We had no idea how beautiful & diverse the Yucatán Peninsula would be! Previous to this trip, my only point of reference was Cancún, well-known in the US to be a “Spring Break” destination with all-inclusive hotel packages, that let the tourist stay isolated in a safe, over-priced, not-too-realistic environment. Andrés only knew that there have been some awesome electronica music sets, played by DJs near Tulum. All of that exists here, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg!
We were lucky to find Tere & Roy (and their 5 dogs & cat!), a lovely, retired Mexican couple that live in Puerto Aventuras and rent out a suite attached to their home. They’re everything one could wish for in hosts and more! Impeccably clean, warm & welcoming (they greeted us with roses & white wine to celebrate our honeymoon!) with a great sense of humor and a breadth of local knowledge that they are more than happy to share.
They guided us through different activities, giving us insider tips on how to avoid crowds and tourist traps. With their guidance and our rented Renault Logan (Clio’s cousin!), we’ve been on different adventures every day. So far, we’ve visited:
- Chichen Itza & Cobá, two sites with Mayan ruins. The key is to arrive early before the crowds (between 8-10AM). With our car, we didn’t have to join any US$150+ tours and only paid the 65 peso (US$3.50) entry fees and ~30 peso (US$1.50) parking fees. We joined a not-so-informative “official” tour at Chichen Itza (325 pesos or US$16 for both of us) and then just eavesdropped on other tours at Cobá, and filled in little tidbits at breakfast with Tere & Roy each day. I found the climb to the top of the 42-meter (137-ft) Nohoch Mul “pyramid”a bit scary, but that was probably just some Aluxo’ob who didn’t want me going up. The view from the top was well worth the fear!
- There are thousands of Cenotes on the peninsula, which formed thousands of years ago when patches of the limestone that is all over the Yucatán collapsed and exposed the fresh water underneath. The ancient Maya used some of them for sacrificial offerings, but today they are open for swimming. We took dips at Ik Kal (near Chichen Itza) & Multun Ha (near Cobá).
Other highlights have included:
- snorkeling with turtles, sting rays and other amazingly-colorful fish and sealife at the Akumal beach (here’s an informative article in case you want to go to , but be aware that the area is currently under stress from unsustainable tourism brought in by the large hotels and massive tourism).
- sunset, beach-side dinner of whole hogfish snapper “boquinete” + sopa de lima + beers + fresh lemonade at Paamal beach (totalling 400 pesos or US$20 for both of us)
- lounging around at Xcacel beach (20 pesos or $1 for parking)
We’ve been pleasantly surprised that roads here are pretty decent (with very entertaining signs). The only trouble we’ve run into (besides a bunch of “almost accidents” as we’ve gotten used to the Mexican-style of driving) was leaving the cenote near the Cobá ruins. A couple of Germans were hitching a ride with us. We dropped them in the Cobá town, and the minute they got out of the car, our gas tank started beeping, warning us we were low. There was a gas station 5 minutes away that was unfortunately out of gas. We had 47 km until Tulum, the next gas station. We slowly drove down the two-lane, jungle-lined road that was empty except for a few houses every 20 minutes or so. We were just hoping not to break down too far from Tulum. After 45 minutes we were relieved to find a gas station, except that they were out of gas, too! The guy assured us that 4 km down the road there’d be another gas station. We puttered slowly on, and lo & behold, the 3rd station was ALSO out of gas! Somehow, our little Logan got us another km down the road, where we finally tanked up. This taxi driver was obviously just as excited as we were.
We happily drove the rest of the 30km back to Tere & Roy’s suite (and, as luck would have it, passed some 15 gas stations along the way!).
We had only planned to stay 5 nights with Tere & Roy, but have enjoyed ourselves so much that we’ve made it our base until Tuesday, when we leave Mexico behind and head to Havana!