Travel

Pack Like a Pro – Carry on Only

 

So, you’re packing for a trip and you prefer the freedom that packing lightly allows.

I believe that there are definitely times when checked in luggage is necessary. However, there are also times when carry-on baggage is not only enough, but can be to your benefit.

If at all possible, traveling with a carry-on is the way that I prefer to travel. In fact, when I begin to plan a trip, my first objective is to determine whether or not I can manage with merely my duffel bag. The two biggest reasons that I prefer to travel lightly is because I usually travel through an economy friendly airlines like Spirit. If you have ever booked through Spirit Airlines, you know that in order to keep their flights so cheap, they do charge an additional fee for checked in  luggage or extra carry-on luggage. Not only is it cheaper to travel this way but it also saves  time. Any experienced traveler will tell you horror stories about waiting at the luggage carousal  for their bags to appear. There is also the horror of realizing that your bags have been thoroughly gone through by airline security (or un authorized employees.) I can’t tell you how many times that I have had items “lost” this way (never put anything of value in your checked in luggage) and I have actually acquired a stranger’s make-up this way. I’m sure that passenger was not too happy. On my last trip my brand-new luggage was permanently damaged.

I have attached a free printable checklist. It may not contain everything that you need but it will give you a good starting point.  I followed with a list of a few travel tips. Any links to websites are highlighted for your convenience.

   MEDS                                                                                 

  • Two small packs of Tylenol
  • Contacts / Case
  • Contact Solution
  • Sunscreen

  TOILETRIES

  • Lotion
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Brush
  • Make-up
  • Face Wash
  • Deodorant
  • Razor
  • Pony Tails / Bobby Pins

  ELECTRONICS/SPORTS

  • Camera
  • Camera Charger
  • Phone Charger
  • Disks
  • Camera Battery
  • Snorkel Gear

CLOTHING

  • Sandals
  • 2 pr. Socks
  • Pajamas
  • Two T-shirts
  • Two Pair Jean Shorts
  • One Pr. Comfy Shorts
  • Four Tank Tops
  • Extra Bra
  • Two Sundresses/Skirts
  • Two Bathing Suits
  • One Bathing Cover Up

  DOCUMENTS

  • Passport and a copy of passport
  • License and a copy of my license
  • Plane Tickets
  • Maps
  • Airport Transfer / Rental Car Confirmation
  • Hotel Reservation
  • Parent Permission Form
  • FMM Paper

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MONEY SAVING TRAVEL TIPS**

My duffle bag (carry-on) is the largest allowed size for carry-on by Spirit, which is  22x18x10. I do carry my purse with me which doubles as a beach bag and I can put this into my carry-on right before boarding the plane. Before I put it in overhead storage, I pull my purse back out so I have easy access to my paperwork.

Toiletries:

Most hotels and air bnb’s provide shampoo and conditioner, if not you can either buy travel friendly sizes (3.4 ounces or less) or fill containers like the plastic container like I use for sunscreen and hair gel. In fact, any liquid that I want to take is transported in this way. You can take one quart size bag full of liquids if they are transported in the allowed size. In this quart size bag I also store my travel size tooth paste and deodorant.

Clothing:

I lay my clothes on top of each other than roll them and secure the roll with rubber bands. This will allow you to fit in as much as possible. My skirts and dresses are all iron free fabric.

Airports are cold! I don’t care if you are in the north or the tropics. I always wear a light jacket or sweater to the airport. If you don’t need it on the plane you can always roll it and use it to rest your head.

Sometimes I am also able to include a beach towel. I simply wrap it around my bundeled up clothes.

Ironing Hack: 

If you have  items that will need ironing hang them up in the bathroom and the steam from your shower will steam the wrinkles out.

I wear Tennis shoes as they take up additional space in the bag. It may mean that you have to take them off at security but this has never been a problem, slip them off and then right back on again.

I make copies of my passport and drivers license and I keep that with me at all times. The originals I keep in the safe that most hotels, air bnb’s offer.

If staying at an Air bnb there are usually laundry facilities. If so this can mean packing even fewer clothes.

We usually travel to the Caribbean which is very casual and flip-flops are adequate for whatever our dining needs are. If you feel you need a pair of dressier sandals there should be plenty of room. You may not need tennis shoes. My trips usually include the need for tennis shoes because we like to go on adventurous outings and hikes. If climbing pyramids is on your agenda, you will need tennis shoes.

Phone Hack: 

If you forget your adapter for your charger, most TV’s have a spoy in the back to plug in your charger.

Documents:

I make copies of my passport and driverse license and I keep it with me or in my rantal car at all times. The originals I keep in the safe that most hotels and Air bnb’s offer.

Your phone is great for a GPS however, we love to travel way off the beaten path and we have found many times that our phones lose service for hours at a time. In these cases we have had to rely on old fasioned maps.

Always keep your rental car information in the rental car gove box itself. Hopefully in the near future I will do a blog on driving safely in the Yucatan Penninsula and Grand Bahamas.

If you are traveling with minor children without both parents present: I can not stress this enough…. You must have a permission slip signed from the other parent and notarized giving permission for you to take that child/ren out of the country. I have traveled out of the country with minor children ( without my spouse) on numerous occasions. I have only needed this documentaion one time. Had I not had it, I would not have been able to board the plane with my son! Our whole trip would have been ruined. It is at the mercy of either government to deny you passage or entrance without this form. A link is provided above.

FMM:

Immagration form. Most airports pass one out to each passenger on the plane twenty minutes before you land. Since I travel with children, I have found this stressfull to fill out and quite frankly many airlines are known to “run out.” It is so easy to go to this website, (link provided above under documents check list) fill it out on line and print off. If you are stuck filling it out at the airport this can delay going through customs and picking up of your luggage. Last trip the airlines ran out (again) since mine was already filled out we were first in line through customs while the others scrambled to fill them out. It simply makes life easier. Do not forget to keep the half that they tear off and return. We keep it right in our passport book. If you should happen to lose it- good luck-  I’m only half kidding. If you do lose it you’ll need to arrive for your outgoing flight early, pay a penalty and fill out another form.

I truly hope I have encouraged you to travel with carry-on only. It can truly minimize travel stress. If you love to travel this way too and have more tips or advice, please leave a comment below. Most of my travels have been to caribbean locations (we love heat). This does make packing easier because clothing is much smaller and no parka is required!

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“>DISCLAIMER: My content may or may not contain affiliate links for products I use and love. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, I may earn money which  enables me to make more creative content such as this.

