Yucatan Peninsula Journals

The Real Mexico

An April 2003 trip to Yucatan Peninsula by CarollJesse

Quote: We traveled independently for a week in the Mexican states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo.

The Real Mexico

Overview

Quote:
Cancun is touristy (no surprise), but you have to fly in somewhere. Merida, Valladolia, and Tulum were wonderful. We especially enjoyed seeing the ruins of two civilizations at Chichen Itza, swimming in the Dzitnup Cenote, shopping and festivals in Merida, and living the beach life at the Diamante cabanas, and swimming in the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Quick Tips:

Best Way To Get Around:

We rented a car in Cancun, and drove it all week. You can also take buses between the cities, as the locals do (it's mostly tourists who have cars). Taxis are also very common.

Dolores Alba

Hotel | "Hoteles Dolores Alba--Chichen Itza"

Quote:
A long motel-style building with exterior entrances to simple Colonial-style rooms, set in the jungle, but located right off the highway and very close to the ruins. Very quiet, restful, only 350 pesos ($35). Excellent breakfast with fresh fruit, real Mexican hot chocolate, and eggs, served in an outdoor dining room with parrots to look at.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 22, 2003

Dolores Alba
Calle 63 no. 464
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
99/28 56 50

Hacienda San Pedro Nohpat

Hotel | "Hacienda San Pedro"

Quote:
Fantastic building, a restored hacienda from the 1600s. Very gracious hosts, a couple who were originally a farmer and journalist in Canada. Impressive gardens with exotic trees (even for that area) and nice pool. Resident donkey and geese. Very plush accommodations for only $75. Hosts most helpful with suggestions and directions. Wonderful breakfast and conversation. Will definitely go back.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 22, 2003

Hacienda San Pedro Nohpat
San Pedro Road
Merida, Mexico
(999) 988-0542

Dolores Alba

Hotel | "Dolores Alba Merida"

Quote:
Really different for us--the hotel is inside a fence that surrounds a good section of the city block. Inside the fence is open-air parking, lobby, dining room, and pool. Only the rooms have a roof. Very beautiful lobby with lots of mosaics. Comfortable, large room. Excellent breakfast. You get way more than you pay for. Would definitely stay here again.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 22, 2003

Dolores Alba
Calle 63 no. 464
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
99/28 56 50

Quote:
The best place in town for only $50! It was like stepping into a Western movie where the sheriff has to go to Mexico to get the bad guy. The hotel is Colonial, with heavy wooden furniture, doors, shutters, etc. All old, and in wonderful shape. You have breakfast in an open-air dining room. It was excellent.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 22, 2003

El Meson Del Marques
Calle 39 No. 203 (entre 40 y 42)
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico 97780
52-985-856-2073

Quote:
We arrived after dark and were greeted by lots of tiki torches and a few red electric lights placed in the sand. It spooked my teenager, but I thought it was cool. Our cabana was high-end: it had a cement floor, windows with shutters, and a lock (which did not work). The beds were suspended from ropes and had bug nets around them. They swung, which I liked, but my teenager didn't. They were quite comfortable. There was a single light bulb in the cabana, which is more than many cabanas in Tulum have. The restaurant was in another cabana-type building and served excellent local cusine. It was fun to go in with no shoes on. The Diamante K is located on a site of spiritual significance and is qui...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 22, 2003

Diamante K Cabanas
Road along the shore - Tulum
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Quote:
Playa del Carmen is a very crowded tourist town, so hotels are crammed into whatever space they have. This hotel is a series of small buildings scattered in the open courtyard behind the main building. The courtyard is beautiful, with a natural pool, and has a few naturally occuring trees in it. The front-desk people were helpful to me, but I had a problem with the owner. I made my reservation with him personally by phone, but when I arrived, there was no record of it. Fortunately, they had a standard (more expensive hotel) room available, but not the thatched bungalow I had reserved. I emailed the owner upon my return home and he replied immediately that they had record of my original email inqu...Read More

Member Rating 1 out of 5 on November 22, 2003

Treetops Hotel
Calle 8 - Playa Del Carmen
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
52-98487-31495

Quote:
Wonderful! A very elegant 1683 hacienda where you can wander around and then eat in the restaurant. The food is excellent. I recommend the stone platter sampler of Yucatan cuisine, which is only $10 and serves two. Even my fussy teenager liked it. It was not a problem that I could not speak Spanish. There's a nice gift shop there too.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 22, 2003

Hacienda San Ildefonso Teya
Km 12.5 Carretera
Merida-Cancun, Mexico
(01 999) 9 88 08 00

City of Merida

Attraction

Quote:
Merida is fun even for those (like me) who do not really like shopping. We saw the SAME clothing there for half the price we can get it here, even at US discount stores. The local markets are quite interesting. You could easily spend a day or two just going from store to store or going to the market.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 22, 2003

Merida Events

Attraction

Quote:
Merida has some kind of event every night. On Sunday night, we went to "Merida on Sunday" on the main plaza. It was fun. There were lots of food stands, entertainment, and things to buy.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 22, 2003

Merida Events
City center and parks
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Ruins of Chichen Itza

