Valladolid, Merida, Campeche

by zora on February 11, 2014

A very helpful reader, Keith, writes in with this:

Hotel Aurora in Valladolid is wrongly placed on the map, it’s at C42 & C35. [Eek--sorry about that!]

Hotel Colonial in Campeche has closed. [A tragedy!] I recommend Hotel Guaranducha there [C/55 x 12 y 14].

In Merida, I recommend restaurant 2012EspaciosMaya, Calle 62, between 55 y 57.

He also wrote a great trip report here, where you can read more details about all the places mentioned, plus a few more recommendations (hotel in Tuxtla sounds great!). Plus, he saw a jaguar! Man, I’m envious.

Many thanks again, Keith!

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Chichen Itza and Uxmal

by zora on July 27, 2013

This translation of a news story says that starting in September, there will be only one ticket line at Chichen Itza and Uxmal.

The existing system involved buying one ticket from INAH for the site, and a second ticket from the Yuctan-state CULTUR organization. It was slow, and it also seemed vaguely scammy (even though it was legitimate). There’s always something unnerving about buying a ticket and then being told to go to another window and pay more…

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Cenote Shuttle Line, Tulum

by zora on October 22, 2012

Cool! A new hop-on-hop-off service runs up the highway toward Coba, stopping at the cenotes along the way. This makes it much easier to cenote-hop.

Here are more details on tulumliving.com.

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El Crucero

by zora on July 23, 2012

This hotel in Tulum is closed.

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Que Onda

by zora on July 23, 2012

This hotel in Akumal is closed.

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Playa Xcacel

by zora on July 5, 2012

This beach north of Tulum is now a bit better signed, and a small building with toilets has been constructed. There’s an attendant to collect the ticket price (M$10) and advise you what you can and can’t do in the area. The main thing: only biodegradable sunscreen!

(I can’t stress the sunscreen thing enough–only biodegradable formulations are allowed in the water anywhere that’s under any kind of state or federal protection, and in a lot of cenotes. If you can’t find stuff clearly labeled ‘biodegradable’ at home, stop at a pharmacy first thing on arrival.)

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Chichen Itza

by zora on July 5, 2012

Ticket prices at Chichen Itza and Uxmal are both up to M$234, which is actually a combination of two tickets: one from national archeology ministry INAH and one from Yucatan state. According to a reader, it can be a little confusing at the ticket booth, but both tickets are required, and should add up to M$234.

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Merida Zoo

by zora on April 9, 2012

The zoo in the Parque Centenario was seriously damaged by a hailstorm (the animals are fine, though). It will be closed for a bit while they rebuild–somewhat slowly, so as not to stress out the animals.

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Calakmul Access

by zora on April 3, 2012

Thanks to a reader who has been doing pre-trip research, I recently learned that to visit Calakmul, you must take a shuttle bus from near the biosphere entrance on the highway down to the ruins themselves (about 40km). There’s also a new museum there, where you catch the shuttle. Apparently there’s also some kind of fee for the shuttle.

It sounds like a hassle, but frankly, it’s good. Driving that road down to the ruins is really a drag–very narrow, and always filled with birds and beasties. (This is apparently the reason they instituted the shuttle–too much roadkill.) So better to leave the driving to someone else.

I’m headed down that way soon for research on the Rough Guide to Mexico, so will check this out in person and post details here.

EDITED 10/26/12: The shuttle bus is no longer in action (apparently because the local taxi drivers couldn’t come to an agreement with INAH over a fair way to do this). You can drive your own car in, or go in whatever taxi you hire. So basically, it’s the same as it always was. (The “museum” is pretty nominal.) Admission prices as of August were M$46 for the ruins, plus M$28 per person municipal fee and M$54 per person for the reserve.

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Peskayitos

by zora on March 22, 2012

This restaurant in Puerto Morelos is closed. Sad–those were great shrimp tacos!

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Eating in Isla Mujeres and Cancun

by zora on March 7, 2012

Cafe Aluxes, on Isla Mujeres, is shut. No more frozen key lime pie!

Gourmet + Market in Cancun is shut. No more waffles with ham and eggs!

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Buses to Puerto Morelos: Two Changes

by zora on January 10, 2012

Edited in late May: Same alert reader wrote to say buses were running fine–and indeed they were when I visited a few weeks ago. They go every 30-45 minutes from the airport. From downtown Cancun, they still run every 15 minutes. I also took a colectivo (shared minivan) from the Cancun bus station parking lot–easy, and left faster than the bus.

An alert reader just emailed me to ask about the bus from Cancun airport to Puerto Morelos, as it appears from www.ticketbus.com.mx (now redirecting to www.boletotal.mx, btw) that there are no buses to Puerto Morelos.

In fact, there are, at least as of last week. The reason Puerto Morelos doesn’t show on the ticketing site anymore, I’m guessing, is that it has been downgraded to a ‘local’ stop midway along a longer route, and I think it’s also a low-tech, non-computerized stop that can’t do its own ticketing anyway.

Leaving from the airport (or from Cancun’s bus station), you shouldn’t have a problem. The bus starts there, and will stop at PoMo en route to Playa del Carmen on request. The bus, in my experience, has never been full. You can check the schedule at www.ado.com.mx, which still lists Puerto Morelos as a destination (confusingly!).

Problems arise when you want to take a bus from Puerto Morelos. This is the first change: Because PoMo is now just a local stop, they won’t guarantee you a seat on the bus–they’re not going to hold a seat empty in Playa or Cancun, just for you to get on halfway. This is a problem both for the airport buses and for the bus to the Cancun bus station and Playa del Carmen. Of course if there are empty seats, you can hop on–but no one really wants to take this gamble when going ot the airport. Well, problems arise if you don’t plan ahead: I was able to buy a ticket to the airport from PoMo, no problem–but you really must do it one day in advance to guarantee a seat.

This brings us to the second change: The service between the Cancun bus station and Playa used to run every 10 minutes, but has been slowed to every 15 or 20. To quote my helpful informant at Alma Libre Books in PoMo, “That doesn’t sound too tragic, but now the bus fills up regularly in Playa or Cancun and just zips by PoMo without stopping. The ironic things is that as PM grows, we get less respect!”

Unfortunately, I think this means you’re more at the mercy of taxi drivers when leaving Puerto Morelos, especially for the airport. For Cancun bus station or Playa del Carmen, you can also try colectivos. Either way, you’ll probably have an easier time heading south, as I think Cancun-PoMo is common, but rarely are people traveling Playa-PoMo, so fewer seats open up. These were running very regularly, with plenty of room, when I visited in late May.

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Puerto Morelos taxi rates

by zora on December 18, 2011

Thanks to Alma Libre in Puerto Morelos for passing on the new taxi rates there. The short distances are the same, but long distances have gone up slightly.

20 pesos – The highway, Villas Morelos, Amar Inn, PlayaSol, Casa de los Viajeros, Villa Shanti
40 pesos – Ceiba, Rancho Sak-Ol
45 pesos – UNAM
50 pesos – Jungle Market/Spa, Villas Morelos II, Crococun, Botanical Garden
130 pesos – Playa Secreto
150 pesos – Central Vallarta
300 pesos – Airport
600 pesos – Xel-Ha
2000 pesos – Merida/Chetumal

I would guess this means taxi rates have gone up elsewhere along the coast as well.

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Tulum adjustments (maybe)

by zora on October 25, 2011

A reader wrote in with some corrections to the previous edition. I hope we fixed these things in the 3rd edition, but as I’m traveling and don’t have the full text (my co-author, John Fisher, did the Tulum chapter), I’ll post these here in case:

-The Tulum ruins now close at 4:30pm
-The map of Tulum town has Cetli restaurant at the wrong intersection (it should be one block over, at Calle Orion)
-The last bus from Coba to Tulum leaves Coba at 3:10pm; however, there is a taxi stand right by the bus stop (150 pesos, with a very modest amount of bargaining)

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The Little Mexican Cooking School update

by zora on September 1, 2011

As of October 18, the Little Mexican Cooking School in Puerto Morelos will be in a new location at the B&B Casa Caribe, one block back from the beach on Avenida Rojo Gomez. They now have a lot more room to work, and are hosting weekend special dinners by Chef Pablo.

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Playa del Carmen changes

by zora on September 1, 2011

It never fails–changes galore before the book is even on the shelves. Especially in Playa restaurants.

–John Gray’s Place is closed.
–Babe’s II, the branch on La Quinta, is closed.
–Cocina 38 appears to be closed, though I haven’t verified.

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New Edition!

by zora on September 1, 2011

The new edition of the book has arrived. You can buy it here. Look to the right for the snazzy cover–and the improved title: The Rough Guide to Cancun & the Yucatan, with the Maya sites of Tabasco and Chiapas.

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Mama’s

by zora on April 23, 2011

Word on the street is that Mama’s Bakery in Puerto Morelos has closed.

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Just wanted to let everyone now that a new version of my iPhone app, Cool Cancun & Isla Mujeres is out. And it should now really be titled Cool Cancun & Isla Mujeres & Puerto Morelos–but that’s just a little unwieldy, no? I added 20 new listings for my favorite under-the-radar beach town, which is only about 20 minutes south of Cancun Airport–so an easy day-trip, or a great destination on its own. The price is still a bargain at $1.99–spread the word to anyone who’s headed down that way for spring break or beyond.

And the new edition of The Rough Guide to the Yucatan is very close to being finished. Look for it in stores this summer.

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Puerto Morelos restaurants

by zora on March 2, 2011

La Suegra de John Gray is closed, but my sources at Alma Libre Books tell me that a new business is already hustling in to fill the spot.

John Gray’s Kitchen now serves breakfast, which sounds pretty damn tasty.

And here’s where it gets tricky: The owners of La Petita opened a branch across the street (beachfront) and north a little. It’s called La Playita. Then some other people took over La Petita and made some changes. I can’t yet say whether that’s good or bad, but by all reports, if you want the original La Petita food and vibe (as described in the guidebook), go to La Playita–and, as a bonus, you’re even on the beach!

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Valladolid Changes

by zora on December 28, 2010

I don’t ordinarily mention new things in these updates, but these are all so easy to overlook:

–There’s now a museum at San Bernardino de Siena. Entry is M$30, and you can see relics and weapons dug out of the cenote, and tour the gardens.

–Casa de los Venados.

–Upstairs at city hall: a little portrait gallery and some grand murals. On the southeast corner of the plaza.

–Hostel La Candelaria has reopened.

Also, Squimoz restaurant is now Squimz, and is great. And there’s a cool dinner restaurant called Conato 1910 on C 40 between C 45 and C 47–nice, kind of groovy hangout for locals, with good desserts. And Casa Italia on Parque La Candelaria is lovely and inexpensive.

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Bus Business

by zora on December 28, 2010

It’s been a while now, but bus schedules and tickets for Valladolid are now available online at www.ticketbus.com.mx, along with all the other ADO and associated lines.

The one exception is service by Autobuses Centro, which runs to Izamal–this is an unaffiliated second-class company, and it runs from a terminal on Calle 54 at Calle 37. (The sign on this terminal actually says ‘Autobuses de Oriente,’ but all that service is now at the central bus terminal, with ADO.)

ADO’s deluxe buses, referred to as UNO in the guide, are now called ADO Platino.

In Piste, next to Chichen Itza, the two bus stations have changed their roles a bit. The one on the east end (closest to the ruins) is where _all_ buses stop (first- and second-class), and the one on the west end, near the main intersection, is only for second-class buses. But you can buy tickets for any service at both stations.

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Chi Chi’s & Charlie’s

by zora on December 10, 2010

This hotel on Isla Mujeres has gotten kind of ratty, and the rates have gone up. You’re better off just a bit off the beach at Nautibeach, where I stayed this last trip and really liked.

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La Parroquia

by zora on December 2, 2010

Bummer. This restaurant in Campeche seems to have gone downhill, or I’m just catching it on bad days. I ate there last summer for dinner, and it was only so-so. Then I went back on this trip for breakfast, and my yogurt was nas-ty, that gluey kind of texture when things go all wrong. (I know because I’ve made the same kind of nasty yogurt by accident too.) Oh, and the waiters were glacial.

