Isla Mujeres 

Just off the Cancun coast there is an island called Isla Mujeres. Friends that we had met along the way had raved about the place so we were pretty excited. 

We caught the ferry over and were again in awe of the crystal clear water. I can’t get enough of it. The island had been billed as a quiet place to get away from Cancun for a while. Well what we call quiet and everyone else’s quiet is a different thing as although nowhere near as crazy as Cancun it was still very busy. The good thing about it though is that it doesn’t have the massive beach resorts right at the water so you can walk right up to the beach. 

We walked around the beach and went for a swim and then rented a golf cart and drove all around the island. The north side of the island has the beautiful beach and the south side has a dramatic shoreline that drops into spectacular water. The island gets its name Woman Island from the Mayan females making a pilgrimage here to bathe in the water and make offerings to the fertility God. It’s pretty easy to see why the Mayans chose this spot as sacred as the island is beautiful.
We then headed back to the beach in the sweltering heat and the number of people had increased ten fold. We hired a lounger on the beach with shade and sat back and enjoyed some lunch with regular dips in the water. Well I say we but sitting on a packed beach with people crammed in on loungers either side of us is not my husband’s cup of tea. It’s not really mine either but every time you went for a swim or looked at the crystal clear ocean it made it worth it. I enjoyed the relax and Tim beared it for me.

Once the midday heat subsided we headed back on the ferry to Cancun. I can see why everyone raves about Isla Mujeres and to be fair we did go on a Sunday so it might have made it busier than normal but we still rate Mahahual as our favorite Mexican beach town. But again we didn’t see that with the cruise ships there so maybe we are making an unrealistic comparison. It does seem as if the further north we have gone the water has gotten even more turquoise so very much looking forward to Cuba to see if the trend continues! S

On the ferry over with Cancun in the background.

View from near the ferry terminal looking towards the north beach.

No explanation needed. The most inviting water I have ever seen.

Taken on an outlook near the southern part of the island. I think that turquoise blue is my favourite colour ever.

On the opposite side of the island looking south. You can’t swim along any of this coast as the current is too strong but the view is not too bad at all.

The Main Street.

Just a little crowded! So glad we had purchased the shade though!

Chichen Itza

As I have mentioned before we aborted our first attempt at seeing Chichen Itza due to the huge amount of tourists. Apparently numbers have increased dramatically ever since it was listed as one of the seven modern wonders of the world.
We had been told that most of the tourists arrived at about 10:30 or 11 having caught buses from Tulum, playa de Carmen, Cancun etc. so our plan was to get there for opening at 8 and see how things went.
We were ready, packed and on the road early and managed to get parked and first in the queue for tickets at 8:05. We were a little worried that we were in the wrong spot but were told that the sight opened at 8 Mexico time. This turned out to be closer to 8:20 but either way we were first through the gates.
We were a little worried that we had over done it with seeing Mayan ruins and that we weren’t going to be very impressed. How wrong we were. Our first sighting of the main Castillo was just breathtaking. It is a massively impressive structure and more so, the whole area just looks so beautiful. It certainly did help that our view wasn’t impeded by anyone else.
From the main temple we walked towards the thousand pillars. While we didn’t know if there were a thousand there it was still pretty cool. Previously there would have been a roof over the top and a bench running the whole length which would have been very impressive back in the day.
We spent the rest of the morning walking through the various sites which were separated by little bits of forest. Except this time rather than wild animals they were lined with merchants selling various touristy bits and bobs. They were all quite amusing and not too pushy which was pretty good.
The final site we went to was the largest known Mayan ball court which to be fair was bloody massive!! It certainly would have been pretty cool to have gone to see a game there. The most impressive feature we noticed was that without raising our voices too much Sarah and I could have a conversation from one end to the other. In fact all around the site there were fantastic acoustics.
We only really noticed this when the hundreds of tour groups started coming through and all stopped to clap in various spots.
The site was quite spectacular and very impressive. Not only were the temples well restored and preserved but the artwork and carvings in some of the buildings was as exquisite in places as it was in Copan.
At the end of our tour around we sat in the main square and marveled at the main temple while trying to cool down in the shade. I don’t know how hot it was but it was stinking and we were so glad that we had managed to get most our walking around done before it got too hot. It was hunger and the promise of air con in the car which eventually caused us to drag ourselves away from the massively impressive site.
After a slightly disappointing lunch (I feel our best value eats are behind us unfortunately) we set off for Cancun. Not the sort of place we would usually go to but the flights out of Cancun to both Cuba and LA were so much cheaper than anywhere else in Central America we had to go there.
We made great pace getting there along a practically empty, completely straight, dual carriage way, paid motorway. That is until we got to the point where we had to pay. 276 pesos seemed a little steep and it turned out that we didn’t have enough cash to pay!! So after causing a fairly large traffic jam behind us we were told they wouldn’t take a credit card and that we had to drive back, do a u turn and head towards the coast. All because we were 20 pesos short!! (I will admit that I later found an extra 20 pesos deep in one of my pockets!!)
It only added an hour or so onto our journey (which was only 1.5 hours to begin with). 
We eventually arrived in Cancun after stopping off at the airport to get a visa for Cuba and to pay various taxes for Mexico. We couldn’t afford to stay in Cancun beach area so stayed in the town on the mainland.
We went for a drive down to where the massive hotels and decided that it was a bit of a cross between Las Vegas and Gold Coast with a Mexican twist. To be fair it looked like a lot of fun. We parked completely illegally in a flash hotel and walked through as if we were staying there and soon got our first sight of the beach and the water. How fantastic. The most beautiful sea and a beach better than most we have seen.  
Maybe Cancun would be quite a good chincy holiday.
Still it was back to the slums for us to get ready for the next adventure. T

