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Planning the family trip to Mexico, Part 3: Up the ‘Riviera Maya’

Now, 11 days into the trip, we embark on our final leg of the journey: up the Carribean coast, aka the ‘Riviera Maya.’

Day 12: Chetumal — After two days in the jungle, we’ll be ready for something more pedestrian.  About 2-3 hours from Calakmul is the industrial town of Chetumal.   If we are up for it, there are a dozen good sites along the way, but we predict our enthusiasm for Mayan ruins and jungle will be low by this point. Instead we’ll push to Chetumal, catch our breath and, ahem, clean-up.

Chetumal has few redeeming features, but it does have the best museum on the Yucatan: The Museum of Mayan Culture. We will go to the boring Holiday Inn, probably our only internet access of the week.

Day 13:  Tulum — Driving north past the Sian Ka’an reserve, we hit one of the classic Yucatan destinations; Tulum. We’ve called ahead on hotels and few of the recommended ones have avaliability. But they also seemed really expensive. Our first task will be to scout out a hotel on the beach — maybe even one of the ‘hut with hammock’ ones that backpackers frequent. Once that’s done, we have the day and night to play in the ocean.

Day 14: Tulum — Today we do the ruins in the morning. These will feel small by comparison to the gargantuan ruins we saw in Calakmul, but these Mayans sure did understand the value of ocean front real estate. After the dense, mosquito filed jungles, the seaside pyramid hike should be pleasant. In the afternoon there are a few small museums in Tulum worth an hour. We may just hang on the beach again…

Day 15: Xel-Ha — Leaving Tulum for Cancun on our final day, we stop at Xel-Ha for the day.  Xel-Ha and its busier cousin Xcaret, are eco-resort-adventure-amusement-tourist parks that people say they liked, but never as much as expected. We will go with modest expectations, and hope for a better outcome than our experience in Cairo. Both parks are based around beautiful lagoons and have caves for snorkeling. The lagoon is easier to swim than the open ocean, so our littlest may feel more comfortable than she did in Sharm el-Sheik. We will buy the horribly overprices Dolphin experience because, well, it’s cool to play with dolphins.  Supposedly the crowds come in the afternoon, so we’ll be ready to bolt if it gets ugly.  The final drive up the coast will be smelly, sandy and probably, sleepy.  Our final night is in Cancun again as we dress our wounds, feed our bellies and enjoy one last bit of Mexican fun before we depart the next day.