The upshot is that I’m taking the glowing ‘author pick’ sign off La Parroquia, but I probably won’t stop going there–it’s still very cheap, and the people-watching is good, and it’s open 24 hours. I just won’t go super-hungry or in a hurry.

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Hotel Sol y Luna

by zora on November 28, 2010

Unfortunately, this hotel in Cancun has really gone downhill. I stayed there my last night in the city, and I’m glad I did, even if it was dumpy. It wasn’t until I was in the room a bit that I noticed quite how many things have been left unmaintained. I won’t be recommending it in the next edition.

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Los Tres Cenotes

by zora on November 28, 2010

The price for the Tres Cenotes tour in Chunkanan is up, to M$200 for the cart (up to four people), which is still a bargain.

There’s an excellent restaurant there in Chunkanan too, right where the horses and carts gather. Look for the giant palapa.

And now the town of Cuzama is trying to get in on the action and has set up its own horse-and-truc operation, with a big parking area off the side of the road before you even reach Chunkanan. It’s a bit of a raw deal for the people at Chunkanan, so if you care about these things, press on to Chunkanan to ride with the original guys. If you’re coming in a taxi from Cuzama, they’ll of course try to steer you to their operation–if you want to insist without being confrontational, just say you want to go to the restaurant.

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Roundup of changes

by zora on November 15, 2010

Playa del Carmen:

–El Oasis downtown (on C 12) is shut.
–Senor Tacombi is gone. (Moved to NYC, in fact!)
–Java Joe’s is shut…or moved…but if it is, I can’t find it.
–Yaxche has moved to Av 5 and C 22.

Cozumel:

–Coffeelia is shut.

Merida:

–Hotels Mucuy and Becil are both a bit shabbier than when I last visited. Well, ‘shabby’ is a little strong for Mucuy. It’s still kept up well, but its housekeeping leaves a tiny bit to be desired. It’s still a good deal, and I stayed there happily for two nights. Becil seriously needs a new coat of paint.

–On the plus side, Hotel Julamis is excellent, and I feel terrible for overlooking them on previous visits. It’s a teeny step up in price from Mucuy, and has nice colonial style and great owners. Roughly in the category of Arecas.

Holbox:

–Ferry price is up to $60.
–Villas Chimay appears to be shut.
–An excellent new hostel, Tribu, is open.
–I really should make it clearer: Holbox is not a place to visit in the off season (mid-September through November). Most things are shut. So don’t go running there now. Wait till December, at least.

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ATM on Isla Holbox

by zora on October 15, 2010

Whoo-hoo! There’s finally an ATM on Isla Holbox! Previously, there had been no way to get any more cash once you were there. I still wouldn’t recommend relying entirely on the ATM, especially during high season for whale-shark tours (May-Sept), but it does give a little peace of mind that you won’t wind up totally broke on the island.

Credit-card use is still relatively rare, though.

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Cancun bar bombing: not a tourist issue

by zora on September 15, 2010

It’s old news now, but just in case you come across this news item and are concerned, please see my post on my main blog: Cancun bar bombing: not a tourist issue.

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Cancun bus

by zora on September 7, 2010

Bus fare in Cancun is up to 8.5 pesos.

(Thanks to Cancun Map for the news!)

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Hotel Azafran

by zora on August 13, 2010

The owners of this restaurant in Tulum wrote a comment to let me know it has _moved_, not closed. My mistake! They’re on Av Satelite Nte, across from Villas Matisse.

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Hacienda Chalante

by zora on August 13, 2010

This hacienda outside Izamal is closed.

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Cool Cancun & Isla Mujeres App

by zora on July 15, 2010

Check it, guapos! Your Cancun vacation just got a million times better!

With Sutro Media, I’ve just published my collected wisdom on Cancun and Isla Mujeres in the form of a snappy little iPhone app, Cool Cancun & Isla Mujeres.

It’s got more than 100 listings. Because it’s me writing, of course it’s a little food-obsessed (shrimptacosshrimptacosshrimptacos!!!), but there’s also practical advice on how to choose hotels there, which beaches are best, how to navigate Cancun transportation, etc.

And for now, the price is just 99 cents! Snap it up now, and you get free updates for life. (And you know I’m obsessed with updates–you’ll get information in the app that’s as fresh as I can make it!) And if you do buy it, I’d love to hear your comments directly, or in a review in the iPhone app store.

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Cancun News: The Beach Is Back!

by zora on May 21, 2010

I just popped down to Cancun for a short visit.

The big news is that the beach is restored. It looks great–broad and dramatic. But there’s no guarantee it will last. It has already eroded a bit since the sand was laid in February, and the headlines in the paper when I left were all about whether this was natural ‘readjustment’ or a failure of the engineering. So basically: go visit now!

Playa Norte on Isla Mujeres also looks much better, and seems to be holding steady.

In other news in Cancun:

Dub cafe downtown is shut.

Checandole in the hotel zone is shut.

Azucar in the hotel zone is no longer a salsa club, just a party bar for the Dreams resort.

Bling lounge in the hotel zone is shut.

Mambo Cafe in the hotel zone shut a while back.

South 2.02 (the bowling alley) is shut.

The tourism office is no longer in the city hall. The bad news is I wasn’t able to find the new location (somewhere on Av Coba). The good news is that I’ve never, ever needed help from the tourist office the entire time I’ve been visiting Cancun–so you probably won’t either.

Bus fare is up to $7.50.

A shuttle to the hotel zone from the airport is US$15. Taxis are US$60.

Ambiance Villas at Kinha is now called Beachscape Kinha. It doesn’t look it has changed much, though.

Playa Langosta has no services now–sorry I haven’t updated this before. The shopping complex here was a hurricane casualty.

Playa Mirador no longer exists–I think it got swallowed up by a development.

News in Isla Mujeres:

Rocamar Hotel totally revamped. I might’ve mentioned this before. It is now chic, and a lot pricier.

The ‘zoo’ at Hacienda Mundaca fortunately has been removed–or the animals have been. Entrance now costs M$20.

La Pena closed (I think I noted before), and a new place, La Luna, is now open in the same space. Live music most nights, as well as food.

Isla Contoy prices are up to about US$60 per person; snorkeling is US$20; whale sharks (the season just started) is US$100.

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First of all, the tour operator mentioned in Valladolid is no longer operating there (he’s now working Valladolid, I hear), but MexiGO Tours is a good alternative–they’re offering what look like some very well-planned day trips. Check out all their tours at www.mexigotours.com.

The people who run MexiGO were also kind enough to alert me to changes in the admission fees at archeological sites, cenotes, caves, etc. in Yucatan. Many of these sites charge an admission fee that’s set in part by INAH, the federal archeology commission, and in part by Cultur, a Yucatan state organization. In many cases, the Cultur fee has gone up.

So, Uxmal is up to M$116 ($65 of that is for Cultur), as is Chichen Itza. Grutas de Balankanche is M$70 total. And government fees for Celestun are M$54, which will likely boost the total price of boat tours. (If you missed the earlier update: the complicated pricing system for Celestun boat tours is gone, and it’s now a flat fee per boat.) For a full list of site admission, see this PDF.

MexiGO also let me know there’s an entrance fee for the Ria Lagartos Biosphere Reserve now, of M$23.35. I haven’t heard yet whether this is charged with your boat ticket, or collected along the road. It’s collected by an office near the lighthouse, which is sometimes not open in the early morning, but will be by the time you return from your trip. You should get a wristband as a receipt; boat tour operators may or may not include the fee in their total trip price, but you should pay it. (It would indicate a dodgy operator if this fee and the wristband are never addressed.)

And finally, one correction on Puerto Morelos, as mentioned in comments below: Dona Triny’s is not shut–it has just moved around the plaza, on the same side as Alma Libre Books (who alerted me to this). I guess I cruised through town just when the place was in the process of moving.

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Short-changing Problems

by zora on February 11, 2010

I’ve just received an email from a reader who visited the Yucatan very recently, and he reported several instances of short-changing at government-run spots: toll booths on the cuota, and at the archeological sites of Sayil and Uxmal. In most cases, he was able to receive the correct change just by raising an eyebrow or pointing out the (perhaps) mistake. But unfortunately in another case, he didn’t notice the problem until it was too late.

Considering how it happened at several spots in the same area and that so many of the people, when confronted, were very quick to offer correct change, the visitor got the impression that perhaps word had just recently got around that this was a very easy scam to pull.

I personally haven’t experienced this–I have found Yucatecans to be quite honest. But I am also not surprised to hear of this experience. In any place with a very high tourist trade (and many of those tourists accustomed to paying in dollars for things on the coast, and so dealing with pesos not as frequently when they head inland), I can see how it would be very tempting for a bored, underpaid toll-booth worker to skim 20 pesos here and there.

So, please don’t tromp around eying everyone suspiciously, as 99 percent of the people you meet will be honest. But please keep your normal travel smarts about you, and do always count your change (and make a careful note of which bill you hand over–the pink and red ones are easy to confuse!).

And if you notice a discrepancy, point it out politely. You will still get your money, and the person who may or may not have tried to scam you gets to save face. But the person still definitely gets the message that this is not an easy con to pull!

(And thanks so much to John S. for writing–I appreciate tips like these so much!)

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Car Insurance in Mexico — My Experience

by zora on February 8, 2010

One of the most frequent questions I get from travelers to the Yucatan is “Do I really have to buy all that insurance when I rent a car in Mexico?”

Here’s my experience, based on more than six years of travel there, and countless car rentals. All but one trip has been completely incident-free, and on this last trip, in September 2009, I got into a small accident. This was a little stressful, but it turned out to be a great way to test the system!

Since my first trip in 2003, I have been relying solely on my credit card to provide insurance (initially Visa, but now often American Express–both offer 30 days’ coverage; MasterCard’s 14-day limit is not enough for my trips). At first, I was too broke to buy extra insurance, and later, once I knew my way around, I figured it was worth the risk–good roads, reasonable drivers and low crime make the Yucatan a pretty safe place to drive. But I admit, I do breathe a sigh of relief every time I return a car intact!

All but once, I have rented from Hertz, and I have never gotten a heavy upsell on additional insurance. I explain I’m using my credit card’s insurance, and they say no problem. The one time I rented from Budget, I also got no pressure to buy the insurance. Back in 2006 or so, I did compare more rental companies, and I noticed that Hertz was the only international rental company that did not say, when making an online reservation, that additional insurance would be required in Mexico. (I just did a cursory check, and I’m not seeing this anymore, at least with Budget or Avis.)

Then, on this last trip, I finally did get into a small traffic accident, which involved another car. I’m 90 percent certain it was my fault, and I did more damage to the other guy’s car than to mine. No one was hurt. We both pulled over out of the intersection; I called Hertz, and the guy called the police. Hertz said they’d send an insurance adjuster immediately, and a motorcycle cop showed up not long after.

The adjuster took down both cars’ details, took some photos and made both of us drivers sign the forms. I took photos of both cars too, just in case. The cop was very kind to me, and didn’t even write me a ticket–”You should get one, ” he said, “but you’re very sweet.” Politeness (and a lot of hand-wringing and apologizing over and over!) wins the day!

It was incredibly lucky that the accident happened directly in front of the Fiesta Americana hotel in Merida–where there’s a Hertz office! So I just drove my car back across the intersection (very carefully and looking both ways!) and took the insurance adjuster’s form into the Hertz office. They looked over the paperwork, and my contract, and said it was all no problem and that I’d hear how much it would cost in about five days (I had two more weeks of my trip left). I got a new car, and was on my way. The whole process, from crash to new car, took about an hour and a half, and everyone was exceedingly kind and polite.

But enough of the soft info. Here’s the hard data: I called American Express later in the day, to let them know what had happened. Again, no problem–they advised me to fill out an online claim, and they’d sort it all out when I closed the contract on the car. No alarm that I was in Mexico, no worry that I didn’t have more than a doc from the Merida Hertz office (they’d taken the adjuster’s form–though I took a photo for my records) or anything. I was just warned that AmEx would pay only for the damage done to my rental car–the damage I’d done to the other guy’s car was my responsibility.

I was a little worried about this, but I figured in all I’d saved in not paying for insurance over the years, I could definitely pay $500 or so out of pocket, and still come out ahead.

But when I returned the car at the end of my trip, I found out I didn’t need to worry. “Our company’s liability insurance covers the damage to the other guy’s car,” the woman at the desk told me when I checked out. Great!

AmEx had advised me not to let Hertz charge my card for the damage–about $800. But I was unable to convince Hertz of this, so signed off on my rental fee plus the damages. Again following AmEx’s advice, I called up the billing department and asked them to lodge a dispute on $800 of the total Hertz charge–this meant I didn’t have to pay this amount on my next bill.

Then I sat back and waited. I could check the status of my AmEx claim online, and after a few weeks, I saw that Hertz had still not supplied a lot of the documentation. I emailed all the extra photos I’d taken, just in case they were needed, but never even got acknowledgment that they’d been received.

About six weeks later, I received a letter in the mail letting me know the claim had been settled, and the charge had been cleared from my account.

So, the whole process was a breeze, and worked exactly the way it was supposed to. The Hertz woman’s comment about their liability insurance makes me think this may be the difference between Hertz and the other international rental agencies that require extra insurance–perhaps Hertz is the only company that carries its own liability insurance? (I wanted to sit down with a Hertz rep in Cancun and get a straight answer on this, but in the end I wound up with someone else who didn’t speak English well, and I don’t trust my Spanish for these things!)

Another detail, however, before you go running out and not buying insurance in Mexico: No one was hurt in this accident. It is true that in Mexico the police have the right to take you in if it seems you’re at fault (the “guilty until proven innocent” approach). So it is possible that if I had injured the other driver (or perhaps even if there had been a dispute over who was at fault), I would have been taken into police custody and forced to post bail if I wanted out.

At this point, though, I’m not sure whether additional insurance would actually help. Would it pay bail money? I have no idea. Would either the car agency or AmEx provide legal advice in such a situation? I seriously doubt it.

So–I wish I could answer all questions, but at least this provides a little first-hand account of a very satisfactory system (if only health insurance worked so well!). Keep in mind that it may be very specific to Hertz and American Express. If you’re curious about any other details, ask in the comments.

By the way: when you use your credit card’s insurance, the rental agency (Hertz and Budget, in my experience) puts a hold of about $7,000 on your card. That sounds alarming, but…it’s just a hold, not a real charge. (Though, obviously, you do have to use a card with a decent credit line.) Yes, if the car is totaled, presumably the full $7,000 would get charged to the card. But I assume the procedure would continue as I experienced–you can dispute the charge and wait until the claim is settled.

Also by the way: I do not have car insurance in the United States (because I don’t own a car–not because I’m an outlaw!). Occasionally this is mentioned as another reason to buy additional insurance, but again, I don’t think this has any bearing on the situation in Mexico. (Is it true in the US, though? I have had Enterprise try to upsell me based on that argument.)

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Bribes in Mexico–a follow-up

by zora on October 30, 2009

OK–now I’ve been alerted that cops taking your license is _not_ legit, apparently. So scratch that in the earlier post.

And, more important, some car-rental agencies in Cancun are starting to offer vouchers that you can give to cops if you receive a traffic ticket. You then pay the ticket at the agency when you return the car, rather than going to the police station or city hall to pay the ticket.

Here’s a link to what the vouchers look like.

I think this is a brilliant system, because it shows a cop that you’re aware of the system, and you have a solution. And the vouchers clearly say “Paying an officer is a federal offense”–the Mexican government knows “it takes two” to create corruption, and there’s no reason tourists should play along.

Of course, you can also just play dumb and polite and probably get away without a ticket at all. But that’s your call… The important thing is not to fork over any cash!

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I have been traveling in the Yucatan for six years, almost always by car, and I have never been asked to pay a bribe. I have never been pulled over for any traffic infraction, actually. I have been busted for going the wrong way on a one-way street (unintentionally), but the cops were almost embarrassed to point this out. And I did get in a car accident recently that was clearly my fault, but the cop didn’t even write me a ticket.

I mention all this because of this recent story in the New York Times, about a woman getting shaken down for $300 for going one mile over the speed limit.

I cannot stress enough that:

1) This is extremely rare anywhere in the Yucatan. I have heard other anecdotes of people getting pulled over, and the police “suggesting” that it might be easier to pay their fine on the spot. But I’ve never heard of anyone being threatened with jail. This is a rare and brazen incident.

2) If this does happen, just don’t pay the bribe! You will NOT be put in jail or plunged into bureaucratic hell. All you need to say is that you will pay the ticket immediately at the police station, and you are happy to follow the officer there to pay. Despite the impression you may get from the media, the Mexican system is not so corrupt that everyone in the police station is in on the game, and you’ll be tossed in jail and left to rot.

Just as important, paying the bribe helps perpetuate a system. Yes, insisting on paying only the regular ticket, at the station, might take a little nerve in front of a guy in mirrored sunglasses who doesn’t speak your language, and it might take a few hours out of your vacation. But it’s the right thing to do. And it just might be a cultural experience. You wouldn’t pay a bribe in the US, right? Why do it in Mexico?

One key thing: whether you’re dealing with an aboveboard cop or a vaguely shady one, you may be asked to turn over your driver’s license. This is actually legit and within the bounds of the law (actually not true, I learned–see next post)–it’s their collateral to make sure you pay your traffic ticket. So, yes–this is anxiety-inducing. But stick with it–be polite, apologize for breaking the law, and say you’re happy to pay the ticket and get your license back. Play dumb a bit, and don’t get angry. What usually happens (I hear, from talking to people who have dealt with this) is that in the end, it’s just too much trouble for the cop to take you to the station, and you won’t even get a ticket.

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Tulum changes

by zora on September 30, 2009

Night tours of the Tulum ruins (as previously mentioned on this blog) are not happening anymore.

Azafran restaurant is shut moved.

Don Huacho restaurant is shut.

Azul bar is shut.

Gaudi Cafe is shut.

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Playa del Carmen changes

by zora on September 29, 2009

Tank-Ha dive shop has moved to Calle 10 between avenidas 5 and 10.

Further correx on Tacamaron: It’s now closed. Of course–immediately after I visited!

100% Natural at Calle 22 is shut. The one farther south is still open.

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More Puerto Morelos changes

by zora on September 29, 2009

Dona Triny’s is shut–sad!

Bodo’s is shut.

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Isla Mujeres changes

by zora on September 29, 2009

Lounge Almar, the restaurant at Casa de los Suenos, is shut. And, for that matter, Casa de los Suenos is no longer open as a hotel, just as a rental house.

La Pena is shut.

Cazuela M&J has moved–it’s across the street from Hotel Francis Arlene now, on Guerrero.

Rocamar Hotel has been revamped and given a boutique-y makeover…and of course the prices have gone up.

Plaza Almendros hotel is in the wrong spot on the map–should be on the next block of Hidalgo north.

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Valladolid changes

by zora on September 28, 2009

The movie theater just off the plaza is shut.

The correct phone number for Maria de la Luz hotel is 985/856-1181. (The given number is the fax number.)

The laundry in the Supermaz center is closed. The closest one I could find to the plaza is on Calle 40 at Calle 33.

The Internet cafe on the plaza is no longer there, but there are a couple on Calle 41 west of the plaza.

Plaza Maya restaurant is on the opposite side of the street from what’s shown on the map–sorry about that!

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Hostal Candelaria

by zora on September 25, 2009

This hostel in Valladolid is definitely closed. Unfortunately, there’s no real replacement, except for a kind of grungey guesthouse a couple of blocks west of the bus station, which charges by the bed.

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Piste bus stations

by zora on September 25, 2009

The bus station on the west end of town has reopened. So westbound buses stop there, and eastbound buses stop on the east end, near the Piramide hotel. Keep this in mind when reading directions to the various Piste hotels, which refer only to the east-end station.

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Red de Ecoturismo

by zora on September 24, 2009

The Red de Ecoturismo de Yucatan, based in Merida, has a new phone number–999/926-7756–as well as a website, www.redecoturismo.com.

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Merida changes

by zora on September 24, 2009

La Cochinita Tuerta restaurant is closed.

Fau-San bar is closed.

Mayan Pub is closed.

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Cancun Airport: Terminal 2

by zora on September 22, 2009

Terminal 2–the “old” terminal–no longer has an ATM in the arrivals hall. You have to go outside, turn right and walk (not far) to the departures hall. Midway down the hall, past all the check-in desks, there’s a big cafe, and there’s an ATM behind that.

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Hostal del Peregrino, Merida

by zora on September 22, 2009

Hostal del Peregrino is no longer a hostel, just a regular hotel. It also no longer rents bicycles.

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Puerto Morelos changes

by zora on September 3, 2009

Cabanas Ixchel is shut.

Hacienda Morelos is now called Carmen Hacienda. I can’t tell if it has changed hands, however.

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Playa del Carmen changes

by zora on September 3, 2009

The post office has moved to Calle 2 and Av 20. The tourist office is no longer on Juarez–there is only a tourist police office there (though they are very friendly). There is a small kiosk just east on Juarez, however.

The movie theater on Av 10 is shut.

The bike-rental operation listed is no longer in business, and unfortunately, I could not find another, though the tourist police assured me that one exists. Hmmm.

Fusion bar, on the beach, still seems to be going strong–this is encouraging.

Tacamaron has moved to the beach in the center of town, near the lighthouse.

John Gray’s Place has moved across Calle Corazon and north a little bit.

Bodega 22 has changed hands–now a crepe place, as far as I can tell.

Java Joe’s has moved west on Calle 10, and to the opposite side of the street.

El Palomar hostel is shut, and there’s crazy building happening right by Cabanas Las Ruinas.

La Ziranda has changed hands. It is now Hotel Lunasol, with a pool. Rates are significantly higher.

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Cozumel changes

by zora on September 3, 2009

The ferry now costs M$140 one-way.

Coco’s restaurant is shut.

La Choza restaurant has moved around the corner, to Avenida 10, south of Av Salas.

Neptuno nightclub has moved east about half a block along Calle 11 (Av Quintana Roo).

The Crew Office Internet is shut.

Lavanderia Express is shut. The closest laundries to the center are on Calle 11 (Av Q Roo).

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Isla Mujeres ferry

by zora on September 3, 2009

The ferry to Isla Mujeres is now M$70 one way (yes, double) from Gran Puerto and Puerto Juarez. From the hotel zone, it’s M$140 one-way.

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Cancun changes

by zora on September 3, 2009

100% Natural’s location in the hotel zone is shut.

El Rincon Yucateco is shut.

Pericos appears to be shut, though this might just be temporary.

La Casa del Arte Mexicano (the folk art museum) has finally shut in Cancun and moved to Xcaret theme park down the coast.

El Rincon del Vino has moved across the park a little, next to Los Huaraches de Alcatraces.

El Chat has changed to another, more generic bar.

The laundry opposite Las Palmas hostel has shut. But there are now two on Avenida Uxmal, just west of the bus station, one on either side of the street. There is no longer a laundry opposite the Embarcadero in the hotel zone, but the one at Km 7.7 is still there.

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Felipe Carrillo Puerto

by zora on September 3, 2009

Hotel Chan Santa Cruz is shut.

Xiimbal Tours is located inside the Internet cafe on the east side of the plaza.

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Mahahual status

by zora on September 3, 2009

Mahahual is up and running completely fine, following Hurricane Dean in 2007. There’s a new beachfront pedestrian promenade, and lot more building. There is an ATM, but it was not working when I visited. One of the hotels was offering to give cash for credit-card charges, for a 10% fee.

Caribe buses no longer go out to Chetumal via Xcalak. They start in Xcalak in the morning, and come up through Mahahual, then head out.

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Chetumal changes

by zora on September 3, 2009

The Caribe Princess hotel has remodeled its lobby–no longer so vintage glam, unfortunately. Still a decent deal, though.

