Post SXSW Mexico Travel Advise | February 5, 2006

After SXSWi 20006, I’ll be heading down to Mexico for a well deserved break. The flights only cost a little bit more, so it seemed like an opportunity not to be missed. I’ve never been to Mexico before, but it’s a place I’ve always wanted to visit. As such, I’m looking for a bit of travel advice from anybody who has spent time in the area.

I’m flying into Cancun, and have been told that Playa Del Carmen is a good place to base yourself. However if you have any other recommendation, please let me know. I’m looking to stay somewhere nice, relaxed and not too touristy, preferably in a pleasant but not to expensive hotel. I’m looking forward to seeing the Maya ruins, as well as getting in a few days diving. I’m particularly interested in checking out some of the cenotes as I’ve not done much cave diving, and these places look out of this world. I’m also keen to do a significant amount of chilling, away from the laptop and mobile phone, with the only interruption being the occasional margarita.

So if you’ve been to this part of Mexico, I’d love to hear your top travel tips. Where is a good place to stay, a good place to eat and a good place to chill? What are the best Maya sites, the top tourist highlights and what do I absolutely, positively, have to see? Oh, and if you’re into your diving, what are the best dive sites and cenotes to visit?

I look forward to your advice and suggestions.

Posted at February 5, 2006 11:14 PM


goodwitch said on February 6, 2006 2:07 AM

Brilliant idea Andy! I adore Playa del Carmen…but will admit that my experience was very much of the romantic tourist. I stayed at the Riu Palace with my husband to celebrate our 40th birthdays. My favorite moment of the whole trip? The couples massage on the beach under the stars (worth every damn penny in my book).

Not to be missed was the great pyramid Chichen Itza and the nearby cenote. We signed up for a bus trip (which let us relax and let someone else drive) but it was a hell of a long day. When you schedule tours…ask how big the bus is and how many stops will be made (at different hotels) before you start to head to your destination.

Other tip, do consider a travel agent and have them book a charter flight. They are actually cheaper and non-stop. Can’t beat that. I can give you the name of my travel agent if you are interested.

I’d stay in the Palace again in an instant. I loved it. But it may be too americanized for your taste.

(A year later, I went to Cancun with my best friend from college. We had a good time, but I’ll tell you, I much prefer Playa del Carmen over Cancun.)

Great idea I picked up from a friend…make sure to take a picture that will put you “right back on the beach”. Here is mine:

Virginia said on February 6, 2006 2:23 AM

I’m heading to Mexico right after SXSW too, although I’m going to Mexico City because I’ve got a friend living there. NEXT year, maybe there should be a post-SXSW bus trip to Mexico. For pale nerds. We could get a private beach.

frencis said on February 6, 2006 2:36 AM

The caves are looking absolutely amazing! I have done few cave dives in Thailand but nothing compare to those! Will be looking forward to some reviews!
Have a great time!

Patrick said on February 6, 2006 4:15 AM

I’m going to SXSW, with a couple of buddies and we’re also heading for Mexico after, higher on the west coast, can’t remember the name, one of them has been there and I’m following. Anyway, no pointers for you but I wouldn’t mind hearing about what kind of plane ticket deals you find :)

Mike D. said on February 6, 2006 6:26 AM

Andy: We’ll talk about this more at SXSW, but the real diving is in Cozumel. There’s a good week’s worth there alone, but it’s not the nicest place to stay, so just base yourself in Playa and take the ferry across in the morning. Short trip.

The cenotes are nice… I dove Choc Mool and I hear Dos Ojos is great as well. It’s a weird feeling down there and probably not one I like nearly as much as being in the open water with fish, but it’s interesting. At one point, you cross over from freshwater to saltwater in mid dive and the visual effect is a bit trippy.

I would minimize your time in Cancun unless you just want to sit at your hotel’s beach and do nothing. There really isn’t a whole lot of culture to soak up compared to some of the surrounding areas.

Also, I would doublecheck the hurricane damage on any place you’re going to. I think most places made it through ok, but I know in Cancun, a good deal of the beaches are gone after the hurricane from a few years ago. Ivan I think.

monk.e.boy said on February 6, 2006 11:29 AM

We got mugged by the police (they had guns) in Mexico. Never, never, never take any more money than what you need + plus emergancy taxi home money stuffed down your underpants.

Oh, and never let them take you to jail, just politly say ‘In the UK the police have an on-the-spot fine for this, is it the same here?’ and wave your wallet under their nose.


PS have fun! We loved it there!! Try the surfing and fishing - both awesome.

Ryan Brill said on February 6, 2006 4:35 PM

I was at Playa Del Carmen a couple of years ago, but only briefly (an afternoon). I was visiting Tulum, the Mayan ruins, while on a Caribbean cruise. So, I don’t have many travel tips for you, but I’m sure you’ll have a great time!

Kelvin Luck said on February 7, 2006 10:54 AM

Definitely check out Tulum… Mayan ruins right on a perfect turquoise sea. Nice little collection of cheap little wooden huts you can stay in just around the bay too… I was there in 2000 and swam around to the ruins from the next bay in bathwater warm seas - amazing :)

Some photos from flickr

Bruno Girin said on February 7, 2006 8:40 PM

Andy, that’s great! Definitely stay in Playa del Carmen, it’s much nicer than Cancun. I went diving for the first time in Cozumel and that’s what got me hooked and decided me to find a dive club when back in London. Go and visit Tulum and Chichen Itza.

If you’re into local drinks, try an Xtabentum (pronunced Eachtabentoom) on the rocks: it’s the local Maya liquor made from aniseed and honey, very sweet but quite strong. And while you’re there, don’t forget to taste Mexican food. Pollo Mole in particular is unusual but great: it’s chicken in a chili and chocolate sauce, sounds bizarre but it works.

You can see some pictures here

Most important tip of all: enjoy and have a great time!

Michael said on February 10, 2006 1:47 PM

Only a small bit of advice here. DO NOT drink water from the tap! Only drink the bottled stuff. Your guts and arse will thank you later.

Alun Rowe said on February 28, 2006 8:46 AM

Hi Andy, Just on my way to work but found this link…

It hasn’t got any Mexican stuff yet but could be useful for people looking for dive info.