 

ancient mayan ruins, mayan pyramids, Pre-Columbian Mexico, Cancun, Ancient ruins, Tulum, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Dzibanche, Coba, Mayan Riviera, Yucatan Peninsula, Mayan culture
Travel

5 Pyramids of the Yucatan

It had been 18 years since I had last been to the Yucatan. A growing family and family obligations in general had tried to erase my memories of “home.” It’s so odd to me that as a white girl (can I say that?) from the United States, I have never felt more at home than I did and do in Mexico. The ancient history, the flavorful food, music and vibrant colors of both the people and the landscape felt oddly familiar even after my first visit long ago.  My first few trips to the Yucatan Peninsula included the water havens of Xcaret and Xel-ha.  Albeit they were just opening twenty some years ago and they have evolved into something more like Disney on water now. If you have never been, I would suggest that you go especially if you have young children or teens. That being said this last trip we were craving a real adventure. An authentic Mexico. Less touristy with more off the beaten path locations.  We would be traveling in August so we knew that being around the ocean, cenotes or a pool would be very important. We tried to keep this in mind as we planned our various outings to the different ancient Mayan Pyramid sites that we planned to visit.

If visiting Mayan Pyramids in the Yucatan is on your bucket list too, you may want to consider the 5 that I have listed below. They are not listed in order of my preference but rather in the order of their popularity and/or size of the site.  If you are more of the adventurous type you may prefer #4 and #5 on my list. They are far from famous but I guarantee they are mystical you will be awestruck.

#1 CHICHENITZA

#2 COBA

#3 TULUM

#4 EK BALAM

#5 DZIBANCHE

TIPS

After 9 trips to Mayan Riviera and the surrounding jungles I have come up with a list of the following tips that will make your adventure more pleasurable.

First, while it is not necessary to rent a vehicle (many will warn you NOT to) I find that we much prefer being in control of our schedule. We always choose to rent a car. Tour excursions are about 100.00 pp U.S. Last trip we had 6 people going. So, that amounts to 600.00 $ for every tour ( OUCH!) A van on the other hand cost 1100.00 for 14 days. The last time we used ISIS based in Cancun. It is family operated and Edgar is who you would need to contact. He truly bent over backwards to accommodate us.  I always make sure I arrange this before I leave for our trip. He will meet you at the airport so you can sign the agreement right there.  Not only does a rental car save money but it allows you to arrive at all of the sites as they open, thus avoiding the crowded tour buses. Many people will discourage you from renting as they feel it can be dangerous. You will hear stories of “La Mordida.” I personally have never, ever been pulled over and have rented numerous times. I will be honest to tell you that I have feared it in the past. I mean, who wants to be pulled over by a federale sporting a machine gun? For this reason, I highly suggest doing your research before you arrive in Mexico. I spent endless hours on trip advisor reading stories and tips from those that have rented successfully.

If you are taking in a camera, remember that some sites do charge extra.

Paying for tour guides: We chose not to but only because we have been to many sites in the past and are quite familiar with the history. If you have never been and are unfamiliar, I would definitely pay extra for a tour guide.

Because the exchange rate is ever changing, the prices in US are approximate.

When traveling through the Yucatan you will find (especially in the smaller more remote villages) that Spanish is spoken as a second language. Many of the Mayan villages still speak Mayan as their first language and only learn Spanish if and when they enter a formal education.

Public bathrooms cost 5 pesos to use

List of Must Have Items for Your Excursion

PESOS!! – That is truly stating the obvious. You are in Mexico. Some of these lesser known sites are far away from Cancun. Some may actually take dollars but expect your change to be given in pesos. Expect also that the exchange rate they give you will not be to your benefit. To make things easy, pesos should be used.

    • Biodegradable sunscreen   (protect the cenotes and reefs)
    • Bug repellent
    • Bathing suit if stopping at a cenote
    • 1-2 Liters of water per person
    • Hat or visor
    • Comfortable walking shoes
    • Camera, fully charged and disk
    • Fully charge phone
    • Old fashioned map. There are many places in the Yucatan that are not connected to WIFI.
    • Cash (pesos) many places do not take credit cards
    • Sack lunch or snack if no on-site facilities are available
    • First aid kit (we left ours in the car the whole trip)
    • Snorkeling gear (some cenotes have them available for rent but we prefer    our own)
    • Towels
    • Sport towel

Find the best hotels in Cancun with Skyscanner!

While we prefer to stay in Tankah or Akumal. I realize many tourists are coming from Cancun or Playa Del Carmen. For this reason, the time/distance is gauged from Cancun.

The Pyramids

Chichen Itza – (Mouth of the Well)

ancient mayan ruins, mayan pyramids, Pre-Columbian Mexico, Cancun, Ancient ruins, Tulum, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Dzibanche, Coba, Mayan Riviera, Yucatan Peninsula, Mayan culture
Chichen Itza

Occupied: 500-1550 AD

Admittance fee: 242 pesosor 13 US

Night show fee: 220 pesos or 11 US

Hours: M-S 8:00 a.m.

Lunch: Available on or near site

Distance from Cancun: 2 ¼ hours

El Castillo, the main pyramid or temple has 365 steps. One for each day of the year. It is decorated with magnificent serpents that run down each side. During the fall and spring equinox the shadow of the serpent can be seen descending or ascending down the height of the pyramid. This temple is an astonishing example of the ancient Mayans knowledge and understanding of astronomy. Even though we did not visit Chichen Itza on my last trip, I have been many times in the past. In fact, the last time that we were there, climbing the main Castillo was still allowed. The only reason we chose not to go on this last trip was because we had other sites that we had not seen yet. We do plan to return someday for the equinox and I would love to see the night show. If you have never been to Chichen Itza, it is a must see as it is the 7thwonder of the world and truly amazing. Again, arriving early is key. I would not want to be there when all of the tours buses arrive. This site is quite large and it is my guess that you will be in search of a cenote to cool off in after. There is a cenote at this site however in Pre-Columbian days it was used for human sacrifice and swimming is not allowed.  I would suggest Ik Kil which is near- by and a gorgeous setting. The cost is 70 pesos or 5 U.S. per adult and 35 pesos or 2.50 U.S. per child

Coba

ancient mayan ruins, mayan pyramids, Pre-Columbian Mexico, Cancun, Ancient ruins, Tulum, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Dzibanche, Coba, Mayan Riviera, Yucatan Peninsula, Mayan culture
Coba

Occupied: 600-900 AD

Admittance fee: 114 pesos or 6 US

Hours: M-S 8:00 a.m.

Lunch: Available on or  near site

Distance from Cancun: 2  hours

Bike Rental: 60 pesos or 3 US

Upon entering the park, you will have an option to rent a bike. I highly recommend this as a means of seeing the park. The site is huge with many ruins to see, plus the breeze when riding the bike is a great way to cool off in the heat and humidity of the jungle. Coba is the tallest pyramid in the Yucatan. It reaches 137 feet high with 120  (steep) steps to the top. Don’t laugh but seeing pictures of this pyramid while planning our trip prompted us to start a workout regimen a few months before our trip. We are in our early 50’s and in decent shape but I did not want to miss what may be my last opportunity to climb this magnificent pyramid. The incline is very steep but the view from the top is truly surreal. From the top, you can see another pyramid reaching to the sky, fully surrounded and seemingly eaten by the jungle below. You really get a sense of what the Mayans felt in Pre-Columbian times.  You will want to plan a few hours for this site and since it is inland it will get hot and humid. There are many cenotes in close proximity to Coba to stop and cool off at. We decided on the much-famed Gran Cenote (see my blog on cenotes.) Cenotes of the Yucatan   El Gran Cenote is only ½ hour from Coba and it is on the way back to HWY 307. The admission is a bit pricey (25 US.)  If we were to go again, I would skip El Gran and stop at Cristalino. El Gran is gorgeous but expensive and crowded. In my opinion, Cristalino is just as gorgeous and only 150 pesos or about 8 US.  Cristalino is off of 307 to the west and just north of Akumal.