Attraction | "Chichen Itza"

Quote:
Very impressive, even to teenagers. Tour guides are a must to really understand what you are seeing. Tours are about 2 hours, and the price depends on how many people are collected into a group. You collect in groups as you enter the park. Be sure to climb the pyramid. There was a long wait to get inside, so we skipped it. Be sure to go early in the day - by midday, it is crowded and hot, even in April. I hear the evening light show is touristy - we skipped it.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 22, 2003

Ruins of Chichen Itza
Tinum
Chichen Itza, Mexico

Cenote Azul

Attraction | "Cenote swimming"

Quote:
This was the most interesting, most memorable part of the trip. Cenotes are underground ponds. You climb down stairs carved into the rock (like in touring caverns) and swim in a pond in a cave that has a small (maybe 5-foot diameter) hole in the ceiling to let light in. The water is fairly warm, and there are small fish in it. It's very safe, and sort of mystical. Lots of people go down to see the cenote; a few swim. Be aware - lots of local people are there to sell you things, and children offer to watch your car for you. I decided to support the local economy (in addition to paying the entrance fee) by having my car watched.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 22, 2003

Cenote Azul
Bacalar City
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Eco Parks

Attraction | "Eco Parks like Xpu-Ha"

Quote:
You turn in your sunscreen (it's not healthy for the lagoon) and are given an environmentally safe one. You walk around the perimeter of the lagoon for the day, stopping at various places for various activities: swimming, going in watery caves, snorkeling to see fish that come in from the Caribbean, tubing on the river, etc. There are several outdoor restaurants.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 22, 2003

Eco Parks
Route 137
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve

Attraction | "Water eocsystems tour of Sian Ka'an Biosphere Rese"

Quote:
The guide, an environmentalist, picks you up at your hotel around 8am and takes you and others in the company van, an hour away to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. They stop at their visitor center to explain what you will see. They compare the Caribbean to the mangrove swamp. They take you in small motor boats in the swamp (water is probably 10 feet deep in places, so not what I think of as a swamp) to see the vegetation and fauna, and a Mayan temple. They provide lunch, and you get to float down the river with your lifejackets on. At the end, we went swimming in an above-ground cenote. It was a full-day trip - we got back about 5pm. It is important to realize that you do not go into the jungl...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 22, 2003

Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve
Highway 307 (South of Tulum Village)
Tulum, Mexico 77781
01 984 871 2499

Tulum Mayan Ruins

Attraction | "Tulum"

Quote:
Tulum is a very nice small town with lots of "real" stores and, of course, some tourist-oriented ones. It's fun to walk the main street seeing what is there. Get off the main street to see the local housing, which varies in style quite a bit.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 22, 2003

Tulum Mayan Ruins

Tulum, Mexico

Valladolid - Shopping

Attraction | "Shopping in Valladolia"

Quote:
Valladolia is so rural, even though it is the second largest city in the state of Yucatan, that staying in the best hotel in the center of town, I was awakened at dawn by a rooster crowing. Mornings, the Mayan women set up stalls all around the square selling their crafts, especially their beautiful embroidered dresses. There are also many shops around the square and within several blocks of it.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 22, 2003

Valladolid - Shopping
City center
Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico

Avenida Quinta-Fifth Avenue

Attraction | "Shopping in Playa del Carmen"

Quote:
Playa del Carmen is pretty touristy, like Cancun, and crowded at night. But the stores are open until 10 or 11pm. There is a big department store there where you can get all your Mexican souvenirs. Beware - bathing suits are pretty expensive here and in Cancun.

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on November 22, 2003

Avenida Quinta-Fifth Avenue

Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Timeshare come-ons

Story/Tip

Quote:
Beware if anyone tries to entice you to enjoy a day at a hacienda with a free lunch, free tickets to an ecopark, and cash to spend. It is NOT a tour of an ancient hacienda; it IS a sales pitch to buy a share of a new hacienda-style resort. The food is wonderful, and the buildings are attractive, and it is set right on the beautiful Caribbean, but be sure you really want to spend the time listening to the sales pitch.
Quote:
Since a great many people in the Yucatan Peninsula do not own cars, there may be only one gas station in a major town. And it may only be open daylight hours. Be sure to gas up when you leave Cancun or Chichen Itza. On the toll road, it is over 100 miles to the first exit, and the first gas station! When you get on the toll road, you do not get off until you reach your destination because there are no exits. You can turn around at any of the U-turn areas, which are about 10 miles apart.
Quote:
Be sure to wear a good sunscreen. We applied after-sun, thinking it was sunscreen, and got really burned in one day. Although we could communicate with most everyone we needed to using English and gestures, it is at least respectful to greet everyone with "hola" (hi) and thank everyone with "gracias." Mexicans believe in being courteous. I had a taxi driver apologize to me when it was really my indecision that make me get in his way. Mexicans would also rather lie than appear badly, so they will tell you how to get someplace, even if they don't know, because they want to be helpful. It's good to read up on Mexican etiquette - I used The Global Etiquette Guide to Mexico and Latin Am...Read More

About the Writer

CarollJesse

CarollJesse
Surry, New Hampshire