I had always purchased bus tickets a day in advance in Mexico. It ensures you get a cheaper rate and will be on the bus you want. I stupidly didn’t buy my ticket in advance for Bacalar. When I got to the ADO bus station at 10:30am the 11am bus I wanted was full. I’d have to wait for the 1pm bus meaning I’d waste my day waiting for and sitting on the bus.
I had two hours to kill before my bus and Campanella was down the street, so what did I do? Got ice cream at my favorite place one last time. Not the worst way to kill time.
I was honestly pretty lazy in Tulum. I was over traveling, tired, and didn’t want to do much else besides lie on the beach and eat Mexican food. I had heard about a place nearby where you could snorkel and see giant sea turtles as well as tropical fish in a coral reef. I had to keep convincing myself all morning to go before I finally made it out the door. I think part of it was not wanting to go alone but when have I ever let that hold me back before?
Here is a BIG insider tip on Akumal and how to do it for only $35 MXN (about $1.75 USD). To get to Akumal from the Tulum city center take a taxi collectivo which you can catch along the main road. There will be signs posted with a picture of a bus on it or, if you see a bunch of people standing around waiting for something ask if this is where you can catch a taxi collectivo. You want the collectivo going in the direction of Playa del Carmen and they will stop along the way at Akumal. It’s only $35 MXN (about $1.75 USD). The collectivo will drop you off at a bus stop that says Akumal. From there, walk East towards the beach. As you walk towards the beach, you will be approached by people telling you you need to rent a life jacket, that you need a tour guide, that you won’t be able to see the fish or turtles without them. All of this is a lie. Just say, “No, gracias” and walk on past them. When you get to the beach walk south until you reach a red flag, and the snorkeling is just beyond that. You’ll know you’re there by the hordes of people in the water snorkeling. I think it’s more fun to actually use goggles than a snorkel mask. You can get down in close with the fish and turtles but don’t touch them! If you don’t have goggles or a snorkel mask you can rent one there but you do not need to rent a life jacket.
The next day, I packed my stuff and trekked on over to meet my Couchsurfing host, Efrain. We had decided to meet at a supermarket close to his place then walk to his house together. When we got to his home he gave me a tour of the small one-bedroom turned two-bedroom home he shared with two friends. His room had previously been the living room. He opened the door to his room and said that this was the room we’d be sharing…there was only a twin bed. I thought oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?! This guy seemed so nice and sweet and had good reviews on Couchsurfing but he wants us to share a twin bed?! I thought I’d spend the day with him before jumping to any conclusions and freaking out. He also only spoke Spanish so with the language barrier I didn’t know how to phrase it.
Right as we were about to step out for lunch it began to downpour. We had to step back inside and wait it out. I was able to not only hit Cuba’s rainy season but Mexico’s as well. Lucky me! After about an hour the rain finally let up. Just as we were about to step out the front door the downpour started again. So we waited.
After two days I had had enough of Cancún and was ready for a new location. I decided to head to Tulum and continue Couchsurfing. My host couldn’t host me until the next day so, I booked one night at the Humble Bumble hostel.
The hostel was only about two months old and definitely one of the strangest I have ever stayed in. It was still under construction when I was there. It was going through a huge renovation, being transformed from a HUGE outdoor restaurant and strip club into a hostel. The common area was a massive outdoor area under a thatched roof with tables and dinning chairs. It didn’t really have that hostel vibe but the people that worked there were super nice.
In Cancún I decided to stay with a Couchsurfing host. I hadn’t Couchsurfed since Morelia over a month ago and I was getting tired of hostel life. I just wanted to be able to unpack my stuff somewhere and leave it unpacked for a day or so. I had posted a public trip on the Couchsurfing website (this is a great way to find hosts) and had gotten several responses but decided to go with Arturo because he had time off work and great reviews.
When I arrived in Cancún from Holbox I took an Uber to Arturo’s home. The Uber driver asked me the normal questions, where I was from, how long I was in Cancún for, where I was going, how did I know this guy, of course all in Spanish. I told him I didn’t really know the guy I was staying with, we had met online through a website. It sounds crazier than it is in reality but it’s hard to explain that in Spanish. The driver told me that my Couchsurfing host lived in the most dangerous neighborhood in Cancún and I shouldn’t even walk around there during the day. I started to get really scared, thinking OMG, I’m staying with some random stranger from the Internet in the most dangerous neighborhood in Cancún?!
