out stains, wash and dry your clothes and then iron them all down, flat as pancakes, leaving you with a stack of clothes a quarter of the size of the dirty, stinky ball you brought to her.

31. Mexican mannequins. How can you not love ‘em? 😉

things I love about mexico

32. The Beaches on Mexico’s Pacific Coast – the Riviera Nayarit is gorgeous!

33. Road tripping in the YucatanSpanish-colonial villages, fantastic food, beautiful Caribbean beaches, cenotes, Maya ruins galore, lush green jungle – the Yucatan is spectacular, and the roads there are in good condition, which makes it easy to drive there.

What are your favorite  things about Mexico?  Let’s reminisce together in the comments below!

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