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Suggestions for a Unique, Non-Touristy quick trip to the CANCUN area??

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Apr 5th, 2014, 09:28 AM
  #1
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Suggestions for a Unique, Non-Touristy quick trip to the CANCUN area??

Hello fellow travelers,

I have never been in Mexico, yet, I live in California. Sad, I know. I will be flying into Cancun May 12 at 10:30 am and fly out on the 14th at 3:30pm. So that gives me 2 pretty solid days of checking stuff out. I figure I will hang out in Cancun on the 14th to make sure I'm easy able to get to the airport. So the 12th and 13th- I would like to check out other areas. I am a photographer and welcome awesome photographic opportunities.

*I absolutely love old places/ ruins, cool little towns, I'm interested in seeing some cenotes and I'm up for any kind of adventure. I wouldn't mind spending a few hours on some awesome beach (read: the non-touristy beaches).

*I dislike being around the touristy crowds, tourist traps, big casinos/resorts, unsafe areas.

Any side trips that are do-able in a day or day and half? Isla Mujeres? Puerto morelos? Really would like to see some old ruins and/or cenotes.

Also I welcome any ideas for great places to stay/eat. I'm a vegetarian but I do eat fish sometimes.

Please help! and Thank You in advance
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Apr 5th, 2014, 09:39 AM
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aktun chen cave and cenote; might be more touristy than it used to be, but still cool
Ek Balam (near Chichen Itza) and Coba Mayan ruins are far less touristy than Chichen Itza and fascinating (also check out newly found Muyil if you really want non-touristy)
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Apr 5th, 2014, 10:42 AM
  #3
kja
 
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Valladolid is a small colonial city that you might consider. It has a very large, deep, open-air cenote in town and easy access to two of the most beautiful underground cenotes imaginable (the Cenotes Dzitnup). It is also a good base for Ek'Balam and Chichen Itza.
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Apr 5th, 2014, 11:24 AM
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So, you, "absolutely love old places/ ruins, cool little towns, I'm interested in seeing some cenotes and I'm up for any kind of adventure. I wouldn't mind spending a few hours on some awesome beach (read: the non-touristy beaches)."

Well then, given your short time frame, I'd hightail it to Valladolid as soon as you land in Cancun. Valladolid has a strong Mayan presence, colonial city center, is near great cenotes, and Chitzen Itza or Ek Balam are just day trips out of there. The flamingo preserve of Ria Lagartos is also a day trip out of Valladolid (take pesos to Ria Lagartos, mostly a cash-economy).
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Apr 5th, 2014, 12:07 PM
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What is your budget and are you renting a car or using public transport or a private transfer?
Maybe check out Tulum, there are some real nice hotels there along the beach and you can check out the ruins. Closest cenote to Tulum would maybe be Manatee Cenote in Tankah, but you need a car or a taxi, it is a long hot walk, we picked up a French couple last May and they seemed very grateful for the ride. Across the street is a nice restaurant, Casa Cenote.
No need to "hang around" Cancun your last day, just drive or take a private transfer from where you are staying.
I like Valladolid also but not for this short of a trip.
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Apr 6th, 2014, 08:23 AM
  #6
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This is really great-- thank you everyone!

a couple more questions if you don't mind:

Is it safe for a solo female to be driving from Cancun to/from Tulum/Valladolid? Are the roads difficult to navigate/find my way?

I was able to move my flight so I arrive late the night before. So first thing early, early on Mon am, get a rental car and head straight to Tulum- stopping for a bit at Puerto Morales and either LabnaHa Cenotes or Sac Actun.. spend the night @ Tulum. on Tues head to Valladolid and spend the night here. Then make my way to the Cancun airport by 1 to catch my flight at 330pm.

I know this might seem rushed and if you think it really is un-doable, let me know. Then let me know which town you would choose- Tulum or Vallodolid? I tend to wake up very early and make the most out of my days. If I saw at least one cenote and one ruin, I'd be a happy girl.

thanks again for all your help!
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Apr 6th, 2014, 08:31 AM
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I'd choose Valladolid, too - cute, fascinating, easy to get to, and a great base for Chichen Itza (get there when it opens), Ek Balam, cenotes, etc. If you love birds arrange transport to San Felipe on the gulf coast - tons of flamingos.