I wasn’t ready to leave Valladolid- there were still things I wanted to see and do but I had to make a reservation a few weeks in advance for my hostel on Isla Holbox. I had heard from other travelers that Tribu Hostel was the place to stay on Isla Holbox and it’s a popular place to stay so it’s a good idea to book a week or so in advance, especially if you’re traveling during high season.
Tribu Hostel is a fairly new hostel with wonderful facilities, a huge kitchen, events every night and a wonderful staff. It’s a great place to meet people as well.
The next morning I set out to go to Río Largatos solo.
Río Lagartos is a town located on an inlet from the Gulf of México. It’s name means river of the crocodile because the river is well, filled with crocodiles. It is also home to hundreds of bird species. While this is all beautiful and interesting my main reason for wanting to visit the town was to see La Playa de Las Coradas.
La Playa de Las Coradas is a bright pink salt lake in between Río Lagartos and the Gulf of México. The water is a shade of pink from a crustacean called “artemia salina”. The best way to describe a crustacean is something between a shrimp and a lobster. Artemia salina absorbs the pigment of their prey, in this case the pink microorganisms living in the water. The same is true for the flamingos that feed on it, this is why flamingos are pink!
After over a week in Mérida it was finally time to leave. I took a bus to Valladolid, and the trip in total took a little over 2 hours with ticket prices ranging from $115 MXN to $200 MXN (about $6 USD to $10 USD) depending on the time of day.
Getting to Valladolid was scary but also a breath of fresh air. I realized it was going to be the first time I was on my own in about a month. I hadn’t traveled anywhere by myself since arriving in Oaxaca. It felt nice to have some alone time after being constantly around people for so long.
A friend that I made in Mexico City, Perla, decided to come visit me in Merida. She has close family friends in Merida who she hadn’t seen in over a year, and me being there was the perfect excuse to come visit.
Perla’s friends, Jorge, Roxanna and their daughter Andrea, are the nicest people I have ever met. Jorge is like the picture-perfect TV husband and father: very generous, caring and patient. Jorge and his wife made me feel so welcome and part of their family. They own two homes, one of which they use for storage. Perla and I were lucky enough to be able to stay in one of their homes while she was visiting.
Day two with our car rental in Merida we decided to set out and explore the local cenotes we had heard so much about. A cenote, meaning sacred water, is a sinkhole created from collapsed limestone exposing groundwater underneath. There are over 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatán peninsula.
There were several tours offered through our hostel Nómadas, signing up for tours through hostels is a really great way to explore the area. They usually pick you up in the morning and drop you back off at your hostel in the afternoon. You’ll also be with other travelers from your hostel so it’s a great way to get to know people while traveling alone.
I was ready to get the hell out of the jungle and into an actual city. Mike’s plan was to go to Merida on Friday night. Nelly and I were on the fence about what to do. That’s the problem when you can do anything, you tend to be very indecisive. After changing cities twice in less than a week we decided it’d be nice to set up camp somewhere for a week or so. We had heard great things about Merida and without Mike we wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves, so we decided to join him. The band wasn’t going to break up just yet!
We decided to take a night bus from Palenque to Merida. This would not only make sure we didn’t waste a day in travel time but we would also be able to save on accommodations. The bus ride from Palenque to Merida cost around $400 MXN (about $20 USD). When we arrived at the ADO bus terminal in Palenque our friend José from Chile was there and waiting to take the same bus! He hadn’t booked a place to stay in Merida yet so we suggested he stay at the same hostel as us.
It was time to hit the road again and our next stop was Palenque! The three amigos were sticking together for one more city! Mike was even already planning out our days before we left San Cristóbal. We were told by the ADO bus station that the bus ride to Palenque was 7 hours from San Cristóbal. Since the bus ride was only 7 hours, if we had taken an overnight bus we would arrived in Palenque at around 5 or 6am, meaning we’d have to wander the streets until check in time, which is normally around 12pm or 1pm. So we naturally opted for the morning bus in order to arrive at a decent hour.
Right next to the entrance to the Palenque ruins we heard there is a small community located in the jungle called El Panchan. Someone had recommended we stay at a place called Jungle Palace which is located in that same community. They have no phone and don’t respond to emails so we were just going to have to show up and hope they had room.