After a year of living in the chilly mountain highlands of western Guatemala, our first destination upon leaving was the beautiful warm beaches of Mexico's Caribbean coast.
Lying along the far eastern edge of the Yucatán peninsula, the Caribbean coast has in the past few decades become Mexico's most popular tourist destination, with every kind of modern tourist facility imaginable spreading for miles in either direction from the tourist "mecca" of Cancún. Unfortunately the emphasis tends to be on the most up-scale and "gringo-friendly" of possibilities. Despite the huge variety of activities that are available (diving, snorkeling, and Mayan ruins are the most popular), tourists tourists generally come away from here without any kind of appreciation for the "real" Mexico. As most people reading this blog would know, this is really not our scene, and it is much more expensive than most of Mexico.
Fortunately, there are some spots on the Caribbean coast where you can escape the glimmering glass tower hotels and giant golf course resorts that dominate the region. Needless to say, this is exactly where we went.
Rain doesn't get much better than this
About a hundred miles south of Cancún, Tulúm is both a small beachside village and an ancient Mayan ruins site. Here, our accomodations were a thatched roof cabaña right on the beach, surrounded by palm trees, hammocks, and a relaxed bar scene with a nightly bonfire. For $30 a night, it's still more expensive than much of Mexico, but it definitely had that bohemian feel that we were looking for. To top it off, the beach was European-style "clothing-optional", despite the fact that this custom is very un-Mexican.
As for the Mayan ruins archeological site, while it is definitely far from the biggest or most impressive set of ruins, the choice location on top of the cliffs towering of the sea below is truly sublime.
(REMINDER: Click on any of the photos for a bigger, more-detailed look)
If you go to the ruins at Tulúm, be sure to bring your bathing suit!
There are seemingly hundreds of these iguanas lounging around the ruins.
Outside the Tulúm ruins we were treated to some sort of traditional Mayan "upside-down pole schwirl dancing".
PLAYA DEL CARMEN
Our other stop on the Caribbean coast was the booming spring-break destination, Playa Del Carmen. Only a tiny fishing village a decade ago, the town has benefited from:
- its proximity to Cancún (only about 30 miles)
- its strategic position as a launching point for the resort island of Cozumel
- its beautiful coral reefs
Thanks to all this, "Playa" has grown dramatically to include all kinds of hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and souvenir shops along a 2-mile pedestrian street just next to the beach. Prices aren't much lower than beach resorts in the US, as it turns out.
Our primary reasons for coming here were to meet up with a good friend from the US, and to do some snorkeling around Playa's beautiful coral reefs.
Underwater cameras are so cool.
Fishes every which way you look.
Rob even saw a pregnant mermaid!
Continue to Mayan Ruins at Chichén Itzá