Known as one of the most popular tourist resorts in the world, Cancún was nothing but a sleepy fishing village until 1974, when the Mexican government began its development. It has transformed into a 23-km. stretch of hotels, white sand beaches, restaurants, shopping, and night life. If you want lots of action, Cancún is the place to go. There is a golf course and ferry terminal to Isla Mujeres, and more than 150 hotels to choose from. Millions of visitors go to Cancún every year!
Puerto Morelos is about 20km south of Cancun. It is both a fishing village and a resort and diving/snorkeling destination. It is located roughly halfway between Cancun and Playa del Carmen on the Caribbean coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Puerto Morelos is the ideal location for those who want a quiet beach vacation away from the glitz, but with ample tourist amenities. The town has just two principal streets and you can walk from one end to the other in about 15 minutes. Puerto Morelos’ reputation as a laid-back Caribbean destination is supported by its scattering of boutique hotels, condominiums, villas, plus various small restaurants and tourist shops. Its appeal is especially strong to travelers who eschew all-inclusives and built-up “touristy” attractions. For the most part, the town is a residential community with a mix of Mexicans, Canadians, Americans, and Europeans who live there full or part time. See a Puerto Morelos directory of services.
The island of Cozumel is a paradise where tradition, flavor and joy come together. Famous all over the world for its coral reefs, there are plenty of water sports such as diving, deep-sea fishing, snorkeling, kayaking and more. Cozumel’s mostly undeveloped territory at the center of the island is covered by jungle and swampy lagoons, which are home to tiny mammals and endemic birds that have never left the island. Cozumel is a shelter for many of the island’s endemic species, as well as other endangered forms of life, such as marine turtles and their nesting areas. With its beautiful beaches and exotic locale, Cozumel is an ideal destination where honeymooners can enjoy colorful and breathtaking sunsets, moonlit walks on secluded beaches, swim through crystal clear blue waters and enjoy romantic candlelight dinners.
Playa del Carmen
From a sleepy village with unpaved streets only ten years ago, Playa del Carmen has been discovered by travelers from all over the world, and is growing every day. Centered around its main attraction, the chic Fifth Avenue, Playa offers the visitor lovely beaches and beautiful Caribbean waters without the costs or hustle and bustle of Cancún. The southern end of the tourist area is occupied by Playacar, a large vacation complex featuring many all-inclusive resorts, condos, and family houses to rent or buy, and an 18 hole golf course. At this end is also the pier which receives the ferry from Cozumel.
This classic fishing village is one of the last frontiers of the Mexican Caribbean. If you had visited Cancún 35 years ago or Playa del Carmen 20 years ago, you would have seen something like what Mahahual looks like today. Although the area is most publicized as a dive resort, Mahahual is also for the non-diver. With miles of open, palm tree-studded beaches, pristine waters and ocean breezes, this is the perfect place to hang out in a hammock, sleep the hours away and/or read to your heart’s content!
Guidebooks have mistakenly called Laguna Bacalar a part of the Caribbean because of its water’s spectacular blue colors. In truth, Laguna Bacalar is Mexico’s second-largest freshwater lake with over 150 kilometers of pristine jungle shore. Fed by underwater cenotes, Laguna Bacalar has crystal-clear waters and spectacular swimming, sailing, and paddling. The town of Bacalar (15,000 people and one of Mexico’s rare Pueblo Magicos on water) has a rich history and was home to Maya traders for thousands of years before Europeans arrived.
There are many pleasant daytime activities in and around Laguna Bacalar, ranging from relaxing in a hammock to casual walking to vigorous kayaking. But one of the most pleasant — and beautiful — things to do in Bacalar can be enjoyed by almost everyone: watching the full moon over the lake. More than two dozen hotels and restaurants offer spectacular views of the lake in the sunset colors. As the skies darken, the stars appear, and the moon rises out of the shimmering waters, visitors will understand why Bacalar has always been a Pueblo Mágico.
On the east side of Bacalar’s town square is the Fort of San Felipe with cannons overlooking the only water passage from the Caribbean to Laguna Bacalar. Originally constructed from 1725 to 1733, the fort secured the area from English, French, Spanish, Dutch, and African pirates. Today, the fort is a nicely-appointed museum with wonderful vistas of the lake and it has exhibits of interest to visitors of all ages. In the 1700s, Bacalar was a key part of the trade in “palo tinto” wood from which expensive dyes were made. Between 1733 and 1858, control of the fort changed hands a number of times as forces of the Spanish crown and the pirates skirmished over the palo tinto trade. In 1858 during the Caste Wars, native Maya seized the fort and Bacalar remained exclusive Maya territory until 1905. In 1983, the fort was converted to a museum open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 am to 7 pm. Fun for all ages!
Visitors who like water can get onto and into Laguna Bacalar pronto. Kayaks, canoes, sailboats, sailboards, and SUPs are available from hotels, restaurants, and tour operators. Plus there are lots of public swimming areas an easy walk from downtown and the Fort. The waters are clear and clean and deepen gradually. Most days, paddling or sailing along the pleasant shoreline can get one to several cenotes and bird-rich mangrove shores; the swimming is great. Sailing with fair winds or paddling with strong arms, one can circumnavigate several islands (stay off please!) with seasonal egrets, roseate spoonbills, and wood storks.
Bacalar’s zocalo or town square is a large, open, nicely landscaped and gardened spot where children and adults can happily find sun, shade, comfortable seating, picnic areas, playgrounds, great daytime vistas of Laguna Bacalar, and sometimes live entertainment at night. Surrounding the square are shops, stores, restaurants, the Fort and museum, and at night a wide variety of vendors set up crafts stands as well as food booths. It’s easy to find something to enjoy in Downtown Bacalar on a weekend or holiday.
Spending part of the holiday season at Laguna Bacalar; can it get much better? Step away from the bustle and settle in for natural beauty, tranquil times, enjoyable meals and comfortable lodging. The cool lake breezes mean refreshing mornings and evenings coupled with warm, sunny days for playing around the lake. Swimming is easy in several public balnearios or at one of the many restaurants and hotels on the lake. Bacalar’s tour boat association (983 107-4065) will be happy to take you on a tour, or to provide a custom adventure for your group. Enjoy some of Bacalar’s best this holiday season.
It’s not necessary to be an avid birder to enjoy the colorful birdlife of Laguna Bacalar, particularly during the winter season when birds come south for temperate climate and fruiting plants. Hummingbirds, orioles, flycatchers, kiskadees, roseate spoonbills, woodstorks, egrets, herons, cormorants and many more colorful and beautiful birds are easy to spot from shore; more can be seen during a boat tour of the lake or kayak tour of the back waters. Bird spotting is also good at nearby ruins Kohunlich, Dzibanche, Kinichna, and Becan (all about an hour) which each offer a hybrid of jungle nature and Maya history.
The vacation weeks of Semana Santa are a big deal in Bacalar, like in many other parts of Mexico. In addition to the normal selection of nature-oriented activities to do while vacationing (swimming, boat tours, birding, hiking, biking, paddling, sailing, boarding, etc.) there are the special cultural and religious events hosted by the pueblo, ranging from Masses to music. The town has been upgrading its parque central and adding facilities to better accommodate travelers and visitors, including improved tourist information and bicycle tourist “police” ready to assist visitors find most anything around town or provide emergency help. More info: www.bacalarmosaico.com.
For more information about Bacalar, visit BacalarMosaico.com
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