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Polaroid of the week: Our cheeky gecko in Mexico

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polaroid of the week mexico 2012 geckoWe may not have had many neighbors around in our remote little beach house, we had plenty of roommates. Dozens of geckos of all sizes were always wiggling around our walls, helping to rid it of mosquitoes and other little bugs. Jess loved the little tiny babies – not even an inch in length – that just recently joined the house party, but this green little gecko was our favorite – he loved hanging out around us and watching us while we were cooking, reading or having dinner. He also was very photogenic and instead of running away when we got to close, he seemed to enjoy posing for the camera.

This morning we said goodbye to him and all the other geckos and of course our beautiful dog and left the beach house. One last time we drove down the dirt road that leads to the remote little paradise that we called home for the last two months, watching the sun rise in the rear view mirror. Even though we are excited to return to Mexico City tonight, we are very sad to be leaving the Costa Maya – there’s no doubt though that we will be back.

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Polaroid of the week: The beauty of the Caribbean

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polaroid of the week mexico 2012 the beauty of the caribbean
We have been back in Mexico for almost two months now and have realized that we are so happy here not only because we love Mexico. After traveling to so many beaches around the world, we now know we prefer the Caribbean: its crystal clear Caribbean water, non-existent waves and soft, white sand.

Of course we find beaches that we love in other places, like on Koh Rong in Cambodia or Samara in Costa Rica, but the Caribbean combines true beauty and utter relaxation in a way that we just can’t resist. And even though we’re leaving this beautiful patch of Mexican playa next week, I am sure it won’t be long until we’re back on the Caribbean sea.

Where is your favorite beach in the world?

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Notes from the beach house: The hurricane edition

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Our time at the beach house has gotten considerably more intense since our last post.

Do we stay or do we go

The most notable change was the arrival of hurricane Ernesto last week. The storm itself is said to have reached Category 2 as it hit land just 20 miles north of the beach house, ripping through the jungle and knocking down all the power lines in its path.

But it was the build-up to the hurricane that was so intense. Speculation as to whether what was then tropical storm Ernesto would turn into a hurricane or fade out into a tropical depression. And if it did become a hurricane, would we stay or would we go.

It began almost a week before the storm with an email from the homeowner whether we had heard about the possibility of Ernesto coming to visit. At this point it was laid back, a possibility, something to keep an eye on and a topic of discussion with the neighbors.

These were the sunniest of days spent relaxing in the water, working from the hammocks or right on the beach. A possible hurricane seemed surreal, but emails kept coming from the homeowners in the States and the whole hurricane threat slowly kept building.

beers in the ocean
Two days before the hurricane – a storm seemed impossible.

We went over how we would pack everything up, including whether or not to knock all the coconuts out of the palm trees in the front so they didn’t end up shattering windows.  And then, slowly but surely, everything got technical.

Avoiding the ‘Dirty’ side

Email chains turned to information about storm systems. I found myself calculating latitude and longitude and possible points of contact using online meteorological tools to estimate best and worst case scenarios.

The local expats started talking about the chances of being on the ‘dirty’ side of the hurricane – meaning the hurricane hits south and winds hit counterclockwise and cause much more destruction.

Suddenly all we wanted was for the storm to hit north. There was no doubt now that the storm was coming, and not only would it be a hurricane, it could possibly pick up speed to become a Category 2, which, according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale on Wikipedia, means that ‘extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage’.

We looked at our options. We could stay in a house not 30 feet from the beach, hours from any sort of real assistance, no phone or internet waiting out a possible Cat 2 hurricane that could take up to 18 hours to pass overhead.

Or we could leave.

So we left.

There had been some heavy rain the day before, but the morning we left, the water was calm, the birds were chirping, and the only indication that something was a bit ‘off’ were the dozens of dragonflies that were hovering around.

sunrise mexico before the storm
An eerily calm ocean on the morning of the hurricane.

In fact, we almost felt foolish for leaving. Many of the expats were staying and the homeowners kept saying it was ‘our call’, which to us meant they would stay if they were here. Our Mexican neighbors to the south had been boarding up and made their escape that morning too, and as we made our way through the village, watching the sun glistening off the bright blue ocean out the windows of the truck, we passed all the fishing boats which had been called in, and passed by the clapboard houses all boarded up and empty. The locals had fled.