El Cocal, the restaurant at Los Cocos hotel, has remodeled so it’s all indoors, which is a shame. It’s also renamed, to Las Palmas.

Revolbar has changed names, to Boulebar.

Ensalate restaurant has closed.

Cactus Grill and Bar has closed.

I would not recommend Il Bambino pizza.

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Izamal change

by zora on September 3, 2009

There’s no longer an Internet cafe where it’s described in the book. Look for one near the bus station, on the next block to your right as you’re standing with your back to the station entrance.

The ruins of Ake are now accessible from Hwy-180–there’s a road heading directly north off the highway, just a little bit west of Kantunilkin. And there is bus service there from Merida, by Auto Centro.

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Ticul changes

by zora on September 3, 2009

Grutas de Loltun is now $M66 to enter, and M$20 for parking–no separate fee for a (required) guide.

Just to clarify, it’s Cockteleria Carmelita now, not Loncheria. It’s on the corner opposite the Plaza hotel. But they serve other things besides seafood.

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Celestun changes

by zora on September 3, 2009

The boat tours no longer have the crazy-complicated pricing system described in the book. It’s simply M$780 for a one-hour tour and M$1380 for the two-hour tour. That includes park fees.

Alberto Rodriguez is no longer reachable by email, but he is still leading birding tours, and can be found at the parador (the boat launch) nearly every day.

Ria Celestun hostel is shut.

And biggest news of all: there is now an ATM in town.

Also note: the back road described on pp. 239-40 is now in extremely rough shape. The stretch south from the Celestun highway to Chunchucmil is incredibly potholed and rough–I did get through in a tiny rental car with no damage, but it was slow going, about 20km/hour.

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Villahermosa changes

by zora on September 3, 2009

I stayed at Hotel Plaza Independencia, and it hasn’t been kept up particularly well. It’s still comfortable, and a tiny bit cheaper than the Olmeca Plaza and the Best Western, but I would no longer flag it as an ‘author pick.’

The laundry in the Listings section is closed. The closest laundry to the center is Lavanderia La Paz, on the south side of Parque La Paz (not marked on the map), at Francisco Madero and Coronel Lino Merino.

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Merida changes

by zora on September 3, 2009

Hobo Hostel is closed.

Hammock prices are up to M$250 for a doble at Tejidos y Cordeles Nacionales (that’s a #16, in the store’s parlance). No bargaining possible on small purchases, but still some of the least expensive good-quality hammocks I saw on this trip.

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Campeche changes

by zora on September 3, 2009

The tranvia now runs only one route, around the center of town–there is no longer one to the fort (and museum) on the south side of town.

The last bus back from Edzna is at 3.45pm.

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Frontera Corozal changes

by zora on September 3, 2009

Boat prices for Yaxchilan have gone up slightly at the main embarcadero by the river, so that the boats at Escudo Jaguar are now marginally cheaper. But now most of the tourists seem to arrive at the embarcadero, rather than Escudo Jaguar, so that may now be the better place to go if you’re looking for more people to share a boat.

Guides are now available for Yaxchilan. During busy periods (July, August, Semana Santa, Christmas), they wait at the site. The rest of the year, they’re at the embarcadero. A few of them speak “about 70%” English, according to the guy I talked to.

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Ocosingo Changes

by zora on September 3, 2009

Very small point, but the restaurant El Desvan, on the plaza, is no longer painted yellow–it is white.

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Palenque Changes

by zora on September 3, 2009

Transportes Chamoan (vans to Frontera Corozal) has moved out to the main road to the west of Palenque town. The depot is on the west side of the intersection with the big Maya head (la cabeza Maya; marked ‘Monument’ on the map), over a little hill, so you can’t quite see it from the road at first.

El Columbre hotel is closed.

Cocteleria Rocamar is closed.

Na Chan Kan restaurant has changed to a cafe–did not eat there, so not sure if it’s still good.

Misol-Ha entrance fee is now $15, plus M$10 per car.

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Jazzin’ Merida

by zora on July 14, 2009

This jazz club in Merida (p. 232) is closed.

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Is it safe to visit the Yucatan?

by zora on April 17, 2009

This is a huge question that a lot of Americans have been worried about, following all the violence in Mexico’s border cities.

The short answer: yes, it’s completely safe. Mexico is a very big place. Not visiting the Yucatan because of crime in Juarez is sort of like not going to Hawaii because the murder rate in Baltimore is very high.

Although you might want to hear it from a different source, someone who’s on the ground in the Yucatan now: the owners of Alma Libre Books in Puerto Morelos made it very clear in their recent newsletter.

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New tour operation in Rio Lagartos

by zora on March 2, 2009

I don’t usually include new things in this update, but Rio Lagartos is such a small place. There used to be basically one reputable tour operation–now there are two. The new one is run by Diego Nunez and is based at Las Palapas de la Toreja restaurant, on Calle 9 at Av 14. The website is here: www.riolagartosadventure.com

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Cancun changes

by zora on December 7, 2008

John Gray’s Grill 14 looked like it had already shut last time I went through town–short-lived. But I hear he has opened a location downtown, called…John Gray’s Downtown.

Unfortunately, the excellent Museo de Arte Folklorico in the hotel zone is slated to close soon and move to Xcaret. No details on a precise date for the move, but if you’re going to Cancun soon, be sure to check it out.

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Puerto Morelos changes

by zora on December 7, 2008

Writing about Puerto Morelos is hard–it seems like new restaurants open there every month. Here are the major changes:

Marlin Bleu is shut.

Dona Triny’s has moved into the former Marlin Bleu spot, on the plaza.

Bodo’s has moved out of Hacienda Morelos, into a space on Ninos Heroes, opposite Posada Amor.

Mama’s Bakery has moved a little bit south on Ninos Heroes.

Thanks to Rob and Joanna at Alma Libre Books for the news!

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Mahahual beach

by zora on November 12, 2008

Earlier this year, I posted a bit about Mahahual and Xcalak after Hurricane Dean. I just got a note from a hotel owner down that way confirming what I said, and even saying the beach is actually bigger now, and there’s a new malecon. I’m looking forward to seeing the place next spring.

And for anyone who might still be hesitant to visit the area following the hurricane (which was more than a year ago now), I can’t emphasize enough that the area is fine. Mexico has an exemplary hurricane-response system, and people work hard and fast to rebuild.

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Flycatcher Inn

by zora on November 12, 2008

This B&B in Santa Elena (p. 252) has just added a new private cottage geared for people on longer stays–a week or more. It’s very private, and gives a great opportunity to just relax in one of the quieter parts of the Yucatan.

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Tulum ruins map

by zora on November 12, 2008

Due to a production glitch, the map of the Tulum ruins on p. 144 is slightly wrong. The entrance to the ruins is now on the north side of the walls, and the exit is on the south side. (The general approach is still the same, however.) Unfortunately, this means the text in the book is slightly off-kilter too, as the description starts at the old entrance–but you should be able to get oriented pretty quickly, as the site is quite small.

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2nd edition is here! (and one change already)

by zora on November 12, 2008

I’ve filed all the old update notes under “1st edition,” paving the way for the new edition, now available in stores for your winter trip planning.

If you’re planning a shorter trip focused on the Riviera Maya (the coast from Cancun south), check out the trimmer Cancun & Cozumel Directions, a new edition released in October.

Sadly (and typically) one restaurant is already shut: El Manati on Cozumel. Too bad–it had a good bar scene too.

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Tulum night tours

by zora on August 6, 2008

Night-time tours of the Tulum ruins recently started. I haven’t been yet, but the reports sound good–this isn’t a standard sound-and-light situation where you sit and watch. There’s an audio component, but you get to walk around. The cost is M$220, which includes the audio headsets, and the ruins are open from 8pm to 10pm.

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One of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten recently is how the Yucatan is looking after Hurricane Dean, which hit in August 2007. Mahahual and the cruise-ship port Puerta Costa Maya were severely hit. But now it looks like everything is moving along again–and in fact, a bit better than in the past. I admit, I haven’t seen the improvements with my own eyes, as my co-author covered this area on this update round, but he said things were looking better, and now there’s a website you can check for news and current photos of the place: Mahahual After Hurricane Dean.

In general, I am totally impressed by the efficient response to disasters in Mexico–not just from the government, which seems to be impressively prepared with emergency aid, but also from people on the ground, who really band together to get things cleaned up fast. I’ve seen it in Cancun after Wilma and in Tabasco after the flooding, and now it looks like the same quick repairs have been made in Mahahual.

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Borch map of the Yucatan

by zora on April 22, 2008

I’m always on the lookout to good maps of the Yucatan peninsula. Rough Guides actually publishes a good one, but I know that it hasn’t gotten a really solid updating in a few years, and because there’s so much growth all over the peninsula, even a few years makes a difference.

But today the good people at MapsGoneTomorrow.com sent me a copy of a Yucatan map from German carto company Borch. The scale is 1:1,000,000, so not crazy-detailed, but it has everything you need on it. It cuts off just west of Villahermosa, so it covers pretty much everything that’s in The Rough Guide to the Yucatan.

More important, though, it’s current: recently improved roads are actually shown properly (I’m thinking of the one north from Xpuhil), all the biosphere reserves are on there, and the bypass around Muna is actually drawn in. I haven’t seen this on any Yucatan map. It also very clearly distinguishes between super-highways and toll highways. Oh, and there are even small maps of Merida, Cancun, Campeche and Cozumel, plus several of the big archeological sites.

I’m not a big fan of the big icons to mark ruins and the like, because the placement is so imprecise. (In fact, the map does repeat one error I see on a lot of maps: Comalcalco ruins are on the east side of the road, not the west.) But it’s still very legible.

And it’s laminated and water-repellent.

Best of all, it’s reasonably priced: US$10.95, or 7.90 euros. In fact, it’s even more reasonably priced for Rough Guides readers, who are entitled to a 10 percent discount at MapsGoneTomorrow.com–email me (see link in sidebar) for the details.

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South of Palenque

by zora on April 4, 2008

You now reach the Bonampak site (pp. 314-316) and the village of Lacanha Chansayab via the same turn off the Frontier Highway–there’s a large concrete shade structure/exhibit space by the side of the road. You can take a cab from here directly to the site, or to the village. If you have your own car, it’s better to drive up the road toward the site until you reach a second parking area–this is also where a road leads off to the village. There are bicycles for rent just past the parking area (less than 500m), but the guys who drive the combi vans to the site may tell you that they don’t exist.

In Frontera Corozal, the cheapest boat trips to Yaxchilan are at the co-op dock (M$600 for one to three people), where the main road dead-ends at the river. Escudo Jaguar charges slightly more (M$650 for one to three people), but you may have to go here to find someone to share a boat with, as that’s whaT’s still listed in all the guidebooks. The current edition makes it sound a little like all the boat operations are in a single cooperative, but this is not the case, and they’re all competing for business.

Nueva Alianza posada has expanded quite a lot, and is now a good alternative to Escudo Jaguar on the upper end as well–its wood cabins all blend in a bit better with the scenery, unlike EJ’s bright pink concrete rooms.

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Palenque Ruins and Miscellany

by zora on April 4, 2008

Combis to the ruins now cost M$10. Entrance to the ruins costs M$48. Entrance to the park costs M$20.

Re: the description on p. 309, you can now buy a site entry ticket at the museum and enter at the small gate across the road. But you will still have to then hike uphill to get to the main site—but it is a nicer walk than along the road. The museum hours are different from what’s in the book—they are 9am to 4.30pm—and note that the museum is closed on Monday.

The laundry mentioned on p. 310 overcharged me a bit for a small load of laundry. Prices should be M$10/kilo or less (though usually there’s a minimum of three or four kilos).

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Palenque Hotels

by zora on April 4, 2008

Hostal Ambar (p. 305) has changed hands, and is now a very nice small hotel called El Chechen. Rooms are M$300 per night—very good value for the pretty location. (Ambar itself has moved into the main part of town—it’s cheap, but not great.)

Posada San Vicente (p. 305) cannot be recommended—it is no longer notably cheaper than the other posadas on the list, and it is substantially nastier.

