After what felt like a 30 minute flight from Havana we landed in Cancun airport. From there we knew we could get a really cheap ADO bus (66 pesos) in to town centre, but my God is it difficult to find.
In the arrivals hall there are quite a few tour guides trying to recruit customers. One such lady asked and graciously accepted our decline. She then went on to warn us there are plenty of “ADO buses” outside that will try to sell us tickets on their buses for a premium price. To find the real ADO bus, you go outside to the domestic flights arrivals hall – from the internationals hall, that’s beyond a security check point, to an official stand for ticket sales. FYI – The buses are insanely air conditioned to the point you most definitely need a long sleeve top/blanket on them.
Travel Days: 10 – 13
Location: Cancun, Mexico
Accomodation: Hostel Quetzal, 170 pesos for female dorm
Once in Cancun City Centre we headed straight for a definite source of Wifi – McDonald’s. Don’t judge – I was 10 days without it and all I wanted was to text my parents!!! I also got a Big Mac for good measure.
From there we scoped out a cheap hostel nearby – Quetzal Hostel seemed like a good option. Anita and I took two beds for 20 Pesos extra in the female dorm to ease into the hostel living.
We met most of the others staying in the hostel in the common area beside the permanently murky swimming pool – I never saw anyone in it sober! It was a mix mostly of Irish (+1 from Dundalk), Aussies, American, English, Canadian and Mexican. A few pints were had, I demonstrated my complete lack of skill in beer pong, free shots were doing rounds and sure we ended up loading in to a bus and hitting the strip. We paid USD$30 for entry into Bongos – that paid for the taxi there and gave us bottomless drinks for the night. Recipe for d.i.s.a.s.t.e.r.
I woke up missing my nose ring and my entire Cuba blog post. Savage. I was too fragile to do anything the next day, so Anita and I went to indulge in some tacos and Piña Coladas. Barry went beaching with the Aussies in rooster (I’m learning!) bathing suits – I’ll leave that one to your own imagination.
By the time I had pieced myself back together and accepted my idiocy of deleting my blog post, the lads had returned from their venturing and the pinting started again. I finally got my head around beer pong and actually won a game against Anitas team with the help of some intense training from the Aussies. It was a repeat of the previous night, just a little messier. This time we didn’t have the luxury of nursing our hangovers in the hostel though – we needed to get to Isla Mujeres or the vicious cycle would never end and Paul (Dundalk) was willing to join.
I saw none of Cancun by day other than the bus station and the ferry, but it was the just what I needed after ten activity based days in Cuba with just ourselves. It’s totally mental and worth a night for sure!
Travel Days: 13 – 14
Location: Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Accomodation: Pocna Hostel, 175 pesos pp/pn
After an hour ferry ride from Cancun, we headed straight to the hostel. We were all fit for bed and slept the afternoon away. That evening we rose for food and took a look around the island. Isla Mujeres is quite chilled in comparison to Cancun. The main form of transport is by Golf Caddy and they’re rentable pretty much everywhere. The streets are mainly lined with souvenir shops and restaurants, so once the day trippers return to Cancun in the afternoon, the island gets quite sleepy.
Pocna Hostel has music in the evening and a beach party after 11pm – something I didn’t get to experience as I was still fried from the night before, but we had heard good things from others!
The next day, we got up and rented a Golf Caddy for 550 Pesos. We drove from our hostel on the north side of the island along the west side of the island. We stopped in to the turtle preservation centre, where you can feed turtles and get an appreciation for their efforts in restoring the population. The turtles outside didn’t get much feeding though, as the seagulls were much faster and more violent in getting the pellets.
The hostel staff also gave us directions to a private beach and dock on the south side of the island. The tide was in when we got there, but it was absolutely beautiful…some might say paradise!
We continued to Punta del Sur (South Point) to where the old Mayan Goddess of Fertility was worshipped. The temple was destroyed in one of many hurricanes that racked the island and had been replaced with a sculpture park – or as Paul so aptly put it “a park of scrap called ‘art'”. The views were amazing from the restaurant porch – the beers tasted pretty good too!
On the way back we passed by an open house and went in for a look – it was paradise after all! We parked our Rent-a-Caddy up beside the Porsche on the drive way and rang the bell. It was $700,000 for an average size 3 bed house, with a small pool on the east coast of Isla Mujeres – naturally, we all agreed it was lovely, but we’d have to think about it. We loaded back on to the golf cart and went on our merry way. It’s safe enough to say they knew we were taking the mick, but Barrys questions on the construction of the place threw them for a while! Our Isla Mujeres experience was ended on a beach bar with swings and hammocks.
