Hi there ♡ This article is about my trip to Mexico & Belize in July / August. I’ve been traveling these two countries for one month all in all and I’ve experienced so much in this short time – it’s crazy ! I took a direct flight from Cologne to Cancun, which takes about 11 hours.
After I’ve arrived at the airport in Cancun in the late afternoon and decided to save some money by taking a ADO Bus instead of a cab to my hostel. The bus station is in front of the exit at the airport and the drive to the center of Cancun takes about an hour and costs about 6€. After arriving at the bus station, I had to take a cab to my hostel (which was really close to the station, but I was to lazy to walk). Taxis are really cheap in Mexico, all you have to do is: bargain !
I only booked a night in the “Mezcal“ hostel, because I wanted to leave to Isla Mujeres in the next morning. My advice: skip Cancun and go to Isla Mujeres right away – there’s no need to spend a night in Cancun, as Isla Mujeres is just a 30min ferry ride away. Even though I didn’t really like Cancun, my hostel was really cool! I’ve shared a room with 4 more girls, the bathroom was clean, we had aircondition and dinner + breakfast were included in the 18€ per night.
• Isla Mujeres
It’s really easy to get to the beautiful “Isle of Women“ from Cancun. Simply take a cab to Puerto Juarez, which is the harbour from where you can take the ferry to Isla. It takes about 30mins + you can buy a roundway ticket for 10€ (you can use the tickets whenever you want). The boat has a rooftop, from where you can enjoy the view over the ocean.
I stayed at the famous “Poc Na“ hostel, which is the place to be on Isla Mujeres! It’s the only hostel on this small island and the place where all the magic is happening – believe me 😉 ! It costs around 7€ a night with breakfast included. The rooms are pretty basic (choose the ones with a/c if available) but they have the best chillout-area EVER, with a lot of hammocks and a beach right in front of it! They do yoga classes in the morning and they offer great massages at reasonable prices. They have their own little snack bar, from where you can buy super cheap food, they offer the best tours, there’s live music every night and last but not least: they throw the best parties !
Seriously: Isla Mujeres was one of my favorite places on this whole trip. I’ve met amazing people while staying there and I’ve experienced the funniest and craziest days / nights. Another huuuge advantage of this hostel is, that you are just a 3min walk away from the breathtaking Playa Norte, one of the most beautiful beaches in the whole world – the colors of the water will make you want to stay forever! There are lots of opportunities to have great food on the island, such as the best Nachos you will ever eat in your whole life or some great authentic mexican street food. If you want to have a fun night out: go in to the strange looking jewelry shops to drink free tequila 😉 ! You can rent golf carts or bikes to explore the island or simply walk everywhere. This island is truly a piece of heaven.
One of the trips I booked over my hostel, was the whale shark tour, which is only available during whale shark season (june – september). It was one of the things that actually made me go to Mexico during the summer months (rain season – but it didn’t rain very often). You pay around 55€ and you’ll get picked up right at the hostel. There’s a small breakfast (really small), lunch and another snorkel spot included. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan: tell them before, otherwise you’ll only get pineapple to eat! The boat trip takes about 90 minutes to arrive at the spot in the ocean, where uncountable whale sharks are swimming. I found the boat trip to be ok, but when the boat stands still in the water, next to the whale sharks, you can get seasick pretty easily. Only 2 people were allowed in the water at the same time (per boat of course), so while you’re waiting, you’ll need to survive on that boat without getting sick. Another tipp: rent a wetsuit or neoprene before the trip, so you don’t need to wear one of the stupid life jackets.
The experience of swimming with these gentle giants was AMAZING ! I really enjoyed swimming next to them in the water and watching their huge mouths open to eat plankton. At one time, I was swimming in-between two sharks and that was a really thrilling moment, because you need to be aware of their tails all the time (or you will get knocked out) and they swim much faster than you. All in all I really recommend you to do this tour, to observe these fascinating marine animals by yourself – you will never forget this experience and I will totally do it again in the Philippines one day.
• Chitchen Itza & Cenote Ik Kil
Another day trip that I’ve booked over the reception of the Poc Na Hostel, was the day trip to Chitchen Itza and the Cenote Ik Kil. I’ve spend 40€ for the day trip, including a big big lunch buffet, alle entrance fees, guides and so on. You will have to spend another 10€ on the ferry tickets again, but it was so worth it, because I didn’t want to spend a night in Cancun to do this trip.