Saving the best Mayan temple until last.  Really impressive walking through the entrance and then seeing this!  Even better just the two of us!

Some of the 1000 pillars.  They all have inscriptions on them and with a roof and a bench I think it would have made a great place for people to congregate!

The ball courts. A massive area purposefully built for their ball games.

The idea of the games was to get the ball through the hoop.

All around the area there were loads of different temples and ruins with different carvings on them these skulls were particularly impressive.

The 91 steps leading up to the top of the main temple.

One of the other temples with serpents lining the stairs.

This was used as an observatory.  The Mayans knowledge and use of the stars was very impressive.  

It’s not just the main temple but many other impressive ones around the area too.

One of the more ornate buildings which they think was used as a monestary.

These skulls are for sale everywhere.

Just a couple of shots of the beach at Cancun.

Merida

Our plans changed once we had visited Tulum and then Playa De Carmen as we realized that heading north on the coast was just going to get busier and busier with tourists so we decided to head West and hit Merida. Billed as the cultural capital of the entire Peninsula. 

On the way we were going to stop at Chichin Itza, an amazing Mayan ruin that is one of the seven modern wonders of the world. However we didn’t get there until about 10am and there would have been at least 10 tour buses there along with a full car park so we got back into our car and decided to hit the ruins first thing in the morning when we were coming back from Merida.

So we arrived at Merida for lunch and checked into our hostel which was awesome. Cheap, great location, good wifi and it had a pool! The owner Allan was a weird British man who took 3 times as long as anyone else to do something but his heart was in the right place. We were both starving and Allan pointed us towards a cheap market just around the corner. The people there were really fantastic and gave us a sample of some of their stuff as we didn’t know what it was. I had a local dish called supa de limon (lime soup surprisingly) which was lime soup with roast turkey and tortilla. It was really nice but half way through the lime was pretty overpowering.
We spent the afternoon sorting out some bits and pieces and just as we were about to go for a swim it bucketed down. Typical. We waited that out and went for some dinner and a walk around the town. A lot of the restaurants have ladies in traditional dress sitting in the front of the shop making fresh gorillas right then and there. Unfortunately we decided on a cheaper option and paid the price with mediocre fare. The roads leading into some of the squares are blocked off at night and restaurants and bars put tables and chairs out. Great people watching spot. The hammock seller came over to us as he caught both of us admiring his work. We learnt a lot about the process but didn’t buy any. I think I will regret that as the work was amazing and really cheap. But you can’t buy everything! 
The next morning we got up and soaked up the city. The town is another colonial one, so the usual coloured buildings and cathedrals. The city has a really great feel to it. There are lots of markets serving great food cheap and the streets are alive with hustle and bustle. We visited the official Mayan artistic and market and the jewellery and face masks were divine. Though so was the price unfortunately so we walked away empty handed. We did do a little bit of clothes shopping as it is really rather cheap for certain things. We don’t need to be embarrassed now handing over Tim’s holey underwear when we need to do washing! 

