We had the pleasure of spending Christmas Day 2005 and several days afterwards in sunny Campeche. It was a very enjoyable time. 

We drove down several hours from Mérida on the 180 through Calkini and Tenabo and several smaller villages. This was definitely an interesting drive as the topography changed to hilly and even small mountains, which was very different from the flatness of the rest of the Yucatán. Once we drove past the prison and roadside shops at San Francisco Koben, Campeche was quick and welcoming.

Campeche fuerteThe malecón was impressive: Clean, well developed and open. The same thing in Progreso paled in comparison. We stayed at the very nice Hotel Plaza Campeche (www.hotelplazacampeche.com), on Calle 10 just at the edge of the Centro. There is actually one small piece of the Baluarte (historic fortified wall) right behind the hotel.

The hotel itself was excellent. It is Mexican-owned and run. It’s about 4 years old with two levels and two wings, free parking in the front and a rear courtyard. There was a nice pool and a casual dining area. We snagged a “mini suite” for $78 US (standard rooms are about $68 US), facing the Parque Centario in the front, with a wonderful walkout terrace for catching some sun. And there was sun every day. (Author’s note: In our opinion, the best of those rooms are 202 to about 214, even.) The staff was excellent and friendly. There was free wifi in the lobby but we could not test it because we did not bring a computer. We did notice someone surfing the Internet on his computer while sitting in the lobby.

Before we left on this adventure, we read up about hotels on the web and in few guide books. It seemed from all our readings that the hotels Ocean View, the Baluartes and Del Mar were given high ratings. They seemed to be very Holiday Inn-ish to us. If that brings you comfort, go for it. But for us, The Plaza Campeche, Francis Drake, and the newer Maya Campeche (a smallish but nice hotel in the Centro) seemed like very good choices.

The food we ate on our trip was excellent, including coconut shrimp and garlic shrimp, the most succulent and delicious that we tasted. Our favorite was the highly rated La Pigua, a block away. (By the way, contrary to what the hotel says, La Pigua, on Calle 8, is open for late dinner.)

The main drag, Calle 10, was right outside the front door of our hotel. The zócalo was about 4 blocks away in one direction, and the malecón was about 4 blocks out the back. Campeche’s Centro reminded us a bit of San Miguel de Allende, with colorfully painted, classic Mexican facades. The city as a whole was not too loud or overly busy. The main market was only about five or six blocks away from our hotel, but we concentrated on the Centro and malecón.

We ran on the malecón in the morning several times, sharing it with quite a few locals out for their morning walks or runs. Fishermen launched their boats at one end. The malecón stretches for about 2 miles and makes for a great running or walking space.

We used Campeche as a base for our explorations, though you can go there in one day from Mérida (one very long day). OneCampeche Edzna day we ventured south to Seyba playa and Champoton. By chance we encountered the Restaurante Bahia de Tortugas. What an oasis! The food there was great and the pool and playa looked really inviting but sadly, we had not brought our swimsuits that day. We liked Champoton, but after Campeche, we felt there was no comparison.

Another day was spent on the road to Edzna, where we had lunch at the Uayamon Hacienda Hotel, one of the Hacienda hotels owned by Starwood. The rooms are expensive, but you can enjoy a large part of the hacienda for the price of the lunch.

Edzna was very impressive and quite surprising. It was a more peaceful experience than visiting Chichén Itzá.

As for shopping, we bought a wonderful, modern styled guayabera, the traditional man’s shirt in this part of the world, in soft fine cotton at a government-run “artesanía” shop on the Zócalo for under $20 USD. We also acquired some of the traditional hammock-sling chairs (similar to the ones they sell on the road near the prison) for $42 at another artisan shop on Calle 10, and a nice hammock at the prison for $20. We spent three days in Campeche and exploring the surrounding area. It was an enjoyable little trip and we would certainly do it again!

Reg McGhee is the communications director for a large educational institute, and also a new homeowner in the Centro Histórico of Mérida.

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By Reg McGhee

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