Mexico City and... Cancun?

Old Oct 20th, 2013, 05:52 AM
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Mexico City and... Cancun?

Hi everybody,

I'm thinking about extending an upcoming business trip to the US West Coast in April 2014 by adding a week or a few days more in Mexico (where I have never been so far).
By logistics, I am limited to airports in the Bay Area to start that side trip and could go to Mexico City first (it's also by far the cheapest nonstop destination in Mexico from SFO).
Interests: architecture (the old and the new), people watching, strolling around, some museums/arts.., more the Frida Kahlo paintings, murals, not THAT much "pre-historic stuff" (some is okay, though)

Q1: Is 4-5 days in Mexico City "enough"?

As I cannot fly nonstop from MEX to Munich anyway, I thought about adding another place in Mexico from where I can - and the only option will be Cancun. Plus airfare costs next to nothing.

Q2: Does Cancun make sense when I do not only want to lie on the beach but see more from that part of the country?
Q3: In Cancun, are you confined to the huge resorts or can you also stay in the area more individually (e.g. smaller hotels)
Q4: If the area is "worth" exploring, I assume that I should rent a car, right?

Thanks in advance for any input, criticism, ideas...
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Old Oct 20th, 2013, 06:24 AM
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Cancun is like a Mexican Miami Beach - however what we (and many others) do is rent a car at the airport, and drive south to one of the great small towns on the coast. There's Puerto Morelos, Akumal, and Tulum. Here you will find everything from small hotels and beach cabanas to large resorts. If you want a bigger town, check out Playa del Carmen. From these towns you can explore Mayan Ruins, snorkel, fish, and of course hang out on some of the world's most beautiful beaches! Go to locogringo.com for lots of info.
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Old Oct 20th, 2013, 01:55 PM
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Thanks a lot! Sounds just like what I was looking for!
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Old Oct 21st, 2013, 05:16 AM
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use gmaps to look at these places. if you go to Tulum also look at belize but you would need more time. there is a great deal of Maya stuff in the yucatan but PDC, Tulum and Cancun lack any architectural interest. Valladolid and merida do have some.
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Old Oct 21st, 2013, 07:27 AM
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I must disagree about Tulum - perhaps the most photographed Mayan ruins anywhere are right on the beach in Tulum. Coba, one of the largest Mayan ruin sites, is a 45 minute drive into the jungle from Tulum.
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Old Oct 21st, 2013, 07:36 AM
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the OPer is interested more in architectural stuff and less ancient stuff which the ruins at Tulum are. The town of Tulum has no redeeming architectural qualities at all except perhaps as an example of the modern concrete block style of architecture.
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Old Oct 21st, 2013, 11:44 AM
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Tulum is a stunningly beautiful setting but is overrun by cruise ship day-trippers. We were advised to go in the late afternoon when they had supposedly left but it was still packed with day-trippers down from Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Chichen Itza is amazing but again, way too many people unless you go in the second it opens in the morning. Our favourite ruin by far is Palenque. Again an early start is best but it's not as crowded and is spectacular. (We did this in 2006 when we drove our camper van from Toronto Canada to Yucatan. Amazing trip!) I 've heard the ruins are even more packed with people than they were then. Glad we did it when we did!
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Old Oct 21st, 2013, 04:27 PM
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Well there IS a downtown Cancun outside the resort area. There are some hotels there.

But if I were in your shoes I'd head south and stay in or near Playa del Carmen would be my pick. It's only an hour south and offers much more diversity than the resort strip of Cancun beach.
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Old Oct 21st, 2013, 05:34 PM
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With your interests, I would suggest Merida -- some very interesting colonial architecture, great people watching, an excellent archeology museum, a colorful market, and a tasty restaurant in what was once Frida Kahlo's house (La Casa de Frida), complete with some of her art work. And if want to see a ruin or two, Uxmal is relatively close and is magnificent.

Hope that helps!
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Old Oct 21st, 2013, 06:19 PM
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You say that you are not that much into pre-historic stuff. In that case dont bother with Tulum where evrything is roped off anyway. Cancun has even less to offer. IMO, I would head for Plays del Carmen, there are still small hotels available not far from the beach. But more importantly if you have time, then by all means, go to Merida (weekend preferably) (5 hours by bus) from PDC. You will find culture, theatre, music, Frida Kahlo, architecture, fine restaurants and a real sense of what Mexico is all about.
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Old Oct 21st, 2013, 06:40 PM
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Merida is (I believe) about 4 hours by bus from Cancun and about 3 hours by car.
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Old Oct 21st, 2013, 10:55 PM
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Thanks for all your replies. Very much appreciated!

And sorry for getting you on the wrong track with my misleading comment on the "old stuff".
What I actually meant was that I do like to visit something like the ruins or the colonial architecture which got mentioned - but not so much aisles full of pre-historic pottery in a museum. So pre-historic sites are very fine, pre-historic museums probably not so much. Or at least I would rank the former higher on my list than the latter.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2013, 06:47 AM
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You will want to visit the Anthropology Museum in Mexico City. Do not fear being bored by aisles full of pottery!
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Old Oct 22nd, 2013, 05:51 PM
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I still encourage you to consider Merida, although I will now make a stronger case for magnificent Uxmal. I thought it worth renting a car so I could spend a night near Uxmal (I stayed at the delightful Flycatcher Inn) because that allowed me both (a) a LONG visit to Uxmal and (b) time at several smaller sites on the Ruta Puuc that I had almost to myself. Someone else mentioned the weekends in Merida -- on Friday and Saturday evenings and on Sunday days, the historic core of the city is closed to cars and lots of markets and dance performances and other activities take over -- very enjoyable and some of the best people-watching I've experienced anywhere. And as I already mentioned, the archeology museum in Merida is excellent; I didn't mention that it is small, is not just a bunch of pots, AND can easily be seen in an hour or so.
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Old Oct 25th, 2013, 03:58 PM
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Hi Cowboy - Nice to "see" you on this side of the world Like others have said, Cancun makes a great entry point into the Yucatan Peninsula, but I wouldn't stay in that city either. United runs a daily non-stop flight from SFO to CUN.

We visited the Yucatan in March and had a great time - definitely will be going back. There is an amazing amount to see. You can rent a car or use the buses - ADO is a nice 1st class bus system that is cheap and pretty convenient.

Merida is a fabulous city - we had a very good time there. And it sounds like it fits what you are looking for. It does have an international airport, but there aren't a lot of flights, so you might not get the schedule and/or price you are looking for. You wouldn't need a rental car in Merida at all - the city center is compact and taxis are plentiful and cheap. For trips outside the city though, you might want a car.

Uxmal, south of Merida, was my favorite mayan ruin (we visited 9 sites on our trip), so if you go to Merida, I definitely recommend Uxmal - if you only see one site, this is an excellent one. We stayed in Santa Elena at the Pickled Onion B&B, which we loved - we heard good things about the Flycatcher too, so I don't think you could go wrong with either should you choose to spend a night or 2 in that area. Public transport is pretty sparse though, so renting a car would be a good idea.

If Merida is too far, the town of Valladolid is another nice place. It is not as large of a city and doesn't have the museums and things, but it has some of the same atmosphere - colonial architecture, lively squares, etc. And there are ruins close by (most notably Chichen Itza and Ek Balam) along with many cenotes. Ek Balam was my 2nd favorite site.

We spent our beach time in the area in Tulum - we liked that area a lot - small hotels on the beach, very laid back, easy to combine sightseeing with beach time from there.
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Old Oct 28th, 2013, 09:11 AM
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Go from Mexico City to Merida, and go to Cancun just long enough to catch your plane back to Germany. Day trips from Merida can be arranged on the spot.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...57623026501426
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Old Oct 29th, 2013, 03:40 AM
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Thanks for all that great input!

Fra- thanks for the advice re. the Anthropology museum in Mexico City.

November moon.. I had spotted the nonstop from SFO to CAN but as the only item fixed in my agenda is the day I can depart from the Bay Area (i.e. 4/11) that flight is 3 or 4 times more expensive than the nonstop to Mexico City which I can get for 150. And I wanted to see the megapolis anyway


I'm currently leaning to split my time (appr. 1 wk) in Yucatan between
- a few nights in Tulum (beach, Tulum and Copa sites, maybe a little exploring of the Sian-Ka'an natural park)
- and a few nights in / near Merida (Uxmal included, thanks again, that site I had not even noticed so far),
- and maybe one night near Valladolid to see Chichen-Itza/ Ek Balam on my way back to Cancun airport.
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Old Oct 29th, 2013, 07:35 AM
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Hmmm… I can't question your choices, but it is ambitious. I visited all the places you mention except Coba, did it at a FAST pace, and found it took me a bit longer. Specifically: I spent 2 nights in Tulum which gave me time for a morning visit to the Tulum ruins and an afternoon/evening tour of Sian Ka'an. The next morning, I left for Chichen Itza and then on to charming Valladolid (where I stayed the night) in time to roam it a bit before a late dinner. The next day, I visited Ek Balam and a couple of stunning cenotes just outside Dzitnup (near Valladolid) and went on to (… Izamal and then, nearly 24 hours later, on to Merida - so we can pretend I went straight to Merida for the purpose of understanding the time requirements). Got to Merida in time to visit it's wonderful, small archeology museum and take part in weened evening festivities. Give Merida at least one full day (if not two), not counting Uxmal. Uxmal is utterly fabulous and can be done on a single day trip or, even better, spend 2 days so you can see some of the other sites of the Ruta Puuc -- you may well find yourself alone in an ancient Mayan city. (I did! Awesome.) You can stay at the Flycatcher Inn near Uxmal.

BTW, for this part of the Yucatan, I found The Moon Guide extremely helpful.

Hope that helps!
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