My geography is pretty good, but admittedly I didn’t realise at first that Mexico had a carribean coastline. So with the promise of blue water, white sands and sun sun sun, rom and I decided it would be the perfect place to relax for the rest of our trip.
We arrived in Cancún on Wednesday, having spent most of the day on a 8 hour bus (which we spend most of on the floor in the aisle or standing, as it seems no one else was willing to give up their seat for women carrying newborn babies (Wtf México).
Our hostel here is actually really nice. It’s called hostal granada 6, and its basically a mansion which has been converted into a hostel.
Our first impression of cancun was a little disappointing. In all honesty, despite the pretty sea, Cancún is a bit shit. The city didn’t exist before the 70s (it was created by the government to attract tourists), so there is no culture or pretty buildings. It’s all hotels, some quite run down now actually. And although all of the beach is technically public, the hotels are blocking public access, so there’s very little beach actually available for people like us who aren’t staying on the hotel split.
Isla de las Mujeres
So after one day of cancun, we decided to look for something a little more inspiring. We headed to the nearby island, la isla de las Mujeres , which looked great online and in the guidebook. But again, tourists tourists everywhere. And this area is so expensive! It cost 200pesos to get onto the island, then everything on the island you have to pay extra for (E. G. To walk a little further along a cliff to get a better view, that’ll be 30pesos.)
Luckily we met two cool guys on the ferry there, one from Brazil and one from Germany. Together, we rented a golf cart (500pesos per day), which is the main format transport on the tiny island. Unfortunately we didn’t realise we needed a driving licence, so we thought we’d be walking, when luckily I realised if actually brought mine with me instead of keeping it safe in the locker at the hostel! How lucky!
So the keys to the cart were mine, and so I chauffeured the bunch around the island all day. First we visited the turtle farm (very depressing, poor turtles are just in plain tiled basins being molested by kids), then we carried on south to the rockier part of the island. We found a dirt track down to a cliff (placing our faith in the cart’s dodgy breaks) and explored a rocky beach free from the gringos which seem to populate the island.
Finally we headed to the playa norte to relax for the rest of the day, and it was gorgeous, but touristy.
Throughout our travels we’ve heard so many good things about Tulum, we decided we just had to go. We got a bus early in the morning to Tulum centre, then got a combi to the ruins (144+35 pesos), which were so beautiful! These are the ruins of an old Maya port, and now they are only home to hundreds of tourists and iguanas. The ruins even feature two beaches for swimming, although when we went one was closed as there were turtles hatching there. #cute
We then carried on to playa paraíso, which has been named as the world’s 4th most beautiful beach. And guess what, on the way we bumped into two French girls we had met in San Cristobal! So we caught up and went to the beach with them, rom and I finally treated ourselves to some coco locos.
Playa del carmen At about 5pm, we set off for playa del carmen, the next major beach town north of the city. We were couch surfing there, with a guy called Franco. We arrived a little early, so we grabbed some food then ran to Walmart to buy a last minute rosca de reyes for our host. I’ve couch surfed before in Germany, but this would be my first in Mexico. We met Franco at the bus station, then took a bus to his flat, a typical bachelor pad. He was Argentinian and worked in a bar, and himself has surfed all over Latin America. We chatted and went out for dinner (awkward as Rom and I had already eaten so we just watched him eat his burger while we stacked on chips). He didn’t have much room though, but generously gave us his bed while he slept on the floor! Then in the morning he showed us to the bus, and Rom and I headed to the beach.
Playa del Carmen has a really nice beach with waves, which were a little too fun for Rom and I (children at heart). We rented sun loungers for the day (75 pesos each), which included bathrooms and WiFi #basicneeds, and were a welcome change to getting seriously sandy (neither of us has beach towels so we’ve been braving the sand, it’s worked out easier to wash ourselves than our travel towels).
We had lovely sunshine, but at about 4pm the heavens opened, and we were treated to our first carribean storm. Of course, Mexican streets are never designed with drainage in mind, so the streets turned into lakes and rivers, which we sloppily traversed running to the bus. My waterproof phone case (#gringa #sorrynotsorry) proved itself once more, keeping my phone dry while all my other things in my overnight bag got wet.
We got back to the hostel, showed and sat down with tea and oreos, just like a family holiday in Normandy really..
All the pictures I’ve posted are mine and they look pretty great imo. Buuuut I couldn’t post this blog without adding that this area doesn’t always look so amazing. Yeah the beach is great, but turn to you left, too many tourists, look down, see more litter than sand, look in the streets and see dirty concrete, crumbling buildings and poverty. A real issue, but unfortunately not so photogenic so it isn’t shared enough. This region exists and suffers just for tourists, and admittedly that includes me, but I don’t think we’ll be coming back here. Maybe Tulum, which was the least affected by this problem, but we’ll stick to the “real” mexico for now, which is respected by travellers. We’ve had a great time here, but this area, which was super fragile to begin with (it was originally a split with huge mangrove swamps either side), is now at breaking point. Locals doubt it could survive another hurricane, and since Wilma in 2005 even more mangrove (vital coastal protection) has been brutally bulldozed (killing hundreds of animals) to make way for hotels. It’s a beautiful area. But it’s slowly being murdered by hotel tycoons and careless gringos, who see this place as nothing more than their holiday escape, and as they’re on holiday, necessary daily duties such as recycling and cleaning up don’t seem to apply.