Ahh, Mexico – the ideal getaway for Californians looking for an international adventure without spending days in transit or months in debt. Olé!
We took 6 beautiful days to explore the Mayan Riviera. Not as long as I would have liked but when it comes to adventuring, I’ll take what I can get. The ultimate destination was Tulum, via the Cancun airport and a 2-hour drive in a temperamental Volkswagen rental. I would begin with Cancun, but our time there filled me with such loathing that it couldn’t defensibly account for its own post. I’m sure it has tons of appeal for some and all due respect to those individuals – but alas, not me. Massive Vegas style-hotels, giant luxury shopping centers, wasted Spring Breakers, and commercialized restaurant chains (I can go to Outback Steakhouse in my own town, thankyouverymuch) are not really my travel/life vibe. The beach was nice, though?
So, upward and onward to Akumal. It’s a quick trip south from Cancun, but feels like worlds away. We stopped through for the afternoon to enjoy the proverbial white sand, palm trees, and also look into this sea turtle snorkeling situation I’d been reading about. We’d been a little too leisurely to make it in time for the snorkeling – rentals/tours end around 4pm there and we were too busy doing nothing to make that deadline. I was dying to see a turtle up close but didn’t let it get me down, as we were still early in the trip. The main heartbreak occurred from not being able to make good use of my new fancy underwater camera. Akumal is gorgeous and refreshing – all the views and vibes you’d expect from the Mayan Riviera without (or at least less of) the commercialism of Cancun.
– Snorkel tours from the main beach run $25 US per person, but are completely unnecessary. Rent snorkel gear from one of the dive shops (or better yet, BEFORE you enter the beach area altogether) and swim out to all the same spots that the tours go. You can literally just watch them move in their crowded, cattle-driven groups while you sip a cervesa from the beach, then wander out to the same spots at your leisure. So much sexier.
– Skip the overrated beachfront restaurants packed with (other) gringos and walked the 50 feet into “town” for some amazing tacos from sidewalk spot El Comal De Akumal for 65 pesos (about $4) a plate. You can also BYOB practically anywhere.
– When restaurants in Mexico say a salsa is “spicy” – they mean it. Heed warnings. Don’t be a hero.