Gabrielle is in love with Mexico. Find out her tips for a great vacation in Quintana Roo: what to do, eat, and where to stay!
- Cheap plane ticket (in November it was only $500 roundtrip)
- Direct and short flight
- Good temperature guaranteed even at the end of rainy season
- Transportation is easy and people speak english
Playa Del Carmen
Transportation from Cancun to Playa del Carmen
- Price: Ado bus from the airport 208MXN (about 14$)
- Time: 1 hour.
Playa del Carmen is known for its party scene although there is much more to it.
It is a good starting point in a trip because it is so close to the airport, accommodation is cheap, plus there are so many restaurants to choose from you won’t know where to start.
There is even a big shopping mall. There is really everything for everyone in Playa. The beach itself is not the best but there are many to choose from close to it.
Where to eat in Playa del Carmen:
Fusion Beach Bar & Grill
I don’t think Fusion Beach Bar & Gill has a kitchen there so I’m not sure where the food came from but it was really good and it is located in front of the water.
A good place to have a relaxed breakfast, toes in the sand, before heading to Cozumel because it is close to the ferry station. They offered american breakfast as well as Mexican options.
We had such good service at Zitla and the food was good. There is live music from Thursday to Sunday. There is a really good ambiance in the restaurant and there are some hamacs and piknik tables to chill.
Try the mezcal maracuya drink they will set the rosemary branch on fire! And well maracuya is just the best.
Central Akumal beach
It is also known as the place of the Turtles. It was the first touristic destination in Quintana Roo. Such a beautiful beach, not too crowded.
Restaurant: LoI Ha if you want to have drinks and take a bite.
How to get there: Ferry
Providers: Ultramar and Winjet. Their schedules are the same.
Ultramar has more open area seating but I think Winjet is cheaper 16$USD around 306MXN online roundtrip. We got a ‘deal’ with an agency on the street, we gave him 50MXN in advance and received a winjet bracelet in exchange and paid 240MXN when we got to the winjet official counter.
Ultramar rates online are 400MXN.
The route takes about 30-45 minutes and if you are seasick like me, it is a bumpy road but it is manageable. It runs every hour from 7am to 10pm.
The island is pretty big, 30 miles long per 16 miles wide, there is even an airport. Cozumel welcomes 3,3 millions tourists per year. It is also a big cruise ship destination.
If you are into snorkelling, this is the place for you! I’m not a big fan myself so I didn’t do any snorkelling but I’ve heard it is one of the best destination to do it.
I decided to rent a car instead and visit the whole island! Half the island actually cannot be visited by rental car but I don’t think there is much to see anyway, half the island is uninhabited.
It takes about 1h40 to do the loop. Do note that you will only have a view from the sea on the East side of the islands, the rest will only be trees. Still, I really enjoyed the ride in the convertible Jeep. We paid 75US plus had to put 250MXN in gas. So it is not cheap but if you are a few people and get there early I think it’s worth it.
The first hour or so, you pass all the places where you can snorkel, the entrances all look like big amusement parks. Then you will see a couple of little stands for cheap beers and fresh coconuts along the way.
The first restaurant you will reach after all the reef is Freedom in paradise – Reggae beach bar.
A fun little place to have a drink.
The advantage of renting a car is that you can stop at any point on the road to admire the different views. This side of the islands is also much less crowded.
Here is the list of all the beaches you’ll pass by:
- Playa Bosh
- Punta Chiqueros
- Playa San martin
- Playa Chen rio
- Punta Morena
- Mezcalitos beach (this is the last spot before heading back into town)
We chose to stop at Playa chen rio for a little bite. There were a lot of coral that creates kind of a swimming pool which was nice. I was surprised to see that surfing was an option to do here.
Our last stop was at the last bar, perfect place to have a drink and do la siesta in the hammacs before hitting back the road (less than 10 minutes left).
I really liked the fact that this side of the island is untouched which had more of a natural feel.
Another option that looked interesting was the national park Punta Sur eco beach park. The entrance fee is 16USD but it looks like you can easily spend the day there.
- A lighthouse
Enough to keep you busy all day!
Since my last visit in March 2016, the Tulum pueblo (village) has expanded a LOT and it seemed like the construction was stil going strong. You can walk or bike around the pueblo in around 20 minutes in total.
To get to the beach it is a 25 minutes bike or taxi ride (as we speak there are a lot of construction on the road which leaves only one way for cars, so there is quite a bit of traffic). Tulum is a funny place to me. It has that hippie vibe along with that luxurious rich and famous. It is known for celebrities to come here.
What to do
There are so many cenotes to choose from, 6,000 in the Yucatan Peninsula to be exact.
We chose the Gran Cenote because it was recommended to us by the lady from our Airbnb but also because it was close to where we lived. It was really crowded, but around 4pm just before closing time, it was perfect. I rented some snorkelling gear. I saw a lot of turtles but only when the crowd left. It is still worth it to rent the gear just to see the light as you get out of the cave. There are also many bats in the cave.
