No matter how much I travel and how much I see, I don’t think that I will ever be cured of my wanderlust and my desire to explore new and different parts of the world.
I recently returned from a trip to the Mayan Riviera and the state of Quintana Roo where I saw the clearest blue waters and the whitest sand beaches I have ever seen. I witnessed my first cenote (a pit that exposes clear groundwater), I ate delicious Mexican food from the Yucatan, I felt the hot and humid climate of the Caribbean, chatted with locals, watched some live music, rode the streets of Tulum on a bicycle, and saw the ancient Mayan ruins from a distance (unfortunately because of Covid, I could not take a tour).
All of these amazing experiences fed me a bit of travel medicine and provided me with a quick fix, but no, I am not cured of my never-ending wanderlust. I have come to the conclusion and an understanding with myself that this will be something that I will be chasing for the rest of my life and it’s okay…in fact, I’m excited about it. It’s a big world with lots to see, lots to experience, and lots to learn.
Each time I return from a trip I get a feeling of homesickness for the road. It’s like I have received such a rush from the new scents, sights, and unknown, and when I return home it’s like everything feels so safe and calm and quiet. I miss my time on the road and I find myself yearning for more. It’s unshakable and something I can only somewhat cure by planning my next trip.
A Journey to Mexico’s Mayan Riviera
The CBX crossing from San Diego’s border with Mexico is a great option for those looking to fly into dozens of Mexican cities without paying the international fees that you would expect flying out of a major U.S. city. Although my flight from Tijuana to Cancun was quite expensive this time around (late booking, popular flight destination, etc), I’d highly recommend taking this route.
Our flight landed in Cancun just before sunrise and as I set foot out of the terminal, I was immediately confronted by the warm, humid air of the Caribbean. After searching for a bus, we discovered that they did not operate until a bit later, so we opted for a taxi which drove us the 45 minutes or so to our destination in Playa del Carmen. Our private room (mix between a hotel and apartment) was small but clean and had a beautiful, large outside shared patio with some couches, a little bar top, and even a bathtub ($21 per night + fees). It was shaded well, quiet, and in the far distance was the Caribbean Sea.
For the next three days, I spent lots of time walking up and down Quinta Avenida, which is a long pedestrian zone filled with restaurants, shops, and bars. To the east, just a few minutes walk is the water and to the west a few blocks are where you can get away from the tourist area and find delicious, inexpensive food, such as El Fogon (pictured below).
Tip for Inexpensive & Authentic Food
No matter which city you are in, you are always going to find food and drinks is more expensive right around the main tourist spots. In Mexico, look for small little homes that serve food directly from a garage or carport. These spots are usually run by a family with Mom or Grandma working in the kitchen. It is in these spots where you will find amazing home cooked food and incredible prices.
Finding Quieter & Beautiful Beaches
The beaches around Playa del Carmen are incredibly beautiful, but during our stay, there was a lot of seaweed along the coast (read why this is happening), so we decided to go explore some of the beaches a bit further from the city. We ended up at a beautiful, white sand beach with crystal blue waters called Xpu-Ha. There is a 60 peso fee to drive down the dirt road to the beach, but some nice bathrooms and a shower can be used. Along the beach is a small, rustic place to get some food, drinks, and some spots where you can post up for the day.
If you’re looking for another beautiful beach that’s less hectic, I’d recommend driving north along the coast to Puerto Morelos. This smaller fishing village was quiet when we arrived and had some quaint restaurants and cafes very close to the water. It’s a town that I could have spent more time roaming around and spending the day bouncing from spot to spot. We had a very good breakfast at a small restaurant called Lola y Moya.
Favorite Spots in Playa del Carmen
- La Perla Pixan Cuisine – A bit expensive, but good atmosphere, great service, good food, and some live music.
- Chiltepin Marisquillos – Fresh seafood, nice restaurant in a good part of town. The prices were good for being in a nice, popular restaurant.
- El Fogon – Authentic, inexpensive food. Eat where the locals eat.
- Random homes that convert into restaurants – look for these gems!
Taking a Colectivo to Túlum
If you don’t mind drivers that drive like a bat out of hell or squeezing in with total strangers, and you like spending less money, then a colectivo is for you. These buses or taxi’s can be found throughout Mexico and are an amazing way to go longer distances for a fraction of the cost of a private shuttle or regular taxi.
We hopped on a colectivo van like the one shown above and took the 1-hour trip south to Túlum, where we had booked a room at Posada Tumben Kaa for 2-nights ($30/night). The room was nice and clean, well decorated, had a pool, and was a great price. The only downfall was that it was about a 20-minute walk to the main drag of the city and was in a neighborhood that felt a little rough at night. Luckily, the hotel also offered complimentary bikes, which was the best way to get around town and down to the beach (about a 45-minute ride).
The Beaches & Resorts of Túlum
Here is the undeniable truth about the beaches and areas around Túlum. The beaches are absolutely beautiful with clear blue waters, white-sand beaches, and jungle fauna lining the edges of the coast. However, what was once a small getaway has now emerged as a hotspot for partygoers, Instagram influencers, and feels a bit more like a contrived beach vacation for those that are looking to see and be seen. The traffic in and out of the south end of the beach town is wall-to-wall with taxis and beach access is hard to find (unless you want to spend a minimum of $25+/per person to access a beach club).
Tip: If you’re looking for something a bit more low-key and don’t want to pay the fees, turn left at the end of Avenida Coba. Don’t get sucked into the vultures that try to force you to pay. Find a spot on the beach, kick back, and enjoy.
I had imagined that this town would be a cool, laid back vibe but was confronted more with a party atmosphere with overpriced hotels, restaurants, and electronica music blasting along the beach. It wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned, but during the couple of days spent here, we still discovered some good spots and had the most enjoyable time finding freedom on a bicycle (which is a must because taxi’s here will charge you a 150 pesos ($7-8) to go just a mile or two, which is an absolute ripoff.
Favorite Spots in Túlum
- Brew Tulum – Located inside Casa Tulum and has amazing coffee, great atmosphere and friendly staff
- Batey Mojito & Guarapo Bar – Delicious mojitos, live music, good people watching
- Antojitos La Chiapaneca – Tacos here are just 13 pesos and they are delicious. I love the pastor tacos here. Small, authentic, and real feel of Mexico
- Unknown Name – Located directly across from the main ADO bus station. Great breakfast, good outdoor vibes, and friendly service.
- Potheads – The most chill place with good prices that I found down by the beach. Their Happy Hour was Buy One Get One Free Beers and Cocktails from 2-7pm. Friendly service, good music, and not so fancy like the mega resorts.
Ready for More Mexico Travel
Whenever I return from any trip, I get the bug to do more travel. Trips to Mexico always surprise me and it leaves me wanting to return time and time again. There’s so much rich culture, incredible food, and unique destinations that make it such a great place. Yes, there are times when you discover a bit of grit and areas with lots of trash, and dilapitated buildings, but when you find a good place, you are met with such great warmth and hospitality, and you can’t help but crave more of it.
I’m looking forward to booking another trip soon…next up…possibly Guanajuato.