There are so many ways in which you could while away 2 weeks on the Yucatan Peninsula. And after our recent trip to the area, I’ve only managed to make my list of “need to see” Mexican destinations longer. And still its only a tiny chunk of the country.
After much research I plotted what I still believe to be a pretty stellar itinerary for our 13 day trip.
Granted, I think everyone should do their own research so that you can tailor your trip to your own interests. For example, our itinerary focused heavily on food, cenotes and fresh water swimming and less on ruins and beaches (although we did manage to squeeze a few of both of those in).
Well, let’s get started: First, let me congratulate you! You’re going to Mexico! Great choice!
Day 1: We had no interest in Cancun, so upon arrival at the airport we took a shuttle straight to Playa del Carmen. Being our first trip to Mexico we decided on a shuttle over the ADO bus, not knowing what to expect. Next time, we’d go straight for the ADO. Its easy, cheaper and just as convenient as our shared shuttle ended up being. This being said, we stayed in Playa del Carmen for the first night. In hindsight, Puerto Morelos would have been our choice.
Day 2-4: Valladolid. Despite being sick in the most phleghmy of ways, we loved our time in Valladolid. If you haven’t been to a cenote, this is a fantastic place to see what all the hype is about. While there are definitely tourists there, Valladolid is not a touristy town (especially compared to Tulum and Puerto Morelos). There are great food options, you are close to both Chichen Itza and Ek Balam, you can bike to multiple cenotes AND there is a cenote right in town!
Eat: MAQTacos, Yerba Buena
Stay: Hostel Candelaria
Our favourite Cenotes: Hacendia San Lorenzo Oxman, Dzitnup Park (X’Keken & Samuela)
Day 5-7: Tulum. I feel like one’s experience in Tulum is tightly linked to where they choose to stay. We stayed at Posada los Mapaches and can’t imagine staying anywhere else. This B(ed), B(reakfast) & B(ike) is run by the charming Chelo, who is full of charisma and helpful information. Her breakfasts are fantastic, the property is tranquil and you are in a great location between the beach, ruins and city. Go to the Tulum Ruins FIRST thing in the morning. We rode our bikes the convenient 5 mins down the road for 8am and had a blissful hour at the ruins almost completely alone. We rode back to Posada los Mapaches just in time to be rewarded by our yummy hot breakfast. Bike to the Grand Cenote for some fantastic snorkelling (snorkel also provided by Chelo, if needed), spend the afternoon on the spectacular beach or swing in a hammock in the garden. Akumal is a quick collectivo ride away and offers snorkelling with sea turtles (yup- it is as amazing as it sounds). If that can’t keep you occupied for 3 nights…don’t worry your little head.. just ask Chelo: she’s got a million fun suggestions for you.
Eat: Burito Amore, El Vegetariano, El Cochino
Stay: Posada Los Mapaches
Day 8-10: Lake Bacalar. The lake of “7” colours that is as crystal clear as the Caribbean, but is, in fact, a fresh water lake! Yup, totally worth the 3 hour bus ride from Tulum. Sail, SUP, kayak or just lounge in a lake side hammock. However you decide to spend your time on Lake Bacalar, you won’t be disappointed.
Eat: Mango y Chili, Pizza Bertilla
Day 11-12: Puerto Morelos. Close to the Airport: check. Beachside Bars: check. Snorkelling: Check. Great Places to Stay: check. Good Food: Double Check. While not the “quiet fishing village” Puerto Morels is touted to be, it definitely still has a lot going for it. While the beach is lined with fancy hotels and chalk full of Canadian bathers, Puerto Morelos fulfills your obligatory beach days quota for a “Mexican Vacation” with the added benefit of not being completely overrun with obnoxious sun seekers. We stayed in the town by the highway and took a M$5 collectivo to and from the beach. It was the perfect combination of having access to the snorkelling, sea breeze and evening Coronas while not having to 1. spend beachside prices and 2. still feel like you're in Mexico (and not the USA).
Eat: Quesadilla de la Colonia
Stay: Hostel Humanity
Other tidbits we'd like to share:
How we got around: ADO bus. If you’ve travelled in South or Central America- oh boy, will ADO be a treat. While not the deal that chicken buses further south are, ADO (along with a couple other companies, like Mayab down by Lake Bacalar) has great coverage of the region and A/C makes the journey relatively comfortable. The roads are paved and, dare I say it, some are in better condition than those in my home town. Buying tickets is a breeze, prices are posted and seats are assigned (so you can at least try to avoid sitting by the stinky toilet).
Places we really want to check out next time: Isla Holbox, Mahahual, Merida (and the Gulf Coast flamingos).
I can’t decide whether Isla Mujeres would be too touristy, or if the novelty of circumventing an island on a golf cart would trump the touristy anyways. Anyone who has been there with thoughts about it?
Bring: snorkel & mask, bug spray