Month 31: Travel Summary and Statistics


Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza

I kicked off month 31 in Playa del Carmen, disappointed from the second I arrived but determined to find a way to fall in love with it. It sort-of worked, as I developed a hatred of the touristy parts but a love of the quieter, more local neighbourhoods.

A highlight of this month was renting a car for the day and driving to the Mayan ruins of Coba. I didn’t know much about Coba before arriving and ended up pleasantly surprised. The views over the jungle from Nohoch Mul, the main pyramid, were incredible and made the whole trip worth it. Climbing to the top of the 42 metre-high pyramid with only a rope to hold onto was a little daunting (though not as much as my nervous shuffle back down!), especially when I heard that people had died falling off it in the past. The views were worth the terror.

Views over the jungle at Coba
Views over the jungle at Coba

We had much of the park to ourselves when we arrived but leaving was another story. As we finished up several hours later, the crowds of marching people confirmed that we definitely made the right decision in coming early.

Crowds at Coba
Crowds at Coba

Another highlight from my time in Playa del Carmen was yet another activity that didn’t take place in Playa del Carmen. I’d read that Akumal is the place to go if you want to snorkel with sea turtles so I had it placed right at the top of my list of things to do in the Yucatan.

I was expecting a bit of a challenge to try and find them, and I was skeptical that it would be as easy as I’d read it would be, but just five minutes in the water had me treading water a couple of metres away from one. Eeeeep! One of the most magical moments of my life was when said sea turtle started swimming up to the surface to take a breath, rising just 30 cm or so away from me. It was so exciting!

My fears that I wouldn’t see a single sea turtle were unfounded and I found them so easy to spot — I came across one every few minutes without putting much effort in at all.

A sea turtle at Akumal
A sea turtle at Akumal

I also got to snorkel over a coral reef while I was there — my first time seeing one — and swim with lots of colourful tropical fish, all of this taking place 50 metres from the shore in surprisingly shallow waters.

The only thing I didn’t love from my time in Akumal was the six foot long barracuda with scarily sharp teeth that I was convinced was going to attack me.

An enormous barracuda with scary teeth
Enormous barracuda with scary teeth

My time in Playa del Carmen drew to a close mid-month and I headed inland to Valladolid — now my favourite place in Mexico. I wish I’d spent a month there instead of Playa del Carmen.

I loved it. The buildings were colourful and practically every street food vendor was selling torta de cochinita pibil — an amazingly tender, melt-in-your-mouth pork sandwich that made me want to cry with happiness. Dave and I celebrated Valentine’s Day in a Mayan restaurant where we were served some unusual dishes that were surprisingly great — grilled cheesy watermelon, anyone?

Valladolid is now firmly on my list of places to return to in the future.

Streets of Valladolid
The colourful streets of Valladolid

From Valladolid, I took a day trip to Chichen Itza, excited to finally be visiting after wanting to for years. I was a little concerned that I’d have ruin fatigue, and that after visiting Coba with its very few crowds I’d find Chichen Itza busy and overwhelming.

Of course, there’s a reason why Chichen Itza is so popular and that reason is because it’s amazing. I spent half a day roaming around the ruins and couldn’t believe how much there was to see. Despite once claiming to be a hater of ruins, I think I may be slowly changing my mind…

Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza

From Valladolid, I travelled to Isla Mujeres, my final stop in Mexico and my Christmas present from Dave!

We’ll be spending the next few days on this lovely island, relaxing on gorgeous beaches, paddling in the shallow waters, renting a scooter and riding around the island and hunting down as many street food treats as possible.

It should be the perfect way to say goodbye to a country I’ve fallen so hard in love with.

Mexico, I don’t want to leave! 

Shallow ocean waters on Isla Mujeres
Shallow ocean waters on Isla Mujeres

 

Onto the statistics for the month!

Travels for month 31

Countries Visited: 1

Mexico

Places Visited: 7

Akumal, Cancun, Chichen Itza, Coba, Isla Mujeres, Playa del Carmen, Valladolid.

Distance Travelled: 784 kilometres

Photos Taken: 390

Highlight of the month: So many highlights this month! I think I’ll have to go with snorkeling with sea turtles — I loved it so much that I’m considering learning to dive (yet again).

Lowlight of the month: I ran out of sunscreen on the day I visited Coba and had to resort to the overpriced bottles sold in the gift shops. The bottles claimed to be SPF 100 and 100% natural and I was suspicious. I smothered myself in the contents, noticed that I then smelt of vegetables and ended up very sunburnt a few hours later. Upon returning back to my apartment, I searched online for the brand name and found out that the ingredients of their “SPF 100” sunscreen were aloe vera and carrot juice.

My Favourite Photo: 

The iguana hiding in the ruins at Chichen Itza who made countless women scream as they walked past it. Hilarious.

Hello
Hello.

