I found Mexico to be very different than what gets portrayed on the news, at least the US news. We typically hear about nothing but poverty, drugs, cartels, and kidnappings. While that most definitely goes on in certain parts of the country, there are also plenty of nice spots in Mexico. It's rich history, ancient ruins, stellar beaches, and friendly locals make it a great destination for a variety of traveler types. While I only visited for a few days, the weeks of research and exposure I did have was very contrary to what I had seen on TV. At least on the east coast, there was much to experience and I will be back for sure.
Last Visit: Jun 2015
Cost: $78/day
Stayed: 3 days
Suggest Staying: 1-4 weeks
English: 3/5
Safety: 3/5
Currency: Peso
Transport: Bus, taxi

My Favorites

1. Tulum


Highlights: Ruins, beach, cenote
Suggest Staying: 1-2 days
Stay Around: Tulum Center (Casa Abanico Tulum)
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Along the coast, this ancient town seemed to me like the beach home for those ancient tribes that lived farther inland. The ruins are set along the beach with a nearby cenote (natural swimming pool) to cool off. The town is small and you can bicycle around if you like. Just know it can get pretty hot. Seemed safe and the locals were friendly.

2. Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

Highlights: Ruins
Suggest Staying: 1 day
Stay Around: Tulum or Cancun
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This place is incredible. El Castillo Pyramid (shown above) is the most iconic Mayan structure. Chichen Itza is probably the most famous of the ancient ruins, of which there are many throughout the country. I took the bus from Tulum, but it’s about the same distance from Cancun, easy to do in a day trip. If you take the bus, plan for the entire day. It was a 3-4 hour bus ride each way and you’re basically stranded there until the late afternoon when the bus comes back. You can easily spend a couple hours at the site though, it’s pretty massive and spread out. See if you can find the semi-hidden cenote. There is food on site.

3. Bacalar


Highlights: Laguna, cenote
Suggest Staying: 1-3 days
Stay Around: City Square (Hostal & Suites Pata de Perro)
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Home to Laguna Bacalar, the lake of seven colors, this hidden gem is certainly a best kept secret. I happened upon this place during travel planning as a perfect overnight stop half way on my journey from Belize to Tulum. I wish I had stayed longer. There is a small city square along the lake which is magnificently multi-colored in various shades of blue, along which you can spend a couple hours kayaking. Or you can lay out on the docks. Supposedly, some of the oldest rock formations in history are located in this lagoon, or at least in the area, that housed the original bacteria that first formed life on Earth. Whether it’s true or not, the place is gorgeous and it’s not at all touristy. At least not yet. There is also a cenote nearby which is easy to stop at on your way into town, especially if you’re going by taxi. In fact, my taxi driver took me and even paid my admission ticket! It was only like 10 cents, but what a gesture. He even took some pictures of me in front of the cenote. There is restaurant there if you are hungry.


  • Getting There. If you’re coming from Belize, I was given a tip from a local ex-pat in San Pedro that instead of ferrying back to Belize City and then taking a bus from there up the coast to Tulum, I could instead hop on a boat from San Pedro that would take me across the border into Mexico at the port of Chetumal. You will be greeted by customs and their dogs sniffing your luggage while you wait in a single file line under the blistering sun. So wear sunblock and don’t bring drugs or dog food. From there I just took a taxi the rest of the way, about 45 minutes. This saved me a bunch of time and money.
  • The Bus Station. The bus station is a little tricky to find because it’s very small and not well labeled. There is a structure and you can wait indoors, but it’s more like a bus stop than a station. So ask your hosts for directions. It’s within walking distance from the square. Arrive early, as buses may not come earlier than every hour, if that often. Be sure to check the timezone, I was thrown off by an hour and actually missed my bus, which is extra funny since I got there 50 minutes early only to arrive just after my actual bus had already departed.

Cost Breakdown

  • Flights: $85 (Cancun => San Francisco)
  • Lodging: $131 (guesthouse)
  • Transportation: $- (bus, taxi; I didn't keep track)
  • Activities: $12 (temple ruins)
  • Food: $90 (estimated $30/day)

Total: $318

General Tips

  • Don't Drink The Water. Or the ice. It's true when they say not to drink the water in Mexico or you're sure to be sick. Don't drink anything not purified or sealed, as well as accepting anything with ice in it, including shaved ice! Consult your doctor and ask about Ciproflaxin in case of stomach issues (aka traveler's diarrhea). This stuff if magic.
  • Safety. I think Mexico gets a bad rap, at least in the US on the news. Mexico is a huge country, so there are of course bound to be both good and bad areas. As a general rule, it seems that it is best to stay in or around tourist areas (the northeast coast out from Cancun seemed perfectly fine), while border cities and farther up north (or south) when you get closer to drug sources and buyers (namely South America and the US respectively) is where you start to find cartels and other bad people. I spent a small amount of time and in a specific area along the cost from Central America, but my experience was very positive. People were super friendly and I felt perfectly safe. There are of courses places farther inland or like I said closer to the border towns that I stayed away from. The key takeaway here is don't just go by what you see on the news, do you own research and talk to people who have been or live there. I was quite surprised at how different the Mexico I saw was from what's depicted on the news.
  • Time Zone. Depending on where you're coming from, double check the time zone. I forgot to set my watch and missed a bus in a small town that didn't have many buses running.

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