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The Beach in Bahia Soliman

Maybe this is the beginning of another love story.  People come from all over the world to the Mayan Riviera in Mexico as tourists, fall in love with it, and return over and over and over again.  The Mayan Riviera is the area south of Cancun, Mexico, and north of Tulum, on the Caribbean.  You get there by flying to Cancun.  After that, you travel south on Route 307, to Playa del Carmen, and then Akumal, and Puerto Aventuras, past Xel-Ha and on to Tulum.  You can make the trip by rental car, bus, taxi, or collectivo.

Why is this being posted now? Because your Bloguero needs it.  It's been a long, long winter, and a little mind candy can hopefully adjust my seasonal affective disorder.  

Join me on the beach.

When I first traveled this route, Route 307 was a two lane highway and tall vegetation grew up to the very side of the road.  There was one Pemex gas station between Puerto Morelos in the north and Felipe Carillo Puerto in the south.  Really, there wasn’t much there.  There were romantic beach resorts that had no electricity.  That was about 20 years ago.  I fell in love with the place.  Maybe it was initially because there just wasn’t much there.  It was a great place to hang out on the beach and do nothing.  And I’ve stayed in love with it since.  I have a home there on a beach just north of Tulum in Bahia Soliman.

Our home is called "Nah Yaxche."  "Nah" is Mayan for "house of", "Yaxche" is the Mayan tree of paradise, the first tree, the ceiba tree, under which good people dance in the afterlife. A Mayan name, because this part of Mexico is Mayan.  And not Spanish.

When I'm at Bahia Soliman (just 10 minutes north of Tulum), I do, well, pretty much nothing.  The idea is just to be, to relax, eliminate the lingering affects of sleep deprivation and work stress, do some yoga, meditate, eat some good meals, think, hang out, day dream.  I wrote most of my novel, The Dream Antilles (2005), here.  And my novella Tulum (2011) was written here. And I've devoured dozens and dozens of books here.  I have a daily siesta.  I watch the sun rise.  Sundays the neighbors pick up whatever plastic the sea has deposited on the beach and walk the community's many beach dogs.  We don't wear wrist watches here.  We're beach people.  And to us, this really is paradise.

I'm writing about it, because if you're a beach person or would like to be one, and you haven't been here, you're really missing something special.  But the beach isn't the only thing here: there are also lots of things to do.    

Some of the sights in the area are quite well known.  There are the Mayan ruins at Tulum, overlooking the ocean from a cliff.  The temple walls have murals depicting descending gods (dios decendentes), which some folks think are actually drawings of extraterrestrials:

tulum ruins
El Castillo en las Ruinas de Tulum

There are dozens of other, smaller ruins dotting Quintana Roo, the best of which might be the small ruins at Muyil (just south of Tulum) and the large ruins at Coba (about an hour west of Tulum).  A few hours’ drive to the northwest is Chichen-Itza, but it’s close enough that you can make it a day trip if you start early.

The thing to remember about Mayan ruins in the jungle: they get hot mid-day and the mosquitoes are voracious.  Hot in Mexico means extremely extra very hot.  Go early in the morning, be there when the site opens, and wear bug spray and a hat.  Drink water.  The views from the top of the pyramid in Coba or from the top of the Castillo in Tulum are unbelievable.

Some of the best beaches in the world are on the Boca Paila Road that runs from the Tulum Ruins through the Sian Ka'an Bioreserve to Punta Allen. Playa Paraiso is world famous.  You can walk for hours on the beach.  The water is turquoise, and calm, the sand is wide and white, and the barrier reef that runs from Cancun to Panama, the second largest in the world, protects the beach and makes for a fertile, green turtle and marine habitat:

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These beaches are unbelievably gorgeous.  If you are of fair, northern European extraction, you must wear SPF 50+ sun screen.  You can be mercilessly sauteed on these beaches in no time at all.  I have seen some of the worst sunburns here.  A squirt of SPF 50 (or 60 or total block) avoids a ton of misery later.

In fact, you can probably find your own stretch of beach somewhere between the ruins in Tulum and Punta Allen that will be completely deserted and beautiful.  That’s a way of saying that if you want your own private beach all to yourself you can find it.  Some have some detritus on them from hurricanes and prevailing winds from the east, but many others are pristine.  What drifts onto the beach depends entirely on what's been dropped in the water and the wind, since there is so far no concerted community effort to pick up after storms.

A literary word about this beach.  In his now out of print book, The Lost World of Quintana Roo, Michel Peissel records his solo, 1962 walk from what would become Cancun a decade later to Belize on these very beaches.  At the time there were no roads.  The beaches were coconut farms (cocals), the interior was local Mayans and those who were harvesting chickle (chicleros).  There were no welcoming parties for Gringos.  This book is the perfect beach read when you sit on Mayan Riviera beaches, because you're sitting on the path Peissel walked.

The reef remains quite healthy, and it makes for fantastic snorkeling and diving and swimming and kayaking.  Those of us in the area go out of our way to keep nitrogen from waste away from the reef by building special septic systems.  The large all inclusive hotels have all followed suit.  We're on a mission to preserve the ecology of the area. We want our ocean and the reef to remain alive, healthy, and pristine. We don't fish inside the reef, we don't take shells or shellfish out of the water, we turn off lights so that turtles are not disoriented at night, we don't touch the coral, we try not to get sunscreen or anything else in the water, we pick up whatever drifts in.