 

Tulum  (Trench or Wall)

ancient mayan ruins, mayan pyramids, Pre-Columbian Mexico, Cancun, Ancient ruins, Tulum, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Dzibanche, Coba, Mayan Riviera, Yucatan Peninsula, Mayan culture
Tulum

Occupied: 1200-1400 AD

Admittance fee: 40 pesos or 2 US, parking 30 pesos, camera extra

Hours: M-S 8:00 a.m.

Lunch: Available near site

Distance from Cancun: 2  hours

Boat / Snorkel Tour: 25 US, arrange in Tulum

You will find what is unique about Tulum is exactly what it is renowned for. It is a fairly small but lovely site perched on the cliffs overlooking the beautiful Caribbean Sea. After taking a walking tour, head down to the beach below to take a quick dip. You may also decide to take the snorkeling and boat tour in order to view the ancient Mayan ruins from the sea. The cost was only 25 US.  We will definitely take the boat tour again when we go back. While the snorkeling does not offer the variety of fish as Akumal, you will still see quite a few fish. There is a small outcropping of coral that was quite impressive. What shocked and thrilled me the most was that it was here, in Tulum, that I had my first encounter with a giant turtle. Little did this turtle know that he was on my bucket list!

Ek Balam  (Black or Star Jaguar)

ancient mayan ruins, mayan pyramids, Pre-Columbian Mexico, Cancun, Ancient ruins, Tulum, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Dzibanche, Coba, Mayan Riviera, Yucatan Peninsula, Mayan culture
On top of Ek Balam
ancient mayan ruins, mayan pyramids, Pre-Columbian Mexico, Cancun, Ancient ruins, Tulum, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Dzibanche, Coba, Mayan Riviera, Yucatan Peninsula, Mayan culture
Small Market at Ek Balam

ancient mayan ruins, mayan pyramids, Pre-Columbian Mexico, Cancun, Ancient ruins, Tulum, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Dzibanche, Coba, Mayan Riviera, Yucatan Peninsula, Mayan culture
View from the top of Ek Balam

Occupied: 100 BC – Spanish Occupation (longest known occupied site known)

Admittance fee: 193 pesos or 8 US

Rickshaw fee to cenote: 150 pesos or 7.50 US

Cenote entrance: 50 pesos or 2.50 US

Hours: M-S 8:00 a.m.

Lunch: pack or stop in Valladolid

Distance from Cancun: 3  hours

While  Ek Balam is becoming a little more well known, it is still visited far less than Chichen Itza, Coba or Tulum. I personally prefer Ek Balam for a few reasons. First, the village that it is located in has been occupied by the same Mayan families for generations. Quite possibly the descendants of the original people who first occupied Ek Balam.  These families all contribute to the tours, upkeep and running of the ruins and cenote that are located on the same site. Second, Ek Balam has an odd mystical feeling, more so than the other sites. It is something that I can’t quite explain. I just remember feeling a peaceful awe and reference.  The day my family and I arrived we were there as they opened and one of very few others there. We really had the place to ourselves. What is oddly unique to Ek Balam is that near the top of the main pyramid there is a carving of what appeared to be a winged creature. This would not seem odd or out of place if it were at a location in Egypt but this is in the middle of the Yucatan. It makes one wonder if there had been outside influence or contact from other parts of the ancient world. We did not pay for a tour here for reasons previously stated however on our next visit I would hire a guide. It would be amazing to have some local insight as to why some of the carvings seem middle eastern in style. It was interesting to walk around alone and at one point we got a little lost as we wandered down a small side trail. The foliage and trees were quite dense and we noticed that we were walking by huge mounds of jungle covered unexcavated pyramids. We then came upon a small area that appeared to be a mini-village within the site. There were a few “houses” in the traditional Mayan style along with domesticated turkeys, dogs and chickens. Thinking that we had taken a wrong turn and probably shouldn’t be there, we decided to turn back.  At this site, you will see many sac be, or ancient white stone roads and pathways. It is said that these roads lead to Coba and other ancient sites in the Yucatan, good thing we turned around! As you are leaving you will pass a “gift shop” area. Keep in mind it is very rural and consists of a few Mayan shelters that display their hand made goods. If you are seeking authentic handmade Mayan products at  very reasonable prices (please have pesos), I would urge you to buy here. It is a way of helping to support this village and honestly the prices were the best we had seen on our trip. By this time, we were all feeling the heat and humidity. Thankfully there is a cenote right on site, X’Canche. We hired a rickshaw to transport us and my teenage girls loved the ride back! If you are trying to save your pesos, you can definitely walk back but keep in mind it’s hot, humid and about 1 mile.

Dzibanche: (Writing on Wood)

Pronounced tshi-bon-shee

ancient mayan ruins, mayan pyramids, Pre-Columbian Mexico, Cancun, Ancient ruins, Tulum, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Dzibanche, Coba, Mayan Riviera, Yucatan Peninsula, Mayan culture
Papashay Pup at Ek Balam
ancient mayan ruins, mayan pyramids, Pre-Columbian Mexico, Cancun, Ancient ruins, Tulum, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Dzibanche, Coba, Mayan Riviera, Yucatan Peninsula, Mayan culture
Howler Monkeys at Dzbanche Mexico
ancient mayan ruins, mayan pyramids, Pre-Columbian Mexico, Cancun, Ancient ruins, Tulum, Chichen Itza, Ek Balam, Dzibanche, Coba, Mayan Riviera, Yucatan Peninsula, Mayan culture
Pyramid at Dzbanche

 I guarantee, if you pronounce it Diz-bon-eetch, no one will know what you are talking about!

Occupied: 200 BC – 900 AD

Admittance fee: 46 pesos or 2 US

Hours: M-S 8:00 a.m.