My photos with blog and travelogue links on the main page of each collection are below in case you're interested - all my recommendations from two 2010 visits to the region are embedded there. Happy trails!
http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections
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Apr 6th, 2014, 09:44 AM
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No problems driving the main highway to Tulum. (Don't think there's much to see in Puerto Morelos that you won't see in Tulum.) From Tulum the next early a.m., you could stop at Coba on the way to Valladolid; fabulous ruins, pretty easy to see a lot in a short time. The the afternoon wandering the colonial stuff in Vallodolid, then to the airport the next day.
Beach, cenote, ruins, colonial town; a whirlwind, but fun.
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Apr 6th, 2014, 09:53 AM
  #9
kja
 
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Actually, I do think you may be trying to do too much -- and I travel hard, too! I flew into Cancun, went to Puerto Morelos, on to Tulum, and from there to Valladolid, but I spent about 5 days on that leg of my trip. OK, so you wouldn't be doing everything I did, but you would be spending a LOT of time in transit and you would end up with very little time for the highlights of your quick trip. FWIW, I wasn't all that impressed with Puerto Morelos, except for the snorkeling, and I think there are probably better places to snorkel if that is your priority. And while I agree that the beach at Tulum is stunning, it is very touristy and resort-oriented, which didn't sound like what you want. The town of Tulum didn't appeal to me at all.

If you want to visit Chichen Itza and Ek-Balam -- and I think it would be good to see both, as they are quite different, visit the Cenotes Dzitnup and Cenote Zaci, and see some of Valladolid's colonial highlights and charm, I think the time you have is perfect -- particularly with your extra night.

I visited these places as a solo female, but didn't have a car for this part of my trip to the region. If you do plan to drive in the area, be sure to read up on rules -- and norms -- of the roads, as some are quite different than in the US. Any good guidebook should cover them. I found the Moon Guide the most useful of the half dozen guide books I used when planning my trip to the region.
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Apr 6th, 2014, 11:30 AM
  #10
 
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With only 2 nights, I agree that you're trying to take in too much. If it were me, I would head for Isla Mujeres. We only had 2 nights to spend in the area before we had to head for a family wedding last year. We thoroughly enjoyed Isla Mujeres.

Here's the link to the post I did: http://www.fodors.com/community/mexi...ichen-itza.cfm

I don't think you'd have any trouble on the road to Tulum. As others have said, it's an easy drive. Chichen Itza takes some time and you really do have limited time.
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Apr 6th, 2014, 12:18 PM
  #11
 
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Well, I travel solo since my husband passed away 5 years ago and I have no problem driving solo. Highway 307 is a nice wide 4 lane road that goes all the way along the coast. I usually use Easyway for my rental car, once I used Cancun Renta Car, both were fine, they pick you up and take you to their office, same on return, take ALL the insurance and read up on gas scams, basically get out of car, make sure they zero out the pump, as for a specific amount rather than "fill her up" and try and pay using 100 peso notes.

Not sure what kja is talking about, you are going in May (so am I)which is off season and the beaches are not crowded at all and there is not a single AI hotel in Tulum along the hotel zone beaches, most are small cabana type hotels. My friends stayed at Cabanas Tulum which has AC from 7pm to 7am and provides a free breakfast (anything off their menu)and they supposedly just installed a pool (AC and pools are rare in Tulum). Have a great trip.
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Apr 6th, 2014, 02:04 PM
  #12
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revised edition #428:

Since I fly in late and don't want to stay in cancun, I thought I'd spend the first night @ Puerto Morelos..

get a car in town the next am and spend the day driving towards Tulum and take a few sights (**do you think I can do Coba in the afternoon?) in along the way. Drive to Valladolid by the evening of night #2 and spend the night there. I'm quite sure that will be a *long day* but I can easily get up at 6am and go strong until 6 or 7pm...

I hear the drive is approx an hour from PM to Tulum. And a little more than an hour from Tulum to Valladolid. (this is not considering the 100's of stops I'll be making). Can anyone confirm? I think renting a car is the only way to go.

Spend day #3 checking out Valladolid a bit and hopefully a cenote? Spend night #3 in Valladolid. Spend a bit of the am here before heading back to PM to return the car and make my way to the airport.

can I get an aye?
btw- you guys have been so great in helping me 'shape' my trip... thanks again!!
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Apr 6th, 2014, 02:15 PM
  #13
kja
 
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I think this plan seriously shortchanges Valladolid and the magnificent ruins that are easily reached from it. But it's your trip!
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Apr 6th, 2014, 03:16 PM
  #14
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ok- I've been doing a bunch more research now that I know what I'm narrowing in on. I'm thinking to myself "K.I.S.S!" (keep it simple stupid!) I am listening to your suggestions/advice!

Majority rules- and in this case- Valladolid clearly wins...

