Semana Santa is also known as Holy Week, the week of Easter. it is also the Mexican version of Spring break! Days before this break my friend asked if I would be keen on going with her to the Caribbean Coast of Mexico, in the state of Quintana Roo. Of course, I agreed. The stops planned were Playa del Carmen, Tulum, and Isla Mujeres.
Tickets: the cheapest flight there was on Mexicana, the cheapest flight back was a red-eye on Interjet. Fly, you say? Why yes, because by bus it isn't much cheaper and is around 12 hours. Boo! Fly into Cancun. There is a bus booth that sells tickets to Playa del Carmen. Going through playa by bus is the only way to get to Tulúm. You might as well stay a night in Playa, but if you skip it you are not missing a whole lot. Pretty touristy, but an OK beach and semi-fun nightlife. Good shopping (brands), good food, lots of pharmacies. But overpriced souvenirs! Don't even think about buying that 25 USD sombrero. We stayed at Hostel Rio, but there are others around for less the price and better amenities. Just do a bit of searching.
From Playa we took a colectivo (kind of mini-bus that stops wherever) to Tulúm, but I suggest you take an OCC charter bus. Less expensive and more comfortable. They will drop you off in the middle of nowhere-ish,so arrive in the daylight hours and be prepared to walk to find your cabaña on the beach...and you know you want one. We stayed at the cutest little place, Zazil-kin. We paid 175 pesos per person per night, but there were four of us to two double beds. But there are lots of places to choose from, and even a way to hang your hammock and stay for less than 8 USD per night. Such a cool idea. In my estimation, Tulum is where 'it's' at. Beautiful beach, clear blue water, laidback lifestyle, good breakfast places, and oh yeah---ruins. Mayan ruins! Mayan ruins visible from the beach! No more needs to be said, just go here. It is also good for diving (especially if you have your license already) because you can check out the cenotes.
After Tulum we visited Isla Mujeres. To get here, we took one of the hourly buses from Tulúm back through Playa and into Cancun. Here we caught a taxi, but you can also get a colectivo too, to the Benito Juarez Port and jump on a ferry leaving for the island. It is not that expensive and takes less than half an hour. We stayed at the Poc-na Hostel, which is highly recommended. Very fun nightlife and the people are so nice. Also, it has a beach bar with music, lights, and all the craziness that comes with partying under palm trees!
This is a cute island, full of color and life. The people are very very friendly, but not in a put-on sort of way. Main modes of transportation are golf cart and moped, and cars stop for you when you cross the street. It is a happy medium here because people will speak to you in Spanish if you try/want, but most of the vendors also speak english. However, after Tulúm the beach does not compare. This is the type of place people come and get stuck, and if you visit you will understand why. Kind of like a Mexico on steroids.
From Isla I took the ferry to Cancun and a taxi for 150 pesos back to the airport. They were successfully talked down from 200 pesos, and I believe that armed with a little Spanish and a smile you too can accomplish this! And if your flight is in the day transport will be even cheaper.
Some tidbits to consider:
-There is a hostel in Tulúm that apparently has bedbugs, so watch out and read reviews before staying at places.
-In Tulúm the fixed price for a ride into town in a taxi is 45 pesos. Don't try to talk them down, they won't budge. A friend thinks it is because of solidarity, and the taxistas don't want to go into competition with each other. How sweet, huh? Workers uniting is definitely worth 45 pesos.
-For many hostels you need your own lock for the lockers. Luckily, some hostels sell locks. If not you can get one from a random store. Combination ones are best, if only because you never lose/forget your key.
-You can get to isla without going through the "Cancun" parts of Cancun. Never fear.
It was such a fun vacation with lots of good times, and I highly recommend checking out Quintana Roo.
(photos on the flickr account!)