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The National Park at Xel-Ha, and the Yal-ku Lagoon in North Akumal are well known spots for snorkeling.  These are well worth a visit, but there are better, less populous places to snorkel up and down the coast.  Lots of people swear by Akumal, Tankah 3, and Xpu-Ha.  I like the reef in Bahia Soliman, where my house is. The reef is only 200 yards or so from shore, so, if you have no kayak, you can swim to prime snorkeling without great effort.  In the mornings, the water is sometimes like a mirror.  Not a single wave.  This is especially the case in summer.  But even when there are waves, they're small, and the snorkeling is best when there's bright sun to light up the coral and the fish.  In lots of places, if you have a kayak, you can tie up at the reef.  We've put "tie ups" in the bay.

Oftentimes, when snorkeling, we see eagle rays.  These fly through the water like huge butterflies.  We also have seen dolphins, huge barracuda (they are not hungry inside the reef, but please don't wear jewelry because you don't want to look like dinner), two kinds of turtles, lots of schools of purple angel fish.  You get the idea.  The sea is healthy, and it's alive.  

There are also many cenotes, limestone sink holes with fresh water, that are part of the world’s largest underground river system.   These were sacred to the Maya and are still used for ceremonies.  And, best of all, you can swim in the cool freshwater as they do.  That is really refreshing on hot days.  The water is surprisingly clear.  And the cenotes make for wonderful entrances for exciting cave diving.  Great cave diving and cenote snorkeling is available at dos Ojos and Hidden Worlds.  dos Ojos also has a jungle zip line.

This is Manatee Cenote in Tankah 3, right across the road from Café Cenote:

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And then there’s Tulum Pueblo itself, a Mayan town I really love.  Until 1935, Tulum was still fighting the War of the Castes and refusing to recognize the Mexican Central government.  The Mexican troops gave up the war in 1911, in a moment that must have resembled the 1975 evacuation of Saigon, but the Mayans understand timing.  It wasn’t until 1935 that they finally held a ceremony acknowledging the central government.  Now Tulum is growing rapidly.  Is it growing as rapidly as Playa del Carmen to the north?  Probably not.  But then again, nothing has grown as fast as Playa del Carmen, which is rumored to be the fastest growing city in the Northern Hemisphere.

About Playa del Carmen.  Playa del Carmen has 5 or 10 times as many people now as it did when I first went there.  Then it was a sleepy fishing village.  It had one independent espresso bar.  Now it's a city with an incredible collection of bars, restaurants, shops and discos.  It's a magnet for Euro travelers.  Cruise ships stop there.  It has some unbelievably great restaurants I always recommend (The Glass Bar (Italian, expensive), Yax Che (Mayan, expensive), John Gray's (continental, expensive) for special occasions.  There are two incredible shrimp taco places (La Floresta, El Oasis) on frontage road on the highway. The shopping is great.  But I only like Playa del Carmen in small doses:  it's fun for an evening of partying, but then, for me, it's time to move on to something more remote, something less populated.

About Akumal.  Akumal is pretty completely gringoized.  It has good restaurants (La Lunita is a favorite), great beach bars (Lol Ha), good snorkeling (easy to find turtles), two excellent dive shops (I prefer Dive Akumal), Internet, a gym, etc.  It is a great place to spend an evening, or to have breakfast (Turtle Bay Cafe), or to have lunch (Lucy's Tacos).  Lots of folks swear by Akumal, because you don't really need a car there and can walk to anything.  Akumal, too, has grown over the years, but it has a nice feeling and is a lot of fun.    

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The Old Fruteria in Tulum, now a vacant lot

But mostly I love Tulum.  Tulum mixes funk with shine.  It mixes rundown with spiffy.  It mixes Mexican with Mayan.  It mixes European and Mexican and US.  It mixes old and new. It has some great shopping and a wide variety of excellent restaurants.  These range from Pollo Asado (Pollo Bronco is to die for) places on the main drag, where you can get a fantastic roasted chicken for cheap, to my favorite restaurant, Cetli, with its high Mexican (Axtec/Nahuatl) cuisine worthy of Mexico City.  And, of course, there are dozens of places in between including La Nave, a Pizzeria on the main drag that is a favorite with me and most of the ex-pat community. Also, there are two wonderful palaterias in Tulum where you can get ice pops in about 100 different flavors.  The current fave: chocolate with strawberries and cocoa crispies on the outside.  Seriously.  What more could you ask for?

Tulum is expected to grow.  The current economic situation may be delaying that, but the signs of growth are already appearing.  There's a 7-11 (Siete Once? Seven Once? Seven Eleven? Siete Eleven?) and a Subway.  I recently found a Starbucks cup in the gutter (probably from Playa del Carmen).  There are some fantastic, stainless steel store fronts now. And there's a Gelateria (with great murals).  And we have three (count em) supermarkets.  But you can still buy fresh tortillas on the main drag, and mangos and papayas, for incredibly cheap and tons of local fruits and vegetables.  The town retains its incredible sweetness, and its simplicity.  I just love it.

What about accommodations?  There are all kinds of places to stay. Absolutely the best site for finding villas and houses to rent on the beach, and small hotels, and small resorts on the Tulum beach as well as larger all inclusives (if you like that) is loco gringo.  This is THE place to find a small palapa cabana on the Tulum beach.  Or a dramatic villa overlooking a beautiful bay.  (Disclosure: I rent my house when I'm not there) There are other sites for villa and hotel rentals including vrbo.com, travel advisor, and as well you can find rentals by Googling "mayan riviera rentals".