So I think I will cut out Tulum

I'm thinking- Fly in, stay somewhere by the airport, pick up a car in the am, head straight to Valladolid, spend 2 days there (will research that further- thank you for the suggestions- keep em coming!), head back early in the am and check out the coast near Puerto Morelos. Return the car and head back to the airport....

this seems much more do-able....
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Apr 6th, 2014, 03:35 PM
  #15
kja
 
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Yes, much more do-able! And you can play it by ear that last morning.
BTW, KISS has just become my new favorite acronym.
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Apr 6th, 2014, 05:55 PM
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Better!
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Apr 6th, 2014, 06:28 PM
  #17
 
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Had a delicious lunch last month at this Valladolid restaurant

http://tabernadelosfrailes.com/
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Apr 7th, 2014, 06:44 AM
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Your plan sounds fine. Valladolid is a nice little city. Relize that in May it will be hot. We stayed a the Meson del Marques Hotel, which is a very nice Mexican colonial style hotel with a pleasant restaurant and swimming pool in it's inner courtyard. Puerto Morelos is a fun fishing/vacation town, a little funky but with more of a real Mexican feel than most coastal resort towns. There is an interesting handicrafts market at the south end of town. I personally would do one night in Valladolid and 2 nights in Puerto Morelos, since there is so much to see on the coast, including the fabulous beaches and ruins at Tulum.
Yes Tulum is somewhat touristy, but in a eco-friendly, new agey way; and Tulum pueblo is an experience with it's restaurants and shops on the main drag and 'real' Mexican neighborhoods on it's back streets. One driving tip - if you decide to drive south from Puerto Morelos, when approaching Playa Del Carmen, stay in the middle or left lane, which is an overpass to bypass the busy downtown traffic.
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Apr 10th, 2014, 05:30 PM
  #19
 
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Alrighty then, you said KISS so here it is. Your planning is unreasonable to say the least. I lived in PDC for close to a year and know my way around... There are many red flags that pop up here, especially if you have never been in the area.
1- the airport is in the middle of nowhere. Find a taxi, negotiate a price and find a small hotel in or near Cancun.
2- You want to rent a car, then be carefull and bring a good map, is your spanish acceptable ?
3- Forget Puerto Morelos, there is absolutely nothing there but a small fishing village that time forgot.
4- Tulum, more popular than PM but it is out of your way unless you wish to visit Coba, which is well worth it, moreso than Chichen Itza.
5- I am confused as to why you want to visit Valladolid as once you have seen the town square and the cenote, it remains a busy mexican city which takes about 2 hours at least to get there, depending on which route you choose.

I know that I sound like the Grinch here but you dont have the luxury of time for all the logistics involved here.
Why dont you head on down to PDC, (forget the rental) take the ADO bus at the airport which costs 140 pesos and make PDC your home base, find a nice little hotel room (there are dozens) Afterwords you can either take the colectivo or the ADO bus again and visit Tulum or Coba or Cozumel or Akumal. You will appreciate your trip so much more and will want to come back for more.
Sorry, if I came on a little strong, but I prefer to be practical and helpful than all warm and fuzzy and unrealistic.
Rohelio
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Apr 10th, 2014, 10:54 PM
  #20
kja
 
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I don't understand and/or don't agree with Rohelio's comments.

1. If the OP arrives at a decent hour, I don't see any reason why she shouldn't proceed to Valladolid, although your point could be a good one if she is arriving late. If it is late enough that staying in Cancun overnight makes most sense, it still would not change my recommendation for her to visit Valladolid.

2. I agree that maps and caution are good. I had no problems renting a car elsewhere in the Yucatan with minimal Spanish. Reserving the car in advance is worth considering and would minimize both the time required to pick the car up and any problems associated with language. I've already encouraged the OP to be sure she learns about local driving laws and norms -- stuff she can learn with any decent guide book.

4. I haven't been to Coba, but I have been to about a dozen Mayan ruins. I thought Chichen Itza very well worth visiting and I think it would be a good compliment to Ek' Balam. I'm sure Coba is worth seeing, but as you point out, the OP has very limited time and so would do well to focus her energies. Chichen Itza is much nearer to Valladolid than Coba.

5. Valladolid is WAY more than a town square and cenote and, as already noted, it is a good base for a number of interesting places. In fact, the time available to the OP has seems, IMO, perfectly suited to a very enjoyable visit to Valladolid, time in which she can see two very different ruins, 3 lovely cenotes of different types (4, if you count the one at Chichen Itza), and a beautiful colonial city (complete with a lovely cathedral, interesting convent, pleasant public square with interesting nearby shops and vendors, a combination of renovated neighborhoods and areas where people still live in traditional Mayan homes, and even an little museum that I thought worth a few moments). If she chooses to do so, she can stay at, and/or have at least one meal at, the already-mentioned El Meson del Marques, and so have a lovely experience of a colonial-style mansion with courtyard and some very good Yucatanian cuisine.

I saw/experienced ALL of that in a bit less time than the OP will have, and I did it by public transportation, so am quite certain that my recommendation is practical and realistic in terms of time. I admit that I had to shepherd my time VERY carefully to make it all fit in the time I had, which is why I advised the OP to give a bit more time to Valladolid than I did. She says she has the energy and willingness to make the most of her limited time, and I have no reason to doubt her. Too, from my experience, I would think that a rental car would give the OP even more flexibility than I had.

So I again say to ooocasey -- go for it -- I think you'll have a great time!

But maybe things have changed since I visited the area; if so, I trust that Rohelio or others will provide additional information to inform your choices.
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