The second and last stop before the bus headed back home, was the beautiful Ik Kil Cenote. There’s something magical about these cenotes and I can’t explain what it is… After changing into my bikini and taking a shower, I went down multiple stairs to cool down in this beautiful sinkhole.
I took the Ultramar ferry back to Puerto Juarez harbor / Cancun and after that, I had to look out for a cab. Walk out of the harbor and it’s parking place to the street and you will find cabs, that will take you wherever you want to go for waaaay less money than the ones in front of the harbor.
I went to the ADO bus station in the centre of Cancun and bought a bus ticket to Tulum – they drive pretty much every hour. After a 90mins bus trip, in a really comfortable bus, I arrived in Tulum centre.
Tulum is everything I have ever expected from Mexico and there are so many things around, that you can do. I’ve stayed at the “Chill In“ hostel for 2 nights, but I really can’t recommend it because you will share a room with too many people, there’s not much space in the rooms, nobody in there is really communicative and the toilets almost never worked. After a few days I have found some simple and cheap cabanas right in front of the beautiful beach in Tulum for around 25€ a night. I think they were called “Cabanas Baanaction“ but you can’t find them on google or anywhere else – they are on the left of the popular “Hotel Diamante K“ and they have the most stunning little private beach ever. They are owned by an old mexican guy, who likes to drink tequila and chill out and this makes this place so special, because you will experience the original mexican lifestyle over there. The room consists of your bed, a mosquito net and a table – that’s it! There is no electricity inside the rooms, so if you want to charge your phone for e.g, you will have to do it on the veranda at daytime. The shower & toilet is outside of the room as well, but I didn’t mind to live a pretty basic lifestyle for a couple of days. All of the hostels are located in the centre of tulum, which is a tough bike ride away from the beach (30mins?). If you want to spend less on the accommodation and don’t mind taking a cab or bike to the beach: stay in the “Hostel Che“ ! It’s a really cool and modern place, where my friends decided to stay at and I’ve been hanging out with them there every evening (party!). The following pictures were taken right in front of my cabana:
Tulum has a lot to offer: you can either spend your day at the beautiful beaches, enjoy great food around the beach area (expensive), ride your bike or explore the magical town with so many different options to have cheap local food. If you leave the main street in Tulums touristic places and you walk into the smaller streets, there will be so many small restaurants with authentic mexican food. You can get empanadas, enchiladas, guacamole, tacos with huge amounts of vegetables,cheese and salsa and so on for 1-2€ (you will be more than full after spending 4€ including a drink).
Another thing to do in Tulum is to visit the famous archeological mayan ruins at the beach. Go there by cab or collectivo bus (really cheap transfer busses) or walk. I decided not to take a guide, because I’ve already learned a lot about the mayan ruins on my tour to Chitchen Itza. The entrance fee is about 4€.
Another spot you shouldn’t miss out is “Akumal Beach“ aka the turtle beach. You can take a collectivo bus to get there 🙂 There will be a lot of people asking you, if you want to swim with the turtles, because they want you to buy a tour (it’s not necessary and you would have to wear lifjackets). If they are starting to get on your nerves, simply tell them that you’re staying in a hotel on this beach 😉
Akumal beach is always a little bit crowded but it’s one of those perfect mexican beaches with turquoise / baby blue water. You will only have to swim a few meters to see the turtles, there are hundreds of them, sometimes even three at the same time and they are big.
If you want to do something you can’t do anywhere else in this world: visit the cenotes ! There are a lot of cenotes around Tulum and some of them are really close to the town central. You can either take a cab or rent a scooter for a day (20€) and explore all of them by yourself. I decided to go and visit the famous “Gran Cenote“. The entrance fee is about 10€ but it’s soooo worth it – such a beautiful place! You will be able to swim through the caves (even diving is possible if you want to), watch the fishes and turtles swim around and enjoy snorkeling through the clear freshwater sinkhole, where you feel like you’re in the middle of the jungle. The water is pretty cold, so be prepared for that.
Last but not least, you should definitely visit the ruins of Coba while in Tulum. The archeological park is home to a couple of mayan ruins in the middle of the jungle. One of them is the most interesting one, because you can climb up to its top.