This is the most fantastic area for a vacation.  Lots of people swear by other places in the vast Caribe.  Fine.  I'm sure those are great places, too. At one time or another I've been to many of these, but I kept returning to Tulum.  Over and over again.  Why?  Maybe it's the beauty of the sea, the diversity of the jungle.  Maybe it's because this is some kind of frontier.  Maybe it's because of the influence of Mayan culture.  Maybe it's because the people I've met here have been so wonderful.  It's hard to explain.  Maybe its just love and inexplicable.

Flights from Cancun are not overwhelmingly expensive.  And right now the peso is way down, so once you arrive you get a lot of pesos for a dollar (on Friday you got more than 12 pesos per dollar) so your dollar goes really far. This makes almost everything seem like a bargain. It is now the approach of the "off season" and you can find wonderful accommodations throughout the area.

While I was writing this diary, notice on a Riviera Maya bulletin board asking folks what I should say.  The overwhelming response was that I should lie and say the area was terrible, dirty, poisonous, dangerous, etc. so that it would remain pristine and unpopulated and unnoticed.  Some people correctly pointed out that what will keep things healthy here are simple ecological steps:  not stepping on coral, taking garbage off the beach, and the like.  What emerges is this: people love the Mayan Riviera.  And some of these folks would like to keep it for themselves and hidden from others.

If I can provide additional information about the Riviera Maya or any of the Yucatan, please email me or leave a comment.  I'll try to answer the questions.  

Originally posted to El Bloguero on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 06:35 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I spent the month of April 1973 (18+ / 0-)

    traveling the Yucatan peninsula.

     Camping and relaxing from Chetumal (lagoons) north through your area (a week on the beach south of Tulum), on to Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres, Merida, Campeche and on around.

    We also spent a few nights near unimproved pyramids by sharing with the local Mayan family.

    Now I have to dig in that box and find the notes I kept of the trip.

    Thanks for the new view. Things have really changed.

    •  I should clarify, we were sharing food (9+ / 0-)

      with the family. Near the unexcavated sites usually lived a farmer with family, a few pigs, chickens and ducks.

      Armed with machete, shotgun and fire they were the deterent to artifact thieves as well as clearing vegetation from the site.

      It can really gets dark in that jungle at night when there is no moon.

    •  My first trip (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      annan, ER Doc

      to this area was in the mid 1980s. Playa had ONE public telephone - that was it for connectivity. No big resorts, no chains, just a few small hotels and local restaurants on the beach.

      My, how things have changed. I've been back (Cozumel, all around the Yucatan) a half- dozen times since, always watching with a mixture of shock, amazement and dread at the incredible changes and stunning mega-developments that kept popped up during each interval when I had been away. Last time I was there was 10 years ago, and I said I would not be back, dismayed at the cruise ships and what they had done.

      Now, with some very decidedly mixed feelings, I'm planning a trip back next spring.  I probably wouldn't be going back, but this trip is to "show mexico" to family  that will be visiting from Asia. They have their own beautiful beaches (some nicer than these, to be honest) but they don't have "pyramids" (as they see the ruins) or the interesting mix of land, nature and culture. Most of all, they have no experience with Latin America or hispanic cultures at all, and have a cartoonish (and largely negative) view of Mexico and all things "south of the border".  They are pretty sophisticated world travelers but without someone to "guide them" I'm sure they would never even think of traveling to anyplace south of the Rio Grande.  As a trusted family member (and who speaks passable Spanish), they'll allow me to take them to Mexico - we've gotta find something for the kids' spring break, and I suggested 10 days in the Yucatan.

      I know very well that the quiet, relaxed Quintana Roo that I fell in love with almost 30 years ago is long gone, but I hope that fragments of it are still to be found (I think I know where to look).  And I hope my overseas relatives will give Mexico a chance, embrace its charms, and come to see some of the potential of the quarter of the planet south of the USA that they would probably otherwise have written off as "not worth going to."  We'll see.

      On my first trip to Mexico (4 months, down Baja and the entire Pacific coast, over to the Yucatan and up the Caribbean - what an epic!) I would stop at La Flor de Michoacan Paleteria Y Neveria in every small town.  I'll be looking forward to stopping at the little shop in in Tulum - I assume it's still there (if not, I believe there's one in Felipe Carrillo Puerto). I'm sure the kids will love that place as much as I did...

      •  Yes, there are at least two (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ER Doc

        paleterias, including Flor de Michoacan (recommend: chocolate outside, straweberry icrecream and strawberries inside, $90 (pesos), in Tulum.

        Rest assured: you can still find the "old" in and around Tulum. And if I'm there when your family goes, let me know and I will show you it.

      •  Oh! I love the Yucatan and there are still (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ER Doc

        wonderful traditional communities that are as you remember although the coast has been "improved" with many resorts that - to be fair - do offer employment to the locals.

        Several years ago I drove through the interior  from Tulum to Merida. We found wonderful, colorful Mexican markets, beautiful architecture, unimproved (and improved) ruins. Merida itself is an interesting colonial capital with a thriving urban culture. Lots to see and do.

        For Mayan ruins, my favorite so far is Uxmal just south of Merida. It's a preserved and somewhat improved Mayan ruin with lots of ornamental terra cotta. It's still accessible, unlike the more familiar sites like Chichen Itza with its off-limits temples and hoards of tour buses from Cancun. Villas Arqueologicas is a delightful little boutique hotel at Uxmal. Staying overnight you can enjoy the light show and have the ruins to yourself early the next morning.

        Enjoy. I love the Mexican people and I especially enjoy Quintanna Roo.