As we made our way north, several Army pick-up trucks filled with Mexican soldiers sped past us, back toward where we came from, and in fact much of the Costa Maya was evacuated just a few hours after we left to head to Playa del Carmen.

(Bitter)Sweet Civilization

After five weeks down in the middle of nowhere it felt great to rejoin civilization again for a few days and made us realize just how isolated we have been and how ready we will be to leave here in two weeks. But it will be bittersweet.

cake in playa del carmen
A piece of cake in Playa del Carmen – Dani’s first cake in weeks!

This is the longest we have ever stayed anywhere in over two years (previously that was our lovely Canada housesit last summer). This is also the longest we have ever had to bond with a pet, too, and leaving Loba will be gut-wrenching. We seriously love this dog. She is full of personality and has some of the most adorable habits, like when she hops through the shallow Caribbean water hunting for fish, looking more like an antelope springing up and down across African plains. Dani taught her to give paw, and we spent hours playing with her, or watching her sprint laps around the beach like a race dog. No matter where we are in the world, we will always think about her all the way down here guarding the beach house.

Loba on the beach in mexicoWhat seemed like an endless stretch of summertime has now whittled its way down to less than two weeks left here at the beach house. The countdown begins. Only two more times filling water in the solar batteries, four more times with the generator, a few more dinners with our awesome new Kiwi friends / fellow house-sitters and not enough time to catch up on all the snorkeling we wanted to do when we arrived…

Next Stop: Costa Rica

There might be some snorkeling to be done though on our next stop: Costa Rica! That’s right, we have been accepted for our sixth housesit of 2012. This time it will be a two month stint in a beach town on the Nicoya peninsula…a new puppy, a new house and much more civilization – relatively.

Stay tuned for our final Notes from the Beach House – Mexico edition – in two weeks’ time. Let’s hope for a hurricane-free time until then!

Start housesitting today! Find out more about the most comprehensive book on the subject here, written by us for you. https://globetrottergirls.com/housesitting-book

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Polaroid of the week: Our wireless office in Mexico

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polaroid of the week mexico 2012 digital nomads at workAs our time at the beach house starts to wind down, we thought we’d share a Polaroid of us working down at the water – the internet reaches all the way to the shore! We originally shared this photo on The Wireless Generation Facebook page. Our friends and fellow digital nomads Christine and Drew Gilbert are just a few weeks short of finishing their full length documentary about this generation of wireless workers, making our way around the globe and working from wherever there is a wi-fi internet connection.

The film, which has been over two years in the making, features 18 digital nomads who packed up their lives to live remotely and see the world and has been gaining popularity across the web. It is fascinating to see how many people are involved in this movement, doing what we do, and how many jobs can actually be done from anywhere in the world. We have to admit that the gorgeous views from our current office make it a challenge to stay focused on work and maintain the self-discipline that is necessary to be a successful digital nomad…

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Polaroid of the week: Escaping hurricane Ernesto in Mexico

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polaroid of the week mexico 2012 hurricane ernesto palm treesIt seems to be a reoccurring theme in our travels – every summer since we hit the road in 2010, we found ourselves in a hurricane. Two years ago we were on the little island of Ambergris Caye off the coast of Belize and just as we arrived, we were informed that there was a hurricane on the way. Our first day and a half on the island were spent watching locals board up and talking about the ferry services that had been suspended. After all the hype, luckily, Matthew had been downgraded to a tropical depression by the time it hit Belize, and we waited it out in our hotel room. Last year on our road trip from New York to New Orleans, hurricane Irene forced us to make a huge detour through the Blue Ridge Mountains instead of driving down the coast of North Carolina.  How else would we have discovered Asheville, a town we really loved?

This year we found ourselves in our little beach house on Mexico’s Caribbean coast and the warnings around then-Tropical Storm Ernesto indicated that it would turn into a hurricane right as the storm hit exactly our sleepy little middle of nowhere town. We boarded up the house, packed our bags and the dog and left – just as the first frightening thunderstorms, forerunners of Ernesto, arrived. Five hours later we pulled into Playa Del Carmen, and even here, 200 miles north, the powerful storm and rains whipped through the streets.

