My boyfriend and I spent a month travelling around Centra America- Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Costa Rica- so I thought I would share some of my highlights with you!
We flew into Cancun, only because it was the cheapest place to fly to. Unfortunately, we had to stay a night in the city, among the American frat parties and hen dos, before heading off to a small, historic, inland town called Valladolid.
If you want to experience a more authentic Mexico in the Yucatán region, away from the tourist hubs of Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Cozumel, then Valladolid is for you. Only a two hour bus journey from Cancun’s ADO bus station, the conveniently situated town is just an hour away from the spectacular ruins of Chichen Itza.
Spend a couple of days wandering around the town, sipping frozen margaritas and eating tacos in the central plaza, Parque Fransisco Canton Rosado. On the south side of the square Catedral de San Gervasio, originally built in 1545, is worth visiting for both its architectural grandeur and the bizarre mannequins inside!
Conata, a romantic rooftop restaurant, served the best nachos and tortillas I have ever had (big claim I know). Sit out on the picturesque cobbled street of Calz de Los Frailes at Cafina Bar and people watch the afternoon away. Follow the street for five minutes and you will reach Convento de San Bernadino de Siena. We also had dinner one evening at Taverna de los Frailes, one of the city’s most renowned restaurants. The food was good but I don’t think it was necessarily worth the hype.
Make sure you visit one of the freshwater cenotes (sinkholes). We went to Cenote Zaci, which is only three blocks from the square. The unremarkable, rundown entrance leads down to a magnificent sinkhole, almost 100 foot deep with huge stalactites hanging from the ceiling. Spend an hour or so swimming and jumping off the sides (if you dare) in this pre-historic cave. There is also a small, Yucatán artisan market on the way out, selling clothes and wooden handicrafts.
Visiting Chichen Itzá from Valladolid is an easy day trip from the bus station. Exploring these Mayan ruins was one of our favourite days. The crowds get fairly busy (nothing too crazy) so try and go early if you can.
The next stop on our trip was Tulum, the popular beach town south of Cancun. Having expanded dramatically from a small hippy haven over the past 10 years, the main strip in Tulum is lined with homogenous restaurants, bars and shops. Despite this, we had some fun meals & drinks and the spectacular, white sand beach certainly quelled our doubts that it was just a tourist trap. The easiest way to get to the beach is to hire a bike (about $10 per bike for a day) or to take a taxi (similar price). Word of warning: unless you are prepared for a very long walk, choose one of the first two options! It is 4.5km from town to the ruins and more than 10km from there to the end of the beach.
For lunch and drinks on the beach I recommend Mezzanine (have the fish tacos!) and sip cocktails and celebrity spot on the bar swings at Coco Tulum.
If you can, stay at one of the cabanas on the beach. As it was New Years Eve, the prices were ramped up to 4 times the normal price so we were not able to. As we didn’t book, we ended up staying in a dorm at budget hostel, Serengueti, and unless you enjoy getting bitten alive by mosquitos, I do not recommend this place.
Next stop- Belize!