It's Yucatan time!

Whoo Hoo! I’m going on vacation to the Yucatan in January!

Anyone know the area? Have tips for the budget traveler? What should I see/skip?

So far the only thing on my agenda is some diving in Cozumel. :smiley:

Well, the area is rich in Mayan ruins, if you’re into that kind of thing. Check out Chichen Itza or Uxmal. If you can make it down to the state of Chiapas, there’s also Palenque, and every January, for two weeks starting Jan. 9, there’s the January Fiesta in Chiapa de Corzo.

I don’t understand :wink:

You lucky bastard.

We are going down again in April, but I wish it was sooner.

Isla Mujeres is a lovely little island, one mile wide and eight miles long. Stay on the island for at least one night, eat breakfast at Cafe Nopales, they have lovely painted tables and chairs and the food was good and well priced. See the Tortungranja (turtle farm, preservation project) and go snorkeling with one of the guides at the ferry landing if the weather is right --try and go relatively early in the morning, because if there are a lot of boats out taking snorkeling tours, the popular spots can become crowded with bodies and boat fuel. I really loved the people we met at Isla Mujeres. You can also go to the bird sanctuary at Isla Contoy from Isla Mujeres, a day tour trip with more snorkeling and fresh fish caught en route for lunch.
Avoid Cancun, the Vegas of the Mexican Riviera, although if you catch the ferry at the Embarcadero to Isla Mujeres you might want to stop in and check out the Mexican Pupular Art Museum. It’s about 10 usd to get in, but they have some very nice examples of the different forms of Mexican folk art.

Stay in Mérida a couple days if you can. It’s a beautiful town with museums and churches and Chichén Itzá is right nearby. If you go to Chichén Itza on Sunday it’s free and if you stay until late in the day (read: after the tour buses have left) you can enjoy the view from the top of the citadel without worrying that you’ll be bumped off and down the steep steps by another tourist.

We found Lonely Planet’s Yucatán Peninsula guide to be very useful for finding what would be worth seeing and what would be overpriced and crowded. And it has hotel info, restaurant info, etc. if you are booking everything yourself.

Cozumel has incredibly blue water, but again, very crowded with tourists. Not as bad as Cancún though.
I have heard that Xcaret is good to go to early in the day, but we passed on it because it sounded crowded and overpriced. Sort of a “Mayan Disneyland,” but people we spoke to said they really enjoyed the dancing and games demonstrations and early morning snorkeling in the underground river.

Snorkeling the cave system at Cenote Dos Ojos south of Akumal is on our list for our next visit. See Tulum while you’re down there. It’s beautiful, and notable since the it’s the “youngest” Mayan ruin and has structures built right up at the cliff’s edge.

This is where we stayed last time. It was beautiful and relaxing, the food and people and service were wonderful, and we had an unattached casita and lay in the hammock together–but I don’t remember it being so expensive, wow and ouch. The first day our shower drain belched up an inch of raw sewage, and you still need to remember to never ever let the tap water get in your mouth, and brush your teeth even with bottled water. And in most hotels, and places in Mexico, you do not flush your toilet paper. You put it in a waste bin placed next to the toilet for that purpose. :wink:
Have you been to Mexico before?
I am envious.

I found this while doing some vacation planning of our own and thought you might find it useful:

Tortuga has summed most things up quite wonderfully, but if I may add a couple of things (having just been there for the first time in early October with my sister):

I strongly recommend Xel-Ha over Xcaret. It’s less expensive and much less Disney-like. Such wonderful snorkling and a huge variety of scenery and activities there. And yeah, Cancun is like Daytona Beach during Spring Break - only it’s year-round. Pointless to visit, unless you really have a yen to see drunk college students puking in the streets at any given hour.

My sister snorkled at Cenote Dos Ojos and loved it, but said the water was VERY cold and it was dark, so if you’re claustrophobic, you might want to give the cenotes (underground springs, basically) a miss.