Camping Chaac (p. 305) is shut.

Cabanas Safari (p. 305) is shut.

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Villahermosa

by zora on April 4, 2008

The November 07 flooding was intense here, but the city is functioning quite well. Unfortunately, a lot of the museums are closed for renovations—La Casa Siempreviva (p. 294) and the Casa Museo Carlos Pellicer (p. 295) were damaged, as was the Museo de Historia (p. 295). Also, the Museo Regional de Antropologia (p. 296) in the CICOM complex will be shut for several years for a major overhaul. You can’t really walk along the river to CICOM because the waterfront is still stacked with sandbags.

Parque La Venta (p. 296), however, is just fine. The zoo area was undergoing some renovation when I visited in Feb 08 (and it was open on a Monday), but there was no lasting flood damage. There’s now a sound-and-light show in the evenings (Tues–Sun at 8, 9 & 10pm; M$100) that involves walking through the park. Buy tickets at the secondary park entrance, farther southwest on Ruiz Cortines.

On the map (p. 296), the 2nd Class Bus Terminal on the east side, near the market, is no longer there. The main 2nd Class Terminal is at the other spot marked on the map, just north of Ruiz Cortines. (For that matter, the main market is actually just south of what is marked ‘Mercado’ on the map. The area shown on the map is a much smaller, adjunct market.)

Both Soyaquarius restaurants (p. 299) are closed.

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Edzna and around

by zora on April 4, 2008

Edzna now has a sound-and-light show that runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm; admission is M$112.

Grutas de Xtacumbilxunaan (p. 283) also has had a sound-and-light show added, and the price has been raised to M$50, plus M$30 for translation headsets. It is a rather dull show, and not worth the money.

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Campeche Hotels

by zora on April 4, 2008

The Castelmar hotel (mentioned in the Reforma review, p. 274) has been totally (and attractively) redone, and now runs about M$800 a night, which is a good price for a place with a pool.

Hotel Lopez (p. 274) has a pool now as well, making it excellent value.

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Campeche Sights

by zora on April 4, 2008

None of the city museums are open in the evenings anymore. The standard hours are Tues–Sun 9.30am–5.30pm.

The Museo de las Estelas is now the Museo de Arquitectura Maya, and is open the same hours as the rest of the city museums.

There’s a small pirate museum in the Puerta de Tierra now (entrance M$30) – entrance is optional, as is the new M$40 audio guide to go with the walk along the top of the ramparts. (Entrance to the ramparts is still M$10.)

The Jardin Botanico Xmuch’haltun (p. 276) has reopened (a previous update said it was closed). Admission is M$10. It’s open Mon–Sat 9am–9pm, Sun 9am–4pm.

The pirate ship “Lorencillo” (p. 279) did not seem to be operating when I visited in February 08.

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Uxmal and Ruta Puuc

by zora on April 4, 2008

Uxmal admission (p. 247) is now M$98, with no discount on Sundays.

The Ruta Puuc bus (p. 245) is now M$132.

Hacienda Yaxcopoil (p. 251) admission is M$50.

I don’t usually mention new items, but The Pickled Onion is a great addition to Santa Elena—it’s on the highway midway between the Flycatcher and Sacbe Bungalows. Great fresh food and a varied menu—local stuff, plus more international items.

Hacienda Tabi is still shut—no sign of it reopening. I’m leaving it out of the new edition entirely.

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Progreso and around

by zora on April 4, 2008

Hotel Embajadores (p. 238) is closed.

The market in Progreso (p. 239) is closed for renovations (as of Feb 08—looked like it wouldn’t be done for a while).

Posada Liz (p. 239) in Telchac Puerto has new owners and is now called Libros y Suenos. It has books for sale, as well as bicycles for rent, and can arrange fishing trips.

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Merida Restaurants

by zora on April 4, 2008

Ki’bok (p. 233) is closed.

Pancho’s (p. 235) is not open for lunch anymore (although this guide doesn’t say it ever was—just FYI). The quality of the food is such that we can really only recommend it for drinks anyway.

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Merida sights and miscellaneous changes

by zora on April 4, 2008

The Museo de la Ciudad (p. 229) has moved to the old post office building by the market (on Calle 69).

The post office is now at Calle 53 between calles 52 and 54.

The Museo de Arte Popular (p. 231) has reopened near its old location—it’s on Calle 55, across the small park from Calle 50. Another Banamex-funded project, it looks great.

The Museo del Ferrocarril (p. 231) is now open Mon–Sat 8am–1pm, and admission is free.

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Merida Hotels

by zora on April 4, 2008

Villa Mercedes (p. 225) is now the Merida Inter-Continental. Rooms are a bit more generic than they used to be, but this is still a good top-end choice.

Luz En Yucatan (p. 226) has changed owners, and they’ve done some renovations—it all looks like positive changes.

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HaCienda Xcanatun

by zora on March 8, 2008

Apologies: the phone number for Hacienda Xcanatun and its restaurant, Casa de Piedra, just outside of Merida, is wrong. It should be 999/941-0273.

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Merida City Museum

by zora on March 8, 2008

The Museo de la Ciudad has moved to the old post office, near the market: Calle 56 at Calle 65. It’s open much later–till 8pm–during the week, and it’s still free.

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Villas Arqueologicas

by zora on March 7, 2008

These three hotels–one at Uxmal, one at Coba and one at Chichen Itza–are no longer run by Club Med, as the book says. They’re now run by the Islander Collection, and the contact information is 987/872-9300 ext. 8101, www.islandercollection.com. Rates and all facilities are basically still the same.

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Punta Bete/Playa Xcalacoco

by zora on December 19, 2007

As I mentioned in an update last year, this area has changed significantly. Ikal del Mar has changed its name to The Tides Riviera Maya. At the moment, you can barely get to it because there’s an enormous new condo/resort development (The Fives) being built just inland and to the south of it.

Once you drive through the construction site and get to The Tides, you can head right–but that doesn’t really get you to anything, as Juanito’s is closed. If you want isolation, you can park past Juanito’s and get onto the beach and walk south–there’s still very little built here (for now).

But you’re better off turning left at The Tides instead. This still takes you to Coco’s Cabanas and Los Pinos hotel, as well as Petit Lafitte (La Posada de Capitan Lafitte, made smaller and relocated).

Overall, the beach here is starting to feel very crowded, and I can only imagine what it will be like when the new construction is done.

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Playa del Carmen beach

by zora on December 15, 2007

The main beach (Playa Caribe, p. 126) is looking much better–deeper sand, fewer rocks. But I would still advise against staying directly on the beach, except for a couple of specific hotels. With the real estate situation in Playa so feverish, it appears that many older beach hotels are letting maintenance slide while waiting for some great buyout deal to come along. No matter how slick a website a hotel has, the reality can be pretty stark.

Also, condo construction is continuing apace–not even the north side of town (north of C 20 or so) is particularly quiet anymore, and in fact this is where a lot of new buildings are going up. And no sign of it dying down, so be prepared for noise from all this as well.

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Playa del Carmen restaurants and bars

by zora on December 15, 2007

The addresses for El Fogon (p. 127) are both slightly wrong: One’s at Av 30 at C 6 bis (ie, half a block north), and the other’s at Av 30 and C 32.

Media Luna (p. 127) was shut for renovation in November. Not sure when/if it will reopen.

La Cueva del Chango (p. 127) is open till 11pm most days now.

El Tigre (p. 128) is open in the evenings.

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Playa del Carmen shopping

by zora on December 14, 2007

Some shops (p. 129) have shut or moved.

Ide is now on Av 5 between C 10 and C 12.

Juan’s Hammocks is gone.

La Calaca is closed.

Que Pequeno es el Mundo is now just called El Mundo.

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Budget Travel Trip Coach

by zora on December 14, 2007

If you missed the chat I did for Budget Travel online, here’s the transcript. The questions I got about traveling in the Yucatan cover a lot of common issues: when to rent a car vs. when to take a bus, whether it’s possible to see all the Maya ruins in X amount of time, and whether safety and hygiene are big issues.

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Ambar

by zora on December 13, 2007

This bar in Cozumel (p. 143) is still open, but seems to have tossed any style it had in favor of 2-for-1 Corona deals and the like. Ah well.

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Hacienda Chalante

by zora on December 6, 2007

New phone numbers for this great hotel in Sudzal, outside of Izamal (p. 215): 999/132-7411 or 999/187-9137. In the US, you can call 813/636-8200.

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Your Personal Trip Coach

by zora on December 5, 2007

I’ll be doing an online chat for Budget Travel magazine next week, December 11, from noon to 1pm Eastern time. Any questions about trip logistics, where/when to go to the Yucatan, hotel and restaurant recommendations, etc.? Submit them in advance here, or just join me next Tuesday! A transcript of the chat will be posted online in case you miss it.

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La Candelaria

by zora on December 3, 2007

This hostel in Valladolid (p. 200) was closed for renovation when I was there in Nov 07. No sign of when it will reopen.

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Villas Caribe

by zora on December 2, 2007

This great little hotel (p. 151) and cafe (the Cafe del Mar) in Xpu-Ha have closed.

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Tulum Ruins

by zora on December 2, 2007

They’ve rearranged the entrance to the place again, so the map (p. 157) is no longer accurate. You now enter through a break in the wall halfway along the north side of the site. The plan is to have the exit on the south side, but this was closed when I was there (Nov 07), and everyone was still exiting through the wall in the middle of the west (inland) side.

The really nice change is that it’s possible to walk to the site from the top end of the beach road–there’s even a little parking area there now (mostly for taxis). It’s a shorter walk from the end of the beach road to the ticket booth than it is from the parking area on the highway.

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Tulum Eating & Drinking Changes

by zora on December 2, 2007

Los Cantaros (p. 158) is shut.

Tuti Fruti (p. 158) is shut.

Hola Primo (p. 159) has been rebuilt in cinderblock. Maybe I’m just nostalgic, but it doesn’t seem as tasty…

Cetli (p. 159) had been closed, but now it has reopened, on Calle Polar near Calle Beta. Great food, sweet owner.

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Cabanas Mirador

by zora on December 2, 2007

These cheap cabanas in Tulum (p. 156) are closed. (As a consolation, the Mar Caribe beach club–now signed “Don Cafeto”–to the south has some very basic cabanas.)

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More Cancun Changes

by zora on November 29, 2007

Checandole (p. 95) is open again in Plaza Flamingo, and also in Plaza El Parian, near Hanaichi.

Rincon Yucateco (p. 95) in the hotel zone is closed.

La Casa de las Margaritas (p. 95) has totally changed its menu, and it looks very, very boring. No Sun brunch either.

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100% Natural

by zora on November 29, 2007

This cafe in Cancun’s hotel zone (p. 95) is no longer in either of the malls–it’s around Paseo Kukulcan Km 10, just about opposite from Senor Frog’s, and next to a convenience store.

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Cancun Airport: New Terminal

by zora on November 29, 2007

This summer, the new Terminal 3 opened at Cancun International Airport.

As far as I can tell, all US airlines and some European charter flights arrive here, so there’s a good chance this is where you’ll end up. Terminal 2 (the original terminal that all flights used to come through, which is divided into two separate wings) still handles all domestic flights, and a random selection of international flights: Air Canada comes in here, as do some American Airlines flights from Miami.

In Terminal 3, there’s an ATM just after customs, but it wasn’t working when I was there (Oct 31, 2007). There’s also a money exchange desk right there.

Transport desks are just down the hall, on your left as you’re walking toward the doors. The desk for buying ADO/Riviera bus tickets to either downtown Cancun or Playa del Carmen is the last one on your left. Just a note: it looks like the downtown Cancun bus doesn’t come to Terminal 3–so you just hop on a Playa bus for the short ride over to the other terminal (this is what happened to me).

But there is a dedicated shuttle van between the two terminals–it runs every 20 minutes. You can also walk between the two terminals, though it’s not advisable with a lot of luggage. The walk looks a little dodgy–you feel very “behind the scenes” for a little stretch–but it doesn’t take long. In Terminal 3, head left along the front of the building and basically keep heading straight; from Terminal 2, turn right and keep walking, past the bus depots.