        "Let us not look back to the past with anger, nor towards the future with fear, but look around with awareness." James Thurber

        by annan on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 05:53:48 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  We did Uxmal (0+ / 0-)

          I've been there 3 or 4 times, stayed at Villas Arqueologicas a couple of them.  Great times.  Also visited Merida (THE place to buy your hammocks), then headed down the Ruta Puc, then SE across the peninsula towards Chetumal.

          My favorite ruins (tough call) are Calakmul, Uxmal, the Rio Bec sites, and the Ruta Puc sites (of course, that doesn't include Palenque and others further away).  Magical places, all.

          Looking forward to seeing a few of these next spring with the family.

  •  I'm staying at your house! (9+ / 0-)

    Heh.  

    ..the smoker you drink, the player you get....

    by Diane Gee on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 07:28:18 AM PDT

  •  we're in ilsa mujeres now... (7+ / 0-)

    but all the decent snorkeling seems to require a boat. been to tulum many times...love the lagoon...but would appreciate more specific snorkeling tips.

    Change is inevitable. Change for the better is a full-time job. -- Adlai E. Stevenson (GOTV)

    by marzook on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 07:48:29 AM PDT

    •  Definitely. (5+ / 0-)

      The reef off Bahia Soliman and off Tankah 3 is easy to get to and the snorkeling is fabulous. You could swim from the shore (public access in both places) or you could kayak. The best part of the reef in Bahia Soliman is at the south end of the bay, near the point.

      Also, Yalku in Akumal is good if you go early.  Xelha is good, but costs a lot to get into.

      The underwater park in Mujeres is good, I think, but I recall that extrance fee was very high. Not sure whether it's worth it.

      •  Thanks for the tip! (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        smileycreek, nomandates

        In all the years I have been visiting Bahia Soliman (the past 10), I have never snorkeled south of the break in the reef.  If our finances hold up this year, I hope to make a return trip next year.  If we can go back, I will definitely explore the south end.

        Thanks also for the diary.  I am very "homesick" for the Bay - we have been back for a month and a half and it seems like last year.  For me there is a timeless and out of time quality to being there.  Very magical...  

        •  I wish I could go back. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          nomandates

          We went to Playa del Carmen several times in the early 90's and I loved the area.

          Unfortunately I developed a sun allergy and can't visit that latitude without preventative prednisone. But oh! how fondly I remember the Mayan Riviera.

          I also want to thank you, eagleray, for delurking for the black kos diary today. The response to that was so encouraging.

          Welcome from the DK Partners & Mentors Team. If you have any questions about how to participate here, you can learn more at the Knowledge Base or from the New Diarists Resources Diaries. Diaries labeled "Open Thread" are also great places to ask. We look forward to your contributions.

          Oh, I used to be disgusted
          Now I try to be amused
          ~~ Elvis Costello

          by smileycreek on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 06:57:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  El B - you remind me of such lovely times, (10+ / 0-)

    so long ago.

    I used to spend a LOT of time on that same stretch of beach and loved it. I was $20 k (ie, the whole amount, lol) short of buying a cute little 6 palapa w/ great restaurant spot in Playa back in 1986. I've hitchhiked and stayed with families, I've explored many of the little cenotes and lagoons you mention. Sunrise at Tulum ruins. Loved it loved it loved it.

    But 'my' beach is gone now, and I can't get my head around accepting what's there in its place. Crushing tourism, locals displaced back off the beaches, and carisimo! omg. too damned many gringos.

    Glad you still love the area, really. Wish I could find a corner of it to hide in....

    "Only a Vulcan mind meld will help with this congress." Leonard Nimoy, 3/1/13

    by nzanne on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 07:48:36 AM PDT

  •  went down there in Aug. '99, and will never (6+ / 0-)

    forget it. Tulum, Chichenitza, Cancun. One of the most beautiful places in the world! I would love to go back some day.

  •  thanks...i've been planning a trip down there, but (7+ / 0-)

    postponed a july/august jaunt 'cause it seemed like it would be maybe too hot...would it be worth going down for a week this summer, or should we try for a bit longer trip in December?

    Howard Fineman needs to have a chat with Chris Cilizza about Grecian Formula and its effects on punditry

    by memofromturner on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 08:24:04 AM PDT

    •  Personally, I love the summer best. (9+ / 0-)

      It can be hot. But that's what the Caribe is for. Get in it and soak. The water is warm, but refreshing.  I find that there's usually a breeze in the afternoon, and maybe even a thunder shower to cool things off.  It's humid, too, but you're overdressed if you have a shirt and shorts. And did I say that it's beautiful beyond belief in the summer?

      December is much cooler (in termperature). And way more crowded. The high season rates start at Thanksgiving. If you go in summer or September or October (my personal favorites) it's far more quiet, deserted.

  •  Beautiful ... (6+ / 0-)

    An area I love as well. My first visit to Tulum was in 1981, so I recognize that lonely drive you speak of. At the time Playa Del Carmen was a sleepy Mexican port and one had to walk through jungle to visit the wonderful ceynotes.

    I remember having a bit of a scare visiting Tulum on that first visit. A couple of burned out Americans attempted to hitch a ride with us back to Cancun. My ex - a true adventurer who was never spooked by strangers - refused, told me later that he thought we would have "disappeared" along that lonely jungle road back to Cancun.

    I am a scuba diver so Cozumel is my home base in the Yucatan. Several years ago I did a multi-day loop drive down the coast, starting at Playa Del Carmen. We turned inland south of Tulum to visit Peto, Uxmal, Merida and return by way of Cancun. In retrospect, I'm not sure that was the brightest idea for 2 solo female Anglos. We always felt safe although we were definitely a curiosity. We still laugh when remember the hundreds of topés we bumped over in our little stick shift econo car.

