Recommendations - 1st time travelers

Old Apr 4th, 2022, 09:56 AM
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Recommendations - 1st time travelers

I am looking for an area in Mexico that is close to the beach, where I can scuba dive. But also near some Mayan ruins and cenotes ( within a couple hours). Some other big things to us, is finding an area with some good towns that focus on Mexican culture, and not mainly focused on tourism.

It will be 2 adults, so places that are affordable but also decent. We do not need fancy resorts.
We love to explore and eat food (im vegan, so bonus points if they accommodate that). So we are open to hear about other activities in the areas too.

We are planning to go in June and would like to stay more towards central and northern Mexico.
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Old Apr 4th, 2022, 10:30 AM
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This is a tough one. The best diving (and the cenotes) are in the Yucatan, I believe. I have snorkeled off Playa del Carmen but never scuba dived. The reefs are impressive. However, it is not what I would call non-touristy. The nearest Mayan ruins would be Tulum -- a spectacular setting but the ruins themselves are not the finest. Merida is about three hours away from the coast. It's a lively city and not far from the great ruins of Uxmal and the Puuc cities. Halfway between is Villahermosa, quite authentic but lacking many attractions -- the temple at Ek Balam being a notable exception.

The colonial cities north of Mexico City are favorites but very far from the sea. Perhaps our local expert baldone can give you further guidance.

I'm afraid I can't help on vegan options either.
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Old Apr 4th, 2022, 11:19 AM
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My diver friends (I only snorkel) swear by Cozumel in the Riviera Maya. You can fly into Cozumel, or fly into Cancun (more frequent flights) and do the "bag drag" from the airport to the ferry in Playa del Carmen. There is also good diving and snorkeling in Akumal and Puerto Morelos. You will only find Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula (states of Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Campeche) athough there are some good ruins in Guatemala, etc.

If you have enough time you could split your time between Cozumel for the diving and somewhere on the mainland (Puerto Morelos is less touristy) for the ruins and cenotes. Besides the famous Tulum and Chichen Itza ruins, my two favorites are Coba and Ek Balam. I'm not as familiar with places in Yucatan state, as I have only stayed in Valladolid, Izamal and the Chichen Itza "hotel zone".
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Old Apr 4th, 2022, 06:25 PM
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The only diving anywhere near Central Mexico would be in the Gulf of Mexico, around Veracruz. Surprisingly, the area has a number reefs and wrecks, some 100's of years old. The wrecks, that is. Veracruz, the city, has a Mexican culture & food unique to the rest of the country, plus tons of history. Some fairly close towns worthy of exploring would be the colonial towns of Coatepec & Xico (coffee centers) and Xalapa, the latter having the best anthropology museum outside of Mexico City. No Mayan ruins nearby, but there are some Totonac ruins nearby. El Tajin, is an important site a long day trip from Veracruz, although currently closed. Prices in Veracruz are cheap, and you'd likely not see another gringo tourist. You should have no problem going vegan, but probably not as many options as youd find in the more touristy area of the Riviera Maya & Cozumel. Probably be best if you speak some Spanish. All that said, there are no cenotes in Veracruz, as far as I know. However, the deepest cenote in the world is in nearby Tamaulipas state.
Diving in Veracruz
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Old Apr 6th, 2022, 10:21 AM
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I agree that this is a tough one because you have competing criteria.

Yucatan state has a lot of what you are looking for: Mayan ruins, cenotes, towns and cities with plenty of culture that aren't centered on tourism, affordable, plenty of options that aren't resorts. However, while it does have some good beach towns, none are dive sites - you'd have to go somewhere else to dive. And this is southern Mexico, not northern or central.

Veracruz is a good option for all the reasons mentioned by baldone. It doesn't have everything you are looking for though - no cenotes, no Mayan ruins (other ancient sites, but not Mayan). You didn't mention if you speak Spanish, but I think it is much easier to visit Veracruz if you have at least passable Spanish.
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Old Apr 6th, 2022, 11:27 AM
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WOW! Those places all sound really awesome to visit. I did not know about the wrecks, and will be doing so extra research on those. I am hearing a lot of good things about Veracruz, and will be looking into it more. I appreciate the recommendations that you gave me. Do you have a favorite place to eat?
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Old Apr 6th, 2022, 10:55 PM
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The Caribbean coastal side (Cozumel) known for diving. For culture with less tourism, the inland colonial towns/cities. For cenotes and Mayan ruins, the Yucatan? Like others have already said, to truly fulfill everything on your wish list you'll need more than one destination in Mexico.


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Old Apr 7th, 2022, 01:28 PM
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How much time do you have? And are you ok with two or three sites rather than one? I'm more familiar with the Yucatán, so I'll focus on that:

The Caribbean coast (Cancún to Tulum) - I've been to music and dance festivals on the coast, but I don't think I'd choose this area otherwise. Even the formerly quiet towns are now either party destinations or all-inclusive resorts. Which is fun, if you're looking for a party. I don't know about diving and snorkeling, but I'm sure there are tours. Many of the cenote systems now have theme parks built around them, and didn't interest me - I preferred the quieter and more local cenotes further inland.

Isla Holbox and Isla Mujeres - Tourist destinations, but much more low key than the coast. These would be my choices for beach, diving, and snorkeling. The whale sharks start migrating here in June, though the population peaks in July. I haven't made it here during the summer, but friends have raved about swimming and diving with them.

Valladolid - A few hours inland. A nice town, but you come here for easy access to Ek Balam and Coba ruins. There's a huge cenote in town that all the local kids swim in. You can rent a bike and do an easy tour of the cenotes in the local villages, which makes more an *amazing* day.

Chichén Itzá - Forty minutes from Valladolid, but also an easy stop if you're taking the bus to Mérida. Chichén Itzá in the mornings is pure magic. Around noon it gets hot and thousands of tourists arrive by bus form Cancun, and it gets kind of gross.

Mérida - End here for food and culture, and easy day trips to more pyramids and the Celestún Biosphere Reserve (birds, crocs, and mangroves; it's super cool).

But that would take two weeks, maybe. For a week + you could fit in one of the islands and either Valladolid or
Mérida.
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Old Apr 8th, 2022, 07:48 PM
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Originally Posted by JessikaR View Post
WOW! Those places all sound really awesome to visit. I did not know about the wrecks, and will be doing so extra research on those. I am hearing a lot of good things about Veracruz, and will be looking into it more. I appreciate the recommendations that you gave me. Do you have a favorite place to eat?
Favorite restaurant was Gran Cafe Del Portal. Loud, & lively plus awesome breakfasts. However, their feature item was café con leche, o lechero, which is essentially strong coffee with steamed milk added to your taste poured from about a foot above your cup. Probably not an appealing offering to a vegan. Just a block off of the Zócalo. A Veracruz classic just the same.
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