It's a creekmore world

Mexico travel plan part one: Ruins, Cenotes and Flamingos oh my!

In the last last post I outlined our planning process for the family trip to Mexico over the winter holidays.  Travel itineraries are so hard to start because the permutations and variables are endless.   We’ve been on the phone, digging through the books, and emailing every day to confirm our options.

What you see here is a pretty good outline. We know our budget had to be moderate so that limited some things.  The bigger decision was strategic.  Were we trying to maximize our time and hit as many things as possible? Or going with few plans, a backpack and bus fare?

We decided to maximize our time, which means renting a car and driving from place to place. Driving is a sacrifice for us. Neither of us like being behind the wheel much. But it gives us much more granular control of the plan, and we can fit more things in. We can also bail out of bad situations faster, which can be critical with kids in tow.

The trip is roughly divided into three sections as we drive counter-clockwise from Cancun:

  • Visiting the major ruins and Cenotes of the north.
  • The inland cities and the jungle
  • The Caribbean coast with beach activities and of course more ruins.

Part one:  Northern Yucatan Ruins and Cenotes

Day One – Cancun: Flying Air Tran direct to Cancun ($340 each) and pick up the car, our new home for the next two weeks. The first stop is two nights at the Cancun Marriott for $79 a night.

Day Two – Cancun: The hotel isn’t all-inclusive, which we calculated will be somewhat more expensive. And it isn’t the nicest hotel, but it should
be good fun for the day. If someone hasn’t stolen the beach, we’ll do some watersports and then head downtown for a better-than-steamtable dinner. A friend recommended La Habichuela.

Day Three – Valladolid area: We leave Cancun early and drive three hours west to Valladolid where we eat lunch, then continue a few miles north to our first Mayan ruins: Ek Balam. Ek Balam is one of the newest major excavated ruins, and has great intact sculptures and carvings. One of the highlights is a temple with a ‘monster mouth’ door that was probably a symbol of passage to the underworld. That plus the steep pyramid climbing should keep the kids excited. If we have time, we will hit Cenote Dzitnup. In the evening we drive to Chichen Itza and stay nearby at a modest hotel.

I think this is the monster mouth...

I think this is the monster mouth...

Day Four – Chichen Itza: Merry Christmas!   I have confirmed from multiple sources that, unlike most things, Chichen Itza is open on Christmas Day.  We built this part of the trip around that information and will obviously adjust if it’s incorrect.  Our early morning stop is the Ik Kil Cenote for an after-breakfast swim.  Chichen Itza (Chi-CHEN  It-ZA, not CHICK-en PI-zza) is the most developed Mayan ruin and will fill up the center of the day.  It’s supposedly Disney-fied and tourist-trappy, but very well excavated and gigantic.  If the crowds are heavy we won’t stay too long. This is one place we considered dropping from the itinerary but we concluded that one can not visit the Yucatan and miss Chichen Itza. Toward evening we will head back to Valladolid and north to the Gulf coast. Our destination is the town of Rio Logartos where we will look for a simple hotel, although the guide books recommend very little and it will be Christmas Day. But we need to be up early.

Day Five – Rio Logartos: Rio Logartos is, along with Celestun, one of two very large nature reserves on the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula.   Each offers boat rides through mangroves and massive Flamingo colonies.    This excursion could be a dud, but the kids will probably like the boat trip.  And supposedly there are alligators (or crocodiles, I can’t remember which.)  After lunch, we drive 3 hours to the lively city, and capital of the province, Merida.  We should be just in time to see the Saturday night festivities, which include dancing and music.  We will probably stay in the Hyatt ($110/night) for the central location, high-speed internet access and a little TV for the kids. 

Coming up soon,  part two of this journey:  Old cities of the Yucatan and jungle camping!