> Destinations > Mexico > Trip Reports > Trip Report
Earlier this month, my wife, 16 y.o. son and I took a short trip to the
Yucatan. We booked a round trip on Continental nonstop from Houston to
Merida for ~US$450 p.p., r/t.
We'd reserved a room at the Gran Hotel, right on the plaza Hidalgo, and
about a block from the zocalo. We arrived late on a Saturday night. The
room had no windows and the A/C was loud, but for the second night we
requested and were given a much nicer room (#9) overlooking the plaza.
This hotel was is really wonderful - elegant interior spaces with marble and
chandeliers, high ceilings, quiet, well-located, plenty of cold filtered
water and ice. On the way out of the country at the end of the week, we got
another nice room, #13 a "triple" for 760 pesos . The doubles (two beds)
were 610. (Pesos were 10.83 / US$ via an ATM.)
Sunday in Merida is quite an experience. The historic center's streets are
blocked off and are taken over by pedestrians, bicycle taxis, horse-drawn
calesas, and cafes, some with live music. In the zocalo and in plaza
Hidalgo there were folkloric shows all afternoon. By night there was
literally dancing in the streets. Besides enjoying all of this, we visited
the market and bought your narrator a "sombrero jipi" (panama hat) -- bien
fino, it elicited compliments from yucatecanos for the rest of the week.
Also got a couple guayaberas.
We visited a free art museum in the afternoon, and in the evening, had
dinner at a wonderful Lebanese restaurant, Alberto's Continental Patio
(ordered an alambra, pollo pibil and, um, a club sandwich).
Monday, using info from a visit to the tourist office, we took a taxi to the
CAME bus station and bought tix (29 pesos pp) for the 2nd class bus to Uxmal
(there was no 1st class). The trip was ~2 hours. Uxmal is, of course, the
site of a Mayan ruin, but there is no town there, hence prices are very
high. We had booked a room at the Hacienda Uxmal at $US 120 per night.
This is a beautiful hotel -- lush tropical grounds w/ boganvillas and
bird-of-paradise, oleander, periwinkle, etc. Lots of birds and exotic bird
calls. Swimming pool and outdoor bar/restaurant. But did I say expensive?
Particularly aggravating is the 25 peso charge for a liter of purified
water - and very little alternative! If you ever do stay at Uxmal, bring
your own water, and maybe some food too, as meals start at ~100 pesos for
some tacos or a club sandwich.
Our first view of the ruins was at night, at the infamous "sound and light"
show. It was sort of silly, but really should not be missed (what else are
you going to do on a Tuesday night in Uxmal?). Cha!... Cha!... Cha!
In the morning we returned. Entrance was 88 pesos p.p (the night before
was ~30 pesos). We hired an English speaking guide at the regulated price
of 350 pesos. I really can't do the ruins justice, so I won't try to
describe it, but we were truly awed.
In the afternoon,we returned to the "hacienda" and swam to cool off. We had
as our goal next to get a bus back to Merida and take another bus to
Celestun. There was some confusion about when a bus would pass (remember,
no town here), and the hotel staff was not too helpful. I think they're
mostly used to people w/ rented cars. At any rate, at 2:30pm we were by the
side of the road, waiting for a rumored bus. After 20 minutes, a van
stopped that was transporting some tourists back to Merida. The driver
offered us a ride to our bus station in Merida for 200 pesos for all 3 of
us. We took the ride.
We got another 2nd class bus to Celestun. This stopped about 20 times
before we left town, and then another 20 times before we got to Celestun, 2
1/2 hours later. On the ride we had a nasty incident -- since we couldn't
fit our bags in the overhead shelf, we stowed them below in the bus cargo
compartment. At some point, somebody stowed some fish in water or on ice in
the same compartment, and it spilled, and one of our bags reeked strongly of
fish for the rest of the week.
Arrived at Celestun after dark. The hotel we had chosen from the guide book
was full, so we had to do some searching. All of the hotels in town were
pretty grungy (though cheap), except for one about 8 blocks from the busy
center of town. Out on the way out of town was the Playa Flamenco. Clean,
but with small, sparse rooms. Had a swimming pool and patio overlooking the
beach. 400 pesos / night. The thing we liked the least was the long walk
back to the plaza and to any restaurant or store.
Celestun is a really nice, old fashioned Mexican beach-town. A lot of cheap
restaurants on the beach. A plaza that comes alive in the evening, with
foosball, and a very low-key kind of permanent fiesta - carts selling hot
dogs, something like funnel cake, a trampoline, and an archade with a BB gun
shooting gallery and darts-and-balloons. My wife tried her luck on these,
but ended up giving her final 2 darts to two boys -- they threw them with
In the daytime, the town is quiet and sleepy, with bicycle taxis and push
carts selling helados and another selling vegtables and fruits (believe me,
we bought some stuff from her!). Most people on the street will greet you
and it seemed very safe.
On our second day, we took a tour out into the "eco-park" (an estuary) in a
boat -- 150 pesos pp. At one point, the wife saw a line of pink in the
distance on the water's surface -- flamingos! The boat was able to get ~50
feet from the flock and we watched for about 15 minutes. Later, we found a
larger flock and we saw some fly -- they have black tips on their wings and
their beaks. I saw an "aguila pescador" (fisher eagle? -- I don't know the
right english name), dive and catch a fish, and fly away with the fish in
That night we ate some very good pizza at a friendly place called El Lobo,
connected to a hostel. The next morning, we took a bus back to Merida.
Wow, this is a long report for only 6 days. Thanks for reading this far.
Here are some final impressions of this part of the Yucatan. 1) It's not
cheap -- nice restaurants in Merida were almost as expensive as back in the
states, but I'm sure we could have economized by choosing more carefully or
eating in the market. 2) It is Hot. About 90 degrees F each afternoon,
and very few public places had A/C -- the coast was cooler, though. 3)
Though my wife and I both speak pretty good (but not fluent) Spanish, I was
struck by how many people working with in restaurants and hotels spoke
pretty good English --one should not hestitate to come here just because one
does not speak Spanish.
Finally, Yucatecans are very friendly people. We were always treated
nicely, and had some very nice conversations and interactions. On our last
day, a man named Don Jose talked with us in the park, complimented us on our
souvenirs, and talked us into going back to the market to get a "rebozo de
Santa Maria" (a fine type of shawl). He was literally singing the praises
of these rebozos, and told a charming story about how he bought one for his
wife as a wedding present 30 yrs ago, etc, etc.
Thanks to Mike for this trip report ...