Money Spent:

Accommodation: 

  • 26 nights in Playa del Carmen: $330.86
  • 4 nights in Valladolid: $90.10

Transport: 

  • Car Rental to Coba + gas: $30.03
  • Collectivo to Akumal and back: $6.01
  • Bus from Playa del Carmen to Valladolid: $13.21
  • Bus to Chichen Itza and back: $3.01
  • Bus from Valladolid to Cancun: $13.21
  • Ferry from Cancun to Isla Mujeres: $10.21

Entrance Fees:

  • Coba: $4.30
  • Chichen Itza: $13.65

Misc: 

  • Snorkel hire at Akumal: $15.00

Food: $329.17

Total amount spent: $858.76

 

The next month: 

Travels for month 32

After slowly making my way across Mexico for the past six months, it’s time for a change of pace and a change of scenery. In a couple of days, I’ll be heading south to spend the next fortnight exploring Belize and Guatemala — two new countries for me! On the agenda is river tubing and cave exploring in the jungle surrounding San Ignacio, a couple of days exploring Tikal, some time checking out the laid-back fishing village of Placencia and then finishing up on the island of Caye Caulker.

On the 9th, I’ll be saying goodbye to Latin America for a couple of months and flying up to Portland, OR, where I am going to eat. Yep. I am going to eat in Portland. After leaving the Pacific North West in August, I’d estimate that something like 30% of the conversations I’ve had with Dave have revolved around how much we miss the food there. When we spotted cheap flights from Belize City to Portland, we decided that there was no point having all this freedom to go where we choose if we weren’t going to utilise it.

So yes, I’ll be spending a month in Portland visiting all of my favourite restaurants and food stands and putting on an unbelievable amount of weight!

 

Looking to follow along with my travels through my monthly summaries? You can read the previous month’s summary here, the next month’s summary here, or head on over to the monthly summary page to read from the very beginning!

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44 Comments

  1. February 20, 2014
    Reply

    Sounds like you’ve had a great month :) The sea turtle looks so cute and can’t believe it came that close to you! Looking forward to hearing about your adventures in Belize and Guatemala.

    • February 20, 2014
      Reply

      I was so shocked at how unafraid of humans the turtles were — they were just swimming all around us, not at all bothered by our presence. I doubt there’s many other places in the world where you can experience that so close to shore :-)

  2. I went to Coba a few years ago with my family – I knew nothing about when before I went but I found it really cool! I never made it to Chichen Itza though – I’m pretty jealous you went there.

    • February 20, 2014
      Reply

      Glad you enjoyed Coba, too! I’m surprised that it’s not more well known — it’s pretty awesome on top of the main pyramid :-)

  3. February 20, 2014
    Reply

    Sounds like a blast! Isla Mujeres looks gorgeous

    • February 20, 2014
      Reply

      It’s very touristy, but for a reason: it’s stunning! I’ve never seen such turquoise ocean waters before :-)

  4. February 20, 2014
    Reply

    I love your travel summary. It seems you are very organized! I don’t know how you do it. But it’s an easy way for me as a reader to follow where you are, what are you doing as well as knowing a little bit about the budget. Thanks for that.

    Swimming with tropical fish and sea turtles sounds amazing… I have to say I’m jealous! :) Hope I’ll get to experience that too sometime soon!

    • February 20, 2014
      Reply

      Thank you! I don’t feel very organised :-). Glad you found the post helpful — this was my first summary post with a super-detailed budget so I’m pleased that people seem to like it.

  5. February 20, 2014
    Reply

    I am excited you are going to Portland because I am excited that IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII am going to Portland for a weekend later this year! I was there years ago and have always wanted to go back and now I finally am. Yay to Portland!

    • February 20, 2014
      Reply

      Yay! Portland is the best! I’m going to eat SO MUCH FOOD.

  6. February 20, 2014
    Reply

    Very cool! We also loved Valladolid! Such a great little town. So close to the major tourist draws in the Yucatan yet it retains its own individuality. We also ventured down to Belize & Guatemala after Mexico. I see very good times in your future. Have fun!

    • February 20, 2014
      Reply

      I was surprised by Valladolid — I expected it to be overrun with tourists but it really wasn’t. I nearly considered canceling my Belize/Guatamala plans so that I could spent an extra couple of weeks there!

  7. Helga
    February 20, 2014
    Reply

    Another great post as usually, I particular love these month summaries of yours. Got one question though, how did you manage to take these clear great underwater photos?

    • February 20, 2014
      Reply

      Thank you! I used Dave’s GoPro for the underwater shots :-)

  8. February 21, 2014
    Reply

    It looks like you had a great trip and at a very reasonable cost too. The photos are wonderful and highlight what beautiful places you’ve been too. I also love the iguana picture too.

    I’m always amused at the name Chichen Itza as I’m worried that I’ll pronounce it as Chicken Itza!

    • March 5, 2014
      Reply

      Funny story — I actually thought it was Chicken Itza up until about a year ago! :-)

  9. February 21, 2014
    Reply

    Stumbled across your blog while researching my upcoming (second) trip to China. So glad I found this! I love to travel and if I could do that professionally, I definitely would. I work online but I also work in an office part time…and I am married and love my home life so I can’t do it all the time. But if I can get 2-3 months on the road, I am happy with that. And I live overseas (not in my native US) so I feel like I am traveling/vacationing all the time any way. Looks like you have had some amazing travels. I have enjoyed reading over some of your posts and adventures. It has definitely given me some good ideas for other things to look into for my planned trips this year. Happy travels!

