Go Back  Fodor's Forum > Destinations > Mexico & Central America
Reload this Page > How does my draft Cancun/Riviera Maya itinerary look?
Notices

How does my draft Cancun/Riviera Maya itinerary look?

Reply

Jun 8th, 2013, 09:01 PM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 32
How does my draft Cancun/Riviera Maya itinerary look?

Hello all! For the last couple of weeks I’ve been combing these boards/my hard copy guidebooks, plotting my much anticipated first Yucatan trip... Would SO appreciate a review by experienced eyes to see if my approach is sound. The facts: single woman traveler from Orlando keen to limit time in the super-tourist-crowded spots: I get plenty of that at home! Also, I’d much rather watch the landscape OUT the window than drive, so I’ve structured a half-bus, half car rental trip. Here’s my rough idea:

- Arrive Friday 11/29 in Cancun – head to Isla Mujeres for a mellow, beachy start to my trip (2 nights)
- Sunday 12/1 – down to Cozumel for some diving (2 nights)
- Tuesday 12/3 – pop over to Playa del Carmen for a little more of a buzzing town than I will have encountered on the islands (2 nights)
- Thursday 12/5 – bus to Merida (3 nights). Day tour to Uxmal on Friday, but relax and explore Merida and enjoy its public events on Saturday and Sunday.
- Monday 12/9 – bus to Campeche. (2 nights). Day tour to Edzna Tuesday.
- Wednesday 12/11 – early morning bus back to Merida to pick up rental car; drive to and spend the night at Chichen Itza (pm light show?)
- Thursday 12/12 – leave Chichen early am and tour Coba en route to Tulum. 5ish nights in Tulum area? Return to Florida on 12/17 (or 18).

Thoughts?

Also:
1. I’m not fond of crowds or touts, so (at the risk of blasphemy): is Chichen Itza so packed during the day that I should skip it since I am doing Uxmal, Tulum, Coba, and Edzna? (maybe sub in Ek Balam instead?) And these light shows – hokey or worth it? What place does it best?
2. Is 5 nights and 4 full days adequate time to enjoy Tulum beaches/ruins/ town, snorkel in Akmal, and check out some cenotes? Might be able to add on to my trip if needed (or take back that Chichen day!)
3. I have totally left out Cancun proper – is that awful considering I don’t care for shopping, tipsy crowds, or clubbing? It seems a bit risky/far away to stay in Tulum the night before my rental return/10:30 am flight. Should I position myself either closer to airport (Puerto Morelos maybe?) or *in* Cancun proper on my last night?

Thanks SO much for any feedback you might have!!
kinkajou007 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 8th, 2013, 10:05 PM
  #2
RAC
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,889
I would do Chichen Itza as a day trip from Merida--rent the car and go early.

Yes, there are crowds and cheap souvenir vendors, but so what? The ruins themselves are of very, very high quality and distinction. Coba and Tulum have more impressive settings, but neither has the same level of preserved architectural accomplishment and detail.
RAC is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 8th, 2013, 10:46 PM
  #3
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,109
Sounds waaay too hectic to me. Remember that it takes 2 nights to = 1 day to explore; if you're moving every other day, half your days will be transition days which is bad trip math imo. I figure most places are either worth 3 or 4 nights or worth skipping. Sometimes in our trips we spend just a night or 2 somewhere but then balance that with weeks here and there.

You could pick between Isla Mujeres and Cozumel, maybe do your diving from Playa or Tulúm. In addition to reef dives, check out some of the cenotes.

If you decide to visit Chichén Itzá, try to get there 1st thing in the morning - right when it opens, 8am, I think - to beat the crowds and the heat. Frankly, it's 1 of my least favorite Maya sites. In addition to the setting not living up to others for me (all of the Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras sites I've visited plus Palenque, Toniná, Cobán, Ek Balám, and Tulúm in México), you can't climb on anything. Plus the temples there are small when compared to those at Ek Balám and Cobá where you can climb all over everything. I understand why you can't tough anything at CI - millions of visitors/year - but it makes it less enjoyable for me. Frankly, imo Tulúm and Cobá are best 1st thing in the morning, too.

The carvings and detail at Ek Balám are pretty special plus we loved the setting, loved climbing the huge temple there, and we had the place to ourselves. I realize CI has it's fans, I'm just not 1 of them.

My photos with blog and travelogue links on the main page of each collection are below in case you're interested - all my recommendations are embedded there. Happy trails! http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections
hopefulist is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 8th, 2013, 10:49 PM
  #4
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,109
That should be "I understand why you can't TOUCH anything at CI" - wish we could edit posts here like we can on other forums!