(If you’re wondering whatever happened to Terminal 1…well, it’s still shut, and basically never used for commercial flights. Just pretend it doesn’t exist.)

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Archeological Sites

by zora on November 28, 2007

The entrance fees to all sites went up earlier this year (2007). In most cases, it’s only M$3 or so (30 cents), but Tulum and Coba have both been bumped up into a higher price category, so their price jumps are more substantial.

You can see the new prices and how each site is categorized on this page at the INAH website.

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Flycatcher Inn

by zora on September 26, 2007

This nice B&B in Santa Elena, on the Ruta Puuc (p. 254), just sent me a little update about its facilities:

We are adding 2 new rooms, available in late November, which will each have one queen bed, at 500 pesos each. AC is optional at 100 pesos more. These rooms are in a separate structure, set lower in the garden/orchard area.

We also have put new mattresses in all the rooms, the pillow-top, orthopedic style, very nice ones.

Flycatcher does have a very nice garden area–lots of fruit trees!–so I imagine the new rooms will be in a good setting.

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A Plug for Yucatan Living

by zora on August 29, 2007

I’ve mentioned this site before, but it has gotten even better: now Yucatan Living posts a weekly list of events going on in Merida. Definitely check it out for the latest right before your trip–there’s so much going on in the city, and the good folks who run this site do a great job of highlighting some of the events that make the city special.

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Hurricane Dean hits the Yucatan

by zora on August 22, 2007

I’m getting in touch with people I know down there, and I’ll post news as I hear it. First off, it seems no one was killed–in part, I think, because Hurricane Wilma was so terrible, so a lot of people on the coast heeded warnings to evacuate.

So far, I think we can safely say that anywhere north of the Sian Ka’an reserve (Tulum, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Cancun) is relatively OK–I just got a note from Esencia hotel, for instance, which is midway between Playa and Tulum, saying the property just had some landscaping damage, but is otherwise fine. However, this CNN story says about a third of the beach huts in Tulum were damaged, but those should be relatively easy to repair.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Puerto Costa Maya, the cruise-ship dock just north of Mahahual, was heavily damaged, however. (On a side note, it was funny to read in The New York Times that Mahahual is a “modern resort.” Yes, the dock is modern, but the village itself, which didn’t have regular power till a couple of years ago, hardly counts as “modern,” or even a “resort.”) I can’t imagine a lot of the other new construction in this area fared as well.

Chetumal looked pretty flooded (see pic #3, outside the Hotel Ucum, here), and Bacalar had one of its modern buildings crunched (see the same pics).

I’ll be back down in the area in early November–it will be good to see the place firsthand.

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Villa las Brisas name change

by zora on August 11, 2007

This great little B&B on Isla Mujeres (p. 102) has changed its name to Villa La Bella, and its website has changed to www.villalabella.com. Nothing else has changed though–same great owners, same beautiful little setup on the windward side of the island.

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Amaranto and Tamarindo in Cozumel

by zora on July 13, 2007

Just pulling up some details that people added via comments a while back:

These two B&Bs in San Miguel (pp. 134 and 135) are no longer under the same ownership, and the contact details have changed.

So, Amaranto’s website is www.tamarindoamaranto.com, and its phone number is +52-987-564-4262. It’s now a proper B&B, and hosted nearly round the clock.

Tamarindo is at www.tamarindocozumel.com, and +52-987-872-6190. It also has two new apartments for rent, complete with private kitchens.

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So, as readers have previously commented, Kailuumcito (p. 177, which is now really known as Kailuum, since the old Kailuum shut) is back open…sort of. At the very present time (summer), it’s shut, but it allegedly will be accepting guests starting in December.

It has changed its policies a bit, however, because it is still welcoming day visitors from cruise ships. The main change: no honor bar! On the plus side, the prices have gone down. And this might all change again, because the owners seem to be reevaluating the setup all the time. It’s still a beautiful spot, and the environment within the resort is a very special one–assuming they don’t tinker with it too much. Oh, and it’s no longer part of Turquoise Reef Group, but bookable on its own website, www.kailuum.com.

In the meantime (or, really, anytime), I would definitely recommend Mayan Beach Garden. It’s not in the current guide because I didn’t have time to visit on that research trip, but I’ve been by since then. It’s just a little way up the road, and very out on the very edge of it all. Marcia, the owner, runs a great operation, and I hear the food is very good. The setup is certainly more formal than Kailuum–actual walls, not tents!, and some rooms even have a/c–but it is also a very special place with lots of loyal repeat guests. And, at the moment, it seems quite a lot more reliable than Kailuum.

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Chichen Itza

by zora on July 13, 2007

Word is that you still can’t climb El Castillo, and that you have to get “permission” to climb up the interior pyramid to the temple inside. I’m not sure yet what this entails–real, signed papers or just a special, separate ticket–so you may want to ask at the main desk before you go in.

I’ve also been warned that the situation with the crafts vendors is getting a little out of hand–lots of pestering.

And of course you’ve heard that Chichen Itza is a “New Wonder of the World.” All I can think is: Yikes. Crowds-a-million. On the other hand, more people will help divert all the crafts vendors!

I don’t editorialize much on this site (for that, see Roving Gastronome), but as a tourist, I get grumpy at the thought of mobs of vendors and crowds. As someone who works in the tourism industry, though, I can see that people need to make a living somehow. As long as you go to Chichen Itza (or Cancun, or the Pyramids in Cairo, or wherever) knowing you are not going to have a silent, solitary moment of communing with the ancients, then you will have a much better experience. You have to appreciate the modern phenomena as much as the ancient ones.

Still, makes Ek-Balam and, say, the Chenes sites over by Campeche so much more appealing.

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Food in Xcalak

by zora on January 13, 2007

I’ve just heard very positive firsthand reports from someone who really knows her food about The Leaky Palapa (p. 177), which is now open for the season (till around Memorial Day). Costa de Cocos (p. 177), however, sounds as though it’s being neglected, in terms of both food and lodging (see also my update to an earlier Mahahual/Xcalak post below).

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Kailuum / Kailuumcito in Mahahual

by zora on January 13, 2007

This nice tent-camping place (p. 177) is CLOSED for good–it’s now just acting as a beach club for cruise-shippers from Mahahual. Really a waste of good property, and the end of a great era!

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Piste

by zora on November 28, 2006

Posada Flamboyanes (p. 209) was shut when I visited in October, and the neighbors say that it doesn’t seem to be closed for good, but it is not reliably open.

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Misc Playa del Carmen changes

by zora on November 17, 2006

Pygrmees (p. 129) is closed.

Playa Bike (p. 131) is shut, but there are a couple of rental places on Av 10.

The “new pier” for the Cozumel ferry (p. 124, 131) was shut down before it even started running properly. So all ferries–Ultramar and Mexico Waterjets–still come in and leave from the original pier at Av 1. Also, the Ultramar boats are now nicer–they have an open-air deck on top. But the trip takes about the same time on both companies, and there’s no longer a discount for same-day returns.

The bus direct from Cancun airport (p. 124) now costs M$80 (about US$7.50).

Oh, and the beach in town looks substantially better after the hurricane–though Playa Norte is still preferable.

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Playa del Carmen eating and drinking

by zora on November 17, 2006

I thought Playa was booming before, but now it’s almost completely out of hand. Countless super-chic condo buildings are going in—this is definitely the next South Beach. The construction noise—even in “quieter” Playa Norte (p. 126)–is a real drawback to what has been one of my favorite vacation places along this stretch. And everything is changing so fast it makes me want to give up guidebook writing.

Another drawback: tons of great restaurants are now shut.

Hot (p. 127) is shut at its C 10 location, but you can still find its other location at C 12 bis off Av 5.

Pan y Pasta (p. 127) is shut, as is El Olivo (p. 128), Osteria la Rucola (p. 128) and Carmencita (p. 127).

A couple of bars are gone: El Atico (p. 128) is closed, though I’m not too surprised. Tutix (p. 128) closing, though, is much more surprising—this leaves the Blue Parrot (also referred to as the Dragon Bar, p. 128) as pretty much the last old-fashioned beach bar.

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Changes in Puerto Morelos and Punta Bete

by zora on November 17, 2006

Puerto Morelos also looks good—same sleepy feel, just a few new paint jobs and generally tidier all around.

La Guadalupana II (p. 119) is now called Triny’s—not sure if the food is the same, but it looks great.

Le Marlin Bleu (p. 120) has expanded its menu to include some French items (the owner is from France).

Caffe del Puerto (p. 120) is closed.

The road to Punta Bete (p. 122) has changed a little. The road now forks farther ahead (you’ll pass the old road to the right, all grown over with greenery), just at the entrance to Ikal del Mar. Hug the wall to the left and you still get to Los Pinos and Coco’s; head to the right (looks like you’re going into Ikal’s parking lot) and you get to the old road to Juanito’s beach hangout, which is now shut (though you can still pay M$30 parking and walk onto the beach here), and Bahia Xcalacoco (which I also think is shut, but have not confirmed).

There is no longer a tourist info booth on the highway at the start of the road to Puerto Morelos. Your best bet is just to go into town and stop in at Marand Travel on the plaza if you have any questions.

If you’re planning to spend more than a few days in Puerto Morelos, subscribe to the e-newsletter published by Alma Libre bookstore—the owners really keep up on all the town news.

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Isla Mujeres changes

by zora on November 17, 2006

Like everywhere hit by Hurricane Wilma last October, Isla Mujeres has some construction going on, but otherwise looks great. In fact, aside from a couple of boarded-up buildings, you wouldn’t know anything had happened.

Poc Na Hostel (p. 101) has a new website: www.pocna.com.

Casa Maya Zazil-Ha (p. 101) is now using yet another name: Villas Kiin. All the signs leading up to the place say Casa Maya, however, and the owner is the same.

Vistalmar (p. 102) is now painted green, not pink—in casing you’re looking for that. Otherwise it’s the same, though, and it’s sea-view rooms are a great deal.

Cosmic Cosas used bookshop (p. 107) has moved in with the new Mañanas café at the corner of C Guerrero and C Matamoros; as far as I can tell, there’s no Internet access here, though.

Entrance to Hacienda Mundaca is up to M$20, and I’d really recommend steering clear of the “zoo” area. Also, the turtle farm—which isn’t mentioned in this guide because it was shut when I visited—has reopened, under the direction of the Isla Mujeres government (as is Hac. Mundaca). Entrance is M$20, and you get to see lots of baby sea turtles. The farm is located near Hacienda Mundaca, on the road up the spit enclosing Laguna Macax.

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Misc. changes around Tulum and Punta Allen

by zora on November 16, 2006

Many of the road signs (X-1, X-2, etc.) are gone at Xpu-Ha (p. 151), making it a lot harder to find the hotels described. The road for Villas del Caribe runs along the north wall of the Copacabana resort, and Bonanza Xpu-Ha is immediately south of the signed road for Xpu-Ha Beach Club.

In Tulum, the tourist info office on the road to the beach (p. 154) is now shut.

The Tulum bus station (p. 154) has been moved across the street and a little to the north, so recalibrate directions accordingly (for the Weary Traveler, for instance, turn right outside the station).

Colectivos (p. 160) are now scattered around the center of town–some for Playa leave from in front of the HSBC bank.

There’s also a town bus that runs out to the beaches, though I couldn’t find out a schedule. Look for it on Avenida Tulum. Taxis to the closest beach hotels run about M$40 now, and about M$90 to the hotels on southern end of the beach road.

Speaking of the beach road (p. 154), it’s now paved all the way down to the entrance to Sian Ka’an, which is a great improvement, especially for people worried about their rental cars.

Past the Sian Ka’an entrance, however, the road to Punta Allen (p. 165) is still absolutely terrible, despite a lot of work having been done on it. If it has rained at all before your visit, expect the road to be filled with vast, very deep puddles–Jeeps and other high-clearance vehicles routinely get stuck.

The alternate route to Punta Allen–the road to Playon, followed by a boat–is also in bad shape now, apparently, and the road is no longer even marked on the highway (p. 165).