We have heard that our house has survived just fine, so we’re heading back south tomorrow after two (not unwelcome) days back ‘in civilization’ – with unlimited high-speed internet, hot showers, air-conditioning, good coffee and ice cream. We have three weeks left in Mexico, but hopefully we have met our hurricane quota for 2012!

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Polaroid of the week: Mexican Tacos in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

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polaroid of the week mexico 2012 tacosAs soon as we arrived in Playa del Carmen, our first stop was the row of taco shops on 10th Avenue. We used to eat here on the cheap when we spent a month in Playa del Carmen two years ago. Just a block away from the tourist restaurants of Playa’s thoroughfare, the famous 5th Avenue, are a couple of authentic little hole-in-the-wall spots that serve no-frills tacos, sopes and quesadillas, tortas and other Mexican fare. (We  rave about Mexican street food here).

So if you find yourself in Playa del Carmen and don’t want to eat overpriced pizza or Burger King on 5th Avenue, head one block over to 10th between 8th and 10th Streets for fast, spicy, cheap eats.

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Notes from the beach house: Week 3

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We have been out here on our most remote housesit ever for three weeks now, and with the exception of some small town drama and intense weather we have settled in to a nice routine here at the beach house.

Dani took our dog for a walk at sunrise this morning along quite possibly the most serene beach setting either of us have ever seen. Herons hunt and peck for fish in the sea grass popping out of water still and flat as glass at low tide. Pelicans glide overhead for a catch further out with their dinosaur-like beaks. A gorgeous redheaded woodpecker tap tap taps away at a palm tree near the house as I wait for the water to boil to make coffee and listen to the silence.

Fun with the dog in MexicoWeather makes all the difference

We can walk north just under two miles before we hit a house that is inhabited. American expats own the two other houses we pass, but they sit vacant during the summer. One had an American woman staying there, a fellow housesitter, but she recently hopped in a pick-up headed for Cancun and left, distraught at the lack of support she received from the homeowner, who is back in the States. When we got here, we were given a list of all the houses around here and the names of the housesitters in each of them. Usually we are the only housesitters in a neighborhood, but on a Mexican beach lined with vacation homes, we have actual housesitting acquaintances for the first time, and can compare notes on life out here.

mexico our private beachUnlike the American, we are still very happy with the opportunity, and luckily have no need to plan an evacuation just yet and the only thing that will cause us to leave would be the threat of a hurricane. Although these are rare, almost every day the sunny sky blows over the house and brings with it a black sky. Darkness first forms at the reef wall, about 500m from the beach and by the time the storm reaches land, the winds have been whipping for over an hour; the palm tree leaves can be incredibly loud as they slice through the air like knives. Sometimes, the big sky is all talk, throwing only intense wind and the feeling of impending doom.

Mexico bad weatherOther times, it is as though someone has pointed a field of power hoses directly down onto our beach. When the weather is good, it is so beautiful here we stop whatever we are doing to just stare out at the sun bouncing off the water, looking like diamonds, and the different shades of blue that stretch out to what seems to us like the end of the world. There are no in between days. The weather is always present in our minds.

Two dirty words 

Along with the power of the storms, there are two words that have gained quite a bit of power since we arrived to the beach house – words that cause Dani to emote deep feelings of anger and frustration. One of the words is ‘generator’.

Our lives here are ruled by the weather in this solar powered house. Most days during this semi-rainy season, we do not get enough sun to fully charge the batteries.  When there is no sun at all, we have to lug out the compact red gas-guzzler of a generator. It weighs more than a dead man’s body (or so we’d guess) and lugging it out of the store room is just short of causing us ulcers. But it’s not the weight, the filling it with gas, the starting it and hooking it up to the energy inverter. It’s the fact that because it might always rain, we’ve got a tarp over it and have to be aware that, at any moment, we have to lug this now super hot deadweight of a machine back inside, like some sort of Strong Man X-Games contestants. This constant state of alertness is intensified by the fact that if the generator doesn’t run long enough and it rains too long…not only will we be without power, but there is a possibility that the batteries could go kaput as well. This means keeping our electricity consumption at a low at all times.

a caribbean sunrise in mexicoThe other thing that we have to learn to limit our consumption of just happens to be the other word we have grown to hate more than all the Twilight films and Instagram food photos online alike.