Also, we've never been tempted to spend more time in Cancún than the airport required (3 hours preflight).
hopefulist is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 9th, 2013, 06:41 AM
  #5
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 3,605
Consider dropping Campeche, unless you have a burning desire t see Edzna. Merida is just as lovely re colonial architecture and charm, and has a lot more culture and interesting things to do and see. here are other ruins on the Ruta Puuc close to Uxmal, have you looked at those?

I disagree about CI having crowds but so what. It does matter, more than I can even describe to you here. I have been to CI 1st thing when they open in the morning ( stayed at Mayaland the night before and went in to CI through a back gate at the hotel, right into the ruins at 8 am sharp) . it was wonderful, we had a guide and were almost alone there, just a handful of other people who had stayed at hotels at the ruins, til 10 a.m. this was in November.

But then I went after that, during a drive from Playa to Merida. Got there at noon. It was like a scene from outside some of the temples in the Bible, only 1000 times worse. Every step of every path around the ruins was occupied by stalls hawking stuff, and the guys at the stalls have a jaguar mating call wooden device they sell and were all blowing these things at high pitch and high decibels. It was insane, In a very very bad way. Worse than any crowd I have ever experienced anywhere in my life. it was completely intolerable. We left after 15 min.

This is not a "so what" for me. It was like day and night, the difference between those two visits. I would never go back if I could not stay at the ruins the night before and get in at 8 a.m. when it opens.

I would not go to CI just to see the nighttime light show (which I think is what you are proposing in your itinerary). I would see the ruins early morning. Have never cared about the evening light show, it sounded not worth it to me and hokey so we have not gone to it.

I will write more about your itinerary later.
emd3 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 9th, 2013, 10:45 AM
  #6
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 32
Oooh, thank you all so much! RAC, I totally agree that sometimes you just hafta deal with the crowds for a lifetime “do-not-miss” sight (say, crushing in to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa; much of Venice). OTOH, emd3 and I sound like we have similar [in]tolerance levels for mobs and hawkers: too much = total misery. Current draft plan has me arriving around midday to tour CI grounds, dropping my stuff at local hotel after CI shuts down at 5pm, then returning for the 7pm light show. But that puts CI arrival squarely at midday (after early a.m. bus from Campeche to Merida to collect rental car)... the worst possible time. And if the light shows are as cheesy as I suspect (thus skippable) perhaps 3-hr round trip to visit CI for the day from Merida is preferable, leaving at the crack of dawn for an 8am arrival. (I was just trying to minimize backtracking, and thought it'd be good to break up the trip to Tulum there).

If I grab the rental car a few days earlier to do a CI daytrip, I could drive myself to Campeche/Edzna, too, if I keep them in the itinerary. I included them because (1) they’re supposedly relatively untouristed; (2) to add a second cute colonial town (described by Fodor’s as a best-kept secret) to Merida; and (3) Edzna both gets 'fewer visitors in a year than CI does in a single day' (my kind of place!) and is ‘considered by archaeologists to be one of the peninsula’s most important ruins.’ But it IS an odd little leg off from my otherwise sorta circular route. I am totally open to considering adding / substituting other sites; for the “ruins” portions of my trip, I simply wanted to aim for a good blend of amazing settings and reconstructed vs. unexcavated.

Hopefulist, -yes!-I had totally investigated your Flickr/blog during my earlier research - looks like you were at Chichen at the perfect time of day! I *so* agree that I don’t want to eat up a ton of time in frequent transit, but Isla is teeny, no? and I sorta of figured the very close distance between PdC/Coz reduced the ‘transit time-wasting’ factor to some extent. I am definitely open to just basing myself in PdC or Coz and simply visiting the other; probably visiting Cozumel and staying in PdC, I’d think. I do want to include a little taste of nightlife in my trip, and I think Playa might hit the right level of not-too-craziness… generally for a “big night out,” I like to visit a place for a pre-dinner/sunset cocktail, then walk around and people watch a bit, break for dinner at another place, stroll a bit more, perhaps stop in at a bar/club for a final cocktail, then walk home.
kinkajou007 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 9th, 2013, 11:28 AM
  #7
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 2,729
Sounds nice, been to all those places except Coz and Merida. Just spent 4 nights on Isla last month, 3 at Posada del Mar and last night at Villa Rolandi. Had a blast, followed by 6 nights in Akumal.
CI is nice, check and see if the night show is still on, there was a post at least 4 months ago on TripAdvisor that it was closed. We stayed at Hotel Hacienda Chichen Itza when we visited Ek Balam which is a terrific ruin. Nice and does not get the tour groups that Mayaland does (although you can escape them there as well). Great pool, beautiful grounds.
We loved Tulum and drove there twice this past trip, once we went to Ziggy's at Cabanas Tulum for drinks and snacks, then we went to OM (you have to get your picture taken on their famous bench) for drinks and pizza. They charge for using their beds and loungers (we got them down to 150 pesos pp) but they apply it toward your food and drink. Second trip was to the pueblo and La Zebra (great shrimp tacos).
Have fun, sounds wonderful.
jamie99 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 9th, 2013, 12:51 PM
  #8
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,109
The problem with transitioning every other day isn't just that you have a few hours to most of the day on a bus or in a car, but that you're constantly packing and unpacking, setting out, arriving, checking in, checking out, etc. If a transition looks to take 2 hours, figure it will take 3 or 4 at least in that part of the world and then add a few hours for the other things I mention.

