Road Trip: Yucatan Peninsula

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Happy New Year to you all! I sit here in my apartment staring out at the snow coming down and can’t help but wish I was back in warm and sunny Mexico! During winter break, I took a week-long trip around the Yucatan Peninsula, spending most of my time in Tulum and Playa del Carmen. I rented a car and drove around and truly had a wonderful time with my sidekick ;). Back in September, I booked flights and accommodations, did a little research and pretty much winged it day-to-day. I thought I would break up the trip into three sections/three posts and give you an inside look on my experience in this incredible part of the world. This first part mostly is about food…my favorite thing.

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We started off in Playa Del Carmen for our first two nights and had fun eating tacos, wandering around and eventually making our way to beach Xcacel which turned out to be way closer to Tulum. Don’t trust the cartoon maps and their distance aproximation! Ha. We chose to rent a car mainly because we wanted the freedom and to be able to go where we wanted when we wanted and avoid the tour buses and having to take numerous taxis and collectivos to get around. We rented from Hertz right at the airport and while it was pricey, we did pay for the highest levels of insurance which in my opinion are absolutely worth it! I’ve heard that its cheaper to rent outside the airport, but only had a week and wanted to make the most of our time!

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For both of our dinners we ate at a restaurant called Don Sirloin right in the center of Playa Del Carmen. While it did seem like a chain restaurant, we loved it a locals and tourists alike were dining there. One things I noticed is that the tacos did not have rice or beans on them….something that the States insists on putting in every taco. True tacos are simply a tortilla, meat and fajitas or cheese if you choose to add on. Guacamole and different salsas come on the side so you can add that on. So good. Over the course of the week I ate so many tacos from street tacos, family establishments or chain restaurants and loved them all.

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During my prior research, I heard that there was a beach called Xcacel that was off the path, quiet and really stunning and new we had to go! It took us forever to find it because the sign was faded and hidden between bushes, but boy are we glad we found it! It is also a turtle sanctuary, so they ask for a small donation on entry. There is no food or water there so bring your own if you go! There is also a cenote, which is a sinkhole with water at the site called Xcacelito. The beach was beautiful, quiet and everything that I had wanted. We played lots of scrabble on our travel board, soaked in the Vitamin D and frolicked in the water. It was the perfect afternoon! We returned to the beach two more times because it was such a phenomenal find.

Playa Del Carmen is a great place to have as a transit location. It attracts a heavy amount of tourists and is known for being a party town. We stayed away from that area and had a hotel more in the downtown area which we enjoyed.

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On our third day we headed out to Tulum which is about 45 minutes away from PDC. Tulum is known for being a hip destination that caters to a “hippie” crowd. Many years ago it was a quiet place and in the last years it has become a highly sought after vacation spot from people around the world. In many ways it reminds me of boulder with the relaxed vibe, health couscious food and yoga and meditation centers. We stayed slightly outside of downtown at a place called Joy Tulum and loved it. The beach area is crazy expensive and one tour book called it “the place for millenials with seriously disposable incomes.” We went one afternoon to check it out and found it to be expensive with a party atmosphere and not the most respectful of fellow guests. Downtown Tulum however is wonderful with tons of delicious places to eat; and a blend of old and new. Joy Tulum offered free bikes which we made use of biking to the beach and around town a few times.

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Food highlights from downtown Tulum were El Cabello that serves the freshest ceviche at astonishing low prices. There often is a small wait but oh. my. god. We got heaps of shrimp and octopus ceviche and could baand rely finish it!

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We also enjoyed Burrito Amor which is a newer place and serves very reasonably priced burritos. It has a VERY hipster vibe and is pretty much solely tourists but we loved the flavor of the burritos and the service was great. ALSO if you go you must try one of their coconut macaroons. Best I have ever had!

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The place we frequented the most was a cafe called Babel that is run by an expat. Almost every morning we got two Belgium waffles to go for the road and a fruit smoothie. They also have an array of fresh salads, a full coffee bar and the people overall there are very kind and gracious.

Perhaps the highlight of the trip was the street tacos. We wish we had been eating more of them they were so good! I know people are often hesitant to eat street food but the flavor is one point, so reasonable and a great way to grab a quick bite. On our last night we found a great ice cream place that I fell in love with and was so happy! They also have great drop in bars where there are swings instead of seats and mojitos for days.

That’s all for now! Stay tuned for the next post which is all about the three main ruins we visited followed by the third post about the cenotes and caves we explored!

Happy Traveling,

Kaila

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