So your best bet is a colectivo–either from Felipe Carrillo Puerto, as mentioned in the book–or the one that now runs from Tulum every day, at 2pm (p. 165). Look for it near the new taxi syndicate office in Tulum, which is on the west side of the street. If you ask the taxi drivers about it, though, they may try to convince you it doesn’t run, and that you’ll have to hire one of them.

In Punta Allen, the grocery truck (p. 166) now comes on Wednesday and Saturday, and it might not turn up till after dark if the road is bad. The small road down to the lighthouse is also quite wrecked, as it was never cleaned up after Hurricane Wilma.

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Tulum hotels

by zora on November 15, 2006

The Weary Traveler (p. 155) no longer offers a beach shuttle, but there is a town bus that does cheap transport now.

Tribal Village (p. 155, 159) has turned very sketchy and not really conducive to fun backpacker-y parties–or it doesn’t seem that way in the low season. The ownership is a bit creepy, and the place is in very bad repair. I wouldn’t be surprised if this land were sold quite soon.

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Tulum eating and drinking

by zora on November 15, 2006

Cetli (p. 159) is shut…[Nov 07: It has reopened in a new location! Calle Polar at Calle Orion, one block west of the main drag.]

The restaurant at Posada Margherita (p. 159) is closed Sundays, at least during low season.

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Cozumel sights and info

by zora on November 15, 2006

The museum (p. 136) only costs M$33 now, which is nice.

Chankanaab (p. 139), however, is up to M$170, or US$16.

The tourist info booth (p. 132) is no longer at the end of the ferry pier–it’s now a freestranding kiosk directly across the street from the end of the pier.

And I really should’ve made this clearer in the book: You don’t want to do any major shopping on cruise-ship days, as the prices often go up. You can check schedules at www.cruisecal.com.

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Cozumel restaurants

by zora on November 15, 2006

Especias (p. 142) has moved to Calle 3 Sur at Avenida 5.

I’ve heard some reports of attempted overcharging at Sabores (p. 143). I would still recommend this place, as the food is great, and the gouging seems to come from one of the waitstaff, rather than the owner herself–but know that _everything_–chips, side of beans, agua de jamaica, etc.–is included in the price, which I think now is M$45 or M$50. The only thing you should actually get charged extra for is if you order a soda or something like that.

Serious Munchies (p. 142) is closed, and so is Garden of Eatin’ (p. 142).

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Cozumel hotels

by zora on November 15, 2006

Palma Dorada (p. 135) has a new email address: palmadorada[at]prodigy[dot]net[mx], and it should have a new website soon: www.palmadoradainn.com.

Pepita (p. 135) has put a/c in all of its rooms, moving it out of the budget category (a double goes for M$390 now). That leaves Sosilmar, Marruang and Aguilar as your budget options, none of which are outstanding, unfortunately.

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Cancun sights

by zora on November 15, 2006

Museo INAH (p. 88) is closed–no sign of whether it’s a temporary closure or a permanent one, however.

Canal Sigfrido (p. 88) is more clearly marked with green street signs saying “Jardin del Arte.”

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Miscellaneous Cancun changes

by zora on November 15, 2006

Kukulcan Bowl (p. 99) has been made super-swanky and renamed something like Area 20-2. There’s still bowling, though.

There’s no “slow boat” to Isla Mujeres (p. 98) anymore–it’s all fast ferries, from Gran Puerto and Puerto Juarez (now with a company called Magana, not Mexico Waterjets), or from the hotel zone. Ultramar now runs the service from Playa Tortugas in the hotel zone, for a not unreasonable M$110 (about US$10) one-way.

Hippo’s Internet (p. 99) is closed, but there’s another Internet cafe in La Isla mall, which offers access starting at US$2 for 20 minutes.

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Cancun eating and drinking news

by zora on November 15, 2006

La Casa 940 (p. 96) is now a reggae bar called Capucino–it still seems to be a popular young subculture hangout, though.

G-Spot (p. 97) is now called Basic, allegedly with a website at www.basic-cancun.com, but so far there’s nothing on it.

La Boom (p. 97) is shut.

Senor Frog’s (p. 96) is at Km 9.5, not 5.5. Sorry about that.

Glazz (p. 96) is shut.

Siete (p. 95) is shut–it was in the Fiesta Americana Aqua, which is still undergoing serious repair. No word yet if Siete will be included in the remodeled place.

Rincon Yucateco (p. 95) is shut in its hotel zone location; the downtown location is the same, though.

Checándole (p. 95) can now be found in Plaza el Parian, near the Japanese resto Hanaichi. I didn’t check if it’s still in Plaza Flamingo as well, but as that mall (Flamingo) was pretty battered by the hurricane, my guess is no.

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Cancun hotels

by zora on November 15, 2006

The whole Caribbean coast looks great–you’d never guess Hurricane Wilma had even happened, unless you’re really looking for evidence (a lot of the mangroves around Cancun are still battered-looking, for instance). Almost all of the hardest-hit hotels have reopened by now, and there’s a lot of new landscaping and construction.

Here’s what’s new in lodging in Cancun:

Villas Juveniles (p. 84) is shut for remodeling–which might make this an appealing place to stay after it’s finished.

Aristos (p. 85) is gone–something new and bigger is being built in its place.

Villas Tacul (p. 88) is shut–it doesn’t look like it’s being renovated.

El Pueblito (p. 88) is still closed, but should reopen this month, following extensive renovations.

Mexico Hostel (p. 85) is now being managed by Tulum’s Weary Traveler crew, which just means the place is generally a bit more organized.

Cancun Rosa (p. 85) has remodeled and gotten rid of its groovy old lobby–which was really the most appealing part anyway. I won’t be putting this place in the next edition.

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Mahahual and Xcalak

by zora on November 7, 2006

Mahahual is booming in a very weird, fast way. There are several new hotels in town proper, and quite a lot of restaurants and businesses.

Casa del Mar (p. 177) is moving once again, to a spot just north of 40 Cañones Hotel, but worth seeking out for the tacos and general good vibes.

Las Cabañas de Tío Phil (p. 177) has been taken over by Dreamtime Diving and made into a resort, so it’s substantially different and has changed its pricing. Dreamtime, incidentally, has changed ownership; it also has a Chinchorro license now.

In Xcalak, however, things are kind of the same. Marina Mike’s (p. 178) can’t be recommended anymore. Tierra Maya (p. 178) has changed hands, and Maya Village (p. 178) is shut. This leaves only Costa de Cocos as a reliable spot close to town, but it’s a very good one.

UPDATE: Jan. 12, 2007: I’ve just gotten a very bad firsthand report about Costa de Cocos. It sounds as if the owners aren’t on premises very often, and a lot of the attention (including the boats) has shifted to dealing with day visitors from the cruise ships from Mahahual.

However, reports are now good from Casa Carolina (which also does diving, like Costa de Cocos), and Tierra Maya, both of which are just up the road.

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Bacalar

by zora on November 7, 2006

Directions for Orizabas (p. 184) weren’t so precise: off the northwest corner of the plaza, head one block west, then one block north.

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Chetumal changes

by zora on November 7, 2006

Hotel Ucum (p. 182) has a new website: www.hotelucumchetumal.com.

Arba Internet (p. 184) is now called Web Center, but has the same services.

La Prosperidad de Moncho’s (p. 184) is now called El Encanto de la Pitaya, but the setup looks exactly the same.

Vacabanti (p. 184) is closed. It was a little before its time, I suppose.

Oxtankah (p. 185) costs M$30.

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Campeche sights

by zora on November 7, 2006

There’s now a parador turística–a glorified highway pull-off—near Becal where you can buy all sorts of panama hats. Most are in the semi-decent souvenir category, though.

The sound-and-light show (p. 276) now costs M$40 and starts at 8.30pm. It also costs M$10 to go up in the Puerta de Tierra during the day, and there’s a small museum there now.

The Museo de las Estelas (p. 276) has been renamed the Museo de la Escultura Maya, and has English labeling.

Mansión Carvajal (p. 275) has reopened—you can visit between 8am and 2pm Mon–Fri.

Fuerte de San José (p. 277) has reopened.

It’s not stated explicitly in the text, but note that no city museums are open on Monday, so plan accordingly.

Jardín Botánico Xmuch’haltún (p. 276) is closed.

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Campeche hotels and restaurants

by zora on November 7, 2006

Hotel América (p. 275) is being remodeled, which is good—except the sort of modern décor doesn’t really go with the colonial house it’s in, so it’s still a bit odd and dark and musty, and the prices are now in the (6) category. Not terrible, but there are now better hotels in this price category, such as…

Hotel López (p. 274), which has also remodeled, to much better effect. The place has a nice Twenties apartment-complex feel, and the rooms are quite nice-looking, all with a/c, TV and wireless Internet, for $421 for a double.

Sir Francis Drink (p. 278) is closed.

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Celestún flamingo tours

by zora on November 7, 2006

Prices have gone up for this popular tour (p. 241), and after talking with some of the guides, I realize the description of pricing is not as clear as it could be.

For the shorter tour (1–1.5hrs, depending on where the flamingoes are at the time):
To start, a boat for up to four people costs M$400. Then each person must pay another M$40, PLUS M$40 in taxes (M$20 state, M$20 federal) for upkeep of the site and research.

But boats actually hold six people. If you want to put more than four people in a boat, then it’s simply M$140 per person, PLUS the taxes (compare that to M$165 on a four-person boat).

Basically, they price it this way so there isn’t a huge incentive to pack everybody onto a single boat—there are a lot of boat captains, and not a whole lot of custom. So you can wait around to try to get a full boat together, but the savings will not be immense. (The guides recommend arriving around 10am if you’re keen to join up with other people, as that’s when the most people arrive.)

For the longer tour (2–2.5hrs), it’s M$1160 for four people, or M$240/person for five or six people, PLUS the taxes.

There’s also the matter of guides. Your boat captain may know a little English, and be able to point out a few things, but you may want an additional guide if you’re a real naturalist, or would like someone who speaks fluent English or a different language. The guide service is an additional M$200 (short tour) or M$400 (long tour) per boat—so split among a few people, it’s not that much.

Also, regarding seasons: The best time for visiting is November through mid-May. You can’t really go swimming at the springs during September and October because the water is high and has all the mangrove runoff in it, so don’t expect this as part of your tour at that time.

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Ruta Puuc changes

by zora on November 7, 2006

The museum in Santa Elena (p. 254) now costs M$10.

Hacienda Ochil costs M$20 to enter, unless you are going to the restaurant (or say you are). The cenote was covered in algae, though, and wasn’t very inviting for a swim. Not mentioned in the description are the very nice craft workshops.

Entrance to Uxmal (p. 247) is now M$95, and M$50 on Sun.

Sacbe Bungalows (p. 254) is phasing out its camping facilities, so don’t count on it; but it will soon be offering a larger house to rent, for a three-day minimum. It also has a new land-line telephone: 997/978-5158. Try that if you don’t reach someone on the other line.

The Ruta Puuc bus is M$120–but that might just be a low-season thing, as it seems odd that the price would drop.

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Izamal news

by zora on November 7, 2006

The rumored Hernandez hotel on the plaza (p. 214) will actually be a folk art museum, perhaps opening in December 2006.

There is another new hotel on the plaza, however: Hotel de San Miguel Arcangel (www.sanmiguelhotel.com.mx), which has some small but nicely done rooms, starting at M$540.

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Mérida sights

by zora on November 7, 2006

Museo MACAY (p. 228) is now free.

Palacio Canton, the archeology/anthropology museum (p. 230) is up to M$33.

The Museo de la Canción Yucateca (p. 231) now costs M$20.

The Museo de Arte Popular (p. 231) is still closed, and doesn’t look like it will reopen.

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Miscellaneous Mérida changes

by zora on November 7, 2006

Maya Site Internet (p. 235) is closed.

Delta is now offering direct flights to Mérida from Atlanta (p. 28, p. 235).

A taxi from the airport (p. 222) costs M$135, which is quite steep. But the bus is a much longer walk from the terminal than I remembered—you wouldn’t want to do it in the sun or with any substantial luggage. The taxis’ zone system is no longer in effect, but many more taxis have meters (look for “Taximetro” on the top).