    Thanks for mellow Sunday memories!

    "Let us not look back to the past with anger, nor towards the future with fear, but look around with awareness." James Thurber

    by annan on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 08:58:35 AM PDT

  •  In addition to the SPF-50... (4+ / 0-)

    ...I also wear a bandanna when swimming, as there is nothing worse than a sun-burned scalp...

  •  Beautiful (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    El Bloguero, MRA NY, raincrow, ER Doc

    Such a  beautiful area, and you're right, always easy to find your own 1/4 or 1/2 mile of beach.  I'm always amazed, standing on that perfect sand and staring at that stunning water, that I'm pretty much on my own.

    The name of your home is the name of one of my favorite restaurants between Cancun and Tulum - Yaxche in Playa Del Carmen.

  •  link broken (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow, ER Doc, S F Hippie

    for "rent my home".  I was kinda interested.  Always looking for a respite in paradise.

    Thanks for the diary.

    Audit the Pentagon: 25% of funding -- $2.3 Trillion dollars -- unaccounted for.

    by roonie on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 10:12:09 AM PDT

  •  I am headed to Puerto Morelos soon - 4/24 - for (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    raincrow

    6 nights (family wedding).

    I had hoped to visit some ruins, but a couple people I know and strangers on travel advisor all said Tulum's ruins weren't worth the trip.

    We will be staying at the Azul Sensatori and I hear their beach is full of rocks.  Some have said that a 10 minute walk will bring us to a nice beach, but because of my daughter's disability and adding distance to our rooms, etc.  a 40 min round trip will be too much for her, maybe once, but her ankle has been real bad lately.

    so, we were interested in renting waverunners and i came across these tours from jetski rental in puerto morelos.  the 1 1/2 hr one lvs pm marina, ride for 1/2 hr, 1/2 hr on the beach at maroma, then back.  unfortunately, they have not responded to my e-mail asking the price.

    the other thing i want to do is just walk around Puerto Morelos for a few hours (or more) one day.  I have looked at maps, etc of the area and know there are a couple bar/rest. on the beach, many restaurants, souvenir shops etc. throughout town (and the bookstore - a must!).  The beaches look nice there as far as I can see, and I'm wondering whether to plan a whole day there.

    Another day we will be swimming with the dolphins (dolphin discovery in puerto aventuras).

    so, my questions to you:

    1.  besides the jetski rental place in PM, the only other waverunners I see are at Maroma adventures and I have seen several negative reviews about them (though generally about their tours - jungle, etc).

     Any recommendations on where to rent?  

    2. do you think a tour would be worth it or just do the waverunners separate from finding a nice beach for a while? (because of the condition of the beach at the hotel, we'll likely spend more time at the pool - usually we would want to be mostly at the beach)

    3.  do you think the beaches in Puerto Morelos proper will suit us, or should we try to get to Maroma or another place?

    Thanks for anything you can offer - can't wait to go!

    "Don't Bet Against Us" - President Barack Obama

    by MRA NY on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 10:22:09 AM PDT

    •  I wish I could be a better resource for you. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MRA NY

      1.  I don't know anything about jetski rentals, primarily because the bay at Soliman Bay and the bay at Tankah are protected, so these are not allowed there.  I don't know of a rental at Akumal, either. So I don't know what the deal is as far as rentals go a Pto Morelos. There's a Pto Morelos facebook page and forums at www.locogringo.com which you might want to use to get information,or you could check trip advisor and see what they say about this.

      2. Puerto Morelos itself is not very large. You could walk the entire town in an hour or two. The Alma Libre bookshop is worth a stop, so too Pelicanos restaurant and the espresso place on the SW corner of the town square.  The beach in Pto Morelos is ok, but not secluded. If there is a catamaran rental or trip from Pto Morelos, you might really enjoy it. The Caribe is beautiful, and anywhere they stop is sure to be a good beach. I don't know whether you have transportation to visit the beach South of Pto Morelos.

      3.  Unfortunately, I have never been on the beach at Maroma. So I can't say. The beaches south of there, Xpu Ha, e.g., are lovely.

      4.  Wish I had better information for you on this.

    •  Went to my girlfriend's son's wedding last January (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      El Bloguero

      at the Azul Sensatori; it was nice. We took a minibus tour to Chichen Itza. I'd been there once years before when you could still climb the Castillo; forbidden now. It was still worth it. Didn't get off the hotel grounds otherwise, so our experience was limited. Of course, that's the way the all-inclusives want it! Swimming in the cenotes is worth it, too. We'd done that the previous time.
            The beach at the Sensatori collects seaweed; they have guys working constantly to pick it up. And walking out is rocky. But it's still beautiful! My oldest son had his wedding at the Moon Palace a few years ago. It's a small step up from the Sensatori; more if you're a golfer. But they're both very nice.  

      -7.25, -6.26

      We are men of action; lies do not become us.

      by ER Doc on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 01:01:19 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No more climbing? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ER Doc

        You can't climb El Castillo any more?  Ugh.  That's bad news. :(

        •  Apparently safety concerns... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          El Bloguero

              That was a damned steep set of steps, with no hand-rail. Strenuous going up, but much harder to balance going down. I remember lots of people went down on their rear ends step-to-step, instead of trying to keep their balance walking upright. Others "crawled" down backwards on all fours.
               Of course, there are so many people visiting Chichen Itza all the time that there may have been too much wear-and-tear to allow that many people on the pyramid, too.