Lunch: pack – nothing for miles…. and miles

Distance from Cancun: 5 1/2  hours

Most days I will tell you that Dzibanche is by far my favorite. Ek Balam does run a close second. I have been to Mexico many times but never ventured this far south. The topography changes to what seems to be more like a rain forest. The jungle is quite dense here. Considering it is so far south, I think that most tours are arranged through cruise ships that come in to port at Majahual. Other than that, I believe you are on your own to find and or arrange transportation (why I like to rent a car.) If a visit to Bacalar is included in your travel plans you should definitely plan to take a morning drive  to Dzibanche. What had intrigued me most (okay I was obsessed) about seeing this particular site was my desire to not only see but to hear howler monkeys in their natural habitat. Warning: If you plan to go and have never heard a howler I suggest you google their vocals. Their screeches can be quite scary and intimidating. They sound like what I would imagine to be a charging jaguar. Another surprise is the ride there. MapQuest will tell you that it is about 60 miles or an hour from Bacalar. When we went it was a bit over two hours. Through the small villages you will encounter multiple topes or speed bumps. Also, the road back off of  187 isn’t really a road like you may be used to.  It has pot holes so big that I swear some of the wandering cows could get lost in. No, I’m not kidding. When you pay the entrance fee it also includes the fee to its “sister site”, Kohunlich which is right down the “road”. Unfortunately, we had an overheated child and we were unable to make it that far. We arrived at Dzibanche at about 9 a.m. and we were the only tourists there. There was one other person, the man at the entrance collecting the entrance fee. It was very exciting if not a bit intimidating to be this deep in the overgrown jungle and to be the only other living (human) souls around. I do believe that we were far outnumbered by the howler monkeys. Because Mayan is the native tongue of the guide working and English is mine, we had to meet in the middle with both his and my broken Spanish. He was very friendly and just looked happy to have people to talk to. He offered us a tour at no additional fee (we did tip him well however.) Because we were the only other people there he was able to take us through the site showing us different plants and vegetation, including some of which we used immediately to ward off mosquitos!  He took us back through roped off areas that are still in the process of being excavated. All the while we were being watched by a family of lazy howlers. At one point my husband was trying the fruit that the guide told us the monkeys ate, evidently the howlers thought it would be funny to start throwing pits at my husband. We both tried the fruit but the howlers seemed more intent on pegging him and not me (a testosterone thing?) The whole experience was quite amazing. Here we were interacting with a family of wild howler monkeys! The other mammal that we became fond of was Papashay, the resident canine. This pup followed us everywhere even up to the top of the pyramids. He followed us into the roped off areas that from what I could understand were Pre-Columbian living quarters for the sites original residents. This was by far my favorite site and we will definitely visit again.

With so many sites in Mexico and Central America and more being discovered daily, there are so many sites I would like to see. My next trip I would like to add Palenque, Uxmal, Tikal in Guatemala and many more.

My last bit of advice would be to research first and then to go with the heart of an explorer taking in as much of this magical region as possible.

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DISCLAIMER: My content may or may not contain affiliate links for products I use and love. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, I may earn money which  enables me to make more creative content such as this.

Travel

Isla Mujeres Street Art

There is so much that I love about Mexico. To me, Mexico represents freedom. Freedom from my past, freedom from northern weather, from work and responsibilities. What I love the most is the local people and how they are free to express themselves so passionately. This passion is exploding everywhere. The scent and flavor of the spicy food, the intricate architecture and colorful clothing. Everything and everyone seems so alive and when I am there, I feel so alive too. In almost every Mexican town that I have visited, both large and small, the one aspect that always stands out the most is how the people make everything and anything a canvas. Graffiti is not only not breaking the law but it is an accepted, no an expected way of life. Each painting has a story. Some stories are historical and deep, about revolution or women’s rights while some stories are merely about brightening someones life. The following art is some of the very few works that stood out to me. One day, I would like to take a trip simply devoted to recording the priceless artwork I saw everywhere. Though many of the artists will never be credited for their work or life passion, their expressions are as priceless as any piece in any museum anywhere.

Isla House Art, Isla Mujeres, Isla Mujeres Street Art, Mexico, Mexico Street Art
Isla Mujeres House Art 2017

While their structures appear modest by any means, this seams to have no bearing on the feeling of richness they convey through the use of color and in the freedom of their design.

Isla House Art, Isla Mujeres, Isla Mujeres Street Art, Mexico, Mexico Street Art
Isla Mujeres House Art 2017
Isla House Art, Isla Mujeres, Isla Mujeres Street Art, Mexico, Mexico Street Art
Isla Mujeres House Art 2017

Here on Isla Mujeres ( Island of Women )  it only makes sense that many of the paintings revolve around not equality but the power of femininity. Some would argue that this feminine power is far greater than any masculine force. The Mayans believed this island to be the home of Ixchel, goddess of the moon, responsible for fertility, feminine health and happiness.

Isla House Art, Isla Mujeres, Isla Mujeres Street Art, Mexico, Mexico Street Art
Isla Mujeres Street Art, 2017
Isla House Art, Isla Mujeres, Isla Mujeres Street Art, Mexico, Mexico Street Art
Isla Mujeres Street Art 2017

If you look closely at the following Mosaic, you’ll see that the words to the left “Hittite Goddess” and to the lower left on the door …. of Mesopotamia. The sign reads “Feminine Rising”. It appears that the female form to the left of the door is giving birth. I did not notice all of this detail at the time. I really would like to return just to study this mosaic wall.

Isla House Art, Isla Mujeres, Isla Mujeres Street Art, Mexico, Mexico Street Art
Isla Mujeres Goddess Mosaic 2017

The Street Art found on Isla does not all revolve around the spiritual energy of women. Some murals seem to tell a more Caribbean story and some are just colorful, happy door ways.

Isla House Art, Isla Mujeres, Isla Mujeres Street Art, Mexico, Mexico Street Art
Isla Mujeres Street Art 2017
Isla House Art, Isla Mujeres, Isla Mujeres Street Art, Mexico, Mexico Street Art
Isla Mujeres Street Art 2017
Isla House Art, Isla Mujeres, Isla Mujeres Street Art, Mexico, Mexico Street Art
Typical Door Way on Isla Mujeres

Pre-Columbian Street Art

Ruins on Isla Mujeres, Mayan Ruins, Mexico, isla Mujeres Mexico
Ruins on Isla Mujeres 2017

Street Art of all mediums can be appreciated!

Isla Mujeres, Isla Mujeres Street Art, Mexico, Mexico Street Art
Statue on Isla 2017

It was difficult for me to go through my pictures of Isla and narrow it down to these few images. I can see a coffee table photo book in my future containing only Street Art of Mexico. Just as every town and village has its own unique flavor in its’ cuisine they also have a unique identity to their paintings.  I envy the way that the people feel complete freedom in expressing themselves creatively on any surface that can be imagined as a canvas. Life is their canvas.

Mayan Inspiration, Sunrise on Isla

Sunrise on Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Sunrise on Isla Mujeres

If you have any pictures you would like to share feel free to message me. I would love to see your favorites.

“>DISCLAIMER: My content may or may not contain affiliate links for products I use and love. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, I may earn money which  enables me to make more creative content such as this.

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Golden Rock Beach, Grand Bahama
Travel

Eight Places in Freeport, Grand Bahama Not to Miss

It has been two years yet my mind still wanders to the deserted beach famed for a scene in Pirates of the Caribbean. I am sure that one day I will return.

“Grand Bahama?” Most people get a quizzical look on their face when I talk about our time there. “Where is that?” Or they think that I think the Bahamas are grand– I chuckle and respond, Freeport. Ah yes Freeport, that usually clears it up. Maybe they have stopped there on a day trip from a cruise, or their neighbor did.  Most travel blogs that you see about the Bahamas will surely be about Nassau. If you have read my previous blogs then you already know that crowds don’t impress me, in fact they terrify me. To me, Paradise is not a casino, a crowded beach club, it’s not a beach bar….well, okay- maybe a beach bar but one that is away from the bustle of the hordes of tourists. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with going to one of the top 10 tourists destinations if that’s where you like to be. I just find them to be too pricey and too crowded.

