Our Trip to Central America – Second Part
After our time in Belize and Guatemala, it was time to head to Mexico. If you know anything about Mexico, the northern part is totally different than the southern part. So if you’ve made it to Baja California or the other nothern states, you still have to plan a time to go see the southern states. We went first to Tulum and then we spent the last days of our trip, chilling on a beautiful white sand beach in Isla Mujeres.
Do you remember we were in Caye Caulker (Belize) swimming with turtles and sharks? Well, we decided it was time to leave and explore Mexico. From Caye Caulker we took a boat to Chetumal (Mexico) and then we drove to Tulum. It was a long journey, longer than expected but it worth it! On the way to Mexico we met two lovely guys, Vito and Jaypee and we spent the all journey with them. They had already been in Mexico so it was nice and helpful listening all their adventures and precious tips! The first thing we saw when we walked into Hotel Poc Na was a towel folded into origami the shape of a swan on the bed. You know it’s nice if they’re taking the time to make towel origami for you! Obviously, though, this wasn’t the thing we were most excited about. The location was actually the best part and it was nice to meet Jonathan at the desk, he has been always nice and helpful with us.
The hotel is located right on the sea, we used to wake up very early in the morning and take long walks on the beach. There was almost nobody else on the beach at that time, it was awesome laying down on the beach admiring the sunrise and the “beginning” of a new day. We wanted to avoid the standard all-inclusive resort where you lose part of the “real” atmosphere surrounding the place where you are, at the same time we were looking for something nice and comfortable. This place was the perfect balance! You really could just stay at the hotel the whole time and chill at the beach and never go anywhere else. Of course, we weren’t there just for the beach, so we were excited to go sightseeing once we had our fill of sand and sun.
In Tulum, you get both the beautiful white sand beach and the rainforest—when it comes to Mexico, you really can’t ask for more than that! Tulum is a really cool place to visit. People have apparently agreed with this since the 13th century, because there is a Mayan site from that era that is built on a bluff overlooking the sea. I guess it must be the old version of our hotel, since it had such wonderful ocean views! Of course, we couldn’t resist taking a trip to the ruins.
Each Mayan city had a specific purpose, and Tulum was no exception. It was a seaport, trading mainly in turquoise and jade. Looking at the location of the ruins, you might think that it was built for the beautiful beach at its edge, but not so. The sea was a tool in the Mayan post-classical period, not a place to vacation. Still, we couldn’t help but think that Tulum’s long-gone residents must have enjoyed the beach and the view as much as we did. One interesting thing about the city is that it is surrounded by a high wall. Apparently, most Mayan cities never had walls, so there had to be a reason why there was one here. Maybe to protect the people from invaders? We may never solve that mystery, but it’s interesting to think about. The coolest building of all is called the Castillo, or “castle,” and it’s built at the edge of the cliff looking out to sea. There are also various temples and dozens of houses sprinkled throughout the hills of the city. We could almost imagine what life must have been like for the Mayans.
Have you ever heard of the Cenotes? They are natural swimming holes created when a cave ceiling collapsed. If blue holes can be found in other regions of the world, the abundance in the Yucatan Peninsula and their importance in the region development make the cenotes unique. Not only are they geographically and culturally special, but they are also beautiful places that nature lovers will love to explore. Sac Actun is definitely off the beaten path and that was part of the allure to us in choosing it over some of the other more well known cenotes. Unlike some of the big name cenotes, this one is not part of a long tour. Sac Actun is perfect because you show up, swim and explore the cave system, and that’s it! Also it is cheap! Sac Actun opened in the last few years to the public so if you take a cab be sure to mention Dos Ojos, some drivers are not familiar with the other name. Spent $600 pesos (less than 30 US$) on a cab that waited for us to do our hour tour. Well worth it, as you can take a collectivo to the cenote exit, but the cave is 6 kilometers from the highway. Quite the hike!
One of the precious tips Vito and Jaypee shared with us was: Don’t be afraid to negotiate the fare! Make sure you agree the fare before you get in the cab. Be aware that the fare is in Mexican Pesos and not US dollars-same symbol but very different value. Remember it is a good idea to get always some pesos in your pocket while you are in the country, they accept US dollars but the exchange rate will not be as good as you expect. Don’t misunderstand me. Mexican people are lovely, but don’t forget that you are a tourist!
After exploring time gone by, we headed to find something to eat. Some friends did recommend us a couple of nice restaurants. Since we love the combination between good food and beautiful location we couldn’t miss them. One was Mezzanine, a bar and restaurant on the beach. It’s a Thai place (yes, we opted for Thai instead of Mexican while in Mexico, sorry for offending you!), which was delicious. Everything about the restaurant is beautiful and the view was stunning. Hartwood was the second restaurant we loved. Its menu is more traditional to the area. The food was good, the ambience was nice, but what we really found cool was the sustainability factor. Hartwood does everything as eco-friendly as possible and even contributes to humanitarian causes. Now, that’s a place where we could feel like our money was well-spent.
The last spot we enjoyed during our Central American adventures was Isla Mujeres, a Mexican island in the Caribbean Sea, 13 kilometers off the coast from Cancún. It is very easy to reach the island, there are ferry leaving every fifteen minutes from Cancun and the journey takes only half an hour. We spent our last three days there, it was a neat pleasure swimming in that crystal clear water and walking through that tiny island-if you are lazy you can rent a golf car but we found it useless and a bit too touristic.
You know that we love good food, right? Well, La Lomita is without any doubt the best place to eat local food. The owner is a very fun boisterous man and the food it’s really delicious. If you have the chance to go there, you must try the Chiles Rellenos (stuffed pepper filled with cheese or chicken) and the Enchiladas Suizas (chicken enchiladas in a creamy sauce), with a chill beer or a good margarita. This is a true gem and definitely cheaper than other touristic restaurants. It’s always nice to go where locals eat.
If you are looking for a nice beach, the best spot is Playa Norte.
Although it was a bit too touristy for our tastes, it was beautiful. The sea is amazing there, and it’s a good spot to relax, play or drink a margarita while waiting for the perfect sunset.
Of course, it ended all too soon. Before we knew it, we were walking away from the beach, packing our bags, and getting ready to head to the airport.
Goodbye, Central America, until next time. We promise we will be back! You left us with too many good memories to say goodbye forever. Adios!