After the heat set in we went back and went for a swim, just making it before it rained. This time of year it is the norm around here. We then went back out for some pre dinner drinks. As we were walking by a place we heard some tropical salsa beats being played live. We ventured in and found a really cool bar/restaurant in the court yard. Score. Made even better by the fact that they started serving us free tapas. Sometimes things just work out.

We soon remembered that we were heading into town as there was a Mayan football exhibition. This one they were using their hips to hit a ball through a hoop. Then they lit the ball on fire and had to keep it off the ground before hitting it through the hoop. Once that was over we ventured back it our bar and enjoyed the beats while eating our full of tacos. We could have spent quite a bit of time here exploring Merida and the outlying beach town but we are out of time! S

Saw a man playing these where we ate at the food market the first day. I have no idea if you win money or what but they look like fun!

More picturesque streets.

The church.

This was a little art exhibition we stumbled into in a public thoroughfare between two main streets. The trees where made of plastic bags. It was really very effective.

Their use of light on the colonial buildings are very well done. It almost makes them a different building from day and night.

We had been expecting to see a lot of olds beetles in Mexico and it wasn’t until we came here that we really got to see some. Apparently there are heaps more in Mexico City. 

Another day another market. This one was one the second day and the tacos were amazing. Those prices are in Mexican pesos and one Australian dollar gets you nearly 14 Mexican pesos. Ridiculously cheap!

Every colonial city needs a few churches and it also needs a main square with one of these buildings with the arches. I can see why as they are really beautiful.


The reenactment of the Mayan football game. You can see the ball on fire and the hoop they had to throw it through. There was a technique as the bottom half of the ball was not on fire and was obviously slightly heavier so some of the men had worked out that if you threw it high in the air the bottom half would come down first so you could grasp it without being burnt.

Tulum Ruins and a Wander around

Well even though we had enjoyed a few beers, margaritas, tacos etc the night before we still set the alarm to get up to try and beat the crowds into Tulum ruins. We had noticed that the place was full of tourists so we aticipated seeing a few at the most famous site in the area.
We made it there for just after 8 o’clock and were delighted to see that there were only a dozen or so other people there so we were able to get some nice photos without anyone in them.
The sight itself is quite spectacular sitting on the cliffs, right on the coastline with the beautiful white sands and turquoise waters below. The area is completely open and we enjoyed seeing the layout of the ruins and how it must have looked back in the day. It was awesome to see the temples but once again we felt that they didn’t come up to the high standard of Copan. Shame we went there first really but still we enjoyed wandering around the ruins but it would have been nice for some more in depth writings about what we were seeing as it was all a bit basic.
We actually enjoyed photographing the wildlife almost as much as the ruins for the place was filled with massive iguanas who were enjoying warming up in the morning sunshine. The sight was really quite peaceful and beautiful that early in the morning, but all this was about to change.
We had finished walking around the site and were heading back to the entrance and then our car and on the way we past group after group of tourists. Each group were about twenty strong with a guide and we decided that it was like a ride in an amusement park because every minute there was another one. We again gave ourselves a high five for avoiding the massive throngs of people.
So now it was still early in the day and we didn’t really know what we were going to do. We had seen the beach the day before and the public area was packed and the rest was all privately owned by various restaurants and hotels so we decided to give it a miss and go for a drive north along the coast.
We popped into a few side roads to see what was going on but it was mostly massive mansions right on the beach. It does look like quite a good place to build your mansion and some of them were really quite impressive. We found a gap between a couple of the houses and managed to cool down with a dip in the ocean before heading on our way again.
We decided to try and find a cenote to go for a swim in and ended up finding picking one randomly out of the many that were advertised along the road. We parked the car and wandered in not knowing really what to expect but we had done well, the place was advertising four different cenotes and a park to walk through.
We signed up, donned our life jackets and followed to path. The cenote we had been in before could pretty much be called a lake. These were very different however as they were more underground. The was a smallish opening then the cave opened up and was full of water. There was no one there so it was a little eerie and spooky and the water was freezing but we really did enjoy our swims. The water was so clear and with the fact that we were inside a cave in the water we r ally felt we were experiencing something completely different. All four caves were slightly different, one more like a resort pool but the last was our favorite. It had the smallest opening and we really go to explore a little inside the cave truly a fantastic experience.
These cenotes have all been turned into swimming holes now, but back in the Mayan times they were used as a source of water. The whole area is limestone and these caves are all fresh water and are often linked to each other. There is apparently some amazing diving to be done through the caves but unfortunately not for us.
We checked the time when we finished swimming and couldn’t believe it was only lunchtime. A quick check of the map and we saw that we were only 20kms from Playa de Carmen, described as a chic beachside town.m what a perfect place for lunch. Turns out it was a chic as Gold Coast or Blackpool but was still fun to wander around. The prices for food were massively higher than what we had become used to but found some excellent tacos in a local market which we scoffed down.
We were exhausted by this time so decided to go back and try and fit in a quick siesta. Then it was back to the bar to watch the football while getting abbot of an education in Tequila.
I only tried one but went for one of the best ones and to be fair it was absolutely delicious. No lime or salt required apparently that’s just an American thing. Also we found out that like champagne, tequila can only be called tequila if it’s from a specific region, otherwise it’s called Mezcal.  
Sensibly we left the bar before trying too many and grabbed yet another superb plate of nachos and slumped in bed exhausted. T