If you like adventures, and you travel on a budget, I hope that my list encourages you to visit this island, and to do things off the beaten track. The discovery of this deserted tropical hideaway just might lure you in for good!

This island used to much more popular some 20-30 years ago. So, what happened? From talking to the locals it seems that they have  had years of devastation due to multiple hurricanes passing through the area. What does this mean for you? Outside of day trippers from cruises, you will not see too many other tourists. The locals are extremely friendly when they do meet you as they are truly trying hard to rebuild their tourism industry.

Our trip to the island of Grand Bahama ( Freeport ) began with plans of staying on Florida’s east coast for a week. Because I am the restless type, I started researching islands in the area that we could take a day trip too. At some point in my research I found and became obsessed with The Island. I quickly realized I would change our destination.

It was easy to do. Freeport is only a 20 minute plane ride from Miami. English is the official language.   They do speak English with a bit of Irish and Haitian combined, creating a creole. **Some local expressions will be listed at the end of the article.** Their dollar is valued the same as the U.S denomination. If you pay in U.S. you will most likely be given change in Bohemian currency.

Freeport, Grand Bahama
Freeport near the Ferry

The first thing that I highly recommend is renting a car at the airport. If you are from the states be aware that they drive on the other side of the street. You can ask specifically for a rental car that has the steering wheel on the left so that will be the same. It honestly does not take long to get the hang of it. There are really only two main roads on the island and they are not terribly busy. The island is fairly small 96 miles long and 17 miles wide. If you have a car, you can easily explore the whole island in a week.  Car rental will cost about $350.00 per week  – when you figure in a tour at 100.00 per person x 5  people, you can see why it is much more economical to rent a car. I also love that with a car rental you have the freedom to come and go as YOU please.  Plus, if you stay in a condo like we did- you will have access to a kitchen and need to pick up a few groceries. I recommend Solomon’s Market  ( I have no affiliation with them ). It is right by the airport and you can click on the link to see their ad specials before you even leave home! I love local cuisine and eating out on vacation but by preparing breakfast and lunch in your condo you can save a lot of money.

ON TO THE FUN STUFF

The first two nights we rented a cute two bedroom ocean front cottage at Pelican Point We found and booked the cottage through Trip Advisor. Pelican point is small  town way off the beaten track on the east end of the island. Population is maybe 40. I suggest  getting groceries in Freeport before you leave the west end of the island. It was well worth the 1 hour drive for the tranquil seclusion and gorgeous beach front views. I think the sunset speaks for itself!

Pelican Point,  Freeport, Grand Bahama
Pelican Point, Grand Bahama

Our 3rd – 9th night we stayed at The Ocean at Taino Beach in a condo that I reserved through my time share ( I don’t recommend time shares but that’s another blog  ). Our unit was definitely stuck in the 70’s but we weren’t there for the decor. Our room did have a beautiful balcony view of the pool and ocean. The pool has an awesome slide that even I, at 50 years old, had a blast on. It also has a lazy river!  As far as the location on Taino Beach…it couldn’t be better. Every morning we would take our coffee and walk east on the beach. If you are into sea glass you will find all you can carry home! Right in front of our complex the beach is sandy and gorgeous and at this section of ocean, the rays swim right up to you. We saw at least 5 every day.                                                                          Ocean at Taino beach. 

FIRST DAY TRIP YOU CAN’T MISS

1.) GRAND LUCAYAN NATIONAL PARK:  Admission is 3.00$ per person

Here you can visit The Lucayan Indian Cave and the Bat Cave. It’s a small hike back so take water. Also, if you have a fear of HUGE banana spiders (did I say huge?), you might want to pass this place. It is conveniently right across the street from Golden Rock Beach, so if spiders aren’t your thing…no worries. These two locations share a parking lot and there are bathrooms to change into swim suits. Pack a snack or picnic lunch as there are no facilities on site.

Lucayan National park, Freeport, Grand Bahama,  Banana Spider
My daughter watching a banana spider

2.) GOLDEN ROCK BEACH:  Admission, free with fee to Grand Lucayan National Park

This is a gorgeous secluded white sand beach. The trail back is a beautiful hike through the mangroves, estuary and woods that suddenly opens to one of the most beautiful beaches I ever seen. If you like to snorkel ( pack your own gear ) you should plan to go around low tide. There are not many colorful fish near shore. To get to the fish you’ll need to swim out to Golden Rock. I do not recommend EVER snorkeling alone and I don’t recommend doing this at high tide or if you are not a very strong swimmer. Golden Rock is quite far from shore. This location along with Lucayan National Park is a cruise boat tour so if you want to avoid the crowds you’ll need to find out what days/times the cruise ships port. To end our day we headed back east to  3.) Bishops Restaurant at High Rock for dinner. I have never and I mean ever had such tasty conch fritters in my entire life. It does help that the owner is a native Michigander from Detroit, only 1 hour from my home town. There is also a beautiful beach here should you decide to go for a dip.

Bishops Restaurant at High Rock, Freeport, Grand Bahama
Bishops Restaurant at High Rock, Grand Bahama

4.) PETERSON CAYE NATIONAL PARK – 

CALABASH TOURS COST. 69.00$ PP 12yrs.-over.   45.00$PP 11yrs.- under  free if under 5. PARK FEE 5.00$ PP not included. LUNCH 10.00$-20.00$ not included

So, remember I said that I don’t “do tours?” This one was an exception because I truly HAD TO SEE  Peterson Caye.  The only way to get there is by tour or private boat. I was obsessed!  This tour ended up taking about 7 hours and the cost was 346.00$ for our family of 5, not including lunch. Would I do it again? Absolutely! In fact, I can’t wait to go back and do it again. This is my number one can’t miss, if your budget allows. First thing in the morning we were picked up at our condo at about 7:45.  We did take water and snacks with us as my husband is diabetic. We, along with about 8 others were driven by our guide, Ansenio, to a deserted beach on the edge of a tropical forest. The Caye was ( barely ) visible from the shore. It sits about 1 mile out and is about a 30 minutes of kayaking. Although we have canoed many times this was our first experience at kayaking. My 10-year-old was able to buddy up with Ansenio, our guide, so I knew she was in qualified hands. After a brief “how to” class, we unloaded the kayaks and set off to what appeared to be a small coral island sticking out of the sea. I must admit I felt a little intimidated being in the open ocean like that but what the heck…I’m always up for adventure! My 15-year-old daughter and I were the first of the group to make it to the island. I will say that fear might have encouraged our speed. We pulled our kayaks up to the small lovely sandy beach and proceeded to put on our snorkel gear. We could not wait to get into the water and we surely were not disappointed! Not only was the coral  astounding but the variety f fish was unbelievable. We also saw star fish and a lobster. When the rest of the group arrived Ansenio led us behind the back of the island, which is predominately coral. Behind the island is a drop off and again, the fish here were just breathtaking. We probably spent a good 2 hours on the island before returning back to the mainland. Once the guys loaded the kayaks we headed to 5.) Banana Bay restaurant for lunch. The location of this restaurant is so beautiful that you could easily make this a day trip and spend the day swimming and lounging while having access to lunch and their facilities. In fact, next trip, we will probably do just that! After the tour we were returned to Taino Beach at about 3:30. It was the perfect day!

