Playa Del Carmen
An hour south of Cancún is the much smaller beach town of Playa Del Carmen. Getting here is as simple as taking the luxurious ADO bus for Mex$60 (£2.30) or a colectivo which can be flagged down on the side of the road.
There’s accommodation to fit every budget, we stayed in Hostel Colores Mexicanos. Cheap, simple rooms with a big, communal balcony and only a minute walk to everything: banks, shops, restaurants, tour companies, parks, the bus terminal and the beach.
Stop by the beautiful Capilla de Nta Señora del Carmen church in Parque Fundadores before watching the mesmerizing Danza de los Voladores, the Dance of the Flyers. It’s an ancient ceremony where 5 men tied to ropes dance and make their way to the top of the 30-meter pole. Very impressive!
The main street has some great shops and restaurants, the long sandy beach is lined with the usual deck chairs, bars and fancy hotels. If you’re on a budget there is a little food market on the corner of Avenida Benito Juárez and Avenida Norte and another by Parque Fundadores.
When you get bored with shopping, swimming and relaxing in Playa Del Carmen, you can head to the island of Cozumel to do much of the same. Hop on the Ultramar ferry from the south end of town, the round trip costs Mex$326 (£13), it’s well worth it even for a day trip.
The town of San Miguel has avoided being turned into a tacky tourist resort and is full of great shops, restaurants and bars. There are plenty of options for everything, it’s the best place to book a tour or hire transportation.
Surrounding Isla Cozumel is the clearest, bluest water I’ve ever seen. Arrecifes de Cozumel National Park is popular for scuba diving, and you can head to Chankanaab Eco-park for the chance to see dolphins, manatees and sea turtles. Due to a lack of diving qualifications (and funds), we decided on a snorkelling tour instead.
We went with Iguana Tours and paid US$25 (£16) for a half-day tour on a glass-bottom boat with three hours of snorkelling at three different locations, or at least that’s what they told us. In reality, it was 2 hours of snorkelling at 2 different locations… but it was still fun.
The water was warm and crystal clear. A photographer joined us in the water to take photos available for purchase at the end, but you can take your own waterproof cameras if you have them. There wasn’t much to see, but it was a good way to spend a morning!
Isla Cozumel is much bigger than Isla Mujeres at 48km long and 16km wide, a great way to see it all is to rent a scooter or even a jeep for the day, depending on your budget. This gives you the freedom to explore the whole island and find the best spots for lunch.
There is plenty to see on the island, from the ancient ruins of El Castillo Real and Mayan temple El Cedral to the beautiful vistas of Punta Sur and Playa Palancar. There’s even a reggae bar dedicated to the legend, Bob Marley. If you have a 4×4 you can make it to the deserted lighthouse of Punta Molas.
The last ferry back to the mainland is at 7pm so make sure you give yourself enough time to refuel and return your wheels before walking to the terminal.
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