Exploring the Colorful Coast of Mexico: Hidden Gems, Authentic Cuisine, & Amazing Adventures!
Where to Stay...
When deciding on where we wanted to stay, we wanted to take into account all of the things we were planning on doing during our visit. We wanted to make sure we were close to restaurants and the beach of course, but also not too far of a drive from other things we wanted to adventure to. We decided to stay in Akumal, a small beach town near Tulum. The Word 'Akumal' is actually Mayan and translates to "The Land of the Turtles". Now, since Turtles are my absolute favorite, choosing to stay here was a given!
When traveling, I always look for less expensive places to stay so that:
We decided to book our stay at Camp Akumal, which was a small village of cottages that lies about a mile within the jungle.
You can book your stay eat Camp Akumal by going though Airbnb or going directly to their website: campakumal.com/campakumal/
You can save $40 on your first stay using airbnb if you use my sign up link:
How to get around...
When visiting Mexico, you will most likely want to book a rental car at least a month in advance. Cancun is a very popular tourist destination all year round, so make sure you plan ahead! There are other ways to get around such as Uber, getting a taxi or taking the public transit. But for peace of mind, I would highly recommend a car rental.
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Where to Eat in Akumal...
Our first night there we wanted to adventure into town and grab a bite to eat. We decided to get a quick bite and something to drink at La Cueva Del Pescador. They offered many options to eat, and even had a live mariachi band!
There were lots of options for food in Akumal! Here's a list of some of the restaurants and Taquerias:
Akumal is a very small town between Playa Del Carmen and Tulum. Being so small, the town itself didn't have too much to see or do. However, it is home to one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had: SWIMMING WITH SEA TURTLES! Not only are Sea Turtles my favorite animal, but to me, they are one of the most majestic and innocent creatures on Earth.
Renting Snorkel equipment...
When entering Akumal you will be bombarded and stopped in the streets by people who want to try and sell you snorkeling tours - DON'T LISTEN. Just keep driving or tell them, "No thank you" or "No Gracias". The reason I don't think the snorkel tours are worth it is you're only allowed a certain amount of time with a tour guide and you may not even see and turtles during that time.
You can rent your own equipment at one of the stores along the beach, or there are people who rent out snorkels for an even cheaper rate right on the beach. I believe we ended up paying $12 total for our rentals. The best part about renting equipment on the beach is they give you 8 full hours and you don't have to follow the guide the entire time!
When we went, we were lucky enough to spot a young sea turtle during our first hour (Pictured at the top of this post!). Since we had plenty of time, we took a brunch break at Lol- Ha, where they had some amazing Mexican dishes and some yummy margaritas.
After our lunch break, we went back into the water for round two of searching for turtles and we were lucky enough to see some HUGE sea turtles!! My whole life was made.
What to see in Tulum...
When visiting Mexico, a lot of people's first instinct is to google guided tour packages. This is completely fine and also a great way to see some of Mexico's amazing spots. However, I've always preferred exploring on my own so that I am not confined to anybody's agenda.
Tulum offers many great things to explore. One of my favorite things to do was visit the Cenotes! Cenotes are natural pits, or sinkholes, resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath. This in turn results in a beautiful underwater cave filled with colorful fish and plants! You can find these beautiful Cenotes all around the Yucatan Peninsula. The one we saw in Tulum was called Cenote Azul (blue Cenote).
Cenote Azul costs only 120 pesos (roughly $.6.10 UDS). You can rent snorkels and flippers to swim though and explore the underwater caves! They even have a cliff you can dive off of!
The second Cenote we saw was called Tamcha Ha. This Cenote is about a 2 hour and 30 minute drive from Cancun in the city of Coba, but it is so worth it! Unlike Cenote Azul, this Cenote is completely underground.
To get there, you have to descend down some steep stairs where you find yourself surrounded by the Cenote cave walls. It becomes slightly chilly as the sun cannot reach most of it. But let's be real... It feels amazing after walking around in 100+ degree weather!
Once you are inside you can choose to relax in the deep, chilly water, or jump from the platforms from above! If you're a thrill seeker, this is for you! they They have different heights you can jump from. We jumped from the tallest point and it felt like we were falling forever! Watch the video at the bottom of this post for more footage of our visit!
There are three Cenote's located in this area. One being Tamcha-Ha and the other's being Choo- Ha & Multum- Ha. It costs 55 pesos per person, however you can purchase a pass for all three for 165 pesos per person.
Enjoy the Night life in Playa Del Carmen...
Playa Del carmen is only about 30 minutes away from Akumal, up the coast of Quintana Roo. This city offers a great variety of restaurants and night life as well as the convenience of being only steps away from the beach! There are tons of shops and locals selling trinkets, toys and art, as well as local street performers! While we were there we were lucky enough to see a traditional tribal dance!
Eat Authentic Mexican Tacos...
During our visit, there was a "prohibition" going on due to the citizens of Quintana Roo voting on a new Senator that weekend. Because of this, all liquor stores were closed and the only way you could purchase alcohol was if you bought it with food at a Resturant, usually within a touristy area...and to that we said "Challenge Accepted."
We decided that the easiest way to be able to drink a decent amount on our night out (which was also my Birthday) and not get super full on food, would be to order a taco and a beer at several different restaurants...a "Resturant/ Bar Hop" if you will. Honestly, I recommend doing this even if there isn't a hold on alcohol when you visit! This was a great way to be able to taste the flavors of Mexico and see how each place makes their tacos and which ones were the best!
Out of all of the tacos, my absolute favorite was the Tacos al Pastor from Celia Tacos. Al Pastor is pork that is roasted on a spit with pineapple and then both are then shaved off of the spit onto a taco. ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS.
We ended the night at La No. 20 Cantina with some delicious Mezcal (smokey tequila) and a birthday surprise! It turned out to be such a great evening, even though there was a hold on alcohol!
Get a Day Pass to an All- inclusive Resort...
Want to experience luxury while on a budget? Most of the resorts along the Riviera Maya offer day passes that gives you access to everything the resort has to offer but for a discounted daily rate! We went to PlayaCar Palace for our day visit. They gave us access to a room for an couple hours or so with a full bottle of wine, towels and a jacuzzi tub right in the room! The day pass also gives you access to their all-inclusive drinks and cafes. You can also make reservations for one of their fancy dining options for dinner.
You can swim in their pool's or at the beach! You can also opt to spend a little more money and go visit the Spa! Your day pass also gives you access to their gym, if you wanna work off some of those tacos from the night before! We opted to relax by the pool where their staff would frequently come by and offer you drinks and food. Ahhhh bliss.
This trip was amazing and was pretty inexpensive considering the location! You just gotta know where to look!
Check out the short film I made of our trip exploring the Riviera Maya!