          -7.25, -6.26

          We are men of action; lies do not become us.

          by ER Doc on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 04:02:17 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oh I remember those steep steps well (0+ / 0-)

            I have been up and down them in each of the ways you describe - several times!  Never took a tumble but saw it as a distinct possibility - one to be avoided.

            Still it's a cryin' shame that they no longer let you climb it.  I have a treasured photo of my wife standing at the top, gazing off across the the Yucatan jungle stretching from horizon to horizon...the wind in her hair, the Mexican sun drenching the entire scene...great days.

      •  Thanks for the info. Just saw this now, so I (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        El Bloguero, ER Doc

        can't rec anymore!

        Several family members I've asked to join me for an afternoon in Puerto Morelos have responded that they paid for the all inclusive and don't want to spend money anywhere else! Me, I would like at least a little flavor of the country and am really looking forward to at least a little exploring there.

        The dolphin swim is to make up for the goof I made a decade or so ago when I took my daughter to a combo Disneyworld/Bahama vacation and booked the dolphin 'encounter' which we did not realize did not include any more contact than petting them for a minute or so (she's now 25 and was adamant about the swim, which I am looking forward to also).

        The wave runners is something we've done before too - me on a trip to Cape May and once in the Bahamas, her with cousins some years back.  Both of us love being on the water and I think it gives a different perspective on the area as well.  

        I am not familiar with Chichen Itza, so will look into that.  The cenotes I read a bit about - but will probably forgo since the few places I have seen where we would find them don't hold much else of interest to us (my daughter has a bad leg  and can't walk much nor is she allowed to do many things (zip lines, atv's, high jumps are some of the things in the eco-parks) - I'm even concerned about her bouncing around too much on the waverunners).

        Thanks again for the info.

        "Don't Bet Against Us" - President Barack Obama

        by MRA NY on Tue Apr 16, 2013 at 08:00:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Chichen Itza is the best-known of the Mayan sites (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          MRA NY, El Bloguero

          and is a large place, with a lot to see, including a large court for the Mayan ball game as well as a bunch of other buildings with heavy engraving. "El Castillo" is the enormous pyramid. The first time we went to Cancun on a family trip about twelve years ago, we stayed at a small hotel on the beach in Cancun proper. We took a  package trip to Chichen Itza that included the stop at a big underground cenote. Can't recall the name, but it was a well-known and popular stop. Along with a cool swim, it included a chance to leap off about a thirty-foot cliff into the water. We were unable to get my ten-year-old son to jump despite all the chiding his 15-year-old sister could muster. If I recall correctly, it was right off the route on the homeward leg of the trip, so it didn't add much time to the basic Chichen Itza trip, other than the swim time.
                There are regular bus trips with large buses, but depending on how many of you there are, you can take a relatively private guided trip in a van with just your family, or maybe tag along with another small group. If you have any interest in big old archeological sites, I'd try to get to at least one of the Mayan sites.

          -7.25, -6.26

          We are men of action; lies do not become us.

          by ER Doc on Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 09:11:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thanks. For many months, getting to at least one (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ER Doc, El Bloguero

            Mayan site was the only thing on my to do list.  

            I see it is about a 5 hour round trip to Chichen Itza.  Now that I agreed to do the dolphin swim and waverunners, I don't have much open time since I have the rehearsal dinner one evening and the wedding the next (certainly not planning anything but being by the pool the day after!).  

            But I am going to see what I can find out about the times (return times in particular) of any tours out there - I don't know anyone at the moment that wants to go with me, and I don't fare well as a passenger in buses and vans, but if I can find a tour that works time wise, that won't stop me!  

            "Don't Bet Against Us" - President Barack Obama

            by MRA NY on Thu Apr 18, 2013 at 06:25:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  A visit to Uxmal while there is well worth it too! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    El Bloguero, raincrow

    Ah the memories you brought back of this wonderful part of the world.    Thanks for the diary.

    One thing that we did while there was to spend 2 days to head to Uxmal - a remote, uncrowded and amazing architectural feat - http://www.locogringo.com/...

    We were there in the Yucatan for 10 days and got lots of relaxation but I wouldn't skip this part of the trip either!

    FYI - the bluedog thing is about my dog ... I'm a liberal left winger and proud of it.

    by bluedogsd on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 10:22:40 AM PDT

    •  Yes. And Uxmal is one of the few (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      raincrow, bluedogsd, ER Doc

      ruins where the original paint is still on the walls and the carvings are unharmed. Definitely recommend this.

    •  Uxmal is my favorite so far. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      El Bloguero

      If you get a chance to go again, try staying overnight at the Villas Arqueologicas Uxmal. It's a former Club Med, now owned by a Mexican consortium. Lovely light show and the ruins are still accessible.

      The best times to visit the ruins are early morning or late afternoon before or after the tour buses. Even if you go when the tour buses are there it's nothing like the hoards at Chitzen Itza.

      Just reading everyone's comments makes me long to go back!

      "Let us not look back to the past with anger, nor towards the future with fear, but look around with awareness." James Thurber

      by annan on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 06:07:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  ...used to go to the Yucatan Peninsula... (4+ / 0-)

    ...a lot back in the late 1980's/early 1990's before it got all built up with resorts...haven't been there since that started.

    We used to go to Playa del Carmen when it was nothing...pigs an turkeys still roamed the streets and the only real "hotel" was the Blue Parrot...