That word, my friends, is ‘Internet’. Of all the things about our remote life, our strict daily internet budget has been the hardest thing to adjust to. We hover between 10-15% remaining on our minuscule daily allowance of 350MB. Our Facebook time is VERY limited; luxuries like YouTube or just surfing the net no longer exist for us, and some days we have chosen to only check emails in the morning and do the bare minimum to keep our business in tact.

working in mexicoOur daily routine

The truth is, we are growing quite accustomed to the pattern of our new lives, and there is plenty to keep us busy.  A couple from New Zealand is housesitting up the road and we have had beers, went snorkeling and even had a movie night (their house is massive and has a movie projector/screen!). There have been trips into town for dinner with some of the expats, too.

We receive a daily visit from the tortilla guy, who delivers a still-hot stack of fresh corn tortillas every day on his motorbike and the grocery truck comes two times a week. We can’t predict what he might have, so some days we buy tomatoes, avocados and lychees, other days we buy eggs, tomatoes and a pineapple – at inflated gringo prices of course, but hey – he delivers!

grocery truck mexicoDani went out every day until she beat back nature and cleared away all the dense piles of accumulated sea grass in order to clean up our patch of beach, and between paying attention to the solar batteries, sweeping the house, and laying in the hammock, I could fiddle around the house all day without running out of little things to do. The snorkeling in the gorgeous corals right off our beach is breathtaking and whenever the weather is right, we go out to snorkel in the afternoons as well.

The next great adventure

We’ve been living off rice, beans, tortillas, eggs, tomatoes and cheese for way too many days, which means that tomorrow we have to make the three hour drive (and three hours back, partially on a dirt road) into the big city for some heavy-duty grocery shopping. We’ll hit up all the mega-supermarkets and snap up as many canned, boxed and frozen foods as we can realistically get back here, plus produce that will only last us a few days in this heat anyway – and this time, Dani won’t forget to buy enough sweets to soothe her cravings for hopefully the next three weeks at least.

fresh tortillas mexico

Start housesitting today! Find out more about the most comprehensive book on the subject here, written by us for you. https://globetrottergirls.com/housesitting-book

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Notes from the beach house | Week One

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We are writing today from the shores of Mexico’s Caribbean coast, just three days in to a two-month house-sit. These are views from just about everywhere on the property:

mexico our beachThe sun has burned away most of the morning cloud cover, and the wind rustling loudly through the palm leaves makes for a perfectly cooling sea breeze despite hot and humid temperatures. I alternate between typing and gazing out at the shallow water just barely covering the barrier reef that stretches 200m out to sea. I watch the waves crash way out there where the shelf drops off starkly and the deep blue of the ocean begins. We can snorkel right in our own backyard among the shades of azure, cobalt, sapphire, teal and navy blue water. The house-sitter staying a few doors down says she tries to go everyday. I imagine we will too, but the homeowner is still here and we have a lot to learn before he leaves us to our own devices for eight weeks.

mexico our coconut tree and oceanLiving out here in some of the most remote reaches of Mexico isn’t exactly just a day at the beach, and the level of responsibility is higher than other housesits we have had (this is our 11th housesit in two years). But the pristine beauty of the area is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and once the wheels were in motion, we could not turn the opportunity down. We applied for this through housecarers.com, with the application process beginning as they always do – on a whim; just a glimmer of possibility.

“Hey, wanna go down to Mexico for two months for a housesit after Tracey’s wedding (my best friend got married in Denver in June)?” Dani asked one day a few months back. She was going through the Housecarers notification emails – as she does every day – and out of the 30 or so choices that day, this one understandably caught her eye. She explained that it was a beach house, it was very remote, the ad mentioned snorkeling right off the private beach and that the house was almost entirely off the grid.

