First timers to Mexico - need help

Old Feb 1st, 2020, 11:25 PM
  #1  
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First timers to Mexico - need help

We are currently planning our first trip to Mexico and need some help. We will be travelling from Australia in late May, and plan to stop of for a couple of nights in San Fransisco before flying to Mexico City. After CDMX we plan to travel to the Yucatan Peninsula.

This is the plan so far:

5 x nights Mexico City
Fly to Campeche
3 x nights Campeche
Bus to Merida
4 x nights Merida
Bus to Valladolid
3 nights Valladolid
Bus to Playa del Carmen ( or somewhere on coast)
5 nights Playa del Carmen - or other recommended option.
Fly to Australia from Cancun

We are a couple in our early 50s and are both fit and healthy. We enjoy art, architecture, walking, swimming etc. We plan to do those things and also have an interest in visiting some of the Mayan ruins and cenotes.

I am reasonably happy with our planned spread of days and destinations, but welcome your feedback. The part of the trip I am most stuck on is the part on the Caribbean coast. I had thought Playa del Carmen might suit us, as having shopping and other activities within walking distance of accommodation does appeal. However, when I have started looking at accommodation options, I notice that many of the reviews note how noisy it is, with a lot of accommodation next to night clubs etc which play music to the early hours.

Can anyone recommend a place to stay that is still close to the beach but isnít too noisy, or suggest another location on the coast where we could stay?

Thank you.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 09:02 AM
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Tulum and Akumal fit the request (with the disclaimer I only know them from friends' descriptions and have never been on that side of the country myself).

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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 12:00 PM
  #3  
kja
 
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In general, I think your plans make a lot of sense.

If you have any interest in Mayan ruins, I would strongly encourage you to visit Uxmal and the Ruta Puuc -- and note that you might want an overnight near Uxmal to give you sufficient time for those magnificent sites. I stayed at the Flycatcher Inn, which I loved and which still gets great reviews; others have mentioned the nearby Pickled Onion, which also gets good review.

And from Valladolid, you might consider visiting Ek' Balam -- its frieze is extraordinary -- and the nearby and utterly glorious Cenotes Dzitnup.

It's been a long time since I visited the area, but FWIW, two alternatives to Playa del Carmen that you might consider are Tulum if you want a gorgeous beach (stay near the beach, not in the town) or Puerto Morelos (less touristy, or at least it was).

Enjoy!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 05:53 PM
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I could suggest Holbox, but I'm not sure on the logistics with public transportation from Valladolid. Then finish up with Isla Mujeres to keep you close to the airport. But a good overall itinerary.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 10:24 PM
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Thanks so much everyone for your alternatives to Playa del Carmen. I will do some further research, but thinking Tulum or one of the islands might be more suitable. I wondered whether staying at a resort in Playacar might be ok too, as they are further from the action...anyone stayed at any of the resorts? Currently looking at the Allegro.

Thanks Kja for your suggestions for our itinerary and places to visit and things to see. Many of them were on my radar, but it seems Uxmal might be worthwhile as an overnight stop rather than a possible day trip.

Just out of interest, how do you pronounce Uxmal?

Andee
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Old Feb 2nd, 2020, 11:08 PM
  #6  
kja
 
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I say oosh mall. Doesn't mean that's correct! You can probably google it.

One advantage of an overnight near Uxmal is that you would have more time there -- and it is a huge, amazing site. Too, there are a number of smaller sites on the Ruta Puuc that can be combined with Uxmal if you spend a night in the area, and while some of those sites get visitors, sometimes even tour groups, there are corners that you might have to yourself. Priceless!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 12:37 AM
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Great info Kja, thank you. I will have a closer look at Ruta Puuc, definitely sounds like it would be good to incorporate into our itinerary.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 11:28 AM
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Enjoy Campeche. It's a gem of a place.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 03:21 PM
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Great itinerary. And I agree about adding Uxmal and the Ruta Puuc if you can. It's a really neat area.

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Old Feb 3rd, 2020, 10:24 PM
  #10  
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Thanks everyone for the input. It is good to know we are the right track with the itinerary.

I have a question about travelling by bus in this region. Is it generally safe? I notice there are warnings about only travelling on first class buses, and not travelling at night etc. Should we be worried about catching a local bus to do a day trip from any of the destinations in my itinerary? Any safety tips?
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 10:26 AM
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The Yucatan is generally considered as the safest area of Mexico. Regarding buses, the local buses should be fine, just don't wear fancy jewelry or carry a bunch of cash, keep your backpack or other bag in front of you; common sense stuff. The warnings about 2nd class buses is because they'll make several stops along the route to pick up passengers along the highway, therefore little or no security screening is done for those passengers. Some months ago, the 1st class bus companies were required to ask passengers for ID before boarding. I'm not sure that's done for 2nd class, or even how it'd work picking up passengers off the highway.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 10:57 AM
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Thank you Baldone. Good advice for keeping safe while travelling. I thought that might be the case re. the second class buses vs first class. For the trips between our destinations we plan to book first class so that should be fine.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 12:56 PM
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If stopping at Uxmal and the Ruta Puuc, it would be nice have a car. El Mirador de Ticul restaurant in Ticul is very good but you need a car to get there. You could also stop at the less visited Edzna Ruins nearer Campeche. Consider driving yourself in this area, Campeche to Merida, if a one-way rental is possible, picking up Uxmal, Ruta Puuc, Edzna, all great ruins.