Honestly, the trip you've planned would be a nightmare to me. By leaving a few stops out and getting the timing right for the Maya sites it could be awesome. Happy trails!
hopefulist is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 9th, 2013, 04:18 PM
  #9
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 2,636
Way too busy for me. I would skip Playa del Carmen - used to be nice years ago, but I'm not keen on it now.
SusanInToronto is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 9th, 2013, 05:44 PM
  #10
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 32
Thanks Jamie - your recent trip sounds great! I didn't know about the Om bench before you mentioned it (my research thus far has been, 'what places to visit'; haven't started plotting what to see IN them, yet).

Oh dear, two votes for 'nightmare'?? D: And I thought my two long-ish stints in Merida and Tulum rendered my plans virtuously slow-paced! I actually usually do 2- and 3-day stops throughout an entire “first time there” trip to get an overview of a place, so I am accustomed to moving briskly. I figure it helps me determine where I want to spend MORE time on return trips.

Admittedly, it's giving me pacing difficulties to try to kick off the trip with a couple mellow beach days, ensure I hit Merida on a weekend, and keep together the bits-that-can-be-done-car free. Maybe I need to sacrifice my ideal of starting and finishing the trip with beaches, and fly into Merida and out of Cancun instead. I soooo wanted to start off with intense unwinding in Isla Mujeres, but I suppose its more important to spend as much time as possible ENJOYING my chosen locations.

Susan, what’s changed about Playa? I was looking to it as my less-crazy but still-lively alternative to Cancun. Victim of its own popularity? Tbh, it's *Cozumel* I'm a little unsure of: sleepy at night, disgorging cruise ship passengers all day, car rental required for thorough exploration, and famous for world-class diving, which I'm not sure yet my trip budget will comfortably accommodate (perhaps snorkeling in all the various places I'm visiting will suffice? I never felt I missed out by only snorkeling when I was in HI, for example).
kinkajou007 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 9th, 2013, 09:01 PM
  #11
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 4,109
Lots of people choose to move more quickly on trips than I would. I think usually they want to 'cram in' as much as they can when - imo - they're actually diluting their time to explore and enjoy by spending such a high percentage of their time transitioning. Very few people would actually say that the packing up/checking out/sitting on buses/checking in parts are their top travel priority but with a fast paced itinerary you might be spending much more time on those things than anything else. Just my 2 pesos' worth - it's your trip so you can do whatever you want. ¡Buena suerte!
hopefulist is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 10th, 2013, 05:54 AM
  #12
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 3,372
You have a lot of moving around (I would skip Campeche), but it basically sounds fine. Even though Playa del Carmen has exploded the past few years, it's still a fun little city - two nights there sound good. If you are doing 5 nights in Tulum, you don't have to do Coba en route from Chichen Itza. The drive from Tulum to Coba is an easy 45 minutes, you can do it anytime during your Tulum stay. There are tons of things to do in the Tulum area (cenotes, Akumal, Sian Ka'an, etc), so 5 days is barely enough. Realize Tulum is basically two areas: the beach road and ruins, and the actual town, which is about 1.5 miles inland on rte 307. Either place would make a good home base, but being right on the beach would be my choice. With a 10:30 am flight, you could make it from Tulum if you leave by 6:30-7:00. I would not stay in Cancun. However Puerto Morelos is a very fun little town, and you might want to shuffle things around so you spend the last night or two there. Then you could leave for the airport around 8:00.
zootsi is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 10th, 2013, 05:55 AM
  #13
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 3,605
I own a condo in Playa and love it. 5th ave now goes a bit more north, past the pedestrian barriers at 32nd St., there are now restaurants and shops up to about 39th St and 5th, although it is still quiet up on that end of 5th. Otherwise, I am not sure how else it was changed in the last several yrs.

You can go diving on the same reefs from Playa, no need to go to Cozumel for that. Your assessment of Cozumel is exactly in line with ours, although I know some people on this board like Cozumel, but we have found it too sleepy at night, too many cruise passengers everywhere during the day (IMO this has killed the allure of the island), and need of a car to get around the island.