Peterson Caye National Park, Grand Bahama, Kayak Bahamas
Peterson Caye National Park, Grand Bahama
Peterson Caye National Park, Freeport, Grand Bahama, Calabash Tours, Kayak Bahamas
Peterson Caye National Park, Freeport, Grand Bahama

6.) PARADISE COVE aka DEADMAN’S REEF:  Admission fee, free if you have your own snorkel gear. Cafe on site for lunch and snacks. Kayak rental available.

This is another one of my favorites.  Yes, I love this place.  Admittedly, the names are a contradiction. One doesn’t know whether it will be heaven on earth or the gates to hell. You can be assured that it is truly heaven. You are able to rent snorkel gear here but I need to add that my family has our own gear. As much as we snorkel I feel not only does it save us money but we have the assurance of knowing whose mouth the breather has been in last. Using someone elses  snorkel gear  has a huge ick factor for me.  Others seem to be able to do it so I’m thinking that it may just be my personal problem 🙂  Anyway- you should know that it is available to rent.  The entry to the water is somewhat rocky so you may also want to take some water shoes .  On to the snorkeling. This may be the best snorkeling I have ever seen.  ( Yal Ku Lagoon and Cozumel in Mexico are definitely on my best list too ). Before you enter the water a guide will show you pictures of what to stay away from. Fire Coral being the number one danger. If you accidentally rub against fire coral, it will burn. That being said, I did not personally see any fire coral– whew. This place is wonderful for beginners as they have ropes to hang onto all the way out to the coral islands. They also have inner tubes placed and anchored intermittently in case you get tired. The water is shallow most of the way out and at times the bottom is sandy so it is easy to stop and stand if need be. If you do happen to need to rest please do NOT stand on coral, wait until you get to a rope, inner tube or sandy spot. Touching coral kills it, leaving the marine life in jeopardy.  The variety of marine life here is astounding! The size of the fish was crazy huge and colorful as well. We also saw rays and barracuda just to name a few. The goal is to make it to the back of the three coral reefs. The reefs drop dramatically in the back and the variety of color in both the coral and the fish is just gorgeous! We wanted to work with the current so we started at the eastern reef and kind of floated to the western most reef. You will not be disappointed! After spending much of our day here we were able to grab a bite to eat at the small on site restaurant. The food was actually pretty good. They also have a small gift shop with reasonable prices. Before heading back we decided to take a stroll on the beach towards to west. Quite a ways down we came across what looked like another small coral reef/island. The water appeared to have a sandy bottom most of the way out. We  ( my husband and I ) were so tempted to swim and check it out and we probably would have if the kids had not been with us. When we have the kids we always try to keep safety in mind and there was not another soul in sight!  From the looks of it, there used to be a set up similar to Deadmans Cove. There were picnic tables on the beach and an old deserted bar/restaurant. Possibly another deserted business due to the last hurricane? If you are adventurous it would be a great spot to check out.
photo-1487446529283-07814a645e33.jpeg

After spending an unforgettable day at the cove we headed back to Taino Beach. We knew we wanted to stop at a place I read about in Eight Mile Rock.

7. ) THE BOILING HOLE: Admission free, location Eight Mile Rock

I’m pretty sure you would need to have a rental car to get here. There were no other tourists here and the only other person was a local boy. When a neighbor man saw us he came out with a bunch of over-priced shells of which we gladly bought a few. It seemed like a cheap admittance fee. There was a small place to park but you will need to bring water, snacks or a picnic lunch if you plan to eat here. So, what is The Boiling Hole? It is a small inlet / sink hole/ cave system that goes under the island. It was also one of my favorite places and I think you can see why from the photos below. My girls were a bit intimidated to jump off of the cliff but the local boy was very helpful in showing them where it was safe to jump/dive. He kept admiring our snorkel gear so I broke my “do not share” rule and let him borrow it for a bit. Can I say it made his day?  For the timid, there is also a ladder leading into the inlet so you do not need to jump if you so choose not to. Once inside the “pool”, if you swim to the back you can see where the inlet goes deep under the island. We checked it out with our snorkel gear but not knowing the tide schedule we didn’t want to go too far back. This place also has a legendary sea monster so that was enough to convince my kids to stay back from the drop off opening. Along with the sea monster you should be aware that there are cute little black fish that like to nibble, not so gently, on your body. Although it does not hurt, it will definitely shock you if you are not expecting it. In fact, I may have screamed! All of this being said, I hope I did not talk you out of checking this place out. We actually loved it so much that we did return the next day to spend some more time.

The Boiling Hole, Eight Mile Rock, Freeport, Grand Bahama
The Boiling Hole, Eight Mile Rock, Grand Bahama
The Boiling Hole, Eight Mile Rock, Freeport, Grand Bahama
The Boiling Hole, Eight Mile Rock, Grand Bahama

8.) THE OLD U.S. NAVY BASE ? : Admission free, you will definitely need a rental car to get here. 

So, we were on our way to The Owl’s Nest, a cenote that we never found. Many locals had never even heard of it so stopping to ask directions was out of the question. While we were determined to find it, we never did but we did end up in a place that was a true paradise. We must have turned down the wrong “road” ( I use that term loosely ).  After  looking for The Owls Nest for over an hour  we were just tired, hot and hungry. Thankfully, I had packed a picnic lunch. Anyway, this particular road took us back to what looked to be a deserted parking lot…like maybe 20 years or more deserted, in fact, we weren’t even positive it had been a parking lot. We saw an opening that led to a beautiful lagoon so we decided to park and at least eat our lunch. As we were eating by the waters edge we heard a bunch of splashing in the water. It was hundreds of fish! They looked like they were doing some ancient dance. It was all a beautiful pattern of swimming and jumping in and out of the water. They were everywhere! Well, thats all it took for me to grab my snorkel gear and hop in with them. There was a sandy beach area and also what appeared to be an old boat launch making the entrance slippery but easy. After entering the lagoon we could see at the mouth there was a small coral island that we knew we had to swim out to. The whole lagoon was probably no more than 4 feet at the deepest point but quite shallow most of the way out. We made it to the island and while we didn’t see many colorful fish it was well worth “getting lost.” When we returned to our condo we asked around a bit and found that we had most likely been at the old U.S naval base. They said it had not been in use since the Cold War. How exciting is that?

