Marvel in the Mayan culture and then discover the most beautiful beaches
My personal list of handy Mexico travel tips. All first hand knowledge - written during my travels in Mexico.
All the tips have been categorised into sections. Just click on each tab to fully open and start reading.
Mexico travel tips - cities
- The Cancun peninsula is shaped like the number 7. All the beaches have those inviting turquoise coloured waters. However, note that the east coast has rough seas while the north coast is very calm as it is protected from the winds.
- Monstrous five star hotels line the Cancun coastline. Do note that the government owns most beaches on this strip of land and therefore are open to the public. However, if you want more privacy, search for hotels with a private beach.
- For affordable shopping, don’t be afraid to venture into downtown Cancun (old town) on the mainland. Shop where the locals shop and grab some bargains. The main shopping street is Ave Tulum. It even has a shopping mall – Plaza Las Americas. And behind this main street is a market stall with open air restaurants serving local food at very reasonable prices.
- If you only do one tour in Cancun, you must go and see Chichen Itza. It's one of the most amazing and most preserved Mayan ruins in Mexico. A 3 hour bus ride to get there but it was worth it. It beats the tiny Cancun Mayan ruin of Ruin el Ray.
- Another sightseeing tour that is a must is a visit to Tulum Mayan Ruins. Spectacular ruins right on the beach with spectacular crystal clear waters to go swimming in afterwardsl.
- Some of my favourite restaurants:
Ernesto’s – the best fahita’s.
La Choza – for authentic Mexican food
Rolandi’s – reasonable Italian food, if you need a break from Mexican food!
- If you like drinking and partying, then you cant go past Carlos and Charlies or Viva Mexico which has a great store too.
- Silver jewellery is abundant everywhere. But be careful buying silver at very cheap prices. The clasp may say ‘926’ but it could mean that only the clasp is real silver and the chain is plated.
- Cozumel has many jewellery stores, mainly catering to all the cruise passengers that arrive daily. You must bargain heavily as they tend to overprice everything in the shop. I found they overpriced more than Jamaica and Colombia but cheaper than Cayman Islands. You can go as much as 50% discount, especially on the more expensive items. Diamonds International are one of the Caribbean’s larger jewellery store chains but travellers still experience issues such as stones missing when they got home or appraisals once at home show the stone is a CZ and not real stone. But at least they have a good returns/repair policy, with a dedicated person to handle all claims to customer satisfaction. If you’re on a cruise, note that most cruise lines also offer a merchants guarantee on jewellery stores they recommend. As always - Buyer Beware.
- For diving and snorkelling, the most accessible reefs on-shore are just off the Chankanaab Lagoon and Park. The other great diving area near shore is La Cieba Reef. Colombian Reef dazzles divers with the most beautiful coral reef. If doing an organised snorkelling tour, do some research first. I went on a tour that went to a location with dozens of other boats and they have to throw food into the water to entice the fish.
- It is possible to take a ferry from Cozumel to the mainland (docking at Playa del Carmen) to visit ruins and other attractions. Chichen Itza is too far away when travelling from Cozumel (more ideal if you are staying in Playa del Carmen or Cancun). But you can definitely go to Tulum Mayan Ruins, by local bus from Playa del Carmen.) Spectacular ruins right on the beach with spectacular crystal clear waters to go swimming afterwards. Highly recommend it.
- If you’re arriving by cruiseship, there are two piers. The international pier is a 5 minute taxi ride south of downtown. Lots of snorkelling, diving centres and hotels along the way. However, the downtown pier leads straight into the main plaza. The plaza and surrounding streets have many shops such as jewellery, silver and souvenirs.
- North of downtown are some of the best beaches. Playa Azul was our favourite. Little rock coves with crystal clear, light blue water and a bar/restaurant.
- Explore the rest of the islands beaches by renting a scooter/jeep for a day or two. Only one road goes around the island so you cant get lost. Head south first. I wasn’t impressed with Playa San Francisco but it only got better the further we travelled. Palancar Beach was beautiful, with its own bar/restaurant – nothing like being served Corona on the beach. Then follow the dirt track to Celarain Lighthouse. The beaches along this track are just paradise with super soft white sand, perfect crystal clear waters and completely deserted, meaning no tourists. Lots of waves too as its windy this side of the island. Afterwards follow the rocky coastline up the east coast of the island which you will see pretty beaches in between jagged rock formations. Playa Bonita was my favourite – a secluded beautiful beach.
- The only ruin worth visiting on this island San Gervasio Ruins, with impressive structures and some rubble.
- For a fun day out, Xcaret Park is an adventure park with a difference. Lots of activities included in the general admission ticket. Such as float down a river with a 500m gorge, waterfalls, tunnels ,cave and a mock Mayan village and temple, or swim & snorkel at a lagoon beach (snorkelling not that good), lots of animals and a maze through a mayan village. Other activities are available at an extra cost – for example, swimming with dolphins or stingrays, boat rides, paragliding etc. A very enjoyable day.
- A great alternative to the once touristy Acapulco. I just watched a documentary that showed tourist numbers are at all time low as businesses close due to gang rackets and warfare. I liked it better than Acapulco because it’s quieter, not so touristy and no shops continually in your face. You definitely get away from it all here.
- Any of the beaches in the two bays are nice here. They are mainly lined with 3 or 5 star hotels. Great views of the the twin bays from Santiago Peninsula.
- Purchase Mexican handicrafts at Playa Miramar flea markets. Mainly a weekend flea market, although some stalls may open during the week. Bargain hard!
- See if you can recognise or find the beach where the movie “10” was filmed.