A complicated look at uncomplicated topics to ameliorate your day.
Quintana Roo is located on the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. It is better known for having Cancun as a tourist mecca but contains many of Mexico’s best beaches and untapped destinations.
Welcome to paradise.
I understand we all have different views on what is the perfect location for one reason or another. I can understand people would say New York City and others the Maldives. Some may stick with their hometown and others deep in the African jungle.
For me it is Isla Mujeres.
Isla Mujeres translates to Island of Women. It is located off the coast of Cancun, Mexico. It is small enough that it does not need cars and big enough that it has secret hideaways.
PocNa hostel is situated on Isla Mujeres and that alone is enough to visit. A wonderful vibe transcends the travel haven. It might be the sand sifting through your toes as you walk to a hammock to read the next chapter or the band galvanizing the visitors with a pulsating sound after sunset. The Hostel sits on the water, as does almost everything on Isla as it is only 650m wide. Beach volleyball or snorkeling can fill your afternoon and the outdoor beach bar is the place to be at night.
Everything is a short walk. The book swap café, the authentic Mexican food stands, the portable churro machine, the snorkeling hotspots, the beach volleyball court, the boardwalk in among the fence-less iguana farm or the abandoned pier stretching 35m from the shore.
The local bars, the basketball court that doubles as the town square, the hidden beach-side accommodation with cabanas on the sand, the best pitas in the world at Pita Amores or the painted wooden homes fighting the salty ocean breeze.
PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Situated south of Cancun, a short ride on the ADO (bus) will get you to ‘Playa’ in around an hour and you will have change from 50 pesos.
Playa boasts an amazing nightlife to compliment its world class beaches. Everything in Playa is walking distance with the main street (Fifth Ave.) being just steps from the beach. The hub of the party town is around some famous night spots such as the Blue Parrot or Pink Elephant. Coco Bongo is a famous show in many locations across Mexico and is worth the experience, even if it is a bit commercial and rather pricey for the budget traveler.
Head away from the beach, even just one or two streets to find authentic Mexican cuisine such as tacos, enchilada and some Pacifico or Dos Equis to wash it all down.
Cheap Eat: Taco Chido – 10th Avenue between Calle 10 and Calle 8. (Try the SuperTaco!!)
Hidden Gem: Alux Underground – Av. Benito Juarez Garcia. The largest cave restaurant in the world. Lounge, bar, restaurant and party venue like no other.
Many typical coastal activities such as snorkeling and diving are offered or perhaps just a little bit of R&R on the beach. If you happen to be in town for the New Year, there may be many more people than you might expect with the BPM Festival comprising of Day and Night parties across different venues in Playa starting NYE and extending into the first two weeks of the new year.
Tulum is south of Playa Del Carmen and is a small coastal town in Quinata Roo.
Tulum has many exceptional ocean-side bars and some unbelievable beaches. It is not unusual to see a game of beach volleyball, kite surfing or kids storming around the beaches. The water is crystal clear and the surf is very family friendly.
One of the main attractions is the Beach Cabanas that offer accommodation that you only see in the movies. The sand dunes are littered with many romantic shacks that are hidden in the coastline and match the layout of the land.
Like many places along the Yucatan Peninsula you can find some breathtaking ruins that remain from the days of the Mayan civilization. Guided tours or aimless wandering are both great options to brush up on the history of the area and catch a glimpse of the preserved sites that thrived long before we did.
Before you depart Tulum be sure to take a guided tour of the best under water caves in the world. Cenotes, as they are called, are natural pits that are now attractions for the large open water pools in between the picturesque caves that offer swimming and snorkeling.
Whether you spend a day trip to scuba dive in one of the famous caves or snorkel your way through the kilometer long passages here are a few tips.
Bring a rash vest or swimming top as the water can be very cold and there is no sun in the caves to keep you warm, even when the weather is 30+ degrees at your hotel. Smaller groups are better, like with most things, so you can get your guide to take you into smaller offshoots that only fit 1-7 people. You can swim through small holes in the caves that are 1m underwater that lead to another cave adjacent and other places you thought you would never see.
I have not even touched on Cozumel or Chetumel and left Cancun for those looking for a 1990’s experience. If you get a chance to explore and experience some of Mexico along the coast of Quintana Roo extend your trip, take two cameras and bring all of your friends. It is a pulsating and rich part of the world that will not disappoint.