Playa del Carmen:
This Sum-Up will be a short one. If you are looking for sun and party go to Playa del Carmen, if you dram of stunning beaches, beautiful nature or something authentic then leave it out.
We knew more or less what we were going to find in Playa del Carmen, but we wanted to at least give it a chance and stayed for one night. It is hard to say if the beach is actually still beautiful or not, due to an insane number of tourists we nearly didn’t find a free spot for us. Food will be highly overpriced wherever you go and the quality of the food is simply low. Buuuuuut, good news: Drinks can turn out to be pretty cheap, bars offer happy hours all day long and small super markets were selling beers for cheap.
We therefore decided to get ourselves some drinks and spend most of the day on the roof of our hostel, making use of our first and only hostel-pool in Mexico. There are countless hostels and hotels in Playa del Carmen. In backpacker Hostels expect privates to cost on average 20-25€ and a dorm bed at least 10€.
As you for sure already understood, Playa del Carmen is not really a place we get excited about, but we made the best of it and had a good time anyways. If Playa del Carmen should be included in your travel route depends purely on your preferences and interests.
From Playa del Carmen you can get a bus to Chiquila and from there you take a ferry in order to reach Holbox. The bus ride takes between 2 to 3 hours, the ferry trip is very short, maybe 20 minutes. There are several buses going to Chiquila and the ferries depart frequently, just check the times in advance and you will be fine. The ferry costs nearly 8€ (200 Mexican pesos) and the bus is priced from 5€ to 10€ depending on the time.
For Holbox we were very excited, as we heard many positive things and saw beautiful videos and pictures from travel buddies. Besides one unfortunate, but uncontrollable event we had an amazing time.
Most hostels were fully booked, so make sure to reserve your dorm or private in advance if you happen to be there in November. We decided to go for beach camping, which could have been a great idea on a normal day. After spending an awesome day at the beach and exploring the beautiful and colorful town center, the weather changed drastically. We haded back to the camping site we were staying at, hoping that it wouldn’t rain too much. Sadly rain turned quickly into a storm and our rented tent wasn’t able to keep us dry. Due to the fact that the tent was placed beneath palm trees, it wasn’t safe either. Coconuts were falling from the palms, landing way too close to our tent. After a quick conversation with the camping owners they moved us into the only dry place, an old hut furnished with some tiny bunk beds where we were supposed to spend the night. Awesome beach camping experience, right? But wait it get’s better. Rubén got sick over night. If it was due to the Tacos we had for lunch or due to the change of weather we don’t know, but he spend half of this stormy night in the camping bathroom. The bathroom at the campsite was by the way pretty damn disgusting, being completely wet and having a non-functional flush. We safe you the details 😉
On the next day we were forced to move to a hostel where Rubén spend some days in bed. That was unfortunate, but that’s also part of travelling. If you spend 11 months away from home, eating every day somewhere else, changing home constantly, then it is highly unlikely you don’t get sick at least once. Hostels are pretty expensive in Holbox, compared to the average Mexican prices. Expect a private to cost at least 30€ and a dorm-bed around 15€-20€.
If the weather is with you then Holbox is definitely a place you should include on your Yucatán/Quintana Roo itinerary. Holbox doesn’t have paved streets, there are no cars allowed in the city, which is absolutely great. The beach is beautiful, the water very calm (unless you happen to get into a storm 😉 ) and the town itself very cute and it’s houses simply beautiful. If you didn’t bring enough cash from main land then you will be glad to know that there is an ATM point beside the towns main square. As everywhere in Mexico withdrawing money comes with a fee. It doesn’t matter what type of card/credit card you use, you will be charged (normally 3-5€).
After 3 nights in Holbox we had to head to Cancún in order to catch our flight to Ecuador. We decided to stay for 1 and a half days in Cancún in order to explore it at least a bit. We have to admit we had pretty low expectations for Cancún, expecting it to be the big version of Playa del Carmen. We turned out to be pretty right. It is a highly touristic city, consisting of bars, skyscraper hotels and shopping spots. Not really a backpack destination, but a place that probably every Yucatan visitor will happen to be at, even if it’s only for flying in and out of Mexico.
The hostel we stayed at isn’t really worth mentioning, it was cheap that’s why we chose it (15€ for a double room), very dark, which in this case was fine as Rubén had to rest in order to be in better shape for the flight.
The food in Cancun isn’t cheap (min. 5€ per meal) and it is very americanized, so probably fine if you are looking for burgers, fries or tex-mex cuisine. In short, it has nothing to do with the amazing food we were able to taste in other parts of the country. If you are looking for an authentic cultural experience then don’t bother staying in Cancún.
On the day of the flight Rubén felt better and we had enough time to have a look at the beach. It is definitely still visible why Cancún is such a famous tourist hangout, the ocean is crystal blue. And the beach is beautiful as well, but in our opinion pretty ruined due to countless hotels and resorts build and still being build on top of the beach. If you come to Cancún then you will be witness to mass-tourism and the mark that irresponsible tourism can leave on nature.
We had seen and experienced a lot of Mexico in 1 and a half months, but there is so much more to see in this beautiful country, we definitely want to come back. But we were also excited for our next travel-chapter: Ecuador.