Having booked flights to Guatemala for spring break, four days before I had realised the crucial mistake that I did not have my immunisations done. Frantically trying to figure if it were possible to be immunised in that time I soon came to realise that you need at least a month to let immunisations kick in (pro tip for anyone thinking of travelling abroad). My travelling partner Ross and I however came up with a better solution. It would only cost $300 to postpone our flights a month later and in the mean time we needed somewhere else to head. It came to our attention that many of our friends were heading to Playa Del Carmen, just near Cancun and flights were $400 cheaper flying from LAX rather than SFO. Taking the overnight bus from downtown San Francisco to LAX we were able to score flights to Mexico for just $250 return, what a bargain. 24 hours later after I left my house in SF (yes I payed less to travel a whole lot longer, the savings payed for my Guatemala flight transfer) we arrived in Playa Del Carmen. While this little town wasn’t your beach party haven but it was a nice escape from the frigid SF winter.
This town however was ultra-touristy, not my ideal escape and on top of that there isn’t much else to do in the town and requires you to book the even more touristic tour buses to iconic destinations like the ruins Chichanitza. So what better way to get around this obstacle than to hire a teeny tiny car with 3 of your friends for the week. In hindsight this was a great decision and I would recommend it to anyone else travelling around this area. It’s cheaper, quicker and obviously gives the freedom to check out anything that strikes your curiosity along the way.
The first day we hired the car we had not even left until 2pm due to the previous nights “Spring Break celebrations” (a bottle of good quality 1.4L tequila from Walmart is a $7 bargain). The eastern coast of Mexico is known for its cenote’s which is basically the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath (thanks Wikipedia), basically giant natural crystal clear swimming pools. The closest and one the nicest we had heard our hostel was the Garden of Eden Cenote. This place lived up to its name and was truly spectacular. Along a dirt road that looked like led nowhere we came across a green, lush beautiful looking lagoon and saw people jumping off ledges, snorkelling and just enjoying the serenity of the place. The amazing thing about Garden of Eden was that it contained its own eco system of fresh water algae and fish that was contained in a deep crystal clear water with hidden caves that hide divers with flashlights exploring. Truly a remarkable hidden gem of beauty. Among many other places we visited the Mayan ruins of Chichanitza and Tulum were my favourite. Tulum was the only Mayan ruins built by the ocean and is dominated now by the iguana population and offered amazing hand carved stone ruins that housed the ancient civilisation by a spectacular clear deep blue ocean. 3 hours drive Playa Del Carmen you’ll find the largest Mayan built pyramid in the Chichanitza ruins. This pyramid and its architectural complexity will leave you mind blown. Recently added to the revised 7 Ancient Wonder list, the sheer awe of the pyramid is a requirement on anyone’s bucket list.
Finally what part of a good holiday is not complete without sharing yum food with your friends? Mexico has fantastic food and if you’re adventurous I highly recommend visting street vendors that the locals swarm. Here you will find fresh, very cheap and by far the most delicious tacos, quesadillas and tortas around with a giant selection of hot sauce to choose from for those spice lovers. After a week in Mexico I had built enough tolerance to spice that I was ready to ask waitress at the local taqueira for the ‘local hot sauce’ (green is ALWAYS hotter than red, please don’t be fooled by this). After that experience hot sauce back in SF is like ketchup. Mexico is a very affordable holiday with a beautiful culture, historical landmarks and nature setting that everyone should come and experience at least once in their lifetime!