As I was saying in the last post, Belize is located directly South of Mexico, below the Mayan Riviera on the Yucatan Peninsula. It was cheaper to fly into Cancun and then drive down the Mayan Riviera coast, scattered with luscious turquoise beaches, and then drive on into Belize.
We started in Cancun, and after sorting out problems with accommodation and the rental car, we headed south towards Tulum (see last post: An Inflatable Car? ).
When we were in Tulum 7 years ago, it was a tiny village. Now it was more like a town. Development is happening fast. The main street suddenly has a lot more businesses.
There’s only one thing wrong with Tulum. The gorgeous white sand beaches and turquoise waters are not in the town.
One must have a car to drive a few kilometers down a side road that leads to a road that runs along the beaches. So if you are staying in a place along the beach, there is no way to get to the town unless you have a car or a bicycle and if you’re staying in town, there’s no way to get to the beach unless you have a car or bicycle. Apparently they’re working on a road that goes more directly to the beach. Otherwise, Tulum is beautiful. There are ruins right on the beach as well, that are quite incredible.
Looking down to the beach from the ruins.
Another thing about Tulum – it tends to be windy.
We took a drive down to Sian Ka’an biosphere reserve, but the road was so filled with gigantic pot-holes, that after an hour, we turned back.
A dog lay on the side of the road lazily, not about to move.
Then we took another side-trip to one of our favourite little known places, Mahahual. Honestly, they have the most beautiful beach you could find anywhere. Powdery soft sand, and clear turquoise water.
Mahahual is still quiet, partly because it is well off the beaten path, and partly because word just hasn’t spread yet. If you look on a map of the Yucatan Peninsula, you’ll see a skinny peninsula on the eastern side reaching down towards Belize. Mahahual is near the top of the peninsula, and Xcalak is near the end of the peninsula an the border of Belize.
We stayed in the oddest little place, the National Beach Club, Malecon Bungalows, for $60 per night, but it was in the perfect location right on the beach. I guess some might call it funky. It was cartoon-like and reminded us of the Flintstones. The bed was comfortable though.
Mahahual is a sleepy relaxing place, as evidenced by our little daily visitor.
The view from our little casita.
A cruise ship came in once a week, on Wednesday’s, and a few business owner’s told us it was the only day they made any real money on this little known beach.
School kids with big smiles peeked through the fence at us on the beach street.
A little drive further down the beach road from Mahahual, there is not much of anything except gorgeous beaches, but one little gem that we would highly recommend is a new hotel that a young couple have worked hard to set up, and it is lovely. Almaplena Eco Resort and Beach Club. If you want a quiet romantic place with fantastic clear turquoise water and white sand, this is the place.
We made it down that empty beach road to Xcalak, a lonely little village at the end of the beach road, and at the southernmost tip of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Back in Mahahual, we were tickled to have breakfast brought to us in our little cabin every morning. Steaming cappucino’s, fresh homemade buns, jellies and jams, and a lazy white cat, completed the scene on warm sunny day on the perfect beach.
The finishing touch at Mahahual was a massage on the beachm($20 an hour), gazing out over the brilliant aquamarine ocean sparkling in the sunlight.
Back on the road towards Belize, we stopped at the Chacchoben Mayan Ruins. They were not spectacular, but the trees growing over the ruins definitely caught our interest. Nature is fascinating.
Laguna Bacular, a very long skinny lake, running 50 or 60 kilometers towards the Belize border and parellel to the highway, is a brilliant blue lake. I just loved this spot.
It was here in Laguna Bacular that we stopped at a little Mom and Pop restaurant. The kitchen was open to the customers, and inside Grandma, Mom and older children was hustling around the kitchen, stirring steaming pots, and chopping vegetables. Dad was busy cleaning and greeting us, and it felt like coming into someone’s home and being served delicious homemade food just off their kitchen.
And these masks just outside the restaurant.
Our final stop before heading into Belize was Chetumal, very near the Belize border. It is a completely Mexican town, and no one speaks English, so we had to practice our Spanish to the max, but the people were so sweet and smiling and helpful. Tourists are not common there, so we certainly got our share of curious looks. It’s a huge city on Chetumal Bay.
Chetumal is a big modern city with Walmarts and Costcos and every other store you might want.
This was the first restaurant we stopped at. The girl that served us was at a complete loss when we spoke in English. She tried very hard to understand our butchered Spanish. The views were lovely across the bay, and the drinks were so refreshing on a hot day.
We could only find a hotel a few blocks off the beach, the Oxtankah Hotel, but it was nothing special.
Chetumal is a very clean town with wide paved streets, and a street that curves all around the bay, making for a nice drive.
On a Sunday afternoon, we came across a lively family festival by the only bit of beach in Chetumal.
All over Latin America you find deep-fried wieners and corn on the cob, not to mention the delicious fresh vegetable cups of spears of cucumber, jicama, and sometimes fruit as well, all sprinkled with fresh lime juice and chili pepper seeds, which for a non-vegetable lover are the best healthy food ever.
We really liked the vibe in Chetumal, and looked at a few properties for sale. Sadly, there are no sand beaches in Chetumal. The sea is walled with rock, and while it is still pretty, we didn’t feel great about not being on a beach, so we decided to pass on buying property. The water was clear and blue though.
*Check the next posts on Belize to follow.