This Fourth of July, we attended a beautiful wedding of our dear friends on the beach in Playa del Carmen. It was a short trip, but we got to visit a few places before the wedding.
Snorkeling at Akumal
We drove about 30 minutes to Akumal, and the most challenging task was to figure out who to trust for parking. Upon entering the outer park area, we were first waved to stop for parking & tour information. After they mentioned the tours that didn’t sound official, our suspicion arose and we drove forward. Eventually, we reached a dive center building where a guy pointed us to a dedicated parking lot with a reasonable rate (20 pesos/hour) and showed us to the dive center for locker (free with deposit).
We paid the entrance fee (100 pesos), changed to snorkeling outfit in the restroom, and left the backpacks in the locker. The staff showed us the map with the areas that we could swim. Beyond the limited areas, a certified guide is required. He also told us we wouldn’t see turtles in the public area, and tried to sell the snorkeling tour. We went ahead ourselves, tried two swimming areas, and we didn’t see any turtles until we were leaving and close to the shore. I felt super lucky to be able to swim with the big turtle!
This was the first cenote I’ve ever been to, and it was definitely the highlight of this trip for me. The entrance was 180 pesos, and there was a grass field like a park with an outdoor shower and well-maintained bathrooms. The cenote was downstairs, and we got a locker for backpacks (they also had snorkeling rentals). The coolest part of this cenote was the cave that connected the two entrances. We rested a bit inside the cave, and watched many bats flying around the cave. The water was not very deep, and was not too scary to swim and snorkel without a life vest.
We drove to Cenote Cristalino after lunch, and this cenote is right by Highway 307. The entrance was 150 pesos that came with life jacket. This cenote felt a bit smaller than Gran Cenote, but it had a cliff for diving. We got a locker for 50 pesos at the back of the snacks stand, where they sold various food and drink items. Probably due to the time we went (mid-afternoon), the cenote was quite crowded. It was very lively, with crowds cheering for the cliff jumpers. We swam and snorkeled for a bit, I was tempted to try jumping but decided to leave it for next time after some basic practice.
It was a lovely sunny day, and we took a Colectivo from Playa del Carmen to the Tulum ruins. I’d certainly bring plenty of water and an umbrella or hat if possible, because the sights were out in the open without much shade. It was about 15-20 minute walk from the entrance at Highway 307 to the geological site, and the admission was 75 pesos. We explored the ruins on our own and read posts along the way, but it could be helpful to have a guide for a more in-depth understanding of the history.
Unfortunately, I fell sick with stomach flu symptoms after the third day. Still, I got to enjoy a few memorable meals at the local restaurants. All of the restaurants we went to were open-air without AC, it got quite hot sometimes especially if near the grill but it was worthwhile.
We got tacos al pastor for our first meal in the middle of the afternoon, and they were delicious. The menu was not as big as other places we visited, but they served the tacos well.
I got fajitas de pollo (Chicken fajitas) and it was a very generous portion, plus appetizers and soup.
The restaurant was not big, but cozy with colorful decorations. I got the fish fajitas with horchata here, and the chips that came with our meals were really tasty. It was a bit more pricey here than the other more local restaurants above, but the ambiance was nice.
This could cater more to Americans (since burritos are not really traditional Mexican food) and is located by Highway 307 near Tulum. I really loved the burrito here, it was made with coconut tortilla and wrapped in banana leaves. Plus, they had around 4 sauces to add to the burrito.
We rented a car beforehand from Avis, with their office located in downtown. We got a Jeep since they were short of sedans. I read so many posts about the police problems driving in Mexico, and stayed on the safe side always driving under speed limit. However, the speed limit was often unrealistic as all the other cars on the road were way past the speed limit. We still followed the rule, but it was quite stressful having to yield to many cars and be that super slow car. It also took us quite long to drive to the sites due to the speed limit, and taking Colectivo could have been faster for places along Highway 307.
I was a bit uncertain about taking Celectivo at first, and would prefer a regular bus with clear stops. We decided to give it a try taking it to Tulum ruins, and it worked out for us. It was easy to take it from Playa del Carmen, there are buses lining up at Calle 2 between 15th and 20th Avenue. Coming back took some extra time, as we were waiting for others coming out from Tulum ruins to fill the bus. The ride was 45 pesos per person, and it was not a long ride because drivers all drove way past the speed limit on the highway.
Other than the stress from driving a rental car and stomach issue, I had a wonderful time here celebrating friends’ beach wedding and swimming/snorkeling at Akumal and cenotes. I’d love to go back to explore many other beaches, Maya ruins (like Cobá) and water activities next time.