Mexico’s Yucantan Peninsula, an itinerary for the authentic traveller
I was so looking foward to travelling through Mexico, the land of taco's and tequila has sat high at the top of my 'must see' list for a very long time! I can gladly say that it totally lived up to my expectations. For me wether or not I enjoy a place depends on how authentic my experience was, I love being fully immersed in culture even if it's sometimes a little uncomfortable and that is exactly what I got in Mexico hence why I loved it so much! So, if the focus of your trip is drinking and nursing hangovers everyday then this post is not for you! The following itinerary is focused on authentic travel experiences, i.e. away from tourist and party hot spots. I've based it on a two week trip.
Day 1: Arrive Cancun
I knew I was going to despise Cancun. I'd seen pictures of the beach laden with clubs and bars, the heavy 'spring break' vibe which Americans have bestowed upon the city is something I was not keen on experiencing. I wanted to skip it entirely but unfortunately for me (and likely for you) flying into Cancun was the cheapest and easiest way to reach the country. I only allocated one full day here and we stayed as far away from the tourist area as possible, this was a great choice because we did end up experiencing some real Mexican culture which I hadn't expected at all from Cancun. In short you're probably going to have to spend at least one night here, unless you fly into Cancun early enough and smash it straight through to the next place all in one day (recommended) BUT if you do spend a night or two, stay in one of the streets off 'Avenue La Luna' and you'll be right in the thick of a residential area, making your visit to Cancun far more bearable. I recommend "Departamentos San Angel' it was a fantastic place to stay!
Day 2: Cancun
If you did decide to stay in Cancun for a day, the beach is worth checking out. Unfortunately it's so touristy that it's basically an extension of Miami... but the beach itself is like something out of a disney movie so it's at least worth a dip! just try to ignore the super techno being played so loud it's likely to be heard in space. If you took my advice and stayed near Avenue La Luna you can easily get a bus from the main road to the beach, it's a 20 minute journey and costs $1. Just flag down the bus with 'Zona Hotelera' written on the front.
Day 3: Arrive Punta Maroma
Now onto a Mexican haven you will immediately fall in love with! To get from Cancun to Punta Maroma you need to first find your way to Cancun's main bus terminal, if you type 'Hotel Plaza Caribe' into Google maps you will see the bus station is right across the road. It's a huge station, you can't miss it. DON'T get the ado bus! it's a total rip off. What you need to look for is the small white vans with 'Playa Del Carmen' written on the front. These mini vans are called 'colectivos' and are what the locals use to get around, they're amazingly cheap. Approach the van and tell the driver you want to go to 'Punta Maroma' you'll buy your tickets from him, jump in the van and he will stop along the main road just outside of Punta Maroma to let you off. Easy! It's only an hour's drive.
Day 4 - 7: Punta Maroma
Besides relaxing on the gorgeous beach there are numerous things you can do during your time in Punta Maroma. 100% go on a snorkelling/diving trip! there's a reef off the coast where you can swim with nurse sharks, green sea turtles, giant stingrays and all sorts or tropical fish. You might even be lucky enough to spot a manatee or a whale shark! the tours aren't cheap but I promise you it's worth it. You can also visit Cozumel for a day, and/or check out any of the sparkling cenotes in the area. If none of that tickles your fancy you can simply chill out in a hammock by the sea everyday, caribbean paradise!
Day 7: Arrive Chan Chemuyil
To reach Chan Chemuyil just walk back out to the main road where you were dropped off on and wait for one of those trusty white vans to come along, when you see one wave your arm out and the driver will stop to let you on. Tell him you need to go to 'Chan Chemuyil' and he will drop you off outside of town, it's along the same road and is only a short 45 minute journey. I highly recommend staying at 'Cavelands in the jungle' it might sound like somewhere you'll enter and then never be seen again but trust me it's a GREAT place to stay! You can camp in a tee-pee or stay in a typical Mexcian cabana.
Day 8 - 11: Chan Chemuyil
While you're here you can easily jump on a colectivo headed to Tulum and spend a day there, it's only 10 mins down the road. I didn't like Tulum, it was way too touristy for me! hence why it's not included on this itinerary. The one thing that is worth visiting Tulum for is the ruins on the beach front, you must get there super early though! You can also hire a car and drive out to Chichen Itza, Mayan ruins that are definitely worth seeing but again, you need to get there for when it opens in order to properly enjoy it. There's also a stunning cenote nearby called 'The Gran Cenote' that's 100% worth visiting, take your swimmers and arrive early! Then there's Xcacal Beach which is a short 15 minute walk from Chan Chemuyil, it's literally the most beautiful beach I've ever seen and that's coming from an Aussie! take supplies as there are no shops there, it's an untouched paradise. There's also a nice cenote called 'Santa Cruz' in Akumal, just 10 mins along the coast back towards Punta Maroma, just jump on a colectivo headed that way!
Day 11: Arrive Punta Allen
Punta Allen is a little out of the way compared to the other destinations listed here, in order to visit this secluded caribbean haven it's best if you are driving yourself. It's a two hour drive from Chan Chemuyil. If you don't have money in the budget for car hire there is a colectivo that goes from Tulum to Punta Allen, however there's only one that I know of and it leaves at 2pm, getting you there between 4 - 5pm. You'll need to head towards Tulum's main bus depot and ask around, someone will point you in the right direction. I suggest arriving early to ensure you get on before it fills up!
Day 12 - 15: Punta Allen
If you thought the other places were paradise you'll be astounded by Punta Allen! it's very secluded so there's not much to do besides relax on the beach and swim/snorkel in the shimmering cobalt water (like that's a bad thing!) so take a good book and enjoy a bit of R & R.
Day 15: Depart Mexico (sad face)
If you're moving onto Belize like I did I suggest going from Punta Allen to Bacalar and spending two nights there, it's a lovely spot and from there you can easily catch a colectivo down to Chetumal where you have two options; either get an ADO bus to Belize City (the cheaper but longer option) or jump on a boat to the Caye Islands which is what we did. It's more expensive ($60pp) but quicker and way easier!
If you need to get back to Cancun to fly home, you'll have to catch the colectivo back to Tulum which I believe leaves at 6am (ouch!) and then change to another colectivo headed to Cancun. It will be a long day so might be worth spending another night in Cancun before you fly out. Or if you've hired a car just drive back! it's 6 hours by car. By Bus I imagine it would take anywhere between 7 - 8 hours.
I hope you find this itinerary useful! let me know what you think in the comments and if you've travelled this route I'd love to hear anything you think might add to it.
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