Impressive temple and very impressive location at Tulum.

The combination of the beach and the ruins was superb.


Iguanas, cliffs, beach and turquoise water says it all.  Exactly where I would position my temple I reckon.

It difficult to get a shot of how close the temples are to the water but this is the best we could do.

Sarah getting a little close to this local.


One of the beaches we stopped at along the way from the ruins.

The coast is absolutely full of mansions like these.

The entrance to one of the denotes we had a swim in.


This one was a bit more open and swimming pool like.

These are all shots of the last cenote, the water is so clear and the setting just unreal.


This is a shot underwater, just to show how clear it was.

Playa de Carmen chic?  Not our scene really.

Tulum

We reluctantly packed our bags and headed out of Mahahual but not after a last swim in the beautiful turquoise waters. We also found a hammock slung in the water and couldn’t resist some photos in the paradise setting.

We were heading north to Tulum which is known for its Mayan ruins on the beach and apparently one of Mexicos best beaches. So we were pretty excited about that. We were also loving having the car and the flexibility it gave us. We stopped on route to see some random Myan ruins on the side of the road and had the place to ourselves. Well other than the thousand mosquitos that happily lunched on us. 

After that we stopped in a little village for some delicious Mexican fare. We had a little bit of miscommunication on what was on offer so to fix that we were lead to the back of the cantina and shown every pot that was on the stove. Loved it. 

Tulum is kind of split into two parts. The beachfront and then about a kilometer inland there is the town. We decided to drive out to the beachfront to see what it looked like and also to see how expensive it was out there. Well when we arrived we were a little disappointed as there were big beach resorts fronting the beach behind a wall of trees. So you couldn’t really see the beach. There was really only two public beach access points for a kilometer or two. The beach was fantastic at these spots with the water being the most turquoise I have ever seen and the sand was so white. But…. Everyman and his dog who were staying in the town were there. We even tried to find some budget accommodation along the front thinking that would be a great way to get a bit of secluded beach but the prices were extortionate. 

So back to the town we went. The town was cool with the Main Street and several side streets lined with restaurants and bars. But we definitely think we missed a trick not staying further south for longer as this place is packed with tourists. A lot of those being American. Nevertheless we had an awesome night at a cute little sports bar watching the football, where we ran into an Australian couple who we have seen around the same sites we have been to for the last week or so. So we had a few drinks with them and then a few more when we moved to one of the local restaurants. 

So after out initial disappointment of Tulum the town was slowly growing on us. S

Not the most energetic start to a day, but it certainly felt good.

Some little huts available to buy.

A great ruin just to stop off and take a look at.  Really quite a special find.


We got to Tulum beach just in time for a swim.  This shot is a bit of a cheat as we have managed to cut all the people out!