Lagoon near Old Navy Base, Freeport Bahamas
Lagoon near Old Navy Base, Freeport Bahamas

 

Old Navy Base Lagoon, Freeport, Grand Bahama
Old Navy Base Lagoon, Grand Bahama

 

GARDEN OF THE GROVES: Admission Adults 15.00$ Children 10.00$

So, in my opinion, this is one park you can skip. It ended up costing our family 70.00$ and the waterfall, which was pretty, appeared to be man-made. I feel like you can get a better idea of the natural flora and fauna by taking a hike. We found the cafe to be expensive and really not phenomenal.

I wish in all honesty I could tell you which was my favorite day or my favorite place was. As I sit here writing this blog, looking back at pictures, I am truly longing to return “home.” I am by nature an explorer and I love to discover new and off the beaten track places. This place, Grand Bahama, however has captured my heart. Having been there two times makes it feel more like home. I know, one day I will return…hopefully to find The Owl’s Nest and revisit my favorite spots.  If you have been to Grand Bahama and have some suggestions of places that I missed, please leave a comment below. Also, If you enjoyed my blog, please subscribe below.

Bohemian phrases:   It is common to drop the H is words like house for example house = ouse. They also frequently commit and H if it follows a T as in things = tings.

  • What da wybe is= What’s up?
  • Een noting= nothing much
  • Switcha= lemonade
  • Well mud sick= you’re kidding
  • Dem= others
  • Jitney= bus
  • Jam up= crowded or full
  • Pot cake= stray dog (you may see a few)
  • Tings= things

I also want add that most of these sites are offered as tours. You will pay anywhere from 50.00-100.00$ per person as a tour. It is so much more economical and fun to rent a vehicle. I highly recommend it.

DISCLAIMER: My content may or may not contain affiliate links for products I use and love. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, I may earn money which  enables me to make more creative content such as this.

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Travel

Isla Mujeres by Talia Hannosh

There are moments in time where you really feel alive. You can feel your heartbeat, the air circulating through your lungs, the blood pumping through your veins. You can feel your thoughts escaping into the air and taking flight. It’s within these moments, that you can really feel what your purpose is, why you’re here on this planet. And quite simply- it’s overwhelmingly magical. I have felt this way a few select times in my life. The most recent and powerful, was when I was sitting atop a roof overlooking the ocean in Isla Mujeres, México.

Isla Mujeres is a magical island. The streets are always bustling with people, working, selling, shopping, breathing, living. Isla Mujeres is not one to shy away from color; the brightest structures I have ever seen were walking through the streets of this island. Street art is on every corner you turn, houses are painted coral, turquoise, yellow, orange. Just walking through the city made me appreciate the beautiful pigments life has to offer. The air is breezy and kissed by salt from the ocean. My senses were constantly being offered something new to see, feel, touch, smell, hear throughout my stay.

One morning I woke to orange light flooding over my face.

 

Isla sunrise 2  .jpg

Still tired from the day before, I opened my eyes slowly, only to be greeted by the most breath taking sight. The sun was slowly taking her time crawling in to the sky. Her light was vivid this particular morning, offering my eyes the most fiery sunrise I had ever seen before. I saw orange in away I had never experienced. The vibrant sky touched the ocean waves on the horizon line, and it was like the beautiful blue water and the rich bright sky were working together to bring out the best in one another. The smell of coffee was slowing creeping its way up the stairs, and just the slightest wif of it was enough to wake me up. I pulled the covers off of me, and walked down the cold cement stairs. I was greeted by my mother, which was no surprise, considering she and I were the only early risers in our family. After each pouring ourselves a strong cup of the magical energizing elixir that coffee is, I followed her up two flights of stairs and on to the roof top of our villa. The stairs to reach the roof were so narrow, we were forced to bend our backs forward just to ensure we wouldn’t hit our heads on the long cement bar above us.

And there we were. My soul and my mother’s, dancing in our bodies, overlooking the most magnificent view in what felt like the whole world. To our right was the powerful Caribbean Sea, and to our left, the waking city. Every glance and every turn, we were greeted by a different view. One of my favorite things about early mornings in Isla Mujeres, was that they were always the perfect temperature. Humidity had not gotten his chance to dominate the air yet, and all I could feel was the brackish and cooling ocean breeze. My mother and I would sit there together, enjoying one another’s company, for as long as our sleeping family would allow us, until finally, she had to go back downstairs to my waking siblings.

But this morning, I wanted to stay on the roof longer. So after my mother left, feeling particularly inspired, I grabbed my Luna Ukulele, and started strumming a variation of several different chords. I would play my ukulele, then I would write a line or two in my travel journal, and then I would appreciate the view and where I was. Soon enough I was singing, my vocals and ukulele vibrations being carried by wind and lost in the sea. An hour had passed, and then two, and still I didn’t notice. I was so engrossed in being there, just living and doing what I loved best. This memory will always be so special to me, because my soul had truly felt content. For a fragment of time, I was not worried about who I wanted to be, what I wanted to do, I was just allowing myself to do what I had the most innate desire to do.

Soon the city became fully awake, and I was still sitting there with my legs criss-cross-applesauce, playing my ukulele and singing my heart out. People were walking along the boardwalk beneath me, looking around trying to find where the music was coming from, but I was so high up, I was invisible to them. So I kept playing, trying to hold back giggles watching the confused strangers attempting to locate the veiled musician. Soon I became curious to discover if anybody had stopped to listen, so I peered over the edge of the roof that overlooked a small alley. To my surprise, I saw a man who was lying on his back, with a back pack supporting his head, just staring up at the roof, beside him a little puppy companion. In shock and embarrassment, I quickly concealed myself again.

A few minutes later, my embarrassment had resided and transformed in to a feeling of flattery. The fact that this man had loved my music enough to just lay there to listen and simply be was such a powerful, uplifting experience. I had no idea how long he had been there, perhaps it was hours or maybe even just minutes, but that didn’t really matter to me. He wasn’t like the others, he didn’t care to unveil my identity, he just wanted to enjoy the music. Somehow my music had made him feel something powerful enough to stay there, right beneath me, and it was incredibly heartwarming. This complete stranger resonated with the feelings, thoughts, and emotion I poured in my songs.

Sitting on top of that roof, completing concealed, just singing and writing, has to be to most remarkable moment of my existence. I was so in tune with myself, and my thoughts, so aware that I was alive. It’s a powerful resolution, becoming aware that you are alive. Everything makes sense in moments like these. You are not worried of the future, you are not mourning of the past, you are just accepting of the present you are in.


 

DISCLAIMER: My content may or may not contain affiliate links for products I use and love. If you make a purchase after clicking on one of these links, I may earn money which  enables me to make more creative content such as this.

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Gran Cenote, Mexico, Cenote, Cancun, Coba, Yucatan Peninsula
Travel

Six Cenotes Near Cancun to Add to Your Bucket List

 

This past August I was fortunate enough to visit the Cancun area with my family. This was by far one of my favorite vacations for many reasons. It was a 16 day trip with my husband and four of my six kids. The main purpose of this particular trip was to explore  some Mayan pyramids and ruins that we had not yet been too and to also visit some different cenotes.