Tulum is fantastic; I recommend you get a guide if you want to get the full story on the ruins since few of the buildings have signs. Even without a guide it’s still an amazing place; we got the best pictures of the trip there. And the little shopping area just outside the entrance gate had some of the highest quality shirts and souvenirs we saw on the whole trip, so take a gander if you get a chance.

We stayed in a 4-star all-inclusive resort just north of Tulum and it was fine to flush the toilet paper. It also had a bidet, la-dee-da! We brushed our teeth with tap water and had no ill effects, but only drank bottled water. All inclusive is definitely the way to go if you can afford it, otherwise your daily food and drink bills will mount up very quickly. We got an upgrade from a less expensive place from our travel agent, who now has our undying adoration.

If your hotel has them, do NOT even THINK of going for a time-share presentation, no matter how many free things they offer you.

There’s shopping in Carmen Del Playa (where you get the ferry to Cozumel), but be prepared for a barrage of shopkeepers trying to entice you in to look at some really cheesy stuff. Some souvenir shops have a no-haggling policy (usually the ones with price tags on the items), but you can get a great bargain in the jewelry stores if you just stay firm on your ideal price and stick to negotiating and paying in US dollars.

There’s only one highway that runs north/south on the Yucatan, and it has a neat system of “Collectivos” - white vans with a colored stripe on the side - that you can flag down pretty much anywhere and ride for 10-20 pesos per person, depending on how far you’re going. Very safe and WAY cheaper than taxis!

Hope this helps. I envy you, it was great being there! I WILL go back someday.

I hate the commercially stuff down there and prefer to do slightly off-the-beaten track stuff. Tulum is fantastic. Most of the tourists there are European and the hotels are not something you’d find in the states. Usually there isn’t air-conditioning, but they are built on the beach so you get a breeze. Maya Tulum is a great place if you like yoga and massages (for some reason there seems to be a great many lesbians there if it matters). You can sleep with their kitty–she will wander into your room if you leave the door open.

Zamas is a great restaraunt and good for some night life. It has a HEAVENLY view, but the prices are a bit Cancunish…In town, Don Cafeto makes excellent tacos and whatnot, but don’t try the salsa unless you like habaneros!

South of tulum is Sian K’an (I think that’s how you spell it). It’s an ecological preserve. There are incredibly strict rules for what can be built in it, but some of it is privately owned. I’ve had the pleaseure of staying with friends down there and my SO has some land. Nothing for miles so you can run around naked. I once came within 8 feet of a puma! Accidentaly mind you! There are sea turtles and funky weird blue crabs. In the middle of this preserve is Boca Paila…a fishing lodge that caters to high end fishermen, but you may be able to talk them out of some of their wonderful food–5 star stuff! Further south of that you get to Punta Allen–their cash-crop is LOBSTERS. If you like lobsters this is the place to be!

Mind you, anything south of Tulum and you have to go over some hellacious dirt roads so if you have a rental be careful!

Thanks for all your help! The web links and descriptions you’ve provided are very useful! :slight_smile:

I’ve picked up Lonely Planet’s guide to Mexico, and a guide to snorkeling and diving in Cozumel. So far my only trip to Mexico has been a few hours in Tijauana over a decade ago.

I’m definitely going to spend as little time as possible in Cancun (I have to fly into there, though).

I’m quite excited about seeing some major Mayan ruins, and Isla Mujeres and Tulum sound great! I’ve also heard that Merida makes a good base for seeing Mayan ruins. Assuming no rental car is this still doable in about a week’s time? Maybe I should just try to focus on two areas to see.

I can hardly wait!