- Entrance cost: 180 MXN
- Snorkelling gear: 80MXN
- Locker: 30 MXN
Sanara Tulum - YOGA Session
There are a lot of yoga places to choose from in Tulum, but this one is very special to me.
This Yoga place is in a very luxurious hotel, and the deck’s situation is just amazing! It is not cheap, 20$US but worth it in my opinion. It is one of the best studio I have ever been to. Doing your practice with the sound of the ocean in the background is quite special and the view is just breathtaking
Very nice beach. For a relaxed day, head out to this beach, it is a 100 pesos taxi ride. Choose from the variety of beach club that there is. We stopped at Villa Pescadores.
It was a perfect beach day to unwind and enjoy our last beach day before heading out to Bacalar.
Our bus to Bacalar was at 12PM so we had time to visit the Tulum ruins in the morning. I would suggest to get there when it opens at 8 am.
I was there at 9 and I already found it very crowded. The visit takes about 1 hour in total, you can hire a guide if you like. You can even go swimming in the sea because it is on the edge of the ocean, which I suggest because it gets quite hot under the sun.
Where to eat
I absolutely loved Kitchen Table. The restaurant is in the middle of the jungle with an open kitchen. They are very ‘keen’ about details.
There are a few choices on the menu, octopus, ribs or fish, but they were all delicious.
Batey’s place is a must when you go in Tulum, there is always someone working on the sugar cane machine attached to a VW Beelte to extract the sugar.
Every cocktail comes with a sugar cane piece which is so good. They have the best mojitos!
Best burrito ever! The burritos at Burrito Amor are amazing. The restaurant is also cute, you should definitely add this restaurant to your list!
Oh Bacalar! Definitely my favorite on this trip. It is such a special place!
The lagoon is 55km long by 2 km wide. There is no beach here, the way to get by the water is with the decks, every house, restaurant on the water has his own.
There are a lot of public access where you can enjoy them for free, at other places, you need to consume in order to enjoy the installation.
My favorite place was at the end of the road the Parque Ecologico because it was so shallow and you could chill on the grass which is more comfortable than a deck but be warned the grass itches.
What to do
SUP tour sunrise
Very nice and peaceful because the boats are not out yet on the water. It feels like you have the lagoon to yourself. Although I wasn’t lucky with the temperature, did not see any sunrise because it was too foggy it was still quite nice. It added a mysterious vibe.
- Cost: 450MXN
- Duration: 3 hours
- Places you see: Piratas, Black cenote, Bird islands
It includes drinks and a little snack (some fruits and chips) you stop at 3 points to swim for 30-40 minutes, which is necessary because it gets HOT!
The tour was very enjoyable, I found it was the best way to enjoy bacalar and its 7 colours.
Even though you see the same places with the boat and the stand up I really enjoyed both but if you have to choose one I would recommend the boat since you see more.
You can also rent kayaks and do a tour by yourself. I wanted to do that for sunset, unfortunately the rentals close at 5pm.
- Amir AdvenTours
- Cost: 600MXN
- The tour starts at la cervezia at the end of bacalar, which is also a nice place to hang around during the day.
- Departure: 12
- Duration: 4 hours.
- Places you see: Piratas – Black cenote – Island of the bird – Cenote Cocalitos -Cenote Esmeralda
Where to eat
Rafael the owner of the place will make you feel welcome as soon as you step in his little restaurant. It is very inspiring to see someone who is so passionate about what he’s doing even though he works 6 days a week from 8-23h.
The tacos are really good, with a good variety (12 choices to choose from) and the burritos are so big! It is quite cheap to eat here.
The food was ok for the price but the place is really beautiful, we’ve been there for dinner, during the day to enjoy the deck, at sunset and even on our last night for a last drink because we enjoyed the chairs and the view so much.
Find out all the Gabrielle’s spots in this map :
Additional tips from milesopedia
Marriott Bonvoy hotels
There are a lot of Marriott Bonvoy hotels in that region. Here are some of them:
- Aloft Cancun
- Courtyard Cancun Airport
- Four Points by Sheraton Cancun Centro
- JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa
- Marriott Cancun Resort
- The Ritz-Carlton – Cancun
- The Westin Lagunamar Ocean Resort Villas & Spa – Cancun
- The Westin Resort & Spa – Cancun
If you want to stay for free at one of these hotels, apply for this great offer:
Credit cards with no conversion fees
Planning a vacation in Mexico?
Here are 3 credit cards with no conversion fee you can use everywhere in Mexico!
Earn a lot of points at restaurants, bars and grocery stores !
And you can also use your American Express Cobalt™ Card American Express almost anywhere in Mexico, especially in restaurants, bars and grocery stores to earn 5 points per dollar !