I’ve rented a scooter for a day (20€) and it was a 90mins drive to get to the ruins. You will drive down the street where all the cenotes are located. It’s pretty easy to get there by yourself, because you only need to follow one road, turn left two times and that’s it – the only disadvantage of going there by yourself is, that it takes some time. The nature on the way to the ruins is beautiful, that’s why I’d definitely recommend to go there by scooter – I saw a tarantula and even a snake.
The entrance fee to the ruins is 6€ and you can spend a lot of time there, because the biggest ruin is about 2km from the entrance. If you make it to that one (without paying a ricksha driver), you will notice that the steps to get up there are really steep – be careful not to fall!
• Bacalar / Laguna de los 7 colores
Go to the ADO bus station in Tulum and book a ticket to Bacalar – that’s it. You will sit in the bus for 3 hours and need to be careful not to catch a cold. Book your hostel (or hotel) in advance, because me and my friends had troubles finding a spot to sleep. In the end, we ended up in the “Green Monkey Hostel“ in a old camper van right in front of the lagoon.
Bacalar is a beautiful town. There’s not much to do but chill out at the freshwater lagoon, which looks like the caribbean ocean. The town is untouristy and you don’t need to spend too much time here, if you get bored of relaxing easily. Two or three days are enough.
• Caye Caulker / Belize
It was time to travel to another country ! The first stop in Belize was the beautiful island of Caye Caulker, which is one of many, but a lot cheaper than Ambergris Caye, which is the biggest island of Belize.
Take a collectivo bus from Bacalars town center to Chetumal, then take a cab to the harbor. When you tell your driver, that you want to go to Caye Caulker, they know where to take you. It’s important, that you bring cash to the harbor, because you can’t pay by credit card and there’s no ATM. You pay around 50€ (one way) for the speedboat ticket and another 20€ exit fee or so for leaving Mexico. Be prepared to go through security and passport controls, after that you will be sitting in or on top of a small boat for approx. 2 hours, with a short stop on Ambergris Caye (another passport control).
A lot of beachboys will talk to you upon your arrival: they want to show you accommodations, in order to get a small payment from the place you choose to sleep in the end. I don’t really remember the hostels name where we’ve stayed at, but the hostels are all pretty much the same: not really cheap, not really clean, basic BUT close to the beach and you will meet cool people over there 🙂 Belize is more expensive than Mexico, especially when it comes to food and especially on the islands. I’ve been living off burritos and chinese street food for 5 days, because everything in the restaurants was more expensive than in Germany.
Caye Caulker is so tiny, you can walk around the whole island within an hour or so. If you are looking for some authentic reggae lifestyle, you will definitely have to go there one day!
Even though Belizes islands are not the cheapest places to vacate in central america, they are totally worth a visit! The whole island is filled with colorful houses and pure happiness. The water is so gorgeous over there and there are basically hammocks everywhere to chill out in. The only annoying thing was: the prices for everything and guys constantly kat calling girls – you can’t walk a single meter without someone wanting to flirt with you.
The island itself is basically just a huge beach 🙂 but the sand in the water has sort of a muddy consistency and that’s why everybody’s hanging out at the Split. The Split is a beautiful place on the island, where the island got splitted in two parts by a hurricane. There’s a restaurant and a big boardwalk, from where you can jump into the stream between the island and its separated part. The restaurant there is a good place to take some cocktails at the Happy Hour and then you should go to the “Sports Bar“ to visit the islands only (and pretty cool) party place.
Caye Caulker is the perfect starting point for a lot of water themed tours, because the island is in the second largest barrier reef of the world. You can go diving in the famous blue whole or on other diving hotspots, or book some snorkel tours etc.
Actually, one of the main reasons why I wanted to go to Caye Caulker, was the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. You can book this tour anywhere on the island (60€ including lunch, water and rum punch) and you will go snorkeling on 4 or 5 different spots in the Belize Barrier Reef:
1: Corals & caves — 2: Shark & Ray Alley — 3: Corals — 4: Shipwreck — 5: Manatees
I saw turtles on spot number 1, a lot of nurse sharks and stingrays on spot number 2, beautiful healthy corals on spot number 3, an old shipwreck and lots of fishes on spot number 4 and sadly no manatees on spot number 5. I was really hoping to see manatees, but you can never predict to see a rare wild animal in nature and that’s a good thing in my opinion 🙂 my favorite part was swimming with the sharks and rays – sharks are one of my favorite animals and I want to go swimming with as many different species as possible!
