We flew into Cancún and despite not being of any real interest to us, we felt the need to understand the reason why this renowned resort town is considered such a worldwide tourist mecca. Consequently, to get the full blown tourist experience, we passed on our customary AirBnB and elected to stay our first 4 nights at one of the mega resorts in the heart of the very touristy but well set up, ‘Hotel Zone”. There are a shitload of resorts lined up one after another, occupying this entire stretch of sand along with a ton of places to eat. Below are some of the top places (at western prices) recommended to us by fellow travelers, but we bagged them and focused on more local places.
Restaurants in Cancun:
Puerto Madero, Caminos, Rosa Negra, Tora, Porfirios, La No 20
Paying western prices in Mexico was a big ‘NO’ for us Flashpackers. We preferred sniffing out some local food places and taco joints and believe it or not, we were even successful within the touristy ‘Hotel Zone’. We spent time at the beach at our sprawling resort but really enjoyed being away from the tourists and hopped onto the local bus down to the excellent public beach, Playa Delfines to hang out amongst the locals. In order to get a better feel of local life in Cancun, we also ventured downtown to eat a great lunch at one of the stalls in the local market (Mercado 28) and also checked out the weekend night festivities & performances in the local park (Parque de las Palapas), inhaling some freshly made churros.
PLAYA DEL CARMEN –
After departing the Yucatan and arriving to Playa Del Carmen, we sadly had to waive goodbye to local prices and hello to tourist prices. We had to accept the fact that we left behind the small towns of Yucatan that served up delicious $1 tacos for a super touristy town that charges $10 for some mediocre tacos & quesadillas. However, after being in Mexico for close to two months, we have acquired the innate ability to sniff out the best local taco joints without getting hosed. Our top taco places in Playa Del Carmen:
El Fogon, Don Sirloin (both by Mega Market) and Los Aguachiles.
Besides tacos, for a real authentic local eating experience, it is critical to hit up the grilled chicken joints where the chicken is cooked over an ‘old school’ open wood flame. They only have one thing on the menu….CHICKEN. We knew as soon as we saw from the street, that billow of smoke emanating from the roof, it was going to be a total feast. Amazing doesn’t begin to describe the taste. To a chicken eating lover, there is nothing worse in life than a dry piece of chicken. These chickens were grilled to perfection with not a dry bite on the entire whole chicken we ordered. The chicken is really off the charts and cheap as shit. Asadero El Pollo is the gem in the city. We wanted to give another place a shot called Pollos Sinaloa, but Asadero El Pollo was just too good to pass up for the second & third rounds.
Playa del Carmen is one of the biggest tourist destinations on the Caribbean coast, full of loud parties, live entertainment, thousands of tourists, and a plethora of English-speaking locals.
We returned our rental car that we were utilizing for our Yucatan Peninsula road trip upon our arrival in Playa Del Carmen. PDC is a compact town and perfectly set up to simply wander around exploring on foot. Fifth Avenue is the main drag that runs parallel to the beach for a couple of miles. The street is a perfect pedestrian strip for strolling, people watching, shopping, eating and serves as a good ole pub crawl in this party town. Despite it being touristy, we did enjoy the action wandering Fifth Avenue from end to end.
The beaches in PDC, unlike all the other fabulous beaches we visited in Quintana Roo are congested and really a big zippo. Therefore, to keep us occupied, we ate our asses off at the plethora of restaurants. We also joined the local gym called Evolve and got a good workout in every morning during our week long stay. There are some amazing cenotes to visit that are also a great alternative to the beach. They are about a 20 minute drive outside of town but they all closely located to each other, so you can visit a few. One of my favorite cenotes in all of Mexico was located here and that is a bold statement as we visited so many spectacular cenotes on this journey. Cenote Jardin de Eden is a real gem. You could hang out on the water here all day and that is precisely what we did. We were in awe of the beautiful and relaxed surroundings in the thick of nature.
Cenote Jardin De Eden – one of my absolute favs
Cenote Chikin Ha
We accepted Playa Del Carmen for what it was. It was nice to visit and wander around taking in the frenzied scene but I just couldn’t see the appeal of this place for any possible return visit. 1X perfect, 2X nah. It is now onto Cozumel for some island life.
Cozumel is an island off the coast of Playa del Carmen. Simply hop on the ferry for the 20 minute ride. Some people opt to daytrip to Cozumel. We elected to hunker down for a week to really dig into the island life.
Prior to heading out on our RTW journey in 2015, one of our primary goals was locating some of the best non-developed beaches spanning the globe. Cozumel delivered on that front as it’s home to some beautiful beaches, especially if you head off the beaten path.