    Ignorance is bliss only for the ignorant. The rest of us must suffer the consequences.

    by paradise50 on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 10:40:09 AM PDT

  •  Great diary for a place I love. (5+ / 0-)

    We head further south from your place to Xcalak. Truly magical.

  •  Going to the other side of Mexico (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    El Bloguero, foresterbob, raincrow

    We are going to visit family, and it just turns out that it's several hundred dollars cheaper to fly to a resort town and have someone come pick us up than to fly directly to the town my wife's grandmother lives in.  So, we'll be doing a trip to the Pacific coast this summer.

  •  We spent the 3rd week in March in Tulum Pueblo (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    El Bloguero, foresterbob, raincrow

    before catching our Cubana flight to Havana.  We found a simple but comfortable B&B called Aerolito.  It is on the eastern edge of town about a block from the jungle in a neighborhood far enough away from the main drag that it felt like Tulum must have felt like before "being discovered".

    Ariana started building her little jungle compound about 18 years ago, and now has 3 huts and a treehouse that she rents to visitors who prefer not to stay in the Gringo occupied zone on the beach.  The dogs and roosters from the surrounding houses, and the birds from the jungle made sure we didn't oversleep. The breakfasts prepared by a 16 year old Mayan girl were great.

    The beach just south of the entrance to the Tulum ruins was fantastic.  The ruins there and further south at Muyil were interesting, the latter especially peaceful due to the lack of hordes bused in from Playa and Cancun.

    The cenote at dos ojos would have been more enjoyable without the hundreds of wetsuited gringos luging tons of diving equipment into and out of the water.

    All in all, Tulum Pueblo was so much nicer than anything we experienced in the hectic tourist areas of Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Isla Mujeras.

    •  Excellent! (0+ / 0-)

      I know the neighborhood. The great fish store that services all of the restaurants is in that neighborhood. It's called La Pigua and will sell you whatever they have. Open only until midday. I treasure that is still a well kept secret.

      •  Had good seafood at Camella (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        El Bloguero

        but I have to say that of all the places we tried, none had seafood to match the great seafood found everywhere along the Pacific coast of Sinaloa, Naryrit, Jalisco, Michoacan, and Gererro.

        •  Camella is great. (0+ / 0-)

          I have two favorite places in PdC, though, that rival any fish taco stand anywhere.  Oasis and La Floresta are both on the west side frontage road of 307 near the scenic power transformer station. Both have been there for about 10 years or more, and are frequented almost exclusively by locals. Wonderful places, simple, nothing fancy, fresh seafood, cold beer. Who could ask for more?

  •  Magical place (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    El Bloguero, foresterbob

    I went there once, a few years back.  My boyfriend and I rented a car and drove around the Yucatan.  We got to swim in a cenote.  WOW is all I can say from the beaches to the towns to the Mayan ruins.  And it's like going back in time to a less material era.  There is so much to see and the people are so nice, so nice you wouldn't believe it.

  •  Time for a turd in the ponche bowl. (0+ / 0-)

    You do realize that the minimum wage in Mexico is on the order of $4.60/day.  That's one reason I did not care to vacation there, even when I could afford it.  Puerto Rico, Costa Rica and even Panama offer better working conditions -- that means less norovirus in the food.

    Also check to make sure that the drug wars (Mexican army vs. corrupt cops vs. Narco Bang A vs. Narco Gang B) have not opened a branch office.  For now, they are staying clear of Quintana Roo (the Mexican state where the Riviera Maya is located).  Unfortunately they have this little habit of flaring up without warning;  Monterrey, Veracruz and Guadalajara saw such flare-ups with little warning:  which Mexican city will be next to lose this lottery?

    Finally, if you go during the North American winter, you might get hit by a "norte", a sort of spring squall caused by a cold front clapping out.  That means chilly temperatures and high winds, sort of like a blustery spring day.  With global warming, you can get that anywhere southeast of Minnesota every other year.  Hurricane season runs from June to October.  

    "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

    by Yamaneko2 on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 03:42:43 PM PDT

    •  Thank you for this negativity. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ER Doc, Diane Gee

      No, I did not realize what the minimum wage is in Mexico. I do know that most people working in Quintana Roo make a good deal more than that, and I know that people I employ make far more than that. I too am concerned about disparities in income both here and in Mexico. In the hierarchy of places I choose to travel, however, I have to say that the minimum wage is not one of the major factors in my choices.

      The drug wars have been exceedingly quiet in Cancun and in Quintana Roo, as you recognize. I am thankful for that. I also think there is a "truce" in this area because of the vital importance to Mexico's economy of tourism in Cancun. At any rate, tourists can feel quite safe in Tulum and the rest of the Riviera Maya. It's a kind of calumny that is often repeated, as you do, that has hurt Quintana Roo, that the narco wars are here, and the US State Department has not helped when it has issued warnings to Spring Breakers.

      Yes, sometimes the weather does not cooperate with vacation plans.

      •  Hello, I enjoyed your post and it's interesting (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ER Doc, El Bloguero, annan

        that you're renting your house out there, but I don't think you should be too offended (if you are or not) by  Yamaneko2's post.

        First off, some of it is quite wrong (well, I guess that's a reason to be offended).  The minimum wage is above $4.60 per day, but that's not the point.  The point is that almost no one is paid the minimum wage these days.

        In Yucatan state, a bottom line wage is around $120-150 per week for an unskilled laborer/builder's assistant.  A skilled mason (albanil) earns more.  So, that $150 per week is quite a bit above ~$5 per day or $30 per week claimed by  Yamaneko2.  (workers customarily work a 6 day week, with Saturday ending at around 2 pm).

