The Cancun and Cozumel area in Yucatan Peninsula was a favorite of mine in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I was able to spend a lot of time in this area exploring and came to know the area well. As with most everything, time has brought many changes in and around Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. Rather than the beautiful peaceful place I remembered we found high-rise hotels, extremely crowded beaches and everything centered around nightlife. Another uncomfortable feeling was watching law enforcement making their presence known riding through the tourist zone on the back of pick-up trucks with high powered guns, finger on trigger, ready for any sign of crimes being committed. During our month there we heard several reports of shootings taking place many drug related and some involving tourist. The local gossip around the area lead us to believe the Mexican Cartel was attempting to move into that area.
This was Ched’s first trip to this part of Mexico so we were determined to have a look around before moving on. After checking around we found the local buses to be the best and most economical way of travel getting us into the downtown area for grocery shopping and then onto other nearby travel destinations. We took a bus into town from the hotel zone to the downtown bus station where we bought bus tickets to Tulum.
The Tulum area had changed so much that I hardly recognized it. We had a nice long walk from where we got off the bus down to the entrance of the ruins checking out several shops along the way. Much of the ruins had been roped off and not open to tourist to walk into and explore as it was in much earlier times. Today you are only allowed to walk by and take a few pictures. I had hoped to get another close up look at the images carved on the walls, which is no longer possible unless you’re there in a professional manner to study. As I remember those carvings told quiet a few stories.
Isla Mujeres a small island just a short boat ride off the coast of Cancun was highly recommended for beaches, snorkeling and a place to stay. There were two different ports that offered ferry rides to the island, which is the only way to get there. We caught a bus to Puerto Juarez and paid $18 each for round trip tickets. When we boarded the ferry to cross over we noticed many people were struggling with luggage apparently for their stay on the island. My tip would be if you have plans to stay in a hotel on the island, travel light.
The island was very beautiful with gorgeous inviting beaches of clear blue water. Shops, restaurants and hotels covered the rest of the small island and plenty of tourists to go with. We managed to find an open spot on the beach for a little sun time before heading up to one of the waterfront restaurants for a cold drink and a sample of Mexican food.
Walking through the streets on our way back to the ferry we were entertained with different musicians along the way and tourist, who had over indulged in the drink, driving rented golf carts through the crowded street barely missing a few pedestrians. We also saw a lady getting a fish pedicure from a sidewalk stand outside one of the stores. By look on her face it was hard to tell if she was enjoying it or getting ready to remove her feet from the tank and run.
Our day on Isla Mujeres was one of the more entertaining ones before moving on across the Yucatan.
Next stop Merida!
I had often heard about the beautiful old colonial city of Merida but neither Ched nor I had been there. We took a bus into town to the main bus station where we purchased a one-way ticket for about $20 per person for a four-hour bus ride to Merida. Ched did online research before we left finding the most centrally located hotels in the city in order for us to be able to walk to most of the places we wanted to see, art museums, historical buildings, churches, etc. Most of our trips are planned around walking which we prefer to most other methods of getting around town. I’m glad he enjoys the planning since I tend to be the one to hop on a plane and deal with what comes my way after I get there. He does make things a bit easier although I rarely admit it. LOL!
The night before leaving for Merida we booked a hotel online located in the center of the city. We were very pleased to be able to easily find the nice clean room waiting for us when we arrived shortly before check-in. There was still a little daylight left since our bus left early that morning so we wasted no time taking a walk through town to see what was around us before the next day to make the most of our time in Merida.
We were not disappointed with Merida finding most everything we had heard about this city to be true. It was a beautiful city and the people we met were very friendly. As planned we were able to walk to most everything we enjoy seeing and meeting a lot of friendly folks as well. The only thing we did not care for is that Merida is not on the coastline and we do enjoy the water.
We decided to make the most of our Mexican adventure and continue on across the Yucatan looking for another beach area hopefully with fewer tourists to spend the rest of our time. After looking online we found a very interesting place called Progreso Beach. We ask around town and found the distance from Merida to Progreso Beach to be about 28 miles. Also, someone recommended a taxi driver that would take us there for $30, a very man who also agreed to come back for us when we were ready to leave.
Coming into this small beach town gave a more comfortable feeling than when we arrived in Cancun earlier in that month. We realized right away that we would have no problem hanging out here for a while. After a couple of nights in the hotel we found another hotel down the beach with a very affordable weekly rate so we moved in and settled down. Just as we were getting comfortable and familiar with the area enjoying the peaceful atmosphere we got up one morning and saw the cruise ships out at the end of the long dock along with many locals setting up the beaches with umbrellas getting ready for the people from the ships. Soon the entire place filled with tourist looking much like the beaches we left in Cancun. We did not see that one coming. I suppose we should have checked before going but at that point there seemed to be no escape to the life of yesterday.
Unwilling to move on again we spent most of our time there at Progreso Beach avoiding ship days and looking for a few side trips to nearby places of interest. We met another nice Taxi driver who took us on a day trip to the Cenotes waiting while we toured and enjoyed swimming in the underground caves and then taking us back to our hotel.
The Cenotes were definitely a highlight to this trip. There are a few to choose from around Progreso but the ones we went to were about an hour’s drive away. We passed through a few villages and a lot of country side before reaching our destination. When we arrived, we seemed to be the only ones there. After paying an admission fee we were directed toward the horse drawn cart that would take us quiet a ways into a partially wooded area and onto the entrance of the Cenote. Before entering the Cenote you were directed to outside showers and required to shower before entering.
The entrance was like most caves I have visited before with the only difference being the wooden steps built in a scaffold type platform going down to the water. I’ve been in many caves before but never one with water like this for swimming. Looking around I suddenly realized we have the same thing in Florida, my home state, only we call them sink holes and either fill them in or warned to stay away from them.
There was only a couple of other people besides Ched and I in the cave and I was the only one getting ready to have a swim therefore I took a minute to get up the courage to go in the water. While I sat on the steps looking around me enjoying the beauty of the stalactites hanging from the ceiling with my feet and legs dangling into the cool water I saw a school of tiny fish coming up to me nibbling away at my feet just as I had see in Isla Mujeres with the woman paying $10 for a fish pedicure. That was definitely a first for me.
As we came back the same way we went down on the horse drawn cart several buses bringing tours from the cruise ships were lined up waiting for entrance. That was our lucky day! We had come early and were able to escape all the tourist for once on this trip.
March in Mexico was not bad but then again it was not so good either. Glad we went, wouldn’t go back!