I like organizing trips, but when your friends offer to do it…that’s for the best. This lack of research and planning on my side allows me to be surprised, go with the flow and take things as they come which makes the trip even more exciting.
As this year started, my friends and I went on our annual exotic trip, this time in Mexico. Our first stop was in beautiful Isla Mujeres. To get there, you need to fly into Cancun, take an ADO bus to the city center (you can pay in dollars – the price is $5), a taxi to the port (around 50 pesos) and then take the Ultramar ferry to the island itself ($17). You will find exchange offices with a good rate in the city center where the bus drops you.
We were lucky enough the catch the ferry at sunset time. Time passed by while we were listening to the tourist “infused” latin tunes of a local guitar player. As the sun set into the ocean waves and the wind tangled our hair, twenty minutes passed and we were already at our destination: Hotel Isla Caracol.
Our first night was pretty uneventful with the exception of the best Marguerita I ever had (at Lola Valentina) and the dancing session with the Mexican bartenders (sorry, no photos available).
The next day it rained all morning. We sat quietly in our little garden, ate the available breakfast (coffee and toast with butter) and prayed for the rain to stop. We eventually decided to walk, not dance, in the rain and explore the island by foot since we couldn’t really get a tan. We walked from the North of the island towards South, on the east side of the island. On our way, some of the island’s best surprises revealed themselves: a local brewery that was doing a tasting at 11 am, a church with a view to the ocean, a nice waterfront, a remote beach where we somehow found a guy who was able to open our beers with a lighter, a bit of sunshine, an old lady from Canada who took our photos on the beach, a deserted airport in the middle of the island, the most southern point of the island filled with contemporary art and perfect views of Punta Sur.
After our first tacos with a view, we decided to continue our walk, this time on the west side of the island. Not knowing white lies ahead of us, we ventured on the waterfront narrow alley. After about 5 minutes walking it looks like nature has taken over the alley and we can’t continue. However, my friend Corina, the brave, moves forward and says we can pass through the trees. We continue for another 10 minutes and we are warned by a sign saying “forbidden to pass”. But it looks like there is no reason not to pass, so we continue. We then meet a man who was trying to get rid of fallen trees on his private property. He greets us gracefully and doesn’t seem to be bothered by our trespassing. Finally we reach a place with an infinity pool and a nice lounge area overlooking the ocean. There’s only a few other people. As respectful citizens of the modern age, we check Google Maps to figure out where we are. It looks like we ended up in Garrafon Park. Yes, this is an amusement park where normal people need to pay an entrance fee. It’s around closing time, so we decide to smoothly make our way out. We take a cab back to Playa Norte, the area where our accommodation is. The clouds have returned. This is the best moment to get a massage on the beach and freeze at the same time.
The night was somewhat warm. We took a walk on the beach in search of a bar so we can have tequila shots. Our plan was clear and simple: midnight ocean swim. After two Don Julio reposado, we were ready. We took a dive and enjoyed the freeing sensation of swimming at night in the Carribean. Again, not photos available.
The next day was a bit sunnier, but still windy. We spent it on the famous beach of Playa Norte just enjoying the sun, the waves and the sand. We had some yummy food at the North Garden (it doesn’t sound very Mexican, but it was) and lastly, we went to the famous Mirador Fotografico.
We only had 2 nights in Isla Mujeres. We retraced our steps all the way to the ADO bus stop in Cancun, only to find that the next bus is in 2 hours time (around 8 pm). We were in Tulum at 11.30 pm and welcomed by our cool Italian hosts at Zamunda Garden View Apartments. Enrico gave us an overview of the most important spots, how to get to the beach and ruins, what’s the best beach and the best bar, etc. So we went to sleep knowing that everything will be ok the next day.
On our first day in Tulum we thought we should explore the ruins area. Our accommodation was in the city area, which is much more affordable than the beach one, but is not within walking distance from the beach or other areas of touristic interest. Hence, we had bikes offered for free. As I am not the most talented bike rider, I dreaded the moment of me riding one around the city, on the roads, along with cars and other fellow bikers. I was a bit relieved at the thought that it would only take 17 minutes (in Google’s view) to go to the beach or 25 to the ruins. Let me tell you something: Google proved to be so wrong or I proved to be so slow, that it took us more than an hour to get to the ruins :). Anyway, we got there safely – unfortunately along with all the tourist buses.
From the ruins we continued our bike adventure to the beach with a first stop at Pescadores Beach where we had some lunch and a national beer. We were lured to get on a snorkeling trip – it wasn’t the best ever, but at least it was only $10 and we got to see two huge white stingrays. We took the bikes and walked alongside them on the beach until Playa Paraiso and moved to the busy streets again. We went towards south to find the best spot for sunset watching. Our choice was Ciel Rose Sunset Bar. On our way back we stopped for grocery shopping – extra challenge for my bike riding skills. Luckily my friend carried most of the shopping goodies. Later we explored the city area and went to the most popular bar around Batey
They are famous for their mojito made with freshly crushed sugar cane juice out of a converted VW Beetle. I’d love to say it was great, but whoever prepared our mojito I think forgot to add the alcohol. We didn’t have the best mojito ever, but we definitely had the best lemonade ever.
Day four of our trip was dedicated to the famous Grand Cenote. In case you were wondering what that is, Wikipedia offers a pretty good definition. It is a natural pit or sinkhole, resulting from the collapse of limestone-bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. There are so many options, but Grand Cenote was within bicycle reach and also one of the most popular ones.
We spent day five in Xel Ha Park, mostly a natural park enhanced with various interesting amusement activities. To get there we took the Colectivo (local public transportation) from Tulum City (30 pesos). We were greeted by exotic parrots as we sat for our indulging breakfast. Once the food settled in we went on a two hour long river tubing experience. We snorkeled, went on ziplines above the water, went on super tall water slides, explored caves and a small cenote, enjoyed the complimentary drinks, saw manatees for the first time. Another great day in paradise.
On the last day we spent a few chill hours at the beach. No more bikes this time, just a taxi ride to Playa Paraiso, bathing in the sun and fearing the weather back home. Viva Mexico!