        The entire Yucatan peninsula, which includes the states of Quintana Roo, Campeche and Yucatan is incredibly beautiful, exotic, enticing, tranquil, mesmerizing, beautiful beyond belief, sensual, filled with wonderful people and incredible history.  All those traits may not be apparent in every location, but it's a wonderful place.

        However, it is a disservice to diminish the reality of drug violence in Quintana Roo.  A retired military general and his active duty military aide were sent to Cancun with a mandate from President Calderon to reduce drug trafficking. They were found tortured and murdered shortly after arrival in Cancun.

        Narcos have shot up the police station in a notable beach town, openly taunting the police on their own radio frequencies while doing so. Other police officers have been found murdered, as well as numerous cases of narcos being found dead.

        Seven people were recently (like this weekend) found murdered in Cancun, six together and one separately, all involved in drug trafficking.

        The violence rarely involves foreigners, but there have been high profile murders in resort hotels.  The fact is that drug violence has been occurring for many years in Quintana Roo.  In fact, a former QR governor was "owned" by the cartels and is now doing time in prison.

        Given all that (and there is quite a bit more), I think it is disingenuous to say that the situation is "exceedingly quiet" in QR.

        If anyone were to ask my advice, and I realize no one has, I'd suggest staying to the resort areas in Cancun or exploring beach resort towns south of there. But don't explore far from other people on beaches alone, particularly if you're a woman, and especially at night.  

        Being together in a group, not flashing any obvious signs of wealth (huge cameras, glittery watches, designer sunglasses, piles of luggage, etc), and not venturing alone are all advisable.

        The people of Quintana Roo, Yucatan, and Campeche are wonderful, kind, welcoming, warm, friendly people.  But poverty is grinding hard in many areas.  And there are drug shipments up the coast. That's a reality.

        I love the area, am captivated by the history, climate, people, and architectural treasures, but I do believe it is a disservice to visitors to tell them things are exceedingly quiet given all that has gone on now and in the past.

        "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

        by YucatanMan on Sun Apr 14, 2013 at 08:42:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Actually, Quintana Roo is "no advisory" now. (0+ / 0-)

        The minimum wage has been raised -- it is now a princely $5.10/day in large cities though very few people actually get that.  The average wage in the informal sector is closer to US$12/day, US$17/day in the formal sector.  

        Maybe it's just fear knowing that the Mexican wage scale is what our corporations would like to be paying us.  

        "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

        by Yamaneko2 on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 05:53:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks so much for this! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc, El Bloguero

    This brings back many many good memories of Akumal and the Cenote's.  The first time I was there was in the late 80's and I fell for it like you.  The second time (and last) was in the mid 90's.  It had not changed so much from my first and second visit, but the change was coming.  I dreamed of having an American bar there, even had the name all thought out.  I was going to specialize in serving American hamburgers as that was the thing that ex pats said they truly missed.   My brother in law from Spain was going to mix the drinks with the umbrella in each as he had seen in the movies.   I guess the spirits of the place did not wish to have that Americanization done and life changed for me and so did the trips to Akumal, I still see that place in my mind though and thanks to you, it just got clearer.  Thanks a bunch.

  •  I go to Cozumel to dive. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc, El Bloguero, livingthedream, annan

    I always feel guilty about not getting to the mainland to enjoy the cenotes, beaches and ruins. You inspired me to take a couple of days on the mainland next time.

  •  I have fond memories from the 1980s (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ER Doc

    of staying at Capitan Lafitte's.  The original property and location has changed, and we have not been to the new one.  It was about 5 miles north of Playa del Carmen (you could walk, if you were willing - -maybe 2-2/12 hours along the beach, then take a taxi back).

    At that time, there were two options: the "Camp-tel" which consisted of o0versized tents on the beach, with "housekeeping" and communal/shared bath and shower facilities.  Breakfast and dinner included, lunch/bar at your additional expense.  The other option was individual "casitas" with bed, bath and porch (no AC), same meal plan.  Facilities included one TV, pool table, freshwater swimming pool, bar, small gift shop, and emergency-only once a day communication by short-wave with the owner's US office in Colorado if something really important came up at home.  Otherwise, no phones at all.

    Dive/snorkel shop on-site with rentals and organized trips to the reef, cenotes, and other nearby locales.  Fishing available from a guy named "Negro" in a 16-foot boat with small canopy against the sun (you provide the beer).  Also a number of Volkswagen beetles for rent for day trips to Tulum, Aku-Mal, Chichen-Itza, etc.

    Never had a better time than that.  Thanks for the memories.  Maybe we need to go back.  Only been back to the area for a one-week trip to Puerto Morelos a couple of years ago.  Not the same, though enjoyable.  The Christmas pageant (with Mary, Joseph, and donkey!) at the local parish in town was memorable!

    I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

    by tom 47 on Mon Apr 15, 2013 at 10:57:49 AM PDT

    •  I remember the Old Capitan well. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ER Doc

      Also Ak Lum, which was next door and more "romantic" (read: even more falling down).  I love that.  In fact, it's probably responsible in part for so many return trips.  First trip to Capitan was with now 27 year old son, who was then less than 2.

      •  I think our first trip was around (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        El Bloguero

        1988 or 1989. No later than 1990.
        Thanks again for the memories.

        I'm part of the "bedwetting bunch of website Democrat base people (DKos)." - Rush Limbaugh, 10/16/2012 Torture is Wrong! We live near W so you don't have to. Send love.

        by tom 47 on Tue Apr 16, 2013 at 05:45:16 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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