On the Mayan Riviera, Belizean islands and Chichen Itza: itinerary + photo diary

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My boyfriend and I had 2 1/2 weeks and wanted a mix of beach, adventure, history, and beer. This post is going to be a visual whistlestop through the main stops, the highs and the lows (cough cough, prolific seaweed).

We hit up the major stop off points along the east cost of Mexico, flying into Cancun, and visiting Playa Del Carmen, Tulum, took a small plane to San Pedro, then to Caye Caulker, back through to Mexico to see Chichen Itza and finished up in Cancun again to fly out. Our timings had the misfortune of clashing with Spring break, so we avoided the going out areas like the plague and stuck to our mission of finding some secluded beaches. It was also the first holiday I’ve taken where I hadn’t planned out all the details, so while some routes weren’t the most direct we did what we felt like doing every day, which is a great feeling! Let’s talk about it…

So, Cancun. The place no one says to stay, unless you want to partake in a white wet t-shirt contest. There is an element of truth to that. But it’s also definitely good for some things, so don’t turn up your nose without hitting up the empanadas. I went to Mercado 23 for a killer lunch, when I first learnt that one should not liberally apply a mystery sauce to your food (it was actually habanero sauce). But a great local environment, and if you were so inclined you could also pick up a piñata or two.

Mercado 23, Cancun

AND On our final night we went to an amazing Italian restaurant called Limoncello that is out on a deck over a lagoon and saw A CROCODILE. What wild animal did you see over dinner last night? Probably not a crocodile.

Cancun also has some beautiful white beaches (we’ll get onto that bit later), and this delectable aqua blue water: DSC_0613Playa del Carmen? It’s a party destination. Am I into partying? No. It might say something about it that I don’t actually have any photos of it. I mean, yes, there is blue water and white sandy beaches, but juxtapose that with hoards of sunburnt tourists and stag weekends and you’ll get what I’m trying to say. It’s the place you stop at to buy presents (i.e. cool painted skulls and Frida Kahlo coasters…both now heavily feature in my house), eat Haagen Dazs, and go to a beach club where you rent a sun lounger and pay by buying a five Coronas. Which was actually fine (a Corona was around £1), because I love sunshine and Coronas, but if that isn’t your vibe you can probably give Playa a miss.

Tulum. Could this be the most instagrammed place with a cocktail in hand wearing a fedora hat and staring wistfully out to sea? Probably. But you know what, it’s a cool place. It is SO much more relaxed than Cancun and Playa, has good food, lots of things to do like swimming in a Cenote (translation: cave – pictures are coming from a film camera I haven’t developed!) and its very own Mayan ruin.DSC_0035

Cool, right? Tulum’s the place to go for a relax. We also stayed in a gorgeous eco-hotel called Aqua Viva (tip: get a bigger room, the small rooms are hot!).

Aqua Viva Tulum

But there’s one thing I want to talk about. It was the elephant in the holiday room. The Caribbean coast has been inundated with sargassum seaweed for the last year. There isn’t anything you can do about it, but you should definitely know about it, because no one on instagram is gonna show you! Here is Tom just outside of the ruins (the ruins are on the beach cliff – really amazing), and the seaweed on here is probably the smallest amount we’d seen along the coast. Hotels that own beaches will clean it up, but if you’re taking a trip there, just brace yourself. It’s there and it doesn’t look like it’s moving any time soon. DSC_0045

From Tulum we took 1,000 modes of transport to get to the Belizean island of San Pedro. Note: if you plan to take the ferry from Chetumal, book it in advance. A beautiful accident of not getting on it, was this instead (AND for only USD$60 for two tickets!):

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San Pedro is super cool. You don’t really need more than a day there unless you are diving, because it is really just a very small island. The highlight, by far, was pootling around in this:

San Pedro, BelizeFact: there are more golf cars in San Pedro than actual cars. There are also piers all over the island that you can just jump off when you get hot, which is essentially the whole time. This was the one outside our hotel. Piers are important, because, seaweed.

San Pedro pier at sunset

(You’re going to soon start to see a theme. I am really obsessed with purple sunsets).

We then took a boat to another Belizean island called Caye Caulker, which I have to say was my favourite destination. It’s absolutely tiny. And that isn’t an exaggeration. You can stand in the middle and see the sea on both sides. The sea looks like this:

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It was what I would call the definitive island lifestyle. Palm trees, no shoes, no sense of time. It was so idyllic, and had just really lovely locals too. Take a look, judge the greatness for yourself.

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I also did my first dive as a qualified diver, but I’ll save that for another post!

We then headed back for Mexico, via a number of boats and what not, and headed for Valladolid. It’s a crumbly town with remnants of former glory, centred around a church. DSC_0371

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The real reason we stayed in Vallodolid was to use it as a base for seeing Chichen Itza. Ta da!

Chichen Itza, Mexico

If you didn’t know (I’ll forgive you if you don’t), Chichen Itza is one of the seven wonders of the world. And put simply, it was wonderful. 

Chichen Itza, Mexico

Chichen Itza, Mexico

So it was adventurous, beach-y, ruin-y, and fabulous. Stay tuned for more, including how my first real dive actually went, a lovely story about puppies, and the trip highlight. Can you believe it’s not included here? I couldn’t divulge all of my secrets in one post…

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