It’s impossible nowadays to not hear about Mexico. Unfortunately, very little of what we hear in the United States is positive. We are constantly bombarded by hearing about the dangers, illegal border crossing, asylum seekers. In many ways, the current political climate has framed Mexico and its people in the worst possible light. This couldn’t be farther from representing this beautiful country and its wonderful citizens.
With that said, any travel requires safety considerations. This is true for domestic travel in the United States and international travel to places one would consider safe, such as Western Europe. It goes without saying that Mexico has tons to offer, especially for United States citizens and Canadians looking for a more affordable getaway with a variety of amazing locations (but seriously, who doesn't want to go from beautiful beaches to ancient ruins and then finish the day off with one of the world's best food and drink cultures).
We recently were able to travel to Playa del Carmen, a tourist area just shy of an hour south of Cancun. Playa del Carmen is equally known as a gateway to the island of Cozumel and the ancient Mayan ruins at Tulum. Without a doubt, Playa del Carmen is a convenient place to have as a home base for exploring the wonders of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. For us, home base was The Fives Downtown, a newly built Curio by Hilton location right in the action of Playa del Carmen. The rooms were beautiful and spacious, the lobby was magnificent, but the undoubted highlight was the amazing rooftop infinity pool and awesome bar.
Only 45 minutes south of Playa del Carmen, Tulum is a must-see experience. One of the few Mayan complexes built right against the ocean, Tulum is a beautiful complex that demands awe and wonder.
The Yucatan Peninsula (along with parts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) was the home of one of the ancient world’s most advanced civilizations: the Maya. In many ways, the Mayan culture closely resembled that of ancient Greece in that the Maya were a conglomeration of non-unified city-states. Some of these city-states were massive, such as El Mirador, Chichen Itza, Tikal, and Palenque. In addition, the Mayan culture was extremely advanced, developing a complex writing system, utilizing advanced agricultural techniques, extensively studying astronomy, creating a detailed calendar, and even being among the first to discover zero. When staying in Cancun or Playa del Carmen, it’s not hard to get to locations like Tulum or Chichen Itza, but there are a myriad smaller ruins throughout the region. More importantly, the Mayan culture lives on with Mexico’s largest indigenous population: the modern Mayan people. Small villages and lesser-traveled towns in the region are now home to the Mayans, and they are extremely welcoming and kind.
Cozumel is also a must-visit location in the area. We utilized the Ultramar Ferry and its short 40 minute trip to travel between Playa del Carmen and Cozumel comfortably. There is another ferry company available, but we feel as though Ultramar is the best choice for travel. Once you disembark, your first order of business must be renting a scooter to traverse the island. This was by far one of our favorite excursions while we were in the area. On scooter, it is possible to see the entire island and – for us – the highlights were the less touristy beaches on the far side of the island. These beaches offered crystal clear, light blue waters and white sands. With that said, our scooter did break down at one point, but the rental agency got us fixed up with a replacement within 30 minutes. This is absolutely a must do experience.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from traveling to the Yucatan is the disparity between tourist areas – particularly designed to attract foreign visitors – and inland areas in the Yucatan Peninsula. Please, take the chance to step outside your comfort zone. Experience a Mexico that isn’t all-inclusive resorts. While beautiful resorts and pristine beaches aren’t a bad thing (on the contrary, they are amazing), Mexico is a beautiful tapestry of cultures and people and it is hard to experience and dive into the full beauty of this country from the gated fences of a resort.
If you have decided to break outside the touristy areas, a great option is renting a car and driving between Cancun and Merida. Merida is the inland capital of the Yucatan state, and it is magnificent and vibrant. Merida boasts vibrant streets and beautiful architecture, such as the Palacio del Gobierno. Moreover, Merida is a very safe city. Between Merida and Cancun, you will also run into Chichen Itza – one of the most amazing ancient ruin complexes in existence – and Valladolid, a smaller city that has many hidden treasures. These cities give travelers a better glimpse into the vibrant Mexican cultures and the lives of the Mayan people in these areas. Cancun, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen offer some of the best beaches, but a trip to the region just wouldn’t be complete without truly diving in to Mexico.
Exploring the Yucatan Peninsula wouldn't be complete without the people you share those experiences with. For Nick and I, travel is absolutely our favorite thing to share with one another. I have been fortunate enough to travel much more than Nick (my degrees, studies, and background more easily lended to me traveling), but being able to take Nick places that I have experienced is truly a joy unlike any other. Moreover, sharing new experiences is something wonderful, too. We were lucky enough to also travel the Yucatan Peninsula with some of our best friends: Matt and Beau from Probably This, PJ and Thomas from The Property Lovers, and Devon and Rob from Dads Not Daddies. If you want to see a video blog of our antics together, make sure you check out our YouTube page and find our Mexico Vlogs (there are two parts)!
Finally, we are also so excited to let you all know that we are headed back to Mexico before the year is over! We honestly can't get enough of Mexico, and we will be in Mexico City from October 30 to November 4 to experience Dia de los Muertos! If you have any tips or recommendations for Mexico City, please leave a comment below and let us know what we can't miss!