Paul was staying on for another few nights, so after sweaty hugs we said goodbye and hopped back on the ferry bound for Cancun to get a bus to Tulum. Back to the freezer that was the ADO bus!
Travel Days: 14 – 16
Location: Tulum, Mexico
Accomodation: Che Babel, 350 pesos pp/pn
It took about 2 hours to get to Tulum where we had booked a night in Che Babel. The en-suite dorms were spacious, with lockers and it had a bar, clean pool and breakfast. We landed pretty late so just settled into a few beers with an Aussie/Swede threesome and made plans to hit some cenotes in the morning, followed by some more beers.
The following afternoon we head for the “Temple of Doom” cenote in a taxi for 20 Pesos each way. It cost 70 pesos admission, but we pretty much had it to ourselves. The Swedes brought snorkeling gear, which I would definely recommend! My camera couldn’t capture the light breaking through the water very well – must work on learning the different settings! We were swimming and jumping in for about 30 minutes when bubbles started to appear and three divers surfaced. They had gone on a two hour cave diving expedition going between the cenotes which are connected underground. Apparently two hours is a big deal, because for the amount of oxygen tanks on their backs, one of the divers couldn’t actually climb out of the water.
After getting the most delicious tacos back in Tulum, we loaded into a taxi to the beach. In hindsight, we really should have rented bikes for the day for 50 pesos, but Anita and I still had Playa Alcón playing on our minds! Tulum Public Beach was, at this point, like any other beach we had been to – except there were no sneaky thistles and it had waves. I was happy out! Juan wouldn’t have survived too long in the waves, so he stayed on the beach.
The next morning, we hopped into a collectivo to get to the Tulum Mayan Ruins for 20 Pesos. We got there for the opening of the gates at 8am to get the best walk around without the hoards of other tourists. It only cost 65 Pesos for entry – you could pay extra for a guided tour, but we decided against it. The ruins themselves were quite impressive. They were built strategically on both land and sea ports for Mayan trade, and as such, the views were amazing from both the ground and the cliffside.
Most of the ruins had information posted in front of them in both English and Spanish – good for picking up new Spanish words! After an hour we had seen it all and some of it twice, so hit the road.
We found some Wifi and tried to plan a way to Caye Caulker, Belize for the day. We found an ADO bus that goes direct from Tulum and made a run for it. Unfortunately, just as we arrived in the bus station door, that very bus was pulling away. We were left with two choices – Bacalar for the lagoon of seven colours or Chetumal which was the closest town to the Belize border. Bacalar it is!
Travel Days: 16 – 17
Location: Bacalar, Mexico
Accomodation: Green Monkey Hostel, 170 pp/pn
The bus to Bacalar took just over two hours. We scoped out the street with hotels and hostels and stated to walk. A quick price up of hotels in the area reiterated why we were staying in hostels and so, once we found the Green Monkey Hostel we stayed put.
The hostel looks like an old house that coveted it’s rooms to dorms. Because of this, there aren’t all that many beds, so they have creatively counteracted that problem by purchasing more…space. The space we had the pleasure of staying in was a converted American school bus.
There were eight beds and two fans. As you can imagine, space was tight, so no lockers other than day bag ones in the main house. But it was right on the lagoon so we couldn’t complain.
Bacalar itself is quite small and bohemian. The lagoon is the big draw and my God did it live up to its name. It’s absolutely stunning. The water is so clear, you’d nearly drink it (not recommended though!). I failed to take any good photos of it by day, but I got up early the following morning and caught the sun rise on it.
There’s a fort over looking the lagoon that you can tour. I can’t remember the price, but it was a random number like 53.72 Pesos – Anita ended up swinging us a discount anyway! They have an exhibition in it that was actually really interesting. It explained the history of the Quintana Roo province and British funded piracy of the Caribbean and Spanish colonies.
At the hostel, we booked a tour bus to get us to Belize City in time for the ferry. It cost 500 pesos, but from what we could make out the ADO alternative left at 3am. In the interest of not roaming the streets at night, we paid up and took the easy option!
Unfortunately, the next morning, Barry woke to find his shorts, that had his wallet and phone in the pocket, missing. Not a great end to his Mexico experience.
The border crossing to Belize was pain free. Our bus driver gave us the heads up that sometimes the wrong date can be stamped on your passport which causes bother to the Belizean border officials, but we had no issues. There is also an exit fee for Mexico of 390 Pesos or $25. Sometimes it’s included in your flight ticket, so you don’t have to pay – but you need proof of that in your airline receipt.Our RTW tickets didn’t include it, so we had to cough up.
I will most definitely be returning to Mexico. The temptation to catch a cheap flight to Mexico City was very real, but realistically, I would have been sacrificing my time elsewhere that I had planned to go to.