    • March 5, 2014
      Reply

      Thank you so much, Melinda! I’m so pleased to hear I could give you some ideas — let me know if I can help out in any way at all :-)

  10. February 21, 2014
    Reply

    Learn to dive while in Latin America.
    You will see more turtles up close (and a variety of other sea creatures).

  11. February 21, 2014
    Reply

    Great month! Chichen Itza is amazing. I am wondering if the archaeologists are still digging around the pyramid.

    • March 5, 2014
      Reply

      It’s so amazing! I was expecting to hate it because of all the crowds but nope, still great :-)

  12. February 21, 2014
    Reply

    I LOVE Akumal! My husband and I stayed there for a week last November. It is so amazing swimming out and seeing turtles everywhere! A highlight of out trip was watching the release of hundreds of baby turtles into the ocean for the first time!

    • March 5, 2014
      Reply

      Wow, that sounds amazing, Krista! I didn’t get to release baby turtles :-(

  13. February 21, 2014
    Reply

    Enjoy Tikal and Caye Caulker. I was there in 1999, as part of my first big 6 month trip. I will be interested to know what they are both like now since they were unspoilt. There was no tourists at Tikal, I felt like Laura Croft climbing over the ruins whilst surrounded in stunning jungle. I was teaching in Belize, so I use to escape to Caye Caulker for weekends. It was paradise on earth and the reef was pristine. Enjoy :-)

    • March 5, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks, Becks. It’s definitely changed — a lot! There were/are a ton of tourists in both places. I would have loved to have seen what they were both like in 1999!

  14. February 23, 2014
    Reply

    A really cheap month there Lauren; interesting to hear your views on the downsides of Playa too. Lately I’ve been wondering about how costs in South/Central America compare to Asia, what do you think, is it as cheap over there as it is here in SE Asia?

    • March 5, 2014
      Reply

      Mexico and Belize have been much more expensive than Southeast Asia, and a lot more than I was expecting. In Mexico, we couldn’t find a private room in any decently-rated hostel for less than $50 a night. Apartments were definitely much cheaper. We’ve been paying $50 a night in Belize on average, too. I’m expecting Guatemala to be much cheaper!

  15. February 23, 2014
    Reply

    I love that shot of the iguana!
    But how did you limit yourself to 390 photos???

    • March 5, 2014
      Reply

      I didn’t really do all that much, I guess! :-)

  16. February 24, 2014
    Reply

    That sounds like a great month. I live 4 hours from Mexico and I only went there once when I was 12 on a cruise. I have always wanted to go back. Your posts on Mexico have definitely inspired me to do what I can to get there now. Have fun in Portland. I went there all the time when I lived in Tacoma, WA and loved it. Great food, and love walking along the waterfront.

    • March 5, 2014
      Reply

      I’m pleased to hear that, Danielle! Mexico is a wonderful country :-)

  17. Madison
    February 28, 2014
    Reply

    Can’t wait to read your posts on Belize! We are going there in a week too!

    • March 5, 2014
      Reply

      I’m loving Belize so much! :-)

  18. April 3, 2014
    Reply

    When people ask me what I miss the most from home (apart from the people, of course), I always say, “THE MEXICAN FOOD!”

    I’d most likely get VERY fat living in Mexico. Enjoy Belize, Caye Caulker is such a special place. If you’re going to learn how to dive, do it there!

    • November 13, 2015
      Reply

      Ah man, I miss Mexican food so much!

  19. April 3, 2014
    Reply

    Hi Lauren,

    I love reading your blog and seeing the places you have traveled. I am currently living in Italy and plan to do a lot of Eastern Europe in the coming months. Your posts have been really helpful! Looking forward to your next post.

    PS. When is your book coming out? Can’t wait to read it!

  20. April 14, 2014
    Reply

    I’ve been reading so many positive things about Mexico lately. It’s definitely a place I’d like to spend some time in.

    • November 13, 2015
      Reply

      I wholeheartedly recommend visiting!

  21. April 25, 2014
    Reply

    Awesome site Lauren, I’m visiting here for my first time. I love your summary and am really impressed you’ve managed to stay travelling all this time.

    I’ve spent quite a lot of time in Mexico but mainly in and around Mexico City (one of the less impressive parts of Mexico). My favourite spot in Mexico is Puebla.

    I saw the picture of the pyramid and initially thought it was one I’ve been to near Mexico City but obviously not.

    Adios! : )

    • November 26, 2015
      Reply

      Thanks so much, Angus! Puebla is definitely on my list for my next visit — I want to eat everything there! :-)

  22. October 2, 2016
    Reply

    Love reading about your time in Mexico. Any advice on visiting Valladolid for the first time, specifically re: accommodations?

    • October 2, 2016
      Reply

      I stayed at the La Aurora Hotel Colonial in Valladolid and loved it! :-)

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