If you are unfamiliar with the term Cenote, ( seh-no-teh ) it is basically a sink hole.  Because much of the ground in the Yucatan is limestone and porous, there are no major rivers and most of the fresh water runs underground. When the land above collapses, a sink hole, or cenote is formed. Cenotes are natural fresh water pools in which to swim and cool off.  Many people enjoy snorkeling in them as well. The types of fish you might see depends on weather that particular water way is connected to the ocean. These sink holes come in many different varieties.

GRAN CENOTE

Admission is 465$ P or about $25 U.S

When most people think of a Cenote they envision Gran Cenote in the Riviera Maya. While there is no denying that it is indeed gorgeous, it is also one of the top visited cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula so it is very, very crowded. If you are like me, you prefer a more laid back, no flippers in your face kind of fresh water swim. Yes, the cave you see below is at Gran Cenote and yes, it has resident bats. They don’t bite and they actually fly around so fast that you would think they are birds. Since Gran Cenote is close in proximity to the Coba Ruins, many find it a perfect place to stop and cool off on their way back to Cancun. There is no lunch facility on site so pack a snack or lunch. Lockers are available.

 

Gran Cenote Tulum, Gran Cenote, Cenote, Mayan Riviera, Tulum, Yucatan Peninsula
Gran Cenote Tulum

CRISTALINO

Admission is 150$ P or about $8 U.S

If you decide to by pass Gran Cenote altogether, there is a much more secluded, less crowded watering hole just north of Akumal. Cristalino is the same type of cenote as Gran but it happens to be my personal favorite as it was much less crowded. In fact, we had the whole place to ourselves for almost 2 hours.  It is truly a tropical paradise! There were tiny black fish that nibble on your feet and toes giving you the ultimate fish pedicure. In  fact – this same pedicure is offered in Playa Del Carmen at a fee of  $20.00 U.S per person.  This park has natural cliffs to jump off of, mangroves and caves to swim through. It is by far the closest I have been to heaven on earth! There is no lunch facility on site so pack a snack or lunch. Lockers are available.

Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula, Cenote, Akumal, Playa Del Carmen, Cristalino, Mangroves, snorkeling, Cancun
Cenote Cristalino
Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula, Akumal, Playa Del Carmen, Cancun, Cenote, Cristalino, Cliff jumping
Cenote Cristalino

CASA CENOTE or CENOTE MANATEE

Admission is 120$ P or about $6.50 U.S.

My second favorite was Casa Cenote or Cenote Manatee, located in Tankah. There are no longer manatees there however if you are very lucky, you may see the resident crocodile. Don’t worry, he stays in the back of the lagoon.  He is very shy and only about 4′ long. We were lucky enough to catch a quick glimpse of him before he slide in to the water and disappeared. This Cenote is very different from the first two in that the previous seemed to look like collapsed land. This body of water looks more like a lagoon but is cenote fed. It leads to the ocean in a very unique way,  via a cave that goes under the ground and road and empties out into the ocean.  For this reason many people practice their scuba diving here. They offer kayak rental as well. You can take the kayaks ( no need for a tour as it is do-able on your own ) all the way to the back of the lagoon. It is a narrow, prehistoric setting taking you back through the mangroves and low jungle. There are a two Restaurants across the street. Blue Sky ( love this place ) and the other one I believe was called Casa Cenote Restaurant. There is also a convenience store across the street where you can purchase snacks.

Casa Cenote - Cenote Manatee
Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula, Tankah, Casa Cenote, Cenote Manatee, Cenote, kayaking, Cancun
Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula, Tankah, Casa Cenote, Cenote Manatee, Cancun
Casa Cenote – Cenote Manatee

X’CANCHE or CENOTE AT EK BALAM

Admission is 150 Pesos or $8 U.S ( bike included )

X’Canche is an exotic cenote in the middle of the hanging vines of the jungle. You can visit after touring the ruins at Ek Balam. It is quite far back from the ruins so I don’t suggest walking if it is too hot. Bikes are included in the entrance fee or you can do as we did and rent a rickshaw. What I love about this site is that the same Mayan family has owned it for generations. The funds created by the ruins and the cenote entrance stay in this village and family. The stairs that lead down to this magical oasis are quite steep but it is truly worth the effort and the walk down, in itself, is breath-taking! At this site you can cliff jump and swing into the water from a rope.  The water itself is very dark and deep but in the middle of August, in the middle of the jungle, it was a refreshing treat. You will need to pack a lunch or snack as there are no eating facilities on site.

Ek Balam - X' canche, Mexico, Yucatan Peninsula, Ek Balam, X'Canche, Cenote, Cancun
Ek Balam – Cenote X canche
Ek Balam - X canche, Mexico, Ek Balam, X'Canche, Yucatan Peninsula, Mayan, Cancun
Ek Balam – Cenote X’ canche

YAL KU LAGOON

Admission is $260 Pesos or $14 U.S. ( snorkel gear extra )

Technically, this body of water is referred to as a lagoon but it is fed by fresh water cenotes that surface and lead out to the ocean. Because it is a mix of fresh and salt water        ( brackish ) the water appears somewhat oily the closer you get to the sea. There is a huge variety of fish and the snorkeling is phenomenal. We have found the best area in which to see the most fish is close to the entrance. Here you will find huge Parrotfish and schools of vibrant Blue Angel Fish. The closer you get to the mouth the sandier the bottom becomes. Here you may see rays, barracuda or if you are really lucky, the sea turtles that Akumal is famous for. Arriving before the hordes of tour buses get there is highly recommended. We have even rented a townhouse on the lagoon in order to have after hours access. There is a restaurant on site and a couple more with in walking distance. Lockers available.

Yal Ku Lagoon Akumal, Mexico
Yal Ku Lagoon Akumal, Mexico

BLACK CENOTE AT BACALAR

Admission was free but you need to access from the lake

Bacalar is a small town near the Belize border. It is about a four-hour drive from Cancun and is well worth the visit. Bacalar means lake of seven colors. It is a beautiful fresh water lake fed by underground springs. What is unique about Black Cenote is that it is located IN  Lake Bacalar and next to another cenote, Emeralda. Who would have thought it? A body of water inside a body of water! They are both next to Cenote Azul which can not be accessed from the lake. If you venture this far south you must take a tour of the lake through Amir AdvenTours at amiradventours.com. I can not sing their praises enough. Not only did they take us to this amazing cenote but they took us to a spot on the lake where we were able to take exfoliating mud baths. They also provided us with an amazing spread of fresh local fruit. The best Papaya and Mango I have ever eaten!

Click on the link below the pictures to see a clip of Black Cenote tour through Amir Adventours!

Bacalar - Black Cenote - Cenote Azul - Cenote Esmeralda

Bacalar, Lake Bacalar, Amir Adventours,
Bacalar, Mud Baths

Amir AdvenTours, Bacalar, Black Cenote

There you have it. I find that even writing this I am making plans to go back to all of the places we visited.  Our route from Cancun was 6 nights in Tankah, 2 nights at Bacalar, 4 nights at Akumal, and 4 nights on Isla Mujeres.

Please feel free to ask questions or leave comments below!

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