Why don't you go from Merida to CI in the afternoon and stay overnight to see CI early the next morning? if you are concerned about hotel cost, look at the Folores Alba hotel, nice and inexpensive, 2 miles down the rd. from CI.
emd3 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 10th, 2013, 07:48 AM
  #14
 
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 1,702
Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke's

"No plan of operations extends with certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main strength."

you need to step back and take a deep breath
Katzgar is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 10th, 2013, 12:11 PM
  #15
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 2,729
No rule you have to pack and unpack, some do, I just lived out of my suitcase and when needed laundry done dropped it off at the lavanderia in Akumal, picked up next day, 40 pesos.
jamie99 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 10th, 2013, 03:47 PM
  #16
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 11,893
As a frequent business traveller, I am pretty adept at living out of my suitcase, but it still takes time to get everything back together and check out of a hotel. It is something that people need to factor in.

I agree about leaving Merida in the afternoon to get to CI in the evening - then see it first thing in the am. This is what we did and it was great. I loved being at CI first thing when hardly anyone else was there and would not have wanted to be there with the crowds. We rounded out that day with a visit to Valladolid, a cenote, Ek Balam, and then drove to Tulum. It worked out very well. When we were at CI in March, they weren't doing the light show though.
november_moon is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 12th, 2013, 12:55 PM
  #17
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 32
I really appreciate the input from everyone! Here's what I've done in response:

- Removed Cozumel and used that time to stay longer in Isla and Playa
- Eliminated Campeche (though it caused me great pain to do so) and Edzna
- Switched my time at CI to occur eeeeearly in the morning *after* staying on-site the night before
- Booked a room at Puerto Morelos for the night before departure to be a bit closer to the airport

Now, I am considering adding one more day to the trip to increase my Tulum time... it depends on how many days I should allocate to Merida. I am currently there from mid-day Thursday to early morning Tuesday. I'm thinking I can steal a day from Merida and add it to Tulum; if that's not advisable, then I'll move back my planned flight day. I guess I should post this as a separate question!
kinkajou007 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 12th, 2013, 01:45 PM
  #18
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 3,605
So Thurs night (go to Parque Satna Lucia for live Yucateca music and traditional dancing) in Merida, but then Friday you are doing day trip to Uxmal, and spending only 2 days, Sat, and Sun, in Merida, is that right?

if you really want Campeche and Edzna, then go! there is a lot more to to in Merida, and the colonial architecture is just as good. and you have a lot of other ruins in the trip, but if you have a burning desire to go to Campeche then go!
emd3 is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 13th, 2013, 03:07 PM
  #19
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 11,893
I'd add a day to the whole trip if you can - then you can spend your planned time in Merida and have an extra day in Tulum Best of both worlds. But then, given a choice, I will pretty much always choose adding a day to a trip.

Campeche was on my wishlist when we went to the Yucatan too, but we cut it from the itinerary in the interest of time - we just didn't want to shortchange Merida.
november_moon is offline  
Reply With Quote
Jun 14th, 2013, 08:13 AM
  #20
TC
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,859
Agree with others....way too much moving around. One of the things I enjoy the most about travel is getting to know local people. You haven't allowed yourself enough time anywhere to do that. Sorry....but it sounds more like a bucket list of places to check off, rather than a true encounter with the culture of Mexico.

I would combine the first three stops into one really great stay on Cozumel. You will have everything there that you can find in Isla or Playa and its WAY more authentic if you take the time to get away from the main street. Something you won't have time to do at any stop with only 2 nights.

Plus you will actually have time to enjoy the diving. From Isla it will take you most of the day to transfer to Cozumel, so you'll miss any diving that day. To go all that distance for only one day's diving seems a waste.

You say; "pop over to Playa del Carmen for a little more of a buzzing town than I will have encountered on the islands"....."I don’t care for shopping, tipsy crowds, or clubbing?"

These two statements seem to run counter to each other. I wouldn't be caught dead in Playa, personally, and especially if I didn't like touts, tipsy crowds and clubbing.

While I can't speak to all your destinations, I can make some suggestions about Cozumel. Consider a room at Hotel B and diving with Pepe Scuba (next door at the Coral Princess Resort). Set up a photo tour with Tati. She is SO MUCH fun. Take a cooking class. Eat in some of the many, many wonderful little restaurants. Spend Sunday night on the town square listing to music and dancing with locals. Head to Playa Azul on Sunday afternoon to salsa to a local band. Take a snorkeling tour with Tiger. Do the bar hop tour around the island - just to name a few.

http://www.hotelbcozumel.com/english/

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractio...Peninsula.html

http://cozumelphototour.blogspot.com/

http://www.cozumelbarhop.com/about_us.aspx

http://www.tigers-adventures.com/

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...Peninsula.html


Here is a wonderful article with suggestions for the Chicha portion of your trip:

http://www.cozumelmycozumel.com/Pages/KimsAdventure.htm


Reconsider. Slow down. Enjoy. Breathe.
TC is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On



All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:14 PM.