Valladolid: Spent a few nights here-- there's not much here, although the cenotes and Ek Balam are good. How will you get to Ek Balam without a car? If going to Chichen Itza it's really better to stay at the site overnight since after 10 am it's a crazy, super zoo of hordes.

A couple warnings: The tour buses from the cruise ships from the US Gulf Coast that dock in Progreso arrive Uxmal before noon and the peacefulness ends, so avoid the 11:30-2:00 time frame, it's hot then anyway.

I don't know how common it is but we passed a car driving the wrong direction at full speed on the turnpike connecting Merida and Cancun apparently to avoid paying the expensive toll.

Last edited by tom_mn; Feb 4th, 2020 at 01:14 PM.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 01:06 PM
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Additional comment: Cancun itself has gotten quiet as the party action has moved down the coast, so don't rule out staying in Cancun proper.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 06:14 PM
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kja
 
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I can't comment on current safety issues -- my trip was far too long ago!

As for how to get to Ek' Balam, the Cenotes Dzitnup, and Edzna (interesting, but IMO, the least interesting of about a dozen Mayan sites I visited) -- I was easily able to arrange affordable transportation through the tourism information offices in Valladolid (for the first two) and Campeche (for the latter).

Actually, I took a collectivo from Valladolid to the Cenotes Dzitnup and back, and remember it as a wonderful exposure to life in the area -- local people use that collectivo, and I happened to be traveling at the end of a school day, so young children were among the many passengers on the way there. They easily clambered in and around the adults, making themselves comfortable on any available lap (engagingly asking me, clearly a foreigner, before hopping on); smiling and laughing when handed around to make space for newcomers or to allow others to get off; clearly familiar with the task of storing and finding their oft-moved book bags as they boarded and got off with a smile and a "gracias" to the driver. And there were the women going home after shopping or selling, men going home after work or whatever ... so many images of life lived in this area, and among my most treasured memories of 3 weeks in / around the Yucatan.

But again, my trip was long ago and things change.
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Old Feb 4th, 2020, 10:08 PM
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Thanks Tom_mn for your comments and input. As a general rule we prefer to bus, or look at other transport or tour options before driving ourselves. We find that to be less stressful and we don’t have to worry about arguments about navigation, reading signs, and driving on a different side of the road! But we will consider renting a car to get to some spots if we need to.
It sounds like the Mayan sites are all very busy as the morning gets on, so will try and get there early and consider an overnight stay.

Thanks Kja for sharing your experience on using the collectivos to get to some places. It is always so nice when you get to experience some of the local culture incidentally when on a trip, and as you said makes for great memories.

Tom_mn - we are thinking of one or two nights in Cancun before we fly out, so good to know it is not too much like party central. We are now considering Tulum instead of Playa del Carmen for a few days.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 06:38 AM
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More: There's a nice cenote accessible from the parking lot at Ek Balam called Cenote Xcanche

Also almost within walking distance of Valladolid is Cenote San Lorenzo Oxman, less busy than the famous ones a little farther out.

Traffic in the Yucatan is really light, so easy driving.

We stayed at https://www.presidenteiccancun.com/english/ which was quiet, no rough surf since it faces north not the open ocean, and had very good restaurants. Note that most of the other hotels in Cancun are all inclusive.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 11:54 AM
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The most popular Mayan sites do get busy late morning - Chichen Itza, Tulum, Uxmal - ones that are on the tour bus and cruise tour circuit. But if you get to them around 8:30 when they open, they aren't crowded and the air is generally cool. For other sites that aren't as heavily visited, timing isn't a big deal. We visited Ek Balam in the early afternoon and had the place almost to ourselves - there was 1 tour group there when we arrived and a handful of independent visitors. When we left, the parking lot was pretty much empty. For the Ruta Puuc sites, there were no more than a handful of visitors at any time.
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Old Feb 5th, 2020, 10:43 PM
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Thanks for the extra information Tom_mn, and recommendation for the hotel in Cancun. I had looked at the Intercontinental Presidente, so good to hear it is a good hotel.

November Moon, thank you for the information about timing to the Mayan sites. It does sound like getting there earlier in the morning is the best time for the more popular sites.

I appreciate everyone’s input and feedback. It makes us feel a bit more confident about our trip planning. We are looking forward to seeing some of Mexico.

Andee
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