We had been very active during our first two months in Mexico, ‘ on the move” visiting all the sights in the region. Now, for the first time, we were able to really hunker down and live at a slower pace similar to our time in Maui. We prepared our own meals and explored the island’s less visited beaches. Life on Cozumel was simple.
We knew what we were getting involved with prior to pulling the trigger on our one week visit to Cozumel. In an effort to get away from the more touristy port area, we booked a beautiful Airbnb house in a local neighborhood and we rented a Jeep to independently get around the island. Having a vehicle offered us the flexibility to efficiently uncover many sandy coves and retreat far away from the cruise ship crowds flooding the island each day in masses. We were able to avoid the paid beach clubs lining the island that were saturated with cruise ship passengers. It helped that we came prepared with all our stuff (folding beach chairs, sun umbrella and cooler filled with food and drinks). This way we were not reliant on using the commercial beach club facilities.
The best beaches are on the southern and eastern side of the island, far away from the cruise ship ferry port. A real treat also lies on the east side of the island…..a dedicated road, which is off limits to cars runs adjacent to the stunning coastline. It’s a great path to bike, scooter, jog or walk. In our opinion, the best beaches along the eastern and southern coast of Cozumel include:
Playa San Martin – on east side of island and our main hang out spot.
Playa Chen Rio – east side of isle, just south of super popular Coconut’s restaurant.
Punta Sur Eco Park – on south side of island.
El Cielo Beach – I believe only accessible via boat.
No Name Beach – on south side of island, across the street from the Rasta Bar.
Barbie and I were both mesmerized by the influx of arriving cruise ships. We began to think that Cozumel should really be called CSCB (aka Cruise Ship Cash Grab)
Hey, our President wanted to build factories…great big factories. Well, he sure delivered and it’s kinda ironic that this factory was constructed right here in Cozumel, Mexico. It’s a huge factory that pulls in thousands of American tourists on a daily basis. I can understand one massive cruise ship coming into port. But, seeing a half dozen of these floating monstrosities into the port was just ridiculous. Thousand upon thousands of people disembarking for their daily island activities where it was a given that they would get hosed down.
While driving to the beach, we passed the cruise ship port and it looked like a big Jimmy Buffet retreat blastoff. Just imagine if Jimmy Buffet’s bar broke off during a huge hurricane in Key West (with all customers inside) and simply floated off to Cozumel. That pretty much characterizes the crowd getting off these cruise ships. These passengers actually looked like the same people that want that Trump wall to be built, yet they are flocking to these Mexican beaches thinking they are still in Jimmy Buffet’s bar. I actually felt bad for these poor local Mexicans as they are really the ones who have to worry about what is coming over their own border. Caravans of obese, loud and obnoxious Americans.
I despise cruise ships and everything they stand for. I view them as floating bacteria vessels and simply cannot understand why anyone would want to use their precious travel time in such a contained and structured environment. We noticed that all the cruise ship passengers arriving onto Cozumel were wearing colored bracelets. I would assume these bracelets colored in Red, White and Blue were created so locals could easily identify those Americans that are ripe to squeeze.
Red bracelets for rich people the locals can rip off.
White bracelets to identify white trash.
Blue bracelets signifying obese and loud Americans.
The passengers that did not ante up to leave the port area on a overpriced tour, inevitably got ripped off by the local vendor hawking colored sombreros and panchos.
It was a recipe for one big money grab. The passengers just finished up their glutenous, all you can eat breakfast buffets, stomachs hanging over their belts. They now are awarded with 8 hours on land to drink all the beer they can and gorge on as much food in the touristy restaurants they are bound to visit. Many of these restaurants set prices in US dollars as well as Pesos. The locals are fully aware the cruise shippers are getting off the boat with only American dollars in hand and have no real clue of the proper exchange rates. They pay with US dollars because they want their fucking beer or their big shitty blue colored margarita in an oversized glass…..right fucking now. Consequently, they get ripped off on the exchange rate but they don’t care as long as Jimmy Buffet or Boston music is blasting in the background they can sing out of tune to.
BIG DOUG & BARBIE TACO COUNTDOWN –
Barbie and I are now two full months into our travels around Mexico without skipping one single day gorging on street side tacos. Surprisingly, we are still not tired of eating tacos. Many times, we even eat tacos for breakfast. Now, that is hardcore.
We have just concluded our roadtrip covering the Mexican states of Yucatan and Quintana Roo. We are now heading to the Western/Pacific side of Mexico and to the states of Nayarit (Sayulita & San Pancho/San Francisco) & Jalisco (Puerto Vallarta).
We will really miss hanging out at all the beautiful cenotes in Quintana Roo and Yucatan. Below is a video of all the heavenly cenotes we hung out at on this leg of our journey. Boy, will we miss these natural wonders but will return!