Chetumal, in southeastern Mexico on the border with Belize, is the small, quaint, capital of the state of Quintana Roo. Founded in 1898 with the name Payo Obispo, the feeling here is more Caribbean than Mexican with its population of Garifonas, Lebanese, and Mexicans. The result is an eclectic mixture presented in the music, traditions and cuisine of the area. Located on a huge bay in the jungle, you will find Maya culture, history, architecture, adventure travel, seafood and nature at its best. New to the tourism world, the lucky people who are now visiting are catching a diamond in the rough. Chetumal is a stone’s throw from Guatemala, Belize and the neighboring Mexican state of Campeche. Nestled in the jungle, Chetumal boasts a perfect climate, abundant flora and fauna, the nearby Caribbean Sea, Bacalar lagoon, cenotes, Chinchorro Banks Reef, miles of white sandy beaches, and Maya pyramids.
Downtown Chetumal is unlike most Yucatecan cities. There are no quaint colonial streets or buildings. Most of Chetumal appears to have been built in the last fifty to seventy years. The streets are wide and more accommodating to traffic than most Mexican cities, making it easier to get around.
Hotels: Accommodations run from 5-star hotels to modest inns to eco-villages. Services: There are car rentals, travel agencies, an airport, consulates, a variety of restaurants, medical services, banks, museums and night clubs. Archeological zones: Kohunlich, Dzibanche, Kinichna, Chakanbakam, Oxtankah, The San Felipe Fort. Museums: Interactive Maya Culture Museum, City Museum, San Felipe Fort Museum in Bacalar. There is also a beautiful zoo.
Fiestas and traditions: Carnival celebrated in February, the anniversary of the founding of Chetumal on May 5th, the International Border Fair in October, and the International Festival of Caribbean Culture in November.
Religious festivities include December 12th (Virgin of Guadalupe – Patron Saint of Mexico), Easter, and Day of the Dead in November. In Bacalar, July and August are when the Patron Saint, San Joaquín, is remembered. Plus this is the time of the year for the motor boat races.
Music: the Yucatecan Jarana and Trova and the Belizean soca, reggae and calypso.
Handcrafts: Woven palm and basketry, carved wood, hammocks, hand embroidery and huipiles – the white Maya shift with flowered borders.
Food: Yucatecan and Belizean cuisine are big in Chetumal. Belizean rice and beans cooked in coconut oil are a staple. Fresh seafood is on just about every menu along with corn tamales and sotobichay, a type of roll sponge cake.