Mexico is a place we must return to finish off, this post only covers the small slice of south Mexico we explored.
Out at sea with no land in any direction we found ourselves sitting with our legs outside the boat, hearts racing listening for the signal from the captain to jump. The boat turned sharply to be just in front of a fin sticking out of the water. ‘JUMP IN’ comes the captain’s call, from here its all go. Once the bubbles cleared from in front of my mask I saw a giant female whale shark mouth fully open swimming directly for me. In awe/panic I swam to the side and watched every spot on her back close up as she majestically glided past. These animals are special and this experience is just one of Mexico’s many memories which I will repeat over and over to my grandkids when I’m an old man.
We Arrived in Cancun and splurged on an all-inclusive… I know it’s not the cheap backpackers we usually are but my mother always said, “don’t knock it till ya tried it.” There you have it… Westernised Mexican buffet and all the cocktails you can handle. We gorged, we guzzled and we felt a little bit like royalty. It was nice for two days only. But if you want to all the touristy attractions in the area and do all the water activities of all levels then you don’t need an all-inclusive.
From Cancun we headed south to Tulum where Mayan ruins, Cenotes and swimming with turtles filled our days.
Mexico has stunning paradise beaches, an extraordinary culture and history and is filled by so many happy friendly people that make it so easy for travellers learning the language and culture.
Havana, Cuba to Cancun, Mexico – $158USD pp
We took an Interjet flight, it was a bit darer than what we wanted to pay, we compromised because it was the perfect time and date for us. The flight was only an hour long so we arrived in Cancun in no time!
Cancun airport to the hotel strip – $8USD pp
We took a shuttle bus from the airport straight to our hotel, most hotels do not provide an airport transfer so this is the best way to get from the airport unless you would like to fork out for a private taxi.
Hotel Strip to Downtown Cancun – $10.50Pesos pp
You can wave down the R1 or R2 bus from anywhere along the strip and hop on. The R1 bus is the only bus, which goes to the main ADO Bus Terminal downtown. These buses run 24hrs and are the best way to get to the Cancun nightlife.
Cancun to Playa Del Carmen – $29Pesos pp
Outside the ADO Bus Terminal you will see the Playa Express collectivo vans. Line up and pay the driver on arrival at your destination so ensure you have enough pesos in cash before you take the journey.
Playa Del Carmen to Tulum – $40Pesos pp
Right next to where the Cancun collectivo drops you off is another van that heads further south to Tulum.
Alternatively if you want to head Cancun to Tulum direct you can catch one of the frequent ADO bus from the terminal. Approximate cost is $136Pesos pp
Tulum to Belize City – $500Pesos pp
It’s big old night bus time! Leaves at 12.45am and arrives 7.30am. At some point in the evening around 3am you clear through customs where you may become a target of some Mexican extortion. Keep yourself safe by having proof of your entry tax and your stamped FMN card. Your tax will be shown on your flight itinerary for when you arrived in Mexico, and the FMN is a part of the customs form that you must keep until you leave. The ‘officials’ will charge you $300Pesos for each document you are missing. Not what you want to deal with at 3am!
Hotel strip – Bellevue Beach Paradise Hotel, $94.65USD pp
We treated ourselves to two nights of all-inclusive. We have never stayed at a hotel like that before and were really looking forward to eating and drinking as much as we wanted. The hotel itself was good and has a pool bar, it was located at the far end of the hotel strip, but this shouldn’t be a problem as there are buses for under 1USD which take you to downtown or the party zone. The hotel is under renovation in parts so it wasn’t all up to scratch. The food was a buffet service with mixed quality but with all you can eat license we cant really complain. You can also get any type of alcoholic drink your hearts desire so Brett and I were super excited!
Cancun downtown – Airbnb $8.50USD pp p/n
We found Coleman and Suzy on Air-bnb. They have a lovely home with the master bedroom and en-suite devoted to guests. Plenty of Coffee is provided with breakfast before your adventures of the day. A short walk from the ADO Bus Terminal makes all of Cancun very accessible. Both are really friendly Americans who have plenty of really helpful information about Cancun and all its wonders. Coleman also works at a Dive shop on weekends so he can organise all your water tours for you.
Tulum – Day Tripper Hostel $137.50Pesos pp
This hostel has a very relaxing friendly vibe; hammocks slung on the roof terrace and really cool band art painted on the walls. The communal areas make it easy to meet other travellers and hangout. You can bring in your own alcohol and food as no meals are provided. The beds are easily big enough to sleep two in the mixed dormitories. Try to score your bed next to the AC as it can get very hot at night. Location is good and everything is accessible within a short walk.