The main post office (p. 236) has reopened and is offering full service.

I somehow completely overlooked Cine Fantasio, on Parque Hidalgo at C 60—it’s the most central of the movie theaters (p. 234).

The market‘s new location (p. 231) has indeed opened—but the vendors haven’t really moved out of the old one, as was planned. So now the whole complex is double the size.

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Mérida hotels

by zora on November 7, 2006

Maison Lafitte (p. 225) is not aging so well. It’s still fairly well priced for what you get, but I’m not sure I’ll include it on the next edition.

I for some reason failed to include a great budget hotel called Mucuy (C 57 no. 481, between C 56 and C 58, 928/-5193, www.mucuy.com), which is now even nicer because it has a small pool—yet the rates are still between M$200 and M$300.

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Mérida: eating and drinking

by zora on November 7, 2006

Business hours at La Casa de Frida (p. 233) have changed—it’s open Mon–Sat. The menu has also been pared down substantially—main dishes are basically chiles en nogada and mole, and a couple of other things.

A correction: El Cumbanchero (p. 235) is at Paseo de Montejo and C 39.

Ki’bok (p. 233) only serves dinner now, Tues–Sun.

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Chichen Itza

by zora on October 23, 2006

The entry price at Chichen Itza (p. 207) has risen to M$95. The stairs up El Castillo, the main pyramid, are currently closed, as is the interior temple, but a guide assured me this was temporary, and they should be back open in December.

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Changes at Genesis Ek Balam Eco Retreat

by zora on October 23, 2006

Genesis Ek Balam (p. 205) has two new phone numbers: 1-985/101-0277 is the mobile on the owner’s person, and 1-985/852-7980 is the mobile at the lodge; both can have not-so-great reception, however, and Lee recommends using email (there’s now fast satellite access, and a wireless network).

The prices have gone up: the cabañas without bath are US$44, and the two new rooms with private toilets and sinks (showers are still shared) are US$50. The wood-frame two-story building—the simplest rooms—are typically reserved for family groups, starting at US$60. If you stay three nights, there’s a 25 percent discount on the last night; five nights gets a 50 percent discount on the last night; and for seven nights, the last night is free.

I can’t say enough good about this place—beautiful gardens, great pool, solid dedication to ecotourism principles and great opportunities to see a Maya village up close. (Lee can arrange a tour around the local artisans’ workshops, for instance—you’ll even learn how to weave a hammock…a little!)

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Valladolid and Ek-Balam changes

by zora on October 23, 2006

Iglesia de San Bernardino de Siena (p. 201), as far as I can tell, is not regularly open in the afternoons. Try before noon and after 5pm, every day but Tuesday.

Entry price at Cenote Dzitnup (X’keken) and Cenote Samula (p. 203) is up to M$25, and Zací (p. 202) in Valladolid is up to M$20.

A correction: the entrance price for the ruins of Ek-Balam (p. 204) is actually M$24. (I was anticipating a boost in price, because the state government is really touting the site…but I guess it hasn’t happened yet!)

On the other hand, the price for Cenote Xcanché (p. 205) is up to M$100 for the full package (bike rental, rappelling, etc.), and will go up to M$150 in December. Basic entrance—just to swim—is M$25. They can also arrange meals, if you call ahead: 985/858-6506.

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Tizimin hotels

by zora on October 23, 2006

Hotel San Carlos (p. 205) is getting a little grubby. Posada San Jorge, on the south side of the plaza, is much nicer, but is a little cagey about its prices—could be in the M$300 range, but also in the M$600 category, if they’re busy; it does have a pool, however.

And no change, just a confirmation: Restaurant Tres Reyes really is worth getting off the bus for.

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San Felipe

by zora on October 23, 2006

Hotel San Felipe de Jesús (p. 206) no longer offers the boat service to the beach, but it’s still a great hotel. A ride to the beach on a lancha from the village cooperative (east end of the seafront) runs M$15 per person.

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Isla Holbox changes

by zora on October 23, 2006

Holbox got really whacked by Hurricane Wilma last year (2005)–this isn’t reflected in the guide, because it was already at the printers when the storm happened. Floods up to three feet high, buildings knocked down, trees uprooted…but you’d really never guess it, a year later.

The biggest change is that the parque is being totally redone–no more scruffy grass square–so Antojitos Dafne Guadalupe (p. 110) is gone (though it may move back when the construction is done). El General Taquitos also seems to be shut. The new place for morning and evening snacks is now on the inland (south) side of the parque—no name, but very busy.

Perhaps because it’s low season right now (October), lanchas to Holbox from Chiquilá (p. 108) are only M$200, with a maximum of six people (usually) and the ride is a bit quicker than the ferry—handy if you can pull together a group. But there’s also a competing ferry service, for only M$20, that runs several times a day, filling in some of the gaps in the existing ferry schedule (allegedly its last run is at 8pm, an hour later than the original ferry service, but I wouldn’t count on it).

Parking in Chiquilá runs about M$30 per day—but that’s not per 24 hours, so if you park in the evening and come back the next morning, that’s M$60. A little bit of a racket, but at the nicer place (on the right before the end-of-the-road roundabout), at least there’s shade. There’s still no ATM on Holbox, but a couple of the restaurants (Colibrí and Viva Zapata) take credit cards. The laundry looks closed, but there’s still plenty of people willing to do it, for not much money.

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Los Almendros

by zora on July 2, 2006

This little Mayan/Mexican restaurant in Playa del Carmen (p. 127) is closed. Too bad–it was the closest, tastiest local-feeling place to the main drag in Playa.

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Ida y Vuelta

by zora on July 2, 2006

This camping spot on Isla Holbox (p. 108) has a new phone number: 984/875-2358.

The owner also reports she has a new separate cabana (M$500-$700, depending on season), with its own kitchen, washing machine, bedroom and bathroom.

The regular camping facilities also have laundry service.

Alas, it turns out the pizza oven, which was due to arrive any day after my research visit ages ago, still has not arrived. Apologies for the empty promise!

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Can-Do Maps

by zora on June 13, 2006

Sure, the maps in Cancun & Cozumel Directions are good, but I do have some space constraints.

The good people at Can-Do Maps, however, can make maps as big as they like. They do really excellent fold-out maps to all the major beach towns, even showing building outlines and restaurant and hotel locations. They’re very handy if you’re considering a certain resort or rental place and want to find out just where you’ll be in relation to everything else.

And the reason I’m mentioning them here (they get a nod in the book, p. 32) is that they’ve expanded their offerings. In addition to Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, and the whole Riviera Maya (including Tulum), they’re now doing a map for the Chichen Itza area, and one for Cozumel’s reefs.

Check ‘em out before your trip–they’re perfect for getting the lay of the land.

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The Nest in Merida

by zora on June 12, 2006

This cool hostel by the bus station (p. 266) has closed. Apparently, the owners have opened a new place in Cancun–but that doesn’t help you much in Merida, does it? Not to worry: Nomadas is still an excellent, friendly stop (and cheap!), and Hostal del Peregrino is beautiful and a bit smaller.

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New restaurant on Isla Mujeres

by zora on June 11, 2006

mojitosNormally I would just save new places for the new edition, rather than post about them here, but the nice folks at Villa Las Brisas (p. 102) were raving about this restaurant, and even sent me this photo. Since they steered me toward some great ballpark tacos, I trust their judgment.

Varadera is the name of the place, and it’s Cuban, and, as you can see from the pic, they even make mojitos! It’s about a third of the way down the length of the island from the main town, before you reach Puerto Isla Mujeres, the big marina. Ashley and Curtis write, “From the low road, the best landmark is Las Palmas nursery. When the road dead ends, you make a right then a left into Varadera’s drive. It’s a great place to watch the boats coming in and out of the lagoon, especially around sunset.”

I’ll check these directions on my next trip, but in the meantime, I hope this will get you there!

UPDATE: I cruised the place in November. The name is El Varadero, and it doesn’t look like much from the road–you have to go back into the lot to actually see the restaurant. Tell the cab or bus driver “El Varadero del Burgos,” as there’s another place in the area named El Varadero de Oscar.

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News from Tulum

by zora on June 9, 2006

La Posada del Sol (p. 156) has a website, finally: www.laposadadelsol.com, with very nice photos. The “jungle” rooms mentioned in the book are still one of the best deals in Tulum, considering the size and attractiveness (on the website, they’re the rooms, not the bungalows).

And the same owners now have a second hotel, Posada Lamar, about 1km south of La Posada del Sol. I haven’t seen it with my own eyes, but if it’s like Posada del Sol, it’s probably beautiful.

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News from Cozumel

by zora on June 4, 2006

Sol Cabanas del Caribe (p. 135) is closed. It got pretty battered by Hurricane Wilma, apparently, and since it was an older resort, it probably wasn’t worth fixing up.

Palapas Amaranto (p. 134) has a new website, www.tamarindoamaranto.com, which also gets you info for Tamarindo B&B (p. 135), under the same ownership. (And to clarify, at Tamarindo, all guests have access to the kitchen, not just two of the rooms.)

Additionally, you can now contact each place via the following mobile phone numbers:

AMARANTO
01-987/800-5571 (in Mexico)
+44-987/800-5571 (from outside the country)

TAMARINDO
01-987/112-4111 (in Mexico)
+44-987/112-4111 (from outside)

Because Amaranto is unhosted (meaning there isn’t someone there around the clock), you should call before you arrive, to make sure someone is there to meet you with keys.

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Hotel Francis Arlene

by zora on May 30, 2006

This nice little family-run place on Isla Mujeres (p. 101) has new contact information:

tel: 998/877-0861
email: hfrancis[at]prodigy.net.mx

And, as noted below, remember that the website is just www.francisarlene.com.

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News from the Flycatcher Inn

by zora on May 12, 2006

This little B&B in Santa Elena (p. 254) has a new website [www.flycatcherinn.com], and new email: contact[at]flycatcherinn[dot]com.

Additionally, the owners are putting a/c in five of the rooms, and the rates will go up M$100 on these rooms–but worth it, when you consider it’s been over 100 degrees for a long stretch already!

And, the owner says, in the fall a new restaurant will be opening just down the road, run by a Brit/Canadian woman. This definitely improves the eating options right around this area, particularly for people traveling without a car.

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A few changes on the coast

by zora on May 12, 2006

Travel In’, just south of Mahahual (p. 177), no longer takes reservations by email–rooms are just first-come, first-serve. Considering how nice and cheap the place is, it’s definitely worth taking the bus or a servicio down there first, and working your way back up the road if it’s full. The place now has three rooms (M$100/person), along with space for camping (M$40/person).

Just north of Mahahual, Kailuumcito (p. 177) is now officially called Kailuum (because the original Kailuum, up near Playa del Carmen, closed last summer).

On Isla Mujeres, the hotel listed as Playa Secreto (p. 101) is really Hotel Secreto. My bad. On the same page, the correct URL for Hotel Francis Arlene is www.francisarlene.com.

The website for Rancho Angel (p. 175) near Felipe Carrillo Puerto is now dead, but you can get the info on the Cuzan Guesthouse website (http://www.flyfishmx.com).

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Welcome!

by zora on May 7, 2006

Welcome to the update page for The Rough Guide to the Yucatan, published December 2005. I travel to Mexico to update other books for Rough Guides (Cancun & Cozumel Directions, The Rough Guide to Mexico), so I regularly get new information about the area.

One big issue, of course, is last fall’s Hurricane Wilma, which did a lot of damage to Cancun and, to a lesser degree, the Caribbean coast to the south. I haven’t seen this area firsthand since the hurricane, but all reports are fairly positive. Just don’t expect a lot of greenery right on the beach–a lot of palm trees were wiped out. I will post specific details about how various areas were affected as I see them with my own eyes. In the meantime, check After Wilma for details about Cancun–the beach renovation project there has been very impressive.

Thanks for checking in–I hope to keep The Rough Guide to the Yucatan as useful and current as possible, to make your trip the best it can be.

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