One of the many cool things about the Yucatán is that it isn’t a car dependent society like in California (not so bad in the SF bay area, but bad here in Southern California) and like Rock-n-Rolga said, there are colectivos that run along the roads there and take you where you want to go for not much money. Plus, there are buses everywhere. They are inexpensive and really, a better mode of travel than a rental car. The bus fare to Chichén Itzá even on a deluxe bus from Cancún is less than what you would pay in road tolls and fuel to get there and back plus you get to look at the jungle and not worry about potholes, topes, or crazy drivers. Of course, you can’t make your own timetable, but there are so many other modes of transport it doesn’t have to be an inconvenience. Here’s another website with transportation info and links. When we go down in April, we don’t plan on renting a car, we plan on using the buses. We’ll stay for two or three days at la Marina de Isla Mujeres or el Hotel Francis Arlene–the HFA is downtown by all the shops and restaurants (pretty much the rest of the island’s shops and restaurants close down after seven) and almost half the price of MIM, but has no beach access and you have to pay to rent a beach spot at that northern beach (only about USD$8, but still ;)). Then we’ll go to Mérida for two or so days, and there, we can’t decide between the Hotel Dolores Alba, or the Posada Toledo. The Hotel Dolores Alba has a pool but is a half mile walk from the really interesting center of town, the Posada Toledo is right in the thick of things and is a colonial mansion, but in April, it can be a little hot and sticky down there. But if we were going in January, it’d be the Posada Toledo hands down. You can make reservations online if you click on the hotels link at this site.

Anyway, plenty of people will be very happy to help you get the ferry schedules, bus schedules, everything you need to visit Isla Mujeres, Cozumel, Tulum, Chichén Itzá, and Mérida without a car–the friendliness of the Mexican people is amazing, especially considering the wave after wave of ignorant drunks they have to endure in Cancún.

One marketplace tip: if you are bargaining for something, make sure you do the exchange rate math before agreeing to the price. Once you agree to the price, you are honour bound to buy it, and while you get used to shelling out what seems like a lot of pesos and not having it equal too much in dollars, sometimes it means you end up agreeing to a price that’s a bit steeper than you would have liked for something you were maybe only curious about in the first place. Haggling is a fun game, but don’t be pressured or rushed into anything. A good rule of thumb is ten pesos equal one dollar, but you can usually negotiate in USD if you are more comfortable with that and you have it available. Many prefer USD. Oddly though, you’ll generally get quoted higher rates at hotels when you ask for the price in USD, according to the website I read that at, as much as 15-20% higher, so ask for it in pesos. Remember that the prices you see quoted on the websites are probably not factoring in the 12% Mex. hotel tax.

Damn, I’m so envious of you! I wanna go NOW!

Man, I’m envious. Isla Mujeres is a wonderful place to stay (we went a few years ago), and, as BBJ mentioned, Zamas has great food.

Since this has been resurrected, I’ll give you an update of fun stuff after this weekend–I’m going down there for a three-dayer. Although I am seriously peeved–I was going to recommend a restaraunt in Cancun you can eat at before you leave to go elsewhere: Los Alemendros by the corrida. They have (had I guess) weird food like turkey done abour thirty different ways. It’s a local place, too.

Ok, I thought I had bumped this yesterday…hmm…wonder what I did end up bumping…lol. Oh well.

I’ll have to disagree about Isla Mujeres. While I thought it was nice, it was only a day trip, and then only because we did the “Swim with the Dolphins” thing.

Before I get down to specifics, I want to say that where you stay, and how you approach the various things you can do there are in a very large part determined by what you’re interested in, how you like to do things, and how much you want to spend.

