Mexico remains one of my favourite “southern” destinations. First, because it is so easy to access. Served by major airlines from Montreal and Quebec City like Air Canada, you can get there with your Aeroplan points or pay a reasonable price depending on your travel dates. In under 5 hours, you’re in the Mexican heat!
The Riviera Maya
The Riviera Maya is probably the destination most visited by Quebecers.
I am particularly fond of the village of Puerto Morelos and the island of Holbox, two places that are becoming increasingly popular.
Puerto Morelos is located between Cancun and Playa del Carmen, only 20 minutes from the Cancun International Airport. Formerly a small fishing village, tourism is now the main source of cash flow for its citizens.
The village is divided in two. First up is La Colonia, located near Highway 307, Riviera Maya‘s main road that runs from Cancún to Tulum. This part is a bit more authentic with low-cost local restaurants, street food vendors, and more rustic houses. There is also a huge Chedraui, a large grocery store well known in Mexico.
On the other side of Highway 307, we crossed a large swamp on the only road for 3 kilometres before arriving on the “port” side at the seaside. This part is a little more touristy as there are many hotels, souvenir stores, a phenomenal amount of restaurants, and of course, the white sand beach stretches for miles.
Besides swimming in turquoise water, Puerto Morelos is known for diving and snorkelling. Just 1 kilometre from the shore, there is a beautiful large coral reef where you can spot many colourful fish. It is also possible to go out on the high seas to practice fishing. If water isn’t your thing, the many stores, restaurants, and beach clubs are waiting to welcome you to a good time.
My favorites in Puerto Morelos:
I have spent the equivalent of 5 months in Puerto Morelos in the last few years. That’s how much I’m taken by this village, even though it is becoming more touristy and is not as “secret” as it used to be. Some highlights not to be missed during your visit:
- Punta Corcho: delicious seafood restaurant, excellent service, tasty and surprising cocktails at higher but reasonable prices. Try ceviche on tahini or grilled octopus.
- Al Chimichurri: go to the back terrace hidden from the street for a magical evening atmosphere. All the meats are delicious, accompanied by chimichurri, and to drink, I particularly enjoy the sangria.
- El Nicho: this is the place to go for brunch, the benefits are fantastic and the back terrace is full of colour.
- Lauros: every night, a group performs on stage while you enjoy your meal in a Molcajete, a hot volcanic stone. Choice of meat, vegetables, and cheese, to be enjoyed with a cold beer.
- Diver’s Lodge: I love this beach club because the service is excellent, the mojitos are good, and the music is always top-notch.
- The Fives Oceanfront Hotel: a brand new luxury hotel built just 3 years ago, The Fives Oceanfront is located at the quietest end of the beach, has an infinity pool with the most beautiful view, and modern rooms.
This increasingly popular peninsula is located on the other side of Cancún, about 2 hours away by car and a few minutes by ferry. The ADO bus goes daily to Chiquilà from where one of the two boats leaves to take you to Holbox.
Depending on the time of year, Holbox can be a pleasant and relaxing island or a muddy and rowdy one. The streets are in fact sandy paths and there are plenty of party hotels! You can walk, ride an electric golf cart or bike, enjoy the beach, and the shallow wave-free sea, take pictures for Instagram, admire the many colourful murals, and just enjoy life.
My favourites in Holbox:
- Colibri: I liked this restaurant where they serve a mix of authentic and North American cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The staff is friendly and the food is tasty.
- Street art: everywhere in the streets of Holbox, you can see magnificent coloured frescos representing the flora, fauna, and the Mexican people. You’ll be hard-pressed not to photograph them all!
I also want to tell you about the Yucatan Peninsula which is less often visited, but easily accessible with the ADO buses or by renting a car from the Cancún airport.
This small town, classified as a Pueblos Magicos, is simply beautiful and is best visited on foot. From its central square, you can admire the San Gervasio cathedral, sample from the food trucks, and enjoy spontaneous entertainment by street entertainers.
The most colourful street in Valladolid is Calzada de Los Frailles, where your camera will come in handy.
My favorites of Valladolid:
- Cenote Zací: located in the center of the city, you can bathe in a cenote (sinkhole cave)! There are also wonderful cenotes within 30 minutes of Valladolid where you can cool off, including the popular Cenote Suytun.
- Parque Central Francisco Canton: a must-see especially at the end of the day where visitors and locals gather to dance, eat, and just enjoy the last few moments of the day.
The capital of the Yucatan region, Mérida is a great historical city. The central square remains a lively and very nice place to visit. Many guided tours, some of which are free, depart from this location.
You can also visit the Museo Casa Montejo, which traces the history of the most prominant family in the region. Do you like markets? I love them, and in Merida, there is the Mercado Lucas de Gervès; you can find fruits, vegetables, meat, clothes, and just about everything there.
My favorites in Merida:
- The famous Pollo Pibl at Chaya Maya Casona.
- Evening shows in the parks: several thematic evenings are held in one of the city’s parks; music, traditional dance, and all kinds of entertainment can be found there.
On the northern tip, not far from Holbox, Rio Lagartos is a pretty fishing village.
Its greatest attraction: a swath of pink flamingos in January. It’s also a great stop to taste the local seafood caught in the early morning just off the coast.
Opt for a tour of the lagoon by boat or go to Las Coloradas, pink, turquoise, copper, and green salt marshes.
My favorites in Rio Lagartos:
- Observe the pink flamingos from the shore.
- Enjoy the sunset from the rooftop of the Rio Lagartos hotel with a good cocktail.
Milesopedia's note on credit cards
No conversion fees and no travel points
Aeroplan and Marriott Bonvoy
I’m not tired of exploring this part of Mexico that is so easily accessible from Montreal and Quebec City. Which place interests you the most?
If you want to discover other parts of Mexico, read these articles: