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Travels in Mexico, 2019: Part 2

How are you all doing out there in quarantine land? Staying safe? Not too bored or broke, I hope? Me, can’t complain. In case you don’t know—and why would you?—I don’t live in Mexico anymore. More on that another day.

Two months after Part 1, I’ve finally gotten back to some happy reminiscences about travels in Mexico in 2019. What a year. Despite serious problems and general craziness, Mexico is a wonderful country to travel in. I made the most of it during my ten years there.

Barcelo Resort during Phish 2019

Barcelo Resort during Phish 2019

In 2019 I went to the Mayan Riviera not once, but two times. The first was in February. I spent the entire time at the beach, at the Barcelo Resort watching three nights of Phish.

Phish at the Barcelo, Riviera Maya, Mexico, 2019

Phish at the Barcelo, Riviera Maya, Mexico, 2019

Phish is one of several U.S. bands that performs multi-night events at resorts on the Mayan Riviera. The great thing about Phish is that when you see three Phish shows, you’ll see three completely different concerts, without any songs repeated. And it’s always fun to do the all-inclusive thing, especially at a place as huge as the Barcelo. It was a quick mini-vacation with my wife, some friends from Oregon, and my favorite live band in the world.

Barcelo Resort during Phish 2019

Barcelo Resort during Phish 2019

My next trip to Mexico’s Caribbean coast was last October, when I traveled from Tulum to Chetumal with a stop at Bacalar in between. (Actually, I flew into Cancun, and spent an afternoon in Playa del Carmen on the way to Tulum, so technically I traveled all the way down.) I attended an academic conference in Chetumal, with some fun and adventure in Tulum and Bacalar before.

I’ve been to the Mayan Riviera many times, but that trip was the first time I never even went to the beach. Why? Cenotes!


Cenote Dos Ojos, near Tulum, Mexico

Cenotes are freshwater sinkholes that lead to the underground system of flooded caverns throughout the Yucatan Peninsula. They are nice to swim and snorkel in, but the coolest thing of all is to scuba dive in them, which is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, anywhere.

A year earlier, also near Tulum, I went scuba diving in cenotes for the first time. It blew my mind, so it was top priority this time around. I went to the same dive shop in Tulum, Space Dive (AKA Dive and Snorkel Tulum, about a block from the ADO bus station), for a day of diving with three tanks in two cenotes: Dos Ojos and The Pit.


The previous year I went to Angelita and Dreamgate. All four were phenomenal. I wrote a story about the experience, which I’ll publish on this blog soon.

The next day in Tulum I rode to Kaan Luum, a lake just south of Tulum with a cenote in the middle, on a cruiser bicycle provided by my beautiful, friendly and affordable hotel. You can see Kaan Luum’s cenote in the photo below; it’s the circle of darker water.

Kaan Luum

Kaan Luum lake, near Tulum, Mexico

From there I biked on the shoulder of the hot highway farther south to the Muyil archeological site. It had some interesting structures and trails deep into the jungle. Exploring the area after swimming in Kaan Luum was a good way to spend the day, even if riding back on a bicycle under the hot sun was nothing easy.


Muyil archeological site, near Tulum, Mexico

The following day I took an easy three-hour bus ride to Bacalar, the small town on the huge lake of the same name.


Bacalar is also called the lake of seven colors, because the fresh water glows in different shades of blue and turquoise, depending on the depth of the water and the angle of sun. Wow, how gorgeous. I spent the first day swimming, and the second on a boat trip around the lake.


Bacalar, the lake of seven colors

After Bacalar, I traveled to Chetumal for an academic conference at the large university there.


I don’t know what this thing is, Chetumal, Mexico

Many years ago, when I traveled from Cancun to Roatan, Honduras over several months, I passed Bacalar and Chetumal before crossing into Belize, but I didn’t spend any time in either place. I’m glad I did this time, especially for the seafood tacos! Below are fish, shrimp, octopus, and conch (caracol in Spanish.)


Thanks for reading. I will write at least one more post about traveling in Mexico in 2019.

As always, if you are interested in the Mayan Riviera (or Chiapas), please check out my books:

(Amazon Affiliate links)

Want to Travel Independently in Mexico? I Promise to Write All About It.

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Hello friends. I’ve written this blog for a few years now, and it’s a real pleasure to see all the visitors I’ve had: where they’re from, what they click on, and what they searched for that brought them to this blog.

My life can be chaotic. I go through periods of lots of work, mostly teaching and translating, often 12+ hours a day, riding all over town on my bike to schools and private lessons and then coming home to big surprise late-night translations.

So it can be hard to find time to write, and I’m not just talking about this blog, but all the travel and living abroad websites and magazines I submit stories to.

Writing the story is the easy part. Then you have to research the magazine, read back issues to see what kind of stories they publish and what they’ve already published, and finally write that perfect query letter to the editor.

And then wait. And then do it again.

But please don’t think I’m complaining. I get about 4 months a year of vacation from the university, in summer and winter. So I get big chunks of time to travel all over southern Mexico and Central America. Most of the stories on this blog come from those trips.

And although I write all the time while traveling, I don’t bring my laptop with me and I don’t always have Internet access. So I put the blog on the back burner, until I come home with notebooks full of notes, observations, and half-finished stories in my near-illegible handwriting.

But then between these busy times of work or travel, the transition periods are much more chill. A semester may start in one school, but not yet at the other. I may not have so many private English lessons yet. So during these times, like now (I just got back from the Oaxaca coast), I can work on my writing and post to this blog.

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A couple days ago I was looking for some information about South Africa. I know nothing about South Africa.

What’s the major airport? Where are some cool places to see in the country – cities and nature? How do you get around, by bus? How much is a cheap hotel?

I found that it wasn’t easy to find the answers to all of these questions in just one place.

Not even Lonely Planet was simple and comprehensive enough for me, the potential traveler looking for the most basic information, someone who doesn’t want to use a travel agency or, much less, the dreaded all-inclusive guided tour.

It made me think about my blog. While about a month ago I compiled a bunch of stories and information about Mexico in one post, Do Not Visit Mexico Until You Read This, it was mostly stories about specific locations in Mexico. There’s a lot more to say about independent travel here.

I realized that I should write what I was looking for about South Africa – a simple explanation of what independent travel in Mexico is like.

Independent travel in Mexico is easy, safe (if you take the right precautions), inexpensive, and vastly rewarding. And, if you are from the U.S. (like me), it’s just one country down, perhaps even closer than another part of the U.S.

Don’t you want to get to know your neighbor?

So, I promise, over the next month or so I will write entries for the following topics:

  • When to Go
  • Transportation
  • Hotels
  • Safety
  • Money Matters
  • Destinations
  • Food and Drink
  • Culture
  • Useful Local Phrases

I may think of more. Any suggestions?

My plan is to eventually have a no-nonsense guide to independent travel to Mexico on this blog.

So please stick around, join my email list, check back in a few weeks, leave a comment, and come visit! You’ll love Mexico, wherever you go or whatever you do while you’re here.

Thanks and keep in touch.

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If you are planning on traveling to Cancun or the Mayan Riviera, please take a look at my Cancun and Mayan Riviera 5-Day Itinerary on, or check out the kindle version on Amazon here: Cancun Unanchor Travel Guide – Cancun and Mayan Riviera 5-Day Itinerary

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