Day of rest In Mahahaul 

Since we first arrived at Mahahual Sarah had decided that we were taking a complete day off to just lie on the beach and relax. It was a pretty special place to be able to do this the sand was beautiful and the water was an amazing array of blues.
As we were staying right on the beach we didn’t have far to wander to start our day and with the sea within sight we enjoyed some huevos rancheros for breakfast before moving to some loungers just in front of the hostel. It was all set up or relaxing with a waiter to bring you food and drink whenever you needed it.
So in between reading books, taking dips in the perfect ocean and having lunch it was soon 5 o’clock! It was an excellent day of relaxation and we were thoroughly exhausted. We did manage to find some excellent flautas which were prawns with sauce wrapped in a tortilla and deep fried and simply delicious.
Mahahual in general was a great destination, we were very lucky to catch the place when it was quiet as it fills up very quickly when the cruise ships arrive. In fact I think that most of the places rely almost exclusively on the income from the cruises.
For us though, in terms of beach side lifestyle it was great the board walk was lined with restaurants and little gift shops and the restaurants spiller onto the beach where there were tables and chairs or loungers for you to sit on and while the day away. I am not sure what you are meant to do at night though as we struggled to find many places even open for dinner. I am guessing that’s because all their usual customers would be back on the cruise ships.
Either way it was a great find for us and we have thoroughly enjoyed our couple of nights already really wish we had more time for Mexico and more time to enjoy this Caribbean water! Plus did I mention how great every meal has been (and cheap) T  

Great spot to have Huevos Rancheros for breakfast.

I guess on another day these might have been full, but we were lucky!


It really was a paradise location.

Base camp for the day.

I will never get over the colour of this water



A shot of the main strip in Mahahual.  As you can see pretty busy!

Bacalar to Mahahaul

We awoke to more bad weather but that didn’t deter us from going and seeing our first Cenota (sink hole). The water was a deep blue but when you looked in it was crystal clear. A little thunder storm turned up but the water was really warm so we decided to still go for a swim. It was really very nice but a shame we didn’t see it in sunshine as I think it would have been spectacular. Oh well there are plenty more Cenotas up the coastline so hopefully we get one of those in sunshine.
Next stop was the lake and again the weather wasn’t great but you could tell that in the sunshine it would have been glorious. We still had fun taking silly photos of us diving off the jetty. 
We then jumped in the car and headed for Mahahual our first Mexican destination on the Caribean coast line. It was briefly mentioned in our tour book and we talked to the owner of the hotel in Bakalar so was expecting something pretty special off the Gringo trail.
We arrived and were soon being accosted by waiters waving menus at us while we were driving down the street. We were both starving by this stage so pulled up and were escorted to a restaurant which was right on the beach! Beautiful seafood in an awesome setting and we were pretty happy with our decision to come here. We utilized the car and drove around for a while looking for suitable accommodation. We soon found some cabanas right on the beach. With the added bonus of there not being very many people booked in so it was really quiet. We dumped our bags and headed straight for the beach for a swim. The water was something else! The colours just divine. It also helped that there was a little reef just off the shore which made the water flat as a pancake. 
After that we ventured back into town and settled in for a few cocktails and beers on the beach. We met a lovely Venezuelan bar tender who made amazing mango margaritas. We talked to her about Venezuela and asked if she was going back. She sadly shook her head and said no she wouldn’t be going back anytime soon but all her family are still there. Unfortunately she is having a tough time finding work without papers in Mexico. I wonder how many other Venezuelans have left due to the crisis unwinding there and when do they start becoming refugees considering the situation is getting that bad that people are struggling to get food and medicine for their families. Again it just makes you realize how lucky we are. Our political parties are by no stretch of the imagination perfect but we take our countries stability and our right to vote in a safe and unbiased election for granted. S

A Cenote near Bacalar which was 90m deep. I think it might have looked a bit better in the sunshine but it was still a really nice swim.

The lake I think may have looked better with some Sunshine. Still beautiful though.

We still managed to entertain ourselves.


We knew from the start we were somewhere cool.

Our little bungalow for the next few days

Pretty good view ☺️

It wasn’t super sunny but the clarity and temperature of the water made up for that.

Picturesque!


Hammocks and 2 for one cocktails on the beach. Big thumbs up from me!