By: Susan Gerle
The Mayan Riviera is a beautiful place to visit. Wherever you choose to stay there are 3 places you should considering visiting on a day trip. These include Isla Mujeres, Tulum, and Cozumel.
Isla Mujeres (The Island of Women)
Isla Mujeres is a small island located off the coast of Cancun and is considered part of the Mayan Riviera. The island is quaint and funky and offers a flavour of Key West mixed with a touch of European coastal areas. The hotels and motels are more like the 70s rather than the big resorts of today. If one wants to watch the sunrise, head the ¼ mile across the island to the ocean. For the sunset, just lay back in a hammock on the inland beach.
It’s only a ½ hour boat ride from Cancun although it’s easy to end up doing the scenic trip of the Cancun Zona Hotela first. Ask the bus driver to let you off at stop 7 to catch the ferry. A local musician was entertaining us on the top deck on the way across.
When you get to the island there is lot to see and do. Find a fresh fish taco place like Mininos. There’s nothing better than having toes buried in the sand, eating freshly caught fish, watching the pelicans on the dock watch you.
The island is a mixture of colours and shops and friendly locals. Don’t be afraid of doing some bartering with the merchants.
If you want to see the whole Island, rent a golf cart when you arrive. It doesn’t take much time to go all the way around for the scenic tour. Also, the island is wheelchair accessible.
The ruins in Tulum, 2 hours south of Cancun, are a very popular site-seeing trip on the Mayan Riviera. The site itself is only a 10-minute walk from the highway bus stop or you can hire a taxi.
The ruins were first discovered in the early16th century and the location is high on a bluff overlooking the beautiful turquoise sea. The grounds are easy to walk around and all the paths are wheelchair accessible. Children love spotting the iguanas that inhabit the site.
Many visitors take time out to swim below the walled fortress. Personally I prefer to take a taxi to outside the park after seeing the ruins, and go have a meal at one of the restaurants located along the sandy beach.
Don’t forget to check out the shows happening back near the bus stop. The Flying Patlantas put on their show a few times a day. Across the street you can catch indigenous dancers in beautiful headdresses. They depend on their tips for their livlihood so please be generous.
The Mayan shops near the bus stop are good places to pick up handmade crafts. The hours of work put into the items are well worth what you pay.
You can catch the ferry to Cozumel at Playa Del Carmen, which is just over an hour from Cancun. The ferry ride takes about ½ an hour. While on the ferry there will be vendors who come around to offer you activities to do while in Cozumel. These are your best deals, price wise, even though there was probably lots of other opportunities to purchase.
If you plan to rent a vehicle to go around the island, it should cost you less than $30 for a 1 or 2 passenger scooter. That’s for the whole day and since there is only one road, you can do a lot of site-seeing. There is also a company that rents jeeps if you need more room. Make sure you have a major credit card with you.
I decided to spend some of my tourist time undersea. It was well worth the money I paid to take the Atlantis Submarine trip and to go down over 100 feet below the surface. The tour is given in English and Spanish and there’s usually a translator available for Dutch, German, and French. I was under the ocean for 50 minutes but the docking point was a 15-minute boat ride. The submarine was air-conditioned and everyone had a porthole for viewing. The only thing I’d do differently next time is ask where I should sit in the holding area to get a seat near the captain. That offered the best view.
For those who prefer to be in the water and getting wet, there’s lots of activities available. Cozumel is one of the top diving spots in the world, made famous by Jacques Cousteau. Whether you want to take some scuba diving lessons or just go snorkeling on one of the 3 reefs, it’s well worth the money.
Like many other sites on the Mayan Riviera, there is a lot of history to find out about and plenty of shopping to do. Take at least 4 or 5 hours to explore the island.
Note: Playa Del Carmen has the best money exchange rates but shop around and compare. Also, it’s a good place to do some last minute souvenir shopping.
About the author:
Mexico is Susan’s favourite place to visit. The people and the weather can’t be beat!