- Tacos al Pastor – You can’t go to Mexico and not have a taco! However don’t expect that hard shell we are use to at home! Real tacos are soft corn tortillas and only come with shredded meat. You add your own extras from the communal bowls provided
- Burritos – Different from the ones we have back home. Authentic Mexican burritos have no rice to bulk it out. Meat, beans and cheese in a corn tortilla. Yum
- Chilaquiles – Similar to Nachos that we know but breakfast style. Crispy tortilla chips topped with scrambled eggs, spicy salsa, sometimes shredded meat, and of course it comes with a hefty helping of re-fried beans.
- Torta – Imagine a Mexican street stall subway. A bread roll filled with shredded marinated pork and some onions. Good cheap filler food for on the go.
- Enchiladas – Back to corn tortillas, this time rolled around some meat, veg and beans then covered in a chilli tomato sauce.
- Tequila – Welcome to the home of Tequila! The good tequila’s are smooth and don’t come with salt or lemon.
Parque de Las Palapas, Downtown Cancun – Almost a carnival atmosphere here with small children’s rides and a live singing DJ. Food stalls make up the outside ring enticing you in to look at what each offer. We found soft shell tacos for $5Pesos a pop with a select your own toppings and sauces policy. Authentic, local and delicious food.
Must see & do
- Time to relax and put your feet up. Get ready for the all you can eat and drink at the hotels, but remember its not a sprint it’s a marathon
- Now that you have had some tequila shots down you its time to head to the clubbing strip in downtown and party! There is a lot of different clubs to go to and bar hop down the strip… but our favourite was Coco Bongo. It was $70USD for us to get in and for unlimited drinks. It sounds very expensive but boy is it worth it watching all the shows and acts were absolutely amazing!
- Chichen itza tour, $47USD – One of the Ancient wonders of the world. The most illustrious of the Mayan ruins around the Yucatán peninsular. The main pyramid known as El Castillo is a testament to the sophisticated building techniques of the ancient civilisation sitting perfectly north and depicting the Mayan calendar.
- Whale shark diving, $110USD – A boat takes you 50km off shore then hands you a mask and snorkel. You jump in right next to a giant of the ocean and swim to keep up. Being in the water and seeing these incredible animals close up was something I will never forget.
Note – Whale sharks eat plankton not human.
- Isla Mujeres – You can take a ferry for $136Pesos return from the mainland and spend your day exploring this pristine island. Rent a golf cart, snorkel or relax on the beach.
- Cenotes – Rainwater has gathered underground and formed large caverns and interconnecting rivers. If you are a diver then definitely go! Follow the tunnels down and explore new secluded caves. If not then it is still very worthwhile to snorkel the surface.
Playa Del Carmen
- Playa is like a mini Cancun, so what we have heard. We only by passed the place to head straight to Tulum as we did not have enough time. The party there is apparently really good and some popular places to go to are Coco Bongo, Señor frogs and Fat Tuesdays.
- Swim with sea turtles at Akumal Beach. Tour operators will try to sell you a guide or a wetsuit with claims that you can’t swim without them. Do not be fooled! This is a free public entry beach and if you have your own mask with snorkel you can head just out off the beach and play with the resident turtles. Just don’t touch them. – FREE
- Explore the Mayan ruins of Tulum $65bz pp. Right on the coast are some beautiful ruins. It gets very hot so a swim at the beach is a nice break. Take plenty of water and avoid Sundays.
- Visit the cenotes in the Tulum area. The most popular for swimming is the Gand Cenote (same name as the Cancun Cenote). It has caves with bats, crystal clear water and baby fresh water turtles. Entry is $150bz pp.
- If you have the time then make a trip to Bacalar. It has 7 different shades of water in a large beautiful lagoon. Take a kayak and enjoy the surroundings.
Tips & Advice
- Currency = Mexican Pesos
- Most affordable time to visit = May – November
- Tipping at restaurants = 10-15%
- Negotiate all taxi prices prior to ride, ask at info desk or a local to get a gauge on how much it should be
- Use collectivos around Cancun to save money.
- Try haggle/barter for most service prices e.g. airport shuttle and tours/excursions
- Be careful with getting money out at the ATM’s some were charging $7-$15USD commission while others only $30Pesos.
- Always have both Pesos and USD’s on you, as some places will only accept one currency.
- Note when exiting the country by land and if you arrived to Mexico by plane; make sure you have your FMN card received at the airport and proof that you have paid taxes on your airplane ticket. This will save you $300Pesos at the border.
Helpful words and phrases
Please Por Favor
Thank you Gracias
You’re welcome De Nada
Pardon me Perdone
English? Habla Ingles?