“Well, we have experience with solar power from our Bavarian housesit last year,” I answered, “and we do need some peace and quiet to get a bunch of work done…” As we looked back and forth between the ad and each other, there was no flooding of excuses, no ideas why we shouldn’t at least apply… Cut to two weeks later when we received an email and it turned out, of all the potential housesitters who applied (and this time, like all other times, there were dozens if not hundreds who had) Dani and I were chosen. Emails went back and forth, references were checked and plane tickets were purchased. We were committed to spending the summer months in Mexico.

mexico our patioNormally, a two day handover is required before the owners leave, but this case is different. Here, we’re learning how to maintain a house that runs almost entirey with solar energy in a very remote location. Though we didn’t step into this blindly, the word ‘remote’ can be a relative term. Someone from Manhattan might consider Iowa City remote, while a cowboy from Montana would apply the word to a 10 hour ride into the mountains reachable only by horseback. We are somewhere in between, but much more to the side of the cowboy. Several times on the ride down here, the owner would turn onto another perfectly straight road, flanked on either side with miles of sprawling green trees and mangroves and we would mutter another exasperated ‘Wow’, mesmerized by just how much wide open space laid behind, in front and on the sides of us.

“Didn’t Angela* tell you how remote it was?” Tom* asked each time. “Yes of course,” we would reassure him in unison. Truth be told, however, there was no way to know just what we had gotten ourselves into until we finally pulled in to the drive and brought our bags in to our temporary abode.

mexico shell and our beachLuckily, it is better than we dared to imagine. The beach house has hot water (even a rain shower head, my favorite bathroom accessory), a full kitchen with a stove, fridge and freezer, a double bed, plenty of closet space, a couch and two tables inside, and a set of beach chairs on a patio outside, all with a clear view of the ocean, obscured only by palm trees. The property is kept clean and neat and seems much newer than its nine years. There is an outdoor palapa off to the side with a table, chairs and even electricity sockets to plug in and work, plus another gorgeous table and chairs fashioned out of driftwood down at the water’s edge.

“The hardest part of your morning,” Tom jokes, “will be deciding where to have your coffee…”

So far, we couldn’t be happier with the prospects of spending two months here alone with our guard dog and the three or four fellow housesitters in neighboring houses along this strip of beach. We will post about the highs and lows of housesitting and all our beach house adventures over the next few weeks, so stay tuned and please feel free to ask us any questions you have about housesitting in the comments below.

mexico our ocean viewFor anyone who is interesting in housesitting – we found this housesitting gig through housecarers.com.

*Names of homeowners and certain details of our location will be changed to respect their privacy and maintain anonymity during our stay.

Break Free on Amazon.comStart housesitting today! Find out more about the most comprehensive book on the subject here, written by us for you. https://globetrottergirls.com/housesitting-book

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Hotel Tip Of The Week: Hostel La Candelaria in Valladolid, Mexico

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Welcome to our weekly series Hotel Tip of The Week. Being on the road every day of the year means we stay at countless hotels along the way. For all the dingy, disappointing budget digs, there are as many budget accommodation gems. We post one hotel tip of the week, every week, of places we feel confident recommending after having tried and tested them ourselves in order to show that budget travel can be both enjoyable and comfortable.

Although we have mentioned this Mexican hostel in our post on Valladolid as well as in our 33 things we love about Mexico post, a full review on La Candelaria hostel is long overdue.

La Candelaria is located directly on a sleepy square in the tranquil colonial town of Valladolid on Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, near the famous Chichen Itza Mayan ruins. It is run by a Dutch-Nicaraguan couple whose hard work and love of their hostel, plus their own travel experience, can be seen by the presence of all those miniscule amenities that together make all the difference in comfort and guest satisfaction.

We arrived after a quick ten-minute walk from the bus station, and were welcomed with a full tour of the premises and all public spaces, helping us to immediately feel at home. Next, we were given a map marked with all important tourist sites in town, the path to two cenotes out of town, good places to eat and where to get cash.

On our way to the room, we first spotted the two curious little Chihuahuas and the cat who live in the hostel. These resident pets are always happy to curl up in your lap if you ever feel the need for company and provide plenty of hilarious entertainment.