For me and my wife, we like the convenience of being able to do what we want, when we want. So staying on Cancun island itself was a plus for us. Sure there are a lot of bars, and nightclubs, but we really never did any of them. But if I wanted to arrange a tour, or rent a car, it was the work of 15 minutes to find a place, and then make whatever arrangements we wanted. While in Cancun, we stayed at The Flamingo Cancun. It was just the right mix for us. We got a great room, on the ocean, for a decent price. We went with the all inclusive, even though most days we weren’t at the hotel. We ate Breakfast and Dinner there every day, and on the beach days that we just hung out, lunch too. While the food wasn’t 5-star cuisine, it was very good, and I never spent a day hungry because I couldn’t enjoy something. We’ve only taken one organized tour while there, because we enjoy doing things on our own. We did the VIP tour to Chitchen Itza once, and while it was nice, I would rather have been able to do things on our own, that we wanted. Sometimes it’s nice to get the background history of a place, but really I knew as much as I was interested in after a little reading. I don’t need to have a list of exact dates pointed out to me, as long as I get the general idea, I’m happy. I do recommend that even if you don’t get the time to read about it before you go, you print out some information from the net about any Mayan ruins you want to visit, that way you can always read when you’re there. Also, be sure and take a swim in this cenote (that’s also the tour agency we used the first time). It was truly one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.

Every other time we’ve gone, we’ve rented a car and drove ourselves. While it’s true that the toll road to Chitchen Itza is expensive, the convenience of having a car was well worth it. The second time we went to Chitchen Itza, we drove ourselves, then went on to Merida to spend the night, then spent the next day seeing various ruins before driving back. Sure it was a long drive, but a lot of fun to stop wherever we wanted, and look at anything that caught our eye. In Merida, we stayed at The Caribe. And while the rooms weren’t anything to be impressed about, it had a great view of the Cathedral from the roof, and was located close to downtown. If you’re thinking about hitting Merida, try to go on Sunday, when they have their weekly town…fair…for lack of a better word. They close off most of the historic downtown area, and people walk around, shop from the vendors, eat food from roadside stands, and dance and party to the various bands that play. It’s a blast. Find out more about Merida, and upcoming events here.

As to the Mayan ruins? As others have said, Tulum is beautiful. While I won’t say you need a guide, definatly pay attention to the buildings, as there is a lot of detail you can miss. Be sure to check out the flying voladores (near the bottom of the page), they’re a good show, and tossing a couple of dollars into the collection basket is worth it.

If you have time while you’re in Tulum, take another 3 or 4 hours to go see Coba. It’s an interesting site if you want the “in the jungle” feel to your Mayan Ruins. A lot of walking, so I recommend either paying for the guy to bike you around, or renting a bike for yourself. The view from the top of the Nohoch Mul (highest pyramid on the Yucatan Peninsula) is great. When I was there, you couldn’t climb up the other building, but once was enough. I found it interesting in that while the jungle there didn’t have any of the soaring huge trees that I was expecting, when I was at the top of Nohoch Mul, I couldn’t actually see The Iglesia, it was almost buried under trees. Also along the way to Coba, there are lots of little villages you can stop at for some great shopping, and mingling with the locals. Take some change to give out to the kids.

While in the Merida area, we saw Uxmal, Sayil, Labna, and Kabah.
I love visiting Mayan sites, and going to these more out of the way, and less explored sites really drove home the “found in the jungle” feel that some of them still posses. While Chitchen Itza was nice, it had a more “Colonial Williamsburg” feel to it. Definatly a tourist trap. Hike a half mile in order to see the Labna Arch, and it’s totally different. For a site with some great photos of these locations, check out these links.

Most importantly, have fun, do what you want and try and find the balance between being frugal, and having the flexibility to do what you want. For us, it was more important to be able to pick up and go wherever we wanted, than to try and fit in with a bus schedule. Feel free to let me know if you have any other questions, or if I can give you any more information.

Just got back from a weekender down there. We stayed at the SO’s property and two nights at Maya Tulum. Holy Cow! They were having a Victoria’s Secret bikini shoot there. That’s how freaking beautiful it is!
I’m still trying to recover from my double pina coladas from Zamas! Ouch!

¡Hola wevets! ¿Cómo fue tu viaje?
¿Lo se disfrutó? ¡Diganos!
¿Qué hizo? ¿Ádonde viajiste?

Sorry to inflict you with my awful Spanish practice, but this thread needs an update! How was your trip, did you have fun, whatdjya do, where’d ya go?

You lucky bastahd, you.