• San Ignacio (Cayo District) / Belize
I wanted to go to the jungle in Belize, before heading back to Mexico and San Ignacio seemed to be the perfect place for jungle adventures – it’s not!
I booked the boat & bus tickets over a travel office in Caye Caulker…The price was about 50€. I took the boat from the pier in CC to Belize City, where me and my friends had to wait about 2 hours, till our “fast bus“ would arrive. In the meantime, we explored Belizes capital a little bit.. This city is not a good place to explore or travel! It’s a really poor place with a lot of people selling drugs, begging and a lot of robberies – we were glad to leave as fast as possible! The bus ride to San Ignacio took 2 hours and was really comfortable and we had wifi on board – but it’s not worth spending the money. You can take a “chicken“ or local bus from Belize Citys bus station, which will take about 2 1/2 hours and might be crowded, but you will only pay around 5€ for the whole drive.
Me and my friends stayed at “Bellas Hostel“ for 11€ a night and it was a really cool hostel, with a nice rooftop hammock area, good bathrooms and nice people. San Ignacio is a boring town, because there’s not much to do..We’ve seen a lot of stray dogs in really bad conditions and a opossum, which seemed to be very sick as well.. There was no jungle close by…and I went on a hike out of town for more than 2 hours – nothing!
We booked a cave tubing tour over one of the tour offices for 100€ (!!!) and that was the only real jungle experience we’ve got in Belize 🙁 The tour was really cool: first you hike through the jungle, while carrying your tubes, until you come to the tubing starting point. From there on you’re floating through the river, along the jungle and through some caves – no speed floating, it’s really slow! The caves were really cool and dark and sitting in a tube in the middle of a dark river is a thrilling experience, but I wouldn’t go to San Ignacio for something like that again, not if you want a real jungle experience. Our guide even showed us some hidden spots in the caves and we were able to walk through them a little bit and jump from rocks.
Don’t expect to see any wildlife while in San Ignacio – no crocs, no birds, no cats…nothing! I was so disappointed! If I’d have known that before, I’d have gone to another district in Belize.
• going back to Mexico
My friends and I decided to take the chicken bus back to Belize City this time. As I said before: the price is about 5€ and it will take about 2 1/2 hours to get there – make sure you get a seat in the bus! After we have arrived in BC, we wanted to take the bus back to Mexico, but unfortunately we have missed it and we had to wait 8 hours (!!!) to take the night bus. We stored our luggage in a special room at the bus station, walked into town and spend most of the time hanging out in a restaurant in the city.
The bus drive back to Mexico is long, especially if you want to go to Playa del Carmen. I only remember, that the drive started at 7pm and we arrived at 5am or something. It was awful, but at least the two border controls went pretty fast and without any troubles.
• Playa del Carmen
I actually wanted to spend my last week there, but after one day I was already bored of this extremely touristic place: The beaches are ok, but full of people and the only reason why you’d stay in PdC is to party or to go shopping, if you’re not staying in one of those huge resorts. We’ve spend two days at the beach and went shopping and after that we decided to go back to Isla Mujeres 🙂 one of the most relaxed places I’ve been to.
In my opinion PdC (& Cancun) has nothing to do with the real Mexico. It’s just a touristy place that could be anywhere in the caribbean and you will be missing out on so many things if you’re spending a whole vacation there.
If you decide to spend some time there, I can really recommend the “Shambala Eco Hostel“ which is a great and quiet hostel for only 7€ a night.
• Isla Mujeres (again)
I don’t think I have to explain, why I decided to go back 😉 Isla is the perfect place to relax and party in your last days in Mexico. You can never go wrong with the beautiful Isla Mujeres and the “Poc Na Hostel“. I could’ve spend 2 weeks just on this small island, because it’s so beautiful and so much fun and I even got my wave tattoo there.
I hope you enjoyed this blogpost about Mexico & Belize 🙂 I really fell in love with Mexico and I will be back one day. If you need some more inspiration: go and check out my Mexico & Belize Video