Along the Caribbean coast of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico lies some of the most beautiful white sand beaches you will find anywhere. The only problem is that they are far from undiscovered. In fact, most of this lovely coast has been taken over by fancy resorts and all inclusive hotels, making this area one of the most expensive places we have visited in Mexico for restaurants, activities and camping.
Playa Del Carmen is actually the fastest growing city in Mexico right now, and most of the beaches are difficult to access because they have been “claimed” by hotels. But with a some effort, you can find a little piece of paradise. Don’t forget, all beaches in Mexico are public, even if the resorts make it seem differently.
During our time on the Riviera Maya we were visited by one of my closest friends Nicole and her family, who I had been missing terribly and was super excited to see. We planned to spend five days with her three year old twins Morgan and Drew and her awesome husband Chip. I was really excited and we had a blast!
In total, we spent almost three weeks here and were well under budget the entire time (partly because we were not driving far and also because Nicole treated us to an epic resort and wonderful meals for five days). This coast can be done on the cheap, and we enjoyed our buckets of cold beer and lazy days spent reading and sleeping on white sand beaches and most of all, visits from beloved friends.Note: Sam is working on a detailed campsite list post which will be out in the next few weeks.
Here is a recap of our highlights of the Riviera Maya:
There is a campground (a little dumpy and overrun with iguanas) that charges $16 a day near the ferries to Isla Mujeres which is a great place to leave your vehicle and camp so you can enjoy some of the most spectacular white sand beaches you might ever see. We suggest the ferry from the Punta Sam dock. It is cheaper and you can sit on the upper deck so you can enjoy the view. We took the other ferry from Puerto Juarez also one day and it was twice the cost, only ten minutes faster and you were enclosed inside a small boat with frigid air conditioning and subjected to Mexican morning shows blaring on the TVs.
Playa Del Carmen-
Sam and I vacationed here a few years ago and really enjoyed Playa. After spending five months in Mexico we realized that this town was almost entirely focused on tourist. Every time we spoke Spanish they responded in English, every time. Also, it was hard to pay in pesos, most of the restaurants and bars had prices in dollars (at a rate 10 to 1, when it really is 13). I had to ask for change in pesos. But aside from that, we had a blast here and it is really pretty. The long pedestrian street lined with bars and cafes is fun at night and the beaches are beautiful and great for families.
We love the beaches of Tulum and there are still a lot of places that are low key and have a more back packer vibe. The only thing is the wind. Wow, it gets windy here. We were here in December a few years back and the wind also howled, but at least it keeps it cool.
This tiny little beach was a good place to camp for a few days, they had a pool, snorkeling in the bay, and palapas and chairs to use. There was also small roads to beaches that were untouched. It was a nice way to see what this swampy coast must have looked like twenty years ago.
This lake of seven colors was really beautiful and we spent a night camping for cheap on its shores and marveling at the crazy blue colors (the light blues are from the calcium carbonate that is white, it makes the water look unearthly blue).
This is the last camping area about five miles from the Belize border. It is a great campground to get ready for the border crossing and just relax. It was full of European overlanders while we were there and we got to meet up again with our British friends Alan and Julea which was a blast as always. They tried to get us drunk off cashew wine from Belize, who knew you could make wine from cashews, it tastes like nutty port.
After five months we are finally leaving Mexico. Goodbye Mexico! We will be back!