The private rooms are set up on both levels facing the spacious outdoor courtyard. We stayed in two different rooms at the Candelaria, and both rooms had hard, comfortable beds with fluffy pillows, bright white sheets, cable TV, a small table and Mexican decorations. There are several dorm beds in two rooms in the main building, separated with women upstairs and men downstairs, and large secure lockers for each bed. Two cozy communal rooms with sofas, TVs, musical instruments and games really help the hostel feel like home.

The bathrooms are shared – the ones for the dorms are inside the house and the private rooms share outdoor showers / toilets on both levels outside. The bathrooms are kept spotlessly clean and the showers have great showerheads with consistent hot water.

Perfect for bookworms, the outdoor space has several hammocks hanging in under shady trees, far from the large outdoor kitchen (which along with the smaller indoor kitchen makes up one of the Stand Out features below).

The covered sitting area in the yard is very inviting, with two long tables plus a smaller table and chairs, where guests come together to chat and relax in the evenings. The wi-fi also works the best here, so this is where most Facebooking (and work, if necessary) gets done. For those without a computer, there is one computer inside at reception available for guests to use.

Valladolid, like much of the Yucatan, has excellent roads and the best way to explore is on bike. La Candelaria has eight very cool blue cruiser bikes lined up for rental which are new, in excellent shape and run the same price as the bike rental shops in town.

Stand Out Features

Free Breakfast
Although many hostels advertise ‘free breakfast’, this usually includes watery coffee and dry toast. La Candelaria prepares breakfast exactly how anyone who has been traveling a long time wants it to be but never gets it: Each morning, there are little plastic bowls of fruit, granola and yoghurt made for each guest and set covered in the kitchen. You take one, and then help yourself to one of the fresh big rolls with butter and jam and pour yourself a cup of strong, delicious coffee from a giant coffee maker which holds plenty for a refill or even two.

Not one, but two kitchens
La Candelaria has everything a traveler can ask for – including two, fully-equipped kitchens – one inside and one outside. There is enough room for many people to cook dinner at the same time, plus two refrigerators to hold everyone’s food and beer.  The outside kitchen even makes available basic ingredients like oil, sugar, salt, and spices so you don’t need to buy them yourself.

Room for improvement

We had to stretch to get these two ideas, as La Candelaria is nearly perfect: Hostels and hotels alike have issues with critters when they have spaces open to the elements. There is no way to avoid this in hot destinations like in Mexico, so at La Candelaria, just like countless other places, don’t leave your food out on the counter for long, lest it be invaded by ants and other creatures.

The bathrooms and showers are in the yard, so you have to walk through in your towel to shower. This might not be enough privacy for some guests, but it was honestly never an issue for us.

Overall

La Candelaria is exactly how a hostel should be: welcoming and inviting, great to hang out and meet other guests yet quiet enough at night to get great sleep. Breakfast is delish and bathrooms are clean. We enjoyed it so much, in fact, we stayed a second time for a few more relaxed days before heading to Belize last year.

The hostel offers the best value for money of all of the hostels we chose in Mexico. The private rooms cost less than every other accommodation choice we made in Mexico, and the hotel hostel easily had the best features of them all. La Candelaria is also a hotel near Chichen Itza, making it the perfect place to stay to get to the site early in the morning the next day.Many people stay in Cancun or Playa del Carmen and take the long bus trip over, but staying in Valladolid makes a trip to Chichen Itza easier, faster and more relaxed.

We are not the only ones who are big fans of La Candelaria – here are the overwhelmingly positive Tripadvisor reviews.

Location: Calle 35, at Parque Candelaria
Price:
M$250 (US$21) for a private room, M$100 (US$8.40) for a dorm – including breakfast
LGBT Friendly:
Yes
Amenities:
Two kitchens, high-speed wi-fi, hammocks, garden, lounge, TV, bicycle rental
Digital Nomad Friendly:
Yes, outside only
Website:
We haven’t found one, but we booked through hostelbookers.com

To book a hotel in Mexico, check Roomguide.co.uk for accommodation options throughout the country.

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Spring break alternatives in Central America

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The buzz around spring break 2011 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.

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.

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. This is why 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.

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 rainforest. 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.

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 snorkelling 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.

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